As the punchline of a New England anecdote says, “it could have been worse”…. On the other hand, an evangelical Christian who favors the abolition of the Common Core and sees creation science as a viable mandate might be better for the job of Secretary of Education than a billionaire lobbyist who wants to give every parent a voucher.
The president of Liberty University says he turned down the job of education secretary in the forthcoming Trump administration for personal reasons. – 2016/11/27
Claims of Positive Effects of Mindfulness Effects on Students Are Based on Research; Claims that Buddhism is a “Religion” Unfounded
The Denver Post ran a feature article by Monte Whaley that described a Mindfulness Program that was introduced into a second grade classroom in one of the Denver region elementary schools. The article did a reasonably good job of describing mindfulness, describing it as “paying attention on purpose without judgment” and noted that it “…is being taught in thousands of schools, board rooms and offices across the country.” The article also offered links to research conducted by the University of North Carolina, Carnegie Melon University and the National Institutes of Health and offered this description of the benefits to second graders:
Proponents say mindfulness helps students maintain more control of their emotions and surroundings, said Melissa Kaufmann, mindfulness program director and instructor at Creativity Challenge Community.
“When I designed this mindfulness program, I was hoping to teach students to self-regulate and have a toolbox for mindful tactics to use in their daily lives,” said Kaufmann, known as Miss Melissa to her students. “After taking mindfulness classes, students understand how to maintain focus in and outside of schools, how to be aware of their emotions and senses without judgments, and how to be in the present moment.”
As a meditation practitioner I was troubled by the description of the program, which reported that the meditation practices were limited to two-15-minute sessions per month, which hardly seems sufficient to develop the kind self-regulation Ms. Kaufman was trying to achieve. I am certain, however, that fitting the practice into class each day is a challenge— just as finding the time to meditate for 20 minutes a day is a challenge for an adult. But the fruits of the practice, the ability to maintain focus and to be aware of senses without judgments, requires an investment of time. From my perspective, these fruits are far more beneficial than the skills measured by standardized achievement tests.
As a Buddhist practitioner I was also troubled by these sentences which were juxtaposed near the end of the article:
Critics say mindfulness is part of a movement to introduce Buddhist practices into secular classrooms… Kaufmann’s mindfulness session did not mention a higher power or deity.
I would have hoped that Mr. Whaley would point out to readers that the critics are wrong in their assessment about Buddhism practice being a religion. The kind of Buddhism that emphasizes mindfulness isn’t a religion at all and it does not refer to higher powers or deities. Instead it compels students to become more aware of their thoughts and to gain an understanding of how their thoughts filter their perceptions. It is precisely this kind of higher order thinking and centeredness that students need in this day and age of information overload. My thought: maybe the anonymous donor who underwrote the second grade class should offer a program to the Denver Post.
Laura Chapman Finds “Philanthrogovernance by Stealth” in Dozens of Cities: But This is the Tip of An Iceberg
Education blogger Laura Chapman’s research on the long reach of the Broad Foundation was shared in a post yesterday by Diane Ravtich, and Ms. Chapman’s characterization of the foundation’s work as “philanthrogovernance by stealth” is apt. Suspicious of the recent creation of a “local” reform group in Clark County in her home state of Nevada, Ms. Chapman did some digging and found that website of this “local” reform minded group, “Opportunity 180″, indicated it was “…part of the national network of “Education Cities,”… and who was providing the seed money for this organization?
Surprise. Surprise. Surprise. There is the Broad Foundation, not exactly local. If you want to see where else this intended capture of public schools is being engineered, go to the Education Cities Website http://education-cities.org/who-we-are/
A visit to the Education Cities Website showed that Clark County was one of 31 cities where “grassroots” organizations are seeking reform of public schools. And the ultimate source of funding should be no surprise to anyone who follows the privatization movement:
Education Cities are cities where unelected nonprofits, foundations, and civic groups are organized for the purposes of controlling the governance of public education, substituting their judgment for policies and practices forwarded by professionals in education, elected school boards, and citizens whose tax dollars are invested in public schools.
The national work of Education Cites is supported by the Broad Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. http://education-cities.org/who-we-are/our-contributors/.
But as indicated in the title, this is the tip of the iceberg. Because the philanthro-capitalists have won the public relations argument when it comes to “reform”, their ideas of turning public schools over to private charter operators have caught fire and any Chamber of Commerce or local “Leadership” council seeking to impose entrepreneurial ideas into the public sector have sprung up like well fertilized mushrooms in a dark forest.
In the 1990s I worked in Maryland and one of the local businessmen was enamored with the nascent charter school movement in NYC. He bought everyone on the local Chamber of Commerce and the Leadership Hagerstown board copies of “The Miracle in East Harlem” describing the work of Sy Fliegel, a MacArthur genius grant recipient who operated charter schools in NYC. He then arranged to have Mr. Fleigel come to our area and give an address to a group of local business leaders and got the local media to cover the event. While many of the businessmen were drawn to the idea, Fliegel’s ideas did not get traction. In retrospect, I think one of the reasons was because at that time there was not sufficient evidence that the schools in the State or our district were “failing” and in need of some kind of dramatic turnaround. Indeed, at that time the district was showing steady improvement in the indicators the State used in the Maryland State Assessment and Performance Plan. Finally, at that time the notion equity among schools in the State and county was dominant making the notion of “choice” an anathema…. and vouchers, the end game of the “reformers”, were considered to be an extreme vision that would have no applicability whatsoever to either our district or our State.
As I write this I am surprised to realize that these events took place over two decades ago, when MD was led by a forward thinking Governor and excellent State Superintendent. I will be interested to see how MD responds should Ms, DeVos secure the nomination for Secretary of Education. I would not be surprised to find that Mr. Fliegel’s arguments for “…“creative noncompliance” with teachers’-union work rules and the bureaucratic red tape” resonate in 2016 thanks to the insistent drumbeat for “reform” that has dominated discussion since the passage of NCLB.
The bottom line in all of this: the Broad Foundation will not need to go into every district in America to get its message out: the “failing schools” narrative has taken hold and the argument for equity has vanished.