Archive for November, 2016

Evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. Says Trump Wanted to Make Him Education Secretary

November 29, 2016 Comments off

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

Source: Evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. Says Trump Wanted to Make Him Education Secretary

Categories: Uncategorized Redux

November 28, 2016 Comments off

This weekend Dian Ravitch featured a post criticizing for its practice of gathering and selling data on students as part of it’s micro-scholarship initiative. While I find this kind of scheme distasteful, I also know that the issue of raising money to go to college is real for most parents, particularly for parents who are experiencing economic challenges themselves. That led me to leave this comment:

This sounded familiar to me and I found that I had reacted to a NYTImes article on this program several months ago.

I am as troubled about the premise behind as I am by the data collection and I see a conundrum in dismissing this kind of program. My concerns are noted in the closing paragraph, “While I wish that a students primary motive was learning for its own sake, our culture and our political environment at this point sees education solely as a means of earning more money.”

And here’s a conundrum: many parents actively discourage their children from pursuing more education because they do not believe it is within their reach financially. When I was principal at a rural HS in ME in the late 1970s I heard this from parents and as superintendent in Western MD in the early 1990s I heard this from the Principals who led the rural schools in that district. I sure that today there are many parents tell their children to not even THINK about college because it is too expensive. If a program like provides some of those students with a means of addressing that very real concern on the part of their parents, MAYBE the trade off is worth it.

Claims of Positive Effects of Mindfulness Effects on Students Are Based on Research; Claims that Buddhism is a “Religion” Unfounded

November 28, 2016 Comments off

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. 

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