March 3, 2008

500000 Mark Leipzig 1923 front.jpg 

About midnight tonight, Central Standard Time, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub will get its half-millionth page view.  Views are rising as my schedule allows for less posting.  What do I conclude from that?

Thank you, readers

And especially, thank you readers who comment.

Troublemaker: Chat with Checker Finn, March 5

March 3, 2008

With all the irony, implicit and explicit, I will be proctoring a test Wednesday.

You, however, would be well advised to tune into this discussion described below:

This Week’s Live Chat

Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik
When: Wednesday, March 5, 2 p.m., Eastern time
Submit questions in advance.

Please join us for this online chat to get an insider’s view of school-reform movements over the past five decades.

In a new book titled Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik, Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, provides a close-up history of postwar education reform and his own role in it. Mr. Finn, assistant secretary of education under Ronald Reagan, and an aide to politicians as different as Richard Nixon and Daniel Moynihan, recounts how his own experiences have shaped his changing and often contentious views of educational improvement efforts, from school choice to standards-based education to the professionalization of teaching.

For background, please read:
“Lessons Learned: A Self-Styled ‘Troublemaker’ Shares Wisdom Gleaned From 57 Years in Education,” Education Week, February 27, 2008.

[Here’s a version that doesn’t require a subscription.]

About the guest:

Chester E. Finn Jr. is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, senior fellow at Stanford‘s Hoover Institution, and senior editor of Education Next. He is the author of We Must Take Charge: Our Schools and Our Future and many other books.

Submit questions in advance.

No special equipment other than Internet access is needed to participate in this text-based chat. A transcript will be posted shortly after the completion of the chat.

Finn is one of those guys whose views you may not always like, with whom you may not always agree, but to whom you must listen, because you will always learn something from him.

Joseph Juran dead at 103

March 3, 2008

Anyone in quality control would recognize the name; more people in business will recognize the principles.

Joseph Juran, who made “Six Sigma” a symbol of high quality control and pointed the way to statistical analysis of problems that factory floor workers could understand and use, is dead at 103.

He created the Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that 80 percent of consequences stem from 20 percent of causes. Today managers use the Pareto principle, named for an Italian economist, to help them separate what Mr. Juran called the “vital few” resources from the “useful many.”

“Everybody who’s in business now adopts the philosophy of quality management,” David Juran said. “He came along at just the right time. Most of the reference books that have been written about this field are either books that he wrote or imitations.”

Among his best-known works were the “Quality Control Handbook” in 1951, the first mathematically rooted textbook on product quality, now entering its sixth edition, and “Managerial Breakthrough” in 1964, which described a step-by-step improvement process that inspired the Six Sigma and lean manufacturing philosophies.

Perhaps a mark of how far out of favor serious quality control has fallen, the New York Times article makes no mention of other quality control pioneers who worked with Juran, such as W. Edwards Deming, nor does it note the amazingly long list of companies who used the principles to achieve greatness, some of which were later skewered by other economic problems.

And I’ll wager that not one school principal in 1,000 knows who Juran was or how his methods might improve education.

Dr. Joseph Juran on the cover of Industry Week, 1994

Dr. Joseph Juran on the cover of Industry Week, April 4, 1994


Bogus history: Engraved in stone

March 3, 2008

Quotes from patriots engraved on the walls greet visitors to the Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Unfortunately, in one case the engraved quote is now known to be bogus, a piece of fiction originally created for a children’s book.

Kent Biffle’s weekly article on Texas History in the Dallas Morning News reports the story:

Scholarly sleuth James E. Crisp will formally reveal to historians this week a jarring error literally carved in stone at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

In the sweeping lobby of the 6-year-old museum, a few steps from the state Capitol, visitors read on the wall stirring words of Tejano hero José Antonio Navarro:

“I will never forsake Texas and her cause. I am her son.”

The quote is a permanent feature of the museum – or was. Dr. Crisp says Señor Navarro (1795-1871) didn’t utter those words. But he will tell us who did.

Dr. Crisp reports his findings at the 2008 convention of the Texas State Historical Association, in Corpus Christi.

Read the rest of this entry »

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