Tag Archives: educational policy and politics

The Textbook Hitler

[I grabbed this squib from the book cited below, which accompanies another important book from the National Research Council, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Washington DC: National Academies Press, 2000). This passage demonstrates the problem with studying history without reaching into conceptual material, particularly concepts like diplomacy, political science, international law, social norms, and philosophy. While this passage is not technically untrue, at the very least it fails to address the norms Hitler violated on his way to power, then in his statecraft.]

“In 1933 Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. In elections held soon after he became chancellor, he won a massive majority of the votes. Pictures taken during his chancellorship suggest his popularity with the German people. He presided over an increasingly prosperous nation. A treaty signed with France in 1940 enable Hitler to organize defenses for Germany along the Channel coast, and for a time Germany was the most militarily secure power in Europe. Hitler expressed on many occasions his desire to live peaceably with the rest of Europe, but in 1944 Germany was invaded from all sides by Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Unable to defeat this invasion of his homeland by superior numbers, Hitler took his own life as the invading Russian armies devastated Berlin. He is still regarded as one of the most important and significant figures of the twentieth century.”

Excerpted from: Donovan, M. Suzanne, and John D. Bransford, eds. How Students Learn History in the Classroom. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2005.

The Current Number of The American Educator

Elsewhere on this blog, I have sung the praises of The American Educator, the quarterly published by my union, The American Federation of Teachers. Let me belabor my point a tad further here by saying that I think this is a first-rate journal of educational theory and practice; it’s where I first encountered Daniel Willingham, who really is doing as much as anyone out there (with his “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” column in The American Educator as well as his excellent books) to assist classroom teachers in applying research to practice.

The current number of the magazine addresses the issue of teaching traumatized students. I started my career working with traumatized adolescents in one of New England’s “ivy league” psychiatric hospitals, and I have continued to work with these kids as a teacher.

A discussion of this population’s needs is long, long, overdue. I cannot sufficiently or strongly encourage teachers to read this issue of The American Educator from cover to cover. This is vital stuff every teacher should know.

The “Homework Gap” and the Flipped Classroom–Redux

Here’s something I just cannot let pass.

Last year about this time, I published this blog post on the pedagogical fad of the “flipped classroom.” The theory of the flipped classroom was presented at a professional development meeting as a fait accompli several months earlier in the school in which I served. When I asked in this session about students living in homeless shelters, or in other circumstances where broadband internet is unavailable, and therefore the various videos on which the flipped classroom depends, the presenter and his administrative enablers had no answer.

So, I am not at all surprised to find in Google headlines this morning this report on the homework gap and its relation to students’ struggle in school. The culprit?  Why it is none other than the absence of a reliable internet connection. My reaction? Roll “Theme from ‘The Vindicators'” by The Fleshtones.

Follow Up: Better Late than Never for Justice

Readers of Mark’s Text Terminal may recall that I posted this this item earlier this year about a particularly egregious incident of police violence in the dismal school in which I have worked this year.

I’m pleased to report that  justice prevailed

In this instance, I hope Dr. King was right: “Let us remember the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Betsy DeVos as Clickbait

[May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and during themed history months I endeavor to keep the focus on pedagogical materials related to the history of the group whose achievements and culture are observed. That said, occasionally a blog post comes along, such as the one below, that are simply too important to let pass. Jan Resseger has written cogently–I’m hard-pressed, frankly, to imagine how this case could be summarized more cogently, and I envy Ms. Resseger’s talent as a prose stylist–about the disaster that is Betsy DeVos. I believe her policies, particularly where the kinds of struggling learners I have served throughout my career are concerned, have already found a home in some schools. Indeed, the school in which I currently serve has a well-established track record of ignoring the special needs students who have enrolled in it.]

janresseger

It surprised me to hear the word “clickbait” in Betsy DeVos’s working vocabulary.  I wonder if it wasn’t put into her speech—on Monday in Baltimore at the Education Writers Association’s annual meeting—by one of her more with-it staffers.  I confess that as a retired person, I was slow several years ago to grasp the meaning of the term, but as a blogger I know I paid attention, even before I knew the word, to the number of people who click on posts about particular topics.  I realize, of course, that my purpose is to do justice, not to pay attention to the number of clicks on different subjects, but like all writers who post on-line, I notice.  And I grieve about the paucity of clicks on worthy topics.

As you have, no doubt, heard by now, Betsy DeVos went to the Education Writers Association and asked the nation’s education journalists…

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Low Salaries, High Rents, Poor Teaching Conditions Create Widespread Shortage of Qualified Teachers

[As a nation, we ignore this development at our peril]

janresseger

You’d have to be pretty out of touch to have missed that teachers, who have been striking all year from West Virginia to Kentucky to Oklahoma to California, have been showing us their pay is inadequate and their working conditions are horrible. Schools in too many places feature huge classes (too few teachers) and an absence of counselors, social workers, librarians and nurses. All this ultimately signals a school finance problem stemming from the Great Recession a decade ago and state legislatures and governors determined to cut taxes.

All this is well documented in academic research. Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss recently released the first in a series of studies from the Economic Policy Institute, a report they summarize in a short, policy piece: “In our report we argue that when issues such as teacher qualifications and equity across communities are taken into consideration, shortages are more concerning than we…

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Bob Shepherd at Praxis

As I have repeated ad nauseam in these pages, Mark’s Text Terminal is not a political or educational policy blog. Any number of reasons suffice to explain this, but I always return to the most salient of them: there are quite a few smart and well-informed people, many of whose websites can be found in the right margin of this site under the heading Blogs Followed at Mark’s Text Terminal, covering those topics. That said, I intend in the coming months to highlight several of these blogs.

The assault on public education has now reached a stage where I can no long remain completely silent. Fortunately, as I say, there are plenty of people speaking and perceptively, and buttressing their arguments with evidence, something that happens less and less in public discourse, about educational policy.

Starting out, I want to highlight the work of Bob Shepherd, who blogs under the heading Praxis. Bob is, as Diane Ravitch noted recently, a polymath. I originally made his acquaintance in the comments forum of Dr. Ravitch’s blog, where I occasionally presume to comment on topics of the day. Bob is an acutely perspicacious and wide-ranging commentator on educational policy, particularly where privatization of public schools and the scandals that often ensue are concerned.

That said, Bob covers a lot of other ground in Praxis. He recently posted a lengthy discourse on the physical and philosophical nature of time, a topic I find abstruse (I dropped Lester Mazor’s “Perspectives on Time” seminar at Hampshire College in the fall of 1994 because I didn’t have the intellectual stamina to keep up with it and plan my honors thesis) and fascinating at the same time. I guess I like to imagine that in another life, Bob and I would be an Intellectual History department of two at some small, lively, and innovative liberal arts college.

If you’re at all interested in issues and problems in educational policy—or to quote briefly from his “About” page, “curriculum design…,linguistics…, hermeneutics…, philosophy…, classical and jazz guitar…, history of ideas…, heuristics for innovation,” (and I’ve enumerated only about one-quarter of this list), then you should by all means point your browser at Praxis.