Archive for the 'In the news…' Category

NCLB: It should really stand for “No Child Learns Because…”

As in: no child learns because we’re in this for the money, and the industry, and the re-elections. The education of children isn’t really a primary concern or goal anymore, is it?

Report: Students don’t know much about US history

“The history scores released today show that student performance is still too low,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education.” [emphasis is mine]

Education experts say a heavy focus on reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind law in the last decade has led to lagging performance in other subjects such as history and science.

Why does this not surprise me?

And the beat goes on.

Came across this gem of an article on Yahoo tonight:  Texas Debates the Way History Will Be Taught and thought the rest of you might want to give it a glance, if you haven’t seen it yet.

Basically, Texas is embroiled in a bit of an argument about what topics and which prominent people should be included in the public K-12 social studies program. It’s the usual fight: the Left versus the Right. The Left generally wants to make sure that No One Is Excluded at the expense of their religion, race, creed, gender, politics, belief in marsupial afterlife or odd persistence in drinking caffeine-free diet sodas. If you honestly believe in it, whatever it is, they’ll find a way for it to be included in the national curriculum. The Right generally wants everything to be very Christian all the time. Except for Santa. Santa can suck it, as far as they’re concerned. I’m pretty sure you can find that in the Bible somewhere, written in code maybe. So sayeth the Lord and all that.  Or maybe I’m thinking of Nostradamus. Dan Brown? Jerry B. Jenkins? I dunno. Somewhere, at least.

So, it’s really not surprising that the two sides of the Texas school board can’t seem to find a middle-ground on this issue. Nothing new there. And I don’t even live in Texas, so why should I even care, right? And I wouldn’t really, except for this:

The curriculum it chooses will set the guideposts for teaching history and social studies to some 4.8 million K-12 students for 10 years. The standards will be used to develop state tests and by textbook publishers who develop material for the nation based on Texas, one of the largest markets. (emphasis is mine)

So, basically, most of the nation will end up with whatever Texas decides. And frankly, if I weren’t homeschooling already, I’d be watching this one Very Closely, and carefully considering my options. Because if you haven’t read it yet, you really need to read this article: A Textbook Example of What’s Wrong With Education by Tamim Ansary, and see the politics behind how American public school textbooks are written and published. For example:

If you’re creating a new textbook, therefore, you start by scrutinizing “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills” (TEKS). This document is drawn up by a group of curriculum experts, teachers, and political insiders appointed by the 15 members of the Texas Board of Education, currently five Democrats and ten Republicans, about half of whom have a background in education. TEKS describes what Texas wants and what the entire nation will therefore get.

Texas is truly the tail that wags the dog. There is, however, a tail that wags this mighty tail. Every adoption state allows private citizens to review textbooks and raise objections. Publishers must respond to these objections at open hearings.

In the late ’60s, a Texas couple, Mel and Norma Gabler, figured out how to use their state’s adoption hearings to put pressure on textbook publishers. The Gablers had no academic credentials or teaching background, but they knew what they wanted taught — phonics, sexual abstinence, free enterprise, creationism, and the primacy of Judeo-Christian values — and considered themselves in a battle against a “politically correct degradation of academics.”

Phonics sounds good. So does free enterprise. But the rest of it… not our cuppa, so to speak. And before you all freak out on me for bashing on the Texas fundies, here’s what California likes to do with their textbooks:

Concern in California is normally of the politically correct sort — objections, for example, to such perceived gaffes as using the word Indian instead of “Native American.” To make the list in California, books must be scrupulously stereotype free: No textbook can show African Americans playing sports, Asians using computers, or women taking care of children. Anyone who stays in textbook publishing long enough develops radar for what will and won’t get past the blanding process of both the conservative and liberal watchdogs.

It’s not so bad as the conservative push in Texas, but it’s still over the top for me. The idea of never showing women taking care of children doesn’t sit well with me. There’s such a thing as Too Politically Correct, if you ask me. They’re shooting themselves in the foot at the expense of the children they’re trying to teach. And the result is social paralysis and an uneducated American public.

It’s really an eye-opening experience, revisiting this article. The kind that makes me grateful for even the most difficult day around here, when we’re just slogging through the material in the middle of an endless cold-snap and the holiday break is over and we’re all grousing and grumbling at each other and waiting for spring. Because at least I’ve got the freedom to choose what we study and to present the material in a meaningful way.

Yeah, we homeschool. Thank God.

Teachers as political prisoners?

Here’s an interesting little article on what happens to teachers who aren’t allowed in the classrooms anymore due to various accusations:

700 NYC Teachers Are Paid To Do Nothing

What I love most of all about this article is how it spins to sound as if every teacher in those little rubber rooms has been wrongfully accused.

Chances are, yes, some of them have been wrongfully accused. But then again, chances are, quite a lot of them have been rightly accused, too.

Seems to me, more and more, that the public education system really isn’t about teaching kids at all anymore.

If it ever was, that is.

Article: “Homeschooling Goes Mainstream.”

Education Next is running a pretty decent article on homeschooling, titled: “Homeschooling Goes Mainstream.” The article talks about how homeschooling is growing to include demographics OTHER THAN the denim-jumper wearing, Christian fundamentalist, to include more commonly now, people of diverse ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds. Here’s a brief passage:

…over the last decade families of all kinds have embraced the practice for widely varying reasons: no longer is home schooling exclusive to Christian fundamentalism and the countercultural Left. Along with growing acceptance of home schooling nationally has come increasing diversification of who home schools and of what home schooling actually means.

 It’s a bit long, and somewhat heavy on charts and stats, but well worth the time, if you’ve got it.

Fewer desks and more open space.

Here’s an interesting little article over at the Wall Street Journal’s blog: Why Kids Hate School.

The article is essentially a review of a new book coming out written by a couple of professors at the University of Texas, Arlington, Ben Agger and Beth Ann Shelton. The book is titled, I Hate School: Why American Kids Are Turned Off Learning.

Choice quotes from the article include:

Our schools are failing because they are warehouses and work houses…. They verge on penal colonies where teachers are wardens and students are inmates.

And:

…in an ideal school, “grading and testing would be minimized, and teachers would not be cops and dictators. Schools would have fewer desks and more open space…. Homework would be minimized, as real teaching and dialogue filled the day.”

I’m thinking I might need to get a hold of this book and have a look. Of course, it may not tell me anything that homeschoolers haven’t already been yelling at the top of our lungs for years and years.

But, it’s nice to know that other nonhomeschoolers are finally getting there.

More strange tales from modern high schools.

Here’s an interesting little news story for ya:

Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High

Apparently, there’s a record number of high school girls at this school expecting babies because they all made a pact with each other to strive to get pregnant and then raise their babies together. The town is heavily Catholic, and birth control is not advocated by the community, and two of the school officials ended up resigning in protest or resignation or perhaps just sheer mental exhaustion after trying to promote birth control to these teens and being told to stop it by the mayor and the town in general.

And here’s my favorite part: the reason all these girls are doing this, apparently, is because they’re all looking for unconditional love. Check out this quote:

The girls who made the pregnancy pact—some of whom, according to Sullivan, reacted to the news that they were expecting with high fives and plans for baby showers—declined to be interviewed. So did their parents. But Amanda Ireland, who graduated from Gloucester High on June 8, thinks she knows why these girls wanted to get pregnant. Ireland, 18, gave birth her freshman year and says some of her now pregnant schoolmates regularly approached her in the hall, remarking how lucky she was to have a baby. “They’re so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally,” Ireland says. “I try to explain it’s hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming to be fed at 3 a.m.” 

(emphasis is mine)

Hello? They don’t feel loved unconditionally. So… they’re… having… babies…. It really says something about modern family dynamics, doesn’t it?

I know, I know, this isn’t really a homeschooling issue. But it’s not exactly doing much to SELL ME on the idea of actually EVER sending my daughters to high school, either.

Yeah. We homeschool. Unconditionally.

Because teachers are role models, right?

Here’s a fun little breaking news story:

http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=5919703

 A woman allegedly made numerous threats against the school where she teaches, including leaving threatening notes written to mimic a child’s handwriting and fashioning “fake” bombs and leaving them around the premises to be found by others, all because she’s angry that she didn’t get to teach fifth grade this year. Instead, she was told to teach fourth grade students. And she’s pissed off about it.

Because fifth grade is SO MUCH MORE EXCITING AND CHALLENGING THAN FOURTH GRADE???

Sorry, but I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s because I’m only teaching first/second grade stuff right now? And I am, of course, teaching in somewhat OPTIMAL conditions. I don’t have to answer to any administrators or school boards. I have to answer to RegularDad, I guess, but he’s pretty happy with our educational plan so far. He’s the farthest thing imaginable from an irate, dissatisfied parent. Sure, we have parent-teacher conferences. Just as often as we can. And they’re really, really FUN. If you get my drift.

Ahem…ANYWAY…

If this woman taught in conditions such as mine, perhaps she would have found a better way to handle her disappointment. And seriously, if a teacher doesn’t get her way, and starts doing things like this woman, what kind of message is she sending to her students? Like, what if they get angry with her because they didn’t get an extra 10 minutes of recess, and they threaten her and leave bombs in her desk? What recourse does she have? She is, after all, TEACHING them that this is the proper way to express one’s anger and disappointment.

This story is happening not far from where I live, by the way. It’s not the same district, but it’s damn close. And then, also close by, another district is on strike.

All’s I’m sayin’ is: Homeschooling ROCKS!


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