This article about the UK Government’s “discovery” that blocking access has flaws is scary on several levels.
First and foremost, I confess that I had no idea that the UK public was willing to allow the government to interfere wit its access to information. This is a deplorable encroachment on personal freedom. Somewhere George Orwell is weeping… weeping because I don’t believe he would take any pleasure in saying “I told you so!”
Secondly, it is hard to believe that the electorate would allow the government to determine which sites should be blocked and which should remain open. If our country ever thinks this is a good idea I dread to think how we will learn about evolution if the Tea Party extremists take over or, for that matter, how anyone might be able to get maps of the Capital offices since we are so fearful of extremists that we might conjecture that they could use that information to engage in terrorism. Drawing the line on what information to shield is fraught with peril.
Thirdly, it is hard to believe that if a government wanted to shield the public from some information it would be incapable of finding programmers who couldn’t do a better job… I hope the government’s ability to shield the internet from hackers is better than the UK government’s ability to shield the public from naughtiness.
Finally, it is sad to say that we are setting up our country for “white lists” and other forms of filtering. While some schools have abandoned filters altogether, too many schools keep them— even at the HS level. Consequently we are “training” too many students that filters are OK the same we we’re training kids that metal detectors and surveillance cameras are OK. Information wants to be free and children want to be free… we can’t provide 100% protection for children from risks on the internet any more than we can provide 100% protection from automobile traffic, slipping and falling on the playground, or injuring themselves playing sports.
Bottom line: information needs to be free and available to all.
The NYTimes editorial page has an article by two UVa professors, Daniel T. Willingham and David W. Grissmer, describing the kinds of steps that are needed to provide constructive information on the effectiveness of preschool education programs. I agree with every point the writers made, but fear that their work at the University of Virginia has insulated them from the realities of politics. As noted in a recent post, diBlasio’s funding request, while far more that Cuomo’s, falls one year and roughly $3000/student short of the per puli costs of the best programs offered in New Jersey.
I had two problems with this article, which I enumerated in the comment section.
First, Willingham and Grissmer assume that evidence will guide policy makers. If that was the case in reality, policy makers would be looking at what’s happened with the “reform” movement and rightfully conclude that the high-stakes-testing regimen is making on difference whatsoever and might decide something different is needed. They might examine and per pupil spending and see that there is a strong link between per-pupil spending figures and student achievement and decide to provide urban schools with more funding.
Secondly, the article assumes that policy makers are interested in developing comprehensive plans to gather data that can be used to inform decisions. Inevitably Pre-K measures will be reduced to some form of standardized assessments that measure what’s easy to measure as opposed to what’s important to measure. As the article accurately notes, “…comparing preschool programs is hard because quality depends not just on factors in the classroom like the curriculum and the teacher’s skill, but also on how those factors interact with sleep, nutrition, parenting and other aspects of domestic life. Yet we know little about such interactions.” Those same exogenous factors come into play in K-12 education but have been dismissed by “reformers” as “excuses”.
MAYBE the implementation of pre-K will result in policy decisions that more funds are needed to provide a quality program and lead to the realization that exogenous factors play a role in the effects of schooling… but I have my doubts that either will occur.
The NYtimes editors persist in demanding a continuation to the school rating system imposed by Mayor Bloomberg despite the fact that it made no difference in terms of overall student performance over time. Why? Because they, like all “reformers” are stuck with the factory school paradigm that expects students to progress through the age-based grade levels at a constant rate like widgets moving through an assembly line. diBlasio has a chance to change that. Here’s what I suggested in the comment section:
I hope diBlasio replaces the standardized tests measuring a student’s performance against age-based cohorts with standards-based tests that measure the students mastery of material no matter how long it takes. All students can learn given sufficient time and targeted instruction. It is unrealistic to expect a third grader from an educationally deprived home to learn as much in three years time as a third grader from an educationally enriched home. Yet our batching and measuring of children by birth date persists because it is administratively efficient. We can use technology to individualize instruction like never before but instead we are using crude educational statistics to “rate” schools.
While this is unlikely to occur, it would be helpful for those who want to abandon the 1920 model system we have for a 2000 model to let the NYTimes and other media know there IS another model for schooling and its one that more and more parents are moving towards.
A Bloomberg Technology article reports that only 5% of those who signed up for MOOCs offered by Harvard and MIT completed those courses, using that data point as evidence that MOOCs are not all they are cracked up to be. I’m not so quick to jump off the MOOC bandwagon for several reasons:
First and foremost, I believe the reason for these MOOCs low pass rate is that K-12 education requires compliance and teacher oversight while MOOCs require initiative, self-direction, and the ability to learn independently. The irony in this is that the business community claims it wants creative, self-directed and independent thinking employees and yet it insists that schools use standardized tests to measure the effectiveness of K-12 schools and teachers.
Secondly, these aren’t just ANY MOOCs: they are ones offered by MIT and Harvard, neither of whom watered down the course they offered nor, to the best of my knowledge, made any effort to make their courses appealing to a broader audience. Roughly 5% of those who apply to Harvard and/or MIY get in. Is it any surprise that only 5% of those who TRIED a course from those institutions COMPLETED the course?
Third, as the article noted, getting a certificate of completion may not have been the goal of those who registered for free. I have one retired friend who watches philosophy lectures given at an elite institution with his wife and afterwards they use the material from the course as a springboard for discussion. I’m sure that somewhere there are “MOOC Clubs” springing up the same way there are “Book Clubs” and folks are convening meetings to learn from each other in addition to learning from the lectures.
Finally, the fact that only highly educated people signed up for MOOCs is not evidence that they will not eventually be a democratizing force. At this point, only a few technologically informed individuals are aware of the opportunity to take on-line courses for free. Once more guidance counselors, home school parents, and parents who want to provide supplementary learning opportunities for their children learn of MOOCs, their enrollment base will expand and the availability of free courses from leading institutions will expand opportunities. Indeed, even with a 5% completion rate, 43,000+ students completed courses at Harvard and MIT: that’s FAR more than attend those colleges and even more students will be registering once the word spreads.
I am still convinced that the curve for MOOCs will bend upward like the curve for the use of cell phones. MOOCs, like cell phones, are marginally lower in quality but drastically higher in convenience and in meeting individual needs. Don’t count them out yet….