Best education blogs – vote tonight!

November 7, 2007

Some kind soul nominated this blog for “best education blog” in some award process last year, but that was as far as this blog got. Several good education blogs were nominated, but I wasn’t impressed with the final standings. My candidates didn’t rank 1, 2, or 3.

So, should we swear off blog award? Heck, no! As Roger Beynon would say, everything someone says has potential value. And really, there is a lot of good stuff in a lot of these blogs.

So get on over to the 2007 Weblog Awards page on education, and check out the blogs in the running (do it now — you can vote tonight and tomorrow).

One blog excited me a lot — not because it covers education particularly well, but because it’s done by high school students. It’s solid, and it should give your students an idea of just what they can do. Even if you don’t check out the nominatees, go see the James Logan Courier.

Meanwhile, here are the ten finalists — only one of which I link to on this blogroll, which is a clue that I need to get out more, and a clue that there are a lot of high quality blogs out there:

Finalist Links

The Jose Vilson
Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs
Hobo Teacher
NYC Educator
Education Week
Matthew K. Tabor, Education for the Aughts
James Logan Courier
The Miss Rumphius Effect

Tired of the conservative media bias? Carnival for you

November 7, 2007

We get fun e-mail; some of you will take great heart:

Carnival of the Liberals #51

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Dear Liberal Carnivalers,

Blue Steel over at has your bi-weekly fix of the all that’s good in the liberal blogosphere. As always it’s great to see some new faces amidst all our old friends.

I also wanted to mention that I’ll be headed to DC this weekend. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has invited myself and several other bloggers down to participate in organizing, fund raising and lobbying training, not to mention help AU celebrate it’s 60th anniversary. I’m not sure who all is coming but I’m told that among those attending will be Blue Gal, DCup, Phil Plait, and PZ Myers. Wonder if I can finally convince DCup and Phil to host Carnival of the Liberals? In any event it’ll be great to meet so many of my bloggy friends in real life.

Speaking of carnival hosts… Next bi-week’s edition of Carnival of the Liberals is the very last edition of our 2nd year. Hosting will be BAC from Yikes! who will also be attending AU’s DC blogger meet-up. To commemorate AU’s 60th anniversary we’ll be making this edition dedicated to AU. Carnival of the Liberals 52 is seeking submissions on separation of church and state. As usual we’ll run the ten best submissions (as determined by BAC) but we’ll also be running posts from any of the DC attendees who wish to contribute.

Liberally yours,
— Leo (“tng”) Lincourt

The Big Block of Links


Econ teachers: Have you registered?

November 7, 2007

Have you Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana economics teachers registered for Evening at the Fed?

Evening at the Fed
Dinner and Discussion for High School Teachers
Dallas, November 29, 2007
Houston, December 4, 2007
San Antonio, December 11, 2007
El Paso, December 13, 2007

Financial Markets: Innovations and Challenges

The 2007 Evening at the Fed series will feature Jeffery Gunther, assistant vice president and senior economist in the Dallas Fed’s Financial Industry Studies Department. Gunther will speak on factors leading up to the recent financial market turmoil, in particular the role of nontraditional financial instruments. He will address such questions as:

  • Are financial innovations, such as hedge funds, forever changing the financial landscape?
  • What happened in the U.S. sub prime real estate market?
  • What does the consumer need to understand about nontraditional financial instruments?
  • What impact do these new financial instruments have on the US economy?

Join us at a location convenient for you. The fee to attend is $15, which includes dinner and materials. Space is limited and the registration fee must be received by the cut-off date.

This would probably be a good session for government and U.S. history teachers, too.

Registration details after the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nobelist’s biography questioned: We’re still inspired

November 7, 2007

Mario Capecchi’s story of his mother’s arrest by the Gestapo, and his life on the streets of Italy as a young boy, only piqued interest in the story of his winning a Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology, earlier this year.

It is such a great story, people set out to write it down in detail. Some of the details discovered, however, don’t quite square with historical records.

A group of reporters with the Associated Press uncovered the discrepancies. Realizing that the story comes from the memory of a very young child, so far the headlines and the stories have been corrective, but gently and adoringly so.

The story Capecchi has told repeatedly over the years in speeches and interviews begins when he is 3 and the Gestapo, Adolf Hitler’s secret police, snatch his mother before his very eyes and dispatch her to Dachau concentration camp. The peasant family that takes him in abandons him and he spends four years wandering about northern Italy – a street urchin, alone and begging for food.

At war’s end – on the boy’s ninth birthday – mother and son are reunited in the hospital ward where he is being treated for malnutrition and typhoid. They set sail for America where he flourishes, embarks on a brilliant research career – and goes on to win the Nobel Prize for medicine.

But The Associated Press, which set out to chronicle his extraordinary story in greater detail, has uncovered several inconsistencies and unanswered questions, chief among them whether his mother was in Dachau, and whether he really was for a long time a homeless street child.

You can read the full story at The Salt Lake Tribune.

This is a classic case. Memory differs from the facts. Human minds fill in details that would otherwise leave a mystery, and the details filled in differ from the details that can be corroborated.

This is part of what keeps history lively.

We see here also a demonstration that there is much we can never really know for sure. Historians work from imperfect records in the best of circumstances.

The director of the Dachau Memorial, Barbara Distel, said women weren’t imprisoned at Dachau until September 1943 – more than two years after Capecchi says his mother was arrested. She also said only Jewish women from eastern Europe were held in Dachau’s satellite camps.

”I do remember – I remember the Gestapo coming to the Wolfsgruben chalet,” Capecchi told AP in the interview, conducted days after his Nobel Prize was announced. ”It’s sort of like a photograph. I can tell you how many people were in the room, which ones were in uniform and which ones weren’t. Just boom. It’s there.”

Pressed to explain how he could be certain he was just 3 1/2 at the time and remember it so clearly, he stood by his account.

The big question we want answered here is this: How can we get more great people like Mario Capecchi? Can we get a few Nobelists out of the current generation of children?

No one proposes revisiting war to make kids great, so the fascination with Capecchi’s childhood is more academic, if still for inspiration.

In the end, we have a mystery. How did Capecchi get to be such a great man? There remains that great chapter near the end of the book; early chapters are missing.

Perhaps AP could put a team of reporters on a story to explain exactly how Capecchi’ s research explains what it does, and what it means down the road. That’s a story that needs to be told, too.

Utah voters spike vampire school vouchers

November 7, 2007

Vouchers are dead in Utah, for the moment.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports “Vouchers go down in flames“:

Voters decisively rejected the will of the Utah Legislature and governor Tuesday, rejecting what would have been the nation’s most comprehensive education voucher program in a referendum blowout.

“Tonight, with the eyes of the nation upon us, Utah has rejected this flawed voucher law,” said state School Board Chairman Kim Burningham. “We believe this sends a clear message. It sends a message that Utahns believe in, and support, public schools.”

More than 60 percent of voters were rejecting vouchers, with about 95 percent of the precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. The referendum failed in every county, including the conservative bastion of Utah County.

In the face of colossal failure, voucher supporters desperately searched for a scapegoat on which to hang it — anything other than the manifold problems of vouchers:

Voucher supporter chief executive Patrick Byrne – who bankrolled the voucher effort – called the referendum a “statewide IQ test” that Utahns failed.

“They don’t care enough about their kids. They care an awful lot about this system, this bureaucracy, but they don’t care enough about their kids to think outside the box,” Byrne said.

Funny, from my conversations with people in Utah, I got the idea they opposed vouchers specifically because the voucher plan would damage schools, and that would in turn hurt the kids.

I suppose it depends on what the definition of “care about kids” is.

Utah, the most conservative state in the nation, has strong teacher organizations, but nothing like a union that leads strikes and is not itself populated with conservative Republicans. Also favorable to vouchers, the Utah legislature is heavily Republican, with voucher supporters in most leadership positions. Millionaire Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., also pushed for the vouchers, stacking the state’s political powers in favor of vouchers. Such facts cannot get in the way of the desperation to deny them voucher supporters show.

Doug Holmes, a key voucher advocate and contributor, said, “We started hugely in the hole and it’s always been the case. The unions have done this in four different states, where they take the strategy of confusion to the people.”

But Holmes said, “You don’t run away from something because the odds are stacked against you.”

Odds stacked against vouchers? It’s not the voters who are confused, Mr. Holmes.

Voucher supporters blame even their friends and supporters, and offer headline writers the chance to use an avalanche of clichés with a promise that vouchers will rise again, perhaps in the old Confederacy:

Both sides, at one point, embraced the governor, who Byrne blasted Tuesday for his lukewarm backing.

“When he asked for my support [for governor] he told me he is going to be the voucher governor. Not only was it his No. 1 priority, it was what he was going to be all about,” Byrne said. “He did, I think, a very tepid job, and then when the polls came out on the referendum, he was pretty much missing in action.”

Byrne said the referendum defeat may have killed vouchers in Utah, but “There are other freedom oriented groups in other states – African-Americans in South Carolina are interested in it.”

Got that, South Carolina? Vampire vouchers are headed your way. Stock up on garlic, wooden stakes and silver bullets.

Oh, and don’t forget the Oreo cookies. Get lots of milk, too.

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