Monthly Archives: September 2020

Term of Art: Multiple Intelligences

“Multiple intelligences: An interpretation of intelligence put forward by the US psychologist Howard (Earl) Gardner (born 1943) in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983-1993), taking account of abilities of gifted people and virtuosos or experts in various domains, abilities valued in different cultures, and abilities of individuals who have suffered brain damage. In addition to the linguistic, logical-mathematical, and spatial abilities incorporated in conventional interpretations of intelligence, Gardner’s taxonomy includes musical intelligence (used in musical appreciation, composition, and performance), bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (used in sport, dancing, and everyday activities requiring dexterity), interpersonal intelligence (used in relating to others, interpreting social signals, and predicting social outcomes), intrapersonal intelligence (used in understanding and predicting one’s own behavior). In 1997 Gardner added naturalist intelligence (used in discriminating among plants, animals, and other features of the natural world, and in classifying objects in general) as an eighth intelligence and spiritual intelligence and existential intelligence as ‘candidate’ intelligences. Critics have argued that some of these abilities are better interpreted as special talents than as aspects of intelligence.”

Excerpted from: Colman, Andrew M., ed. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Review Essay: Online Learning, with a Cultural Literacy Worksheet and Some Questions on the Last Mile

Online learning was touted as the next big thing in education when I became a teacher in 2003. As it happened, I entered the profession, after abandoning a doctoral candidacy at the University of Wisconsin, via the New York City Teaching Fellows, an alternative certification route contrived to bring new teachers into New York, which is chronically short of teachers.

Fellows in the Program were required to complete a Master’s Degree at an institution to which the Program assigned them. Part of this post-graduate enterprise involved online seminars. Having spent, by that time, a great deal of time in graduate seminars, I saw the online component as a poor substitute for an actual face-to-face seminar, where one is required to think and communicate extemporaneously–a hallmark of an educated person by any standard I’m prepared to recognize.

So, thinking that online learning was at best laughable, I waited for it to die its richly deserved natural death. It turns out I underestimated the power of commerce over art and reason, of marketing over facts, and of credulity over careful analytical thought. 

Online learning did indeed take off, and brought us, among other things, as one careful blogger has observed, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow Scandal (and if you need more documentation of this large-scale ripoff, you can find it here). One of the reasons I was compelled to leave my teaching job in New York City was this post on the “flipped classroom” I wrote and sent to an assistant principal and his coterie of friends pushing this bad idea at our school; I wrote it at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, and when I returned the following year to a campaign of harassment, I just walked away. I was, I am pleased to say, later vindicated in my assessment of the “flipped classroom.”

The coronavirus pandemic brought online learning back, and I’m sure I don’t need to belabor the fact–to parents or students–that little has improved (if there was indeed anything to improve) in this method of delivering instruction. In fact, I think few people remain who need to be convinced that online learning has been, is, and will remain, a disaster. The news reporting on this fact has been nothing short of a deluge: an Internet search using a phrase like “problems with online learning” will return pretty much all the information you’ll need about the failure of online learning.

Which brings me to this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Last Mile. This is a fairly broadly used term now, but for the purposes of this worksheet, and the thrust of this essay, it refers to the last mile of wire required to bring information at high speeds to households, particularly those in rural areas. The last mile is the most expensive distance to cover where the economics of telecommunications technology and labor is concerned. Because of resistance in wires that carry electrical signals, it is also the hardest to deliver because the signal slows and weakens as it travels along the length–resistance increases along that distance–of the wire conducting it.

So, there are two areas of critical inquiry related to the Last Mile problem. I haven’t written them into the questions on the worksheet above, but since this is a Microsoft Word document, you can alter it as you wish. The first critical issue is the economics and politics of the Internet. As the world becomes more dependent on the Internet, the question arises about its ownership: should the Internet be a public utility, or a public good? Much has been written about data as the new oil–but should it be? This question is urgent as the coronavirus pandemic continues and online learning becomes de rigueur in many places around the world. The Latinism cui bono? (“to whom is it a benefit?”) applies here. Who benefits from the Internet, and who should? I know that my own monthly charge for high-speed internet just went up twenty bucks a month, so I have some sense of who benefits: Comcast. As companies and government agencies transfer their customer service functions to the Internet–and therefore to their customers–and public education moves increasingly online, this question takes on new urgency.

The second critical issue is a science-related question. If you follow science news, you probably know that superconductivity is a perennial area of research and discovery in physics. The question for a student interested in this is simple: what materials will increase conductivity across the Last Mile and make delivery of high speed Internet possible to the most remote locations? Can this be done through the air, as in a 5G cellular data connection, or is wire necessary? The student might also ask, or be asked: What is resistance? What is conductivity? How does one reduce resistance and increase conductivity? Even more: What is an electrical circuit? How does electricity “travel”?

Internet access has been a big problem for some families here in rural Vermont. There is very little competition (if any in some markets) among internet service providers, so in general there is very little motivation to make high speed internet access available in remote locations. This has, of course, impeded students’ educational progress. So the big question here, to my mind, is this: How far do we let corporations control something like the Internet that has become an essential part–especially during this pandemic–of our lives?

Enough said. I’m not sure how this simple blog post turned into this prolix slog. 

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Silk Screen

“Silk Screen: A stencil process of color reproduction, often used commercially to reproduce posters, etc. The design is divided according to color areas. For each color, a stencil is prepared on silk stretched over a frame. Paint is the squeezed through the respective screens. Andy Warhol used this technique extensively. Also called serigraphy.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Andy Warhol

Now seems like as good a time as any to post this reading on Andy Warhol and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Whatever one thinks of Mr. Warhol or his artistic output, there is no denying his presence and perhaps even his importance in American culture.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Benjamin Stolberg on Experts

“An expert is a person who avoids small error as he sweeps on to the grand fallacy.”

Benjamin Stolberg

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Cultural Literacy: Populist Party

It’s important to remember that Populism is a fairly dense concept and does not refer to either end of the political spectrum that ranges, in our vernacular, from “right” to “left,” or from radical to conservative. Indeed, there can be both right-wing and left-wing populists. As my late, dear, friend Lloyd Mueller use to say, “Populism is the cynical manipulating the stupid.”

So this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Populist Party in the United States doesn’t delve very deeply into the broader subject of Populism. It is a short introduction to one manifestation of Populism in the United States in the nineteenth century. It is, however, an introduction to the concept of Populism; moreover, as a short exercise, it will probably suffice to supply students with the information needed to answer the kind of superficial question about the Populist Party that appears on the standardized tests that plague teaching, learning, and intelligence.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Term of Art: Phrase

“Phrase:  A group or related words that functions as a unit but lacks a subject, a verb, or both. Without the resources to continue.”

Excerpted from: Strunk, William Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. New York: Longman, 2000.

Juncture (n)

At this point, on most days, if I post a context clues worksheet chances are good that it was that day’s Word of the Day at Merriam-Webster. So, on that note, I’ll stop qualifying them as such, because if I am finding it a tedious rhetorical move, I’ll bet you are too.

So, here is a context clues worksheet on the noun juncture. This word has meanings related to junction, but for our purposes, as the worksheet’s context points up, the meaning is “a point of time; esp : one made critical by a concurrence of circumstances.” This is a relatively heavily used work in English, and a strong one, with a Latin pedigree.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Book of Answers: Alice in Wonderland

“Who was the model for Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? Alice Liddell, daughter of Henry George Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Ubiquitous (adj)

It’s Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day today, so, like Pavlov’s dog, I got out an index card and wrote this context clues worksheet on the adjective ubiquitous. It’s of solid, if distant classical origin–ubique means everywhere in Latin–and found its way into English in this form in 1830. Ubiquitous means “existing or being everywhere at the same time : constantly encountered : WIDESPREAD.”

This is an adjective that tends, in any case, to show up in educated discourse.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.