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Posts Tagged ‘Self-awareness’

Homeschooling Vs. Unschooling Explained

March 27, 2020 Leave a comment

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This article provides a good overview of the difference between homeschooling and unschooling noting that those who adopt the former are required to effectively replicate the traditional schooling model at home while the latter tend to allow their child’s interest to determine how, when, and where learning takes place.

Another Possible By-Product of Covid-19: We MIGHT Be Disabused of the Notion that Government Should be Run Like a Business

March 23, 2020 Leave a comment

A few days ago, Al Jazeera reporter Andrew Mitroveca wrote and scathing article about President Trump titled “Trump Proves Yet Again that Businessmen Should Not be President“. The article could just as easily been titled “Trump Proves Yet Again that Government Cannot be Run Like a Business“, a premise that is explicitly raised in the opening paragraphs of the article:

Nations should be governed as if they are companies.

Nations should be governed by men or women who have owned a company – preferably a big company.

For generations, this has been the neo-liberal mantra about how nations are organised, who is best qualified to lead and how citizens are expected to play a deferential role at the behest of owners turned presidents or prime ministers.

Donald Trump is the personification of the idea that chief executive officers can slip into the Oval Office from the corner office with ease and acuity, despite the murky means by which they may have achieved their corporate “success”.

The corollary to this CEO to POTUS trajectory is that, once in place, the former businessman will expertly swing a machete to slash the waste, bureaucracy, regulations and duplication that exists in “bloated” governments.

For several years as a public school Superintendent I fell prey to the notions advanced by David Osbourne and Ted Gaebler in their seminal book “Reinventing Government”, a book that both Bill Clinton and Al Gore used to guide them doing their terms of office from 1992-2000. And Osbourne and Gaebler were not the only gurus promoting the idea that business principles could be used to govern democratic institutions like school districts and city governments. Tom Peters lionized the business ethos William Donald Schaefer brought to the management of Baltimore city in his book In Search of Excellence and many periodicals for school administrators picked up on that line of thinking. Indeed, several urban districts, including NYC and Seattle, appointed Superintendents with no background whatsoever in public education on the theory that managing a school district was no different from managing a large complicated bureaucracy like a business or a military operation.

Donald Trump embodies everything that is wrong about the notion that a top-down CEO can solve the complicated problems that face a government… and his character flaws only magnify the inherent flaws of “running government like a business”. Mr. Mitroveca mercilessly illustrates the flaws of electing a business-minded individual to President, especially a seamless self-promoter like Donald Trump:

….No one should be surprised that a businessman who lied habitually would lie habitually as president. No one should be surprised that a floundering businessman would flounder as president. Nor should anyone be surprised by the profound, even fatal, human consequences of Trump’s lies and incompetence.

Clearly, Donald Trump is not the first president to have leveraged the vaunted neo-liberal title of “businessman” into president.

Armed with a Harvard Business degree, a stint as an oil executive and coownership of the Texas Rangers baseball club, former Republican President George W Bush, rode first into the Governor’s mansion in Austin, Texas and then into the White House.

Bush’s tenure as president is defined by one calamity after another. Each one was a repudiation of the sophomoric notion that running a business is remotely akin to running a government with complex, nuanced duties and responsibilities at home and abroad.

A cursory glance at his record confirms this. Bush assured himself, Americans and the world that the post 9/11 invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan would be quick, easy, cheap and effective. He was wrong on every count. The exclamation point of his disastrous geopolitical folly was declaring memorably: “Mission accomplished.”

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, breaching levees, obliterating countless communities and killing thousands. Bush, America’s then CEO president, grudgingly returned to Washington from his 29-day vacation on a Texas ranch. Detached and aloof, Bush hovered above the carnage in a helicopter and boasted, with Trump-like, reality-defying bravado, that a top relief official was “doing a heck of a job”. 

And, finally, in 2008, a stunned Bush was reduced toa talking mannequin as the US economy collapsed and teetered towards depression after the sub-prime scam suddenly unravelled.

Mr. Mitroveca concludes his article with this blunt assessment of why it is a bad idea to run our nation like a business:

So, taken together, Trump and Bush have established:

Nations are not companies.

Nations should not be governed as if they are companies.

Nations should be not governed by men or women who have devoted their private lives to making money.

This same idea can be universally applied to anyone who sees the profit motive as the best means of achieving efficiency in any level of government.

Expansion of On-Line Work, On-Line Schooling and the Need for Economic Stimulus Is Golden Opportunity for Universal Broadband

March 14, 2020 Comments off

As noted in yesterday’s post, more and more schools are being cancelled and more and more employers are asking their staff members to work from home. The consequence of this will undoubtedly be extreme stress on our existing internet systems and more evidence of the existing inequities in the provision of services.

I read in today’s NYTimes that the House passed a de facto economic stimulus bill in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.The bill provides “…two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for those affected by the crisis” and a slew of small bore items that will serve as a bandage for the work missed and revenues lost due to the pandemic. I fear that neither party saw the golden opportunity that lay before them: the chance to use this crisis as an opportunity to provide broadband to every citizen in the nation so that every citizen could access work and learning from their home.

But, as Common Cause noted in a press release yesterday, the FCC could take some immediate actions that would help… especially for those children who lack broadband access!

“Despite its limited authority, the FCC can and should do more to fully address broadband connectivity needs during this pandemic. The FCC can use its universal service authority to ensure existing programs designed to connect communities to broadband are fully utilized. For example, the Lifeline program connects eligible low-income households to affordable communications services. However, millions of eligible low-income households remain unenrolled. The FCC can take action to ensure all eligible low-income households are enrolled in the program. Further, millions of students lack a broadband connection at home. As Commissioner Rosenworcel has repeatedly stated, the ‘homework gap’ puts students without home broadband at a significant disadvantage. The FCC could address this by expanding its E-rate program to families with students that don’t have a broadband connection at home. The FCC must also address telehealth services so Americans can adequately connect to hospitals and other medical services.

The President touted on-line health services in his address and governors who have mandated school closures across the country all claim that on-line programs will offset the time lost in school. As readers of this blog know, that is only the case in homes with broadband… and those who cannot afford groceries are unlikely to have broadband… and those who live in remote rural outposts will be similarly challenged. We all have access to electricity and (as of now) clean water and indoor plumbing… The Covid 19 outbreak is helping us see that we should all have the same level of access to telecommunications.

Our Emerging National Experiment on On-Line Learning

March 13, 2020 Comments off

If we had a functional United States Department of Education, they would be working feverishly to devise some kind of means of measuring the impact of a national experiment we are about to embark on. As most readers of this blog undoubtedly realize, as of today four states have cancelled classes and scores of colleges– including some the “brand name” universities— are cancelling their spring semesters. All of these educational institutions, from Harvard to rural schools in Michigan, are offering on-line instruction in lieu of the traditional on-campus model. The billion dollar question for schools and colleges is this: will having students take course on-line make any difference in what they learn? The answer is that given our crude means of measuring “what students learn” we will never know.

Because our primary metric for measuring learning is the standardized test, and since on-line instruction can be targeted to the kinds of content that is readily measured on those tests, it is entirely possible that children learning on screens at home will do at least as well on these tests as children who were taught at school. Should that be the result, I can imagine advocates of virtual learning will use it as evidence that on-line learning is as good as traditional learning and advocates of efficiency will see it as evidence that we are spending needlessly.

But offering online courses as an alternative has one major self-evident drawback: high speed internet is not universally available or affordable. I live five miles away from Dartmouth College by car but cannot get broadband and my cell phone gets one bar indoors and two bars in my driveway. I have a dsl connection but need to pay a premium price for it, a price that might not be affordable if I were making even $15/hour. Online learning that consists of more than electronic spreadsheets, then, is not available for all children in same way as traditional brick-and-mortar instruction.

But there is another side to this experiment that cannot be overlooked: public schools do far more than educate children to do well on standardized tests. As Business Insider reports, one result of the closure of schools is that millions of children will no longer have access to the free meals served in public schools. For the 11 million children who come from food insecure homes this will compromise their health as surely as being exposed to classmates with Covid-19. Absent any clear protocols from the federal government, states and/or local school districts are left to fend for themselves in developing a means of providing meals for children who will otherwise go hungry. And schools do more than provide nutritious meals. They provide medical assistance, counseling, and psychological support for children that might otherwise be lacking.

Another practical issue for working parents is that public schools provide childcare. If schools close due to weather cancellations, many working parents scramble to get short-term coverage for their children or take personal leave if it is possible for them. If schools are closed for an extended period of time, how will working parents cope? And if parents are working from home who will get the use of the bandwidth?

And finally, schools an colleges employ thousands. If schools close and on-line instruction is offered, some contest teachers will presumably oversee the online instruction in some fashion. But will ALL the teachers be needed? And what will happen to bus drivers? Cafeteria workers? The custodial and maintenance staff? Will their fate be determined on a district-by-district basis or will state or federal guidelines be developed?

We are embarking on a massive experiment in the way we educate children and we are flying blind as we do so. But we may learn some valuable lessons as a result of this experiment. We may begin to appreciate that standardized tests fail to measure what is important about public schools. We may begin to appreciate the expanded mission of public schools. We may begin to appreciate the social benefits children get from interacting with their peers. And we may appreciate the key role public education plays in the local and national economy. And finally, we may appreciate the need to provide for those children who would not receive three meals a day, a warm room, or encouragement if it were not for their local schools.

 

Jennifer Berkshire Poses Question: Why Aren’t Democrats Running Against DeVos-Trump Agenda? Because They Helped Create It!

March 9, 2020 Comments off

Jennifer Berkshire, a public school advocate who abhors the profiteering that results from deregulation, wrote an article for The Nation describing how running against the Trump-DeVos agenda for public schools has been a winning theme in House elections and COULD be a winning theme nationally. The article describes several campaigns in Texas, Michigan and Wisconsin where the winning candidate was the one who advocated for public schools and suggests that public schools are highly valued in rural sections of the country as well as in affluent suburbs. At the end of the article she outlines the reasons the Democrats are NOT running against the Trump-DeVos platform for privatization and “choice”:

Yet if Democrats are aware that the roiling politics of education offer the party a potential opening in crucial 2020 states, they are keeping it awfully quiet. On the campaign trail and the debate stage, when education surfaces as an issue at all, the presidential contenders stick to bumper-sticker stuff: higher-pay for teachers, more funding for high-poverty schools, fewer high-stakes tests. Nor do the Democrats have much to say about the rural schools attended by one-quarter of American kids. Public education, as the would-be presidents define it, seems to be a city thing. And other than Betsy DeVos’ reliable role as party punching bag, the Democrats have directed relatively little energy towards distinguishing their vision from Trump’s. Indeed far more ink has been spilled over the party’s internecine dispute over charter schools, an issue that barely affects rural and suburban voters, than on the existential threats to public education in must-win states.

In order to capitalize on voter dissatisfaction with GOP education policies, Democrats will have to do more than malign Betsy DeVos. They will also have to draw a sharp distinction from recent Democratic party orthodoxy on public education. For the past three decades, Democrats have embraced the market-oriented thinking that is now reaching its logical conclusion in the form of “education freedom.” By making the rhetoric of individual choice and competition their own, Democrats have inadvertently eroded the idea of education as a public good, making its defense, and the case for higher spending on schools, that much more difficult. And yet, as voters from Texas to Wisconsin to Michigan have demonstrated, public education remains at the very core of Americans’ hopes for their children and their communities. Democrats would do well to listen to them.

In short, Betsy DeVos’ voucher plans are the direct result of Arne Duncan’s Race-to-the-Top ethos of voice and competition and the bipartisanship exemplified by NCLB and ESSA. It appears the Democrats are unwilling to change the narrative they helped create in order to support the argument that public schools need more funding. I hope the party will begin listening to the parents and voters in communities where public schools remain the bastion of hope for the future.

Researcher Concludes SROs NOT the Way to Go

March 6, 2020 Comments off

F. Chris Curran, an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy, recently researched the implications of having School Resource Officers (SROs) in schools and came to the conclusion that their presence does little to help children… or teachers and administrators. After describing the arrest of two six-year olds as an example, Mr. Curran writes:

While the arrests of the two elementary students in Orlando are not everyday occurrences, they do reflect a body of research that suggests cops in schools – they are formally known as school resource officers, or SROs – can take what would otherwise be a routine school disciplinary situation and escalate it to a whole different level…

School resource officers, who are sworn officers with full arrest powers, are increasingly common in primary schools. Between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of primary schools with school resource officers increased 64%. Now, nearly one in three elementary schools has one of these officers at least part-time…

The presence of police in schools has been shown to increase the likelihood that students are arrested for school misconduct. For example, prior research has found that police agencies that get funding for school police increase arrests of youth under age 15 by as much as 21%.

This may be because the presence of police can shift the mindset of schools to one that is more about punishment than it is about teaching students why their behavior is wrong and what they can do to make amends.

This change in mindset is analogous to Mark Twain’s shopworn but applicable aphorism: if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If the mentality of the police department is setting the tone for school discipline, the emphasis will be on punishment and not on changing the behavior of the student who acted out. Mr. Curran concludes his article with the recommendation that policy makers heed the advice of teachers, 94% of whom preferred that school districts hire “…additional mental health professionals, teaching assistants and social workers” to address student misbehavior. He also recommends that if schools want to retain SROs they should be “…given training that emphasizes the developmental stages of students and how to respond to student misconduct” noting that:

Nationally, 93% of school resource officers report training for active shooters. However, only about one third report training in child trauma or the teenage brain.

It’s time for our public schools to re-examine their priorities when it comes to school safety, for as it stands now the emphasis on hardening schools and introducing a punitive police mentality into the lives of young students is preparing them for a world where law enforcement is the only way to exert control.

 

 

College Students to Legislators: Ban Facial Recognition Software NOW

March 3, 2020 Comments off

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The Guardian published an account yesterday of a series of live and online protests that occurred across the country seeking an end to the use of facial recognition software by colleges and universities. Why? Because the false positives (i.e. students mid-identified as criminals) tend to be students of color. And– worse yet– immigrants are fearful that their misidentification could result in lengthy wrangles with ICE whose data bases are notoriously inaccurate.

I am grateful that some group is organizing this kind of mass action because the use of this technology is increasingly widespread and the general public is not aware that they are being surveilled. The article concludes with this quote from one of the students who organized the protests:

“In the end, it shouldn’t be up to some campus safety officer or even a college president or administrator to make decisions like this without having all the facts or knowing all the potential risks of implementing such a system,” she said. “This underscores the broad need for lawmakers to get off their asses, and do their jobs, and pass legislation to ban the use of this technology.”

If the Democrats want an issue to rally around and to differentiate themselves from the GOP— this is it. 24/7 Surveillance in the name of safety is the road to totalitarian government. Period.