James Brown, Rest in Peace

James Joseph Brown, Jr. (May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006) passed in an Atlanta hospital after being diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

The Godfather of Soul and the hardest working man in the entertainment industry. What esle can you say? We will remember you every time we hear one of the songs you made us love.


Connected Thinking and Learning

Some mid-term exams and some final exams just happened in my classroom. The one I had fun with was a question that used the NYT and BBC reports on the Holocaust Deniers' Love Fest in Tehran.

How could you go wrong with targets like David Duke, the Neturei Karta (or as they are known, the Unorthodox Jews), and the ever popular President Ahmadinejad headlining along with French and German jailbirds who just can't understand why their governments don't want them to spread falsehood world wide.

I asked the kids to identify the semantic tactics used and the errors of thinking, then explain them.

So far, so good. Taking a photo of dead people who were killed with bullets, gas, and starvation and saying they died of typhus. Unsubstantiated, but plausible. So if they want to deny the eye witness accounts and go with something merely plausible they can do it. (Just keep it to yourself and don't express it aloud.)

Expressing it aloud is stupid. It is not "ignorant" because they know there are first hand witnesses and affidavits. It is deliberate distortion of fact in the service of some other lie they are attached to. Generally these are lies that the perpetrators think will benefit them in some way.

And this is the real purpose of the essay assignment. To get my students to make the connection between the Holocaust Deniers and people who deny other facts.

Facts like the predictable decay of radioactive isotopes proving the age of minerals and fossils.

Facts like the relationship of increase of CO2 in the atmosphere to increasing temperature.

These people really have only two choices. North Korea or outer space. Life on another planet is a lot like life in North Korea. No news. Nothing unapproved gets in. Nothing. Nothing at all, just like the world they want. Ignorant and circumscribed by the rest of the universe.

I really liked the story last week of the young lady who had lived on a large farm with her extended family. She was doing some research and found a description of how religious cults work. She read a bit and thought "Hmm...that sounds a lot like my life." After reading a lot and talking to people, she realized that everybody's granddaddy didn't diddle them like hers did. She got pissed off and called the cops.

Too bad the citizens of North Korea can't call the cops.

Welcome Visitors!

On Wednesday, I had a bunch of visitors. Bangalore India, Antalya Turkey, Rishon LeZiyyon Israel, Sundsvall Sweden, Manchester UK, Winnipeg Canada, in teh US, Redlands, Los Angeles, SanFrancisco, Provo, Carrollton, Washington DC, Huntington, Raleigh, Troy, Metairie, Berkeley, Tampa, and of course my loyal fan base in Fort Lauderdale.

What can I say except "Go Manchester!" One of my students is moving somewhere near Manchester and I told him he had better be ready for the IB curriculum when he gets there. For some reason he didn't think I was serious, but I *know* his Dad is.


New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce


"This is a story about the big public conversation the nation is not having about education, whether an entire generation of kids will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they can't think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad or speak a language other than English.

This week the conversation will burst onto the front page, when the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a high-powered, bipartisan assembly of Education Secretaries and business, government and other education leaders releases a blueprint for rethinking American education from pre-K to 12 and beyond to better prepare students to thrive in the global economy."

"Mike Eskew, CEO of UPS, talks about needing workers who are "global trade literate, sensitive to foreign cultures, conversant in different languages"-

"... premium on creative and innovative skills, seeing patterns where other people see only chaos," says Marc Tucker, an author of the skills-commission report and president of the National Center on Education and the Economy."

***** problem *******
"Developing good people skills. EQ, or emotional intelligence, is as important as IQ for success in today's workplace. "Most innovations today involve large teams of people," says former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine."
I didn't know anybody had proven that EQ exists. I'm not really comfortable with our institutionalized treatment of IQ.

Is it possible that this high powered group has problems with critical thinking?

"Can our public schools, originally designed to educate workers for agrarian life and industrial-age factories, make the necessary shifts?" I assume they are talking about our private institutions as well since the students there still "sit in chairs much as their grandfathers did and listen to teachers lecture."

"...organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Asia Society are pouring money and expertise into model programs to show the way."

Bill Gates spends ten thousand dollars a student. That's one way to skin a cat.

Then they say, use the IB curriculum. That's good because we will save untold dollars fooling around with figuring out what Johnny must know at every school district on the planet. Over. And over again.

Here's a classic. She had to . . . "learn the names of all the rivers in South America. That was the assignment given to Deborah Stipek's daughter Meredith in school, and her mom, who's dean of the Stanford University School of Education, was not impressed. "That's silly," Stipek told her daughter. "Tell your teacher that if you need to know anything besides the Amazon, you can look it up on Google."

How nice. You would think that the dean of an education department would not interfere in a way that demeans her daughter's teacher in front of the child. I wonder how she speaks of her colleagues? Furthermore I'll bet mom wouldn't be able to google the answer all that quickly. There is a LOT of luck involved with that kind of search.

"Last year, in response to demand from colleges, the Educational Testing Service unveiled a new, computer-based exam designed to measure information-and-communication-technology literacy. A pilot study of the test with 6,200 high school seniors and college freshmen found that only half could correctly judge the objectivity of a website."

What Time doesn't say is that the test uses an interface that is alien to the students and somewhat unsettling to use because it is not anything they have previously encountered. The other thing is that the results of the search are presented as summaries which gives them automatic authority in a student's eyes.

I have an idea. Since it will be difficult to raise the critical thinking level of the American citizenry in a rapid fashion, why not start by closing down Fox News? Then regulate religion in a way that causes dogma to adhere to a standard of reasonableness. Every religion would have to give up the crazy stuff and it might help people stay sane a while. Oh yeah, let gay people do what they want. And, um sew Hannity's lips shut.


Web 2.0 / Semantic Web hits students - smack!

We all know how cool the new writing and spreadsheet tools attached to Gmail are, right? I mean, how hard was it to set up realtime collaborative editing over the internet behind your NAT, huh?

My students learn about the semantic web in class and the Web 2.0 stuff that lays on top of it. (I honestly don't understand why people insist on making a distinction.) Massive data storehouses and bringing data together from collections with different scales. Mind boggling stuff when you consider the difficulty of creating an extensible ontology that will serve people who are just kids now who will have information needs you can only guess at in order to make connections you never thought of.

Not too long ago I ran into this: Gapminder which is a really cool utility that Hans Rosling presented at TED 2006. The presentation link is on the left at the top of the page.

Rosling is one of the heroes of the semantic web because he is insisting that the UN make its data warehouse open up to the world. If the people at the UN understood what he was talking about, he wouldn't be a hero. But Professor Rosling keeps banging his head against the door and someday they will figure it out with his help.

Sorry about the digression, but you will see why it is important to kids in a minute.

Rosling's work allows you to see a graphic depiction of moving data across a long baseline that elucidates longevity, GNP, family size, and infant mortality as a measurement of overall quality of life. It opens up a new view on Globalization and allows you to see just how provincial our education is.

Now, Google has made the creation of graphic display from LIVE data possible not just for wonks, but for students!

Google Blog article
GoogleFinance focuses just on financial data from Google Finance. Using a similar syntax, you can look up the price of Google stock [=GoogleFinance("GOOG")] or the 52-week high of Apple [=GoogleFinance("AAPL", "HIGH52")]. And since stock prices tend to change more often than, say, the capital of California does, we update them in your spreadsheet automatically. So if you leave your portfolio spreadsheet open, you should see numbers get updated as you would on Google Finance itself. Of course, we also have the same 20-minute delay on financial data.

So as GoogleLookup and Google Finance let you pull data from the web into your spreadsheet, we've also make it easier to put your data back out onto the web by publishing it. If you go to the "Publish" tab at the upper-right of your spreadsheet, you can publish your entire spreadsheet (or just one sheet of it) so that other people can view it as HTML, PDF, or even as an Atom or RSS feed. You can finally share your spreadsheets with others without them having to sign in to their Google Account. And if you go to the "more publishing options" link, you'll find some other cool options (duh!).

This is a killer app for teaching the value of the semantic web.


Microsoft the Official OS of Creationists (humor)

Creationists have overwhelmingly chosen Microsoft's IE7 as their browser of choice. The reason? Microsoft has pledged to support "backward compatibility." Creationists have long felt that backward-ness is a core belief, one of the cornerstones of family values. Family values issues have made them successful in redirecting the policies of the United States government away from "progressive" decisionmaking toward the sound moral principles set forth in ancient texts such as the bible.

Here is a quote from a Microsoft representative that so touched the members of the 700 Club that they gave him a signed photograph of their founder Pat Robertson at a White House coctail party with Ted Haggard and Jerry Falwell.

I’d like to explain why we so adamantly disagree with that position (following standards and common sense rules), and why we work so hard at backwards compatibility.

We feel it is vitally important for web sites and applications that worked with yesterday’s IE work with today’s IE, and continue to work with tomorrow’s IE. We feel this is a deeply held expectation by the millions of IE users.

Microsoft Internet Explorer Blog

This was a test of the emergency humor broadcast system. If it had been an actual alert, you would have been told to go to the closest sanity shelter and kiss your loved ones goodbye.


Teaching and technology

I teach in a magnet program and have a classroom with 25 workstations. I have run Moodle (a web based content delivery and evaluation system that has just about everything you could ever ask for) for a bit over four years in the classroom and teach a curriculum that includes Science and Society mixed with information architecture lessons and content creation. The educators still insist on calling it "Web Design." Yes, I have all the bells and whistles.

That said, I have a terrible time even communicating my vision of one hundred dollar thin clients and web services for all students to administrators. They think computers are huge honking things that cost two thousand dollars just to light up and that a school of twenty-five hundred students can run with a handful of labs. Nor do they understand that administrating it would be easy as pie. No moving parts in the computer. No software to purchase for every seat. Just a browser, a calculator, Google, Open Office and thee.

When you speak of the value of computers, it should be in a real context of efficiency. The discussion about whether children can score perfectly on the SAT and not have a computer is irrelevant. Just engaging in the discussion is like having an argument with a creationist. Remember, computers are just tools. On the other hand, the network is almost alive and keeping children away from it may turn out to be a *very* bad idea.

For this reason and others, I declare the digital divide to be situated INSIDE schools, not outside.

OTHER REASON: Since you can buy a computer for under two hundred dollars and get an Internet connection for about ten dollars a month, the lack of computers for children is an adoption issue, not a money issue.


FUD from Inhofe - Tore and the Town on Thin Ice

"New UN Children’s Book Promotes Global Warming Fears to Kids" reads a headline at the wingnut publication NewsBusters in a direct ripoff from Senator Inhofe's press release:

In fact this bit of vitrol hit a number of conservative blogs simultaneously. Not exactly bastions of original thinking.

No, it is not true that scientists have "defected" from the global warming camp. There is no camp because it consists of virtually every normal scientist on earth at this point. There may be several hundred deniers, but there are many thousands of scientists, including the ones who count, the climatologists who are firmly convinced. There is no real reason to discuss it because there is virtually no evidence contradicting global warming at this time that has not been deliberately altered or fabricated. Yes, the things Senator Inhofe quotes are distortions or lies if you feel like calling them that. The camp belongs to people who are directly funded by Exxon. You can check Exxon's corporate citizenship report for last year and then go to the exxonsecrets site to see which of the foundations Exxon gave money to employ the so-called climate experts who deny there is such a thing as global warming.

Here is a link to the actual text from the United Nations Environment Programme website.

Do you find it scary? Take a look at the last two pages. It offers sensible suggestions for energy conservation everybody can use. I don't like the sea level predictions and don't think they belong in a children's book.
Some facts and figures on climate change

1Earth’s temperature has varied naturally over thousands of years. We know this from studying coral
reefs, fossils, growth rings of trees—and the air trapped in ancient ice deep down in Greenland and
Antarctica. But the current warming appears to be caused mostly by humans and is unusually rapid.

2The atmosphere now contains about 33 per cent more carbon dioxide, the major heat-trapping gas,
than it did 150 years ago. It was then that people started using large amounts of energy to fuel the
Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America.

3Europe, Japan and North America burn the most fossil fuels and so have pumped the most carbon into
the air. The U.S. alone produces about 25 per cent of the carbon dioxide added by humans.

4The planet’s average surface temperature has risen nearly one degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years,
more in regions such as the Arctic. In Alaska, Canada and Russia, permafrost is melting. As frozen
ground thaws and softens, roads, pipelines, and hundreds of buildings are being badly damaged.

5Computer models show that over the next 100 years, temperatures will probably rise quite a bit
more—as if the planet had a fever. Some places, such as Siberia in northern Russia, may get warmer and
easier to farm. But North America’s ‘breadbasket’ will probably grow drier, disrupting farming there.

6Climate change will hit the poorer countries hardest, even though they emit less carbon dioxide. For
instance, people in Africa may face more droughts and related famines.

7Sea levels are already rising and are expected to climb another 15 to 95 cm this century. If the
enormous ice shelves of Greenland or Antarctica slide into the ocean, sea levels would jump nearly 610
cm (20 ft). Places that could disappear beneath the waves include island nations in the Pacific, much of
Bangladesh, Shanghai in China, Lagos in Nigeria, New York in the U.S. and many other coastal cities.

8People are now working to reduce the ‘fever’—mostly by using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.
Experts think that by 2030, renewable sources could produce all the electricity we need.

9Today, about 2 million households harness solar energy for electricity to light their houses. Nearly 40
million households use the sun to heat water. Millions more get power from the wind, mostly in
Europe, the U.S. and India. Scotland is capturing the power of ocean waves. Iceland is developing
hydrogen from water as a major energy source.

10In Brazil, ethanol made from sugar cane has replaced 44 per cent of the country’s petrol. Ethanol is in
use in China, India, and the U.S. as well. Drivers in many countries can choose to cruise in a car
powered largely by battery.

11From Vietnam to Australia, Kenya to Mexico, people are banding together to plant trees. Trees provide
shade, wood, nuts, fruit and other products—and can slow climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.

What can you do?

1Plant and care for trees. Join or create an environmental club. You could do an energy ‘audit’ to explore
how your school could save energy and how it might be able to use renewable energy.

2Turn off appliances, heating and air conditioning when you’re not using them. Computers and other
electronics draw energy even when turned off—so be sure to unplug them, too.

3Recycle papers, bottles and plastic whenever you can. Recycling saves energy compared to using new

4Use your consumer-power. Buying climate-friendly goods—such as energy-efficient light bulbs or
electronics—can encourage manufacturers to go green. Less packaging also helps save energy.

5Walk, bicycle or take a train or bus. Only drive in a car if you must. Cars add far more carbon per
person to the air than public transport.

6Write to your political leaders. Petition for cleaner cars, better public transport or renewable energy.


Who Won?

What happened this November? Democrats? Republicans? Conservatives, Liberals, Moderates? Who won and who lost?

My feeling is that the United States has just successfully defended itself from an attack by religious "fundamentalists."

Over the period since the Reagan presidency, the rise of the religious right and subsequent toadying by the Republican National Committee, the supporters of radical religious theories have tried time and time again to insert them into the corporate beliefs of the American people.

They have had successes and they have had failures. The successes have happened when the fears of people were manipulated.

Who could possibly benefit from this? People who create marketing engines fueled by fantasy benefit from it. Who are they?


Television allowed the evangelist to be in thousands of places at one time, enabling him to pass a collection plate on unprecedented dimensions. Making money on a scale never considered possible by the preacher with a tent and a station wagon.

Competition among televangelists ensured the message delivered would gradually change to meet the expectations of the viewers. Miracles, angels, good guys and bad guys, basically getting God involved in everything, denying the precept of free will.

In an atmosphere of protestant theological revolution, evangelism became THE core belief supported by literal biblical interpretation in the late 1960's.

Later, mainstream churches reacted by adopting the wish-fulfillment fantasies and evangelical thrust of the fundamentalists in order to stem the loss of market share. Today there are few places where the direct intervention of God in everyday events to preserve the good humor of his worshipers is rejected.

The televangelists became as powerful a force to be reckoned with as the mainstream churches. Finally, politicians took notice after the evangelists began knocking on their doors asking about prayer in school, the abolition of abortion, and sex education in schools.

Each side took advantage of the other. Venal politicians got support from the religious and promised them access to the halls of power. The politicians adopted a religious camouflage in order to get support for their own pork. One thing led to another.

Finally we made the move from being against aborting fetuses to being against the destruction of any totipotent cell that has the potential to become a human being to make the religious happy. But we also rejected good science for the benefit of corporate support.

Unfortunately for the religious, the outright rejection of reality never works. You just can't walk on water. Neither can you pretend that a single cell is a teeny tiny human being. Finally the fantasy starts crumbling around the edges and the images of happy Iraqis are replaced by sad ones, the triumphant little blastulas are replaced by friends with parkinson's begging for help, spending cuts bump against the end of our ability to create efficiencies, and alternative institutions prove no better at serving the public than public ones. Some are worse. For instance a religious health support institution that rejects helping black homosexual men.


Say "BAAAAAA" (humbug) to Bush

My son got on the plane for Kuait this afternoon. I am upset of course.

1. Upset that his battalion never got fully equipped before shipping out because they ran out of money in June.
2. Upset that because of this they will have to take used equipment and that units in Iraq have as much as fifty percent of their vehicles in the garage waiting for parts.
3. Upset that the people who did the battalion's final evaluation gave it high marks when they deserved no such thing.
4. Upset that we are supporting an Iraqi government that got 1,500,000,000 for weapons and infrastructure and only spent 400,000,000. The rest disappeared.
5. Upset that the general staff at the Pentagon told the administration they could support a front in North Korea when they can do no such thing.

This is the result of the Administration putting "yes men" into crucial positions. Two obvious examples are the temporary chair of the FDA in 2005 and the gentleman who oversaw FEMA during Katrina. Both of these appointments have had dire consequences for citizens, but by far the greatest disaster could be opening another conflict anywhere in the world.

Meanwhile the RNC runs surveys that ask about taxes and home ownership, completely avoiding questioning people on anything of consequence. Nothing on stem cell research. Nothing on Iraq. Nothing on North Korea. Nothing on choice/abortion. Nothing on education. They want Republicans to tell them if they want the Federal Government to take over even more of the State's responsibilities.

They take sheep-like agreement of the party members as a given. Well baaaaa to them.

And yeah, I didn't put any links on this to substantiate it, so it's poor work. I did however take the poll from the RNC just an hour ago, so I DO remember what they asked.


What makes a good opinion piece?

Support, support, support

Have you noticed that some postings and news sites that are most outspoken are the least well-documented? I was thinking about my tendency to shoot off my mouth and decided to do something about it.

For instance when I referred to a conversation between two people that indicates one of them is a weasel, I linked to the site that carries a first person narrative. Next, I referred to a well-documented event where the weasel said something obviously ignorant.

It served to make a point. The person in question has questionable motives. Period. It casts doubt on everything he says from the original statement forward to today.

I think that's a good thing because it cuts down on objections from supporters who are tied to the weasel. They are forced to address the issue within themselves if I write clearly.


Some History on the cast of characters in NCLB

I've often seen my colleagues as "The Borg" in the way they embrace, engulf, and screw up. This is not to say that educators are any different from other professionals who upon being given a stick, often grab it by the wrong end.

Examine the debate over the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and then look at this history of one of the central figures. William Bennett. The State of Florida is not different from any other in that there is a rich history of fudging the math. Sherman Dorn at USF says that Florida graduation rates are inflated. I expect you can take that statement to the bank.

The following is a collection of quotes and links. There is no original content here! This posting exists for the purpose of gathering resources.
For me, the story begins here. A true story about Bill Bennett

By Reed Hundt:

When I was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (1993-97), I asked Bill Bennett to visit my office so that I could ask him for help in seeking legislation that would pay for internet access in all classrooms and libraries in the country.

Eventually Senators Olympia Snowe and Jay Rockefeller, with the White House leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, put that provision in the Telecommunications Law of 1996, and today nearly 90% of all classrooms and libraries do have such access. The schools covered were public and private. So far the federal funding (actually collected from everyone as part of the phone bill) has been matched more or less equally with school district funding to total about $20 billion over the last seven years. More than 90% of all teachers praise the impact of such technology on their work.

At any rate, since Mr. Bennett had been Secretary of Education I asked him to support the bill in the crucial stage when we needed Republican allies. He told me he would not help, because he did not want public schools to obtain new funding, new capability, new tools for success. He wanted them, he said, to fail so that they could be replaced with vouchers,charter schools, religious schools, and other forms of private education. Well, I thought, at least he's candid about his true views. The key Senate committee voted almost on party lines on the bill, all D's for and all R's against, except one -- Olympia Snowe. Her support provided the margin of victory.

On the House side, Speaker Gingrich made sure the provision was not in the companion bill, but in conference again Senators Snowe and Rockefeller, with White House support, made the difference. The Internet has been the first technology made available to students in poorly funded schools at about the same time and in about the same way as to students in well funded schools.

In case you're wondering about Reed Hundt, he is a normal guy.


Before becoming Chairman of the FCC, Mr. Hundt was a partner in the Washington office of Latham & Watkins, a national and international law firm. His work included legal and regulatory issues in emerging technologies, such as cellular telephones, direct broadcast satellite, and interactive television.

In his private legal career he also handled pro bono matters for the U.S. Court of Appeals, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Conservation International, and the D.C. Preservation League.

Chairman Hundt was the first Chairman to bring FCC operations into the communications age. He was the first Chairman to make himself accessible to a wide audience by participating in open, online conversations with the public and was the first FCC Chairman to have a personal computer on his desk and to be connected to an electronic network

Chairman Hundt is a graduate of Yale College (1969) and Yale Law School (1974), where he was a member of the board of the Yale Law Journal. He clerked for the late Chief Judge Harrison L. Winter of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and is a member of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and California bars.

Media Transparency dot org has an informal history of Mr. Bennett.

Bennett was Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, and later he served as national drug czar, and has written numerous pessimistic books about American culture, appearing frequently on television (he's a favorite of Tim Russert and NBC's Meet The Press), and speaking regularly at any number of right wing organizations, as well as serving on many of their boards of directors. He is a "Distinguished Fellow" at the Heritage Foundation.

The Bradley Foundation is the Milwaukee-based group that funded the notoriously racist book "The Bell Curve," so Joyce's participation on the Commission caught our attention. The articule turned out to be an interesting introduction to the world of conservative foundations....

Commission founder William J. Bennett himself is one good reason why some people in this country are so "ticked off." As chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and then U.S. Secretary of Eduation under President Ronald Reagan, Bennett was known for his crude defense of European-based college curricula nand his attacks on bilingual eduation, not to mention his call to dismantle the whole Department of Education itself. He has been an outspoken leader in national attacks on affirmative action. He has public attacked fellow Republican conservative Newt Gingrich for the House Speaker's overtures to the Rev. Jesse Jackson as well as to other Black Democrats. "Jesse Jackson has a history of being one of the worst racial polarizers in this country," Bennet said in an interview on CNN. (MJS 2/21/1997).

Today Bennett is a founder and director of an organization called Empower America, which describes itself as "...a unique combination of public policy institute and political advocacy organization." Empower America claims a membership of thousands of grassroots activists, but one of its main functions is to give its co-directors access to the news media, talk shows and the highest levels of government.

For example, for the past 20 years, orientation sessions for incoming members of Congress were run by the Kennedy School of Government in Boston. In 1994, the incoming members instead attended an orientation run by Empower America and the Heritage Foundation.

In order to get an idea about what his character is like, her is a neat factoid: Bennett thinks that gay people live shorter lives: seriously!

Nov. 24 Weekly Standard, he repeated the assertion phrased for maximum emphasis:
"The best available research suggests that the average life span of male homosexuals is around 43 years of age. Forty-three."

Bennett got the number from Paul Cameron, a researcher well known to followers of gay controversies. Cameron, a former assistant professor at the University of Nebraska who has consulted for such gay-rights opponents as former Rep. William Dannemeyer, R-Calif., heads a group called the Family Research Institute. Cameron resigned under fire from the American Psychological Association and was later formally terminated from membership following complaints about his research methods.

Mr Bennett and Michael Milliken want you... forever.

This is a quote from a Forbes magazine article on Milliken's company Knowledge Universe which owns Mr. Bennett's K12.com :

While Knowledge Universe is private and holds most details close to the vest, CEO Tom Kalinske says the firm's business plan looks 20 years down the road, from the time a child first enters a Knowledge Universe portal. "A child plays with LeapFrog, then moves on to KU software in school, then takes an SAT prep course from KU," he says. The ultimate goal, he explains, is to engage children in lifetime learning provided by Knowledge Universe--even through their careers and into retirement.

What's going on at K12.COM ?????

K12 is based on a curriculum that was at the centerpiece of many education reform initiatives around the country this past decade, a curriculum aligned with the new national and state reform standards. K12 is based on University of Virginia Professor E.D. Hirsch’s “Core Knowledge” curriculum. Bennett had previously used Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy as part of the “core curriculum” for his Modern Red Schoolhouse Design Team. As background, in 1992 the New American Schools Development Corporation (NASDC) funded school reform experiments, which they called “design teams.” These experiments were to demonstrate by example how schools would meet the goals outlined in President Bush’s America 2000 education reform strategy. An emphasis was placed on creating “fundamental institutional change,” meeting “new national standards in five core subjects,” preparing “students for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.” Bennett’s Modern Red Schoolhouse project was composed of individuals associated with the Hudson Institute, a policy institute committed to investing its resources into the transformation of education. Claims were made that this was “classic education.” The project was selected, however, because it so excellently fulfilled all of the requirements of radical education reform.

Bennett placed E.D. Hirsch’s curriculum as one of three curricular pillars in the Modern Red School House Design Team. In the mid 1990s debates over outcome-based education (OBE), Hirsch carefully positioned his curriculum as a “conservative” alternative, emphasizing academics and minimizing “outrageous” outcomes. Hirsch’s ideas about cultural literacy, however, bear much evidence of OBE philosophy.

In 1992 the Bush Administration’s U.S. Department of Labor issued Learning A Living: A Blueprint for High Performance: A SCANS Report for America 2000. This controversial bi-partisan report became the third pillar of curriculum used in The Modern Red Schoolhouse. Skills for the workplace would become the major focus of education -- preparing children for lifelong labor and culminating in a “certificate of mastery.” A Hudson Institute brochure promoting The Modern Red Schoolhouse stated: “A distinguishing feature of the [SCANS] curriculum is its reliance on performance as the measure of student progress….” The other distinguishing characteristic of SCANS was a switch from traditional academic content to a workplace skills-oriented education. Current state and federal standards and assessments track back to this important SCANS report.

K12 and Michael Milken

William Bennett is chairman of K12, a company which markets curriculum packages to private purchasers as well as his growing virtual academy empire. K12 began with $10 million in start-up money from Knowledge Universe. K12 is a majority shareholder in Knowledge Universe. Remember Michael Milken, the former “junk bond” whiz who spent time in prison? A Forbes Magazine account revealed Milken is now “sitting on the throne of a $1.75 billion private education empire” known as Knowledge Universe which “oversees nearly 50 companies, many of them interlocking. Employing over 14,000 persons worldwide, Knowledge Universe is already on the brink of dominating several sectors of what is being called the Internet’s next killer app: e-learning.” According to Forbes (“Master of the Knowledge Universe” by Stephen P. Pizzo, 9/10/01) “Knowledge Universe was born in 1996 with a $250 million investment from Milken and his brother Lowell and another $250 million from Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison.” Business Week tells the next part of the story:

When Lowell Milken and Ron Packard, executives at education investment company Knowledge Universe, approached Bennett in November, 1999, about heading up K12, Bennett insisted that he would chair the company only if Yale computer-science professor David Gelernter, a fellow computer-in-the-classroom skeptic, signed on as the company’s technical advisor.

…K12 was formed in February of last year, when Bennett signed up as chairman and Packard became CEO. (“Bill Bennett: The Education of an E-School Skeptic” by Alexandra Starr, 2/14/01)

The previously cited San Diego Union Tribune article credits Bennett’s “star power” and Packard’s determination to put Bennett’s name and philosophy behind the endeavor. Packard read Bennett’s book, The Educated Child and became enamored of its concepts. Business Week’s account of the arrangement notes:

Some industry analysts… caution that Bennett’s high profile will not be an unalloyed asset. “Having a prominent personality at the helm can have a downside,” says EduVentures.com’s Stokes. “When the conversation ends up focusing on Bennett, it can eclipse the business.”

Milken’s philosophy of “cradle to grave” education is the driving force behind his current business ventures. Forbes relates

It is in early childhood development and K-12 that Milken has made some of his most daring and visionary acquisitions. Knowledge Universe has either started, acquired, or invested in an array of preschool through middle school companies that provide online curricula, testing, test preparation, tutoring, and even management of schools. The companies also share databases and resources and contract among themselves for value-added services. While providing education services for its companies, Knowledge Universe is also amassing what could become one of its most valuable assets: a data bank on childhood learning, skill levels, and online learning behavior.


Milken’s silence about Knowledge Universe extends to the firm’s website, where there is much less information there now than there was five years ago. KU’s homepage offers neither a “search” option, nor a “contact us” button. The “press room” is open “exclusively for accredited media representatives.” This author’s inquiry to the firm was met with extensive (and skeptical) questioning. Shortly thereafter an email arrived from a Robin Sherman:

I’ve been asked to advise you to contact the individual companies directly as our Website shows only samples of investments. As a private company, we do not publish a full list of companies and the companies change from time to time as investments change. K12.com has contact information for K12. Please contact them directly.

How's this for a quote:

Then Secretary of Education William Bennett called for a return to a moral curriculum that would reclaim this underclass. Later, Harvard psychologist Richard Herrnstein and Heritage Foundation researcher Charles Murray reported that the poor and minorities lacked sufficient intelligence to take advantage of the opportunities available to them in order to work their ways toward economic success. They wrote, “For many people, there is nothing they can learn that will repay the cost of the teaching.”

The basic tenets of NCLB are a collection of proposals from previous ESEA reauthorizations, and they have little to do with the Texas Miracle. First, the change in priorities from poor students to all students began in response to the A Nation at Risk report during the Reagan Administration. In the best Cold War language, that report charged that America’s public schools were so inadequate that the country was in danger economically. It claimed that American workers were less productive than international counterparts because students could not compete academically with their international peers. Reagan officials, and later President Clinton’s authorities, called for high academic standards, high stakes testing, and parental choice.

Within Clinton’s proposals for the expected 1999 reauthorization of ESEA, state standards were set, state tests were written, a ten-year deadline for proficiency was proposed, reporting by categories would be required, annual yearly progress and the penalties were to follow in case of failure. Clinton included a block grant system, which allowed state officials more control of federal education funding.

Bush invented none of the components of No Child Left Behind. He did, however, pattern its implementation after his Texas Miracle. The story of the miracle is based on Texas Department of Education figures which suggested that a tight centralized system of curricular and instructional standardization enforced by strict school, teacher, and student accountability procedures drastically lowered school dropout rates, improved student scores on state tests of reading and math, and narrowed the achievement gap between poor and middle and upper class students and minority and white students. The tight system required teachers to follow scripted lessons in commercially prepared guidebooks during reading and math instruction, to devote twice the instructional time to these subjects (limiting science, social studies, and the arts in the elementary school curriculum), and to prepare students to take yearly state examinations. Teachers’ and administrators’ competences were tested by paper and pencil examination.

The problem with this design is that the Texas Miracle was/is a fantasy. Professor Walter Haney of Boston College who conducted a detailed study of public education in Texas stated, “What is happening in Texas seems to me to be not just an illusion, but from an educational point of view an outright fraud.” Rather than the reported low dropout rate, 30 percent of Texas ninth grade students leave high school before graduation. For minority students, less than 50 percent of the ninth graders receive a diploma. In order to achieve the Texas Miracle, high school administrators reclassified the adolescents who stopped attending high school as transient students because they could re-enroll in the future. Few make this choice, however. The Texas Miracle for high school completion is simply a rhetorical trick. Texas high school completion rates rank toward the bottom of the fifty states.

The Texas Miracle for test scores appears to be an illusion also. Students’ increased scores on the Texas examinations have not translated into improved scores on national tests. Texas students still rank in the lower third among states for measures of achievement. Texas student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress remain stable for reading, and have actually declined for math. Poor and minority student achievement scores are no closer to those of their white, more well-to-do peers on these tests. Student scores on the Standard Achievement Tests (SAT), which most college bound students take, were unchanged during the 1990s, and a full thirty percent of Texas students continued to begin their college studies needing remedial programs. What Haney calls the Texas “chains and whips” accountability system has not accomplished a miracle at all – nor has it approached its public goals. Without empirical or historical evidence that it works, why, then, does it serve as the model for NCLB?

Although some neoliberals may bristle that Bush’s implementation system restricts local innovation, most recognize that NCLB opens public schools to market and business forces. Market principles require that any enterprise justify its funding by becoming more productive for less cost, continually remaking itself in order to maximize profits. Although schools have been encouraged to change for two decades, NCLB focuses public schools mission – to produce students who meet world-class standards – by tying its continued funding to its tightly defined productivity.

As June Kronholz reported in the Wall Street Journal, businesses already recognize the new markets created by NCLB.

Companies that sell to the schools – from test publishers to tutoring services to teacher-training outfits –say business is booming as troubled districts turn to them for help. There’s a burgeoning sense of consumerism in public education as parents learn about the law and begin demanding services, says Jeffery Cohen, president of Sylvan Education Solutions, a unit of closely held Educate, Inc. His company says it expects to tutor 20,000 youngsters in struggling schools this year, with No Child Left Behind requiring schools to pick up the $40 to $80 dollar an hour tab.

The irony of the Mr. Cohen’s statement, however, should not be lost in the glare of the identification of a real intent of NCLB. If schools were funded at even $40 per hour per student – the low end of tutoring - then a public school teacher with 25 students in her class (a lucky teacher in most school districts) would make over $1000 per hour.

University of Colorado Professor Robert Linn demonstrates that NCLB requirements and implementation system doom most schools to be failures. NCLB seeks to solve two problems:

1.) To reduce the costs of public schooling, and

2.) To demoralize and deskill teachers in order to discredit the public schools in which they teach.

Both are to be accomplished by enforcing a rigid system that combines unattainable goals with punitive measures for failure. This system reduces public schools to the equivalent of middlemen delivering tax dollars to private companies established to profit from children’s schooling and opens the door to private schools to replace public schools. According to journalist Stephen Metcalf, this was the pattern in Texas when Bush was Governor, and it is repeating itself nationally now that he is President. Educational publishers, particularly the big three – McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Harcourt Brace – are identified as Bush stocks on Wall Street, paying record dividends since 2000.

The President's brother Neil has joined William Bennett in selling educational materials to the American public.- BusinessWeek October 16,2006.


Alfie Kohn
Test today at No Child Left website.

Alfie Kohn

Sherman Dorn


The Evolution of Dee dee dee
(apologies to Carlos Mencia)

I suppose this could be the best thing for Pastafarians since sliced bread. It is so funny, people can't take it seriously.

James Kennedy, the controversial pastor of Coral Ridge Ministries has produced a film that "demonstrates" the Third Reich used sound science when they culled the human race. Or did it make the same mistakes as Kennedy and friends? Did the Thrid Reich murder its own citizens because of the Theory of Natural Selection or did it attempt to force select in an unscientific and grisly attempt at wish fulfilment?

Here is a story on it.

Hosted by Kennedy, "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" (website) features Ann Coulter, author of "Godless"; Richard Weikart, author of "From Darwin to Hitler"; Lee Strobel, author of "The Case for a Creator"; Jonathan Wells, author of "Icons of Evolution"; Phillip Johnson, author of "Darwin on Trial"; Michael Behe, author of "Darwin's Black Box"; and Ian Taylor, author of "In the Minds of Men."

According to the CRM website, the accompanying book was written by Tom DeRosa, Executive Director of the Creation Studies Institute -- "Reaching the World with the Truths of creation" (website) -- (an outreach of Coral Ridge Ministries), and it "explains how Hitler tried to use genocide to speed up evolution and reveals how the American eugenics movement is likewise indebted to Darwin."

The best thing is that Behe is there with Coulter. Coulter explains she never paid attention in biology class and doesn't understand Natural Selection. Since nobody likes her anymore, her cooties should rub off on Behe. We should thank Kennedy for doing this for the American public.

For those of you who may not have taken high school biology, there is no connection between Darwin and the Eugenics movement. Charles Darwin authored the theory of Natural Selection. Don't forget that. The part about cooties was just for fun.

Eugenics is Artificial Selection. The eugenics that these guys are talking about was a kind of Linean sort of thing if I may be forgiven for using his name.

If anybody is the heir to the eugenics movement today, it is people who are strongly attached to the measurement of general intelligence. The inheritance of intelligence and racial influences on it are the hallmark of the tendency to pigeonhole people.

Reverend Kennedy wants to take back America for a certain group of morally superior people. I suggest that he is far more Hitler's heir than the people he, Behe, and Coulter attack.

Ethics and journalism..... and Fox News

So here I am talking about the same old stuff. Thursday, September 21 Fox posted a story by Steven Milloy.

It doesn't matter what the story was about. (Malaria again) What is important is their journalist is:
Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRWatch.com. He is a junk science expert, an advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

And here are two quotes from the ExxonMobil annual giving report for 2004 and 2005:

Exxon-Mobil 2004 annual giving (donations) report:
Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.
General Operating Support 90,000
Global Climate Change 90,000
Global Climate Change Outreach 90,000
Subtotal 270,000

Exxon-Mobil 2005 annual giving (donations) report:

Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.
General Operating Support 90,000
General Operating Support* 180,000
Subtotal 270,000

A university that has a respectable engineering department that turns out petrochemical engineers can expect about 30,000 except for UT Austin and Texas A&M which got a little over 100,000 each. But a think tank that funds poor science in a FUD war gets 270,000 a year. Yale got 5,000. They must have pissed off someone. Harvard got 8,500 and we know they pissed of Exxon when they criticised Michael Chriton's book here.

Lest you think this is an isolated event, let me assure you there are several examples of this.

Fox News, Crichton, and other reality-challenged folk

Yes, I'm so easy I'll even blog myself. Today I saw an ABC article about Global Warming and better yet, Michael Crichton! You aren't to the self serving part yet, just read on.

Michael Crichton's 2004 book "State of Fear" is what started me off on this blog. The original post is Fox News Science Expert is *way * off base. in which I criticise them for quoting a lunatic-fringe-conservative-blogger called "Junk Science" and not paying enough attention to the CDC and WHO.

Originally, my wife gave me the book to shut me up because she knows I used to love Science Fiction. "State of Fear" is a thriller that uses environmental terrorists as its bad guys. I thought it was fun although the science was a bit funky. But when I got to the end of the book - (yes I am slow on the uptake) - I saw that Crichton was evidently serious about his science. Here is a moderate and reasoned criticism of the book.

I'm not a real scientist. Certainly not an earth science person who comprehends the calculations involving gigatons of this or that and how vegetation, solar radiation, planktonic uptake of carbon, subduction currents, ice packs, and manure (methane) work together with anthropogenic contributions to make the earth change its average temperature.

I am however, interested in malaria. When I saw remarks in the book about the number of children who die each year from malaria and the odd remarks about DDT not being dangerous, I got curious. So I visited the CDC and WHO websites and did a search at the Science (sciencemag.org) website. What I came up with was quite a different story than the one Crichton told.

I went searching for quotes using literal strings from the book and found junkscience.com, a site authored by a man who works for a foundation that has accepted money from Exxon-Mobil. His mortality numbers are incorrect and the information on DDT is incorrect. Both Crichton and Fox news use him without reservation. That means they consider him such a genius that it is unnecessary to use other sources.

You may have noticed that I did not quote any numbers or facts of my own. The reason is that the people who make up this garbage will argue all day about what should or should not be considered part of a particular fact. Do you remember the conversation a few weeks ago on the news where the President of Iran was asked why he doesn't accept the Holocaust as a historic event? His answer was that there were lots of other people killed by the Fascists, so the Jews didn't deserve any special recognition.

As I said, I'm not a real scientist. I do know that a real scientist would not say that DDT is safe. He or she might say that DDT is probably safer than not having any pesticide at all. There are, however 12 alternative pesticides most of which degrade in less than 6 months.

This posting is here for the purpose of saying that ignorance is not a point of view. You don't have to accept it. You don't have to argue with it. Just turn your back. If you think something is worth knowing then read up on it. You won't find references at Fox News though. Just links to what they feel is their most powerful argumentation.

Fox News is once again carrying out the old FUD. DDT is probably carcinogenic. The WHO never outlawed it, but they did discourage the use of DDT for that reason. Countries with malaria problems were encouraged to find a suitable solution all along.

CDC DDT FAQ doesn't say DDT is carcinogenic. They should.
More details from CDC see the quote below from this source:

How likely are DDT, DDE, and DDD to cause cancer?
Studies in DDT-exposed workers did not show increases in cancer. Studies in animals given DDT with the food have shown that DDT can cause liver cancer.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) determined that DDT may reasonable be anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that DDT may possibly cause cancer in humans. The EPA determined that DDT, DDE, and DDD are probable human carcinogens."

Low lactation causes mortality study.

Pro-DDT letter saying that the deaths are worth it.

Fox news article on DDT and how the CDC says it is OK now and isn't "illegal." Please note the pejorative nature of the attack on the Audubon Society! OMG the amount of money they must have. Well, actually their assets include lots of land that birds can poop on. Same with the Sierra Club. And their donations are not a drop in the bucket compared to Exxon-Mobil's contribution to things like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institute. BTW, Jeb Bush used to sit on the board of Hoover with Scaife and Coors. Scaife (Tribune media) and Coors fund some of the more colorful organizations.


Why Schools Shouldn't Have Police Powers

Have you ever been apalled at how schools have this bizarre "I'm-a-law-unto-myself-and-I'm-always-right" attitude?
They build their buildings and aren't responsible to governmental oversight with regard to safety. Plus they have their own police force and decide who has been bad or good. The security cheif can be told what to do by the principal. As in, "I can handle this kid." What in the world makes them tick? Is it just arrogance?

The Education Schools Project recently released a report (funded by Annenberg, Ford, Ewing, and Kaufmann foundations. It is critical of the programs that grant degrees to Education managers such as Principals and superintendents. One of the things they do not criticise is the security training of these people.

This week, in CAZENOVIA, Wisconsin a 9th grader (3rd former) shot and killed his nemisis, the principal.

The complaint also said Hainstock had told a friend a few days earlier that Klang would not "make it through homecoming," referring to festivities planned for the school's homecoming weekend.

On Thursday, the principal had given Hainstock a disciplinary warning for having tobacco on school grounds, which was likely to mean an in-school suspension.

One student told a local reporter that Hainstock had recently been suspended for throwing a stapler at a teacher and for throwing a chair at the principal.

"I never thought [he] was capable of shooting anybody," she said.

Do you know any other place where you can committ two assaults and get to fetch your Daddy's shotgun to school and even up the odds against you?


Expressing Yourself in a Search


How I Learned to Avoid Being Affected by Drooling Morons

Do a search at google.com and you can’t find anything - for a reason. A search for anything that is not a “key word” but is rather the expression of an idea gets only 25% accuracy. This is called a full text search, but is something a bit different conceptually.

Try “can’t get my car started” - there are probably 1500 reasons you can't start your car when it actually happens. In English there are single words with 15 meanings. Is it surprising? No, and it doesn't keep one from being a functioning human being. But when you have to search for something on the Internet, it's another kettle of fish.

There are strategies you can adopt that have to do with the way you orient yourself (Thus the term wayfinding) on the Web. To add to the problem, if you search for evolution, 50% of the returns are retards talking about how Natural Selection is “fatally flawed.” The 50% figure is because their idiotic drooling babble is being hit constantly by other morons. This runs up the popularity factor and their admittedly small population of publications are promoted by the search engine.

There. I know it won’t make anybody happy. But it is true as true can be. Just like the car. If you don’t know how it works, you probably can’t fix it. So if you live here online like so many of us, you have to study the map. Wandering around won’t cut it anymore for the simple reason that it is bigger than it used to be.

Remember 1991 and 1992? The Whole Web book? That seems like such a conceit now.

One night I found my way to a Los Alamos server. The only thing they had to keep me out was a notice saying ”Keep out!” and I took it seriously.

A Numbers Game - What will things look like later on?

NCLB will be successful. Here's why. Actually it depends a lot on the economy.

Our motto:

"We are transforming education one student a time."

It will, however take a while.
At the historic rate of one student a day, it will take 1,666 years based on a 180 day school year.

With 300,000 students, it's huge (actually 262,000.) It's overwhelming if you stop and think about it even after you take my exaggeration into account. The 1,666 was just too good to miss.

I should change the motto to something more in keeping with the numbers:

"We are transforming education three hundred students at a time." Is more realistic.

The student population in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach has been going up like a rocket for years. School boards have historically failed to cope with the increase. Of course the general population's need for underfunding education by chopping the tax base in half in the late 1970s wasn't helpful. Neither was the senior double exemption. Now Charlie Crist wants to raise the homestead exemption if we elect him governor.

Here are our student counts:

k-5 population is 109,000 this year (2006-2007)
6-8 population is 55,955
9-12 population 72,633
Special kids ( behavior issues ) 5,000
Charters ( not broken out by grade ) 16,000

The dropout and attrition rates from year to year account for a reduction in population. The elementary count has declined from 117,000 to 109,000 so you don't see the numbers going back up in the figure above.

K-12 totals by year:
1997 223,000
2004 272,691
2006 262,616

I just took the ends and the high point to display the trend. Up, then down.

Nobody has said where the reduction is happening. However, the cost of a house is now more than $100,000 more than the average income can support. That is, if you can afford a mortgage on a 350,000 house in your home town, the same house will cost 450,000 in South Florida. An article in the South Florida Business Journal quoted a family that bought a 541 sq. ft house for 250,000 in Miami-Dade. If the population continues to decline due to reduction in the poverty level population, we are going to hit our educational objectives. Just increase taxes, raise rents, raise the average dwelling unit cost and watch education improve.

There is research on how the mix of family income corresponds to a school population's achievement on tests. In general, if you can lower the population of poverty level families to twenty percent of the school's total, you raise the school's overall achievement level without spending money on actual education. Frankly I think some busloads of poor kids going to suburban schools isn't such a bad idea. But there is another problem. Jobs.

Globalization affects the job market here too. Although large employers would like to move here, the region is too expensive. Only white collar businesses like Tyco (LOL), and biotechs can afford to locate here because of community overhead. Agriculture is being either eliminated or automated. Construction jobs moved to growth areas. Retail jobs are being sucked up by low income senior citizens. Manufacturing is just as absent here as it is in any other part of the United States except Mississippi and Alabama.

There is another regional artifact that job and income people don't take into account but Real Estate people do. Arable or buildable land in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach is now absent for purposes of expansion. We are now redeveloping existing neighborhoods. Growth is like a wave in a way people seldom appreciate. When it hits a wall, it splashes back.

When you buy up a block, you don't buy the most expensive houses in town. The new projects are in previously low income housing neighborhoods. Condos on the railroad tracks, high rises along highways, and townhouses in minority areas.

The only slowdown you will see, and it is already happening, is the housing bust. How bad it will be and how long it will last is how long the "improvement of education" will be held back. We could of course just improve schools by improving communication and the school's ability to change rapidly to changing conditions. This wold include having more direct communication with parents, having more contact time with students, having more teachers so the contact time has appreciable quality, having a curriculum that is directed toward university and that it change quickly in response to university demands, not those of local businesses. We could fund public schools at the rate of the average decent private school (not the indecent ones) which would be in the neighborhood of twelve to fifteen thousand dollars a child. This would mean an increase on the order of 400 to 500 percent. OW!

Here's my favorite quote:

"We were planning to stay here. We had no intention of moving," said Sbuttoni, 30, a mental health worker who earns $11 an hour working the night shift at a nonprofit. Had she chosen to remain in South Florida, her salary would have gone up $2 an hour because she completed a master's degree.

A measly two bucks an hour. Talk about OW.


Inhofe Blasts Global Warming - can you say nuts?

Or "How I learned to love right wing think tanks and hate the Wayback machine"

Here is a link to the summary page: Inhofe's bizarre rant in the United States Senate this week.

The speech given on the Senate floor involves attacking the media first then redirecting toward global warming advocates and alarmists like Al Gore then ridiculing energy conservation. A thoroughly unsatisfying bit of recycled garbage. Full of pejorative remarks like "climate porn." And quoting from some thoroughly discredited Exxon suck-ups.

Now read this:
Guardian article.
and this:

Guardian archive of letter to Exxon from British science establishment.

This is a very good reasoned response to a letter to the Guardian from one of the so-called scientists:
Editorial on Unspeak blog.

Now tell me what you think.

My thought is that Gary Inhoef is going to hate the Wayback Machine until he dies. Of course the people who work for the various foundations will be followed from job to job. They won't be able to get work unless it includes large-scale ass kissing. Oops, I guess they *will* get jobs.


suspended disbelief

This takes off from the last post. I hope you are familiar with Berube's NYT article on the dangerous professors. Essentially he says there is proof positive that the number and dangerousness of professors is a gross exaggeration at best.

In the previous post I mentioned a joke I made that a student took seriously.

Over at the Concerned Professor's blog, he is worried about students who cheat on their homework. The students who post in response to his article are adamant in their insistence that it is his style of teaching and the content of his course that are at fault.

Take the three things above.
1. Failure to listen carefully and distinguish between course content with authority and opinion with no authority.
2. Failure to listen carefully and detect a joke made using a recent news story.
3. Failure to make the connection between the course title and the purpose of the assignment, leading to disinterest and a desire to get credit for not working.

If I have to write ANYTHING to explain this, you're one of them. Go ask your Mom.


9/11 conspiracy

I told a student that we were all lucky that the aircraft did not hit the floor of the Trade Tower that was used to store the nuclear weapons.

His eyes got round and he said "Really?"

Just then I realized I had gone too far. Oops.

My kids are so gullible. Sometimes no more so than when I'm trying to teach them critical thinking skills and they apparently suspend disbelief as if they were watching Batman Returns.

Just imagine . . . Elevator operator: "One Hundredth Floor! Men's Garments, Oppenheimer Fund, Nuclear Arsenal!"


Transgenetic Education

I was just reading an article at The American School Board Journal site by Victor Rivero called The Future is Flat. It's a bit long and quotes from several sources. Some of which are influential and others perhaps shouldn't be quite so much so.

Anyway, the original premise is that globalizatin is making it necessary to alter education outcomes. My point is that globalization is making it necessary to alter the education beast. To make it trans-genetic by doing some of the things Tom Friedman and Paul Ormerod talk about when they examine how globalization has forced companies to adapt in order to survive.

I then go off topic and follow the original article around a bit, finally arriving at the starting point. The Internet enables global commerce, global communications, and global social networking on a scale that few people appreciate. It can help change the face of education if it will only let go and let it happen.

Here is what I wrote to Mr. Rivero:

I thought your comments about Friedman were interesting since I haven't seen any comments from the NCLB debates that talk about globalization. I keep trying to get people to recognize another point from the book that I think is very important as well.

I recently read Paul Ormerod's "Why Things Fail and connected it to Tom Friedman's explanation of how the surviving major corporations became agile to survive. It occurred to me that competitive pressures don't exist when it comes to governments and their institutions (except armies.) So NCLB is the school system's competitor. Unfortunately, shaping communication and the ability to measure and change quickly practices isn't on the agenda.

If people think that a particular quantity of scientists is what we are after, it's a little difficult to produce that quantity of genius students when China has more honors students than we have students. My school's honors students comprise about ten percent of the school population. Obviously post secondary admission is the goal we should be using instead of tenth grade competency. If turning the communications structure and authority structure upside down is what Bob Hughes means, then by all means! If he means there is a progressive model to follow, it won't work.

Students have always left school unprepared for the workplace. Asking employers who have always had to incur expenses related to that if they think students should be better prepared is somewhat pointless.

When you say that the keys to change aren't complicated, it bothers me. If you can accept Ormerod's premise on complexity, a simple model can't be true. Of course if you improve metrics on ALL input methods, then the model will improve. Unfortunately, there are parts that are important to the model that have been judged to be irrelevant like how much money per pupil goes into a good school. Top drawer private day schools run from fifteen to twenty two thousand dollars. The church subsidized schools run as low as six thousand dollars a year. The average is eight thousand - which is around twice what the average public school budgets. Again, top drawer private schools have a faculty that runs in excess of fifty percent masters and doctorate level education in specialties. What is more, they don't move out of their specialty to teach other courses.

The Gates Foundation school has a budget of ten thousand dollars a student. The facility cost fifteen million dollars and there are only one thousand students. I honestly think anybody could do a credible job running it using any mediocre management model. They wouldn't get over eighty percent of the students into anything better than state universities, but what the hell.

Improving public school funding by 100% will only bring funding up to the level of loony bin conservative schools and doing remedial teacher training simply pales in comparison. It may be depressing, but you can't make the National League perform the same as the Yankees and Red Sox without giving them similar resources.

Julie Evans statement about "digital natives" couldn't be more odd. Maybe she means they are like the dummies in the WorldComm commercial skating around the office and not working. I teach in an emergent technology magnet school. The ability to flip a light switch didn't make their parents electrical engineers. Computers are tools that are being used for limited purposes rather than the full range of use that would be appropriate. She is right that students realize they are losing out compared to their wealthy contemporaries. The skills are being created in the home however, not schools. My most advanced students come to school with better computer skills than the majority have after completing the school's computer training courses.

Finally I think the 21st Century Skills group is trying to frame the debate in an incorrect semantic arena. They should keep it simple and just call it education. I had a conversation with the head of the Philosophy Department at FSU this summer about teaching Boolean Logic. He told me the freshmen don't know it anymore. So I asked our math coach at school and she told me they dropped it because it was not in the tests. You are presumably familiar with the calculus debate regarding proofs which has the effect of universities not accepting AP calculus credit.

This points up examples of the effect of high stakes testing. High stakes testing shouldn't affect a school that has a full and correct curriculum with good teachers. It does though. If we were to compare it to a manufacturing process, then producing a product that should cost fifty thousand dollars for twelve thousand would mean trading off in just about every important component.

Finally, implementing one to one computing on a campus won't do anything unless the faculty is ready to use the tool. We have had computing in schools for twenty years and still haven't implemented decent administrative integration. Education is such a cash cow for software companies it isn't any wonder. However, the open source community has offered solutions to the problem when it comes to helping students that are awesome.

My lessons on globalization both scare and energize my students. They should be scared because the people in charge of their lives have no idea of how the networked society will function. Schools all have a network, but they don't have a Network. I am lucky in that I have been allowed to create a good electronic delivery system that uses web services and open source products and information so that I can rapidly alter things to suit the needs of my students depending on the composition of any class. The funny thing is that I have used it for five years and I know that people like it but don't really know what is going on in it. They know my students talk about critical thinking and the history of science and how the Internet allows the globalization of information resources, but I'm not sure anybody thinks it is important.


Why is a child's education like a car?

Why is a child's education like a car?
What's No Child Left Behind Worth to You?

Let's say that school vouchers are given for $4,000.00 which is about what public school education districts cost per student per year. Let's say school privatization is going great guns and you're going to send your child to one of them instead of the local public school that is just average.

Are you going to believe that a private school is a private school, is a private school? A rose by any other name? Perhaps it would be a good idea to use your critical thinking skills first. What do you think that 4,000 dollars is going to buy?

The Federal Department of Education recently (Summer 2006) reported that although private schools had better scores on recent evaluations, after adjusting for several factors a substantial number of the private schools did not do as good a job as public schools. This is a copy of a USA Today article by Greg Toppo. Does that mean ALL public schools? Of course not. It's like buying a car. No, really. An actual car every year.

Everybody is talking about Bill and Melinda Gates and their designs on education. The Gates Foundation has a high performing school that spends $10,000 per student per year and is supposed to get good results. The facility cost 15 million. But in terms of private schools that are high performers, that isn't really high. Here are some examples from the Florida Council of Independent Schools:

High Ranked Private Schools:
16,000 American Heritage
17,810 Miami Country Day
21,450 Vanguard
16,750 Benjamin School
18,400 St Andrew's - top of the heap
16,900 Pine Crest - top of the heap
19,100 Ransom/Everglades
22,000 Guliver
13,500 University School Nova University
161,919 total /9= 17,991 or about 18,000 The national average cost per student is a little over 16,434 (NAIS 05-06)

Christian Schools:
8,000 Catholic Schools (supported by church revenues)
6,900 Bayshore Christian
11,550 Academy of the Palm Beaches
9,350 Arthur Meyer Jewish Academy
6,182 Bethany Christian - 36% Higher than public
7,660 Boca Raton Christian - 64% Higher than public
49,642 total /6=8,273 or about 8,000 which is twice the cost of public school. Many private schools have sources of revenue that make their tuitions artificially low.

Public Schools:
4,000 dollars per student per year.

Here are some private school statistics:
NAIS scholarship students percentage under 20%
The Median class size is 15
85% attend selective universities.
NAIS graduates were almost twice as likely to have “asked a teacher for advice after class” (46 percent for NAIS students, 25 percent for all students) or to have “been a guest in a teacher’s home” (52 percent for NAIS students, 28 percent for all students)

The scholarship percentage means that no more than 20% of the student body is from a high poverty environment. Presumably this is an indicator of attitude toward school and reading. For instance, over seventy percent of these students read for pleasure. Peer pressure directed against sound learning practice such as doing homework may be lessened as a result.

Now, there's no proof that you have to spend lots of money to get a good education. So what I have shown you should be viewed with skepticism. The teacher's pay is not disclosed, so I can't tell what it is. However one of the schools I looked at claims that 62% of its instructional staff has either a Masters or Doctorate education. This means that these teachers are not teaching in the public school system. They may be teaching where they do because they are paid more or because they have classes of only 15 students.

I can tell you they invite students into their homes. I can tell you their students regularly speak to them out of class.

Private schools do not use exit exams. Private schools do not use any measurement for success other than college admission and alumni financial support. Yet the high performers have college entrance numbers of 85%.

It may be that as tuition goes down, college admissions go down too. It may be that as tuition goes down, SAT scores go down. It may be that as tuition goes down, teacher's salaries go down. And it may be that as tuition goes down, so does the amount of time students dedicate to homework. In fact it may be that although there is no direct link between a school's budget and the quality of education, the fact is that the most expensive schools are consistently more successful than less expensive schools.


What's Wrong With Standards

May I suggest a way we have gone astray?

Corporations were dying at an increasing rate from the seventies onward, the pace of change was picking up, and human knowledge was expanding exponentially. Everybody saw this long ago and understood that our system of public education appeared to be falling behind other nations in key areas.

Unfortunately, the changes made in the last twenty years have not been modeled on how the corporate survivors adapted. While it may not be entirely true to say that, it is true that successfully re-born corporations have been few and vastly different from one another.

Agility, or the ability to adapt rapidly to change in the environment is one characteristic of their success. A second is valuing knowledge as a core asset at levels other than management.

I think our quest should be examining the public management of education on the part of government.

My observation leads me to think that the style of management is what needs to change. There are plenty of works on the new corporation and how it works. There are not too many books on failure. The assumption is that when things become unstable, a business has the option to collapse and die. A public school, on the other hand, will continue to live in a state of turmoil.

As far as I can tell, all attempts to reform the public sector of K12 education are managed in a way that ensures failure. As standards are imposed, they cause greater rigidity. I believe this is one subject of Ken Bernstein's concern.

The other subject of concern is clarifying the goals of K12 education itself. I believe that NCLB is a de facto clarifying statement. The act is telling us that the Nation's fathers want a manufacturing paradigm to continue to produce "workers" of some undefined sort. In order that this be effective and that crime should be reduced, it is imperative that high school graduation rates be raised. In fact the Act can be viewed as a national dropout prevention program. But because the definition of worker is not clear, standards will merely cement a basic and self-limiting curriculum in place.

Private schools that have traditionally had the purpose of grooming the privileged experience no disorientation. In fact the disorientation period for them ran from the mid-seventies through the late eighties. Their goal is clear and inexpensive to gauge because it is understood by the student body and the parents to be higher education. (Aren't you glad I didn't say stakeholder and buy-in or *shudder* "own the process"?) Admission to an appropriate university and involvement in alumni activities is almost a spectator sport at those schools. It can be a desperate and bloody competition, but let me stress that it is a well defined goal.

John Adams' third generation is safe in their hands. But what of the children of the increasingly marginalized non-wealthy classes? NCLB seems to be designed to limit their horizons. Proponents will say that nothing could be further from the truth. However an unfunded NCLB guarantees it.

Who is surprised that the Gates' schools prosper with a budget of ten thousand dollars per pupil? Who is surprised that a private school is successful with a budget of over twenty thousand dollars per pupil? Finally who is surprised that high poverty schools fail with a budget of less than five thousand dollars per pupil?

So I leave you with two things. Agility and funding.

Funding is obvious except that the legislative bodies insist that an unsuccessful system that funds at a rate one fifth that of the most successful institutions is in fact adequately funded.

Agility is what comes from rapid, effective communication and rapid deployment of systems in such a way that explicit goals are achieved in a dynamic system. As evidenced by the rapid die-off of corporations, this is difficult to achieve. We will not achieve it by creating a system of activities that stipulate the level of professional behavior teachers must exhibit. It is not because this would be bad. It is because this is just a small part of a complex part of life.

Analysts are proposing that we fix piece here, and a piece there. The nation is asking that we gather up all these scraps and create a whole and healthy student.

Frankly I do not see that the civic will exists for such a venture.


Fox News Science Expert is *way * off base

Bogus science reporting from FOX NEWS
I was making a list of websites that had outright wrong and damaging content and was examining junkscience.com and Steven Milloy.

It turns out he is Fox's science expert.

He is an advocate for the use of DDT against Malaria because it kills lots of innocent children. Milloy says nearly 2.7 MILLION a year! (DDT is a proven carcinogen.) There are simply volumes of crap written about how great DDT is and how it was "demagogued" out of use. Unfortunately none of them address carcinogic effects except to deny it. DDT is also legal under WHO rules, so undeveloped countries can and do use it to kill mosquitoes and control malaria.

It is believed that [malaria] afflicts between 300 and 500 million every year, causing up to 2.7 million deaths, mainly among children under five years.
[Africa News, January 27, 1999] (I suppose citing an African publication is his way of getting out of being a responsible journalist.)

Here is what the CDC says:

The malaria mortality rate, from an analysis of field studies, was applied to these malaria-risk populations to produce an estimate of about 766,000 deaths among African children less than 5 years old for the year 1995. This model was recently refined to account for variations in malaria transmission intensity, and about 742,000 malaria deaths were estimated for the year 2000 [2].

NOW we know where Michael Chrichton got his figures. In fact it was this particular inaccuracy that launched me into the frenzy over the global warming denial issue.
Will you EVER believe anything Fox news has to say about science again?