Feb 13

Take Action: Stop Bill 363

"First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you
then they fight you,
then you win."
-Mahatma Gandhi

Today, in the Pennsylvania State House, Bill 363 was introduced into the Education Committee. The bill reads:

Section 1317.1.  Possession of [Telephone Pagers] Electronic Devices Prohibited.–
(a)  The possession by students of telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers, cellular telephones and portable electronic devices that record or play audio or video material shall be prohibited on school grounds, at school sponsored activities and on buses or other vehicles provided by the school district.

(b)  The prohibition against beepers and cellular telephones contained in subsection (a) shall not apply in the following cases, provided that the school authorities approve of the presence of the beeper or cellular telephone in each case:
(1)  A student who is a member of a volunteer fire company, ambulance or rescue squad.
(2)  A student who has a need for a beeper or cellular telephone due to the medical condition of an immediate family member.

Section 2.  This act shall take effect in 60 days.

Now, the students of SLA quickly pointed out that this could easily mean no laptops, but even if you don’t include laptops in the "portable electronic device" (or tape recorders…) this law just doesn’t make sense. Simply put — if we want to teach students to be 21st Century citizens, we shouldn’t ban — by state law — the tools of the 21st Century.

Moreover, the more we ban, prohibit, regulate and legislate, the less we teach. If we want students to learn how to manage their lives, we have to let them live them. This law creates more distance between our schools and the lives our kids lead. That makes it harder for us to teach, not easier. The short-term gain of keeping distractions out of our classrooms is, in my belief, far outweighed by the long-term loss of making our schools less and less relevant to kids. Fortunately, PA educators are mobilizing against the bill. There’s a Facebook group and an online petition, but we can and must do more.

The sponsors of the bill are:

Please, especially if you are a PA resident, call, write letters, sign the petition, send emails and pass the word. This bill will set back our schools. Help ensure its defeat.

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Tags: School2.0, politics, cell phones

Feb 09

A Thought For Tonight…

As we all rush to change the world, and as we hear more and more about a sense of urgency to change our schools, let us remember that what we don’t know… about our kids, about learning, about what lies ahead of us… vastly outweighs that which know. And let us always be humbled by the enormity of the task in front of us. It is that humility that allows us to hear the smallest voices around us, be it the voice of the quiet student too afraid to voice her confusion or our own voice — the voice of doubt in the back of our mind that forces us to question even our most core beliefs over and over again.

Let us be passionate, but never blind.

(This is what happens when I listen to folk music late at night.)

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Feb 05

Perhaps We Can Hope

I admit, I’ve been discouraged by Obama’s early forays into education policy, but yesterday’s visit by President Obama and the First Lady to Capital City Public Charter School suggests that we may have reason to hope that our new president will be supportive of progressive education.

CCPCS is a Coalition of Essential Schools school. CES is the organization founded by Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier, two outspoken critics of NCLB. CES is perhaps the most esteemed organization that advocates progressive education, small schools and project-based learning.

So my question to President Obama is this — if CCPCS is an example of "How all our schools should be," what are the policy initiatives you are willing to support to give more schools a chance to get there?

(Thanks to Tom for calling me out to write about this.)

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