Sunday, February 26, 2006


Education Ruminations III

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act
(“No Child Left Behind” or NCLB)
Teaching to the Test is Rampant

This Act, which I will refer to as the NCLB, is focused on reading, writing and mathematics skills in elementary and secondary schools. Just about everyone agrees with the basic principles of the NCLB, but there are many deficiencies in the program as implemented that have caused heartburn throughout the education and political worlds. Not everyone is happy with the extended role legislated for the federal government in education of our children, for example.

There have already been nine changes to the program, most of which were as a result of educators and unions arguing for significant alteration of the NCLB act. However, there are a number of contentious issues still before legislators at both the national and state levels. Two of them that I have witnessed or had teacher reports about are: teaching to the test (TTT); and, the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) criterion to measure student and school progress toward the goal of all students performing at a proficient level by 2014.

The TTT idea is very old. It is akin to stealing the test from the administrators and then coaching the classes on the proper answers. This seems to help the students to obtain a good grade and thus for the school to avoid further interference by the federal government. That may be a little overdrawn, but I assume they use older tests of a similar nature to the new tests forthcoming.

In my opinion, there is merit to this step, but under several conditions: the review of old tests should not take more than a class day; and, the semester of work should not be specifically tuned to test questions. It is the latter, I believe, that causes the most stir.

All through my education, teachers and professors tried to forewarn us about the nature of tests ahead of time. Not to give us rote answers, but to prepare us for studying before the test. They expressed the opinion that forewarning helps students to suppress their anxieties about the tests, and also tended to focus the students as to where they might improve their understanding of the subjects early on.

Some teachers or professors handed out previous tests with the caution that the new test would not be the same, but would address questions of a similar nature and to a similar degree. However, they didn’t teach the tests during the class year in an obvious way. In fact, they tried to be significantly different in their questions each time. This method does not disturb me at all.

The second possibility is for the teacher to run through the textbook and identify each paragraph, or each sentence or fact statement where a test question can be expected. This is teaching the test. It can be amplified further by giving the student an acceptable answer as well, which the student can recall and parrot back in the test. Finally, the teacher could in fact teach the test if he or she had the real test in hand, or at least a set of older tests to guide the lessons.

There is a fine line here between TTT and the teacher merely emphasizing the main threads and ideas of the subject as one goes along, which is entirely appropriate and correct to do.

AYP is controversial. It would seem apparent that what adequate progress is for a bright student and for a student with learning disabilities would be quite different. Even with over a decade of learning to teach the learning-disabled, there is little way to predict what the average AYP for all capabilities is going to be, I believe.

What is the average learning disability? What is the lowest? What is the highest? What data suggests that these students can succeed to become proficient with any amount of teaching and coaching? How many of this category is in the school, and should the school be penalized because they cannot raise these disability students above the proficiency level?

This whole idea seems to be backwards. We should be challenging every level of student intelligence as far as practicable, but not overly penalizing the school system for not being able to teach the unteachables.

( to be continued with some tentative ideas on what to do.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Education Ruminations II

What are the Reasons for Our Failure?

There seem to be many reasons one can observe in the schools if you take the time to visit one, and receive cooperation from the Principal.

1. School Boards: Most school boards are now buying into the progressive approach to education, and where they are not, they receive prods from the ACLU amd the NEA, plus the Federal Education authorities. When the School boards cave in, the Principals must follow or lose their jobs. Many Principals are already on board the so-called progressive agenda, and believe John Dewey to be a Demi-God.

2. Teachers: Teachers must follow an approved curriculum, which precludes them from teaching anything not accepted by the NEA and the School Board, and teaching the subject in the approved manner as well. To violate this dictum is to be in grave danger of losing one's job. Since the NEA has a progressive agenda, virtually all of our curricula nationwide have about the same courses taught about the same way, with about the same textbooks.

3. Parents: Many parents either don't care about the school agenda, or they care too much. Moderation when the subjects of inequality, fast versus slow students, the very hint of discrimination, religion in the schools, patriotism, playground activities that are banned (such as tag!), and public activities that hint at God or Patriotism, is not to be found in the modern or postmodern PTA.

4. The Teachers Unions: Let us listen to Charlene K. Haar, EPI President:

"From the school house to the White House, the teacher unions are the most formidable foes of meaningful education reforms -- reforms, which I believe are necessary to achieve superior educational outcomes for children at lower costs to parents and other taxpayers through competition.

Despite their rhetoric, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, like other labor unions, were established to redistribute income from employers to employees and the unions. There is no incentive to reduce costs when taxpayers must pay upon demand. There is no reason to excel when the best employees are paid what the worst are paid. For decades, the NEA/AFT have negotiated highly inefficient contracts covering such items as

hours of employment and compensation
teacher work load and duties
teacher qualifications
teaching assignments and seniority
teacher evaluation and tenure
taxpayer subsidies to the unions, such as paid time off for union work, use of school mail system, payroll deduction for dues and NEA/AFT PACs at no cost to the unions, and retirement credit for full-time service as a union employee." I strongly recommend that everyone reads the full article.( go to for the full article )

This article is a full-scale condemnation of the unions in stifling our education system. A key factor in this is the politicization of education by the progressive liberals of the Democratic Party. They have a stranglehold on the education system that will be extremely difficult to break.

So, we have teachers, parents, administrators, and unionists battling for the money, power and posts in the system, which leaves the poor students to meekly accept the pittance they get in valid learning. Not that the students themselves are blameless. The modern student is not the meek, docile, accepting child that was the norm 20 or more years ago.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Education Rumination

Our Motto Should be to Maximize the Potential

It is obvious that people are not equal in potential, equal in brainpower, equal in physique and stamina, nor equal in opportunity. They are not equal in motivation, not equal in their learning environment and not equal in common sense, either.

With all of these inequalities, why is it that our schools attempt to teach to the less gifted while often leaving the talented students to fend for themselves? Why do they insist upon eradicating track systems in favor of a lumping together of all levels?

After their (ineffective) ministrations, why is it that Johnny can't read, write, spell, or do simple arithmetic? Why is it that Johnny doesn't know pea-turkey about the United States, its history, its geography and its famous heroes? Why is it that we allow Spanish as a main language in classes, when English is the primary language of America?

Why is it that we now have a curriculum composed of classes in subjects that are supposed to be taught at home? Sex education in schools followed by handout of condoms and pills is not a good move. It has apparently not worked, either, since the teenage birthrate has been very high, abortions very high, and single-parent homes have been outpacing normal marriage arrangements.

Why is it that our high school students score so abominably in international tests? Then, too, why do our universities have to resort to remedial instruction for students admitted despite supposedly high academic standards for acceptance?

Our schools have deteriorated to the point that true learning and true learning-to-learn is postponed until years after high school is over, and even until after some years in college, if ever.

This is a national disgrace. Not only is it a disgrace, it is a catastrophe for the future of our society. We are not producing educated citizens across the whole spectrum of inherent student capabilities, but rather, a lowest-common-denominator education that panders to the feel good, the ignorant, and the indifferent, while boring the intelligent and the gifted to distraction.

Why has this happened? Almost stealthily, the school down the road has turned into something my generation does not recognize. It appears to lack the discipline of former years, where yelling and running in the halls was a punishable offense. The classrooms seem not to be areas where the teacher is given the normal respect an adult should receive, but rather a challenge to authority from the start. Punishment is not easy to mete out. Too many parents have inserted themselves into the process, and have threatened lawsuits if they don't get their way.

The curriculum has been distorted , many of the books have been edited down or banned for reasons of not wanting to bruise sensitive souls, and a creeping belief seems to arise that all of this is not quite accidental--there seems to be a master plan for dumbing-down our schools. How else can it be when the same complaints are heard in every city and state in the nation?

Are there common origins for this dumbing down? Despite spending enormous sums each year by state and national governments on a per head basis, what we get for this taxation is more infrastructure, more administrators, and more studies, and not more learning. The educators cry for more and more money every year, yet no matter how much we spend, it is not enough. Teacher salaries have not kept pace, and many schools have terrible shortages in materials, books, and training aids. What is going on?

(to be continued)

Thursday, February 16, 2006


A Careful Distinction Regarding Islam

The mistake of equating 'some' with 'all'

In writing comments or posts, it sometimes happens that mentally one makes the mistake of calling all Muslims terrorists , when it should be some who are radical Islamofacists, and not all adherents of the Islamic faith.

It is apparent that there are many Muslims who are peaceful and who abhor the terrorism of their religious brothers. I have sinned in this manner and hereby retract the incautious words I have posted in the past.

Mea Culpa

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Cheney and Quail

MSM Fest

The MSM is at it again. Anything to try to embarass this administration and the individuals in it--especially Bush and Cheney. There was no urgent need to inform the public of this unfortunate accident. Proper authorities and witnesses came forth in a reasonable time to tell the story. I personally don't believe that Cheney owes me, or anyone else, an apology for not running to the phone to tell the AP about the incident. The White House Press is so far out of line that it is sickening.

They should get off this story.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Watch the Diplomats Dance!

Apologies Demanded for the Cartoons of Muhammad

The proper response to the Islamic rioting, demonstrating and killing people is not an apology at all, but rather, a stern lecture to the entire Islamic World on the freedom of speech we enjoy and intend to continue to enjoy in the West.

Further demonstrations should serve to isolate the Islamic World from acceptance in the West. Once we have perfected the use of hydrogen as a fuel for our automobiles, I see absolutely no need to continue to deal with these types of barbarians: the sooner we stop, the better. Let them play in their sandpiles and stay out of the West. Such behavior is not acceptable in the West, and should be rejected strongly. Of course, they are perfectly free to riot and kill all they want to in their own countries!

However, if the Muslims renounce terrorism and show respect for Western laws and freedoms, and also show the will to take a few jokes about their religion as Christianity does, then they can join humanity once more.

Personally, I do not indulge in drawing cartoons to show disrespect to anyone's religion, but obviously there are those who do, and it is their right to do so in the West, whether it is totally impolitic or simply boorish to do such things.

This show of indignation by Muslims is far beyond sanity and should stop now.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Poor Old Ali Baba

The New Life of Ali

When last seen, our reluctant hero was running down the street waving a green flag in one hand and firing a rifle with his other hand, in traditional Muslim demonstration mode. The Caliph told him he had been insulted by the Danes. Ali didn't know what a Dane was, but if one could insult him or Allah, then woe to him. It was street time again. Besides, the Caliph paid well for a few hours of yelling, firing, waving, and jumping up and down. Perhaps one of the others surounding him would know what a Dane was, and give his gyrations more meaning.

Kalief knew. A Dane was a man from a country called Denmark. A newspaper there ran a set of cartoons blaspheming Allah. So it was our duty to demo. After the demo there would be a big party behind the Mosque, and someone said there would be a whole bunch of vestal virgins there--well, maybe not vestal, and come to think of it not virgins either-- but they would be a grand substitute till the real thing happened.

No one had actually seen these cartoons, since they couldn't be published by law, but the Caliph never lied; well, not often anyway. Kalief said that more papers in Europe had printed them, and all the Muslims there were out in the streets too. This meant days of demos and parties, and a very large sum of money out of the pocket of the Caliph, so it was with considerable enthusiasm that Ali shouted the usual slogans he didn't understand, such as "Down with the Americans!" with his fellow Arabs, all the while thinking about vestal virgins (light).

Life was good, demos made the day, and the night.

Monday, February 06, 2006


The Quadrennial Defense Review

QDR Comment

The kind of obscure language in the QDR hides the real plan very nicely, and cannot directly be used by our internal and external enemies to rant and rail. But it also obscures the plan from the public quite well, and it is the public who pays the bills.

We still need a goodly measure of big-ticket items--tanks, strykers, attack fighters, deep sea and close-in types of ships, tankers, and new missiles. Perhaps not as many as before, but we do need a continuing development of better tools of war, and the ability to produce them rapidly when needed.

It seems that we lose sight of this after every major engagement, and are usually embarassed early on in the next engagement we find ourselves in. The nation thirsts for a "peace dividend" that ends up costing us in lives and territory downstream.

We are usually reluctant to train enough men to form a truly effective major fighting force and a major occupying force at the same time. Thus generations of our men grow up never having seen a firing range, or ever developing a real understanding of what the military is all about.

We are slowly coming to the realization that Islam is a worldwide and deadly threat to our well-being, but they are not the only threats out there. China and Russia must be checked as well.

It would be logical, but totally impolitic to join now with the EU nations to literally wipe out Islam as a major force, not to mention that it is against our dominant religions' morality to perform the slaughter this would entail.

It will take more time for the West to realize that accomodation and appeasement of Islam will not work. My hope is that this realization does not come too late to be effective.

In the end, we will have to defeat and occupy practically the entire Middle East, and be prepared to fend off the Chinese and Russian counter-threats at the same time.
What happens meanwhile in our Western societies, with their large populations of Muslims, is duanting to think about.

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