Archive for April, 2012

Mindfulness for Google… and Schools?

April 29, 2012 Comments off

An article in today’s NYTimes describes an in-house meditation program offered to Google employees called SIY for Search Isnide Yourself. The program is designed to help employees cope with the stressful 80 hour a week environment at Google, a recognition that each employee’s personal well being is an asset to the corporation as surely as their high IQs and impressive educational backgrounds.

So here’s a question: Why shouldn’t schools have a course like this for, say, HS Freshman? It seems to me that the students at competitive high schools often have work weeks as daunting as those at Google as they load their academic schedule with difficult courses (6 hours/day X 5 days/week = 30 hours + another 30 hours of homework = 60 hours) and extra-curricular activities to boost their resumes (2 hours/day X 5 days/week = 10 hours) brings them to 70 hours… and when you add in work around the house, volunteer work and a second extra-curricular activity (again to get the eye of college admissions folks) you can easily get to the 80 hour work week of a Google-ite…. and I found the stress regarding relationships in HS far exceeded the stress I ever encountered in a workplace (though some board meetings on, say, redistricting and some personnel-related issues were WAY more stressful)…

So why don’t we offer some kind of “source” on this? I think most readers can see why not: it’s because most people in the public would view this as “religion” in schools even though meditation, per se, is not religious. Perhaps as corporations adopt this practice on a more widespread basis some schools will begin to accept it as a “practice” and not a “ceremony”… especially if schools are expected to focus as much on the well-being of students as they are on the information students learn.


ALEC and Ed

April 28, 2012 Comments off

In late March I posted an item that referenced some behind the scenes work being done by American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC. In the past several weeks, ALEC has been in the news far more than I believe it would like to be… including an article in Republic Report, a blog dedicated to investigating how money corrupts politics.

In addition to writing boilerplate legislation for Tea Party causes and the NRA, ALEC has taken to writing education legislation that favors privatization in response to many of its board members which include several leading privatizers… Kaplan, a subsidiary of the Washington Post, was a major contributor to ALEC until several progressive blogs shined a light on it… and several for-profit operations with low graduation rates have also contributed to ALEC’s cause, which can be summed up in one phrase: PRIVATIZATION IS SUPERIOR TO ANY ALTERNATIVE!

I would be among the first ones in line advocating for a change to the way schools are organized today, but I would see privatization as the last place to go for education reform. Privatizing can only be marketed as a viable alternative to the current set up of schooling if standardized tests are the primary measure of quality… because you can “game” the system to increase test scores but you can’t “game” good teaching and engaged student learning… and if you think of teachers as interchangeable employees on an assembly line designed to crank out good test takers, you can get them cheaply— especially in this job market.


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Detroit Suspends Student Protesters

April 28, 2012 Comments off

Stories like this one feed my mostly repressed paranoia… When over 180 students are suspended for five days for protesting the fact that their school is going to close, their school is underfunded, and their teachers are disengaged, it makes me wonder where the leadership in the city, district, and school is. As I can divine from this article, the combination of a financial crunch and low performance on tests is resulting in the closure of this high school and the opening of privatized charter school in its place. It appears that this was done without any opportunity for input from the public and, from what is implied, without giving students or parents any way to question the rationale for the change. If that IS the case, everyone in town needs to work on their civic engagement procedures.

So… what are the students at Western International HS learning? Don’t question authority under any circumstances! Compliance carries the day! Rules are Rules! Don’t talk to your classmates about what’s wrong with this school and don’t try to organize any kind of protest! Just the lessons we want future participants in a democratic government to learn….

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