Israel, PBS, tuition, education standards and “Jihad Jane”

So much news, so little time. Breaking it down:

  • File this under ethics: A PBS news team is in a spat with an Academy Award-winning filmmaker over rights to footage shot by PBS and, Learning Matters’ John Merrow argues, essentially stolen by Davis Guggenheim, he of “An Inconvenient Truth.” Guggenheim’s documentary on shool reform – which includes the footage from PBS’s work on a similar piece – has been picked up by Paramount Vantage and word on the street is that its a great picture for those of us interested in schools. But do we want to support something that appears to include ill-gotten footage from PBS? Merrow gives all the background at the link above. He’s been warned not to criticize Guggenheim, but PBS lawyers have apparently said phooey to that. That may be Guggenheim’s inconvenient truth.
  • File this under education: National standards for math and English have been drafted and could be coming soon to a school near you. Disturbing for a teacher-in-training is the thought that Big Brains have decided that teaching second graders to add and subtract triple-digit numbers will improve education. Or that moving fractions from the end of fourth grade (or the beginning of fifth) to third grade will do likewise. We need comprehensive, universal standards, yes. But we need them written by people who have a clue about the cognitive development of the very young (K-third). As researcher/educator Cathy Seeley points out, “It’s not that (students) are learning (a subject) well but too late. It’s that they’re not learning it well.” If you want to know why students might not be learning things well, check out this ganga read about building better teachers and make sure to watch this video.
  • File this under religion: We’ve got ourselves a home-grown alleged terrorist in Colleen R. LaRose, who has been nicknamed (by whom, I’m not sure) “Jihad Jane.” This goes to prove what a columnist said a number of months ago: If we racially profile, terrorists will decide to find someone outside that profile to conduct their dirty work in the name of their religion (or interpretation of that religion). Exhibit A is the blonde, blue-eyed, middle-aged woman who is a convert to Islam. (Note: Adult converts to any religion tend to be very pious in their first monthsU-to-two years after conversion, so this just isn’t an Islam thing. Although, yes, I admit, you don’t see Methodists hunting down artists in Sweden.)
  • File this under crazy: Israel announced it had approved building 1,600 new apartments in East Jerusalem. Israel officials chose to do this when U.S. VP Joe Biden was over there trying to jump-start peace agreements which are being held up in part because of Israel’s continued settlement building. One of the officials apologized for the “poor timing” of the announcement. Poor timing – ya think? What he needs to apologize for is continuing to build settlements in violation of international law then blaming Palestinians for getting angry and violent. If you had someone encroaching on your land after they promised (fingers crossed behind back) that they would stop – and you had no political power or rights to stop them – wouldn’t you get a tad upset?
  • Finally – if you want to know what’s happening as it is happening tomorrow at the tuition-setting ABOR meeting at UA, follow me or the Desert Lamp on Twitter, since I think one or both of us will be tweeting the meeting.
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3 thoughts on “Israel, PBS, tuition, education standards and “Jihad Jane”

  1. “Big Brains have decided that teaching second graders to add and subtract triple-digit numbers will improve education. Or that moving fractions from the end of fourth grade (or the beginning of fifth) to third grade will do likewise.’
    Your comments show why US students do so badly in math and it is scary that you are training to be a teacher. My children are at the International School (see elsewhere on this site) and they do triple-digit subtraction with borrowing in K.  They do fractions in G1. Since the IST’s standards come from England, Germany, France I can only assume that children in other countries are doing the same. Holding kids back, or making the whole class move at the pace of the slowest, is destructive. Challenge chidlren and  you will be amazed at what they can do.
    “people who have a clue about the cognitive development of the very young (K-third).”
    Again, are you saying American kids have a lower or later cognitive development than in other countries?

  2. TH: Thanks for writing. What research shows is that while many (not all and not most) children CAN learn to do math – rote addition, even in triple digits – as young as first/second grade, they do not have the cognitive ability (regardless of country of birth) to actually store that data longterm and apply it in later years (which is why there is “reteaching” after summer in the next grade level.)
    In other words, they might know how to borrow with math in certain instances, but if you put them in a real-world situation where they’d have to make change, for instance, the “learning” they did in paper/pencil rote recitation doesn’t “carry” over into other areas. Students tend to get that carry over, the ability to store and transfer the information, beginning at about late second grade, early third. Of course, really high end kids will be able to do it very early and trasfer early: My son taught himself to read at age 4 (and I’m not talking little books; he was reading pages of the encyclopedia) and he was doing triple digit addition/subtraction of three numbers (542+456+213) in his head at the end of first grade. He was the exception to the rule, but if he had been in private school with other students who had really invovled parents, he probably would have encountered more students like himself.
    We are behind other countries because the country-to-country scoring is apples to oranges. For instance, the countries we are compared to do not include the scores of special education children (many of those countries don’t even educate their SPED kids), like the US does – so we look like we’re doing worse. Many of the countries don’t educate their poor, rural kids (i.e. China) and they track their students – if you’re labeled smart by a certain grade you get to go to college/high school … otherwise, off to the factory. We educate everyone until the age of 16, no matter how intelligent they are.
    I do believe in challenging children, and believe that the higher the bar is set, the higher kids will jump. I was just speaking about the research pointing to the development of different ages and how we need to get the most out of our learning by teaching the right things at the right time. There was a teacher in the Amphi school district 10 years back who was convinced her 5th graders should do algebra. Because of that, the students finished her class w/out understanding the mathematics that lead up to algebra and most of them were remediated the next year – even though they could all pass a basic algebra test becasue they’d “learned” algebra. They could regurgitate formulas, in other words, but because mathematics builds on itself and they skipped a level in this teacher’s desire to show everyone that 5th graders could do algebra, they didn’t have the basis to actually THINK algebraicly.
    Does the International School teach SPED students? What is the teacher-pupil ratio? There are many things to consider when you are teaching kids, but if you’re in a classroom with 24 small children, two of whom have learning disabilities, four of whom didn’t get breakfast that morning, two of whom were beaten by Daddy before school, three who are gifted, one with mild retardation and the rest “normal”, I think it is a challenge to reach all of them at their level. That is what public school teachers are asked to do and many manage quite nicely…. and it is a situation you don’t find in private schools or in many of the countries that are compared to us when people say the US is behind in math…

  3. Hey Renee: Since our Islamic friends are kind of hard to connect with, especially after crashing airplanes into tall buildings and blowing themselves up in cars, trucks, buses, etc, they have not shown us, or our youngsters what Muhammed looked like.
    We have countless portraits of Jesus, and statues of Budda, so my friend, ‘Uncle Ken,’  is celebrating May 20th as ‘Draw Muhammed Day,’  on his world-famous website with a contest open to all kids between the ages of 6-12.
    Just have the kiddies send in their renderings to: http://www.lifeitsownself.com.
    Neat prizes will be awarded to the most original, and entry into the FBI Witness Protection Program will be available to the winner.
    Always trying to help, yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

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