In this week’s New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell writes a great short piece about the problems of the current "standards movement" in education. While the data he uses is nothing new, what I loved about the piece was how he compared the current movement to the industrial-efficency movement of one hundred years ago. The problem, as Gladwell states, is:
The only problem, of courseand its not a trivial oneis that children arent widgets
It’s a great quick read. And all the data points coming out against NCLB these days lead us to ask an overwhelming question:
Who is actually for this bill?
[This blog entry comes from an assignment in my Restructuring Urban Schools class -- the assignment was this: Write a three page paper describing your ideal urban school. This is my take on the assignment. Remember -- I only had three pages, so there's a lot missing here, I think.]
Within these walls, we are governed by the laws of loving-kindness. In college, I had a professor who started his class with this statement. He knew he couldnt control the way people treated one another in the outside world, but within his class, he asked us all to live by the tenets of loving-kindness. This was not a course I wanted to take it was a required course of the English department for all English majors. But in the end, I looked forward to his class every day and I was very sad when it ended. Why? Upon reflection, it was because there was a community of learning in that room that was a pleasure to be there. I wanted to learn in that classroom, because there was a community there that was conductive to learning. My ideal school is one that is structured based on the inter-related ethical values of loving-kindness and democracy.
I probably should just collect a bunch of this stuff into one big blog, because there’s certainly a ton of commentary out there to read today… but this one really stuck out. It’s Mark Fiore’s flash editorial cartoon A Nation Remembers II.
Personally, there’s something about this that strikes me as going over a line somewhere, but I also thought there was no denying its power as a piece of commentary. And it is a rather scathing indictment of the President.
Swarthmore professor, author and internet denizen Tim Burke has written a wonderful essay on why you don’t have to be against the war on terrorism or even against the idea of war to depose Saddam Hussein to be angry as hell at the Bush Administration.
Got an email from one of my former players / students, the famous Jessie… and in it, she wrote:
2 years ago we scrambled home after a crazy day directing parents, signing kids out, giving out hugs, in a makeshift cab. i can barely remember presidential and politician babble before ‘freedom’ and ‘war on terror’ dominated content.
I still remember 9/11 so vividly. I remember wondering why the car alarms on Beacon’s street went off. I remember Harry Streep coming into the room to tell me what had happened. I remember one of my students getting so upset because her older brother worked in the towers. I remember the Girls Basketball team helping us to keep the school calm and safe. I remember how proud of them I was. I remember how scared I was. I remember what it felt like when Kat, all of the sudden, appeared at Beacon, pizza in hand, and I knew she was o.k. and with me.
It’s 6:08 am, and I’m about to leave, coffee mug in hand, for Ultimate practice with the Beacon team. Seven years ago, I had to convince 10 kids that this was a sport, and we practiced on the North Lawn softball fields in Central Park, often getting chased out by baseball teams… now, we return eighteen veteran boys who bug me to start 6:30 practices as early as possible… we will have a girls team for the first time ever… and it looks like, given how many kids have asked me to be on the team already, we’ll have a JV squad as well.
Wild. Can’t be late… more later.
J. Bradford DeLong has clearly had it with President Bush.
Schools feel wrong when the kids aren’t in them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Beacon faculty, and we could have easily used a second week of getting ready for the school year, but I love it when the kids come back. It doesn’t matter that I never feel quite ready for my classes, when I see the kids, life is good. It feels really good every September to have my choice of career so powerfully reaffirmed.
Warren Zevon lost his battle with cancer Sunday night.
"Dry your eyes, my little friend
Let me take you by the hand
Freddie get ready
When Johnny strikes up the band"
There are about twenty other songs that are more appropriate, but that one is the one that I first put on after I woke up to the news on the radio that he’d died.
Zevon was one of the first rock and rollers who showed me that rock could be intelligent and biting and and hard and fun. He didn’t have the earnestness of the folk musicians I loved, and he had that piano energy that just flowed through his songs. There were weeks on end when his CD didn’t leave the player. And when you grew up in the 1980s, intelligent rock and roll music was rather hard to find.
Good bye, Warren… and thank you.
The NCLB bill is a terrible piece of unfunded legislation that, even fully funded, is bad pedagogy on any number of levels. Regardless of who you may support in the upcoming Presidental election, take a moment and sign the petition to reform or repeal NCLB.