Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
Don’t you agree? I’m trying to be accurate, and not be catty. They really do seem to strike the same philosophical and psychological chord, but in different fields. Without being either for or against either man, just looking at each as a news/entertainment phenomenon, you can place them close together on just about any dimension save field-specific ones. That is, abstract only very slightly, and you’re looking at the same thing.
I have a vague memory of two Hollywood execs raving about some recent film and ribbing a producer on not having that movie. “Are you kidding? I already own it,” and named a movie he had made some years ago. The two had a good laugh, went home, and as one later wrote, the more he thought about it, the more he realized the producer was right. It was the same story. The exact same story, but different characters, different MacGuffin, different time, different county, but: exactly the same story.
That’s what we have here: These two are the same story. In music, I guess it would be different songs, same chord progression.
Very cute post by Kevin Drum: Our Score So Far: Kids 1, Adults 0
What’s interesting is how the incentive to crack the security of the devices was built into the program: with the security in place, really the only thing they can do at home with the iPad is to try to breach the security: it was, in effect, the only game on the machine.
That is the very epitome of “perverse incentive.” (Another example: paying quality control inspectors a piece rate based on how many pieces pass inspection per day; or or having hospitals run for a profit (which leads to cost cutting, staff overload, increased rates, and so on); or having a bond-rating agency paid by the banks issuing the bonds…. oh, wait.)
I’m impressed with The Youngest Grandson. Yesterday we bought him one of those small, decorative pumpkins (a real pumpkin, just tiny) and told him, “This is a pumpkin. Do you like the pumpkin? The pumpkin is orange,” etc.
Today he was in the kitchen and The Son asked, “Where is your pumpkin?” The little guy turned and walked into the living room and walked over to the table where the pumpkin was sitting and pointed at the pumpkin. Wow. One exposure (though multiple repetitions of the word), and the next day he knows what it is. (Age: 15 months—just under, in fact).
That brought to mind these five excellent books on educating your child. Mindset, in particular, is a big book for me.
Parents and parents-to-be, take note.
Interested extract from Jeff Sharlet’s article in Killing the Buddha:
The road to Westmont College winds up a hill and between the estates of people too wealthy to let their houses be visible to passersby. Oprah Winfrey, it is said, lives somewhere along the road, on an estate last valued at $50 million; “one of the most beautiful places on earth,” she calls it. “I have a little ritual,” she told a newspaper. “Every time I pass the front of my house I sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’.” A quietly marked turn-off leads to Westmont’s campus, 111 acres of an estate built and landscaped in a Mediterranean style, ocean below, mountains above. A streambed meandering down the hill, wooded paths crisscrossing it, stone benches squatting beneath California oaks, eucalyptus, and exotic evergreens collected by the property’s previous owner. The smell of sweet pine and flowers, rose gardens and a dozen different tropical blossoms pouring off balconies and bubbling fountains. It’s the prettiest campus in America; or, in the words of one alumnus, a Presbyterian pastor in San Jose named Ben Daniel, “a very beautiful corner of a dying world.”
Ben called after I published an essay about a short time I’d spent living with a Christian conservative movement called the Fellowship, or the Family. The Fellowship is secretive, “invisible” in its own words, and exclusive, intended not for the masses but for those whom the movement calls “key men,” particularly in business and politics. Some members speak of “biblical capitalism,” others of “biblical law,” but in essence their beliefs are simple: “Jesus plus nothing,” they like to say.
“Look at Westmont,” Ben told me. “It’s a feeder school.”
Westmont’s motto is “Christus Primatum Tenens,” or, “Holding Christ Preeminent.” Some call it the Wheaton of the West, after Wheaton College in Illinois, which likes to consider itself “the Harvard of evangelicalism.” Its liberal arts faculty is distinguished and its students generally affluent, many of them drawn from the wealthier suburbs of Southern California. Not Ben. He’d been raised, he said, “behind the redwood curtain” of rural Northern California. His parents were Jesus freaks, hippies for Christ. In 1986 he went to Westmont to become a preacher, but he understood the job as something more like that of a druid, deciphering God’s works in nature, than that of a megachurch CEO.
Ben chose Westmont because his older brother had done a year there, and his divorced father lived in Santa Barbara. But his brother dropped out, his father found the college’s mix of aggressive conservatism and Christianity unsettling, and Ben found himself adrift in a campus culture that revolved around beach parties. Not long after he got there, a group of older students “sock and dimed” him: they scooped him up, drove him to the beach, stripped him naked, and left him with a sock to cover his crotch and a dime to make a phone call. Ben had no one to call. He found a couple making out on the beach—Westmont students, it turned out, in violation of campus policies forbidding sexual activity before marriage—and they drove him back to campus.
Ben’s father called the dean of students, but as Ben recalls the conversation, the dean had no sympathy for the 18-year-old. He told Ben’s father there were no rules against hazing. (There are now.) Ben’s father was shocked. “You don’t allow dancing,” he said, “but hazing’s ok?” The dean’s answer, Ben’s father said, was a chuckle and a “Yep.”
Ben didn’t go to the beach much after that. Instead, he went hiking. He could walk off the campus and right into the Santa Ynez Mountains. When he got to Westmont, they were brown and crackling, ready to ignite, a condition Californians refer to as “golden.” As the semester progressed, green crept up the hill from the well-irrigated campus. It reminded Ben of fertile Humboldt County. He’d finish classes and set off by himself and walk for hours, thinking about the usual things, girls, and grades, and being lonely, and also Christian things, theology and God and the pressing problem of creation. He’d wanted at one point to be a physicist, but geology was more his speed. He loved the stories of mountains rising and falling and shifting and colliding, the quiet grandiosity of the earth in motion. But the stories made him uneasy, too. They nudged him toward questions he’d never had to ask and to which he had no answers. If the fossil record chronicled life emerging from a primordial soup, what did that mean for the truth of Adam and Eve?
Ben’s questions didn’t drive him away from his faith, they propelled him deeper into it. He began writing columns for the student newspaper about faith in the world. Standard social gospel fare, working with the poor, the hypocrisy of affluent Christians, American involvement in the late 1980s dirty wars of Central America. Radical by Westmont standards. And yet nobody could deny Ben’s sincerity, his intensity. He became a student-chaplain, and then, with the encouragement of the head chaplain, a man named Bart Tarman, Ben joined what Tarman called a “cell group,” a group of young men devoted to their faith through their devotion to one another.
Ben remembers Tarman telling them . . .
The Wikipedia article states it well:
The propaedeutic value of Esperanto is the benefit that using Esperantoas an introduction to foreign language study has on the teaching of subsequent foreign languages. Several studies, such as that of Helmar Frank at the University of Paderborn and the San Marino International Academy of Sciences, have concluded that one year of Esperanto in school, which produces an ability equivalent to what the average pupil reaches with European national languages after six to seven years of study, improves the ability of the pupil to learn a target language when compared to pupils who spent the entire time learning the target language. In other words, studying Esperanto for one year and then, say, French for three results in greater proficiency in French than studying French for four years. This effect was first described by Antoni Grabowski in 1908.
Springboard… to Languages summarizes the propaedeutic case for Esperanto with these words:
- Many schools used to teach children the recorder, not to produce a nation of recorder players, but as a preparation for learning other instruments. [We teach] Esperanto, not to produce a nation of Esperanto-speakers, but as a preparation for learning other languages.
- The preparatory teaching conducted by Institute of Pedagogic Cybernetics at the University of Paderborn inGermany prepares students to become aware of the essential characteristics of languages, using the international language Esperanto as a model, a language with a clear and simple structure, almost completely regular and, thanks to its agglutinative character, detachable into combinable morphological elements; this model is easy to assimilate and develops aptitude for the study of other languages.
Even before the experiments conducted by Prof. Helmar Frank in Germany, similar research was conducted in Hungary by I. Szerdahelyi of the University of Science in Budapest. A group of native Hungarian speakers, after having studied Esperanto for two years in the third and fourth grade of elementary school, were divided to study their learning of Russian, German, English, and French.
According to the results, preliminary Esperanto study led to a 25% improvement in acquiring Russian, 30% for German, 40% for English, and even 50% for French. In other terms, children who had received preparatory teaching obtained notably better results than their peers who had not had an analogous introduction to the study of foreign languages. This system of preparatory instruction was put into practice in Germany, with a greater number of students, but with the sole aim of finding a way of facilitating the learning of English. The results showed that after two years of linguistic orientation using the International language, the advantage was about 30%.
The experiments conducted and repeated many times at Paderborn went much further:
- Students were divided into two competing groups. One started English instruction in third grade (A), the other, instead, followed preparatory teaching through Esperanto and started English only at the fifth grade (B).
- The Esperanto programme required 160 hours in all, which can seem like a great loss of time, but, according to the final results, in seventh grade group B reached group A’s level of English learning and in eighth grade they exceeded it. In other words, those who benefited from the preparatory teaching gained more time than they had lost in preparation.
Some researchers who study cybernetics applied to pedagogy and foreign language instruction advise that:
- Language study should begin with elementary school, starting at 8 years of age and with two years of Esperanto.
- After the introduction of the foreign language, Esperanto should be used in teaching a determined subject, such as geography, as an interscholastic means of communication (correspondence).
- There should be efforts to coordinate the steps necessary in all European Community countries to ensure a simpler linguistic communication between citizens. . . .
Continue reading. The article includes a list of places where the approach was tried.
Dylan Matthews writes in Wonkblog:
Teach for America, the nonprofit organization that places high-achieving college graduates in school districts in underserved areas of the country, hasn’t lacked for evaluations over the years. As I explained back in April, the majority of evaluations have shown either that TFA teachers are as effective as their peers, or that they are even better than traditional teachers in some categories. A vocal minority resists this conclusion, but the best data we have suggests that TFA either does no harm or does active good.
The best evidence we had before today was a randomized evaluation conducted by Mathematica Policy Research between 2001 and 2003, which found that TFA teachers bested other teachers at teaching math — with gains for students equal to about a month of additional instruction — and were not significantly different from them on teaching reading.
A follow-up using the same data showed that that result held for students across the math score distribution, not just the average student. “These results suggest that allowing highly qualified teachers, who in the absence of TFA would not have taught in these disadvantaged neighborhoods, should have a positive influence not just on students at the top of the achievement distribution but across the entire math test score distribution,” the authors concluded.
That consensus was bolstered in a big way Tuesday by the release of a new Mathematica evaluation of both TFA and the Teaching Fellows program, which runs highly selective, city-specific teacher placement programs somewhat akin to TFA but targeted at both kids just out of college and at professionals looking for a career change (think Prez).
The report, which was sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education, compares TFA and Teaching Fellow participants teaching secondary math (that is, math at both the middle and high school levels) to their peer teachers, who either came in through traditional routes or through a less selective alternative program.
The Teaching Fellow math teachers were no more or less effective than the comparison group, but the TFA teachers produced gains “equivalent to an additional 2.6 months of school for the average student nationwide.” . . .
This indicates that, if we wanted to, we could have good schools through the country. I am not in favor of “school choice” (i.e., giving the well-to-do money for their kids to attend private schools), but I am in favor of good public schools. And we can clearly make our public schools better.
In an authoritarian state like the US is becoming, people and organizations become fearful of speaking out. Although the First Amendment guarantees our right of free speech, the efforts of the Obama Administration to quash free expression are working, and self-censorship is setting in. Check out this story in ProPublica by Jeff Larson and Justin Elliott:
Citing concerns about linking to classified material, Johns Hopkins University asked a professor this morning to remove a blog post discussing last week’s revelations about the NSA’s efforts to break encryption. The post had linked to government documents published by ProPublica, the Guardian, and the New York Times.
Several hours later, after computer science professor Matthew Green tweeted about the request, the university reversed itself.
Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins, which is short drive from the NSA’s headquarters at Fort Meade, works closely with the spy agency.
According to the lab’s website, “APL staff working with NSA are engaged in strategic planning, development of enterprise and program architectures, conducting quantitative analysis to support engineering decisions, development of engineering processes, and formulation of the governance structures for the work in the new Technology Directorate (TD).”
The website also notes that the lab “completed a strategic study that analyzed NSA’s global information technology infrastructure to determine the top locations for the large-scale data centers.”
Green said on Twitter that he had “been told” that someone from the Applied Physics Laboratory had first flagged his blog post.
Asked about the Applied Physics Laboratory’s role, Hopkins spokesman Dennis O’Shea said, “We are still tracing the path of this event, which all exploded into our notice over the past couple of hours. So I don’t think we’re ready yet with an answer on that.”
In an earlier statement, O’Shea said: “The university received information this morning that Matthew Green’s blog contained a link or links to classified material and also used the NSA logo. For that reason, we asked Professor Green to remove the Johns Hopkins-hosted mirror site for his blog.”
He continued: “Upon further review, we note that the NSA logo has been removed and that he appears to link to material that has been published in the news media. Interim Dean Andrew Douglas will inform Professor Green that the mirror site may be restored.” . . .
I took years of music lessons, but I had no idea at all how to practice and so the time was in large part wasted. I just came across a very useful NPR post (including a video) that lists the essential steps to effective practice. For example, just point 4 would have done a lot:
4. Begin with the end in mind: Have a goal for each practice session before you start playing. Just playing through your music isn’t the same thing as practicing.Before you start, think: What do I want to accomplish today? If you’re not sure what you need to focus on, ask your teacher for a few concrete goals to work toward before the next lesson — and write them down so that you can refer to them during your practice sessions.
For those whose interest is specifically the piano—a dwindling cohort—I strongly recommend Playing the Piano for Pleasure, by Charles Cooke. Cooke was an amateur pianist who worked for the New Yorker and wrote many profiles of professional musicians. Whenever the subject interviewed was a pianist, Cooke asked quite a few questions related to his own interest in playing the piano, and ultimately wrote this (wonderful) book, based on what he learned.
The link is to relatively inexpensive hardbound editions. Cooke used two-color printing to show how he marks up a score to make it easier to learn and play—his markings printed in red on the score printed in black. Unfortunately, the paperback versions are (a) paginated incorrectly and (b) printed only in black, so in looking at the score his markings are indistinguishable from the original score. So the only recourse is to get the hardbound edition, but if you’re an amateur pianist, it’s a totally wonderful book. (It would be a fantastic gift for a pianist.)
Very nice essay by Jim Sollisch in the NY Times:
In 1972, I was hungry. Very hungry. After all, I was a 14-year-old boy. I played sports and was constantly working out. I could eat every hour. My mother packed my lunch in a grocery bag.
I was into eating and sports, but there were other manly pursuits I wanted nothing to do with. For example, I had no interest in tools. I could build a sandwich but not a birdhouse. Or a beer-can lamp. Which is exactly what I would be doing in shop class, which all boys had to take in ninth grade at my junior high school.
Girls took home economics. Boys took shop. Girls learned to cook lasagna and bake chocolate cake. I would be learning to use a lathe. I preferred lasagna. So I did the sensible thing: I signed up for home economics.
The school counselor called me into her office to tell me that boys weren’t allowed to take home ec. I asked to see her boss, the vice principal. Same story. “Well,” I announced, “we have a problem because I’m not taking shop. These rules are discriminatory.” This was 1972; discrimination was everywhere you looked. If you weren’t protesting something, what were you doing? My parents wrote a letter expressing their support for my decision.
My mother was called to school. The problem, it turned out, was that shop and home ec were same-sex classes, and they were worried that a boy would be disruptive in an all-girls class. As much as I wanted to be in an all-girls class — I liked girls as much as lasagna — I saw an opening.
The next day I circulated a petition at school, demanding that the administration establish an all-boys home ec class for the undersigned: some two dozen hungry males whose parents were willing to let them out of shop to learn to cook.
The democratic process worked, the administration backed down, and within a few days, we boys began our experiment in domesticity. It’s true that we spent most of our time throwing hot, wet spaghetti at one another and eating so much raw muffin batter that our muffins came out stunted, but in spite of ourselves we witnessed magic: onions sweetened by fire and flour transformed by yeast.
So began my love affair with cooking. I was given the keys to the castle, the ability to satisfy my largest appetite. It was like the power some kids feel when they get a driver’s license. If I was hungry (and I was), I didn’t have to beg my mother to cook me something or settle for pretzels or chips. I could make spaghetti or meatloaf. I was the master of my domain.
In college, I might have been the only guy to ever . . .
Read this article in Salon by Brittney Cooper:
On the Facebook memorial page for Ana Marquez-Greene, one of the young victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, her parents posted a picture of her and her older brother on the first day of school last year. The realities of Newtown and its potential to be repeated became apparent in Atlanta two weeks ago when a lone gunman entered a school with a bag full of guns and 500 rounds of ammunition, prepared to massacre a group of elementary school children.
Today marks the start of a new school year. As I reflect on a long and discouraging summer in progressive politics — capped off by another national non-commemoration of Labor Day, even as service workers strike all over the country — I am reminded of the kinds of volatile physical and intellectual conditions that shape public school systems in urban areas throughout the country.
In Atlanta, school clerk Antoinette Tuff found herself face-to-face with the gunman, 20-year old Michael Hill who came dangerously close to re-creating Newtown in a Southern, urban, predominantly black setting. For nearly an hour, Tuff used her Christian faith to create a context of radical empathy with the mentally ill Hill, who confessed that he had not taken his meds. Tuff convinced Hill to lay down his weapons and surrender to police, but not before he exchanged a round of gunfire with them. Her act of heroism points to the mostly invisible but incredibly impactful labor that school service personnel perform for students on a daily basis.
Still, her heroism is no substitute for a comprehensive gun control policy in this country. The Tuff-Hill encounter came on the heels of Atlanta Public Schools opting to spend $10.1 million to hire and train 73 armed school resource officers. The first wave of “resource” officers began this year. Such solutions are problematic because they cast the students as a threat, rather than dealing with the broader culture of guns that embolden people like Michael Hill and Adam Lanza.
By contrast, in Philadelphia, school officials have laid off nearly 4,000 teachers, staff, counselors and classroom aides, in addition to closing 23 public schools. Although they could not find $304 million to close the budget shortfall, city officials were able to find $400 million to build a new prison. Chicago students also started school with more than 50 school closings.
In Louisiana, the federal government filed suit against the state for issuing school vouchers to subsidize students attending segregated private schools in districts that fall under federal desegregation statutes. Gov. Bobby Jindal has been incensed at the federal resistance to using public funds to subsidize racially segregated education.
In higher education, states continue to slash the budgets for public colleges and universities in places like Alabama, California and New Jersey, while passing that cost along to young college students, who will be saddled with huge amounts of student loan debt upon graduation. . .
Extremely interesting post by Benny the Irish polyglot:
Whenever I meet new people and try to help them with their language learning missions, when they hear that I have already learned to speak a few languages and ask me to list them, the one that always gets their attention the most is Esperanto.
Most people have never even heard of it, but occasionally they say that they thought it was dead and that maybe I learned it as an alternative to Klingon or Na’vi just for the hell of it, since “nobody actually speaks it”.
Well, today I am going to make a suggestion that I included as one of many other language hacks in the Language Hacking Guide, and it has nothing to do with saving the world, or peace and love between all races with a universal language. I don’t learn Esperanto to aim for a better worldsome day – to me it has very practical uses right now to me and to many learners.
Even if it had no speakers, it would still be very useful
In fact, let’s pretend that nobody actually speaks Esperanto.
In this hypothetical universe, there is just material online to learn it and one guy on Skype in Yemen who is willing to chat to you in it. Even in this situation, I still say that if you aren’t speaking your target language yet (Spanish, Japanese, Russian or whatever it may be), then devoting two weeks to Esperanto can get you months ahead in that language.
If you already speak several languages then this particular language hack will be lost on you, but for those of you still behind the “barrier” of actually conversing, this may be just what the doctor ordered!
One big criticism I have for many traditional learning systems is the obsession with studying(a.k.a. input if you like thinking of humans as the same as robots) because they see a language as nothing more than pure information and totally ignore the social aspect of it. You need to get over the barrier of feeling embarrassed, and simply not used to a foreign language. This is the strangest part of learning any language.
“Skip” the hardest first foreign language bit
Why should you learn Esperanto? Because it’s easy.
I don’t actually like using the word “hard” with languages – I think it’s counterproductive to randomly assign negativity, which will do absolutely nothing to actually help you learn a language. But anyway, if you are curious (I do get asked this a lit) the “hardest” language I ever learned and ever will learn was… Spanish. Yep – no matter what language you suggest in the world, Spanish will always have been the hardest one for me.
Not because of the subjunctive, or tables of conjugations or any of the other things that pessimists drool over when they get ready to compile a list of reasons to discourage people. It’s because it was the first foreign language that I ever tried to speak. It doesn’t matter about the grammar and vocabulary so much when you just are not used to any foreign language coming out of your mouth. This barrier is a tough nut to crack and extra work of needing to worry about conjugations, cases, word genders etc. are generally going to add to this pressure.
The reason I’m suggesting Esperanto for 2 weeks is because it is very easy (no word genders, no conjugation, perfectly phonetic, no random rule exceptions, easy consistent vocabulary). If you are truly devoted and have a lot less to randomly whine about, then in just a couple of weeks you can focus entirely on communication with way less study. You will recognise thousands of wordsalready since most of the vocabulary is based on European languages like French, but there is some English in there too! For example, Yes is pronounced exactly the same (spelled as “jes”).
If you are fully devoted for two weeks, and in the second week do genuinely try to speak it in a chatroom or on Skype, you will be forced to use what you have learned, but you won’t have to think too hard to do it. If you are dedicated enough (and use some hacks to make sure you are speaking quicker) you could do this in a very short time. You will get over this speaking barrier and be communicating in a foreign language! You would need more than 2 weeks to speak fluently, but you can indeed speak it and get by in this time.
And then something amazing happens – that target language, the one you really want to speak (for moving to France, trying to rediscover your Chinese roots etc.) suddenly becomes yoursecond foreign language! You already “speak” one, so you have gained this confidence that seemed so unobtainable before, and now you will have that extra edge where you actually want it. . . .
Continue reading. Lots more.
I’m reading Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life, and I thought the section I quote below is of particular interest to many. It’s based on research by the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, which she published in the book Mindset, which I frequently recommend. Here’s the passage, whch I think will be of interest to parents, teachers, and others who interact with the young.
Rounding the corner into the nursery school classroom to collect my daughter, I overheard the nursery assistant tell her, ‘You’ve drawn the most beautiful tree. Well done.’ A few days later, she pointed to another of my daughter’s drawings and remarked, ‘Wow, you really are an artist!’
On both occasions, I found myself at a loss. How could I explain to the nursery assistant that I would prefer it if she didn’t praise my daughter?
Nowadays, we lavish praise on our children. Praise, self-confidence and academic performance, it is commonly believed, rise and fall together. But current research suggests otherwise – over the past decade, a number of studies on self-esteem have come to the conclusion that praising a child as ‘clever’ may not help her at school. In fact, it might cause her to underperform. Often a child will react to praise by quitting – why make a new drawing if you have already made ‘the best’? Or a child may simply repeat the same work – why draw something new, or in a new way, if the old way always gets applause?
In a now famous 1998 study of children aged ten and eleven, psychologists Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller asked 128 children to solve a series of mathematical problems. After completing the first set of simple exercises, the researchers gave each child just one sentence of praise. Some were praised for their intellect – ‘You did really well, you’re so clever’; others for their hard work – ‘You did really well, you must have tried really hard.’ Then the researchers had the children try a more challenging set of problems. The results were dramatic. The students who were praised for their effort showed a greater willingness to work out new approaches. They also showed more resilience and tended to attribute their failures to insufficient effort, not to a lack of intelligence. The children who had been praised for their cleverness worried more about failure, tended to choose tasks that confirmed what they already knew, and displayed less tenacity when the problems got harder. Ultimately, the thrill created by being told ‘You’re so clever’ gave way to an increase in anxiety and a drop in self-esteem, motivation and performance. When asked by the researchers to write to children in another school, recounting their experience, some of the ‘clever’ children lied, inflating their scores. In short, all it took to knock these youngsters’ confidence, to make them so unhappy that they lied, was one sentence of praise.
Why are we so committed to praising our children?
In part, we do it to demonstrate that we’re different from our parents. In Making Babies, a memoir about becoming a mother, Anne Enright observes, ‘In the old days – as we call the 1970s, in Ireland – a mother would dispraise her child automatically . . . “She’s a monkey,” a mother might say, or “Street angel, home devil,” or even my favourite, “She’ll have me in an early grave.” It was all part of growing up in a country where praise of any sort was taboo.’ Of course, this wasn’t the case in Ireland alone. Recently, a middle-aged Londoner told me, ‘My mum called me things I’d never call my kids – too clever by half, cheeky, precocious and show-off. Forty years on, I want to shout at my mum, “What’s so terrible about showing off?”’
Now, wherever there are small children – at the local playground, at Starbucks and at nursery school – you will hear the background music of praise: ‘Good boy,’ ‘Good girl,’ ‘You’re the best.’ Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signalling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have – but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing – doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.
Which brings me back to the original problem – if praise doesn’t build a child’s confidence, what does?
Shortly after qualifying as a psychoanalyst, I discussed all this with an eighty-year-old woman named Charlotte Stiglitz. Charlotte – the mother of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz – taught remedial reading in northwestern Indiana for many years. ‘I don’t praise a small child for doing what they ought to be able to do,’ she told me. ‘I praise them when they do something really difficult – like sharing a toy or showing patience. I also think it is important to say “thank you”. When I’m slow in getting a snack for a child, or slow to help them and they have been patient, I thank them. But I wouldn’t praise a child who is playing or reading.’ No great rewards, no terrible punishments – Charlotte’s focus was on what a child did and how that child did it.
I once watched Charlotte with a four-year-old boy, who was drawing. When he stopped and looked up at her – perhaps expecting praise – she smiled and said, ‘There is a lot of blue in your picture.’ He replied, ‘It’s the pond near my grandmother’s house – there is a bridge.’ He picked up a brown crayon, and said, ‘I’ll show you.’ Unhurried, she talked to the child, but more importantly she observed, she listened. She was present.
Being present builds a child’s confidence because it lets the child know that she is worth thinking about. Without this, a child might come to believe that her activity is just a means to gain praise, rather than an end in itself. How can we expect a child to be attentive, if we’ve not been attentive to her?
Being present, whether with children, with friends, or even with oneself, is always hard work. But isn’t this attentiveness – the feeling that someone is trying to think about us – something we want more than praise?
The book is good, but that particular passage seems important to share since the findings are so counter to modern assumptions.
A very interesting set of TEDx talks for those who want to learn a language.
Here’ is one of talks, unfortunately by a not very captivating speaker, on using Esperanto as a pedagogical tactic: teaching Esperanto as the introduction to learning any foreign language. (It works.)
Read this NY Times column by Bill Keller on the reaction by the GOP to the Common Core curriculum:
I respect, really I do, the efforts by political scientists and pundits to make sense of the current Republican Party. There is intellectual virtue in the search for historical antecedents and philosophical underpinnings.
I understand the urge to take what looks to a layman like nothing more than a mean spirit or a mess of contradictions and brand it. (The New Libertarianism! Burkean Revivalists!) But more and more, I think Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s Republican rising star, had it right when he said his party was in danger of becoming simply “the stupid party.”
A case in point is the burgeoning movement to kill what is arguably the most serious educational reform of our lifetime. I’m talking about the Common Core, a project by a consortium of states to raise public school standards nationwide.
The Common Core, a grade-by-grade outline of what children should know to be ready for college and careers, made its debut in 2010, endorsed by 45 states. It is to be followed in the 2014-15 school year by new standardized tests that seek to measure more than the ability to cram facts or master test-taking tricks. (Some states, including New York, introduced early versions of the tougher tests this year.)
This is an ambitious undertaking, and there is plenty of room for debate about precisely how these standards are translated into classrooms. But the Common Core was created with a broad, nonpartisan consensus of educators, convinced that after decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education, the country had to come together on a way to hold our public schools accountable. Come together it did — for a while.
The backlash began with a few of the usual right-wing suspects. Glenn Beck warned that under “this insidious menace to our children and to our families” students would be “indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology.”
(Beck also appears to believe that the plan calls for children to be fitted with bio-wristbands and little cameras so they can be monitored at all times for corporate exploitation.)
Beck’s soul mate Michelle Malkin warned that the Common Core was “about top-down control engineered through government-administered tests and left-wing textbook monopolies.” Before long, FreedomWorks — the love child of Koch brothers cash and Tea Party passion — and the American Principles Project, a religious-right lobby, had joined the cause. Opponents have mobilized Tea Partyers to barnstorm in state capitals and boiled this complex issue down to an obvious slogan, “ObamaCore!”
There are Common Core critics on the left as well, who argue that the accountability movement makes teachers scapegoats for problems caused mainly by poverty. As one educator put it, less than half in jest, “The problem with national testing is that the conservatives hate national and the liberals hate testing.” Discomfort with the Core may grow when states discover, as New York did this month, that the tougher tests make their schools look bad. But overwhelmingly the animus against the standards comes from the right.
Some of this was inevitable. Local control of public schools, including the sacred right to keep them impoverished and ineffectual, is a fundamental tenet of the conservative canon. In an earlier day, more thoughtful Republicans — people who had actually read the Common Core standards and understood that the notion of a federal usurpation was a boogeyman — would have held the high ground against the noisy fringe.
Such conservatives still exist. . .
Looks really cool, as described by Mark Frauenfelder:
The object of Cargo-bot is to write programs that control a robotic arm to move, sort, and stack colored crates. The computer language is a simple instruction set consisting of of squares that tell the arm which direction to move, and whether or not to perform an action based on the color of the crate. You write the programs by dragging and dropping the instruction squares into a sequence that causes the arm to perform the assigned task.
You can also write programs that execute other programs you’ve written. (This is important because each program has space for just 8 squares, so you need to be able to write efficient code to complete the challenges). The challenges start out easy but become maddeningly difficult as you progress. With subroutines, if-then statements, and plenty of opportunities to practice debugging, it’s a good way to get kids to think like a programmer. You can also record a video of your program in action and share it to YouTube.
And the school quickly veers toward being a police state in miniature. Bryce Stucki writes in The American Prospect:
In January 2008, school resource officer David Pritchett brought eight-year-old Anthony J. Hunt into the reading lab at Shields Elementary School in Mewes, Delaware. He planned to question him about a missing dollar, stolen from an autistic student on the bus that morning. Pritchett was almost certain that the student already waiting in the room, a fifth-grader named AB in court papers, had stolen it. Pritchett had trouble getting him to confess.
After sitting Hunt down and closing the door, Pritchett began his interrogation. He warned the boys against lying, and told them about Stevenson House, a youth detention center where “people are mean” and where Hunt would not be able to see his siblings. Hunt began to cry, after which AB confessed to stealing the dollar. Two years later, Hunt’s mother sued the state, and three years after that the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in her son’s favor, agreeing that Hunt’s Fourth Amendment rights protecting him from unreasonable seizures had been violated.
The school-based interrogation of students by police officers and administrators is a new and little-studied event, arising out of dramatic changes in the way punishment is handled in many public schools across the country. Starting in the mid-1990s, federal funding and a heightened suspicion of juveniles led to a large increase in the number of law enforcement officers with a regular presence in schools. In 1975, only 1 percent of U.S. public schools had an officer stationed inside. By the 2007-2008 school year, 40 percent did. In schools, police regularly make arrests and give citations, often for minor infractions. To build cases against the young people they arrest, as with adults, police seek confessions because they speed up investigations. To help elicit those confessions, police employ systematized questioning tactics—typically influenced by the Reid technique of investigation—that lead to remarkably high rates of self-incrimination. While there have been few studies explaining whether these interrogation methods are used in schools, available information suggests that when officers do question students, they treat them much like adults.
The Reid technique is the most influential method of evidence-gathering. During interrogations, the Reid technique instructs officers to use what social psychologists call maximization and minimization techniques. Maximization tactics involve confronting a suspect to raise anxiety (“Quit lying to me”) while minimization techniques involve commiserating with a suspect to reduce their feelings of guilt (“I can really understand how much pressure you were under that day”). In a 2012 study of interrogations of 307 suspected juvenile felons in Minnesota—the largest such empirical study available—University of Minnesota law professor Barry Feld found that officers use maximization techniques in 69 percent of cases and minimization techniques in 15 percent. Seven percent of those interrogations were performed in schools. Lying, deceit, and other confrontational tactics—informing suspects of the jail time they could face, bringing up possible punishment of family members—are legal, provided no specific promises of punishment or leniency are made.
Those confrontational tactics —one-man performances of the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” routine—are generally employed after a suspect has waived their Miranda rights, which almost always happens. In the Minnesota study, 93 percent gave them up. Juveniles waive at such high rates either because they do not understand the warning, do not grasp the gravity of their situation, want to tell their side of the story, or are terrified, Feld explains. After they start to talk, confessions almost always follow (88 percent of the time in the Minnesota study), making the state’s case easy to put together and often leading to a quick plea bargain.
Recent court cases and reports from North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, California, and Georgia show evidence of coercion by police and administrators. Joseph Buckley, president of Reid and Associates, says that “without a doubt” some of the 20,000 officers his company trains each year are assigned to schools, though he “has no way of knowing” specific figures. The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) expects to enroll 3,500 to 4,000 officers and administrators in its basic program this year, which includes instruction in interrogations. A 2010 policy brief from the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice found that NASRO courses “tend to emphasize technical training, such as the review of laws determining whether Miranda warning must be given” rather than psychological training specific to adolescents; a 2009-2010 study of Massachusetts school resource officers made a similar conclusion. Mo Canady, executive director of NASRO, says he has “no philosophical problems” with the Reid technique, though his company doesn’t currently teach it.
The exact number of school-based interrogations occurring each year is unknown. . .
This is a fine example of GOP integrity. David Atkins at Hullabaloo writes:
Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s school received an “A,” despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a “C.”
The next quote is my favorite:
“They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.”
If Republicans don’t cheat to make big-donor charter schools look better than public schools, accountability will be compromised!
My first thought when reading a sentence like that is to wonder whether the person who wrote it was cackling with knowing evil maniacal laughter when he did, or if Mr. Bennett is simply so dedicated to his ideology that he actually meant it with a straight face–that only accountability for public schools matters, and any cheating to make public schools look worse justifies the means. . . .
So far as the education the children get? Who cares? The idea is to make money. Lots of tax dollars go to education and private business would love to have that.
Justin Pope writes in the Atlantic:
Detroit’s bankruptcy filing last week and the decades of decline that preceded it have been a predictable political and historical Rorschach test. The right blames the city’s demise on moral failures and weak character — the banana-republic-caliber corruption and fiscal fecklessness of its politicians, the greed of its unions, the spinelessness of automobile executives who gave into them. To the left — more inclined to see history as the product of “great forces” than “great men” (or terrible ones) — the Motor City was swamped by powerful tides:racism, sprawl, and unbridled capitalism.
But what was distinctive about Detroit? Other cities struggled mightily to adapt to the decline of manufacturing. But only Detroit struggled mortally – at least in terms of municipal cash flow. Why do Detroit’s troubles so vastly exceed not only those of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, but Baltimore, Providence, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Rochester?
Here’s a possible part of the answer, in the form of question. What exists in each of those cities, but can’t be found in Detroit? One answer: a large, and usually quite wealthy, private research university. Where is Detroit’s Johns Hopkins? Or, to limit the comparison to neighboring Rust Belt states, where is its Carnegie-Mellon, or Case Western Reserve? Why is there no, say, Henry Ford University in Detroit? And if there had been one, would it have made a difference?
First, why focus the question on private universities? Of course, public universities matter to cities, and had the University of Michigan not decamped from Detroit to Ann Arbor in 1837, the region’s entire history might well be different (better or worse is hard to say). But that move was part of a bigger pattern. As University of Kentucky historian of higher education John Thelin notes, most leading public universities were established in what were, at least at the time, rural areas. Cheaper land, the domination of state legislatures by rural interests, the initial agricultural focus of many such institutions, and anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant nativism all pushed public campuses out into the country. That left private (including Catholic) institutions positioned for a greater impact in urban areas.
In the United States, private universities occupy a disproportionate share of the very top tier in wealth and prestige — places that operate in education, research and health care on a scale that could substantially affect the economy of a city as large as Detroit. Yes, Detroit has public Wayne State and a smattering of mostly small and often Catholic private colleges. But while Wayne State does important work, and even a fair amount of research, its operating budget is $576 million. In Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon and the quasi-private University of Pittsburgh are about $3 billion combined, in a city less than half Detroit’s size.
Private non-profit institutions enroll fewer than 15 percent of U.S. undergraduates, but they account for 27 of the 60 U.S. members of the Association of American Universities, the leading group of elite research institutions, whose members employ on average 11,400 people each. In 1950, about the time Detroit’s population began falling, private institutions were 18 of the 32 AAU members.Today, the top 20 universities in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings are all private institutions, as are 15 of the 20 largest university endowments. That dominance is regretted by many, but it’s no coincidence. Top private institutions are more varied in their missions, and more malleable and flexible to respond to new opportunities and change direction. The best of them are more entrepreneurial and less bureaucratic. Those and other reasons have simply made them, historically, more appealing places for very rich people to give enormous amounts of money (and unlike any public university I know of, at a certain price they’ll even name the place after you).
Of course, Detroit isn’t the only major American city without a prominent private research university . . .