Tag Archives: teaching

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?

 

 

 

 

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)

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.

Friday Night Yikes!

16 Feb

Recently a television clip of Friday Night Tykes caught my interest and I watched an episode.

If you want to gain an understanding as to how difficult it is to teach in today’s public schools then watch an episode yourself.

Once upon a time sports were extracurricular to schooling. Now in many places across our country, sports and especially football, have taken on a more central, if not the most important, function of what many parents and students and citizens think children’s lives and the public schools are all about…

Sports should be fun and entertaining and a great way for the young and old to exercise and build friendships and one’s physical nature and ability…but if participation in sports means that your child is getting a regular and heavy dose of emotional abuse, intense instruction on how to be a better bully, topped off with a weekly concussion to his brain, then parent beware!

If you enroll and involve your child in the kind of sports program that this series endorses then when it comes to your child’s future, You are helping to undo everything that our public school’s could ever hope to achieve.

Twitter D and Twitter Dumb

14 Feb

New Yorkers are up in arms because Mayor Bill de Blasio did not close the schools on Thursday when another major snow storm hit New York City. Even weatherman Al Roker was up in arms and complaining on Twitter to nearly 270,000 followers about his daughter’s snowy commute to school.

Why 270,000 people who live anywhere need to know that is beyond me but when you consider the fact that NYC public schools have been closed only 11 times in the last 40 years…what’s the big deal?

I can understand why teachers and administrators and support staff and above all bus drivers might be upset with the schools being open but at least they are being paid and shouldn’t really complain at all…Plus, as a former teacher, what is better than a school NOT filled with students?!

But I digress, because my main point is that just because schools are open doesn’t mean that you have to send your children there!

Ask any home schooling parent that…or better yet ask most of my former students!

Especially if there is a blizzard outside!

Parents of the world: If you send your children to school in horrendous and hazardous conditions, regardless of whether or not the mayor or school chancellor of your district tells you that it is a beautiful day outside, you should know better. Just keep your kids at home where it’s safe and warm and if it’s not safe and warm there at least you still have a school to send them to (where hopefully it is safe and warm) but it’s still your decision after all…don’t get all in a “Twitter”.

 

We Come In Peace

16 Jan

A recent WIN (Worldwide International Network)/Gallop international, “End of Year”, survey of over 66,000 people asked the question, “Which country do you consider to be the greatest threat to peace?”

Pakistan with 8%, China with 6% and Afghanistan with 5% of the votes, came in at numbers 2,3 and 4 respectively… while 24% of those polled, or one out of every 4 people interviewed, chose the most dangerous country in the world to be…

US! As in us, the United States. Yes, we are #1!

Of course if you add up all of those percentages, the top four countries chosen received only 43% of the votes leaving over half of those polled choosing other countries as the most dangerous, so I’m assuming that those who were asked the question probably voted for the country most likely posing the most immediate threat to their own…but still just about 1/4 of those asked to contemplate which country is the most threatening to the world chose the U.S.

Which either means that the USA is busy threatening a lot of countries or as I’ve often maintained…

When you’re the guy in the neighborhood with lots of guns and ammunition it’s still awfully hard to convince people that you’ve come in peace…

 

What’s America All About, Charlie Brown?

12 Jan

 

In December of 2012, after a sociopath used a rifle made by Bushmaster, one of the Freedom Group’s (or Remington Outdoor Company’s) subsidiaries, to murder students and others at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Freedom Group’s owner, Cerberus Capital Management, announced that in response to public outrage, it planned to sell the company.

However, one year later, The manufacturer, and still owner, of the assault-style rifles, said that sales of its products rose as much as 36 percent in the year since the incident. In fact, the company projects more than a 50 percent increase in profits from gun sales since 2012.The company also reported a strong demand since December 2012 across its product line, particularly for rifles, handguns and ammunition.

So, in the year since this most horrific killing of young school children by a gun wielding madman, what has changed the most in the way American’s go about their daily lives?

We buy more guns!

Can you think of any other changes that we’ve made over the last year here in the United States to help prevent or ensure that such a tragedy such as the one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary never happens again?

With my apologies to Edwin Starr…

Violence! huh-yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing…

EXCEPT an increase in American’s purchase of weapons

Say it again y’all

 

Think About… What You Think About

8 Jan

Here is something very interesting to consider for the new year.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA for short) managed at the University of Maryland found in a survey of American voters that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than those who get their news from other sources.

Simply put, the more one watches Fox News as their primary source for information about what’s going on in the world…

THE LESS ONE WILL KNOW ABOUT WHAT”S GOING ON IN THE WORLD!

I live in New Jersey where a Farliegh Dickinson University Public Mind Poll examined New Jerseyans and how their television news watching affected their overall knowledge of what’s going on in the world. What they found was that those who watched Fox News as their primary news source were less informed about the world than those who…

didn’t watch any news at all!

Holy crap!

And these are not the only public surveys or studies to reach this conclusion. Several others have found that the more you watch FOX the less you will know. And don’t take my word for it. Please look it up, Google it, or check it out for yourself. Which is my entire point. Don’t just believe everything you see and hear on TV, especially if you love to watch Fox News.

Check your sources. Use multiple sources. See what others are saying. Engage in a true dialogue with friends and relatives. READ! Ask questions and expand your information base. Stop watching TV if you have to… but please, please, please make it a New Year’s Resolution for 2014 to start really thinking about…

what you think about…

And what you think you know.

 

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