Another view of economics

October 7, 2006

I would dearly love to have Michael Perelman’s views on teacher pay and teachers’ unions. Perelman is an economist at California State University at Chico who does not mince opinions. His blog is called Unsettling Economics.

He doesn’t post a lot. Maybe he should post more.

Education reform clips, and “new math” for vouchers

October 7, 2006

Interesting bunch of clips on education reform.

At Homeland Stupidity, a poster named Dana Hanley wonders if Bush is really proposing that we model our schools after China’s and India’s schools.

Hanley is direct:

There has been a 52% increase in spending on the key provision and an unprecedented amount of federal control taken over education. And all we have to show for it is trends that were evident before the act took effect? It isn’t worth the cost and it certainly isn’t worth the loss of our state’s rights in education.

Hanley writes strongly on the “qualified teacher” provisions of the “No Child Left Behind” Act, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Turning Point Presentations: Nixon’s “Checkers” speech

October 7, 2006

During one of my phase-shift transitions between universities and public schools yesterday, I caught a snippet of a commentary that I thought was on Richard Nixon’s 1952 speech that kept him on the ticket with Dwight Eisenhower. Public reaction was reported to be overwhelmingly warm, the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket won the 1952 election, won again in 1956, and Nixon eventually took the presidency for his own in 1968.

Shouldn’t that speech be considered one of the greater presentations of the 20th century, at least? It probably should, especially when we consider what history might have looked like had Nixon left the ticket — no Nixon nomination in 1960 against John Kennedy, no later Nixon presidency, Nixon continuing in the Senate . . . gee, which path is more gloomy?

The Checkers speech does not wear well, I think. Reading it today, I see the origins of smear campaign tactics and diversionary tactics that mar so much of today’s election campaigns and policy discussions.

This all comes up because the transcripts of the famous 1977 interview series newsman/comedian David Frost did with Nixon is the basis for a new play in London, “Frost/Nixon” by Peter Morgan, with Frank Langella playing Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost — a play that is already being made into a movie for Universal Pictures by Academy Award winning director Ron Howard, but after a Broadway run in 2007.

Nixon’s mea culpa answer to Frost on the entirety of the Watergate scandal — “I made so many mistakes” — in the NPR piece voiced by Langella, sounded exactly like Nixon. I mistakenly thought it a recording of the Checkers speech, hearing just a snippet. The Frost/Nixon interviews would probably never have been necessary, had the Checkers speech not been a success. Surely there is a direct line from the Checkers speech to Nixon’s attempt to revive his reputation in the Frost interviews.

Watergate on Broadway, with a movie in the works, should offer good opportunities especially for high school history teachers to bring Watergate to a new generation. Too many people today fail to understand the depth of the damage done to Constitutional institutions in that crisis, and how lucky our nation was to have survived it. There are many lessons there for us in our current Constitutional crisis.

A lesson awaits, also, in the career of David Frost, who crossed from news to comedy and back. Many kids today use comedians as their chief source of political news. We should not be surprised — but let us hope that today’s comedians have as much a sense of public duty as David Frost did in 1977, even while using his public service interview to revive his own career.

Sometimes free markets work spectacularly, don’t they?

Hard Work (and cheating)

October 7, 2006

Good and careful consideration of cheating in school, especially with regard to different disciplines in college, in a post at Aude Sapere*. That post is well written, very thought provoking, and well worth the time one might spend on it. The figures are depressing, generally, but reflect a general view we hear from students too often — in an era when top government officials cheat to get what they want (think: why did we invade Iraq?), students often test to see whether we can detect their cheating, and to see what we’ll do about it.

The grand mystery to me is this: It’s generally more time consuming, and more difficult, to try to cheat, than it would be to learn the material well enough to pass my exams; why bother to cheat? The day that light dawns on a student is always a good day.

I am hopeful that part of the rise in confessed cheating is due to an increased sense of just what cheating is. Borrowing quote cards from a debate colleague is considered required sharing; using those same quote cards to put together a paper for another class — is that over the line? (I don’t regard it as cheating, but I’d be interested in hearing if you do.) Do today’s students consider that forbidden? Are today’s students more moral?

Short essays are a good way to get around most cheating, but short essays create grading nightmares that grow exponentially with the number of students.

What’s the solution?

Another blog takes a look at Florida legislation which, to me, is part of the cheating problem. Tony Whitson at AAACS Matters! calls for action against the Florida law which aims to avoid “interpretation” in teaching history, but which also dabbles in changing the facts of nature for biology study, and generally tends to politicize public school curriculum.

It seems to me that the Florida legislature is doing the same thing high school cheaters hope to do — when the facts are difficult or troubling, change them. High school kids can’t change certain facts of history that they do not want to bother to learn, but legislatures, with a great finger in the eye of history, learning and democracy, can try.

And, if presidents and state legislators can play fast and loose with the facts, why shouldn’t a high school student at least try to do the same? If our kids watch what we do, and not what we say, we may be in for several years of increased cheating.

    . .

* Aude sapere is Latin, a line from Kant; it means “dare to know.” I posted it over my classroom door for three years; only a few students ever asked about it. Each of them subsequently took up Kant’s challenge, either continuing their quest for knowledge in history or economics, or more often, taking up such a quest for the first time.

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