Tag: Education

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If your soul is in need of penance, or you just need a sharp reminder that life is a vale of tears and woe–to see the skull beneath the skin of life as it were–you could do worse than watching this video of Michelle Obama rapping–-yes, rapping–about how everyone should go to college. Though the […]

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Courses That Are, Indeed, Great

 

mzl.zlixsgsv Like Mona Charen, I’ve been a fan of The Great Courses ever since I first discovered them in cassette form at my local library. I must have purchased a dozen of them before they started advertising on Ricochet, and I’ve purchased a half dozen digitally since. (And yes, I have to purchase them like everyone else, even though they’re our sponsor; and, no, I wasn’t put up to doing this and I’m not being directly compensated for it.)

The idea of bringing university-level lectures directly to consumers who wish to learn for the sake of learning and self-improvement really is one of the marvels of the digital age and, I hope, one of the harbingers of the future of education. As Heather Mac Donald pointed out in her profile of the company a few years back, it should come as no surprise that a for-profit, direct-to-consumer education company’s best-sellers are survey courses with traditional approaches to art, history, religion, and science, rather than sub-niche, agenda-driven treatments of obscure subjects. It turns out that when you ask adults what they actually want to pay to learn, you get more mature answers. Who knew?

With that in mind, I wanted to share two courses that I’ve recently enjoyed and ask members what courses they’ve listened to of late. Not just because I want some conversation, but because — seriously — I want to know what to purchase next.

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I wonder what people living one hundred plus years ago would think if they knew that their descendants loved to dress up like them and put on beautiful, slow-moving dramas with elaborate sets for vast audiences. What fun it would be to demo my laptop to someone from the pre-computer era. On such short acquaintance, he/she could not […]

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How Teachers Can Earn Millions

 

Last year, the comedy duo Key & Peele’s TeachingCenter sketch imagined what it would be like if teachers were treated like pro-athletes, earning millions, being drafted in widely televised events, and starring in car commercials. We’re not likely to see the latter two anytime soon, but some teachers are already earning seven figures.

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Allan Bloom says somewhere that Americans are the funniest people, because nowhere else will you ever hear someone say Mr. Aristotle. I think that is meant to show how good manners are mostly a matter of innocence. I came to think of that today. I teach kids how thinking works, grammar, & language. You know […]

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Until recently, many states had high school exit exams – to receive a diploma, students had to pass a comprehensive test. Since then, some states that have eliminated these exams are retroactively granting diplomas to students who failed the test. In and of itself, this raises questions about rigor and standards. But here’s the best […]

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What Could Schools Learn from Homeschools?

 

shutterstock_283575290Why does homeschooling work? Specifically, what could traditional schools — public and private — learn from homeschoolers?

This is a neglected debate. Many traditional educators, of course, feel threatened by homeschooling or reject my premise that it works; certainly they aren’t looking to learn from uncredentialed parents. And once homeschoolers find what works for them, they tend not to look back in the opposite direction.

Even education reformers favorable to homeschooling — who should be interested in this topic — never seem to ask this question (if they have, they’ve sure been quiet about it). They would probably give you some broad answers why homeschooling works: homeschooling parents tend to be well-educated, stable, and involved; they can give plenty of one-on-one attention; they’ve freedom to customize freely, without having to overcome bureaucratic inertia; they aren’t as subject to behavioral distractions; etc.

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I’m taking the evening off writing because of some work I have to do. But don’t worry–my daughter is guest posting for me tonight. She says that this is partly in response to John Greene’s essay: “Why the Word Millennial Makes Me Cringe.”  I am a millennial, born in late 1999. And I agree with many, John […]

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Markets & Curriculum

 

shutterstock_258757268The education system in the United States has been slipping lower and lower over time, despite massive increases in expenditures per student. This has made the case for school choice stronger than ever, especially in the era of the Internet. An education market is the best way to spark innovation, discover new ways of imparting information to students, and lower costs. And its biggest beneficiaries would be poorer, mostly minority, students who currently have the fewest options.

However, I want to focus on one particular aspect of market-based education that is often either overlooked or put in a wrong way: Educational choice shouldn’t be just about how — or how well — schools teach, but also about what they teach. One of the advantages of having an education market is that it’s more perceptive to changes in society (for example, the rise in importance of computer science) than top-down alternatives. This is important.

Even when a conventional system wants to evolve and succeed, its artificial attempts to reallocate capital and make changes will always lag further behind society than those of a freer market. Furthermore, a bureaucracy’s attempts to perceive what society needs — instead of society deciding itself — ultimately leads to the education system reflecting the bureaucracy’s values much more than the those of the people it’s supposed to serve.

Sesame Street for the Cyber Generation

 

Sesame_Street_sign.svgSo, I read in the New York Post about HBO’s launch of the new, improved Sesame Street. (Yes, I am a proud Post reader. Where else would I get my celebrity gossip cheesy Anthony Weiner headlines news?)

I was never fond of Sesame Street, even as a kid. Always a fan of snark, I preferred Statler and Waldorf hurling insults on The Muppet Show to Bert and Ernie’s griping. Cookie Monster was grammar-challenged and his cookie-scarfing schtick grew old, fast. Snuffleupagus was a downer. But the worst was Big Bird: whiny, ungainly, and with those disturbing bug-eyes that screamed “undiagnosed anxiety disorder.”

But as an adult with children of my own, I decided to give Sesame Street a second shot. It was a no-go. My kids were no fonder of the program than I was, and I failed to see how featuring a “Letter of the Day” or having The Count count to ten in Spanish qualified as “educational.” We opted, instead, for Sponge Bob: no more “educational” than Sesame Street, but wicked funny and blessedly free of Sonia Sotomayor going full-Voldemort on the dreams of four-year-old girls by telling them they can’t be princesses.

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From the penultimate paragraphs of C.S. Lewis’s essay “High and Low Brows”: Until quite modern times the reading of imaginative literature in a man’s own tongue was not regarded as meritorious. The great authors of the past wrote to entertain the leisure of their adult contemporaries, and a man who cared for literature needed no […]

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Now the charter schools and high-achieving private schools are under attack. Here’s a link to an article outlining the reasons for this: http://nyti.ms/1Tk3hUX, I hope it comes through.  A charter school in New Jersey has been targeted because it has a very high achieving student body of predominantly Asian descent children.  Many parents of white students […]

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The New White Flight

 

One of our local school districts made the front page of the New York Times this past weekend, in a story titled District Eases Pressure on Students, Baring an Ethnic Divide. In a nutshell, the West Windsor-Plainsboro (WW-P) school district is implementing policies such as eliminating mid-terms and finals at the high school level, and making it easier for students to earn a seat in the district’s orchestra program. These measures are being taken in response to concerns by school counselors and parents that the district’s hyper-competitive academic program is putting students at risk for anxiety and depression.

I should qualify that last sentence. It’s not all parents that are concerned. Predominantly, it’s the white ones. WW-P, as it’s known, is about 65% Asian and growing. As the Times article points out, most WW-P Asian parents are just fine with the current level of rigor.

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Sunday. (This week’s was printed on Wednesday.) When it appears, I post the previous week’s review on Ricochet. Seawriter Preview Open

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The Attack on Grad School Entrance Standards

 

The social justice activists have been making more waves in the sciences recently, such as my field of astronomy. The latest is a push to get rid of the use of standardized test scores (the Physics Graduate Record Exam, or physics GRE) in admission to physics graduate school. (Read the statement by our professional association’s president.) The claim is that the GRE is poorly correlated with success as a research astrophysicist and is more correlated with sex, race, and ethnicity.

Some astronomers have tried to quantify this by doing a study of “successful” astronomers; i.e., those who have received the prestigious postdoctoral research fellowships after grad school. They were able to use 149 responses (55%) out of the 271 questionnaires sent out. The rest didn’t respond or didn’t provide their GRE scores, and the study did not try to account for the biases this introduced.

Guile and Gullibility

 

shutterstock_292448078Every semester, I teach American Government to 70 Freshmen. As part of the class, my students are required to review a book on American politics and, every semester, I observe the complete lack of guile my students have. Even the best students are ultimately quite gullible. They take everything they read at face value, some of them go so far as to deny that a book of facts can possibly have a point of view. This distresses me for what it says about how my students think about and understand the world.

Despite the name of the class, the three branches are, in fact, only a quarter of the class, and government itself probably only half. The remainder is a basic introduction to politics: public opinion, regime-types, parties, and so on. The class covers this much territory because, truly, the government of the United States doesn’t do so much to govern us as it is simply the mechanism through which the forces that do govern us — majoritarianism, elitism, media, interest groups — work, and the purpose of the class is to give students an idea of how these forces influence students so that they can be aware of their surroundings. It is all part of that ancient ethos about knowing thyself and, ideally, recognizing that you know nothing.

Everything we know is the result of an appeal to authority. Yes, even science, the authority of empiricism, is a much weaker foundation than many realize. The manipulation of knowledge is a simple and effective way of controlling other people. It needn’t be done intentionally or maliciously. In a democracy, public opinion itself can be quite powerful: what the public believes becomes what everyone believes in short order, and half of Americans can’t all be wrong, no?  This terrified the Founders, who put great effort into preventing the formations of absolute majorities through federalism, separation of powers, the and First, Second, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. In the friction between competing authorities, Americans could suss-out the truth for themselves; but first Americans need to understand what is happening around them.

Member Post

 

It is a vulgar things in Americans who boast an education that they’re educated to be snobs. That’s literally how they know they’re educated. I’m not naming names, but it’s also how they learn what the word literally literally means. American snobs are usually derived from European snobs. They see in some way that American splendor, including the White […]

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What Good Are the Humanities?

 

Marco Rubio insulted me; see the video here. He said I was useless, and called me a fool for practicing my useless profession. It was the final proof that Republicans are anti-intellectual. Or so the stories say. Actually, I don’t believe a word of it. All I can say for sure is that he said that we shouldn’t denigrate vocational training, and that having more welders and fewer folks like me is a good way of increasing overall wages. And that was only after he went over a pretty solid laundry list of economic policies supporting freer markets and fiscal sanity.

While I could dwell happily enough in a world in which I’m proven wrong about this, I can still vote for a man who insults my profession, provided he’s the best man for the job. (Never mind that the best woman for the job also happens to be the only presidential candidate who studied philosophy . . . and has also made more money than most welders . . . and is a Republican.) Anyway, though it now seems like last year’s news, it’s still a good excuse to hear from the Ricocheti on the following question: What good are the humanities?

Trouble in the Progressive Utopia

 

imageAsk a liberal to describe his ideal society, and you won’t have to wait long to hear about everyone attending a four-year college and being subsequently rewarded with a high-paying job in the professions, or the high-tech or service industries (and commuting to work via public public transit, of course). No place in the country is this closer to reality than Massachusetts, which is, unsurprisingly, where many of the people who peddle this vision get started on the path they think everyone else should take. Overall, it’s worked out reasonably well here: the Greater Boston Area may be expensive and the state may be highly regulated, but it out-preforms the nation on a number of economic metrics and is a growing leader in the technology, healthcare, biotech, and education industries; the I-495 corridor is awash in construction, development, and expansion much of it in the aforementioned glitzy industries. We’re not quite Scandinavia, but we try.

But according the Boston Globe, there seems to be a problem: we’re seriously short of people with vocational skills:

Most of the projected job openings in Massachusetts over the next seven years will not require a four-year college degree, but an already strained vocational education system will be unable to train enough people to fill those vacancies, according to a report to be released Monday. It warns that the state faces severe labor shortages in health care, manufacturing, and other key industries as an expanding economy and retiring baby boomers create some 1.2 million job openings by 2022.

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I’m in I.T., and my wife is in education – school libraries, specifically. So we’re in Columbus Ohio where she’s attending the national conference for the American Association of School Librarians, and I’m tagging along and getting a couple of days off work. Last night we went out to dinner with 6 other people here […]

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