Monday, May 27, 2013

High School Diploma & an Associate Degree

The push for college degrees in the United States is not all bad if adapted for students of all interests and abilities and correlated with career and technical education (CTE).  Several schools in Colorado are on the cutting edge of a streamlined process for associate degrees in skilled labor through the incorporation of concurrent enrollment (CE) classes at the high school level.  The latest developments are happening in conjunction with the Ascent program in Jefferson County Public Schools.  This effective high school innovation was recently profiled by The Denver Post.

JeffCo schools have teamed with Red Rocks Community College and/or Warren Technical School to enable highly motivated students to graduate with an associate's degree at the same time they are handed their high school diploma.  And this is at no additional cost to the student.  This way students like Eduardo Duran can become the first of their family to earn a college degree - and they are doing it tuition free.  The only question is why all high schools in the Denver area are not developing similar programs.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Born to Run - and Still Running Strong Forty Years Later

With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, we can successfully kick off summer, and with that comes an official start to the running season.  Here in Colorado, we high country runners will celebrate the return of warm weather with the 34th running of the BolderBoulder.  The running lifestyle in America is really "in stride" in its fourth decade, having taken off earnestly in the early 1970s with the early fitness craze and the launching of distance races like the New York marathon.  John Meyer of the Denver Post documents the rise of America's running culture - including criticism that warned against the runner's lifestyle - in a great piece designed to promote the BolderBoulder, the art of running, and the summer season.

Runners have been told by various people at various times that running is not great exercise and is actually detrimental to their health.  We've heard about the stress on the knees and other joints as well as the unnecessary strain on the heart that comes with distance running.  And certainly running can lead to a variety of injuries.  Yet, overall there is little to criticize the running lifestyle, and there is almost no doubt that man was "Born to Run."  Running is an uplifting and healthy choice that can add years to your life and numerous other health benefits, from lower blood pressure and cholesterol to greater peace of mind.

So, maybe this summer is the year you get your run on.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The NRA, Tyranny, Armed Rebellion, and Lunacy

At some point rational discussion about the Second Amendment and gun ownership crosses the line into crazy conspiracy politics - and that point has apparently become the foundation of the new National Rifle Association (NRA).  Keep in mind that up until the late 1970s, the NRA was an association of gun owners focused on sportsmanship, hunting, and gun safety.  But that has all changed, and the change is nowhere more clear than with the election of new NRA president Jim Porter, a man "still fighting the Civil War."  And, that's not so extreme when you learn that Jim Porter, living in the twenty-first century, actually referred to the Civil War as "the War of the Northern Aggression." Perhaps nothing is more disturbing than Porter's assertion that it is the responsibility of the NRA to train citizens in the use of military style weapons in preparation for the fight against tyranny.  Clearly, in opposition to the feelings of most Americans, the NRA has finally detached itself from reality.

Granted, in response to mass shootings in Arizona and Colorado and Connecticut, there has been a concerted effort by gun safety advocates to limit the possession and ownership of firearms.  Yet, pro-gun forces seem unaware that gun ownership has never been unregulated in the United States.  And that attitude - that "liberty" is found at the end of the barrel of a gun - becomes all the more disturbing when people like Jim Porter are pushing an anti-government, borderline treasonous, agenda.  Of course, it's not just isolated fanatics and the gun manufacturer's lobby that promote a fight against tyranny, as some recent polls have indicated as many as one-third (30%) of Americans believe armed rebellion "may be necessary" against the United States government "in the next few years" as a hedge against eroding liberties.

And that's the point where we depart from rational discussion.  Many pro-gun advocates have seemed to imply the second amendment is grounded in a belief by the Founding Fathers of the people's right to overthrow the government.  It's not.  For, if it were, the definition of treason and the penalties against it would not also be engrained in the Constitution.  And, the early leaders including Washington would not have used the power of the federal government to suppress such armed rebellion, as he did during the Whiskey Rebellion or Shay's Rebellion.  In fact, the Civil War was fought against the very idea when the federal government responded to insurgents firing on Ft. Sumter.  That was armed rebellion against what "the South" felt was the encroachment of tyranny on the liberty of the southern people.  Clearly, history indicates that gun ownership and the second amendment do not provide "license for treason, or armed revolution."  And, it's not simply left wing liberals that believe this.  In fact, as Jay Bookman points out, the very idea was written into strict Constitutional interpretation by one of the strictest of all strict constructionists, Antoin Scalia.

America's Best High Schools List

It's that time of year again - the release of Daily Beast's/Newsweek's list of America's Best High Schools - a popular and often controversial ranking system that seeks to define success and student achievement against a backdrop of standardized test scores, graduation rates, and other data. Notably, departing from Jay Matthew's limited scale from the past, which he called The Challenge Index and which was myopically focused on AP participation, the Daily Beast/Newsweek scale ranks schools based on six areas:  graduation rate, college acceptance, AP/IB tests taken, average of AP/IB scores, average of SAT/ACT scores, and AP/IB enrollment. For a full explanation of the ranking methodology, check this page.  Of course, beneath the data, there are always interesting stories behind the schools that top the list, and the Daily Beast profiles one such school - Bartow High School, a middle-to-low income school in Florida.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

P-Tech High School/Early College Offers CTE with Business Connections

Education Week profiles the continued advancement with career training in high schools by focusing on the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn.  The technology-based curriculum was developed in conjunction with local universities and the corporation IBM to foster a better path for students.  Students at P-Tech can earn an associate degree while in high school, and they can potentially parlay that into a job with IBM or other technology companies.  We desperately need this sort of business-education partnership committed to innovation and design oriented thinking.  And, it is happening across the country in places like the High Tech High schools in California.  If you know of more schools and school models that incorporate this idea, make sure to post links or write about them.  Spread the word about effective instruction.

Valley Girl Celebrates Thirty Years

"Freeeed. Stacy.  Freeeeeeed.  Staaaaacyyyyy." "If they attack the car, save the radio."

It's hard to believe, but it was thirty years ago when a little known cast and a potentially cliched script made its mark on the teen film genre with the release of Valley Girl starring Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman.  The movie which was riffing on the teen speak of southern California popularized in Frank Zappa's song, and which put a surprisingly fresh spin on Shakespeare's star-crossed-lovers motif, was well received at the box office.  And, on its way to becoming one of the most well-known and cited teen films of the eighties, the film also launched a hallowed soundtrack of eighties post-punk and a theme song which would be come synonymous with the decade itself - Melt With You by Modern English:

This week MovieFone takes a look at where the stars are now. Some faired very well while others drifted into respectable careers and some literally dropped off the map map.  However, the most disturbing news is that studios are planning a remake of the film. That said, we'll always have the original, and it's still great every time I see it.  And, even in an era of Facebook and text messaging, the story of a young punk falling in love with a girl from the Valley seems honest and fresh in its treatment of adolescence, love, angst, and music.  The soundtrack was one of the first time I remember a movie's music making all the difference in the story, and teen movies of the 80s did that in an impressive way.  These days, the killer soundtrack is a standard component of teen movies and television shows, and it became an art form with shows like The O.C. and One Tree Hill.  But it was the young kids rocking out to The Plimsouls at a club in the Los Angeles that really put movie music on the map for me.

For a look back at the highlights of the original, check out this montage: