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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Idle End Year Thoughts

With two and a half hours left in 2013, here are some stream of consciousness thoughts:

Sports
The things people complain about are still rampant: HUGE salaries, PEDS (the substances formerly known as steroids), bad behavior, lackadaisical play, scandals - 15 minutes listening to sports talk radio will complete the list.  Yet, the people keep showing up to games.  Attendance is high, franchise values are skyrocketing (especially in the NBA), and the sports money machine keeps rolling along.  For something that people are fed up with, they sure have a weird way of showing it.

The NY basketball franchises are a laughingstock.  The Carmelo Anthony trade ruined the Knicks, as did deviating from the Donnie Walsh, D'Antoni, Stoudemire, Gallinari plan.  The plan was working.  It took a year and a half, but now the team is ruined - again.  The Brooklyn Nets gutted the future and blow up the payroll for a bunch of old guys (they called it 'leadership') past their prime.  I guess having Kevin Garnett scream and pound his chest every two weeks (about the rate he dunks nowadays) was worth it.  Their salary cap situation is horrible, they gave away all of their draft picks, and the future is grim.  When the Celtics are great in two years, you'll know it is because of the Nets lack of vision.

Politics
The political scene hasn't altered at all.  Government gets bigger, debt and deficits expand without any kind of brake, and the people seem to like it.  Congress, which seems to always have an approval rating of 9%, keeps getting reelected.  We're watching a slow motion train wreck called 'Obamacare' get implemented.  It is simply a transfer of wealth from the middle class to corporations and those on welfare.  As it is probably the last large government program to get implemented before the Great Default, it might be worth watching.  Jon Stewart has been having a field day with the cloddish incompetence with the Obamacare rollout…

A few people have recognized the the "Republican vs. Democrat" Show is a sham and a farce, but not the numbers to affect any change.  Only the bankruptcy of the Federal Gov't will truly show people how badly they've been duped.  I predict it happens sometime in the next 8 yrs or so.

Social Media
A big story for 2013 - the raging digital universe that is social media - Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Tumblr…  Facebook is the big one on this list, but I think that social media is going to be very faddish.  MySpace, which was huge few years ago, collapsed quickly.  I think the same will happen with Facebook - already the young people are veering away from it and going with other venues.  The Facebook app on my students phones is just one of many.  I think FB's dominance is over.

Education
School, where I work, is on life support.  The culture of the building was bad, now it's just nonexistent. The trends never work - the latest one is Common Core.  The shame of Common Core is fourfold: 1 - it funnels tax dollars into for profit education corporations, who are more than happy to feed from the taxpayer trough.  2- It is borderline incoherent, and teachers are told what to teach, when and for how long.  The required literature (at the HS level anyway) is incongruous and bereft of any relationship to classical learning or literacy.  3 - It is another example of one size fits all.  The organizations who destroyed public education now have the answer, and you have to follow their plan.  Teacher freedom?  Gone.  4 - Establishment Hacks are jumping right on board with common core.  They expose themselves with long winded blog posts about student skills and literacy and then - - wait for it - - they say that this is why we must adopt common core!  It's certainly getting easier to spot those who don't, or can't think for themselves.

At least some things have gotten better...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Marva Collins Story

Marva Collins is one of the educators you've never heard of.  The Establishment knows it would be politically incorrect to criticize her (she's a black woman), so it chooses to ignore her.  In my Education School classes, Collins was mentioned zero times, while hacks and frauds like Freire and Kozol were brought up repeatedly.  Collins should have been held up as a model, instead she was invisible.  She didn't exist.

What did Collins do in inner city Chicago?  She provided first rate education - superior to that of the Public Schools - for half the price.  She showed that a quality education is neither expensive or out of reach, and she did it where supposedly the public schools are the best and only option.

How did she do it?  With traditional methods that have been known for millennia (from Wikipedia): 

"Marva Collins uses the Socratic method, modified for use in primary school. The first step is to select material with abstract content to challenge students' logic, and that will therefore have different meaning to different students, in order to aid discussion. This is done specifically to teach children to reason.

Next, the teacher should read the material, because unknown material cannot be taught. New words, the words to watch, should be listed, and taught, for pronunciation, use and spelling before the material is read. Without this step, the reading is meaningless.

Next, one begins a series of pertinent questions as the reading progresses, starting with a reference to the title, and a question about what the material is about. Predictions should use logic, reasoning and evidence without fallacy. The reading must be out loud, so the teacher can ask questions at pertinent points. Students are taught to test their reasoning. Afterward, they write daily letters to the author or characters, and write a critical review. Why is the work important to them? The child must be taught to refer to what was previously learned to support their opinions."

This method is related to the Trivium - resources are online or in libraries for free.  In contrast to the fads that come and go in the Public School arena, Collins realized what John Taylor Gatto and Adam Robinson and Jaime Escalante did; that a quality education is inexpensive and the public system is both overpriced and ineffective, especially in areas where it is needed the most. 

In another parallel to my experience, and Gatto's, Collins has written:  "I have discovered few learning disabled students in my three decades of teaching. I have, however, discovered many, many victims of teaching inabilities."[2] I make this comment frequently.  I have never met 'special ed' student, nor have a met an 'honors' student.  In the slow motion train wreck where I work, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being poured into 'Common Core' (the latest fad), and 'Special Education' (a monumental and spectacularly inefficient and ineffective bureacracy).  

Collins was in the same predicament 30 years ago: "During the 2006-2007 school year, Collins' school charged $5,500 for tuition, and parents said the school did a much better job than the Chicago public school system.[1]
Meanwhile, during the 2007-2008 year, Chicago public school officials claimed that their budget of $11,300 per student was not enough."

Collins' story is one that you are supposed know nothing about.  Mentioning her, Escalante, Gatto or, (God forbid) homeschooling, warrants shock and outrage from those limiting themselves to the 3x5 card of Established Opinion - regardless of facts or outcomes.

For years, "The Marva Collins Story" was difficult to find.  Now it is available for everyone for free.  Watch it.


Monday, December 23, 2013

George Will Explains the Political Situation Today

For many years, Will was what I called a "beltway conservative."  He wrote and spoke about things from the acceptable others side of the political debate.  He wouldn't go against things too much, he'd carry the torch for the Establishment Right and stay 'safe'.

Apparently those days are over.

Will was a 'Hamiltonian', meaning he was OK with a group of Overlords controlling and managing the people - as they were obviously unfit to do it themselves, and anyway, shouldn't they be saved from themselves?

Now he seems to be more libertarian - more Jeffersonian - more critical of the Federal Government.  Actually, he obliterates what has become a dangerous and rapacious Federal bird of prey.

You'll see why the key number when it comes to Medicare is 12.  "We are weaving a network of dependency".  I can't think of a better way of describing what is going on.

Notice: no notes, no teleprompter, no wasted words, no deviation from the message.

I recommend you watch the whole thing.  As a high school student, you'll never have something like this put in front of you.  Never.


Good Advice from Mike "Dirty Jobs" Rowe on College, Jobs, and Meaningful Work

This interview is worth watching.  Mike Rowe's saying "work harder and smarter" is one that you should adopt.  With $1 trillion in student loan debt out there, he sees a problem.  You, however, are not supposed to see a problem with that.  You're supposed to take out a huge loan, get a degree you don't need, or want, that has no useful purpose.

I have a BA in English and I wouldn't recommend that someone go into debt to get one.  Notice the wording.  People misinterpret my message all the time.  I'm not saying don't get a college degree.  I'm saying don't go into debt to get one, especially if the job market in that field is saturated.  Be careful.  Count the cost.

What are classically called "blue collar jobs" are going unfilled in the US - perhaps your change of thinking and going against the grain - going in the other direction than the rest of the herd will be your salvation.