Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

This Parkland teacher left his gun in a public bathroom. It was loaded, BSO says.

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One of the drawbacks of arming teachers. Madeleine Marr reports in the Miami Herald:

Not the most normal sight: a gun left in the bathroom stall.

But that’s exactly what went down on Sunday in a men’s room at the Deerfield Beach Pier.

The circumstances of how the Glock 9mm got there are unusual.

According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the weapon was left by Sean Simpson. If his name sounds familiar, he’s the teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who said he’d be willing to arm himself while on duty.

According to the sheriff’s office report, Simpson told deputies he’d left his gun by accident. By the time the chemistry teacher realized his mistake, the Glock was already in the hands of a drunk homeless man who had picked it up and fired. The bullet hit a wall.

Simpson was able to grab the gun away from the vagrant, Joseph Spataro, who was charged with firing a weapon while intoxicated and trespassing.

As for the MSD teacher, he was  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2018 at 10:09 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Guns

Teaching religion in schools

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2018 at 8:43 pm

Posted in Education, Religion

In defence of proper usage

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Written by LeisureGuy

5 April 2018 at 11:29 am

When religion undermines knowledge: Why Is New York Condoning Illiteracy?

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Shulem Deen writes in the NY Times:

Last Friday, as observant Jews hurried with last-minute preparations for Passover, one Orthodox Jew was in Albany, holding up the New York State budget. He was insisting that this roughly $168 billion package include a special provision that would allow religious schools to meet the state’s educational requirements by using their long hours of religious instruction.

In recent years, education activists, among them former Hasidic yeshiva graduates, have pushed aggressively to bring the yeshivas into compliance with the state’s education laws. Simcha Felder, the state senator from Brooklyn who represents the heavily ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood, was on a mission to get legal permission for the state to turn a blind eye to the near-absence of secular instruction in many yeshivas. The upshot? Tens of thousands of children would continue to graduate without the most basic skills.

I know about the cost. I was one of those kids.

I was raised in New York’s Hasidic community and educated in its schools. At my yeshiva elementary school, I received robust instruction in Talmudic discourse and Jewish religious law, but not a word about history, geography, science, literature, art or most other subjects required by New York State law. I received rudimentary instruction in English and arithmetic — an afterthought after a long day of religious studies — but by high school, secular studies were dispensed with altogether.

The language of instruction was, for the most part, Yiddish. English, our teachers would remind us, was profane.

During my senior year of high school, a common sight in our study hall was of students learning to sign their names in English, practicing for their marriage license. For many, it was the first time writing their names in anything but Yiddish or Hebrew.

When I was in my 20s, already a father of three, I had no marketable skills, despite 18 years of schooling. I could rely only on an ill-paid position as a teacher of religious studies at the local boys’ yeshiva, which required no special training or certification. As our family grew steadily — birth control, or even basic sexual education, wasn’t part of the curriculum — my then-wife and I struggled, even with food stamps, Medicaid and Section 8 housing vouchers, which are officially factored into the budgets of many of New York’s Hasidic families.

I remember feeling both shame and anger. Shame for being unable to provide for those who relied on me. Anger at those responsible for educating me who had failed me so colossally.

A woman I know works as a physician at Maimonides Medical Center, in heavily Hasidic Borough Park in Brooklyn, and often sees adult male patients who can barely communicate to her what ails them. “It’s not just that they’re like immigrants, barely able to speak the language,” she told me. “It’s also a lack of knowledge of basic physiology. They can barely name their own body parts.”

This experience — of lacking the most basic knowledge — is one I have come to know well. Ten years ago, at age 33, I left the Hasidic community and sought to make my way in the secular world. At 35, I got my G.E.D., but I never made it to college, relying instead on self-study to fill in my educational gaps. I still live with my educational handicaps.

I now have two sons, ages 16 and 18. I do not have custody of them — I lost it when I left the Hasidic world, and so I have no control over their education. Today, they cannot speak, read or write in English past a second-grade level. (As for my three daughters, their English skills are fine. Girls, not obligated with Torah study, generally receive a decent secular education.)

Like me, my sons will be expected to marry young and raise large families. They too will receive no guidance on how to provide for them and will be forced into low-wage jobs and rely heavily on government support.

They are not alone. Across the state, there are dozens of Hasidic yeshivas, with tens of thousands of students — nearly 60,000 in New York City alone — whose education is being atrociously neglected.

These schools receive hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding, through federal programs like Title I and Head Start and state programs like Academic Intervention Services and universal pre-K. For New York City’s yeshivas, $120 million comes from the state-funded, city-run Child Care and Development Block Grant subsidy program: nearly a quarter of the allocation to the entire city.

According to New York State law, nonpublic schools are required to offer a curriculum that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools. But when it comes to Hasidic yeshivas, this law has gone unenforced for decades. The result is a community crippled by poverty and a systemic reliance on government funding for virtually all aspects of life.

Men like Mr. Felder, beholden not so much to his Hasidic constituents as much as to their leaders who promise him votes, would like to pretend that this problem doesn’t exist. The leadership of the Hasidic community argues that the issue is exaggerated, an attempt by outsiders to malign their community. They point to outliers, successful entrepreneurs — the Hasidic-owned electronics store B & H Photo Video in New York City is often touted — as examples of success.

But these are rare exceptions.

According to a report by Yaffed, or Young Advocates for Fair Education, an organization that advocates for improved general studies in Hasidic yeshivas, an estimated 59 percent of Hasidic households are poor or near-poor. According to United States Census figures, the all-Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, an hour north of New York City, is the poorest in the country, with median family income less than $18,000.

One heavily Hasidic district of Brooklyn, South Williamsburg, has, over the last decade, shown dramatic increases in using public  . . .

Continue reading.

This is the sort of thing that gives religion a bad reputation.

And this is another example of how religion gets a bad reputation.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2018 at 7:55 pm

Here’s the real reason teachers are revolting in red states

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Augustina S. Paglayan writes in the Washington Post:

Teachers are revolting — striking for better pay and improved school funding. Last month, the nation watched an unprecedented nine-day statewide strike in West Virginia, which ended only when the legislature passed — and the governor signed — a 5 percent raise for all teachers.
Last week, threatened with a similar strike, the Oklahoma legislature offered a raise and increased school funding — but not enough to stop teachers from striking. Arizona and Kentucky teachers have organized sickouts and rallied at their state capitols, with similar demands. Teachers in these red states are among the worst-paid in the country.
Why the low pay and unrest among public school teachers across conservative states?
Some observers believe weak labor rights are why teachers in these states are among the lowest-paid. These states don’t require local school districts to bargain collectively with teacher unions — and weaker labor rights leave teachers worse off. If only these states mandated bargaining with the unions, this argument goes, teacher salaries would be higher and there would be fewer reasons to strike.
But that’s a myth. My new research shows collective bargaining rarely leads to higher teacher salaries and more education spending. Teachers in red states are striking because of their low pay — but that is not because their labor rights are weak. The problem is they teach in states that have historically spent little on education.
Before the 1960s, virtually all U.S. states prohibited collective bargaining for teachers and other public employees. Beginning with Wisconsin in 1959, 33 states in total over the next 20 years — mostly outside the South — and the District of Columbia repealed this prohibition and required districts to bargain with teacher unions. In the remaining states, 10 states allowed but did not require bargaining with unions, and seven states, mainly in the South, prohibited it.
That pattern remained stable until 2011, when Republicans in Wisconsin and 10 other states passed laws that cut back teachers’ collective bargaining rights, promising this would help reduce public deficits.
Since collective bargaining rights for teachers did not emerge until the 1960s, we can look at the difference between those states that did and did not mandate collective bargaining to see whether these rights affected teacher salaries, employment and education spending.
To quantify the effect of mandatory collective bargaining with teachers, I tracked teacher salaries, the number of teachers hired, public spending on education, and spending on non-wage things such as pensions and health benefits across all 50 states from 1919 to the present.
Here are three things I found, and one implication for policymakers.
1. Teachers got collective bargaining rights in states that already paid teachers well.
By 1990, teacher salaries were 19 percent higher in states with mandatory collective bargaining than in states without. But that is not because of mandatory collective bargaining. The states that adopted these labor laws were historically wealthier and more liberal. They already spent more on education, even before mandating collective bargaining.

The gap in teacher salaries and education spending that we see today between states with and without mandatory bargaining already existed in 1919 — long before the rise of teacher unions.

2. Mandatory collective bargaining didn’t increase teacher pay or education spending.
After states passed these bargaining laws during the 1960s and 1970s, there was a sharp rise in the share of teachers covered by collective bargaining agreements, in teacher union membership, and in teachers’ political engagement.
What didn’t increase more were teacher salaries, the number of teachers hired, or public spending on education.
As you can see in the figure below, after some states mandated collective bargaining and others didn’t, the teacher salary gap between those two groups of states stayed more or less the same. Between 1959 and 2000, teacher salaries increased by 43 percent in states that introduced mandatory bargaining and by 47 percent in states that did not. The same thing goes for education spending and the number of teachers per student.
It is not the requirement to bargain with unions that makes the difference in how much governments spend on education and teachers. . .

Continue reading. More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 April 2018 at 12:11 pm

An interested analogue for computer-managed instruction

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From The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, by Brian Dear:

“The theory was,” Braunfeld recalls, “a) here we are at a university, so by definition we know how to educate, and b) we know how to do what was in those days called real-time data processing. Which I guess today there isn’t even a word for that, because it’s all real-time. But the notion of real-time data processing was a big deal in those days, because computers typically had as their inputs cards or paper tape, and it came in and it did its thing and it came back out. The notion of actually getting stuff in at random times was rather rare.”

Having all come fresh from the Cornfield project, these CSL engineers immediately saw an analogy between Cornfield’s need to track the real-time comings and goings of multiple airplanes and naval vessels, identifying which was friend, which was foe, while they moved in different directions at different speeds, and the new project’s need to track the real-time interactions of multiple students each sitting at a terminal, each interacting with the computer at their own pace, each student having essentially an ongoing, private, live conversation with their digital tutor. The big breakthrough that gave Bitzer and his colleagues a surge of confidence was that they could see at an abstract level the similarities between these two very different problem spaces—air traffic control and student data. Step back far enough, and from a purely architectural point of view, naval destroyers’ radar data could be seen as data from student terminals. To the computer it was all just zeroes and ones. Students would be interacting with the system in real time, so the data would be pouring in from multiple sources in real time. No different, to the computer, from multiple aircraft radar pings being fed back to the central machine in real time. The notion of a central computer handling lots of random incoming data, processing it as fast as possible, and spewing it back out to graphical terminals? Just think of the students as aircraft and it all started making sense.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2018 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Education, Technology

An extraordinarily powerful Facebook post on the March for Our Lives kids

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Michael Hussein Tallon writes on Facebook:

Today has been a day of awakening for me, and I suppose it has been for many of my age-contemporaries, too. As a fifty-one year old man, I don’t cry much, but, wow, have I been a weepy mess all day today watching these magic kids. And that’s the term that keeps coming back to me: These kids are magic.

They somehow don’t seem real. They seem more like fully formed wizards who just popped into existence, as if the shooter who tore through their high school just showed up expecting sheep and found warrior-paladins instead.

But then it makes even less sense, because they aren’t just from Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. They are kids from everywhere. And they keep demanding that the media recognizes that they are from everywhere. These kids, these magic kids, keep saying to the interviewers, GO TALK TO THE OTHER KIDS. GO TALK TO THE BLACK KIDS. GO TALK TO THE POOR KIDS. GO TALK TO THE LATINO KIDS.

Then, as happened time and again today, when the cameras finally turn to the black kids and the Latino kids and the poor kids, THEY talk about other kids.

This isn’t a story about Parkland, Florida and a really smart AP class with great prospects. It’s about a full-on generation shift that caught me, and I’m guessing you, totally by surprise. These magic kids are from EVERYWHERE.

Which begs the question: If they came from everywhere, then how did they happen?

The NRA and their sad, angry ilk have a readymade explanation: They’re actors. They’re following a script. They’re shills of Big Peace. Whatever. All that is insane, of course, but you can almost understand the confusion. The kids just don’t seem normal. They aren’t what we understand children to be, which of course is to say, “They aren’t like us. They aren’t like we were when we were kids.”

And so we cast about for an easy answer.

But perhaps the answer isn’t easy at all. Perhaps the answer is through a mirror darkly.

Millennials (who, believe it or not, are now in their thirties) and these Gen-Z kids have been painted with the most unflattering colors by my Gen-Xers and the Baby Boomers before us. We’re the ones in positions of power in the world and what do we do? We call them all a bunch of crybabies. We give them endless grief for their constant insistence on things like “white privilege” and “non-binary sexuality.”

We mock them for their safe spaces and their sensitivity to being triggered by language. We tell them they need to toughen up. We tell them that the world is a harsh place, as if we know better than them that brutal truth.

I think the reason we are so surprised by these kids is that we’ve spent so many years telling ourselves that they were “snowflakes” who were going to get blown away by the real world, that we missed the coming storm.

God, were we wrong.

The truth is these kids didn’t spontaneously erupt from Florida a month ago. They have been deconstructing the bullshit of our generations for their entire lives, and now they’re ready.

Not for nothing, these are the kids that were born, literally, in the months after September 11, 2001. They came into a world at war. They grew up in the shadow of ever-threatening “Red Alert Levels” and endless “Active Shooter Drills” and the ubiquity of “Rekt” videos on 4Chan. They did not know one day of school before Columbine. They did not know one day of life without the threat of terrorism. They have not known one day of their nation in peace. Like it or not, they have lived every day of their lives, twenty-four-seven, on the battlefield.

We give them endless grief for playing video games. We tell them they should be outside, at school – but for so many of them, the schools and their streets are “soft targets.”

God, I’d stay in and play games where the bullets weren’t real, too.

These kids grew up with the native ability to parse the OBVIOUS racism of Trayvon Martin’s murder, of Tamir Rice murder, of Philando Castile’s murder, of African American teenagers in McKinney, Texas getting the shit kicked out of them by police for being in a “white” neighborhood for a pool party. Just two days ago, they watched Stephon Clark get put down by over-amped, trigger-happy police while he was in his grandmother’s backyard. They can see with their own two eyes that our society is grossly unjust – and so when the camera focuses on David Hogg, we shouldn’t be surprised that this smart-dressed white boy says, TALK TO THE CHILDREN OF COLOR, as he did just yesterday in an interview with Axios. We shouldn’t be surprised when he says “Our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.”

They’ve seen how badly we’ve screwed up a free society for their entire lives and they are, in their own beautiful way, “calling bullshit.”

The kids didn’t magically arise in a fortnight; their whole lives have been calling bullshit.

They are digital natives with an ability to see the whole grand world. As such, they note that we’re the only economically advanced nation in the world where 30,000 people die from gun violence every year. They aren’t cloistered in their own communities playing kickball, so they know that those deaths are skewed all to hell in the obviously racist, classist ways that are evidenced in the above mentioned state-sponsored crimes of racial bias. They know that Trayvon, Tamir, Philando and all the others aren’t aberrations in the data set.

These kids might just be learning to shave, but Occam’s razor is intuitive. You need to train yourself into NOT believing obvious truths. Maybe Gen-Xers and Boomers have learned to bend themselves into a knot over that, but these kids? Not a chance. Of course they call bullshit on that.

When the “adult” generations sit on our hands and say we can’t just get rid of AR-15s because of the NRA and their power, of course they call bullshit on that.

When politicians who are blatantly sucking money from horrible people who manifestly make their world worse, of course they call bullshit on that.

We adults — and FINALLY with some level of self-consciousness in these matters, I’m speaking as a middle-aged, white, privileged, man — have been so busy lampooning their beliefs, that we missed the point where they just went ahead and actually included everyone into their generational tribe – regardless of their race, gender-identity, sexuality, religion, or class. We’re still arguing about gay wedding cakes and we’re still OBVIOUSLY treating kids of color worse than white kids. Of course they call bullshit on that.

What we missed, and why we’re so surprised that they have “magically” appeared, is that these kids threw our bullshit overboard years ago. They don’t need our rigidity. They don’t ever again need to hear someone say, “Hey, everyone is a little bit racist.” They have no time for our “God-hates-the-gays bigotry.” They have no place for our transphobia.

Grow up on a battlefield and you lose your illusions. They’re well over our befuddling myths of the way the world must be.

Moreover, they know they’ve got a fight ahead of them.

They are looking square into a future denuded of the possibilities we older folks took for granted. They can see, quite clearly, that like plagues of locust, our grown-up generations have stripped the nation’s resources, beshitted the global environment like we had a spare planet tucked in the garage under a tarp, presided over the destruction of our own middle class, and for a kicker, welcomed a parade of nationalist buffoons with fascist tendencies back into power.

These kids can see the tribalism and they know that soon they’ll be ascendant.

Their tribe is different than mine or yours. For now, they’re young, but for all the rest of their time on this planet, they will be multiracial, non-binary, non-dogmatic, digitally native, omnivorously curious, and significantly bigger than either the surviving Boomers or the aging Gen-Xers.

These kids didn’t spring suddenly from nowhere. They’ve been watching us and learning from our nearly countless, self-imposed mistakes. They’ve seen us run in pointless ruts, like cattle through an abattoir, and they’ve decided that’s not for them, and so they called bullshit.

They’re calling bullshit and they’re not making any safe space with their language for us if you consider this withering fusilade of truth from Mr. Hogg.

“It is truly saddening to see how many of you have lost faith in America because we certainly haven’t and we are never going to. You might as well stop now because we are going to outlive you.”

Yes, thank God, you will. But for as long as I can, I’ll follow you into the future. I just hope I can keep up. I have so much to learn.


Written by LeisureGuy

25 March 2018 at 5:04 pm

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