Tag Archives: education

We Won’t Get Fooled Again…We Hope

2 Apr

When you’re a teacher, the hardest day of the year is always the first day of school…but the second most difficult day of the year, as far as I was concerned, was always April Fools Day. That was always the day when your students seemed to feel that they would be immune from punishment for whatever ridiculous and silly prank they could think up, so you always had to be on the lookout for your April fools. Woe to the teacher who did not keep track of the day and date and know what day it was!

I would always check ahead on the calendar and hope that April first fell on a Saturday or Sunday or perhaps even Spring break…but of course there was always the “sick day” that hopefully one had available just in case your particular pool of students that year was more fool-ish than friendly…

So here’s to all of you teachers out there and hoping that your day today was a good one…and also fool free!

Charter Charlatans?

27 Mar

If you live in the NYC area then you know that newly elected mayor, Bill DiBlasio, is working to fulfill a campaign pledge to charge rent to charter schools. The mayor said he wants to charge rent based on how much a school can afford to pay, and he also wants to slow or perhaps even stop the continued growth of the NYC charter school movement so that more focus can be brought back to the public schools. Naturally the charter schools are up in arms over this proposal because charter schools receive rent-free space in city buildings even though they are privately run.

During Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, Money for charter schools increased from $32 million to $659 million and what was once a modest collection of 17 charter schools has now expanded to 159 charter schools within the city…and overall the NYC education budget has almost doubled to 25 billion dollars from the 13 billion dollars that was being spent when mayor Bloomberg took office.

But the city charter schools, along with receiving free rent from the city also raise quite a lot of money from the private sector including large donations from “philanthropists” like the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame, and the hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, along with other prominent Wall Street tycoons, (You probably remember them from the great financial crash of 2008)… Anyway, That’s how Success Academy Charter Schools’ chief executive officer, Eva Moskowitz. can make nearly $500,000 a year to run only 22 “non-profit” schools.

That’s also how Mayor DiBlasio can be opposed by a “nonprofit” charter advocacy group called Families for Excellent Schools. They have organized rallies in Albany, created an internet website and spent 3.6 million dollars on commercials that can be seen constantly throughout the day on television here in the tri-state area. Charter school political action committees have even donated more than 100 thousand dollars to NY Governor Cuomo and other NY state politicians.

So is it a surprise that The Governor says that he is now “Excited” about charter school growth and that Mayor Di Blasio is now beginning to step away from his hardline campaign stance against charter schools?

Isn’t it amazing what money can do? Teachers and educators have always known that money makes a difference when it comes to your child’s education. Can your public schools use its public money to advertise in favor of the public school budget? Do your public schools have 3.6 million dollars that they don’t need for educating your children, to use for creating commercials to “convince” local politicians and influence you to support their efforts in passing the public school budget, let alone raising the school budget?

Money matters! And one has to ask why billionaires are so interested in paying large sums of money in order to gain control of and advertise for the privatization of the public schools in our country… What’s in it for them? And most importantly, what do you think is really in it for you and your children? In the short term privatization always looks good, especially when there is a multimillion dollar ad campaign to help you to try and make up your mind.

But in the long run? Just ask yourself this: When have Wal-Mart, Wall Street tycoons and billionaires ever been interested in spending money on the poorer classes of this country…except when it leads to greater class exploitation and increased profits for themselves?

 

 

 

 

The Icebergs Cometh

23 Mar

Here is another word for you: Glaciologist: One who studies glaciers or ice

And not in a bar-tending kind of way but rather in a global warming way, as in glaciers, climate change and ice melt!

Apparently, according to glaciologists, there is some startling news! The North Pole is melting! And not in a slow, “oh no someone left the freezer door slightly ajar” kind of way but rather in a “ding dong the wicked witch is dead”, kind of way…

Because Greenland is now a lot greener than it used to be and is losing ice at the rate of 30+ feet per year. Just imagine 30 feet of solid ice melting. And that’s just this year because the ice is not melting at a constant rate but rather at a rate that is accelerating every year, so whatever predictions the glaciologists make based upon today’s melt rate, they have to be revisited every year and updated.

And even though folks around the world continue to debate the scientific merits of global warming and whether or not mankind has anything to do with it (rather than just God’s love) the glaciologists have absolutely no doubt that we are to blame. And why is that?…Because the ice in Greenland is black. And why is that?… Because the black color is from the soot that has settled all over it, making it melt at at even faster rate…and soot of course is not a heavenly substance but rather a consequence of fossil fuel burning by God’s most beloved and favored of creatures…us.

But don’t despair! It’s not too late! All we have to do is cut our worldwide carbon emissions by 85%!

But wouldn’t you know…we’re increasing worldwide carbon emissions every year. And as soon as 2 and a half billion people in China and India really get their economies going…we’ll really start to do some cooking…both literally and…literally!

So don’t buy beach property! Rent instead. And tell your grandchildren to move inland or to higher ground and if they are already there, tell them to expect neighbors, and lots of them,  because by the end of this century…or sooner… 80 out of 100 coastal cities in the world will be under water…and not in a good way like some futuristic Jules Verne kind of way but rather in a “glub, glub” kind of way.

Of course giant, moveable, and super expensive sea walls could be constructed to protect our cities but when you consider that most world cities contain a much greater portion of poverty as compared to wealth I’m betting that most of the wealth is just going to vote to move elsewhere…what do you think?

Anyway, there’s still some time and science could be wrong but who would you believe? Someone who has studied hard and dedicated his life to obtain a degree in Glaciology and who has seen and is studying ice melt with their own eyes… or rather someone who has studied hard to become a politician or an evangelist and who says, “Don’t worry about it” or “Let us pray”??

Maybe Noah’s Ark wasn’t a history lesson but rather a prophesy? In any event, when the iceberg cometh, ask not for whom the ice was ordered. It cometh with room service…for thee!

 

Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road

17 Mar


 

            After having spent 33 years in the High School classroom, and observing teenagers day after day I have come to the conclusion that life is about 3 things. How we relate to, learn about and handle our relationship with these 3 things will determine much if not all of the success and happiness that we will have in our lives. I believe that while teaching the 3R’s is a fundamental and sacred principle of our educational system the study and discussion of these 3 even more basic elements of our everyday lives should be mandatory in every public school curriculum throughout the world. And they are: Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road…and here’s why.

            1. Sex – Our physical attraction to and need for someone else. Our sometimes overwhelming need for physical pleasure. The basic, primeval lure of reproduction. The undeniable connection, often repressed, between the animal world and ourselves. The basic instinct that we cannot separate ourselves from, no matter how hard we try. All of the religions in all of the world cannot sway us from our keen awareness of our sexuality and our link to the animal in all of us. We copulate and we reproduce just like all other animals. It is the only way for our species to propagate and survive. We are not separated from animals by divinity, and that’s just the way it is.

            2. Drugs – Our bodies are made of chemicals and natural substances that are found throughout our planet and our universe, that comprise all living things. Life eventually becomes mundane and ordinary for all of us and we find solace and euphoria and altered states of consciousness through the use of various drugs. Eventually we all try one or another and how we react to the effects they have on our bodies and minds will be revisited time and again over the course of our lives. All chemical substances will react with our physical organs and alter, enhance or reduce their functionality…from nicotine to alcohol to Ritalin and beyond. Whatever chemicals we ingest, be they natural or manmade, they will induce or influence behaviors and reactions that we will either find pleasant, unsatisfactory, euphoric or detrimental (and many times even addictive) but our relationship with drugs of one form or another will be constant and ongoing throughout our lives. The relationships we have with these chemicals may be the most important and profound  relationships that we will have during our lifetimes.

            3. Rocky Road – i.e.: Desire. We will all develop a desire and passion for something that may either drive, consume or haunt us throughout our lives. It may be one of the two of the three most important things that I have mentioned here so far, or perhaps all three to one degree or another. Perhaps the desire for the euphoric state that drugs induce will addict us. Or perhaps our sex drive will steer us on a course of emotional ups and downs over roads where we cannot find the off ramp. Or maybe the delicious tastes of food and the satiations that we can only find through our gastric delight will consume our thoughts and desires. Perhaps it will be the work that we choose to do or a vocation or a love for sport or the physical desire to be on the go all the time. Maybe a need for adulation or attention or love, or simply a desire to be left alone, will fill our dreams.

            Power, success, wealth, greed, fame, fortune or that nameless something, that we just can’t put our finger on…yet. Whatever it is you can rest assured that it will be something and not just anything, that will drive us or motivate us or propel us through to the end of our lives. That “Thing” will be our Rocky Road; That which we just can’t get enough of. And how we deal with that desire and pursue it or avoid it or succumb to it or live with it or without it will be our true life’s work…whether we work at it or recognize it or know it or acknowledge it…or not.

            It will be the personal relationships that we forge with these three most powerful forces; Sex, Drugs and Desire, from our adolescence through to our death, that will influence and drive us most throughout our lives. How we will cope with these relationships and how we will recognize our personal struggles with all of them will determine the very fabric of our lives and the course through which we pursue our happiness.

            Ironically these may be the 3 least discussed topics in all schools and homes when they should be the 3 most discussed topics, especially since we all have homes and we all go to school. Why do we avoid or demonize or place taboos on all of these topics? What makes them so influential in our lives and yet at the same time so embarrassing to talk about? Certainly I can understand our reticence to discuss these topics with our little children but by the time they have reached middle school and adolescence we are all, parent and child, pretty much on the same page. That is when we need to begin to open discussions on these topics. That’s when we need to begin openly discussing what it is that we are all privately thinking about anyway.

            Society needs to begin developing a curriculum for the home and school that will open a dialogue between children and adults about the topics that really concern and affect us all. Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road: A Course in Reality Science 101.

            Studying how to read, write and calculate is without a doubt important to all of our children but it will be how our children learn to cope, medicate and congregate in the 21st century that just may save us all.

Are You a Welfare Queen?

13 Mar

Do you live in a community that has received federal aid as part of a recovery from a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood or tornado? Have you ever participated in a job training program? Have you, your spouse or child ever received an education grant, like a Pell Grant as part of a student college loan? Did your child ever attend a Head Start for pre-schoolers program?  Was money ever spent on your behalf to enforce child support orders? Did you partake in a program that helped to improve your teachers’ skills? Have you been involved in any screening programs to detect breast and cervical cancer in you community? Has anyone in your family ever attended a college or university that received federal money as part of a program to strengthen their management and fiscal operations? Did you work for Americorps- which trains and places teachers in low income communities? Or do you live in a community that has received federal assistance in upgrading their water and sewage systems? Maybe you take a child tax credit or earned income credit on your tax return. Does your elderly parent or perhaps you, if you are a senior citizen, receive housing assistance?

Well then, according to the Republican party members in Congress, operating conservative think tanks and Fox news, you’re on Welfare!

Because, When so called conservatives lump all of these programs together and call them welfare and then calculate how much money is being spent on these programs and then divide that number by only those folks who are living under the poverty line, they come up with a whopping total of $61,320 spent by the federal government on welfare recipients, which is 168 dollars per day which means that people on welfare are making 21 dollars an hour per day, everyday, even on Saturday and Sunday, to sit around and do nothing! That’s 11,000 dollars more than the average middle class family earns in America! Aren’t you outraged?????

And then when you consider that President Obama himself is writing these checks, and licking the envelopes and stamps and then mailing them out to all of these welfare recipients (all of whom he knows personally… because they used to go to school together) (or rather skipped school and smoked marijuana together) Then aren’t you doubly outraged!!!

It’s no wonder the good old USA is going to hell in a hand basket. You work hard every day and pay taxes and yet no good lazy bums are lounging around all day with 61,000 dollars and change in their pockets doing nothing. And they get free healthcare too! Don’t forget that! All in all, when you consider all of the extra perks, besides the welfare checks, these good for nothing poor folks are making upwards of $80,000 and using food stamps to buy lobster and fresh fish and organic foods!

Aren’t you mad? Didn’t you get the Email about this? Didn’t you hear the Congressmen and Senators rage on TV about this inequality? Didn’t you see every single Fox News program air this story over and over again? Didn’t you notice the pretty blonde lady who occupies the conservative pundit’s chair on every day time talk show practically break down in tears over how her country is falling apart because of these entitlement programs for the undeserving poor?

I know that I certainly am appalled! I just want to know why all of these poor welfare recipients continue to live in squalor and degradation in some of the saddest inner cities the world has ever known, when they are each making over $80,000 per year in cash and prizes?! For goodness sakes, four of them put together have over a 1/4 of a million dollars at their disposal! Why are so many of them homeless and refusing to live in decent and safe housing?

I just don’t get it. Why do the poor live like they don’t have any money when they apparently have all of it? Why haven’t they moved into my neighborhood…or yours? They could all afford a nice townhouse in the pretty blonde lady’s co-op couldn’t they…or live in the high rise next to that middle aged guy with the rolled up sleeves, suspenders and bow tie, who gets red in the face and practically faints from apoplexy each night while commenting on TV about how entitled these poor people are?

According to Republicans We spend 1 trillion dollars on the poor each year, more than we spend on Social Security, Medicare and National Defense…put together! And all of it spent just so that the President’s lazy friends can pretend they are poor, sit around all day, pay no taxes, eat lobster and smoke crack in a whore house!

And if you believe all that…Then I just may have another tax break for the rich, and a food stamp cut for the poor, that I can sell you!

Moral of the story?: Stay in school, don’t believe everything anyone tells you, fact check and learn how to do math. The result is that a lot of Americans are woefully misinformed about what we spend on anti-poverty programs, and what those programs look like. Traditional welfare, now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, costs the federal government just $16.5 billion (out of a 3.6 Trillion dollar budget)In the real world we spend about $25 per day on the needy or about $753 per month for each lower income American (persons in the lowest income-third of the population) and NOT the $61,320++, per year that Republicans and conservative pundits claim.

Should Feeling OK Keep the Doctor Away?

9 Mar

I’ve always suspected this but thought that perhaps I was just too cynical for it to actually be true but…

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2010 statistics) here are the leading causes of death in America:

      Number of deaths

  • Heart disease: 597,689
  • Cancer: 574,743
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
  • Diabetes: 69,071
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364

So heart disease and Cancer are the 2 big causes of death in the USA But, consider this… a recent study in the Journal of Patient Safety, which is a follow up to a 2010 report from the Office of the Inspector General for Health and Human services, estimates that as many as 210,000 to 440,000 patients who go to the hospital for healing die each year as a result of preventable medical deaths.

This makes unintentional medical errors during… doctor’s, hospital’s, and nursing home’s attempts to care for and improve our health… the third-leading cause of death in the United States!

And that is just counting the deaths from preventable errors…and that’s if you count preventable errors as a disease…which of course we don’t…and I also just have to ask. What’s the word “preventable” doing in front of the word “errors”? Isn’t the word error enough? Adding the word preventable implies that the errors wouldn’t occur if we just stopped insisting on the service, test or exam that leads to the errors being made.

And then…If we also count everyone who is in someway made sicker by an error in the healthcare they receive ( An error is defined as an act that produces an adverse outcome compared to the natural progression of disease) then up to one million more patients experienced some type of preventable error, that leads to injury. (according to the U.S. Institute of Medicine)

It seems that the more expensive healthcare has become, the more doctors, hospitals and insurance companies have become eager and interested in offering services, tests and screening exams to healthy patients in efforts to get a jump on their “potential disease” before it manifests itself as an “actual disease” to the patient…unfortunately many of these preventive measures have proven to be ineffective at best and dangerous at their worst. Most insurance companies and especially Medicare, reimburse doctors and hospitals regardless of outcome. In fact, there are now even billing codes for specific errors.

So what’s a body to do… healthy or Un?

Sadly, and as in most things once they become unimaginably profitable, it becomes necessary to “Let the buyer beware!”

That phrase “caveat emptor” arises from the fact that buyers often have less information about the goods or service they are purchasing, while the seller has more information. Defects in the good or service may be hidden from the buyer, and only known to the seller. Thus, the buyer should beware.

In legal theory this is known as information asymmetry...sounds like a disease doesn’t it?

 

 

 

March —- !

1 Mar

Happy March!

Are Spring hopes… eternal? I sure hope so because here on the east coast of the United States it has been one very cold and snowy winter. I used to remember having these kinds of winters every winter when I was little, back in the early sixties. We used to skate on the pond in the back yard (well, not me, only those who could skate) and it was frozen all winter long. And we would take our sleds down the street to the golf course and sled down the big snow covered hills until it was dark outside. And whether it was frozen pond skating or golf course hill sledding it was always jam packed with kids!

There were kids outside…everywhere…and not a parent in sight! Back in those days parents never came out of their houses unless they were headed for the car or the lawn needed to be cut…at least that’s the way it seemed to us kids. They never took any interest in the kid’s world, unless of course we broke something…which inevitably we always did…but then we ran!

Anyway, Spring meant seeing the ground again and running around without our boots. What freedom after months of heavy feet and walking around like you were in a diver’s suit on the bottom of the ocean.

Ahhhhh Spring! I hope we have a real one this year (like we just had a real winter) and it doesn’t just shoot straight up to 100 degrees by next Wednesday! (which these days it seems is always possible)

As for the title of this blog. Riddle me this:

Which day of the year is the only day of the year that is also a command? (English teachers should get this one easy)

Guns Are Just Plain Bad For Business

24 Feb

 

Here’s another bit of anecdotal evidence concerning the gun control debate in the USA. Should we really have more guns or fewer guns? Which would make us safer? Well, if you want to ask the real experts just consider what happened when Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar & Grill” opened in mid-December in Woodbridge, Va., outside Washington, D.C..

It seems that even though Virginia’s gun laws permit firearms in dining establishments Mr. Keith’s bar and grill has instituted a no-guns policy, which has caused some would-be customers to say that they won’t patronize the restaurant, and the restaurant’s Facebook page has drawn thousands of comments on the decision. One post announced, “If I have to be a defenseless victim to go there, NO WAY!” And another post added, “No guns allowed? Why does he [Toby Keith] hate America so much?

To be fair, other posts supported the decision to make Mr. Keith’s restaurant a “gun free” zone. And in fact although Virginia’s laws allow the carrying of weapons out in the open as well as concealed firearm permits, Carrying a concealed weapon and consuming alcohol in the state of Virginia is a Class 2 misdemeanor. So go figure. Bringing your gun into a bar pretty much means that you’re asking for trouble.

But more importantly, if you continue reading about why Mr. Keith decided not to allow guns in his restaurant, even though the good citizens of Virginia are allowed by law to bring them there, you will find that his spokespeople cited “insurance regulations” as the main reason for their decision…

And that’s really all you need to know, because insurance companies are in the business of making money (and you thought it was insurance) and as such they really, really, really hate having to pay out on any insurance claims…ever… And since statistics and mathematics and actuary tables figure quite prominently into how insurance companies decide on the probability of the company having to pay out on a claim to one of their insured, they know that nothing says trouble like a person carrying a gun.

Statistics tell us beyond any doubt that if a person carries a gun he or she is much more likely to shoot someone or get shot than a person who doesn’t carry a gun. And that means someone is going to get hurt, and that means someone is going to get sued, and that means that an insurance company is going to have to pay money to someone somewhere and that is bad! Forget about the fact that people are going to die or get hurt. If it means that an insurance company has to pay out on a claim, then 2nd amendment rights be damned! No guns!

Because guns ARE dangerous. And more guns DOES equal more violence…not less. It’s in the numbers and the statistics and any insurance company knows that. Virginia is 17th in the U.S.when it comes to gun violence and Mr. Keith’s restaurant is located outside Washington D.C. which is #1 in gun violence! So what would you expect at a bar where everyone might decide to bring a gun and then have a few drinks? Détente?…because everyone is armed? Then you’re no insurance company. They do their research and that is why Toby Keith’s place will be gun free.

Besides, if you do some research of your own about the “wild west” of days gone by, and check on the strategies of some of the most famous lawmen of that time, like Wyatt Earp, you’ll discover that when they were hired by distraught boom-town officials who wanted to stem the violence that was plaguing their citizens and townsfolk, The very first law enacted was always, “No Guns within town limits!” Wyatt Earp and his contemporaries didn’t hand out guns to make towns safer. They took away the guns! They made their towns “gun free zones”.

And it worked great. That’s why the west isn’t wild anymore. It’s such a simple concept that the very idea that we are even having a debate in this country over whether we should have more guns or fewer guns is proof positive that we have all gone stark raving mad! Oh, and by the way, did you notice while reading this article that our nation’s capital is the most dangerous place in our nation?! Imagine what other countries must think? We have all of the nuclear weapons! Who among us in the USA would advocate for giving all of the other countries some of our nukes so that the world would then be a safer place in which to live?

I guess maybe the other countries would…but would that make all of us safer?

The lesson of Toby Keith’s bar and grill is: If only we loved each other like we love our money…any insurance company could tell you how that would work out…

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

20 Feb

Here is another example of how creating and administering more difficult and diligent testing does not increase performance nor create better test results in those who are tested.

The United States Air Force is responsible for training and overseeing the “missileers”  who man the underground bunkers across the country and who operate our strategic defenses in case of nuclear attack. The missileers are the military airmen who are responsible for reading the launch codes and standing at the ready of our ICBM force around the clock should they ever be needed to…you know…push the buttons.

For about a decade now the United States ICBM force has been performing at less than optimum proficiency… and that’s according to the Unites States Air force. Apparently many of the missileers have been showing signs of greater stress and boredom and have been performing at less than their usual proficiency, dexterity and alertness.

So, in an effort to get the soldiers to work harder and improve their skills, the The Air Force has toughened their already highly technical launch code tests and made promotion within the force more difficult unless the airmen score higher and learn and memorize increasingly more difficult launch code sequences etc. Today, 90% is considered a passing grade and a score of 100% is needed in order to be promoted to a higher rank within this strategic force…remember No Child Left Behind and President Bush’s benchmark of reaching 100% proficiency in the basic skills test for America’s children by 2014? (or else schools would be left behind)

So how is the air force doing with its upgraded testing program?

This past January, 92 of the 200 airmen who operate ICBMs at a Montana base were caught cheating or were involved in the cheating on their monthly proficiency tests, by using their cell phones to share answers. And supposedly this is nothing new but rather a practice that has been going on for years. It seems that the tougher the tests got, the more cheating became necessary.

But why didn’t the airmen just study and work harder to do better on the tests?

Because the missileers, mostly young officers who did not volunteer for the program, apparently know something that their older commanders still fail to acknowledge…The Cold War if over! Their job is obsolete! No matter how many missile codes they memorize and no matter how hard they study, no one is ever going to ask them to blow up the world with ICBMs anymore!

So spending countless hours underground, for days on end, being diligent and proficient in a skill that they are not going to use nor be asked to use, seems a bit silly to them… and studying to be promoted in this useless proficiency, seems even sillier. In fact, guess what happens to the airmen if they fail the test or get caught cheating at it?

They get decertified and can’t go down into the underground silos!… And those who pass?… They get to work double shifts!

So how do we fix this dilemma?…More difficult tests of course.

But wait, you say! Don’t we need these warriors with their arcane skills and outdated missile system to stay sharp… just in case we need to blow Russia or China or somewhere else off the map…you know… just in case?

Well, maybe you and I and the joint chiefs think so but it’s getting harder and harder to convince the younger generations of that…and besides we still have 14 Ohio-class submarines loaded with nuclear missiles and patrolling the oceans day and night, pretty much unopposed by any other navy…not to mention the 60 B-2 and B-52 bombers on constant alert around the globe, loaded with world ending nuclear weapons too of course…and unopposed by any other air force.

I wonder if those young, well trained, sailors, soldiers and airmen are getting bored too?

So what do you think? More testing? Or is it time for all of us to put down the old tests and start learning something new?

 

 

 

Galileo Gali…fianakis?

18 Feb

1.Does the Earth go around the Sun, or the Sun go around the Earth; and how long does this journey take?

2.Did Zack Galifianakis appear in the movie The Hangover; and did he appear in a sequel to that movie?

Odds are that if these questions were asked as part of a national survey, question #2 would receive more correct responses than question #1, because in a recent survey conducted by the National Science Foundation only 73% of those surveyed knew that the Earth revolves around the sun…and of those only 71% also knew that it takes 1 year for the Earth to complete said journey.

Wow! And why do we suppose that is?

Is it because only 74% of America’s science teachers in America’s public schools have ever mentioned or illustrated this amazing fact to America’s students?

Is it because only 74% of America’s parents have ever had “that talk” with their children about where the sun goes at night?

Is it because we are a Christian country and as such only 74 of us will ever believe in both god and science?

There must be an answer because the National Science Foundation has been conducting this survey with these exact same questions every two years over the past 20 years as part of a report that the National Science Board presents to the President and Congress and guess what?…According to their own report, “Generally speaking, the percentages have had little variation over the past twenty years.”

So 20 years ago one quarter of those surveyed did not know that the Earth revolves around the sun…and 20 years later one quarter of the U.S. population still doesn’t know this simple and basic fact…nor have any of the other questions received any significant increase in the number of correct responses.

What gives? 25% of Americans just can’t learn? Ever? Or is there something uniquely American when it comes to taking tests? I taught high school students for 33 years and every year I would meet children who could recite countless hip-hop songs from memory yet couldn’t remember 2 words on a vocabulary test. I had students who could surf their way through the internet on the newest computers with the greatest of ease but could not master the basics of Algebra I, even after 4 years in Freshman level Algebra! There were classes filled with young adults who could program and operate through their complicated cell phone menus and send and receive text messages using just their thumbs on a keypad smaller than Thumbelina’s purse and yet they could not write a coherent introductory paragraph for an essay question while using a pen and notebook, no matter how hard they tried…

And no matter how many standardized tests we gave them…and no matter how important we told them these tests were…and no matter how many times we revised the curriculum…and no matter how many times we developed new and improved learning strategies…and no matter how many times we replaced the Superintendent and Principal or revamped the teaching staff or asked the parents to please get involved or threatened the students with failure and the withholding of diplomas…or declared nationally that we would “Leave No Child Behind”…their test scores little improved.

I’m willing to bet that just about every American knows that the Earth goes around the sun. It’s just that a certain percentage of us just don’t see the importance of remembering that fact or in paying attention to someone who wants to ask us such a stupid question to see if we know it. Does the Earth or Sun care? They’re still going to be doing their thing whether I answer that question correctly or not, right? And don’t you have something better to do than ask me that?

We’re Americans after all…and we’re busy! We’re a nation of seriously professional consumers who have been trained literally from birth to buy and sell and entertain and be entertained and consume and waste and innovate and reinvent and get bored if all of that takes too long.

The question and answer test, especially in pencil. paper and booklet form, is just no longer relevant to the 21st century world and I believe that we 20th century minded educators are the ones who have to get out of the way and stop worrying about numbers on tests as the only way to discern and/or prove whether or not learning is taking place.

Here’s the National Science Foundation’s test. Take it and see how well you score. Then ask yourself how many times these answers were given to you over the course of your lifetime by your teachers and parents and how many times these topics were probably covered during your schooling or lifetime… And then ask yourself if how well you did or did not just score on this test has any bearing or relevance to your present life or living conditions, even if it once did. When you’re playing on your X-Box do you really need to still be tested on your Atari skills? If you score better than a 7 on the following test then…you’re not average…and maybe even not American?

Physical Science

  1. True or False: The center of the Earth is very hot.
  2. True or False: The continents on which we live have been moving their locations for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.
  3. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or the Sun go around the Earth; and how long does this journey take?
  4. True or False: All radioactivity is man-made.
  5. True or False: Electrons are smaller than atoms.
  6. True or False: Lasers work by focusing sound waves.
  7. True or False: The universe began with a huge explosion.

Biological Science

  1. True or False: It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
  2. True or False: Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.
  3. True or False: Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.
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