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Objectivity as standardization in data-scientific education policy, technology and governance: Learning, Media and Technology: Vol 0, No 0
"New data-driven technologies appear to promise a new era of accuracy and objectivity in scientifically-informed educational policy and governance. The data-scientific objectivity sought by education policy, however, is the result of practices of standardization and quantification deployed to settle controversies about the definition and measurement of human qualities by rendering them as categories and numbers. Focusing on the emerging policy agenda of ‘social and emotional learning and skills,’ this paper examines the practices of ‘objectivity-making’ underpinning this new field. Objectivity-making depends on three translations of (1) scientific expertise into standardized and enumerable definitions, (2) standardization into measurement technologies, and (3) the data produced through measurement technologies into objective policy-relevant knowledge, which consolidates a market in SEL technologies. The paper sheds light on knowledge-making practices in the era of big data and policy science, and their enduring reliance on the precarious construction of objectivity as a key legitimator of policy-relevant scientific knowledge and ‘evidence-based’ education governance."
data  education  policy  objectivity  evidence  schools  schooling  scientism  benwilliamson  nellipiattoeva  technology  quantification  measurement  bigdata  edtech  standardization  standards 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Educator: In Finland, I realized how 'mean-spirited’ the U.S. education system really is - The Washington Post
"The public school system is free to all, for as long as they live. Compulsory education extends from age 6 to 16. After that, students can choose schools, tracks and interests. Students can track academically or vocationally, change their minds midstream, or meld the two together. Remember the goal: competency.

Though students are required to go to school only until age 16, those who leave before secondary school are considered dropouts. Programs designed to entice these youngsters — typically those who struggle academically for a variety of reasons — back into education address the national 5 percent dropout rate. We visited one of these classrooms where teachers rotated three weeks of instruction with three weeks of internships in area businesses.

We toured a secondary school with both a technical and academic wing. The teachers were experimenting with melding the two programs. In the technical wing, we visited a classroom where adults were receiving training to make a career switch. Free.

The fact that students can fail and return, or work and return, or retire and return had a palpable effect on the mood and the tone of the buildings. Surprisingly, considering their achievements, Finnish students spend less time in the classroom, have more breaks throughout the day, and benefit from receiving medical, dental, psychiatric care and healthful meals while in school. It was ... nice.

In comparison, the United States public school system (an idea we invented, by the way) seems decidedly mean-spirited.

Our students enter at around age 5 and have some 13 years to attain a high school diploma. Failure to earn a diploma is a dead end for most. In the United States, when students fail at school — or leave due to many other factors, sometimes just as resistant teenagers — we are done with you. Sure, there are outliers who are successful through luck, sweat, connections or all three, but for most, the lack of a diploma is a serious obstacle toward advancement.

Without a high school diploma, educational aspirations can be severely truncated. Students need a high school diploma to attend community colleges and many technical schools which provide access to advanced skills that impact the living standard.

With or without the needed diploma, any additional education is at the student’s expense in time or money — a further blow to financial standing.

The 13-year window of opportunity does not factor in the developmental level of students at the time of entry. Any educator knows that children do not arrive with the same readiness to learn.

There are many other differences. Unlike the Finnish competency system, ours is based on meeting a prescribed set of standards by passing tests of discrete knowledge. Our students face a gauntlet of tests, even though any standards can be woefully outdated by the time a graduate enters a quickly evolving job market. The Finns take matriculation tests (there is choice in these as well) at the end of secondary but all interviewed said the scores did not have much bearing on what students could do next.""
finland  schools  us  education  policy  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  competition  competitiveness  marytedro  valeriestrauss  politics  economics  assessment  testing  standardizedtesting  competency  vocational  schooling  2018  readiness  standardization  standards  work  labor  opportunity  dropouts  care  caring 
november 2018 by robertogreco
If you have a meeting in Ethiopia, you better doublecheck the time
"Because Ethiopia is close to the Equator, daylight is pretty consistent throughout the year. So many Ethiopians use a 12-hour clock, with one cycle of 1 to 12 — from dawn to dusk — and the other cycle from dusk to dawn.

Most countries start the day at midnight. So 7:00 a.m. in East Africa Time, Ethiopia's time zone, is 1:00 in daylight hours in local Ethiopian time. At 7:00 p.m., East Africa Time, Ethiopians start over again, so it's 1:00 on their 12-hour clock."
time  ethiopia  africa  culture  protocol  standards  2015 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Article: Notes On An Anarchist Pedagogy – AnarchistStudies.Blog
"But, at this particularly dark moment in our nation’s history, I feel the need to act inside the classroom in a manner that more readily and visibly embodies the important and insightful critiques and guideposts of critical pedagogy,[2] perhaps in a manner, inspired by Graeber and Haworth, that rejects and abandons (education) policy, and more demonstratively and communally embraces the liberatory and transformative power of education itself, free from the bondage of neoliberalism.

Early on in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Graeber offers us: “against policy (a tiny manifesto)”. Graeber tells us:

The notion of “policy” presumes a state or governing apparatus which imposes its will on others. “Policy” is the negation of politics; policy is by definition something concocted by some form of elite, which presumes it knows better than others how their affairs are to be conducted. By participating in policy debates the very best one can achieve is to limit the damage, since the very premise is inimical to the idea of people managing their own affairs.

(2004: 9)

And, as the people I have identified in these notes thus far all document, policy (education reform) is little more than a “governing apparatus which imposes its will” on teachers, students, administrators, and entire communities with high stakes testing, the deskilling of teachers, the cuts to and diversion of funding for public education, and the imposition of the corporate model to direct and control all “outcomes”. And, following Graeber’s pushback to “policy”, I want to enact, to whatever degree possible, “an anarchist pedagogy” to acknowledge, confront and overcome the very dominating and authoritarian dynamics at work in the classroom today from kindergarten right on through to graduate school.

I want to evoke and provoke the issue of anarchy as a counterforce and impulse to the “governing apparatus which imposes its will on others”. I want to engage education as the practice of freedom methodologically, and not just ideologically (of course, I would agree that a genuine embracing of education as the practice of freedom ideologically would axiomatically mean to embrace it methodologically as well – as I believe Paulo Freire and bell hooks demonstrate, and many others also successfully participate in such engaged pedagogy).

But for my musings here, I want to consider enacting freedom directly and in totality throughout the classroom. This is the case, in part, because I want to challenge myself, and to some degree many of my colleagues, to once again consider and reconsider how we “are” in the classroom, living and embodying education as the practice of freedom, and, in part, to accept the need to acknowledge, confront and address the reality that we “operate”, however critically, within the very “governing apparatus which imposes its will”. As a result, I am, for the sake of these notes, forcing myself to fully embrace freedom, and, to whatever degree possible, attempting to reimagine and recomport myself toward promoting education as the practice of freedom.

As good a “critical” pedagogue as I believe I am and have been, for me these notes are a call to identify my beliefs, habits and pedagogy, not unlike Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy were for him. These notes are a consideration of how I embrace and enact those beliefs, habits and pedagogy, and represent a challenge to improve upon my pedagogy. I have decided that rethinking my own pedagogy in light of an anarchist pedagogy might prove the most challenging, informative and constructive mediation on pedagogy I could contemplate and enact at this moment."



"As many of us directly involved in the “field of education” (working as teachers and administrators from kindergarten through twelfth-grade, or those working in schools of education and on various education initiatives and in policy think-tanks) have witnessed (and sometimes promote and/or confront), there is much emphasis on a “best practice” approach and on “evidence-based” support for said practices. As a result, so much of education research and teaching is “data-driven”, even when the data is suspect (or just wrong). And, still more harmful, there exists a prejudice against “theory” and against a theoretical approach to teaching within a social/political/cultural context that emphasizes other aspects and dimensions of teaching and learning (such as the history and legacy of racism, sexism, class elitism, homophobia and biases against those with abilities and disabilities that render them “problematic” or outside the mainstream of education concern). All of this leads to an obsession with “information”, to the detriment of teaching and learning (see Scapp 2016b: Chapters 5 and 6). We also wind up with no vision or mission – education becomes little more than a “jobs preparatory program” and a competition in the market place. This is what leads us to the litany of reform programs (from the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” to Obama’s “Race to the Top”, never mind the practically innumerable local initiatives attempting to “fix” education). The results are proving disastrous for all.

At the same time, even though someone may employ a theoretical stance and perspective, this doesn’t guarantee a successful classroom dynamic. We need to remember that how we are (a concern of these notes from the very start) is just as important as what we are presenting, and even why. We need to establish trustworthiness and a sense that students have the freedom to explore, challenge, work together, and even be wrong. Of course, I recognize that the classroom dynamics will look different in elementary school than in a graduate seminar, but for the sake of this meditation on pedagogy, I would like to posit that while acknowledging the differences that exist at different levels of instruction, the essential character of “education as the practice of freedom” ought to be manifest at every level, and at every turn. The hard and important work of good teaching is helping to create and establish that freedom."



"There is a long tradition of attempting to create such an “other space”. Feminist pedagogy has argued for and provided such other spaces, at times at grave personal and professional cost (denial of tenure, promotion, as well as ridicule). So too have disciplines and perspectives as diverse as Ethnic Studies and Queer Studies, and Environmental Studies and Performance Studies offered challenges to the constrictive traditional learning environment (space) and also offered new possibilities of reconfiguring those spaces (in and outside the classroom). In his essay “Spaces of Learning: The Anarchist Free Skool”, Jeffery Shantz rightly notes that:

Social theorist Michel Foucault used the occasion of his 1967 lecture, “Of Other Spaces”, to introduce a term that would remain generally overlooked with his expansive body of work, the notion of “heterotopia”, by which he meant a countersite or alternative space, something of an actually existing utopia. In contrast to the nowhere lands of utopias, heterotopias are located in the here-and-now of present-day reality, though they challenge and subvert that reality. The heterotopias are spaces of difference. Among the examples Foucault noted were sacred and forbidden spaces which are sites of personal transition.

(in Haworth 2012: 124)

It is precisely this effort to help create another kind of space, a “heterotopia”, that leads me to disrupt the distribution of the syllabus as the first gesture of the semester, and to solicit and elicit contributions and participation from the class toward this end.

Part of the reason that complying with the “syllabus-edict” is problematic is that it fully initiates and substantiates “the banking system” of teaching that Paulo Freire so astutely identified and named, and so thoughtfully and thoroughly criticized (as oppressive). Participating in the automatic act of handing out the syllabus (hardcopy or electronic) constitutes the very first “deposit” within the banking system, and renders students passive from the very start: “This is what you will need to know!”. So, the very modest and simple gesture of not distributing the syllabus initiates instead the very first activity for the entire class, specifically, a discussion of what the class will be.

Of course, such a stance, such a gesture, doesn’t mean that I would not have thought through the course beforehand. Certainly, I envision a course that would be meaningful and connected to their program of study. But, what I do not do is “decide” everything in advance, and leave no room for input, suggestions and contributions to the syllabus that we create, to enhance the course we create. This offers students a (new?) way of interacting in the class, with each other and the teacher, a way of engaging in social and educative interactions that are mutual and dialogic from the very start. As Shantz claims:

Anarchist pedagogy aims toward developing and encouraging new forms of socialization, social interaction, and the sharing of ideas in ways that might initiate and sustain nonauthoritarian practices and ways of relating.

(in Haworth 2012: 126)

I am claiming that the simple and modest gesture of extending a welcome to participate goes a long way “toward developing and encouraging new forms” of teaching and learning, new forms of mutual and dialogic interaction that are both respectful of the subject matter and of the students, and, if successful, does create the very “heterotopia” Foucault and Shantz describe.

I also ask students about the ways we might be able to evaluate their work and the course itself, evaluate the success of the teaching and learning, and my ability to help facilitate successful teaching and learning. The results vary, but students always come up with interesting and innovative ways to evaluate and … [more]
pedagogy  anarchism  anarchy  deschooling  decolonization  unschooling  learning  teaching  bellhooks  ronscapp  paulofreire  freedom  liberation  neoliberalism  capitalism  lucynicholas  postmodernism  michaelapple  angeladavis  henrygiroux  roberthaworth  descartes  stanleyaronowitz  stephenball  pierrebourdieu  randallamster  abrahamdeleon  luisfernandez  anthonynocella  education  dericshannon  richarkahn  deleuze&guattari  gillesdeleuze  michelfoucault  foucault  davidgraeber  jürgenhabermas  justinmuller  alanantliff  kennethsaltman  davidgabbard  petermclaren  alexmolnar  irashor  joelspring  gayatrichakravortyspivak  colonialism  highereducation  highered  cademia  politics  2018  resistance  corporatization  betsydevos  policy  authority  authoritarianism  howweteach  government  governance  colonization  homeschool  power  control  coercion  félixguattari  conformity  uniformity  standardization  standards  syllabus  heterotopia  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  sfsh  cv  utopia  collaboration  evaluation  feminism  inclusion  inclusivity  participation  participatory  mutu 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Web Accessibility: What You Say vs. What I Hear | Think Company
"AVOID CREATING BARRIERS FOR PEOPLE

While the following list isn’t comprehensive, it could be a starting point for thinking about accessibility in your work and organization. Consider how you could unintentionally make it difficult for people to access your content and begin by shifting your perspective.

1. Think about accessibility from the very beginning. Communicate it across business, design, development, and testing.

2. Make accessibility a priority, a business case, and a part of your organization’s definition of “done.”

3. Include people with disabilities in your user personas and conduct research and studies with real people.

4. Make sure everyone gets accessibility training. Learn how to use assistive technology.

5. Think about multiple methods to convey information and interact with user interface.

6. Apply proper keyboard support and think about tab order. This will ensure a baseline level of accessibility for various assistive technology.

7. Design and develop according to the latest standards.
Create internal accessibility standards and requirements.

8. Let’s change the dialogue around accessibility. People want to hear what you’re saying."
via:dirtystylus  accessibility  advocacy  webdev  webdesign  web  online  internet  mikeyilagan  standards  disabilities  disability  assistivetechnology  technology 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Problem With “Measure” – Teachers Going Gradeless
"Measurement requires a standard unit, a recognized standard that can be objectively applied in a context. I can measure my bike ride to school in units of length. If I share that measurement with my colleague who also bikes to school, we can objectively determine who travels the greatest distance each day. What isn’t measurable is the peace that twenty minute ride brings to my day.

When it comes to measurement, learning fits into the same category as love, pain, anger, joy, and peace of mind. Learning can’t be objectively measured. There is no standard unit of measurement to apply to learning. A skill can be demonstrated, progress can be noted, understanding can be communicated and shared, but technically this evidence of learning isn’t measurable."
measurement  assessment  teaching  learning  unschooling  deschooling  grades  grading  scotthazeu  2017  objectivity  subjectivity  skills  standardization  standards  understanding  love  pain  anger  joy  peaceofmind  emotions 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magical Cures Hide a Cold Truth - The Atlantic
"As a child I found these books fascinating, suggesting as they did a conspiracy of adults manipulating children’s every move. Now, as a mother of four, I find them even more fascinating, because it turns out that the conspiracy is real. Parents do constantly conspire with a bevy of licensed and unlicensed advisors—relatives, friends, doctors, teachers, social-media strangers, even representatives of the state. What all these people promise is what Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle provides: conformity. It’s something so unnatural that it can only happen through magic, and yet it’s what’s expected of children, then and now.

Much of this conformity is just common courtesy; no one wants to live in a world in which people don’t pick up their toys. But the conformity parents sometimes crave goes deeper than that, and the desperation of these books’ 1950s parents hasn’t gone away. My 21st-century children laugh at Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s picket-fenced planet, where Mrs. Brown does the mending while Mr. Brown smokes his pipe, and little Christopher Brown putting his elbows on the table incurs an intervention involving a trained pig (don’t ask). But the reality is that today, amid a middle-class panic about their families’ and their country’s future, there is intense demand for children’s conformity. It can be hard to see just how much conformity is required until you have a child—or two, or four—who simply won’t comply.

For large numbers of children, for instance, sitting in a cinderblock box for six hours a day is an awful way to learn. But it’s hard to appreciate just how awful it is until your child gets expelled from preschool for being unable to remain in the room. You don’t think about how many questions your children ask when you read together until they get kicked out of the library story hour; you don’t realize how eagerly they explore nature until the arboretum ejects them for failing to stay in line on the trail. When your children achieve good grades, you are delighted, until you sit through the presentations where every child recites an identical list of facts about the country they “researched” on Wikipedia, and you realize what success is. You wonder why their assignments are so uninspired, until your answer arrives in the form of paperwork about multiday standardized tests. You wonder why your child who reads five novels weekly has been flagged for poor reading skills, until you discover that said child spends all assessment time reading under the desk.

You appreciate the need for children to develop patience, mastery, tolerance for boredom. But demand piles upon demand until it becomes a kind of daily war, as if this structure were specifically designed to destroy the very things that it purports to nourish. Your children soon meet other repeat offenders who frequent the principals’ and psychologists’ offices, children who sit on exercise balls and wear weighted vests in class to better constrain them, like characters from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” dystopia. You observe as your children uncover, like video-game Easter eggs, your state’s various statutes that trigger ejection from class; soon even your kindergartner discovers that all he needs to do to leave the room is announce an urge to kill himself, a fact he then exploits at will. You don’t blame the schools for these essential interventions, but you can hardly blame your child either for wanting out, because clearly something is wrong. Your children love learning, reading, exploring, creating; at home they write books, invent board games, make up languages, build gadgets out of old coffee makers. They appear to have the makings of successful adults—they’re resourceful, independent, and interested in contributing something to the world. But the markers of success in children are in many ways the opposite of these markers of success in adulthood, and in the meantime—a long, decade-plus meantime—children are trapped in a kind of juvenile detention where success is defined by how well adults can manage them, the chief adult being you, the parent.

Through all this, the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggles proliferate. Some are relatives or trusted friends; others are professionals, teachers, therapists, doctors, all offering their chests of cures. Some of these cures actually work. But even when they work, you begin to wonder what it means for them to work, to wonder what you are not seeing when all the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggles see is a tattletale or a truant or a child covered in dirt, an aberration to be evened out, fixed, cured. This harrowing question brings you to the farthest edge of your own limitations as a parent, which is also the nearest edge of your child’s freedom. And then you understand that control is a delusion—that all you can do is what Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle never does, which is to love the people your children actually are, instead of the people you want them to be."
conformity  children  parenting  books  culture  society  manners  2018  darahorn  unschooling  deschooling  difference  compliance  fear  punishment  discipline  openstudioproject  lcproject  tcsnnmy  sfsh  success  standardization  standardizedtesting  standards  assessment  creativity  acceptance  cures  curing  freedom 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Michael Rosen: Recent squibs on education
"The thing is people didn’t know how to use emojis until the govt produced the Emoji Curriculum.

In the name of ‘raising standards’ but in reality bullying education into being a weapon in international competitiveness wars, the govt has unitised and monetised education. We shld reply with humanistic values to this onslaught.

Hey 4 year old, you are not a ‘4 year old’, you are a ‘stage’ , a developmental unit, a score on the way to being another score, a place on a graph, a monitored level, a number less than or more than another number...

“With his dark blue furry just-fitting, interesting hat on, which he had bought, he walked in.” = Good writing according to ‘Expected level’ National Curriculum.

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Children whose names are not phonically regular must not try to read or write their names in Nursery, Reception or Year 1 in case it hinders their learning of how the alphabetic code works. [irony alert]

If Nursery, Reception or Yr1 children ask to see the writing in a non-phonically regular book, or try to read a cereal packet or a road sign, firmly grip the top of their head and turn it away from the words in question. See Bold Beginnings for more advice on this.

Why do you write poems, Michael?
So that children can be graded according to how well they ‘retrieve ‘ and ‘infer’ on a right/wrong grid devised by people who don’t like poetry."
michaelrosen  education  children  school  unschooling  deschooling  schooling  learning  poems  poetry  2018  inference  literature  emoji  standards  standardization  satire 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Jonathan Mooney: "The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed" - YouTube
"The University of Oregon Accessible Education Center and AccessABILITY Student Union present renowned speaker, neuro-diversity activist and author Jonathan Mooney.

Mooney vividly, humorously and passionately brings to life the world of neuro-diversity: the research behind it, the people who live in it and the lessons it has for all of us who care about the future of education. Jonathan explains the latest theories and provides concrete examples of how to prepare students and implement frameworks that best support their academic and professional pursuits. He blends research and human interest stories with concrete tips that parents, students, teachers and administrators can follow to transform learning environments and create a world that truly celebrates cognitive diversity."
neurodiversity  2012  jonathanmooney  adhd  cognition  cognitivediversity  sfsh  accessibility  learning  education  differences  howwelearn  disability  difference  specialeducation  highered  highereducation  dyslexia  droputs  literacy  intelligence  motivation  behavior  compliance  stillness  norms  shame  brain  success  reading  multiliteracies  genius  smartness  eq  emotions  relationships  tracking  maryannewolf  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  punishment  rewards  psychology  work  labor  kids  children  schools  agency  brokenness  fixingpeople  unschooling  deschooling  strengths  strengths-basedoutlook  assets  deficits  identity  learningdisabilities  schooling  generalists  specialists  howardgardner  howweteach  teams  technology  support  networks  inclusivity  diversity  accommodations  normal  average  standardization  standards  dsm  disabilities  bodies  body 
november 2017 by robertogreco
How the Appetite for Emojis Complicates the Effort to Standardize the World’s Alphabets - The New York Times
"nshuman Pandey was intrigued. A graduate student in history at the University of Michigan, he was searching online for forgotten alphabets of South Asia when an image of a mysterious writing system popped up. In eight years of digging through British colonial archives both real and digital, he has found almost 200 alphabets across Asia that were previously undescribed in the West, but this one, which he came across in early 2011, stumped him. Its sinuous letters, connected to one another in cursive fashion and sometimes bearing dots and slashes above or below, resembled those of Arabic.

Pandey eventually identified the script as an alphabet for Rohingya, the language spoken by the stateless and persecuted Muslim people whose greatest numbers live in western Myanmar, where they’ve been the victims of brutal ethnic cleansing. Pandey wasn’t sure if the alphabet itself was in use anymore, until he lucked upon contemporary pictures of printed textbooks for children. That meant it wasn’t a historical footnote; it was alive.

An email query from Pandey bounced from expert to expert until it landed with Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya activist and television host who was living in Malaysia. He told Pandey the short history of this alphabet, which was developed in the 1980s by a group of scholars that included a man named Mohammed Hanif. It spread slowly through the 1990s in handwritten, photocopied books. After 2001, thanks to two computer fonts designed by Noor, it became possible to type the script in word-processing programs. But no email, text messages or (later) tweets could be sent or received in it, no Google searches conducted in it. The Rohingya had no digital alphabet of their own through which they could connect with one another.

Billions of people around the world no longer face this plight. Whether on computers or smartphones, they can write as they write, expressing themselves in their own linguistic culture. What makes this possible is a 26-year-old international industrial standard for text data called the Unicode standard, which prescribes the digital letters, numbers and punctuation marks of more than 100 different writing systems: Greek, Cherokee, Arabic, Latin, Devanagari — a world-spanning storehouse of languages. But the alphabet that Noor described wasn’t among them, and neither are more than 100 other scripts, just over half of them historical and the rest alphabets that could still be used by as many as 400 million people today.

Now a computational linguist and motivated by a desire to put his historical knowledge to use, Pandey knows how to get obscure alphabets into the Unicode standard. Since 2005, he has done so for 19 writing systems (and he’s currently working to add another eight). With Noor’s help, and some financial support from a research center at the University of California, Berkeley, he drew up the basic set of letters and defined how they combine, what rules govern punctuation and whether spaces exist between words, then submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium, the organization that maintains the standards for digital scripts. In 2018, seven years after Pandey’s discovery, what came to be called Hanifi Rohingya will be rolled out in Unicode’s 11th version. The Rohingya will be able to communicate online with one another, using their own alphabet."



"Unicode’s history is full of attacks by governments, activists and eccentrics. In the early 1990s, the Chinese government objected to the encoding of Tibetan. About five years ago, Hungarian nationalists tried to sabotage the encoding for Old Hungarian because they wanted it to be called “Szekley-Hungarian Rovas” instead. An encoding for an alphabet used to write Nepal Bhasa and Sanskrit was delayed a few years ago by ethnonationalists who mistrusted the proposal because they objected to the author’s surname. Over and over, the Unicode Consortium has protected its standard from such political attacks.

The standard’s effectiveness helped. “If standards work, they’re invisible and can be ignored by the public,” Busch says. Twenty years after its first version, Unicode had become the default text-data standard, adopted by device manufacturers and software companies all over the world. Each version of the standard ushered more users into a seamless digital world of text. “We used to ask ourselves, ‘How many years do you think the consortium will need to be in place before we can publish the last version?’ ” Whistler recalls. The end was finally in sight — at one point the consortium had barely more than 50 writing systems to add.

All that changed in October 2010, when that year’s version of the Unicode standard included its first set of emojis."



"Not everyone thinks that Unicode should be in the emoji business at all. I met several people at Emojicon promoting apps that treat emojis like pictures, not text, and I heard an idea floated for a separate standards body for emojis run by people with nontechnical backgrounds. “Normal people can have an opinion about why there isn’t a cupcake emoji,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, an entrepreneur and a film producer whose advocacy on behalf of a dumpling emoji inspired her to organize Emojicon. The issue isn’t space — Unicode has about 800,000 unused numerical identifiers — but about whose expertise and worldview shapes the standard and prioritizes its projects.

“Emoji has had a tendency to subtract attention from the other important things the consortium needs to be working on,” Ken Whistler says. He believes that Unicode was right to take responsibility for emoji, because it has the technical expertise to deal with character chaos (and has dealt with it before). But emoji is an unwanted distraction. “We can spend hours arguing for an emoji for chopsticks, and then have nobody in the room pay any attention to details for what’s required for Nepal, which the people in Nepal use to write their language. That’s my main concern: emoji eats the attention span both in the committee and for key people with other responsibilities.”

Emoji has nonetheless provided a boost to Unicode. Companies frequently used to implement partial versions of the standard, but the spread of emoji now forces them to adopt more complete versions of it. As a result, smartphones that can manage emoji will be more likely to have Hanifi Rohingya on them too. The stream of proposals also makes the standard seem alive, attracting new volunteers to Unicode’s mission. It’s not unusual for people who come to the organization through an interest in emoji to end up embracing its priorities. “Working on characters used in a small province of China, even if it’s 20,000 people who are going to use it, that’s a more important use of their time than deliberating over whether the hand of my yoga emoji is in the right position,” Mark Bramhill told me.

Since its creation was announced in 2015, the “Adopt a Character” program, through which individuals and organizations can sponsor any characters, including emojis, has raised more than $200,000. A percentage of the proceeds goes to support the Script Encoding Initiative, a research project based at Berkeley, which is headed by the linguistics researcher Deborah Anderson, who is devoted to making Unicode truly universal. One the consortium recently accepted is called Nyiakeng Puachue Hmong, devised for the Hmong language by a minister in California whose parishioners have been using it for more than 25 years. Still in the proposal stage is Tigalari, once used to write Sanskrit and other Indian languages.

One way to read the story of Unicode in the time of emoji is to see a privileged generation of tech consumers confronting the fact that they can’t communicate in ways they want to on their devices: through emoji. They get involved in standards-making, which yields them some satisfaction but slows down the speed with which millions of others around the world get access to the most basic of online linguistic powers. “There are always winners and losers in standards,” Lawrence Busch says. “You might want to say, ultimately we’d like everyone to win and nobody to lose too much, but we’re stuck with the fact that we have to make decisions, and when we make them, those decisions are going to be less acceptable to some than to others.”"
unicode  language  languages  internet  international  standards  emoji  2017  priorities  web  online  anshumanpandey  rohingya  arabic  markbramhill  hmong  tigalari  nyiakengpuachuehmong  muhammadnoor  mohammedhanif  kenwhistler  history  1980  2011  1990s  1980s  mobile  phones  google  apple  ascii  facebook  emojicon  michaelaerard  technology  communication  tibet 
october 2017 by robertogreco
This Just Isn’t Something Public Teachers Do — Part 1
"In 2013 I took a teaching job in a district closer to where I lived. On the surface my new school had little in common with College Success Academy; I went from teaching a 100% African American population to a student body representing over 40 countries. My first school was situated in the poorest section of a city while my new school sat in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. One focused on college prep while the other claimed a holistic, whole child approach. Despite these differences, I found myself doing exactly the same things: using state testing blueprints and multiple choice test data to map out what, when, and how students would learn. My ability to move seamlessly between the two schools had nothing to do with “best practices” and everything to do with a unified core of assumptions about teaching, learning, and schooling. I had discovered the ideological boundaries of the rational community of teachers.

The Rational Community of Teachers

According to philosopher Alphonso Lingis, a rational community is a group of individuals who submit to a common discourse through a process of continual depersonalization. The concept of the rational community provides us with a useful theoretical model for analyzing the intersections of community, identity, and behavior. Lingis explains that rational communities are a necessary component of modern life (1994, p. 110). All groupings, from occupations to national and cultural identities, form through the same mechanism of depersonalization and submission to a group identity. It’s important to note that rational communities are inherently neither positive nor negative; they’re essential to the functioning of modern life. Every rational community functions in accordance with a specific set of principles that the group both produces and is produced by. He says,
Statements can be true, and meaningful, only in the discourse of an established community that determines what could count as observations, what degrees of accuracy in recording observations are possible, how the words of common language are restricted and refined for different kinds of cognition and for practical or technological uses, and what could count as an argument” (1994, p. 135).

As an example, we as a society have come to define plumbing as the knowledge and maintenance of water, sewage, and drainage systems. In order to become a plumber one must demonstrate one’s ability to understand and maintain these systems with a certain degree of fidelity. I would not expect a plumber to critique my bathroom’s color scheme because that’s not a practice of their rational community. Similarly, if I want to be a teacher then I need to act in a way that conforms to my community and society’s definition of a teacher. This means I teach content and skills to different groups of adolescents, assessing them at some point to check for proficiency. The instructional methods and assessment strategies I may pull from are not infinite; they draw from a set of assumptions that my community produces and is produced by. So while I could spend every class period performing cartwheels up and down the hallway, I wouldn’t because it obviously doesn’t fit with what we think teachers should do. But what about if I wanted to remove all grades and tests from my class? Would my actions still align with my community? Although I would still be teaching and assessing, I would no longer be enacting the practice of A — F grades, a staple of public education since at least the 1960s (Schneider & Hutt, 2014).

My ability to transition seamlessly between two opposing school environments revealed a set of technocratic and instrumentalist assumptions about what it means to be a teacher in this moment in time. These norms cast education as a scientific instrument. Teachers wield education as a seemingly neutral tool to bring about specific and predetermined learning outcomes. In my state this means ensuring that every child knows how to do things like identify the main idea of a passage, summarize important details, and ascertain a reading passage’s organizational pattern. Children demonstrate proficiency with these skills by correctly answering multiple-choice questions on a test. While teachers can and often do provide additional methods of assessment, test-based accountability means that, at the end of the day, scores on standardized exams are what matters most."



"To stray from the community becomes an act of open rebellion. Something as simple as removing letter grades from student assignments and providing only narrative feedback goes against the core assumptions of the community. As I found out during that afternoon with the assistant principal, refusal to participate in the practices of the rational teaching community puts one’s ability to be a teacher at risk. Regardless of the rhetoric around creativity, the whole child, differentiation, and creativity, teachers are expected to function within a of specific set of instructional practices and behavioral dispositions. Plumbers use wrenches; teachers use data."

[See also
"Confronting My Critical Identity in Social Media: The Critical Ceiling, Part II"
This Just Isn’t Something Public Teachers Do — Part 2

"Confronting My Critical Identity in Social Media: The Critical Ceiling, Part II"
https://medium.com/identity-education-and-power/confronting-my-critical-identity-in-social-media-the-critical-ceiling-part-ii-7e8b6d092bf6 ]
education  pedagogy  criticalpedagogy  peteanderson  2017  teaching  howweteach  cultue  practice  sfsh  schools  schooling  resistance  rebellion  change  unschooling  deschooling  learning  standardization  standardizedtesting  testing  standards  gertbiesta  alphonsolingis  community  rationalcommunities  gregdimitriadis  marclamonthill  tests  society 
july 2017 by robertogreco
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer… – Arthur Chiaravalli – Medium
"As I reflect back on these experiences, however, I wonder if the standards-based approach gave me a warped view of teaching and learning mathematics. I had apparently done an excellent job equipping my students with dozens of facts, concepts, and algorithms they could put into practice…on the multiple-choice final exam.

Somewhere, I’m sure, teachers were teaching math in a rich, interconnected, contextualized way. But that wasn’t the way I taught it, and my students likely never came to understand it in that way.

Liberating Language Arts

Fast forward to the present. For the past five years I have been back teaching in my major of language arts. Here the shortcomings of the standards-based method are compounded even further.

One of the more commonly stated goals of standards-based learning and grading is accuracy. First and foremost, accuracy means that grades should reflect academic achievement alone — as opposed to punctuality, behavior, compliance, or speed of learning. By implementing assessment, grading, and reporting practices similar to those I’d used in mathematics, I was able to achieve this same sort of accuracy in my language arts classes.

Accuracy, however, also refers to the quality of the assessments. Tom Schimmer, author of Grading From the Inside Out: Bringing Accuracy to Student Assessment through a Standards-based Mindset, states
Low-quality assessments have the potential to produce inaccurate information about student learning. Inaccurate formative assessments can misinform teachers and students about what should come next in the learning. Inaccurate summative assessments may mislead students and parents (and others) about students’ level of proficiency. When a teacher knows the purpose of an assessment, what specific elements to assess…he or she will most likely see accurate assessment information.

Unfortunately, assessment accuracy in the language arts and humanities in general is notoriously elusive. In a 1912 study of inter-rater reliability, Starch and Elliot (cited in Schinske and Tanner) found that different teachers gave a single English paper scores ranging from 50 to 98%. Other studies have shown similar inconsistencies due to everything from penmanship and the order in which the papers are reviewed to the sex, ethnicity, and attractiveness of the author.

We might argue that this situation has improved due to common language, range-finding committees, rubrics, and other modern developments in assessment, but problems remain. In order to achieve a modicum of reliability, language arts teams must adopt highly prescriptive scoring guides or rubrics, which as Alfie Kohn, Linda Mabry, and Maya Wilson have pointed out, necessarily neglect the central values of risk taking, style, and original thought.

This is because, as Maya Wilson observes, measurable aspects can represent “only a sliver of…values about writing: voice, wording, sentence fluency, conventions, content, organization, and presentation.” Just as the proverbial blind men touching the elephant receive an incorrect impression, so too do rubrics provide a limited — and therefore inaccurate — picture of student writing.

As Linda Mabry puts it,
The standardization of a skill that is fundamentally self-expressive and individualistic obstructs its assessment. And rubrics standardize the teaching of writing, which jeopardizes the learning and understanding of writing.

The second part of Mabry’s statement is even more disturbing, namely, that these attempts at accuracy and reliability not only obstruct accurate assessment, but paradoxically jeopardize students’ understanding of writing, not to mention other language arts. I have witnessed this phenomenon as we have created common assessments over the years. Our pre- and post-tests are now overwhelmingly populated with knowledge-based questions — terminology, vocabulary, punctuation rules. Pair this with formulaic, algorithmic approaches to the teaching and assessment of writing and you have a recipe for a false positive: students who score well with little vision of what counts for deep thinking or good writing.

It’s clear what we’re doing here: we’re trying to do to writing and other language arts what we’ve already done to mathematics. We’re trying to turn something rich and interconnected into something discrete, objective and measurable. Furthermore, the fundamentally subjective nature of student performance in the language arts renders this task even more problematic. Jean-Paul Sartre’s definition of subjectivity seems especially apt:
The subjectivity which we thus postulate as the standard of truth is no narrowly individual subjectivism…we are attaining to ourselves in the presence of the other, and we are just as certain of the other as we are of ourselves.…Thus the man who discovers himself directly in the cogito also discovers all the others, and discovers them as the condition of his own existence. He recognises that he cannot be anything…unless others recognise him as such. I cannot obtain any truth whatsoever about myself, except through the mediation of another. The other is indispensable to my existence, and equally so to any knowledge I can have of myself…Thus, at once, we find ourselves in a world which is, let us say, that of “intersubjectivity.”

First and foremost, the language arts involve communication: articulating one’s own ideas and responding to those of others. Assigning a score on a student’s paper does not constitute recognition. While never ceding my professional judgment and expertise as an educator, I must also find ways to allow students and myself to encounter one another as individuals. I must, as Gert Biesta puts it, create an environment in which individuals “come into presence,” that is, “show who they are and where they stand, in relation to and, most importantly, in response to what and who is other and different”:
Coming into presence is not something that individuals can do alone and by themselves. To come into presence means to come into presence in a social and intersubjective world, a world we share with others who are not like us…This is first of all because it can be argued that the very structure of our subjectivity, the very structure of who we are is thoroughly social.

Coming to this encounter with a predetermined set of “specific elements to assess” may hinder and even prevent me from providing recognition, Sartre’s prerequisite to self-knowledge. But it also threatens to render me obsolete.

The way I taught mathematics five years ago was little more than, as Biesta puts it, “an exchange between a provider and a consumer.” That transaction is arguably better served by Khan Academy and other online learning platforms than by me. As schools transition toward so-called “personalized” and “student-directed” approaches to learning, is it any wonder that the math component is often farmed out to self-paced online modules — ones that more perfectly provide the discrete, sequential, standards-based approach I developed toward the end of my tenure as math teacher?

Any teacher still teaching math in this manner should expect to soon be demoted to the status of “learning coach.” I hope we can avoid this same fate in language arts, but we won’t if we give into the temptation to reduce the richness of our discipline to standards and progression points, charts and columns, means, medians, and modes.

What’s the alternative? I’m afraid I’m only beginning to answer that question now. Adopting the sensible reforms of standards-based learning and grading seems to have been a necessary first step. But is it the very clarity of its approach — clearing the ground of anything unrelated to teaching and learning — that now urges us onward toward an intersubjective future populated by human beings, not numbers?

Replacing grades with feedback seems to have moved my students and me closer toward this more human future. And although this transition has brought a kind of relief, it has also occasioned anxiety. As the comforting determinism of tables, graphs, charts, and diagrams fade from view, we are left with fewer numbers to add, divide, and measure. All that’s left is human beings and the relationships between them. What Simone de Beauvoir says of men and women is also true of us as educators and students:
When two human categories are together, each aspires to impose its sovereignty upon the other. If both are able to resist this imposition, there is created between them a reciprocal relation, sometimes in enmity, sometimes in amity, always in tension.

So much of this future resides in communication, in encounter, in a fragile reciprocity between people. Like that great soul Whitman, we find ourselves “unaccountable” — or as he says elsewhere, “untranslatable.” We will never fit ourselves into tables and columns. Instead, we discover ourselves in the presence of others who are unlike us. Learning, growth, and self-knowledge occur only within this dialectic of mutual recognition.

Here we are vulnerable, verging on a reality as rich and astonishing as the one Whitman witnessed."
arthurchiaravalli  2017  education  standards-basedassessments  assessment  teaching  math  mathematics  writing  learning  romschimmer  grading  grades  alfiekohn  lindamabry  gertbiesta  khanacademy  personalization  rubics  waltwhitman  simonedebeauvoir  canon  sfsh  howweteach  howwelearn  mutualrecognition  communication  reciprocity  feedback  cv  presence  tension  standards  standardization  jean-paulsartre  mayawilson  formativeassessment  summativeassessment  interconnection  intersubjectivity  subjectivity  objectivity  self-knowledge  humans  human  humanism 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Most of the time, innovators don’t move fast and break things | Aeon Essays
"The global view shifts the focus from Manchester, Lowell, Detroit and Silicon Valley. It involves accepting that innovation and technological change are more than just making things. Ironically, this allows us to begin to glimpse a more familiar world where activities such as maintenance, repair, use and re-use, recycling, obsolescence and disappearance dominate. A much more global picture, one that includes people whose lives and contributions the Great White Innovator narrative marginalised, comes into view. The Lizzie Otts of the world can take their proper place as participants and contributors."



"Efficiency, therefore, is not some timeless universal value but something grounded deeply in particular historical circumstances. At various times, efficiency was a way of quantifying machine performance – think: steam engines – and an accounting principle coupled to the new applied sciences of mechanics and thermodynamics. It was also about conservation and stability. By the early 20th century – the apogee of Taylorism – experts argued that increases in efficiency would realise the full potential of individuals and industries. Dynamism and conservatism worked together in the pursuit of ever-greater efficiency.

But a broad look at the history of technology plainly shows that other values often take precedence over efficiency, even in the modern era. It would, for example, offer several advantages in efficiency if, instead of every apartment or home having its own kitchen, multiple families shared a communal kitchen, and indeed in some parts of the world they do. But in the prevalent ideology of domesticity, every family or even single person must have their own kitchen, and so it is.

Nor, despite what Silicon Valley-based techno-libertarians might argue, does technological change automatically translate to increased efficiency. Sometimes, efficiency – like the lone eccentric innovator – is not wanted. In the 1960s, for instance, the US military encouraged metal-working firms, via its contracting process, to adopt expensive numerically controlled machine tools. The lavish funding the Department of Defense devoted to promoting the technology didn’t automatically yield clear economic advantages. However, the new machines – ones that smaller firms were hard-pressed to adopt – increased centralisation of the metalworking industry and, arguably, diminished economic competition. Meanwhile, on the shop floor, the new manufacturing innovations gave supervisors greater oversight over production. At one large manufacturing company, numerical control was referred to as a ‘management system’, not a new tool for cutting metal. Imperatives besides efficiency drove technological change.

The history of technological change is full of examples of roads not taken. There are many examples of seemingly illogical choices made by firms and individuals. This shouldn’t surprise us – technological change has always been a deep and multilayered process, one that unfolds in fits and starts and unevenly in time and space. It’s not like the ‘just so stories’ of pop history and Silicon Valley public relations departments."



"Perhaps most simply, what you will almost never hear from the tech industry pundits is that innovation is not always good. Crack cocaine and the AK-47 were innovative products. ISIS and Los Zetas are innovative organisations. Historians have long shown that innovation doesn’t even always create jobs. It sometimes destroys them. Automation and innovation, from the 1920s through the 1950s, displaced tens of thousands of workers. Recall the conflict between Spencer Tracy (a proponent of automation) and Katharine Hepburn (an anxious reference librarian) in the film Desk Set (1957).

And what of broader societal benefits that innovation brings? In Technological Medicine (2009), Stanley Joel Reiser makes a compelling case that, in the world of healthcare, innovation can bring gains and losses – and the winners are not always the patients. The innovation of the artificial respirator, for example, has saved countless lives. It has also brought in new ethical, legal and policy debates over, literally, the meaning of life and death. And there are real questions about the ethics of resource expenditure in medical innovation. Can spending large amounts pursuing innovative treatments or cures for exotic, rare diseases be ethical when the same monies could without question save millions of lives afflicted with simple health challenges?

It’s unrealistic to imagine that the international obsession with innovation will change any time soon. Even histories of nation-states are linked to narratives, rightly or wrongly, of political and technological innovation and progress. To be sure, technology and innovation have been central drivers of the US’s economic prosperity, national security and social advancement. The very centrality of innovation, which one could argue has taken on the position of a national mantra, makes a better understanding of how it actually works, and its limitations, vital. Then we can see that continuity and incrementalism are a much more realistic representation of technological change.

At the same time, when we step out of the shadow of innovation, we get new insights about the nature of technological change. By taking this broader perspective, we start to see the complexity of that change in new ways. It’s then we notice the persistent layering of older technologies. We appreciate the essential role of users and maintainers as well as traditional innovators such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and, yes, Bill and Lizzie Ott. We start to see the intangibles – the standards and ideologies that help to create and order technology systems, making them work at least most of the time. We start to see that technological change does not demand that we move fast and break things. Understanding the role that standards, ideologies, institutions – the non-thing aspects of technology – play, makes it possible to see how technological change actually happens, and who makes it happen. It makes it possible to understand the true topography of technology and the world today."

[via: https://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hewn-no-204 ]
history  technology  innovation  invention  maintenance  wpatrickmccray  2016  economics  continuity  incrementalism  change  changemaking  via:audreywatters  ethics  stanleyjoelreiser  siliconvalley  hacking  nurture  nurturing  care  caring  making  makers  standards  ideology  efficiency  domesticity  taylorism  technosolutionism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Who Gets to Be a Restaurant Critic? - Eater
"That, however, is just the trouble with standards: They don’t translate well across types of people, or the group divisions that help define those standards in the first place. The tension between haute cuisine and populism, a Times review and Yelp, is about competing ways of deciding what’s good — of whether chips should be fat and soft like in a chippy, or thin and crisp like bistro frites. But when the public discourse around food is so overwhelmingly dominated not just by highfalutin critics, but those who are often white, middle-income, and left-leaning, the assumed standards by which food is judged tend to reflect and replicate exactly those values. If critics these days seem to most value food which presents a vision, highlights the ingredients, or inventively mixes influences, it’s because those are the values of upwardly mobile, culturally omnivorous eaters who believe in conscious capitalism.

This is why the Chicken Connoisseur feels so pleasantly unusual. It checks off all the boxes for what modern food criticism looks like, self-reflexively paying attention to its own status as criticism, but instead of taking you to places with small plates, or omakase, takes you to chicken shops in Hackney or Tottenham or any number of other London areas that haven’t been entirely subsumed by gentrification. Those shops are, in a simple empirical sense, the kinds of places where millions of people eat, but that people concerned with food as signifier of cultural capital would rather ignore — perhaps because such places don’t represent change or novelty, the necessary fuel of the media, but also perhaps because the change they might stand for isn’t considered relevant. In putting a critical vocabulary people were already using into a polished, appealing YouTube show, however, Quashie ends up providing a model for what a food criticism that speaks to a broader, browner, less-wealthy audience might look like. It’s fast food, framed as a product of its place and time, by someone who is winning and funny in front of a camera, and who happens to be young and black. But Quashie also stands as a challenge to all kinds of institutional critics, urging them to grapple with — and take seriously — the things that a majority of people hold dear.

This is, I think, exactly as it should be. When literary criticism moved away from Leavis or the New Critics and started to dabble in feminism or postcolonialism, its emphasis wasn’t simply on the politics of how literature got created or the representation therein. It was also on aesthetics, so Woolf’s feminism wasn’t just in her message, but her prose. Cuisine’s import and relevance isn’t just in “what story a plating tells,” but our culturally loaded expectations about what food should be. Say what you will about four wings for around two dollars, but the demand that they be crispy and spicy is a standard, and one that people care about. At root, it’s a question of what the object and nature of criticism should be: a narrow slice of food that represents the bleeding edge and demands the language of a specialist, or a shifting set of criteria that tackle both the highbrow and the everyday without insisting one is more culturally significant than the other.

************

There is, at the dawn of 2017 — what feels like a decidedly new phase of history — something like a lesson there. In the aftermath of Brexit and Trump, there was a gnashing of teeth over the rise of populism as a transatlantic, if not global, phenomenon. But the attention paid to the gaping distance between the media and great swaths of the country was framed as either a problem to be solved using the same tools people have always deployed, or a thing to be dismissed because of ignorance or racism. When one also considers the boggling number of people who didn’t vote at all, perhaps this new era demands some sort of reckoning with what is popular, common, and reflects how the majority of people actually talk about food.

It is of course true that part of criticism’s function it to both engage in a dialectic with a craft, challenging it to do better, while also calling attention to broader, systemic issues. A food reviewer who only ever judged fried chicken joints without ever calling attention to factory farming or the environment would be in dereliction of their duty. And Quashie does at one point mention that a less-than-stellar wing from a chicken which “did not live a good life” tasted of sadness and suffering. But perhaps the first step is making room for a food criticism that speaks to people where they are, and like all criticism, through standards that they too value and understand.

At the end of Quashie’s first post-fame video, he acknowledges his sudden success — and then squints as an off-camera voice says “Chinese!” It turns out this fave, like any, is problematic. Still, it’s troubling to see talk of ethnic food that has been “elevated” by removing it from its context or, conversely, to see the food that most people eat derisively dismissed, and the Chicken Connoisseur is a rejoinder to both.

In episode 6 of The Pengest Munch — the one that first went viral and now has over 3.5 million views — Elijah Quashie mentions he chewed on a bone in a strip burger, then looks at the camera and says with a smirk, “Bossman: I don’t know wha gwan, but that can’t run. That can’t run fam.” You might also say the same of a food culture that ignores so much of the population, pretending that its own standards are somehow objective, while those of critics like Quashie are not simply arbitrary, but just wrong. If food criticism is to grapple with the populist present, that situation, it seems fair to say, fam, can’t run either."
navneetalang  culture  criticism  foodcritics  foodcriticism  food  2017  populism  elijahquashie  thepengestmunch  accessibility  elitism  everyday  standards  restaurants  howweeat 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Janwaar Castle Our Principles - Janwaar Castle
"Janwaar Castle is a sandbox project for which the principles are clearly defined (without being taught or said) and inside this sandbox everything is possible. It is up to the children what we take forward. The options are manifold. Our principles are simple:

Systems over objects
We believe in networks and we think in networks. Janwaar Castle is a network based model. Therefore we put systems over objects and constantly ask ourselves how do we responsibly participate in the village and the area around us.

Emergence over authorities
We don’t tell the children what to do. We let them do, observe and then guide them in the things they’ve chosen to do. It’s not on us to decide what will be done or what is right or wrong. And they don’t need to ask for permission. They can simply go ahead and do.

Pull over push
Janwaar Castle pulls from the network as it needs it rather than keep everything in stock. We are agile. Resources one considers as assets actually become liabilities when one wants to be agile.

Resilience over strength
It is not the fittest or strongest who keeps Janwaar Castle running, it’s the one who is ready to go the long distance if needed and to achieve balance within the Janwaar Castle ecosystem.

Disobedience over compliance
This is a tough one for India. You don’t win Nobel prizes for doing what you’re told. We need to create environments that are resilient to the automatization of the world, and that require disobedience and encourage to ask questions. A lot of civics is about disobedience.

Compasses over maps
At Janwaar Castle it’s much more important to navigate and find your own way in life than following a pre-defined path or a standardized curriculum.

Learning over education
Education is something what you do to others. Learning is what you do to yourself. And this is what Janwaar Castle is all about.

Practice over theory
We do. We build stuff. We fail. We do it again differently. We might fail again. Then we do it again. And we learn by doing so. We succeed. This way the kids for instance have learnt to fix their skateboards, to use their tablets and to skateboard. Without instruction. What they’ve learnt will stay with them.

We over me
Janwaar Castle is community oriented, it doesn’t focus on the individual. This is a natural outcome of the network and the system thinking we’ve embraced."

[See also:
"Why A German Woman Built A Skatepark In Rural Madhya Pradesh"
http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/08/23/why-a-german-woman-built-a-skatepark-for-rural-children-in-madhy/

"The first hurdle was bringing the children from the Adivasi and Yadav communities together.

"In the village we have Adivasis and Yadavs -- they are strictly separated in their houses. First the Yadav kids came to the skatepark, they were 'pushing out' the Adivasis," she said.

The Adivasi and the Yadav children wouldn't skate together. They had different timings.

But, slowly, things changed. "Now the skatepark has a mix of Adivasi and Yadav, boys and girls, and all age groups," she said.

Recalling an incident, she said, "A key moment in this was in one of our morning sessions. There was a little Adivasi girl standing in the middle of our circle. She was dirty like hell, no one wanted to give her the hand and include her in the circle. So, I did. A few seconds later a Yadav boy took the other hand and she was included."" ]
janwaarcastle  education  learning  resilience  systemsthinking  systems  emergence  emergentcurrciulum  sfsh  disobedience  compliance  democracy  practice  theory  praxis  skateboarding  skating  skateparks  lcproject  openstudioproject  children  empowerment  standardization  curriculum  via:willrichardson  standards  community  individualism  networks  india  madhyapradesh  inclusion  inclusivity  skateboards 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Why the metric system matters - Matt Anticole - YouTube
"View full lesson: https://teded.herokuapp.com/lessons/why-the-metric-system-matters-matt-anticole

For the majority of recorded human history, units like the weight of a grain or the length of a hand weren’t exact and varied from place to place. Now, consistent measurements are such an integral part of our daily lives that it’s hard to appreciate what a major accomplishment for humanity they’ve been. Matt Anticole traces the wild history of the metric system.

Lesson by Matt Anticole, animation by Globizco."

[via: http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/why-the-metric-system-matters-ted-ed ]
metricsystem  measurement  2016  history  unitsofmeaurement  standardization  standards  mattanticole 
august 2016 by robertogreco
The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students - The New York Times
"FOR 15 years, since the passage of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, education reformers have promoted standardized testing, school choice, competition and accountability (meaning punishment of teachers and schools) as the primary means of improving education. For many years, I agreed with them. I was an assistant secretary of education in George H. W. Bush’s administration and a member of three conservative think tanks.

But as I watched the harmful effects of No Child Left Behind, I began to have doubts. The law required that all schools reach 100 percent proficiency as measured by state tests or face harsh punishments. This was an impossible goal. Standardized tests became the be-all and end-all of education, and states spent billions on them. Social scientists have long known that the best predictor of test scores is family income. Yet policy makers encouraged the firing of thousands of teachers and the closing of thousands of low-scoring public schools, mostly in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

As the damage escalated, I renounced my support for high-stakes testing and charter schools. Nonetheless, I clung to the hope that we might agree on national standards and a national curriculum. Surely, I thought, they would promote equity since all children would study the same things and take the same tests. But now I realize that I was wrong about that, too.

Six years after the release of our first national standards, the Common Core, and the new federal tests that accompanied them, it seems clear that the pursuit of a national curriculum is yet another excuse to avoid making serious efforts to reduce the main causes of low student achievement: poverty and racial segregation.

The people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven’t come true. Even in states with strong common standards and tests, racial achievement gaps persist. Last year, average math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress declined for the first time since 1990; reading scores were flat or decreased compared with a decade earlier.

The development of the Common Core was funded almost entirely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was a rush job, and the final product ignored the needs of children with disabilities, English-language learners and those in the early grades. It’s no surprise that there has been widespread pushback.

In 2009 President Obama announced Race to the Top, a competition for $4.35 billion in federal grant money. To qualify, states had to adopt “college and career ready standards,” a requirement that was used to pressure them into adopting national standards. Almost every state applied, even before the specifics of the Common Core were released in June 2010.

The federal government, states and school districts have spent billions of dollars to phase in the standards, to prepare students to take the tests and to buy the technology needed to administer them online. There is nothing to show for it. The Race to the Top demoralized teachers, caused teacher shortages and led to the defunding of the arts and other subjects that were not tested. Those billions would have been better spent to reduce class sizes, especially in struggling schools, to restore arts and physical education classes, to rebuild physically crumbling schools, and to provide universal early childhood education.

Children starting in the third grade may spend more than 10 hours a year taking state tests — and weeks preparing for them. Studies show that students perform better on written tests than on online tests, yet most schools across the nation are assessing their students online, at enormous costs, because that is how the Common Core tests are usually delivered. Computer glitches are common. Sometimes the server gets overloaded and breaks down. Entire states, like Alaska, have canceled tests because of technical problems. More than 30 states have reported computer testing problems since 2013, according to FairTest, a testing watchdog.

Standardized tests are best at measuring family income. Well-off students usually score in the top half of results; students from poor homes usually score in the bottom. The quest to “close achievement gaps” is vain indeed when the measure of achievement is a test based on a statistical norm. If we awarded driver’s licenses based on standardized tests, half the adults in this country might never receive one. The failure rates on the Common Core tests are staggeringly high for black and Hispanic children, students with disabilities and English-language learners. Making the tests harder predictably depresses test scores, creating a sense of failure and hopelessness among young children.

If we really cared about improving the education of all students, we would give teachers the autonomy to tailor instruction to meet the needs of the children in front of them and to write their own tests. We would insist that students in every school had an equal opportunity to learn in well-maintained schools, in classes of reasonable size taught by expert teachers. Anyone who wants to know how students in one state compare with students in other states can get that information from the N.A.E.P., the existing federal test.

What is called “the achievement gap” is actually an “opportunity gap.” What we need are schools where all children have the same chance to learn. That doesn’t require national standards or national tests, which improve neither teaching nor learning, and do nothing to help poor children at racially segregated schools. We need to focus on that, not on promoting failed ideas."
2016  dianeravitch  commoncore  standardization  standardizedtesting  testing  government  us  nclb  rttt  georgehwbush  gatesfoundation  billgates  standards  education  schools  publischools  poverty  inequality  segregation  naep  statistics  achievementgap  opportunitygap  politics  policy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Canadian Museum of Human Rights: a global standard for accessibility
"The Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg, Manitoba was established by an Act of Parliament in 2008 and opened in September 2014 as one of the world’s most accessible museums"



"The result is an in-gallery experience that champions accessibility and usability as parallel experiences. Exceptional features include 120 Universal Access Points (UAP), which have Braille, tactile numbers and “cane-stop” floor strips to alert visitors that information is available on key exhibit highlights. There is inclusive video and audio, a mobile app and innovations such as an Interactive Universal Keypad (IUK) for those who cannot use a Touch Screen Interface (TSI).

The museum has embedded inclusive design features into more than 100 hours of video with American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des Signes Québécoise (LSQ) and descriptive audio, which describes what’s happening in a scene as well as reading text that appears on the screen. The keypad, designed by Timpson and tested at OCAD, are located at each TSI interface and have accessible tactile controls, with few buttons for extra simplicity. The voice instructions also work in conjunction with the strict semantic structure of the TSI interface’s content."



"Throughout the design process the museum was able to develop its own standards, which are apparent throughout its 11 galleries and seven theatres. All of the seating in the theatres and exhibits offer a choice of bench seating and seating with backs and arms. As well as this, all of the exhibits adhere to strict graphic standards to ensure content is as accessible as possible. The exhibit fonts were chosen for typographic elements, such as anatomy and letter proportions, which contribute to legibility and clarity. Type sizes and placement were carefully measured and chosen based on probable viewing distances and line of sight for visitors of any physical ability.

Even the finer details such as paragraph alignment and specific line-lengths were studied to help reduce reader fatigue and make the content easier to read. Colour contrast and Light Reflectance Value contrasts were designed to ensure sufficient contrast between the text and background to make text easier to read with different lighting conditions or visual impairments."

[See also: https://humanrights.ca/ ]

[via: https://plus.google.com/u/0/112045150389781152468/posts/JkXHxzyLPS2

"I think I find myself looking to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights at least once each week for inspiration on how to best do inclusive design in museums -- they are definitely the highest standard. If you haven't checked them out yet, I recommend learning more. And see what elements of inclusive design you can begin implementing in your own museum."]
museums  accessibility  canada  humanrights  standards  winnepeg  mnitopa  inclusivity  design  usability  adaptability 
july 2016 by robertogreco
[Easy Chair] | The Habits of Highly Cynical People, by Rebecca Solnit | Harper's Magazine
"In April 24, 1916 — Easter Monday — Irish republicans in Dublin and a handful of other places staged an armed rebellion against British occupation. At the time, the British Empire was the strongest power on earth; Ireland was its first and nearest colony. That the puny colony might oust the giant seemed far-fetched, and by most measures the endeavor was a failure. The leaders were executed; the British occupation continued. But not for long: the Easter Uprising is now generally understood as a crucial step in a process that led, in 1937, to full independence for most of the island. A hundred years on, some view 1916 as the beginning of the end of the British Empire.

This year also marks the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring. It seems to be taken for granted that these uprisings, too, were a failure, since many of the affected countries are now just different kinds of dire than they were before. But the public display of a passionate desire for participatory government, the demonstration of the strength of popular power and the weakness of despotic regimes, and the sheer (if short-lived) exhilaration that took place five years ago may have sown seeds that have not yet germinated.

I am not arguing for overlooking the violence and instability that are now plaguing North Africa and the Middle East. Nor am I optimistic about the near future of the region. I do not know what the long-term consequences of the Arab Spring will be — but neither does anyone else. We live in a time when the news media and other purveyors of conventional wisdom like to report on the future more than the past. They draw on polls and false analogies to announce what is going to happen next, and their frequent errors — about the unelectability of Barack Obama, say, or the inevitability of the Keystone XL pipeline — don’t seem to impede their habit of prophecy or our willingness to abide them. “We don’t actually know” is their least favorite thing to report.

Non-pundits, too, use bad data and worse analysis to pronounce with great certainty on future inevitabilities, present impossibilities, and past failures. The mind-set behind these statements is what I call naïve cynicism. It bleeds the sense of possibility and maybe the sense of responsibility out of people.

Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis.

Maybe it also says something about the tendency to oversimplify. If simplification means reducing things to their essentials, oversimplification tosses aside the essential as well. It is a relentless pursuit of certainty and clarity in a world that generally offers neither, a desire to shove nuances and complexities into clear-cut binaries. Naïve cynicism concerns me because it flattens out the past and the future, and because it reduces the motivation to participate in public life, public discourse, and even intelligent conversation that distinguishes shades of gray, ambiguities and ambivalences, uncertainties, unknowns, and opportunities. Instead, we conduct our conversations like wars, and the heavy artillery of grim confidence is the weapon many reach for.

Naïve cynics shoot down possibilities, including the possibility of exploring the full complexity of any situation. They take aim at the less cynical, so that cynicism becomes a defensive posture and an avoidance of dissent. They recruit through brutality. If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.

Different factions have different versions of naïve cynicism. There is, for example, the way the mainstream discounts political action that proceeds outside the usual corridors of power. When Occupy Wall Street began five years ago, the movement was mocked, dismissed, and willfully misunderstood before it was hastily pronounced dead. Its obituary has been written dozens of times over the years by people who’d prefer that the rabble who blur the lines between the homeless and the merely furious not have a political role to play.

But the fruits of OWS are too many to count. People who were involved with local encampments tell me that their thriving offshoots are still making a difference. California alone was said to have more than 100 Occupy groups; what each of them did is impossible to measure. There were results as direct as homeless advocacy, as indirect as a shift in the national debate about housing, medical and student debt, economic injustice, and inequality. There has also been effective concrete action — from debt strikes to state legislation — on these issues. Occupy helped to bring politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Bill de Blasio, and Elizabeth Warren into the mainstream.

The inability to assess what OWS accomplished comes in part from the assumption that historical events either produce straightforward, quantifiable, immediate results, or they fail to matter. It’s as though we’re talking about bowling: either that ball knocked over those pins in that lane or it didn’t. But historical forces are not bowling balls. If bowling had to be the metaphor, it would be some kind of metaphysical game shrouded in mists and unfolding over decades. The ball might knock over a pin and then another one in fifteen years and possibly have a strike in some other lane that most of us had forgotten even existed. That’s sort of what the Easter Rising did, and what Occupy and Black Lives Matter are doing now.

Then there is the naïve cynicism of those outside the mainstream who similarly doubt their own capacity to help bring about change, a view that conveniently spares them the hard work such change requires.

I recently posted on Facebook a passage from the February issue of Nature Climate Change in which a group of scientists outlined the impact of climate change over the next 10,000 years. Their portrait is terrifying, but it is not despairing: “This long-term view shows that the next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.” That’s a sentence about catastrophe but also about opportunity. Yet when I posted the article, the first comment I got was, “There’s nothing that’s going to stop the consequences of what we have already done/not done.” This was another way of saying, I’m pitting my own casual assessment over peer-reviewed science; I’m not reading carefully; I’m making a thwacking sound with my false omniscience.

Such comments represent a reflex response that can be used to meet wildly different stimuli. Naïve cynicism remains obdurate in the face of varied events, some of which are positive, some negative, some mixed, and quite a lot of them unfinished.

The climate movement has grown powerful and diverse. On this continent it is shutting down coal plants and preventing new ones from being built. It has blocked fracking, oil and gas leases on public land, drilling in the Arctic, pipelines, and oil trains that carry the stuff that would otherwise run through the thwarted pipelines. Cities, states, and regions are making stunning commitments — San Diego has committed to going 100 percent renewable by 2035.

Remarkable legislation has been introduced even on the national level, such as bills in both the House and the Senate to bar new fossil-fuel extraction on public lands. Those bills will almost certainly not pass in the present Congress, but they introduce to the mainstream a position that was inconceivable a few years ago. This is how epochal change often begins, with efforts that fail in their direct aims but succeed in shifting the conversation and opening space for further action.

These campaigns and achievements are far from enough; they need to scale up, and scaling up means drawing in people who recognize that there are indeed opportunities worth seizing.

Late last year, some key federal decisions to curtail drilling for oil in the Arctic and to prevent the construction of a tar-sands pipeline were announced. The naïvely cynical dismissed them as purely a consequence of the plummeting price of oil. Activism had nothing to do with it, I was repeatedly told. But had there been no activism, the Arctic would have been drilled, and the pipelines to get the dirty crude cheaply out of Alberta built, before the price drop. It wasn’t either-or; it was both.

David Roberts, a climate journalist for Vox, notes that the disparagement of the campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline assumed that the activists’ only goal was to prevent this one pipeline from being built, and that since this one pipeline’s cancellation wouldn’t save the world, the effort was futile. Roberts named these armchair quarterbacks of climate action the Doing It Wrong Brigade. He compared their critique to “criticizing the Montgomery bus boycott because it only affected a relative handful of blacks. The point of civil… [more]
rebeccasolnit  2016  cynicism  change  time  occupywallstreet  ows  hope  optimism  idealism  perfectionism  obstructionism  simplification  oversimplification  possibility  economics  justice  climatechange  keystonepipeline  patience  longview  blacklivesmatter  civilrightsmovement  politics  policy  conversation  easterrising  power  community  systemsthinking  standards  metrics  measurement  success  failure  dissent  discourse  uncertainty  opportunity 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Carol Black on Twitter: "Leanne @betasamosake Simpson: Whose learning "standards" are centered, whose are pushed to the periphery? @JennBinis https://t.co/eqEMZIQiaz"
[bookmarked for the full thread]

"Leanne @betasamosake Simpson: Whose learning "standards" are centered, whose are pushed to the periphery? @JennBinis [image]

Jennifer Binis
@cblack__ you're choir preaching here, Carol :)

Carol Black
@JennBinis Nope, because the answer to this problem is fundamentally incompatible w. legally mandated standards. Ethically. At a deep level.

Jennifer Binis
@cblack__ And yet, there is no answer to the problem.

Carol Black
@JennBinis Sure there is. As with free speech/press, you have to allow people to do things you disagree with, with only limited restrictions

Jennifer Binis
@cblack__ Who are the people we're talking about here? That is, if a child never wants to learn to read, do we shrug and say, ah well?

Carol Black
‏@JennBinis Sigh. Excessive fears about this are the source of so much bad policy.

Jennifer Binis
@cblack__ It's not about fear. It's about history. (And to be clear, nothing I say is a defense of the worst parts of public education.)

Carol Black
@JennBinis What history? We haven't had history without compulsory standards for 100 years.

Jennifer Binis
@cblack__ Amusingly, I looked up from a chapter on compulsory education during the Persian War (400BCE) to type this.

Carol Black
@JennBinis So what history validates the fear US children won't learn to read w/o compulsion? The fact they don't learn WITH compulsion?

Jennifer Binis
@cblack__ you know that's not an actual fear, right? It was an example related to allowing ppl to do things we disagree with."
carolblack  standards  standardization  pedagogy  education  schooling  2016  power  scale  control  curriculum  compulsory  self-determination  sexism  racism  patriarchy  paternalism  punishment  hierarchy  colonization  colonialism 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Learn Different - The New Yorker
"Students at AltSchool are issued a tablet in pre-K and switch to a laptop in later years. (For now, AltSchool ends at the equivalent of eighth grade.) When I visited a mixed classroom for second and third graders, most of the children were sunk into their laptops. All were engaged in bespoke activities that had been assigned to them through a “playlist”—software that displays a series of digital “cards” containing instructions for a task to be completed. Sometimes it was an online task. Two children were doing keyboarding drills on a typing Web site. Their results would be uploaded for a teacher’s assessment and added to the student’s online Learning Progression—software developed by AltSchool which captures, in minute detail, a student’s progress.

The curriculum is roughly aligned with the Common Core, the government standards that establish topics which students should master by the end of each grade. But AltSchool’s ethos is fundamentally opposed to the paradigm of standardization that has dominated public education in recent decades, and reflects a growing shift in emphasis among theorists toward “personalized learning.” This approach acknowledges and adapts to the differences among students: their abilities, their interests, their cultural backgrounds.

A girl in the class was completing an offline task—reading a book about polar bears. A boy lay on his stomach on the carpeted floor, headphones on, using a Web site called BrainPOP to learn how to calculate the perimeters of basic shapes. “Two out of five!” he shouted at one point, as oblivious of those around him as a subway rider wearing earbuds and singing along to Drake.

Not all the activities were solitary. Two girls sat together, laptops before them, using Google Images to scroll through pictures of seals for a social-studies assignment; occasionally, they paused to compare notes. Every so often, a student spoke with the teacher, a young woman in jeans and a loose top, her iPhone tucked under her thigh as she sat on the carpet. One girl had been using her laptop to research castles—an area of sustained interest. She and the teacher discussed princesses and castles, and whether they always went together. “That’s a good question,” the teacher said, and then asked, “Does America have princesses?”"



"At the same time, educators at AltSchool are discussing whether children really need to attain certain skills at particular stages of their educational development, as the Common Core implies. Seyfert thinks that it might be more useful to think of learning not as linear but as scrambled, like a torrent file on a computer: “You can imagine all the things you need to learn, and you could learn it all out of order so long as you can zip it up at the end, and you are good to go.”

Like other AltSchool teachers, Seyfert was drawn to the startup because of its ambition to make systemic change. Two or three times a week, she told me, she gives colleagues feedback about the school’s digital tools. The Learner Profile, Stream app, and other tools are only about a year old, and AltSchool’s personalization still requires considerable human intervention. Software is updated every day. Carolyn Wilson, AltSchool’s director of education, told me, “We encourage staff members to express their pain points, step up with their ideas, take a risk, fail forward, and fail fast, because we know we are going to iterate quickly. Other schools tend to move in geologic time.” (Ventilla may question the utility of foreign-language acquisition, but fluency in the jargon of Silicon Valley—English 2.0—is required at AltSchool.)

Ventilla told me that these tools were central to a revised conception of what a teacher might be: “We are really shifting the role of an educator to someone who is more of a data-enabled detective.” He defined a traditional teacher as an “artisanal lesson planner on one hand and disciplinary babysitter on the other hand.” Educators are stakeholders in AltSchool’s eventual success: equity has been offered to all full-time teachers."



"Some education advocates are wary about potential privacy violations that might result from data collection on the scale intended by AltSchool, particularly given that AltSchool is a for-profit company. (Most independent schools are not-for-profit institutions.) These concerns could complicate the adoption of AltSchool software by public school systems. Ventilla says that there is no intention to use AltSchool data for commercial purposes, and that AltSchool can gather data in a way that will respect a student’s anonymity. Only salient moments in the classroom videos are saved, he says, and most are not even stored. “I would never want to record all the things a kid says and keep them around,” he said. But he added that looking at vocabulary-acquisition patterns in aggregate could provide teachers with valuable information that will help them teach each individual more effectively. “The collection of any kind of data is not free,” Ventilla acknowledged. “But the alternative is the incredibly invasive, inaccurate standardized-testing regimen that we have now, which comes at a lot of cost, psychic and otherwise, and doesn’t provide nearly the amount of benefit that we want.”

Daniel Willingham, an education scholar at the University of Virginia, told me that adopting technology in schools can be maddeningly inefficient. “The most common thing I hear is that when you adopt technology you have to write twice the lesson plans,” he told me. “You have the one you use with the technology, and you have the backup one you use when the technology doesn’t work that day.” Willingham also notes that the most crucial thing about educational software isn’t the code that assesses student performance; it’s the worthiness of the readings and the clarity of the math questions being presented onscreen. “People are very focussed on the algorithm,” he said. “But equally important is the quality of the materials.”

The gap between AltSchool’s ambitions for technology and the reality of the classroom was painfully obvious the morning that I spent in the Brooklyn school. One kindergartner grew increasingly frustrated with his tablet as he tried to take a photograph of interlocking cubes that he had snapped into a strip of ten. (He was supposed to upload the image to his playlist.) He shook the unresponsive tablet, then stabbed repeatedly at the screen, like an exhausted passenger in a cab after an overnight flight, unable to quell the Taxi TV.

Even when AltSchool’s methods worked as intended, there were sometimes questionable results. The two girls whom I watched searching for seals on Google Images found plenty of suitable photographs. But the same search term called up a news photo of the corpse of a porpoise, its blood blossoming in the water after being rent almost in half by a seal attack. It also called up an image in which the head of Seal, the singer, had been Photoshopped onto a sea lion’s body—an object of much fascination to the students. To the extent that this exercise was preparing them for the workplace of the future, it was also dispiritingly familiar from the workplace of the present, where the rabbit holes of the Internet offer perpetual temptation."



"There had been some bumpy moments for the Palo Alto school, which opened last fall. One family left after concluding that there wasn’t enough homework. Other parents wanted to know the curriculum in advance—an impossible demand in a school dedicated to following children’s interests. A look around the classrooms confirmed that for some children the ability to follow their own passions reaped rich dividends. I observed the kindergarten-and-first-grade classroom during afternoon “choice time,” and saw two children separately involved in complicated long-term projects. A seven-year-old boy with an avid interest in American history had built a dining-table-sized model of Fort Sumter out of cardboard—he was painting black-splotch windows on its perimeter. He had also composed a storybook about Paul Revere, which was vibrantly written, if impressionistically spelled. Another seven-year-old boy had undertaken a physics experiment, building two styles of catapult out of tongue depressors and tape. He was measuring their power with the help of a yardstick affixed to the wall, and recording the data in a notebook. The AltSchool environment—and an inspiring young teacher named Paul France—had liberated these children’s individual creativity and intellectual curiosity in just the way that the parents of a potential Elon Musk might hope.

The boys’ classmates, however, had made less demanding use of their choice time, and this had apparently allowed the teaching staff to provide the necessary support for the more ambitious projects. Four boys were seated on the floor making primitive catapults with Jenga blocks. Half a dozen girls had chosen “art creation,” and were sitting around a table affixing stickers to paper and chatting. One girl had opted to work in clay. But no students had chosen to engage in dramatic play, or to work at the light table, or to do jigsaw puzzles—options that were displayed on a wall chart. The remaining eight children—six boys and two girls—had selected “tablet time.” They were sitting around a table, each with headphones on, expertly swiping and clicking their way through word or number games. Their quiet immersion would be recognizable to any parent who has ever bought herself a moment’s peace from the demands of interacting with her child by opening Angry Birds on her phone."



"When the AltSchool technologists who participated in the December hackathon shared their discoveries at the end of the session, the team that had focussed on bookmarking video seemed particularly pleased with its innovations. The team had decided to try to find a “fun route” to help … [more]
altschool  education  schools  2016  children  learning  pedagogy  amplify  teachtoone  brooklyn  paloalto  maxventilla  surveillance  standardization  blendedlearning  howweteach  howwelearn  automation  technology  edtech  sanfrancisco  gender  siliconvalley  commoncore  standards  brainpop 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Standards, Grades And Tests Are Wildly Outdated, Argues 'End Of Average' : NPR Ed : NPR
"Todd Rose dropped out of high school with D- grades. At 21, he was trying to support a wife and two sons on welfare and minimum wage jobs.

Today he teaches educational neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He's also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a new organization devoted to "the science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society."

In other words, Todd Rose is not your average guy. But neither are you.

In fact, he argues, absolutely no one is precisely average. And that's a big problem, he tells NPR Ed: "We've come to embrace a way of thinking about ourselves as people that was intentionally designed to ignore all individuality and force everything in reference to an average person."

Admissions offices, HR departments, banks and doctors make life-changing decisions based on averages. Rose says that "works really well to understand the system or the group, but it fails miserably when you need to understand the individual, which is what we need to do."

Rose talked with us about his new book: The End Of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness.

Q: The opening example you use in the book is that in the 1940s, when the Air Force designed cockpits based on the average measurements of the pilots, there were an unacceptable number of crashes. But when they went back and measured thousands of pilots, across 10 body dimensions, they found that zero of them even came close to the "average" on all 10. So they concluded that they had to redesign the seats and so forth to be adjustable to each person.

A: Body size is a very concrete example of what I call jaggedness. There is no average pilot. No medium-sized people. When you think of someone's size you think of large, medium, small. Our mass-produced approach to clothing reinforces that. But if that were true you wouldn't need dressing rooms.

Q: So dimensions like height and weight and arm length and waist circumference ...

A: Yes, they're not nearly as correlated as you would think. Height is one-dimensional, but size isn't. People are jagged in size, in intelligence, everything we measure shows the same thing.

Q: I'm going to quote a line from the book, said to psychologist Paul Molenaar, who is arguing for a greater focus on individual difference: "What you are proposing is anarchy!" How do you make decisions about people if you can't use statistics and cutoff scores and compare them to averages?

A: People feel like if you focus on individuality, everyone's a snowflake, and you can't build a science on snowflakes. But the opposite has been true.

It's not that you can't use statistics, it's just that you don't use group statistics. If I want to know something about my daily spending habits, one straightforward way would be to collect records of what I spend every day. To take an average for myself would be perfectly fine.

Q: So you can generalize across time, but not across people?

A: We've got to let go of putting a group into a study and taking an average and thinking that's going to be close enough to universal insight.

Now we have something better. We have a natural science of individuality that gives us a surer foundation. We've gotten breakthrough insights in a whole range of research, from cancer to child development.

Q: How does what you term "Averagerianism" impact our school system both historically and today?

A: It's so ubiquitous that it's hard to see.

We design textbooks to be age-appropriate, but that means, what does the average kid of this age know and can do? Textbooks that are designed for the average will be a pretty bad fit for most kids.

Then you think of things like the lockstep, grade-based organization of kids, and you end up sitting in a class for a fixed amount of time and get a one-dimensional rating in the form of a grade, and a one-dimensional standardized assessment. It's everything about the way we test and move kids forward.

Q: With standardized tests, I often hear teachers talking about students being two months behind or ahead, as if there's a very fixed timeline for progress that all human beings should fit.

A: It feels comforting. But if you take the basic idea of jaggedness, if all kids are multidimensional in their talent, their aptitude, you can't reduce them to a single score. It gives us a false sense of precision and gives up on pretending to know anything about these kids.

Q: So alongside jaggedness, two other principles of individual variation you look at are "context-dependence" and "pathways." Talk about those.

A: It's meaningless to talk about behavior and performance without context. Let's take assessment. Carnegie Mellon [University] had this work showing that changing the way a question is asked can fundamentally alter how a kid performs. So if the [math] problem is about football players instead of ballerinas, you can't standardize on the item. That systematically affects the kids' ability to demonstrate what they know.

But at a macro level, I think [context] introduces an attention to things like the impact of stress and trauma.

Q: And what about pathways? This sounds a lot like the talk around personalizing learning using technology and allowing each student to learn at his or her own pace.

A: I think people who care about personalized learning talk about it as: If we just collect more data, we're going to have this personalization. And that's not clear to me at all.

I think when you look at the idea of pace, we are so convinced that slow means dumb and fast means smart. We feel justified in pegging the time to how fast the average person takes to finish.

But this is where, with a better understanding of this and realizing, "Oh, pace really has nothing to do with ability, people are fast at some things and slow with others," you would build a very different system than the one we have.

Q: Do you think the school system acknowledges the need to treat students as individuals?

A: Two years ago I would have said no. But my colleague Paul Reville, who used to be secretary of education in Massachusetts, he's rethinking the architecture of school systems. In most states, people have put on the books goals about meeting every kid where they're at. Even the "Every Student Succeeds" [ESSA, the new federal law] approach is based on the assumption that we're meeting each kid where they're at, to give them what they need to be successful.

But we haven't thought through the system design that needs to be in place to do that.

We're trying to have a system to do what it was never designed to do.

Q: What about in higher education?

A: In higher ed we have a brutally standardized system. It doesn't matter what your interests are, what job you want, everyone takes the same courses in roughly the same time and at the end of the course you get ranked.

This is personal for me. I have two kids in college. The idea that someone is going to click a stopwatch, compare you to other kids in your class, and the kids with the best grades can get the best jobs, that's not a good deal. I want my two boys to figure out what they love and what they're good at and be exposed to things and be able to turn that into a job.

Q: You talk about innovations that are starting to catch on, like competency-based education and credentialing — basically, accommodating different pathways and different balances of strengths and weakness.

A: There's plenty of ways we're making smaller units of learning to combine in ways that are useful to you. To me, competency based education is nonnegotiable. I don't think you can have fixed-time, grade-based learning anymore. I don't see how you justify diplomas.

It doesn't mean students can take forever, but allowing some flexibility in pace and only caring whether they master the material or not is a sound foundation for a higher ed system.

There are so many examples of a lot of really interesting universities trying these things.

Q: Yes, reading this book it struck me that in some quarters, it seems like we've already moved forward to a focus on individuality, innovation, creativity. You talk about how companies like Google are finding that GPA or school prestige or even ranking employees against each other is not useful, and instead they need to create, essentially, performance-based assessments for doing tasks in context.

A: There are bright spots where you can see the principles of individuality at work.

So for me it comes back to, well, wait a minute. So why is that not the mainstream?

What I think my contribution is, is to say: Our institutions are based on assumptions about human beings. Our education system is based on a 19th century idea of an average person and using 20th century statistics.

As long as people think you can understand people based on averages, or how they deviate from averages, it seems reasonable. It looks like accountability and fairness rather than absurdity.

Q: And you're trying to show that there's an alternative?

A: If we don't get rid of this way of thinking about ourselves and the people around us, it's hard to get the public demand to create sustainable change. That's the role that I and my organization want to play. We're making a really big bet."
anyakamenetz  toddrose  standards  grades  grading  averages  education  howweteach  schools  admissions  tests  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  sameness  paulmolenaar  textbooks  behavior  performance  individuality 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Spinoza in a T-Shirt – The New Inquiry
"This is the social and ethical function of design standardization: to assign and put bodies in their “proper” place. Standardized design creates violent relations between bodies and environments. The intensity of violence the standard body brings to bear on an individual’s body is measured in that body’s difference and distance from the standard. A chair that is too high, a beam too low, a corridor too narrow acts on the body forcefully and with a force that is unevenly distributed. Bodies that are farther from the standard body bear the weight of these forces more heavily than those that are closer to the arbitrary standard. But to resolve this design problem does not mean that we need a more-inclusive approach to design. The very idea of inclusion, of opening up and expanding the conceptual parameters of human bodies, depends for its logic and operation on the existence of parameters in the first place. In other words, a more inclusive approach to design remains fundamentally exclusive in its logic.

If Spinoza’s critical question points us toward an understanding of what standardized design does wrong, it also indicates how to get it right. The works of fashion designer Rei Kawakubo and of the artists-architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins are the result of materialist practices that reflect the Spinozist principle of not knowing what a body is. Their approach to design is based not so much on what the designers claim to know about the body, but instead on what they ignore. Their approaches refuse predetermined conceptualizations of what a body is and what a body can do. For instance, Kawakubo’s “bumpy” dresses (from the highly celebrated “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” Comme Des Garcons Spring/Summer 1997 collection) form a cloth+body assemblage that challenges preconceived ideas of the body and of beauty. At a larger scale, Arakawa and Gins’ Mitaka Lofts in Tokyo and Yoro Park in Gifu prefecture deny any predetermined category of the body in favor of a profound ignorance of what makes a body a body at all.

These designs can have profound sociopolitical effects. Momoyo Homma (the director of the architects’ Tokyo office) relates how her mother, who normally cannot walk without her cane, had no problems navigating the bumpy floor of the Mitaka Lofts. Homma’s mother’s experience does not mean that the Mitaka Lofts are a miraculous instrument that would resuscitate a septuagenarian’s ability to walk without a cane. It reveals that her body only needs a cane in environments designed for bodies that differ substantially from hers.

The cane, itself a designed object, is a clear marker of the differential (often antagonistic) relations that design produces between bodies and spaces/places, and between non-standard and standard bodies. As a prosthesis, the cane’s purpose is to “correct” the non-standard body so that its functions reflect as closely as possible a fidelity with the “normal” body. Arakawa and Gins’ architecture offers an environment where the non-standard body does not need a “corrective,” since the environment’s design is not structured around what they think a body is.

Spinoza’s question—what can a body do?—insists that we set aside preconceived and normative notions of what a body is. Arakawa and Gins’ architecture suggests a slight but significant revision: Rather than conceptualizing bodies from the position of not knowing what they are, we should begin from the position that we don’t know what bodies are not. The double-negative allows a crucial correction to the Spinozist account of the body.

Spinoza’s question delays conceptualizations of the body, but it still doesn’t do away with normative formulations of the body. Affirming an ignorance of something presupposes that what is ignored could be actually known. “We don’t know what a body is” implicitly suggests that a holistic knowledge of what a body is actually exists—we just don’t presume to know it (yet).

The position of “not presuming” is too close to the liberal stance of having tolerance for difference—a position of liberal multiculturalism we find suspicious. The problem with liberal tolerance is that it already assumes and takes up a position of power. The designer is in the privileged position of being tolerant of another, and of designating who is deserving of tolerance. Whether the presumption is to know or not know the body, it is either way an act of the designer’s agency since knowing/unknowing the body is realized exclusively in the design of the garment, room, chair, table, etc. The power of the designer remains intact either way.

Alternatively, to not know what a body isn’t does more than suspend or delay normalizing conceptualizations of the body. It refuses such total claims of body knowledge at all. Just as the double-negative construction becomes affirmative, not knowing what a body isn’t affirms all bodies by doing away with the ideal of the normative body altogether. To not know what a body isn’t means that the idea of the body is infinitely open, rather than just momentarily open. To not know what a body isn’t means that all bodies are equally valid modes and forms of embodiment. Nothing is “not a body” and so everything is a body. This is not a philosophical issue but a political problem. What is a body? What is a human body? These are philosophical treatises that do not address our concern with how built environments empower some bodies and disempower others according to a set of “universal” design presumptions and methods.

By shifting our focus from what a body is to what a body can do, we can begin to explore the political—sometimes violent—relations of bodies, objects, and environments that are produced and maintained through standard design practices and knowledge. How might a collaborative relation of body and environment create the potential for a more non-hierarchical architecture? How might it build one that frees all bodies from the abstract concept of a “normal” body?

As impressive and seductive as the designers named above are, they are not politically egalitarian even though their designs may be aesthetically radical. Kawakubo, Gins, and Arakawa’s built environments are among a highly rarified class of design, out of reach to all but a select few inhabitants/consumers. Although their design approaches are unconventional, they don’t disrupt the hierarchical relations that structure dominant paradigms of design. In fact, their work is greatly celebrated in establishment fashion and architecture design circles.

A design process and philosophy that doesn’t know what a body isn’t can be found in a decidedly more mundane built environment. The jersey knit cotton T-shirt—a product found across the entire price point spectrum—is accessible and inhabitable by a great number of people. Jersey knit cotton is one of the cheaper fabrics, pliable to a broad range of bodies. Jersey knit cotton T-shirts really don’t know what a body isn’t—to this T-shirt, all bodies are T-shirt-able, all bodies can inhabit the space of a T-shirt, though how they inhabit it will be largely determined by the individual body. How the t-shirt pulls or hangs loose (and by how much) will certainly vary across bodies and across time. Indeed, the T-shirt’s stretchy jersey knit cotton materializes precisely this principle of contingency.

Julie Wilkins’ designs are aimed at “extending the grammar of the T-shirt.” Stretching the T-shirt to new proportions, her Future Classics Dress collections (made entirely of jersey knit fabrics, though not necessarily knit from cotton) are even more adaptable and modifiable than the classic T-shirt, which is somewhat limited by its fundamental T shape. (“Somewhat limited,” because its T shape has not precluded the vast number and variety of bodies that do not conform to the T-shape from wearing T-shirts.) Wilkins’ design approach is unlike those that make up traditional tables, chairs, windows, and clothing that are designed and fabricated around standard body dimensions. Wilkins’ designs create built environments that are pliant, dynamic, modular, and mobile.

Wilkins’ Future Classics Dress designs are modifiable by and adaptable to an unspecified range of bodies; they are conditional architectures. As demonstrated on their website, one garment can be worn in many ways, on many bodies. How users inhabit the clothes depends on them as much as on the designer. Choosing how to wear a Future Classics garment can be an involved process. While the Future Classics Dress collections don’t give individuals total autonomy, they allow bodies more freedom than we’ve seen before."



"The idealized relationship of bodies and designed grounds is a predictive geometric one. It is widely accepted that a surface directly perpendicular to the body provides the best environment for bodies to function. As a result, the surfaces of designed grounds are overwhelmingly flat, and non-flat floors are marked as problems to be fixed. Yet even a cursory glance at any playground and its many and differently uneven grounds—“terrains” is a better word—trouble this taken-for-granted logic.

Children tend to have a particularly acute relation to their physical environment. Their small and unpracticed bodies almost never fit the overwhelmingly hard, flat surfaces of mainstream environments. In this way, all young children can be understood as having non-standard bodies. Their “unfitness” is measured in relation to normatively designed built environments. The image of any young child climbing a set of stairs illustrates the kind of unfitness we mean. By contrast, the playground’s dense rubbery foam floors, its flexible pathways (e.g, chain-linked bridges), and its integration of Parent and Virilio’s Oblique Function of various slopes and elevations, are surfaces that children’s bodies navigate capably, oftentimes with a level of ease that escapes adults… [more]
spinoza  design  arakawa  madelinegins  body  bodies  normal  normalization  standardization  variation  architecture  fashion  politics  inclusion  tolerance  inclusivity  adaptability  léopoldlambert  minh-hatpham  henrydreyfuss  reikawakubo  juliewilkins  paulvirilio  claudeparent  theobliquefunction  futureclassicsdress  modification  stretch  give  glvo  uniformproject  audiencesofone  philosophy  standards  canon  canes  ability  abilities  disability  variability  ablerism  ethics  textiles  personaluniforms  fabrics  clothing  clothes  inlcusivity  disabilities 
july 2015 by robertogreco
My Objections to the Common Core State Standards (1.0) : Stager-to-Go
"The following is an attempt to share some of my objections to Common Core in a coherent fashion. These are my views on a controversial topic. An old friend I hold in high esteem asked me to share my thoughts with him. If you disagree, that’s fine. Frankly, I spent a lot of time I don’t have creating this document and don’t really feel like arguing about the Common Core. The Common Core is dying even if you just discovered it.

This is not a research paper, hence the lack of references. You can Google for yourself. Undoubtedly, this post contains typos as well. I’ll fix them as I find them.

This critique shares little with the attacks from the Tea Party or those dismissed by the Federal Education Secretary or Bill Gates as whiney parents.

I have seven major objections to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

1. The CCSS are a solution in search of a problem.

2. The CCSS were implemented in a remarkably undemocratic fashion at great public expense to the benefit of ideologues and corporations.

3. The standards are preposterous and developmentally inappropriate.

4. The inevitable failure of the Common Core cannot be blamed on poor implementation when poor implementation is baked into the design.

5. Standardized curriculum lowers standards, diminishes teacher agency, and lowers the quality of educational experiences.

6. The CCSS will result in an accelerated erosion of public confidence in public education.

7. The requirement that CCSS testing be conducted electronically adds unnecessary complexity, expense, and derails any chance of computers being used in a creative fashion to amplify student potential."

[continues on to elaborate on each objection, some pull quotes here]

"there is abundant scholarship by Linda Darling-Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Gerald Bracey, Deborah Meier, and others demonstrating that more American kids are staying in school longer than at any time in history. If we control for poverty, America competes quite favorably against any other nation in the world, if you care about such comparisons."



"As my colleague and mentor Seymour Papert said, “At best school teaches a billionth of a percent of the knowledge in the world and yet we quibble endlessly about which billionth of a percent is important enough to teach.” Schools should prepare kids to solve problems their teachers never anticipated with the confidence and competence necessary to overcome any obstacle, even if only to discover that there is more to learn."



"When teachers are not required to make curricular decisions and design curriculum based on the curiosity, thinking, understanding, passion, or experience of their students, the resulting loss in teacher agency makes educators less thoughtful and reflective in their practice, not more. The art of teaching has been sacrificed at the expense of reducing pedagogical practice to animal control and content delivery."



"The singular genius of George W. Bush and his No Child Left Behind legislation (kicked-up a notch by Obama’s Race-to-the-Top) was the recognition that many parents hate school, but love their kids’ teachers. If your goal is to privatize education, you need to concoct a way to convince parents to withdraw support for their kid’s teacher. A great way to achieve that objective is by misusing standardized tests and then announcing that your kid’s teacher is failing your kid. This public shaming creates a manufactured crisis used to justify radical interventions before calmer heads can prevail.

These standardized tests are misunderstood by the public and policy-makers while being used in ways that are psychometrically invalid. For example, it is no accident that many parents confuse these tests with college admissions requirements. Using tests designed to rank students mean that half of all test-takers be below the norm and were never intended to measure teacher efficacy.

The test scores come back up to six months after they are administered, long after a child advances to the next grade. Teachers receive scores for last year’s students, with no information on the questions answered incorrectly. These facts make it impossible to use the testing as a way of improving instruction, the stated aim of the farcical process."



"It is particularly ironic how much of the public criticism of the Common Core is related to media accounts and water cooler conversations of the “crazy math” being taught to kids. There are actually very few new or more complex concepts in the Common Core than previous math curricula. In fact, the Common Core hardly challenges any of the assumptions of the existing mathematics curriculum. The Common Core English Language Arts standards are far more radical. Yet, our innumerate culture is up in arms about the “new new math” being imposed by the Common Core.

What is different about the Common Core approach to mathematics, particularly arithmetic, is the arrogant imposition of specific algorithms. In other words, parents are freaking out because their kids are being required to solve problems in a specific fashion that is different from how they solve similar problems.

This is more serious than a matter of teaching old dogs new tricks. The problem is teaching tricks at all. There are countless studies by Constance Kamii and others demonstrating that any time you teach a child the algorithm, you commit violence against their mathematical understanding. Mathematics is a way of making sense of the world and Piaget teaches us that it is not the job of the teacher to correct the child from the outside, but rather to create the conditions in which they correct themselves from the inside. Mathematical problem solving does not occur in one way no matter how forcefully you impose your will on children. If you require a strategy competing with their own intuitions, you add confusion that results in less confidence and understanding.

Aside from teaching one algorithm (trick), another way to harm a child’s mathematical thinking development is to teach many algorithms for solving the same problem. Publishers make this mistake frequently. In an attempt to acknowledge the plurality of ways in which various children solve problems, those strategies are identified and then taught to every child. Doing so adds unnecessary noise, undermines personal confidence, and ultimately tests memorization of tricks (algorithms) at the expense of understanding.

This scenario goes something like this. Kids estimate in lots of different ways. Let’s teach them nine or ten different ways to estimate, and test them along the way. By the end of the process, many kids will be so confused that they will no longer be able to perform the estimation skill they had prior to the direct instruction in estimation. Solving a problem in your head is disqualified."
garystager  commoncore  2015  education  policy  schools  publicschools  standardization  standardizedtesting  standards  learning  teaching  pedagogy  technology  testing  democracy  process  implementation  agency  howweteach  howwelearn  publicimage  seymourpapert  numeracy  matheducation  math  mathematics  numbersense  understanding  memorization  algorithms  rttt  gatesfoundation  pearson  nclb  georgewbush  barackobama 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Leon Botstein for Democracy Journal: Are We Still Making Citizens?
[via: http://willrichardson.com/post/115896934920/on-secret-keeping-and-forgetting ]

"Democracy requires a commitment to the public good. But for a long time now, our citizens have been taught to see themselves as only private actors."



"What the European émigrés discovered was a reality that partially resembled these principles. They saw from the outside, as it were, how vital the connection is between how we structure our schools and our capacity to maintain a functioning pluralist democracy. John Dewey, America’s greatest thinker on education since Mann, guided the ideology of public education. For Dewey, the justification for the proper pedagogy was not primarily political; his conception of teaching and learning derived largely from an epistemological conceit within Pragmatism. But for the European émigrés, the contrast between the school systems from which they came and the school system in the country in which they arrived—the virtue and attraction of American educational practice—was significant in terms of its political consequences.

In those years, the defining factor in the American system was the idea of a single, unitary public school system in which everybody enrolled. All citizens went to the same sort of schools through to the end of secondary school. Private schools were an elite phenomenon and relatively insignificant. Most European public systems, by contrast, were intentionally segregated by ability, creating distinct groups beginning at age 11. The state, using examinations, divided the school population into varying categories, each of which maintained a different track. The majority of citizens never completed school beyond elementary school. Some percentage went on to vocational schooling. A very small segment of the population went, as adolescents, either to a humanistic academic high school (Gymnasium) or to a less prestigious practical and science-oriented high school (Realschule) and received a secondary-school diploma. A Matura or Abitur, the diploma from these two types of secondary schools, permitted an elite student to enroll in the university.

Consequently, the unitary public school system that kept all children together until college and that built citizens of character, devoted to democratic values, was viewed by the émigré generation as a marvel. American education appeared to fit the idea that the nation and democracy were tied to a homogeneity of rights, and that diverse constituencies could not only obtain equal legal status but through education achieve the means to realize it in economic and social terms. Citizenship via a nominally nondiscriminatory and standard process accessible to all irrespective of birth, religion, ethnicity, or even language was unheard of in Europe, but it—and the concrete advantages education added—seemed possible in America.

Higher education was no less eye-opening. Undergraduates delayed specialization and studied more than one subject. They were, from the start, asked to do far more writing that called for the expression of their own arguments and judgments. What was equally shocking to a European was the way in which the American university system seemed immensely flexible and open to new ideas. There was not a rigid hierarchy with one professor running each “faculty.” Young scholars did not have to wait for their elders to retire or die. The university was able to create new fields and new positions. Not only was there less hierarchy and formality, but in graduate education there was even less deference to authority than in the public school system. The dissenter, rebel, and ambitious entrepreneur were prized more than in Europe. In terms of graduate education and academic career advancement, American university practice still stands in contrast to that of Europe.

That was the good news. The bad news was that the academic standards by which the American common school system operated seemed horrifically low. The price paid by the democratic culture of the American school system, the émigré observers concluded, was the low level of shared culture achieved at the end of secondary public education. Freshmen could not read or write properly, and they possessed little understanding of literature, art, philosophy, or history. The thinly veiled (at best) snobbery of the mid-century émigré scholars simply exploded when their members (such as Werner Jaeger, Leo Strauss, and Kurt Wolff) came to teach American college students."



"I distrust private languages and the tendency to rely on one’s personal narrative as the basis for talking about politics and, in particular, education, understood as a political good. The personal narrative is always contingent on those outside of it. What a child has to learn in school is not only to formulate a personal narrative but also to set it aside; children need to listen, to observe others, and thereby to distinguish their personal narrative from those of others as each individual constructs a role as a citizen. However, the two imperatives—personal growth and citizenship—don’t appear naturally to overlap. A child needs to learn things that allow him or her to function in a democratic context, to learn to consciously ignore personal self-interest and contemplate the public good. What a common public school ought to teach, therefore, is the capacity for disagreement, contest, and compromise. But if I think public goods are irrelevant, that we can do without government, I automatically subscribe to a kind of illusion of individualism against which criticism is hard, since the point of having a discussion or debate—the creation of the public space of a shared participatory politics—is rejected."



"The project of public education is fundamental to the notion of public goods in America. The restoration of public education seems a precondition for making the public sphere operate properly. Education must be about something more than personal happiness and benefit, economically defined; it has to map out the idea that there is more to the public good than the belief that through some free-market-style calculus of aggregate self-interests, the greatest good for the greatest number will emerge. In other words, public education is about educating the future citizen to consider a common ground in politics that can and will secure a more rewarding notion of personal security and tranquility for all.

But in the context of today’s disenchantment with the public sphere, what can a school-trained citizen do? Merely compete in the marketplace? Work for Google? What actually defines the public sphere today is not the government and Congress, but Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Conspiracy theorists when I was young pointed to the presence of socialists and communists who were said to undermine our system of values. Fear seemed reasonable in the Cold War and under the threat of nuclear war. The line between fear and paranoia was thin indeed. Fear was plausible.

But the people who frighten me and undermine the public sphere today are not terrorists and ideologues interested in overthrowing the government; they are not even those who work for the U.S. government within the NSA or the CIA. Rather, I’m afraid of the very large corporate giants that control our access to information, regulate our private lives by providing social networks—a platform for deceptive intimacy—and monitor every move we make in life and preserve a record of every message, thereby rendering secret-keeping and forgetting—two essential human experiences—impossible."



"So where does this bring us with regard to education? As a practitioner of education, I still hold to the idea that the most difficult and yet most vital thing to do is to construct and sustain a language of public conversation. And that language of public conversation will inevitably be different from our several private languages. We cannot expect it to be the same. The conversation on matters that affect us all has to take place in real space and time. School is one source of that essential opportunity.

One of the depressing aspects of our politics today is the extent to which our candidates think it is enough to be a personality and to rely on a private language in order to get elected. We are more interested in the personalities of our politicians, as if they were our neighbors or private friends, than we are in what they think. Today’s politicians cannot speak a comprehensible language of ideas in public conversation about public goods, the matters at stake in politics. We have lost the taste for a sustained debate about ideas.

To confront this lack of public discourse based on ideas—ideas bolstered by claims and evidence subject to open scrutiny—public education needs to work. It needs to create a community of very diverse citizens who are able to occupy a public space in which they can negotiate matters of shared concern, from foreign affairs to domestic policy, using a shared language. The Internet does not offer such a platform, nor does the virtual space or Facebook or any other social media.

I therefore think that we need to redouble the defense of a single system of public education to which our citizens have free access. We need to resist the privatization of schooling. That does not mean that every school should look alike. But since we will continue to be (I hope) an immigrant nation, we will have to champion a public school system if we are to reconcile increasing differences, inequalities of wealth, and class distinctions into a functioning, dynamic democracy made up of citizens.

I share the émigré generation’s quite romantic optimism for the potential of a democratic school system, one marked by excellence and equity. I think such a system is worth fighting for. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic. There is evidence that we can improve schools. A welcome first step would be to instill in the best of our current college students and future … [more]
leonbostein  democracy  publicschools  civics  citizenship  2015  individualism  collectivism  publicgood  education  society  us  privatization  government  disagreement  debate  participation  capitalism  hannaharendt  hansweil  christianmackauer  progressive  progressivism  freedom  interdependence  independence  politics  learning  johndewey  egalitarianism  americandream  equality  inequality  generalists  specialization  hierarchy  informality  formality  horizontality  standards  standardization  competition  universities  colleges  highered  highereducation  criticalthinking  accessibility  europe  history  leostrauss  kurtwolff  wernerjaeger  jacobklein  robertmaynardhutchins  stringfellowbarr  heinrichblücher  elitism  privateschools  content  process  methodology  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  purpose  sputnik  truth  canon  discourse  isolation  technology  internet  schooling  schooliness  science  wikipedia  communication  language  eliascanetti  teaching  information  research 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Ideas About Education Reform: 22 Things We Do As Educators That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years by Terry Heick
"22 Things We Do As Educators That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years
by Terry Heick

Saw a picture today from the 1970s of a mother driving her car with her newborn baby in the passenger seat (no car seat). This, of course, got me thinking about education. What do we do now that in 25 years we’ll look back on and shake our heads? What are our “doctors smoking cigarettes while giving check ups” moments? I have a feeling we’re going to look back and be really confused by quite a bit. There’s probably a lot more than this, but I had to stop somewhere.

22 Things Education Does That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years

1. We separated literacy from content.
And were confused when we couldn’t properly untangle them.

2. Meter progress by grade levels.
Right now, progress through academia is incremental, like inches on a ruler. These increments are marked by “grade levels,” which really has no meaning other than the artificial one schools have given it in the most self-justifying, circular argument ever.

3. We frowned upon crowdsourced content (e.g., Wikipedia)
Even though it has more updates and cross-checks than more traditional sources of info. It’s not perfect, but it’s the future. Err, present.

4. We gave vacations.
Why do we feel the need to provide months off at a time from learning to read, write, and think? We made school so bad that students couldn’t stand to do it without “vacations”? We cleaved it so cleanly from their daily lives that they “stopped” learning for months at a time?

5. We closed off schools from communities.
Which was the first (of many) errors. Then we let the media report on school progress under terms so artificially binary that we ended up dancing to the drum of newspaper headlines and political pressure.

6. We made it clumsy and awkward for teachers to share curriculum.
Seriously. How is there no seamless, elegant, and mobile way to do this?

7. We turned content into standards.
This makes sense until you realize that, by design, the absolute best this system will yield is students that know content.

8. We were blinded by data, research, and strategies….
..so we couldn’t see the communities, emotions, and habits that really drive learning.

9. We measured mastery once.
At the end of the year in marathon testing. And somehow this made sense? And performance on these tests gave us data that informed the very structures our schools were iterated with over time? Seriously? And we wonder why we chased our tails?

10. We spent huge sums of money on professional development.
While countless free resources floated around us in the digital ether. Silly administrators.

11. We reported progress with report cards.
Hey, I’ve tried other ways and parents get confused and downright feisty. We did a poor job helping parents understand what
grades really meant, and so they insisted on the formats they grew up with.

12. We banned early mobile technology (in this case, smartphones).
And did so for entirely non-academic reasons.

13. We shoehorned technology into dated learning models.
Like adding rockets to a tractor. Why did we not replace the tractor first?

14. We measured mastery with endless writing prompts and multiple-choice tests.
Which, while effective in spots, totally missed the brilliant students who, for whatever reason, never could shine on them.

15. We had parent conferences twice a year.
What? And still only had 15% of parents show up? And we didn’t completely freak out? We must’ve been really sleepy.

16. We ignored apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship is a powerful form of personalized learning that completely marries “content,” performance, craft, and
communities. But try having a 900 apprentices in a school. So much for that.

17. We claimed to “teach students to think for themselves.”
LOL

18. We often put 1000 or more students in the same school.
And couldn’t see how the learning could possibly become industrialized.

19. We frowned on lectures.
Even though that’s essentially what TED Talks are. Instead of making them engaging and interactive multimedia performances led by adults that love their content, we turned passionate teachers into clinical managers of systems and data.

20. We ignored social learning.
And got learning that was neither personal nor social. Curious.

21. We tacked on digital citizenship.
The definition of digital citizenship is “the quality of actions, habits, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.” This is artificial to teach outside of the way students use these tools and places on a daily basis–which makes hanging a “digital citizenship” poster or teaching a “digital citizenship” lesson insufficient.
Like literacy, it needs to be fully integrated into the learning experiences of students.

22. We turned to curriculum that was scripted and written by people thousands of miles away.
We panicked, and it was fool’s gold.

Bonus 23. We chewed teachers up and spit them out
We made teachers entirely responsible for planning, measuring, managing, and responding to both mastery and deficiency. And through peer pressure, a little brainwashing, and appealing to their pride, somehow convinced them they really were."
education  schools  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  terryheick  literacy  content  curriculum  gradelevels  agesegregation  crowdsourcing  wikipedia  community  vacations  standards  standardization  preofessionaldevelopment  money  waste  bureaucracy  technology  edtech  mobile  phones  smartphones  criticalthinking  socialemotional  civics  citizenship  digitalcitizenship  social  learning  lectures  data  bigdata  quantification  apprenticeships  testing  standardizedtesting  assessment  fail  sharing  socialemotionallearning 
march 2015 by robertogreco
I Can Text You A Pile of Poo, But I Can’t Write My Name by Aditya Mukerjee | Model View Culture
"We can’t ignore the composition of the Unicode Consortium’s members, directors, and officers -- the people who define the everyday writing systems of all languages across the globe."



"Determining which graphemes and glyphs are essential to a given ethno-linguistic group is a tough problem. Identifying all of these for all languages in widespread use is even more challenging. But one thing is clear: we cannot design an alphabet meant for everyday use by native speakers of a language without the primary input of native speakers of these languages.

Out of compatibility concerns, the Unicode Consortium is unlikely to modify the 224,024 characters that have already been defined in any future updates. It took half a century to replace the English-only ASCII with Unicode, and even that was only made possible with an encoding that explicitly maintains compatibility with ASCII, allowing English speakers to continue ignoring other languages.

But that still leaves 80% of the codepoints unused. As the Unicode Consortium decides which characters to allocate, there are a number of ways to ensure that Unicode accurately reflects the stated goal of representing “all characters in widespread use today”.

Membership in the Consortium is not free, or even cheap. Full membership and voting rights cost $18,000 (and tellingly, all prices are listed in USD only). Discounts are already provided at lower membership tiers for non-profit organizations, such as the Mormon church. These discounts could be expanded to full membership, and to for-profit groups from non-European countries where English is a minority language. The Consortium could establish an explicit hiring plan to guarantee that its staff represent the many languages that it seeks to standardize. The Consortium could adopt bylaws that ensure that technical committee members and officers are not dominated by native English speakers. There are other measures that the Consortium can and should take as well, but these three are very straightforward both to implement and to evaluate, so they make a good starting point.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has written, ‘The subaltern cannot speak’. They are structurally prohibited from having any dialogue – even an unbalanced one – with the very powers that oppress them. Access to digital tools that respect our languages is crucial to communicating in the Internet age. The power to control the written word is the ability both to amplify voices and to silence them. Anyone with this power must wield it with caution.

Whatever path we take, it’s imperative that the writing system of the 21st century be driven by the needs of the people using it. In the end, a non-native speaker – even one who is fluent in the language – cannot truly speak on behalf the monolingual, native speaker. For them, the language is simply a way of exploring a different part of their world, or of exploring familiar parts in a new way. For the native speaker, the language is not merely a novelty. It is the gateway to accessing life and society itself."
culture  language  unicode  technology  discrimination  internet  web  2015  inclusion  emoji  standards  universality  webstandards  bengali  adityamukerjee  history  gayatrichakravortyspivak  subaltern  diversity  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Science teacher: CCSS: Creative, Competent, Social Students
"You do not need to know anything about mitosis to know how to live.
You do not need to know anything about how to live to learn mitosis.

Too many of us strive to do whatever it is we must do without a thought to why we do anything the way we do it.

It's not learning that matters, it's living. Learning is an evolutionary tool shared by a lot of species better at this living thing than the current version of H. sapiens. Animals who choose to ignore the world around them do not last very long. Humans are no exception.

We have fetishized education as some sort of independent structure, institutionalizing what we think matters without thinking about what actually does matter. Why else care who graduated from where, or class ranks, or SAT scores?

Why do we let a few strangers dictate a "common core" defining what should be learned?

Here's my CCSS--we need to foster competent, creative, and social students. It's not my place (or anyone else's) to dictate a child's life path, but if we must have common standards, here are a few I think are worth sharing:

• Students should know what's edible in their area, and how to prepare it. Around here it could be wild cherries, dandelions, squirrel, deer, clams, or hundreds of other fine food sources. Not saying they need to forage like Wildman Steve Brill, but using primary sources for food ought to be at least as important as using primary sources for some term paper no one will read besides a teacher.

• Students should know the basics of their dwellings, and be able to use truly digital tools like hammers, screwdrivers, and saws to make and repair the things we need within our dwellings. Knowing how to approach a simple plumbing problem (or any mechanical problem) matters more than knowing how to "apply the Binomial Theorem."

• Students should know what they need to stay alive, what goes into them (and where it came from) and what goes out of them (and where it goes). If they don't know this, they literally don't know shit.

Our economy depends on sustaining learned helplessness; our current way of schooling does just that.

Our children need to learn to read, to write, to develop reasonable number sense, and to solve problems. They need a reasonable sense of what's real (and what's not), and a reasonable chance to live a happy and productive life.

They also need to live as the animals that they are."
michaeldoyle  2015  education  standards  living  life  helplessness  economics  commoncore  howwelive  howwelearn  schools  arneduncan  problemsolving  context  local  experientiallearning  animals  humans  bighere 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Future is Learning, But What About Schooling? | Higher Ed Beta @insidehighered
"I am, in short, moving away from my earlier conviction that schooling is learning enacted for public purposes through public institutions, and moving toward a broader vision for learning as a social activity upon which society depends for its future development. I am increasingly aware that the weight of politics and public policy upon the institutions of schooling is making schools less and less likely to be the privileged place where learning occurs in the future.

The future of learning in society is virtually unlimited, at least for the foreseeable future. Learning is the conversion of information into knowledge; information, in the digital age has become a vast sea of ones and zeros; information becomes knowledge by passing through some medium that transforms the ones and zeros into a conceptually organized form.

In the past, we have thought of this transformation as a single authoritative portal, called schooling. The advent of digital culture means that this portal is now one among many possible places, virtual and physical, where information can become knowledge. The type of knowledge and skill required to negotiate this increasingly complex world is completely different from what schools have conventionally done, and schools are institutionally disadvantaged as players in this new world, in large part because of the well-intentioned efforts of school reformers.

While learning has largely escaped the boundaries of institutionalized schooling, educational reformers have for the past thirty years or so deliberately and systematically engaged in public policy choices that make schools less and less capable of responding to the movement of learning into society at large.

Standards and expectations have become more and more literal and highly prescriptive in an age where human beings will be exercising more and more choice over what and how they will learn.

Testing and assessment practices have become more and more conventional and narrow as the range of competencies required to negotiate digital culture has become more complex and highly variegated.

Teacher preparation, hiring, induction, and evaluation practices have become more and more rigid and hierarchical in an age where the teaching function is migrating out into a more individualized and tailored set of learning environments.

We are continuing to invest massively in hard-boundary physical structures in an age where learning is moving into mobile, flexible, and networked relationships. In other words, it would be hard to imagine an institutional structure for learning that is less suited for the future than the heavily institutionalized, hierarchical world that education reformers have constructed."

[via: http://willrichardson.com/post/107596923875/oh-the-irony ]
richardelmore  2015  education  learning  howweteach  unschooling  dechooling  schooliness  edreform  netwrokedlearning  policy  standards  standardization  expectations  evaluation  hierarchy  schooling  decentralization  obsolescence  irrelevance  bureaucracy  knowledge  information  schoolreform  institutions  institutionalization  publicschools  society  scriptedlearning  testing  assessment  hiring  flexibility  mobility  experience  leadership  politics 
february 2015 by robertogreco
English 3.0 on Vimeo
"English 3.0 is a 20 minute documentary that explores how the internet has influenced the way we communicate in the digital age and whether the changes witnessed have had a positive effect on the language.

The film features interviews with renowned authors and linguistics: Tom Chatfield, David Crystal, Robert McCrum, Fiona McPherson and Simon Horobin."

[via Taryn, who notes:
"2:55 every time a new technology arrives it expands the expressive richness of the language
19:30 to try and turn language into something static and makes you happy and preserves the things you care about is understandable but this is futile and of course it means people won't listen to you"]
language  english  technology  communication  mobile  phones  internet  web  online  tomchatfield  davidcrystal  robertmccrum  fionamcpherson  simonhorobin  vocabulary  lexicography  via:Taryn  howwewrite  writing  digital  spelling  spellcheckers  change  neologisms  invention  standards  conventions 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Future of Big-Box Schooling
"The fundamental flaw which is structurally embedded in our education system is the fallacy of social engineering – the false belief that it is possible to institute a top-down, mechanical structure, impose it on a complex living system, and expect predictable results. The entire superstructure of goals, objectives, state standards, curricula, and tests is fundamentally built on the assumption that learning is a mechanical process, in which the proper ingredients can be fed into the pipeline and the proper product will emerge at the other end. (Of course, the fact that this persistently does not happen, John Taylor Gatto argues, is no accident, but reflects the fact that it is not actually in the interests of the existing power structure to have a large population capable of exercising independent critical intelligence.)"



"Every culture is different, and as anthropologist Meredith Small points out, every culture makes trade-offs: it would be romantic to assume that there is some perfect balance to be found. But because a traditional culture embodies learning which takes place over many generations, in which thousands of years of observation and trial-and-error allow for a multi-generational wisdom about human nature to evolve, it is possible that nuanced and workable ways of relating to children may exist in traditional cultures from which modern societies can learn and benefit.

Aspects of learning in many (not all) traditional cultures include:

• Immersing young people in adult activity rather than segregating them by age.
• Immersing children in multi-age groups where they can learn from older children.
• Immersing young people in nature rather than confining them indoors for most of the day.
• A blurring of the boundaries between work and play.
• Allowing for physical movement and engagement with new tasks or knowledge rather than requiring a sedentary existence as the condition for learning.
• Allowing the time for freedom, experimentation, choice, fluidity, play.
• Learning through deeper personal relationships, mentorships, apprenticeships, rather than from teachers who are not known on a personal level.
• Control over the timing, form and content of learning which resides in the child and/or in adults who know the child as an individual, rather than control being located in distant “experts” and one-size-fits-all “standards.”
• Allowing for extended transformative experiences in which young people make independent choices to discover their unique gifts, rather than step-by-step controlled sequences which attempt to dictate the process as well as the outcome of learning.

These strategies can work for learning to identify medicinal plants in a rainforest, for learning to anticipate and respond to the moods and movements of wild caribou, for learning to build a sustainable house out of mud brick, and they can work for learning how to design software applications or conduct a biological field study or write an elegant and compelling essay.

So if modernized societies are beginning to discuss moving from 20th century “big-box” schooling to a more 21st century networked model of learning, one possibility is that we may see a convergence of learning styles between ancient and modern cultures. As Sugata Mitra has discovered, unlettered street children can teach themselves how to use computers when given free access to the technology. So does it make sense to remove indigenous children from their traditional cultures and put them into outdated factory-style schools? Or should traditional people consider skipping that step, and deciding for themselves how they may want to use, ignore, adapt, blend, or hybridize new technologies and information in an open-network self-regulating manner?

When a new form of knowledge is truly vital and desired by a population, and access to the necessary resources is available, there is no question of needing to make education compulsory — you couldn’t stop the spread of knowledge if you tried. Look at how computer technology and expertise spread through the developed world. Personal computers were not invented by people in schools, and the vast majority of the population did not learn how to use them in schools. It was an open-access / open-source process – an organically expanding, networking, self-correcting, self-regulating and incredibly effective process – just like the early spread of literacy in many parts of Europe before the institution of widespread schooling.

Whether this is always good, of course, is another question. New technologies always change our lives, and not always for the better. Television has burned a wide swath through many cultures, including our own, leaving obesity, isolation, and advertising-driven insecurity and depression in its wake. I’m uneasy about the aggressive marketing of cell phones and technology to remote areas like Ladakh: once people from a sustainable culture suddenly require cash to feed a technology habit, many negative consequences ensue. But ultimately, it’s still better to be in control of what you adopt and what you choose not to adopt –– to be able to take what you need and leave the rest, absorb new things at a rate of your own choosing, than to be forced into an obsolete model of schooling just as the developed world begins to seriously discuss moving beyond it."
carolblack  ellwoodcubberly  johntaylorgatto  kenrobinson  meredithsmall  culture  knowledge  diversity  local  education  learning  children  parenting  sugatamitra  society  indigeneity  indigenous  howweteach  howwelearn  pedagogy  unschooling  deschooling  colonization  standardization  standardizedtesting  standards  relationships  mentoring  apprenticeships  internships  agesegregation  work  play  control  authority  hierarchy  colonialism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Seven ways schools kill the love of reading in kids — and 4 principles to help restore it - The Washington Post
"1. Quantify their reading assignments. …

2. Make them write reports. …

3. Isolate them. …

4. Focus on skills. …

5. Offer them incentives. …

6. Prepare them for tests. …

7. Restrict their choices. …

***

At this point, I’ll abandon the somewhat labored conceit of showing you how to kill interest and instead try to suggest, in more straightforward fashion, some ways to think about how students can play a more active role in their own learning. My assumption is that if you’ve read this far, you’d probably like to support their desire to learn and read.

First, then, a few general principles:

1. Supporting their autonomy isn’t just about having them pick this over that. …

2. Autonomy can be supported — and choices can be made – collectively. …

3. It’s not all or nothing. Teachers who favor a traditional approach to teaching sometimes offer a caricature of an autonomy-supportive classroom – one devoid of intellectual challenge where kids do whatever they feel like – in order to rationalize rejecting this model. But autonomy support not only doesn’t exclude structure, as Keith Grove reminds us; it also doesn’t rule out active teacher involvement. That involvement can be direct, such as when teacher and students negotiate a mutually acceptable due date for an essay. (Instead of “You folks choose,” it may be “Let’s figure this out together.”) Or the involvement can be indirect, with the teacher setting up broad themes for the course and students making decisions within those parameters. But that doesn’t mean we should be prepared to share power with students only about relatively minor issues. It may make sense to start with that and then challenge ourselves to involve them in thinking about bigger questions as you (and they) become more comfortable with a democratic classroom.

4. “See above.” The half-dozen suggestions for killing interest in reading in the first part of this essay don’t become irrelevant just because students are given more authority to direct their learning, individually and collectively. For example, rewards are still counterproductive even if kids get to choose what goodie they’ll get. And there’s reason to worry if a language arts course is focused mostly on narrowly defined facts and skills even if students are permitted to make decisions about the details. (As one of Bianca’s suitors observes in The Taming of the Shrew, “There’s small choice in rotten apples.”) Even autonomy support in its richest sense works best in the context of a course that’s pedagogically valuable in other ways – and avoids various familiar but counterproductive practices.

***

Finally, here are a few specific suggestions for bringing students in on making decisions, offered here in the hope that they will spark you to think of others in the same spirit:

* Let students sample a work of literature, then generate their own questions and discussion topics – for themselves and one another.

* Before having students help each other to revise their writing, invite them to brainstorm possible questions they might ask about its construction and its impact on the reader (rather than having them simply apply your editing guidelines or, worse, evaluating the writing against a prefabricated rubric[13]).

* Have students think together about ideas for the papers they’ll write, then follow up once the writing is underway by inviting each student to ask the group for suggestions. Encourage discussion about the rationale for, and usefulness of, each idea that emerges in order to promote reflection that may well benefit everyone.

* When you’re planning to respond to their journals or other writings, begin by asking students – individually and as a class – what kinds of responses would be most helpful to them. (Wouldn’t you prefer that administrators proceed that way when offering feedback on your teaching?)

* Let students choose the audience for whom they’re writing, as well as the genre in which they respond to something they’ve read (e.g., play, op-ed, speech).

* Check in periodically with students during class meetings about how the course is going for them, whether the decision-making process seems to be working, whether the climate is conducive to learning. Ask what might make discussions and assignments more productive and satisfying – but only if you’re really open to making changes based on what they tell you.

* Bring students in on the process of assessment by asking them to join you in thinking about alternatives to conventional tests. “How can you show me what you understood, where you still need help, and what I may need to rethink about how I taught the unit?” Beyond the format of the assessment, invite them as a class to suggest criteria by which someone’s work might be evaluated – and, later, have them apply those criteria to what they’ve done.

* Remember that group decision making doesn’t require voting, which is basically just adversarial majoritarianism. Help them to acquire the skills and disposition to reach for a deeper kind of democracy, one in which compromises are generated and consensus is reached."
alfiekohn  2014  reading  incentives  motivation  children  howwelearn  learning  choice  freedom  testing  standards  standardization  autonomy  teaching  howweteach  control 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Standardizing Human Ability | DMLcentral
"Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s try to imagine a society (there were lots of them before modernity) where there is no interest in measuring educational success. Let’s imagine a society where the only goal of teaching (it’s a high bar) is to help every child master what they need in order to lead the most fulfilling life they are capable of leading—productive, creative, responsible, contributing to their own well-being and that of their society. No grades. No tests. Just an educational system based on helping each child to find her or his potential for leading the best (Socrates would call it “happiest”) life possible. In such a world, do learning disabilities exist?"



"Here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of the changes in U.S. education, from kindergarten to professional school, either invented or finalized in the Taylorist era (the same era that produced the assembly line, statistics, standard deviation, spreadsheets, blueprints, punch clocks):  mandatory public secondary schooling, research universities, majors, minors, divisions, certification, graduate school, collegiate law school, nursing school, graduate school of education, collegiate business school, degree requirements, grades, required courses, electives, distribution requirements, IQ tests, multiple choice tests, item response college entrance exams (SAT), school rankings, class rankings. And learning disabilities.

There are some great things in that list. My point in this open-ended meditation, though, is that these are invented things.  Like all inventions, they are historically situated, created for a specific time and place, to solve problems of an era and address the possibilities afforded by the society, institutions, wealth, ambitions, and technologies of that time and place.  Like statistics and the assembly line, the system of education we have inherited is not “timeless.”  It is an industrial age invention.  So is the practice of ranking students from best to worst (“one best way”), using standardized forms of testing (extending Galton’s questionnaire form to the one-best-answer or item-response test).

We invented these standardized, regulatory, categorizing, statistical, practices for determining educational success or failure for the Fordist era of the assembly line. We can invent better ones for our own era."
cathdavidson  2014  taylorism  assessment  standardization  ability  accessibilities  ableism  testing  standardizedtesting  standards  success  disability  rankings  highered  highereducation  education  learning  teaching  howweteach  schools  schooliness  schooling  certification  disabilities 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Rox and Roll: Parents: let Harvard go
"I want to tell every parent reading this post that you need to assume, right now, that your child is not getting into Harvard no matter what he or she does. (And no, he's not getting into Stanford either, or Yale, or Dartmouth, or MIT. Probably not UC Berkeley either. No, I'm not kidding.) Your kid isn't getting into the college you think he is.

What? So-and-so's child is at Princeton right now? and got what on his SATs? and did those activities? Hmmm. Interesting. Sure, you can prove me wrong with some examples. And I can prove myself right with a hundred more. Stanford's rate of admission was below 5% last year. Do the math.

In the spirit of "I want to do something," I offer below some Q & A that I hope y'all read and take to heart. These are real questions asked by real parents of real kids I know within the past year. I didn't answer these questions at the time exactly like I did below, but I answer them here and now based on a combination of my expertise in admissions (noting that nothing I say here should be construed as official advice or information given on behalf of any school) as well as my experience as a community leader and parent.

And be forewarned: I'm going to be a bit of a wise-ass, 'cause we all need to calm down like Martha says, which also means "lighten up" in my book.

But also, I promise a reward at the end: questions that I wish people would ask me instead. And I think -- I hope -- it's some valuable stuff."



"Post-publication note: This posts seems to have reached a lot of people who have a lot of strong reactions to it. I think the comment that reached me most on another person's Facebook page is one from a parent who thinks I am encouraging mediocrity. The snarky part of me wants to tell the dude he's right, that I tell my kids "aim low." But the truth is, this post is far from encouraging mediocrity or "settling" for anything less than a child can feel good about achieving. As a Palo Alto parent, I am tired of our culture of 'achievement' as defined by grades, scores, college admissions, and the like. And I am unapologetic about that. I have worked with our community's teens as a coach, as a youth minister, as a mentor, and as a parent, and I encourage every kid to be their best self. That means being proud of their work, whether in the classroom, on the playing field, and/or in the world. Do I think they need to engage in competition for one of those 15 slots at Stanford (there is no fixed number, and I wouldn't know it if there were) by trying to outwit, outplay, and outlast (to borrow "Survivor" lingo)? Nope. And beyond that, there are going to be times when our kids just don't want to work hard because they're kids and continue to push boundaries. They're going to blow off studying for a test. They're going to fail something. Good. That's right -- I said good. Their mistakes teach them that actions have consequences and that their effort ties to their outcomes. We can't give them that with carrots or with sticks. They'll figure it out. They want to do well -- as they define it. (They know what's up with college admissions without us even getting involved, parents.) And the more they figure out for themselves, with no message from us other than "we take you as you are and want you to be healthy and fulfilled," the healthier our kids are going to be. I want nothing but the best for our village's kids -- for any kids-- and I stuck my neck out there with the post because I refuse to define the "best" as it has been anymore. The best for our kids is no more of them self-harming in any way, and I feel like we can alleviate some of that by changing our tone."
colleges  universityis  admissions  parenting  2014  via:willrichardson  stress  pressure  anxiety  aps  ivyleague  motivation  harvard  collegeadmissions  testing  standardizedtesting  success  achievement  mediocrity  grades  grading  standards  sleep  teens  adolescence  highschool  schools  education  competition  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  apclasses 
november 2014 by robertogreco
All Technology is Assistive — Backchannel — Medium
"You might imagine that “disability studies” is just one more category of identity research that’s been created primarily for political advocacy, interesting only to those directly affected by issues of accessibility, accommodation, or special rights. But “disabled-ness” is another matter altogether. There are at least two big reasons why disability concerns are everyone’s concerns.

First, it’s a false divide to make a we/them: either able-minded, able-bodied, or disabled. After all, how cultures define, think about, and treat those who currently have marked disabilities is how all its future citizens may well be perceived if and when those who are able-bodied become less abled than they are now: by age, degeneration, or some sudden — or gradual — change in physical or mental capacities. All people, over the course of their lives, traffic between times of relative independence and dependence. So the questions cultures ask, the technologies they invent, and how those technologies broadcast a message about their users — weakness and strength, agency and passivity — are critical ones. And they’re not just questions for scientists and policy-makers; they’re aesthetic questions too.

Second, in many cultures — and certainly in the US — a pervasive, near-obsession with averages and statistical norms about bodies and capacities has become a naturalized form of describing both individuals and populations. But this way of measuring people and populations is historically very recent, and worth reconsidering."



"Well — it’s worth saying again: All technology is assistive technology. Honestly — what technology are you using that’s not assistive? Your smartphone? Your eyeglasses? Headphones? And those three examples alone are assisting you in multiple registers: They’re enabling or augmenting a sensory experience, say, or providing navigational information. But they’re also allowing you to decide whether to be available for approach in public, or not; to check out or in on a conversation or meeting in a bunch of subtle ways; to identify, by your choice of brand or look, with one culture group and not another.

Making a persistent, overt distinction about “assistive tech” embodies the second-tier do-gooderism and banality that still dominate design work targeted toward “special needs.” “Assistive technology” implies a separate species of tools designed exclusively for those people with a rather narrow set of diagnostic “impairments” — impairments, in other words, that have been culturally designated as needing special attention, as being particularly, grossly abnormal. But are you sure your phone isn’t a crutch, as it were, for a whole lot of unexamined needs?"



"In the name of good friction, then, I want to suggest some possible dispositions for designers and artists taking a look at ability and disability.

1. Invisibility is overrated.



2. Rethink the default bodily experience.



3. Consider fine gradations of qualitative change.



4. Uncouple medical technologies from their diagnostic contexts.



5. Design for one.



6. And this is perhaps the most important: Let the tools you make ask questions, not just solve problems."

[Previous versions/references here:
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:7cf533b38f8e
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:cf3e53f397e3 (now gone) ]

[See also this exchange: https://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/523744699983478784 ]
sarahendren  2014  technology  assistivetechnology  disability  ablerism  activism  design  audiencesofone  tolls  askingquestions  canon  experience  bodies  humans  norms  standards  standardization  individualization  personalization  bellcurve  normalcy  normalness  lennarddavis  ideal  dependence  independence  questionasking  disabilities  body 
october 2014 by robertogreco
CURMUDGUCATION: Students Travel in Packs
"We don't talk about this much, but one more problem with the reformster agenda is that it takes each student as an isolated unit, a human being with no context. The picture of "individualized" education often portrayed by folks like Knewton (the mad number crunching scientists at Pearson) is that we feed Pat into the Giant Data Bank and the GDB spits out Chris a student that the magic formulas claim is just like Pat. "Here's how Chris learned this stuff," says the magical computer. "Just teach Pat the same way."

This is an odd approach for many reasons, but one of the oddest reasons is that it assumes that Pat and Chris are discrete isolated student units with no real context or social setting.

In reformsterland, people are disconnected and no relationships exist. Teachers and students interact in a Strictly Business manner-- teachers deliver instruction and students respond to it by becoming capable enough to score well on standardized tests. But at least teachers and students interact in some manner; in reformsterland, students do not interact with other students at all. The relationships they form, the culture that they create in their schools-- none of this actually exists. In reformsterland, students travel in isolated bubbles, unaffected by any of the other bubbles around them.

It's ironic, because in reformsterland every one of those bubbles contains an identical data generation unit (formerly known as human children). One size fits them all, and I suppose it doesn't matter which one of the other bubbles is their "friend" because they're all interchangeable, and relationships don't affect anything anyway.

It's just one more way in which reformsterland does not resemble the real world. Because in the real world, students travel in packs, and the packs are interesting and vibrant and affecting because every person brings something unique to the table. And the possible combinations of all these humans are infinite in number, staggering in complexity, and endless in influence, whether reformsters want to recognize their existence or not."
education  policy  edreform  onesixefitsall  standardization  school  instruction  standards  individualization  relationships  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  teaching  business  standardizedtests  data  petergreene  2014 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Request for Comments | Gardner Writes
"As Naughton tells the story, the young graduate students who were at the center of the Network Working Group found themselves with the future of the Internet in their hands. The big corporate brains knew about the machines that made up the network, but they didn’t know much about the network itself–it was too new, and it was an emergent phenomenon, not a thing they had built. The grad students in the NWG felt they were at great risk of offending the honchos, of overstepping their bounds as “vulnerable, insecure apprentices,” to use Naughton’s words. Crocker was especially worried they “would offend whomever the official protocol designers were….” But the work had to go forward. So Crocker invented the “Request for Comments,” what he called “humble words for our notes” that would document the discussions that would build the network.

Here’s how Crocker himself put it in this excerpt from RFC-3, “Documentation Conventions”:
Documentation of the NWG’s effort is through notes such as this. Notes may be produced at any site by anybody and included in this series…. [Content] may be any thought, suggestion, etc. related to the HOST software or other aspect of the network. Notes are encouraged to be timely rather than polished. Philosophical positions without examples or other specifics, specific suggestions or implementation techniques without introductory or background explication, and explicit questions without any attempted answers are all acceptable. The minimum length for a NWG note is one sentence.

These standards (or lack of them) are stated explicitly for two reasons. First, there is a tendency to view a written statement as ipso facto authoritative, and we hope to promote the exchange and discussion of considerably less than authoritative ideas. Second, there is a natural hesitancy to publish something unpolished, and we hope to ease this inhibition.

You can see the similarity to blogging right away. At least two primary Network Working Groups are involved: that of all the other people in the world (let’s call that civilization), and that of the network that constitutes one’s own cognition and the resulting “strange loop,” to use Douglas Hofstadter’s language. We are all of us in this macrocosm and this microcosm. Most of us will have multiple networks within these mirroring extremes, but the same principles will of course apply there as well. What is the ethos of the Network Working Group we call civilization? And for those of us engaged in the specific cognitive interventions we call education, what is the ethos of the Network Working Group we help out students to build and grow within themselves as learners? We discussed Ivan Illich in the Virginia Tech New Media Faculty-Staff Development Seminar today, and I was forcibly reminded that the NWG within sets the boundaries (and hopes) we have with which to craft our NWG without. School conditions what we expect in and from civilization.

I hope it’s also clear that these RFC-3 documentation conventions specify a praxis of intellectual discourse–indeed, I’d even say scholarly communication–that is sadly absent from most academic work today.

Would such communciation be rigorous? Academic? Worthy of tenure and promotion? What did these RFCs accomplish, and how do they figure in the human record? Naughton observes that this “Request for Comments” idea–and the title itself, now with many numerals following–has persisted as “the way the Internet discusses technical issues.” Naughton goes on to write that “it wasn’t just the title that endured … but the intelligent, friendly, co-operative, consensual attitude implied by it. With his modest, placatory style, Steve Crocker set the tone for the way the Net developed.” Naughton then quotes Katie Hafner’s and Matthew Lyon’s judgment that “the language of the RFC … was warm and welcoming. The idea was to promote cooperation, not ego.”

Naughton concludes,
The RFC archives contain an extraordinary record of thought in action, a riveting chronicle of the application of high intelligence to hard problems….

Why would we not want to produce such a record within the academy and share it with the public? Or are we content with the ordinary, forgotten, and non-riveting so long as the business model holds up?

Or have we been schooled so thoroughly that the very ambition makes no sense?

More Naughton:
The fundamental ethos of the Net was laid down in the deliberations of the Network Working Group. It was an ethos which assumed that nothing was secret, that problems existed to be solved collaboratively, that solutions emerged iteratively, and that everything which was produced should be in the public domain.

I think of the many faculty and department meetings I have been to. Some of them I have myself convened. The ethos of those Network Working Groups has varied considerably. I am disappointed to say that none of them has lived up to the fundamental ethos Naughton identifies above. I yearn for documentation conventions that will produce an extraordinary record of thought in action, with the production shared by all who work within a community of learning. And I wonder if I’m capable of Crocker’s humility or wisdom, and answerable to his invitation. I want to be."
gardnercampbell  internet  web  online  commenting  johnnaughton  2011  arpanet  stevecrocker  via:steelemaley  networks  networkworkinggroups  ivanillich  standards  content  shiftytext  networkedculture  networkedlearning  blogs  blogging  inhibition  unfinished  incomplete  cicilization  douglashofstadter  praxis  cooperation  tcsnmy  sharing  schooling  unschooling  academia  highered  highereducation  authority  humility  wisdom  collegiality  katiehafner  matthewlyon  rfc-3  rfc 
september 2014 by robertogreco
A Thousand Rivers: What the modern world has forgotten about children and learning.
[also here: http://carolblack.org/a-thousand-rivers/ ]

"The following statement somehow showed up on my Twitter feed the other day:
“Spontaneous reading happens for a few kids. The vast majority need (and all can benefit from) explicit instruction in phonics.”

This 127-character edict issued, as it turned out, from a young woman who is the “author of the forthcoming book Brilliant: The Science of How We Get Smarter” and a “journalist, consultant and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better.”

It got under my skin, and not just because I personally had proven in the first grade that it is possible to be bad at phonics even if you already know how to read. It was her tone; that tone of sublime assurance on the point, which, further tweets revealed, is derived from “research” and “data” which demonstrate it to be true.

Many such “scientific” pronouncements have emanated from the educational establishment over the last hundred years or so.  The fact that the proven truths of each generation are discovered by the next to be harmful folly never discourages the current crop of experts who are keen to impose their freshly-minted certainties on children. Their tone of cool authority carries a clear message to the rest of us: “We know how children learn.  You don’t.

So they explain it to us.

The “scientific consensus” about phonics, generated by a panel convened by the Bush administration and used to justify billions of dollars in government contracts awarded to Bush supporters in the textbook and testing industries, has been widely accepted as fact through the years of “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top,” so if history is any guide, its days are numbered. Any day now there will be new research which proves that direct phonics instruction to very young children is harmful, that it bewilders and dismays them and makes them hate reading (we all know that’s often true, so science may well discover it) — and millions of new textbooks, tests, and teacher guides will have to be purchased at taxpayer expense from the Bushes’ old friends at McGraw-Hill.

The problems with this process are many, but the one that I’d like to highlight is this: the available “data” that drives it is not, as a matter of fact, the “science of how people learn.” It is the “science of what happens to people in schools.”

This is when it occurred to me: people today do not even know what children are actually like. They only know what children are like in schools.

Schools as we know them have existed for a very short time historically: they are in themselves a vast social experiment. A lot of data are in at this point. One in four Americans does not know the earth revolves around the sun. Half of Americans don’t know that antibiotics can’t cure a virus. 45% of American high school graduates don’t know that the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. These aren’t things that are difficult to know. If the hypothesis is that universal compulsory schooling is the best way to to create an informed and critically literate citizenry, then anyone looking at the data with a clear eye would have to concede that the results are, at best, mixed. At worst, they are catastrophic: a few strains of superbacteria may be about to prove that point for us.

On the other hand, virtually all white American settlers in the northeastern colonies at the time of the American Revolution could read, not because they had all been to school, and certainly not because they had all been tutored in phonics, which didn’t exist at the time. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, not exactly light reading, sold over 500,000 copies in its first year of publication, the equivalent of a book selling sixty million copies today. People learned to read in a variety of ways, some from small one-room schools, but many from their mothers, from tutors, traveling ministers, apprentice’s masters, relatives, neighbors, friends. They could read because, in a literate population, it is really not that difficult to transmit literacy from one person to the next. When people really want a skill, it goes viral. You couldn’t stop it if you tried.

In other words, they could read for all the same reasons that we can now use computers. We don’t know how to use computers because we learned it in school, but because we wanted to learn it and we were free to learn it in whatever way worked best for us. It is the saddest of ironies that many people now see the fluidity and effectiveness of this process as a characteristic of computers, rather than what it is, which is a characteristic of human beings.

In the modern world, unless you learn to read by age 4, you are no longer free to learn in this way. Now your learning process will be scientifically planned, controlled, monitored and measured by highly trained “experts” operating according to the best available “data.” If your learning style doesn’t fit this year’s theory, you will be humiliated, remediated, scrutinized, stigmatized, tested, and ultimately diagnosed and labelled as having a mild defect in your brain.

How did you learn to use a computer? Did a friend help you? Did you read the manual? Did you just sit down and start playing around with it? Did you do a little bit of all of those things? Do you even remember? You just learned it, right?”



"City kids who grow up among cartoon mice who talk and fish who sing show tunes are so delayed in their grasp of real living systems that Henrich et al. suggest that studying the cognitive development of biological reasoning in urban children may be “the equivalent of studying “normal” physical growth in malnourished children.” But in schools, rural Native children are tested and all too often found to be less intelligent and more learning “disabled” than urban white children, a deeply disturbing phenomenon which turns up among traditional rural people all over the world."



"Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species. It’s no accident that indigenous holistic thinkers are the ones who have been consistently reminding us of our appropriate place in the ecological systems of life as our narrowly-focused technocratic society veers wildly between conservation and wholesale devastation of the planet. It’s no accident that dyslexic holistic thinkers are often our artists, our inventors, our dreamers, our rebels. "



"Right now American phonics advocates are claiming that they “know” how children learn to read and how best to teach them. They know nothing of the kind. A key value in serious scientific inquiry is also a key value in every indigenous culture around the world: humility. We are learning."



"“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top,” a great artist once said. Science is a tool of breathtaking power and beauty, but it is not a good parent; it must be balanced by something broader, deeper, older. Like wind and weather, like ecosystems and microorganisms, like snow crystals and evolution, human learning remains untamed, unpredictable, a blossoming fractal movement so complex and so mysterious that none of us can measure or control it. But we are part of that fractal movement, and the ability to help our offspring learn and grow is in our DNA. We can begin rediscovering it now. Experiment. Observe. Listen. Explore the thousand other ways of learning that still exist all over the planet. Read the data and then set it aside. Watch your child’s eyes, what makes them go dull and dead, what makes them brighten, quicken, glow with light. That is where learning lies."
carolblack  2014  education  learning  certainty  experts  science  research  data  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  compulsoryschooling  history  literacy  canon  parenting  experimentation  listening  observation  noticing  indigeneity  howwelearn  howweteach  wisdom  intuition  difference  diversity  iainmcgilchrist  truth  idleness  dyslexia  learningdifferences  rosscooper  neurodiveristy  finland  policy  standards  standardization  adhd  resistance  reading  howweread  sugatamitra  philiplieberman  maori  aboriginal  society  cv  creativity  independence  institutionalization  us  josephhenrich  stevenjheine  aranorenzayan  weird  compulsory  māori  colonization  colonialism 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 198, Marilynne Robinson
"ROBINSON
I don’t like categories like religious and not religious. As soon as religion draws a line around itself it becomes falsified. It seems to me that anything that is written compassionately and perceptively probably satisfies every definition of religious whether a writer intends it to be religious or not."



"INTERVIEWER
Ames says that in our everyday world there is “more beauty than our eyes can bear.” He’s living in America in the late 1950s. Would he say that today?

ROBINSON
You have to have a certain detachment in order to see beauty for yourself rather than something that has been put in quotation marks to be understood as “beauty.” Think about Dutch painting, where sunlight is falling on a basin of water and a woman is standing there in the clothes that she would wear when she wakes up in the morning—that beauty is a casual glimpse of something very ordinary. Or a painting like Rembrandt’s Carcass of Beef, where a simple piece of meat caught his eye because there was something mysterious about it. You also get that in Edward Hopper: Look at the sunlight! or Look at the human being! These are instances of genius. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it.

At the same time, there has always been a basic human tendency toward a dubious notion of beauty. Think about cultures that rarify themselves into courts in which people paint themselves with lead paint and get dumber by the day, or women have ribs removed to have their waists cinched tighter. There’s no question that we have our versions of that now. The most destructive thing we can do is act as though this is some sign of cultural, spiritual decay rather than humans just acting human, which is what we’re doing most of the time.

INTERVIEWER
Ames believes that one of the benefits of religion is “it helps you concentrate. It gives you a good basic sense of what is being asked of you and also what you might as well ignore.” Is this something that your faith and religious practice has done for you?

ROBINSON
Religion is a framing mechanism. It is a language of orientation that presents itself as a series of questions. It talks about the arc of life and the quality of experience in ways that I’ve found fruitful to think about. Religion has been profoundly effective in enlarging human imagination and expression. It’s only very recently that you couldn’t see how the high arts are intimately connected to religion.

INTERVIEWER
Is this frame of religion something we’ve lost?

ROBINSON
There was a time when people felt as if structure in most forms were a constraint and they attacked it, which in a culture is like an autoimmune problem: the organism is not allowing itself the conditions of its own existence. We’re cultural creatures and meaning doesn’t simply generate itself out of thin air; it’s sustained by a cultural framework. It’s like deciding how much more interesting it would be if you had no skeleton: you could just slide under the door.

INTERVIEWER
How does science fit into this framework?

ROBINSON
I read as much as I can of contemporary cosmology because reality itself is profoundly mysterious. Quantum theory and classical physics, for instance, are both lovely within their own limits and yet at present they cannot be reconciled with each other. If different systems don’t merge in a comprehensible way, that’s a flaw in our comprehension and not a flaw in one system or the other.

INTERVIEWER
Are religion and science simply two systems that don’t merge?

ROBINSON
The debate seems to be between a naive understanding of religion and a naive understanding of science. When people try to debunk religion, it seems to me they are referring to an eighteenth-century notion of what science is. I’m talking about Richard Dawkins here, who has a status that I can’t quite understand. He acts as if the physical world that is manifest to us describes reality exhaustively. On the other side, many of the people who articulate and form religious expression have not acted in good faith. The us-versus-them mentality is a terrible corruption of the whole culture.

INTERVIEWER
You’ve written critically about Dawkins and the other New Atheists. Is it their disdain for religion and championing of pure science that troubles you?

ROBINSON
No, I read as much pure science as I can take in. It’s a fact that their thinking does not feel scientific. The whole excitement of science is that it’s always pushing toward the discovery of something that it cannot account for or did not anticipate. The New Atheist types, like Dawkins, act as if science had revealed the world as a closed system. That simply is not what contemporary science is about. A lot of scientists are atheists, but they don’t talk about reality in the same way that Dawkins does. And they would not assume that there is a simple-as-that kind of response to everything in question. Certainly not on the grounds of anything that science has discovered in the last hundred years.

The science that I prefer tends toward cosmology, theories of quantum reality, things that are finer-textured than classical physics in terms of their powers of description. Science is amazing. On a mote of celestial dust, we have figured out how to look to the edge of our universe. I feel instructed by everything I have read. Science has a lot of the satisfactions for me that good theology has.

INTERVIEWER
But doesn’t science address an objective notion of reality while religion addresses how we conceive of ourselves?

ROBINSON
As an achievement, science is itself a spectacular argument for the singularity of human beings among all things that exist. It has a prestige that comes with unambiguous changes in people’s experience—space travel, immunizations. It has an authority that’s based on its demonstrable power. But in discussions of human beings it tends to compare downwards: we’re intelligent because hyenas are intelligent and we just took a few more leaps.

The first obligation of religion is to maintain the sense of the value of human beings. If you had to summarize the Old Testament, the summary would be: stop doing this to yourselves. But it is not in our nature to stop harming ourselves. We don’t behave consistently with our own dignity or with the dignity of other people. The Bible reiterates this endlessly.

INTERVIEWER
Did you ever have a religious awakening?

ROBINSON
No, a mystical experience would be wasted on me. Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision.

INTERVIEWER
How would one learn to see ordinary things this way?

ROBINSON
It’s not an acquired skill. It’s a skill that we’re born with that we lose. We learn not to do it."



"INTERVIEWER
Does your faith ever conflict with your “regular life”?

ROBINSON
When I’m teaching, sometimes issues come up. I might read a scene in a student’s story that seems—by my standards—pornographic. I don’t believe in exploiting or treating with disrespect even an imagined person. But at the same time, I realize that I can’t universalize my standards. In instances like that, I feel I have to hold my religious reaction at bay. It is important to let people live out their experience of the world without censorious interference, except in very extreme cases."



"INTERVIEWER
Most people know you as a novelist, but you spend a lot of your time writing nonfiction. What led you to start writing essays?

ROBINSON
To change my own mind. I try to create a new vocabulary or terrain for myself, so that I open out—I always think of the Dutch claiming land from the sea—or open up something that would have been closed to me before. That’s the point and the pleasure of it. I continuously scrutinize my own thinking. I write something and think, How do I know that that’s true? If I wrote what I thought I knew from the outset, then I wouldn’t be learning anything new.

In this culture, essays are often written for the sake of writing the essay. Someone finds a quibble of potential interest and quibbles about it. This doesn’t mean the writer isn’t capable of doing something of greater interest, but we generate a lot of prose that’s not vital. The best essays come from the moment in which people really need to work something out."



"ROBINSON
People are frightened of themselves. It’s like Freud saying that the best thing is to have no sensation at all, as if we’re supposed to live painlessly and unconsciously in the world. I have a much different view. The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege."



"ROBINSON
Faith always sounds like an act of will. Frankly, I don’t know what faith in God means. For me, the experience is much more a sense of God. Nothing could be more miraculous than the fact that we have a consciousness that makes the world intelligible to us and are moved by what is beautiful."
marilynnerobinson  religion  sarahfay  2008  science  structure  atheism  belief  christianity  richarddawkins  newatheists  ordinary  everyday  perception  vision  seeing  noticing  observing  dignity  grace  faith  standards  mindchanging  openmindedness  thinking  writing  howwewrite  humanism  interviews  beauty  ordinariness  mindchanges 
august 2014 by robertogreco
“No Excuses” in New Orleans | Jacobin
[via: http://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hack-education-weekly-newsletter-no-70]

[part 2 here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/07/the-charter-school-profiteers/ ]

"Extensive observational research one of us conducted (Sondel) in two of these “No Excuses” schools (an elementary KIPP school and a locally based middle school modeled after KIPP) provides evidence that assessment data is no longer the proxy for educational quality but has in fact become the purpose of schooling itself.

At both schools, as is the case in many “No Excuses” charters in New Orleans, the principals were white males, under the age of thirty, and TFA alumni. TFA corps members and alumni also constituted five of the six collective administrators and over 60 percent of the instructional staff.

With few exceptions, the curriculum was characterized by a narrow interpretation of state standards at the expense of all other material. Students rarely learned local history or current events. Instead, science and social studies were relegated to ancillary classes in the elementary school and reduced to the accumulation of vocabulary and lists of facts at the middle school. Teachers stopped introducing new material a month prior to state assessments in order to begin review.

This curriculum was delivered almost exclusively through direct instruction — what TFA corps members refer to as the “five step lesson plan,” and educator and philosopher Paulo Freire calls “banking education,” wherein students are treated as passive and empty receptacles into which information can be deposited. In nearly every lesson Sondel observed, teachers stood in front of students to introduce new content or an isolated skill, after which students were asked to parrot, practice, and then perform their newly acquired knowledge on worksheets and multiple-choice assessments. There were no student debates, projects, or science experiments.

In a literacy lesson, for example, a teacher started by reviewing the definitions of figurative language. The teacher then projected on the Smartboard sentence after sentence, poem after poem, and, finally, a short story while students raised their hands and waited to be called on to identify idioms, similes, and personification.

After this series of questions and answers, the students sat silently at their desks, read four short passages, and identified figurative language on multiple-choice questions. The students were not asked to read the poem, analyze the story, or discuss the purpose of metaphors. After the lesson, upon being asked if students practice this skill in their independent reading or writing activities, the teacher responded, “You know the problem with that is then they have a difficult time identifying metaphors on the test.”

Perhaps because there was little inherently interesting or relevant to students about the curriculum or the classroom activities, teachers often attempted to control rather than engage students in lessons.

There were, for example, specific expectations about where students should put their hands, which direction they should turn their heads, how they should stand, and how they should sit — practices referred to at one school as SLANT (Sit up, Listen, Ask and Answer Questions, Nod, and Track the Speaker) and at the other as SPARK (Sit up straight, Pay attention, Ask and answer questions, React to show I’m following along, Keep tracking the speaker). Students were kept silent, or what teachers called “level zero,” through most of the day.

Silence seemed to be especially important in the hallways. At the sound of each bell at the middle school, students were expected to line up at “level zero” with their faces forward and hands behind their backs and, when given permission, step into the hallway and onto strips of black duct tape. There they waited for the command of an administrator: “Duke, you can move to your next class! Tulane, you can walk when you show me that you are ready!”

Students then marched until they reached the STOP sign on the floor, where their teacher checked them for hallway position before giving them permission to continue around the corner. Throughout this process, students moved counter-clockwise around the perimeter of the hallway (even if they were going to a classroom one door to the left).

This system of control was administered through intricate systems of reward and punishment. Elementary students received and lost stars for each “behavioral infraction.” In one classroom, a teacher circulated the room with a timer in her hand while students read silently. Every three minutes, after the buzzer, she put a single goldfish on the desk of each student who had remained silent. In another classroom, a teacher silently glared at a student and then typed into his iPhone, which was connected through Class Dojo — an online behavior management system — to his Smartboard. Numbers would increase and decrease on little avatars representing each student.

At the middle school, stars matured into fake money that students could use to buy access to brass band and spoken word performances. When they were not compliant, or did not have enough money to attend the weekly celebration, they were sent to the “behavior intervention room,” where they were expected to copy a piece of text word for word on lined paper. One particular afternoon, the text in question was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Despite the reputation that people join TFA to pad their resumes, many get involved in an attempt to contribute to society. Some are even convinced they are a part of the Civil Rights Movement of their generation. Implementing the “No Excuses” approach is equated with social justice, under the assumption that it is the most effective way to improve students’ test scores — which will get them into college and out of poverty. One teacher explains: “Because these days with the economy the way it is, you need a college degree. So this is a movement of social justice and giving everyone that wants an opportunity access to education.”

Teachers unconvinced by this ideology tend to acquiesce to the “No Excuses” approach for fear of losing their jobs or negatively influencing their students’ futures. One social studies teacher who wishes he could develop his students into historically curious, community-oriented citizens told Sondel why he focuses on teaching standards and test prep instead of current events: “I would be afraid of seeing a whole lot of sixth graders end up back in sixth grade and I would, frankly, be equally afraid that I wouldn’t be the one teaching them next year.”

Yet this pedagogy is far from justice-based or reflective of the radical ambitions of the Civil Rights Movement. Instead, this type of schooling extinguishes young people’s passion for learning and potentially pushes out those who fail to or are unwilling to comply. At best, the “No Excuses” approach attempts to develop within students the compliant dispositions necessary to accept and work within the status quo."
neworleans  education  kipp  schools  2014  policy  edreform  control  socialjustice  democracy  politics  tfa  civilrights  economics  forprofit  via:audreywatters  commoncore  standards  measurement  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  detroit  publicschool  crisis  exploitation  bethsondel  josephboselovic  teachforamerica  nola  charterschools 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Common Core Commotion
"We can assume that if Goals 2000 or NCLB or any of the other reform programs had been effective, the reformers could congratulate themselves for a job well done and go off to find another line of work. They haven’t, which brings us to the third reason that educational reform is an enterprise without end. 

It has to do with the old rule that supply creates its own demand. Over the last two generations, as the problem became unignorable and as vast freshets of money poured from governments and nonprofit foundations, an army of experts emerged to fix America’s schools. From trade unions and think tanks they came, from graduate schools of education and nonprofit foundations, from state education departments and for-profit corporations, from legislative offices and university psych labs and model schools and experimental classrooms, trailing spreadsheets and PowerPoints and grant proposals; they found work as lobbyists, statisticians, developmental psychologists, neurological researchers, education theorists, entrepreneurs, administrators, marketers, think tank fellows, textbook writers—even teachers! So great a mass of specialists cannot be kept idle. If they find themselves with nothing to do, they will find something to do. 

And so, after 40 years of signal failure, the educationists have brought us the Common Core State Standards. It is a totemic example of policy-making in the age of the well-funded expert."



"The foundation’s generosity seems indiscriminate, reflecting the milky centrism of its founder. Evidently Bill Gates doesn’t have a political bone in his body. His intellectual loyalty lies instead with the ideology of expertise. His faith is technocratic and materialist: In the end he believes the ability of highly credentialed observers to identify and solve problems through the social sciences is theoretically limitless. “Studies” and “research” unlock the human secret. This is the animating faith of most educationists, too. All human interactions can be dispassionately observed and their separate parts identified, isolated, analyzed, and quantified according to some version of the scientific method. The resulting data will yield reliable information about how and why we behave as we do, and from this process can be derived formulas that will be universally applicable and repeatable.

“One size fits all” may be a term of mockery used by people who disdain the top-down solutions of centralized power; in the technocratic vision, “one size fits all” describes the ideal.

A good illustration of the Gates technocratic approach to education reform is an initiative called “Measures of Effective Teaching” or MET. (DUH.) The effectiveness of a truly gifted teacher was once considered mysterious or ineffable, a personal transaction rooted in intuition, concern, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and professional ardor, combined in a way that defies precise description or replication. Such an old-fashioned notion is an affront to the technocratic mind, which assumes no human phenomenon can be, at bottom, mysterious; nothing is resistant to reduction and measurement. “Eff the Ineffable” is the technocrat’s motto."



"Exciting as it undoubtedly is for the educationist, MET research tells us nothing about how to improve the world that students and teachers inhabit. It is an exercise by educationists for educationists to ponder and argue over. Three hundred and thirty five million dollars can keep a lot of them busy."



"In the confusion between content and learning, the Standards often show the telltale verbal inflation that educationists use to make a simple idea complicated. The Standards for Reading offer a typical example. They come in groups of three—making a wonderful, if suspicious, symmetry. Unfortunately, many of the triplets are essentially identical. According to the rubric Key Ideas and Details, a student should “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly.” Where one standard says the student must be able to “analyze the development of central ideas,” the next standard says the student should be able to “analyze” “how ideas develop.” One “key detail” is to “learn details.” Under Craft and Structure, the student should be able to “analyze” how “portions of text” “relate to each other or the whole.” Another says he “should cite specific textual evidence” and still another that he should “summarize the key supporting details.” All of this collapses into a single unwritten standard: “Learn to read with care and to explain what you’ve read.” But no educationist would be so simple-minded.

There are standards only an educationist could love, or understand. It took me a while to realize that “scaffolding” is an ed-school term for “help.” Associate is another recurring term of art with a flexible meaning, from spell to match, as when third graders are expected to “associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.” This seems like students are being asked to spell vowels, but that can’t be right, can it? And when state and local teachers have to embody such confusing standards in classroom exercises, you’re likely to wind up with more confusion."



"THE RISE OF THE RIGHT

Most of the criticism of the Standards has come from the populist right, and the revolt of conservative parents against the pet project of a national educationist elite is genuine, spontaneous, and probably inevitable. But if you move beyond the clouds of jargon, and the compulsory gestures toward “critical thinking” and “metacognitive skills,” you will begin to spy something more interesting. There’s much in the Standards to reassure an educational traditionalist—a vein of subversion. At several points, Common Core is clearly intended as a stay against the runaway enthusiasms of educationist dogma.

The Standards insist schools’ (unspecified) curriculums be “content-rich”—meaning that they should teach something rather than nothing. They even go so far as to require students to read Shakespeare, the Preamble and First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and works of Greek mythology. Phonics is the chief means of teaching reading in Common Core, rejecting the notorious “whole language” method first taken up in the 1970s and—research shows!—a likely culprit in the decline in reading scores. The Standards discourage the use of calculators, particularly in early grades where it has become a popular substitute for acquiring basic math. The Standards require memorization of multiplication tables as an important step in learning arithmetic, striking a blow against “fuzzy math.” Faddish notions like “visual literacy” are nowhere to be found.

Perhaps most impressively, at least in language arts, the Standards require students to read and write ever larger amounts of nonfiction as they move toward their high school diploma. Anyone familiar with the soupy “young adult” novels fed to middle- and high-school students should be delighted. Writing assignments, in tandem with more rigorous reading, move away from mere self-expression—commonly the focus of writing all the way through high school—to the accumulation of evidence and detail in the service of arguments. The architect of the Language Arts Standards, an educationist called David Coleman, explained this shift in a speech in 2011. He lamented that the most common form of writing in high school these days is “personal writing.”

It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

Now, it is hard to imagine a more traditionalist sentiment than that. Yet conservative Common Core activists single out Coleman as a particularly sinister adversary, perhaps for his potty mouth. The populist campaign against the Standards has been scattershot: Sometimes they are criticized for being unrealistically demanding, at other times for being too soft. Even Common Core’s insistence on making the Constitution part of any sound curriculum has been attacked as insidious. Recall that students will be required to read only the Preamble and the First Amendment. That is, they will stop reading before they reach the Second Amendment and the guarantee of gun rights.

Coincidence? Many activists think not. "



"Conservative hostility to the Common Core is also entangled with hostility to President Obama and his administration. Joy Pullman, an editor and writer who is perhaps the most eloquent and responsible public critic of Common Core, wrote recently in thefederalist.com: “I wager that 90 percent of the debate over Common Core would instantly dissipate if states adopted the top-rated standards from, say, Massachusetts or Indiana and dropped the Obama administration tests.”

While the personal hostility to Obama might be overwrought, the administration’s campaign on behalf of the Standards has borne all the marks of the president’s other efforts at national persuasion."



"THUNDER ON THE LEFT

The administration’s bullying and dishonesty might be reason enough to reject the Standards. The campaign has even begun to worry its natural allies, who are losing trust in assurances that the Common Core is an advance for progressive education. Educationists on the leftward edge point to its insistence that teachers be judged on how much their students learn. This bears an unappealing resemblance to NCLB requirements, and they worry it will inject high-pressure competition into the collegial environment that most educationists prefer. Worse, it could be a Trojan horse for a reactionary agenda, a return to the long-ago era when students really had to, you know, learn stuff.

“The purpose of education,” says … [more]
education  reform  edreform  anationatrisk  nclb  georgewbush  georgehwbush  ronaldreagan  barackobama  jimmycarter  money  policy  experts  commoncore  curriclum  2014  andrewferguson  via:ayjay  1990  2000  1979  departmentofeducation  edwardkennedy  tedkennedy  goals2000  1983  gatesfoundation  billgates  arneduncan  bureaucracy  markets  aft  nonprofits  centralization  standards  schools  publicschools  us  ideology  politics  technocracy  credentialism  teaching  howweteach  measurement  rankings  testing  standardizedtesting  abstraction  nonprofit 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Death to Common Core! Long Live Failed Education Policy! | the becoming radical
The problem for education reform, then, is not specifically Common Core, but that the evidence base shows standards-based reform has not and will not address issues of equity or achievement.

As a parallel example of how most of the current education reform commitments simply do not and cannot address the fundamental problems facing education, consider that New Orleans has now replaced the entire public school system with charter schools; the result?:
White students disproportionately attend the best charter schools, while the worst are almost exclusively populated by African American students. Activists in New Orleans joined with others in Detroit and Newark last month to file a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that the city’s best-performing schools have admissions policies that exclude African American children. Those schools are overseen by the separate Orleans Parish School Board, and they don’t participate in OneApp, the city’s centralized school enrollment lottery.


The partisan political backlash against Common Core, then, is not reason to celebrate because the essential political commitments to misguided education reform policy (such as accountability built on standards and testing, charter schools, Teach For America, and value-added methods of teacher evaluation) remain robust below the partisan posturing against Common Core as a uniquely flawed set of standards.

Adopting and implementing Common Core and the related high-stakes testing and accountability mechanisms are tremendous wastes of time and money that we cannot afford. Yes, let’s stop Common Core, but as a key step to stopping the entire flawed education reform movement built on ever-new standards and tests."
plthomas  education  commoncore  standards  poverty  schools  us  politics  policy  edreform  standardization  accountability  testing  standardizedtesting  neworleans  paulthomas  nola  charterschools  high-stakestesting 
june 2014 by robertogreco
How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution - The Washington Post
"The standards have become so pervasive that they also quickly spread through private Catholic schools. About 100 of 176 Catholic dioceses have adopted the standards because it is increasingly difficult to buy classroom materials and send teachers to professional development programs that are not influenced by the Common Core, Catholic educators said.

And yet, because of the way education policy is generally decided, the Common Core was instituted in many states without a single vote taken by an elected lawmaker. Kentucky even adopted the standards before the final draft had been made public.

States were responding to a “common belief system supported by widespread investments,” according to one former Gates employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the foundation."



"Gates grew irritated in the interview when the political backlash against the standards was mentioned.

“These are not political things,” he said. “These are where people are trying to apply expertise to say, ‘Is this a way of making education better?’ ”

“At the end of the day, I don’t think wanting education to be better is a right-wing or left-wing thing,” Gates said. “We fund people to look into things. We don’t fund people to say, ‘Okay, we’ll pay you this if you say you like the Common Core.’ ”

Whether the Common Core will deliver on its promise is an open question.

Tom Loveless, a former Harvard professor who is an education policy expert at the Brookings Institution, said the Common Core was “built on a shaky theory.” He said he has found no correlation between quality standards and higher student achievement.

“Everyone who developed standards in the past has had a theory that standards will raise achievement, and that’s not happened,” Loveless said.

Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, says the Gates Foundation’s overall dominance in education policy has subtly muffled dissent.

“Really rich guys can come up with ideas that they think are great, but there is a danger that everyone will tell them they’re great, even if they’re not,” Greene said."



"The decision by the Gates Foundation to simultaneously pay for the standards and their promotion is a departure from the way philanthropies typically operate, said Sarah Reckhow, an expert in philanthropy and education policy at Michigan State University.

“Usually, there’s a pilot test — something is tried on a small scale, outside researchers see if it works, and then it’s promoted on a broader scale,” Reckhow said. “That didn’t happen with the Common Core. Instead, they aligned the research with the advocacy. . . . At the end of the day, it’s going to be the states and local districts that pay for this.”"



"There was so much cross-pollination between the foundation and the administration, it is difficult to determine the degree to which one may have influenced the other.

Several top players in Obama’s Education Department who shaped the administration’s policies came either straight from the Gates Foundation in 2009 or from organizations that received heavy funding from the foundation.

Before becoming education secretary in 2009, Arne Duncan was chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, which received $20 million from Gates to break up several large high schools and create smaller versions, a move aimed at stemming the dropout rate.

As secretary, Duncan named as his chief of staff Margot Rogers, a top Gates official he got to know through that grant. He also hired James Shelton, a program officer at the foundation, to serve first as his head of innovation and most recently as the deputy secretary, responsible for a wide array of federal policy decisions.

Duncan and his team leveraged stimulus money to reward states that adopted common standards."



"Now six years into his quest, Gates finds himself in an uncomfortable place — countering critics on the left and right who question whether the Common Core will have any impact or negative effects, whether it represents government intrusion, and whether the new policy will benefit technology firms such as Microsoft.

Gates is disdainful of the rhetoric from opponents. He sees himself as a technocrat trying to foster solutions to a profound social problem — gaping inequalities in U.S. public education — by investing in promising new ideas.

Education lacks research and development, compared with other areas such as medicine and computer science. As a result, there is a paucity of information about methods of instruction that work.

“The guys who search for oil, they spend a lot of money researching new tools,” Gates said. “Medicine — they spend a lot of money finding new tools. Software is a very R and D-oriented industry. The funding, in general, of what works in education . . . is tiny. It’s the lowest in this field than any field of human endeavor. Yet you could argue it should be the highest.”

Gates is devoting some of his fortune to correct that. Since 1999, the Gates Foundation has spent approximately $3.4 billion on an array of measures to try to improve K-12 public education, with mixed results.

It spent about $650 million on a program to replace large urban high schools with smaller schools, on the theory that students at risk of dropping out would be more likely to stay in schools where they forged closer bonds with teachers and other students. That led to a modest increase in graduation rates, an outcome that underwhelmed Gates and prompted the foundation to pull the plug.

Gates has said that one of the benefits of common standards would be to open the classroom to digital learning, making it easier for software developers — including Microsoft — to develop new products for the country’s 15,000 school districts.

In February, Microsoft announced that it was joining Pearson, the world’s largest educational publisher, to load Pearson’s Common Core classroom materials on Microsoft’s tablet, the Surface. That product allows Microsoft to compete for school district spending with Apple, whose iPad is the dominant tablet in classrooms.

Gates dismissed any suggestion that he is motivated by self-interest.

“I believe in the Common Core because of its substance and what it will do to improve education,” he said. “And that’s the only reason I believe in the Common Core.”

Bill and Melinda Gates, Obama and Arne Duncan are parents of school-age children, although none of those children attend schools that use the Common Core standards. The Gates and Obama children attend private schools, while Duncan’s children go to public school in Virginia, one of four states that never adopted the Common Core.

Still, Gates said he wants his children to know a “superset” of the Common Core standards — everything in the standards and beyond.

“This is about giving money away,” he said of his support for the standards. “This is philanthropy. This is trying to make sure students have the kind of opportunity I had . . . and it’s almost outrageous to say otherwise, in my view.”"
commoncore  2014  education  billgates  gatesfoundation  2008  policy  schools  lyndseylayton  politics  money  influence  arneduncan  barackobama  rttt  standards 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Between the By-Road and the Main Road: Let's Stop (re)Inventing The Committee of Ten: Getting Over School
"I often wonder how different school might be had the NEA task force, Committee of Ten, (a group of 90 elite men) determined that observation, reasoning, and judgment could be cultivated through multiple methods and studies as opposed to tying each to a discrete subject. I often wonder how different their recommendations might have been had a few women, some newly arrived immigrants, some people of color, some students, and representatives who hailed from work other than teaching been part of the committee. How might the recommendations have been different? Replacing 90 elite men who served on the Committee of Ten in the 1890s with corporations in the 2010s who are informing the Common Core really isn’t much of a change…

If you take 90 men, hailing from elite schools (college presidents, headmasters, professors) and ask them to name what an excellent education contains—we should not be surprised that their answers (all were in agreement) will reflect their lives, their truths. Habermas told us that without a metalanguage to challenge the given assumption, power tends to serve up itself as the model of excellence. Today it is Achieve, Inc., Pearson, McGraw Hill, ETS, state DOE, federal DOE who are the new Committee of Ten."
committeeoften  maryannreilly  2014  education  unschooling  deschooling  competition  curriculum  ivanillich  johndewey  legacy  alternative  learning  commoncore  standards  standardization  readiness  schooling  schools  policy  measurement  assessment  shrequest1 
april 2014 by robertogreco
This Is Not a Test (This Is a Review of José Vilson's New Book)
"Unlike a “traditional” bildungsroman, Vilson’s narrative doesn’t contain a simple triumph or teleology. This isn’t your typical “American success story.” It isn’t your typical “American education success story” either.

It’s not surprising that the Vilson gives a nod to Jaime Escalante, the East LA high school math teacher whose story was the basis for the movie Stand and Deliver – probably one of the most well-known stories of contemporary (math) education. Vilson admits that Escalante’s story influenced his decision to become an educator, and there are some similarities: Latino educators working with disadvantaged students.

But the story of Escalante and his students centers on a test – the AP Calculus exam. The title of Vilson’s memoir gestures elsewhere: This Is Not a Test. Indeed, when picked up and told by Hollywood (by Washington Post reporters, etc), education stories do take a different bent; they become stories of redemption, for example – neatly packaged in narratives that resolve far more neatly than real life could ever afford us. In the movies, there’s a trial – a test – and a triumph. All in 103 minutes.

Moreover, our current education system isn’t focused on a test; rather it’s become a regime of year-round testing. (Testing is a touchstone again and again in Vilson’s memoir.) He writes that
“I can’t help but feel that when my students walk out of their exam, they aren’t just frustrated by the inordinate amount of testing they’re subjected to. They’re starting to sense that the process of schooling in and of itself was not actually designed with them in mind — a feeling those of us born into poverty and racism know all too well.”

The onslaught of testing means that, unlike the story of Stand and Deliver, we aren’t working with a narrative in education that affords a win - for teachers or for students – based on the scores of a single exam. The wins are to be achieved elsewhere. And they’re complicated, not the things captured on multiple choice exams or in grade-books. (This is not a test. This is life.)

The students and their stories, they’re complicated too. But instead the education system often sees students, particularly students of color, as pathological. “When we assume poor kids behave as they do just because of their poverty and not as a manifestation of their frustration with poverty,“ writes Vilson, ”we do an injustice to their humanity.”

I’d add too that we do an injustice to the humanity of educators when we pretend as though they are not “whole people,” when we demand their private lives and their personal beliefs be “pure” by some ridiculously paternalistic (and gendered and racialized) standards.

There is much justice and much humanity and so much bravery in this book. But that’s José Vilson."



"One of the things that privilege affords you is that your stories get told. Your voice gets heard. Your coming-of-age narrative fits neatly into – hell, makes – the bildungsroman genre, if you will, because you become the individual that society wants or expects.

Vilson offers instead, as the subtitle of the book suggests, “a new narrative of race, class, and education.” The stakes are high in doing so, and they are, no surprise, incredibly political. (Vilson’s popular blog remains blocked in NYC public schools, it’s worth noting.) After all, we aren’t simply talking about a new entry into the coming-of-age literary genre. The book is an entry into the ideological battles in education and education reform – battles that draw on narratives about grit, for example, and “no excuses,” narratives that I’d argue, configure students of color as objects to be transformed and assimilated, not as subjects to seize their own learning and lives and tell their own story."



"In This Is Not A Test, José Vilson writes a personal narrative that counters folks like Coleman’s concept of education, literacy and language, their valuation of people’s voice and experience. This Is Not a Test is a refusal to be silent. It’s a refusal to capitulate or conform. It’s an expression of a vision where we do give a shit about what you feel or what you think, because we care about people. Because in doing so – particularly in education – we help support one another in growth, in coming-of-age, in learning, and in liberation."
audrewatters  narrative  davidcoleman  commoncore  race  class  education  2014  testing  standardizedtesting  standards  standardization  jaimeescalante  voice  bildungsroman  josévilson  high-stakestesting 
april 2014 by robertogreco
March 26, 2014 : The Daily Papert
"Many reformers have tried to jigger the school system, to improve it by making small changes in the hope that it would eventually be transformed into a new modern, well functioning system. But I think these reforms are victims of the same illusion that beset Gorbachev in the early days of Perestroika. Reforming School requires more than jiggering. Here too we have to call into question the underlying, structuring ideas. But what are the structuring ideas of school?

A relatively easy step towards an answer is to note that what is wrong with our schools is not very different from what is wrong with the soviet economy–both suffer from rampant centralism. In fact, if we ask what aspect of American life is most like the Soviet economic system, it might well turn out that education is the closest parallel.

But it is easy to criticize bureaucracy superficially. It’s harder to realize that, in both cases our schools and the Soviet economy–the bureaucratic organization reflects underlying “structuring” ideas. I believe that a critique of bureaucracy can only be effective if it proceeds on this basis. Otherwise it cannot intelligently guide reform that will be more than jiggering. Gorbachev’s Perestroika started as jiggering but was forced to move quickly toward calling in question the fundamental ideas of Soviet society, among them its deep commitment to a centrally planned economy.

Does the parallel between the central plan and our school’s concept of curriculum need more explanation? In one case, a central authority decides what products will be manufactured in 5-year plans; in the other, it decides what children will learn in a 12-year plan: two-digit addition this year, three-digit addition next year, and so on. It is in the nature of this centralized planning that teachers be cast in the role of technicians whose job is to implement the plan. The very nature of a curriculum requires subordinating individual initiative to the Great Plan. Schools can see no way to make it work other than by exactly the methods and principles that have now been discredited in the Soviet system. All over the world, more and more people are recognizing that these principles do not work in economics. I think that more and more people are also beginning to see that they will not work in education either. These principles fail in the two cases ultimately for exactly the same reason: They hamper individual initiative, and deprive the system of the flexibility to adapt to local situations."

Papert. S. (1990, July). Perestroika and Epistemological Politics [http://stager.tv/blog/?p=928 ]. Speech presented at the World Conference on Computers in Education. Sydney, Australia.
seymourpapert  1990  bureaucracy  education  standardization  curriculum  centralization  standards  pedagogy  autonomy  learning  schoolreform  change  tcsnmy  cv  hierarchy  hierarchies  control  planning 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Amazing Structure: A Conversation With Ursula Franklin - Robinson Meyer - The Atlantic
"The gender issue is really a postwar issue. Women, wherever they were, what side or what in the war situation, stepped into the places that men had left. And they were competent, and they could do it. It was only after the war, when the men came back, that they needed the mystique—that she’s a girl, and so oughtn’t [to be] there, this is a man’s job. The gender issue, in practical terms—either who [could be] in school or who thought they could do which job, which science, which math—is a postwar issue anywhere in the world.

And it’s the issue of a large number of well-organized men, who often got their training in the army during the war, returning and needing both work and justification for their organized maleness in a very hierarchical structure. These guys came out of the military, and brought skills, but mostly brought demands.

There were women who had coped—often very well in very technical [positions]—but what was needed now was a distinction between those who came out of a culture of order, discipline, and minimal consideration of an individual’s contribution. So you had to get the women out of the workplace. And that’s when that question—they can’t do math, or they are frightened of machines—that’s where all that crap comes from. But it’s there, and it took until the late ’50s when women said: “Ah ah! What’s going on here?”

It’s the collectivity—with some consciousness-raising, you see—that actually, the personal is political. It’s not that our skirts are too short or too long; it’s just that we are being pushed around and maybe we have to put a stop to it collectively. But that gender-based look at knowledge and competency is postwar.

So my school experience: It was ‘so what?’ "



"There’s no question that somebody who was in the position I was when my son was born, and said to somebody, ‘I’m pregnant.’ There’s legislation now; they have to keep your job; they have to give you that much maternity leave; you have a medical insurance system that picks up some of those expenses; and no employer can say no. That’s an enormous change.

The salary thing is still a question where one may have to struggle, but it is not that a priori a woman gets paid less for work of equal value. And there are laws that one can change. Not that people who need to challenge have the power to do so, but that exists. I mean if you see the number of women—school principals and university presidents—that is the change.

I constantly emphasize that the issue is not essentially gender. The issue is patriarchy. I must say that I myself have been surprised at the rapid rise of lady patriarchs. And of course there are lady patriarchs. I was surprised how easily young women who have all options open for patriarchy become as much the patriarch in a hierarchical structure as any man does; and conversely, how many men—how many men, not that many—have found a collaborative structure convenient and don’t pull rank. 

The developments flow from there. The main development is legislation—and that hand-waving isn’t good enough."



"[Q] And when you say “lady patriarchs,” what do you mean?

I mean women who behave as if they are generals or bishops. It makes no difference in many ways if it’s a woman or a man. In particular positions, a woman can be as inconsiderate a lady patriarch as a male patriarch would have been. So the issue is the hierarchical structuring; the issue is patriarchy.

[Q] You were also involved in strontium testing. Did that float out of your social work in the ’60s, your work as a citizen?

What you are referring to is the sense that one is a citizen first and happen to be a professional in one area or another, but you don’t stop being a citizen because you are a highway engineer or a professor of metallurgy, but you also don’t leave all your scientific knowledge when you are a resident in the district that is suddenly heavily influence by pollution from another plant; or, globally, from fallout or chemical pollution.

When you object to things like that, you bring the skills that you have to have professionally to it, as do all the others who may provide citizen input or position. The whole fabric of the democratic process comes from citizens who are competent in various ways, and my competency happens to be science. I have a certain skill in teaching to make it clear to people without using jargon what certain inevitable things, such as nuclear fallout or river pollution, mean, and that the half-life of uranium doesn’t change when you change governments. Somebody has to say that at the right place in the right language, and I’ve always taken these opportunities and, like others, contributed with the best I had.

So I’ve very much been a part of women’s peace organizations and very much meet in the most active form of pacifism—the prevention of situations that lead to war. So the pacifism, elective pacifism, are all the political and social measures against injustices that in the end drive hatred and violence.

[Q] Once you were at the University of Toronto, and got into archeometry and teaching, I suppose that followed the reforms in Canada. Did you see the university change over your time there, and just generally what was it like to be a female professor of engineering during the ’70s and ’80s?

Well… pretty lonely. You know the real difficulty is to protect and advance your women students, and to see that they are in a hassle-free learning environment. When I came to the university, I’d been around long enough to know that I wasn’t one of the gang, and I never would be. I didn’t have a desire to be one of the boys.

But the great wish—to give my women students a hassle-free, happy learning environment—that’s what’s difficult. The culture of engineering is not a culture of acceptance and understanding of anything that is female and—at the same time—equal. So that’s… that’s a real job. It was a long and hard [work] in this, and it’s by no means yet all done."

[See also Annes post about Ursula Franklin: http://designculturelab.org/2012/07/17/from-the-plsj-archives-an-extraordinary-mind/ ]
ursulafranklin  robinsonmeyer  2014  interviews  feminism  partiarchy  gender  hierarchy  hierarchies  law  legal  women  science  structures  management  organizations  history  canada  highered  highereducation  labor  regulation  standards  quakers  pacifism  peace  equality  quaker 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Everything you need to know about Common Core — Ravitch
"These two federal programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, has produced a massive demoralization of educators; an unprecedented exodus of experienced educators, who were replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of many public schools, especially in poor and minority districts; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; an increase in low-quality for-profit charter schools and low-quality online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers' due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations, charter chains, and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market. Hedge funds, entrepreneurs, and real estate investment corporations invest enthusiastically in this emerging market, encouraged by federal tax credits, lavish fees, and the prospect of huge profits from taxpayer dollars. Celebrities, tennis stars, basketball stars, and football stars are opening their own name-brand schools with public dollars, even though they know nothing about education.

No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do. Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Education wants every state and every district to do it. Because of these federal programs, our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools.

The Pearson Corporation has become the ultimate arbiter of the fate of students, teachers, and schools.

This is the policy context in which the Common Core standards were developed. "



"Early childhood educators are nearly unanimous in saying that no one who wrote the standards had any expertise in the education of very young children. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a join statement complaining that the standards were developmentally inappropriate for children in the early grades. The standards, they said, emphasized academic skills and leave inadequate time for imaginative play. They also objected to the likelihood that young children would be subjected to standardized testing. And yet the proponents of the Common Core insist that children as young as 5 or 6 or 7 should be on track to be college-and-carer ready, even though children this age are not likely to think about college, and most think of careers as cowboys, astronauts, or firefighters."



"I fear that the Common Core plan of standards and testing will establish a test-based meritocracy that will harm our democracy by parceling out opportunity, by ranking and rating every student in relation to their test scores.

We cannot have a decent democracy unless we begin with the supposition that every human life is of equal value. Our society already has far too much inequality of wealth and income. We should do nothing to stigmatize those who already get the least of society's advantages. We should bend our efforts to change our society so that each and every one of us has the opportunity to learn, the resources needed to learn, and the chance to have a good and decent life, regardless of one's test scores."

[See also: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/everything-you-need-to-know-about.html ]
dianeravitch  commoncore  2014  government  policy  education  democracy  us  standards  nationalstandards  meritocracy  testing  standardizedtesting  society  arneduncan  rttt  nclb  schools  publicschools  pearson  michellerhee  joelklein  billgates  jebbush 
february 2014 by robertogreco
New Criticism, Close Reading, and Failing Critical Literacy Again | the becoming radical
"When the Common Core debates drift toward advocacy or critiques of the standards themselves, I have refused, mostly, to engage with that conversation because I believe debating the quality of CC concedes too much. I remain opposed to CC regardless of the quality of the standards because of the following reasons: (1) CC cannot and will not be decoupled from the caustic influence of high-stakes testing, (2) all bureaucratic and mandated standards de-professionalize teaching, (3) accountability/standards/testing as a reform paradigm has failed and nothing about the CC iteration offers a different approach, except that this is called “national,” and (4) there is absolutely nothing in the CC agenda that addresses social or educational inequities such as disproportionate discipline policies, course access, and teacher assignment.

So with due trepidation, I now wade into the few but needed challenges being offered about how CC encourages “close reading” of texts."

First, let me highlight that my primary field of teaching writing offers a powerful and disturbing parallel model of how the accountability/standards/testing movement supplanted and destroyed evidence-based pedagogy.

I have detailed that the rise of best practice in the teaching of writing in the 1970s and 1980s was squelched by the accountability era begun in the 1980s; see Why Are We (Still) Failing Writing Instruction? [http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/why-are-we-still-failing-writing-instruction/ ]

As well, Applebee and Langer offer a chilling refrain of best practice in writing wilting under the weight of standards and testing in their Writing Instruction That Works: Proven Methods for Middle and High School Classrooms. [http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/tcr-review-writing-instruction-that-works/ ]

Reading instruction and reading experiences for children, we must acknowledge, will suffer the same negative consequences under CC and the related high-stakes tests because there are no provisions for implementing CC that change how standards and tests are implemented (often each round of standards and tests are simply infused into the current practices) and, in reality, CC approaches to reading are new names for traditional (and flawed) reading practices.

Next, I strongly recommend the following pieces that essentially confront the central problem with CC’s focus on close reading (and as I’ll expand on below, how close reading continues the traditional view of text-based analysis grounded in New Criticism—and thus excluding critical literacy and the powerful contributions of marginalized writers and critics [1]):

Reading Without Understanding — Common Core Versus Abraham Lincoln, Alan Singer
[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/reading-without-understan_b_4323239.html ]

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Common Core: A critical reading of “close reading,” Daniel E. Ferguson
[http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/28_02/28_02_ferguson.shtml

I want here, then, to add just a few more thoughts on why committing to CC and close reading fails against the gains we have made in understanding the complexity of responding to texts in the context of the words on the page, the intent and biography of the writer, the biography of the reader, and the multiple historical contexts that intersect when anyone reads any text.

Let me start with an example. …"
commoncore  ela  closereading  criticalliteracy  2014  standards  standardization  paulthomas  alansinger  danielferguson  davidcoleman  newcriticsm  reading  teaching  writing  literacy  learning  education  policy  plthomas 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Education Week: Why Make Reform So Complicated?
"In the realm of organizational improvement, complexity kills. It demoralizes employees and distorts the critical connection between effort and outcomes. It is the enemy of the most indispensable elements of improvement: clarity, priority, and focus.

That is the message of multiple prominent studies, from Jim Collins' 2001 best-seller Good to Great to more recent books like The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda, and Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn. These experts implore us to simplify: to prioritize, minimize, and employ only the clearest language in the service of focus. Only this will allow teams and individuals to understand, practice, and perfect those few, highest-priority skills and actions that are most critical to progress.

Education clearly doesn't get this. Perhaps no enterprise is more crippled by complexity than school improvement. For two decades, I've worked with educators in every kind of school and district. For every major initiative, a common theme emerges: There is simply too much to do, and most of it is maddeningly ambiguous and confusing.

Maybe it started with state-mandated strategic planning, which produced those book-length, jargon-laced documents with their impossibly long bulleted lists of goals, tasks, and action plans—which turned out to have no substantive effect on teaching quality.
Then came the standards movement."



"The transition to simple, priority-driven school improvement might require a kind of civil disobedience: a refusal, by a critical mass of educators, to implement anything unless it has been adequately piloted, amply proven, and then made clear and simple enough for educators to learn and implement successfully. If we insist on such conditions, we will move forward at a rate not seen before."
via:lukeneff  simplicity  education  policy  standards  commoncore  2014  complexity  organization  curriculum  mikeschmoker  standardization  leadership  administration  pedagogy  johnmaeda 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Are Progressive Critics of Common Core "Getting Played" By Enemies of Public Education? - Living in Dialogue - Education Week Teacher
"But blaming progressive critics of Common Core for the rise of this conservative movement turns reality on its head. The people who have let down our public schools are those who are willing to embrace standardization and high stakes tests as some sort of "progressive" guarantor of equity. We have been down this path with No Child Left Behind, which was sold to us by an alliance of liberal and neo-conservative politicians. We were told children in poverty would get more attention and resources once standardized tests "shed light" on just how far behind they were. We got teacher 'evaluation' schemes built around faulty VAM metrics, leading to mass demoralization and too-many losses of strong educators, simultaneous with a hypocritical push to replace seasoned teachers with Teach for America novices. The result? Intense pressure to raise test scores, narrowed curriculum, and school closings by the hundreds - all with the mantle of approval by our "liberal" leaders. Who really got played here?

Then Common Core came along in 2009. Everyone was weary of NCLB, and ready for change. But some of us could read the writing on the wall. The fancy words about critical thinking and "moving beyond the bubble tests" sounded nice, but a closer look revealed standards that were originally written with little to no participation by K12 teachers. The promises to get rid of bubble tests only meant that the tests would be taken on expensive computers. The promise to escape the narrowing of curriculum only meant we would be testing more often, in more subjects.

So many of us started raising concerns. The basic premise of Common Core was similar to NCLB - our schools are failing, and we must respond with "higher standards," and more difficult tests. But the indictment of public education has been wrong from the start, and we should not lend it credence by supporting phony solutions."



"It is not progressive opponents of Common Core who have set our public schools and unions up for this. It is the corporate reformers, and those willing to promote their grandiose Common Core project.

There are some attempts under way to separate Common Core from high stakes tests, most notably in California, as described in today's letter from Bill Honig. This is the ONLY condition under which these standards ought to be even considered."

[Bill Honig's letter: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/07/bill-honig-why-california-likes-the-common-core-standards/
via: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/07/anthony-cody-who-are-the-critics-of-common-core/ ]
commoncore  2014  policy  education  nclb  rttt  standards  testing  criticalthinking  standardizedtestinganthonycody  billhonig 
january 2014 by robertogreco
In 'The Spirit of Liberty' - Bridging Differences - Education Week
[in response to: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/12/dear_deborah_i_trust_you.html ]

"It's probably easier to teach about liberty than democracy. The former is perhaps "natural" to the human species. Even little tots object when their liberty is infringed upon. It is within the context of democracy—or so people like me believe—that one's liberty is best protected, but also where one's liberty is best restricted. Only kings of yore believed they had unrestricted freedom. But where to draw the line? That's where democracy comes in.

I'm not for defining democracy once and for all, or liberty. These are ideas that have evolved and are still evolving. The "struggle" to define them is ongoing. Schooling ideally prepares us to join in that struggle. It's what politics is about—drawing the line. Like justice, which is represented by a scale that always needs some readjusting.

That's where we get back to my claim that democracy is not "natural" or intuitive. It's a means, not an end. No two nations, states, or organizations that may rightly call themselves democratic have the same bylaws, etc.

Democracy hopefully is precisely what protects other rights, such as fairness, liberty, equality, privacy, even "happiness." And the "common good." Different contexts and histories have led to different ways of organizing the power of the people, including deciding who "the people" are. The idea that the right to vote should be universal is new—and still shaky. In 1789, most of those living within our borders could not vote: women, slaves, Native Americans, and, in most states, men without property.

We agree: Most of the dialogue about power is conducted in a language unfamiliar to many citizens. Meanwhile, our fellow citizens—those who seem to lack the proper language for understanding "us"—may well be speaking with equal depth and understanding but in a form that "we" do not understand. Maybe those with more power have an obligation to better understand their fellow citizens, not just vice-versa. Expanding the world that "belongs to us all" is something schools could do if ... rich and poor, black and white attended "common schools" devoted to such a task.

Do we really have to "teach" a common core to promote thinking—or do we mean "thinking like us"? I have friends from abroad who think quite well, but share a different set of "common" and "uncommon" knowledge. I find our discourses even more interesting for that fact.

I never found that my students, even at 5, were less interesting because their "home language," dialect, or vocabulary were different than mine. In fact, it was these differences that drew me into becoming a teacher. Sometimes because of their age, but also because of their own situations and histories, they aroused my curiosity and added to my knowledge. It is often a handicap to good thinking when we share too much "common sense" knowledge and vocabulary, or pretend to. "You know what I mean."

Whether we're creating essay, short-answer, or multiple-choice tests, we have a "bias." There's no way not to. As I recognized in my college courses, it was easier to get an A on an essay question where I agreed with my professors than when I didn't. We naturally think that those who say what we believe have more sense than those who don't. Ditto for multiple-choice tests.

The solution? I'd like to use those 12-plus years of school to come closer to "getting it"—who we are. There's a huge body of knowledge that such a course of study could uncover, and a lot that would remain uncovered. My hope? That the "test prepping" prepared our students to demonstrate strong intellectual habits in a range of academic and nonacademic domains, on topics of their choice—subject to the judgment of a committee of faculty, family, and external public experts. Over and over. Until it truly becomes habitual. Like good driving.

I'd hope that all publicly funded schools have the freedom to develop their own assessment tools (or even choose a pre-existing standardized one). But I hope that they also would be required to articulate the connection between the idea of democracy (and liberty) and whatever curriculum and assessment system they have chosen.

I'd also ask the schools to "show me" the connection between their purposes and the structure of the classroom and school as a whole. What do kids learn about democracy and liberty from the school's adult world? Who are the school's citizens? What are their liberties? Do parents or those whose taxes the schools rest upon have citizenship rights? Whose expertise trumps whose? And where do children of different ages fit into this web of cross-cutting citizenships?

Given the fragile state of our democracy (about which we agree), we must sometimes sacrifice some other more strictly private purposes (being more successful than others, having more money, or—god forbid—even pursuing a private hobby of pleasure only to a few). Public schools funded and controlled by the priorities of their citizens will each draw the lines differently. But without considerable locally based control we will flit from one all-size-fits-all fad to another.

Local communities, operating within the law, may even figure out forms of choice that enable people to make some decisions collectively and others more selectively, while agreeing not to substantially injure the available choices of others. They will swing back and forth between the party of order and the party of flexibility. A diversity of knowledge claims is essential for democracy and liberty, as well as for the arts, sciences, technology, etc. When one "best practice" rules, it undermines liberty, democracy, and progress, in general. We need collaborators and resisters, collegiality and ornery individualists.

I do not want to specify for others which of all the wars Americans have fought they most need to understand. Reality tells me that there is NO WAY they seriously understand even one if obliged to cover all. But ... let others try. Ditto for the sciences. And for math. Mastery of basic probability and statistics, however, would surely serve democracy better than calculus.

Central Park East, Central Park East Secondary School, and Mission Hill— schools where I've had a direct influence—each approached curriculum differently, although all three built their studies around "habits of mind." I've learned from each, and I am very aware that each made some painful trade-offs. Still, talking with graduates of each reassures me that what right-wing blogger Danette Clark calls "the Marxist-Communist political, amoral, and social ideology behind Theodore Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools" flourished in all of them.

There are some things effectively mandated centrally, but not as many as even "my team" acknowledges. Democracy and liberty both are safer when we all see ourselves as more or less in the same boat together, where my liberty and yours rise or fall together. We're a long way from achieving that spirit of liberty in our schools. "
education  deborahmeier  democracy  liberty  testing  standards  standardization  2013  tedsizer  commoncore  power  curriculum  publicschools  teaching  learning  testprep  assessment  local  bias  knowledge  robertpondiscio  citizenship  civics  missionhillschool  coalitionofessentialschools 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Orange Crate Art: High-school student Ethan Young on the Common Core
"Ethan Young, a senior at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, speaks to his local school board about the Common Core. An excerpt:
The task of learning is never quantifiable. If everything I learned in high school is a measurable objective, I haven’t learned anything. I’d like to repeat that. If everything I learned in high school is a measurable objective, I have not learned anything. Creativity, appreciation, inquisitiveness: these are impossible to scale. But they’re the purpose of education, why our teachers teach, why I choose to learn.

That Young is now the toast of the right-wing Internets is of no concern to me: his perspective here is one that I agree with. I find the Obama adminstration’s efforts in education a great disappointment."

[Related: http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/kindergarten-teachers-effects-on-five-year-olds-futures/ ]
commoncore  education  quantification  relationships  teaching  learning  schools  policy  politics  accountability  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  standards  data  cv  intangibles  2013  high-stakestesting 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Kindergarten Teachers’ Effects on Five Year-Olds’ Futures | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
"And here is the rub. Policymakers have largely ignored the teacher-child relationship–arguing that they are more concerned with tangible outcomes not how teachers teach or children learn. As for researchers, they have been of little help since they have a hard time identifying metrics that capture the quality of that child-teacher relationship and its links to socializing children and subsequent academic and non-academic effects  on adult behavior. Without quantitative measures to capture the impact of the teacher-child relationship, policymakers skip over it and grab at what can be reduced to numbers; that all-important relationship is missing-in-action when policymakers make decisions. And that is unfortunate.

In the current climate of test-driven standards and coercive accountability, policymakers and researchers depend far too much upon test scores and not whether what is measured captures the cognitive and social-psychological habits young children acquire and the all-important relationship they have with their teachers. If there are no measures, then these important outcomes do not exist."

[via: http://willrichardson.com/post/67064787088/more-on-the-immeasurable ]

[related: http://mleddy.blogspot.com/2013/11/high-school-student-ethan-young-on.html ]
education  quantification  relationships  teaching  learning  schools  policy  commoncore  politics  accountability  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  standards  data  cv  intangibles  2013  larrycuban  high-stakestesting 
november 2013 by robertogreco
the tyranny of House Style - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
I am terribly troubled by the ever-growing tendency to standardized and prescriptive usage, and I think that the Twentieth century, American-invented conventions of House Rules and House Style, to say nothing of automatic computer functions like Spellcheck and AutoCorrect, have exacted an abrasive, narrowing, and destructive effect on the way writers use language and ultimately on the language itself. Journalism and newspaper writing are one thing; House Style indubitably very valuable there; but as a literary novelist who writes by hand, in a notebook, I want to be able to use language for texture and I've intentionally employed a looser, pre-twentieth century model rather than running my work through any one House Style mill.

When Pietsch reads this to Tartt, who had perhaps forgotten the details of her memo, she replies by expanding on the point:
Well—I'm not saying that the writer's voice is always the highest standard; only that a lot of writers who are fine stylists and whose work I love wouldn't make it past a contemporary copy editor armed with the Chicago Manual, including some of the greatest writers and stylists of the 19th and 20th century. It's not as if we're the French, with the Academy, striving to keep the language pure—fine to correct honest mistakes, but quite apart from questions of punctuation and grammar—of using punctuation and grammar for cadence—English is such a powerful and widely spoken language precisely because it's so flexible, and capacious: a catchall hybrid that absorbs and incorporates everything it comes into contact with. Lexical variety, eccentric constructions and punctuation, variant spellings, archaisms, the ability to pile clause on clause, the effortless incorporation of words from other languages: flexibility, and inclusiveness, is what makes English great; and diversity is what keeps it healthy and growing, exuberantly regenerating itself with rich new forms and usages. Shakespearean words, foreign words, slang and dialect and made-up phrases from kids on the street corner: English has room for them all. And writers—not just literary writers, but popular writers as well—breathe air into English and keep it lively by making it their own, not by adhering to some style manual that gets handed out to college Freshmen in a composition class.

"This is great stuff. I'm reminded of one of Nabokov's letters in which he mentions replying to a bunch of copy-editor corrections with "thunderous stets." As someone with neither the virtuosity nor the titanic ego of Nabokov, I am largely thankful for the work of copy editors, who have saved me from many gross errors over the years — but the tyranny of House Style is a major pain in the ass for any stylistically sensitive writer, because there's no clear avenue of appeal when it's invoked: the editor isn't saying "this is better" but rather "this is just what we do." And you never know — or at any rate I have never been able to figure out — when an editor will give way to authorial passion and/or reason and when he or she will dig in the old heels.

I sometimes wonder whether these inevitable conflicts between editors and writers aren't becoming more intense as more and more writers are blogging and tweeting, that is, writing wholly without editorial supervision. The Wild West of online writing may even cause editors to want all the more to hold firmly to Standards. But when a writer has the skill and thoughtfulness, and experience, of a Donna Tartt, then she deserves to trump House Style. As I expect she does."
alanjacobs  standards  english  standardization  language  michaelpietsch  donnatartt  vladimirnabokov  copyediting  housestyle  writing  style 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Education in the Age of Globalization » Blog Archive » China Enters “Testing-free” Zone: The New Ten Commandments of Education Reform
"No standardized tests, no written homework, no tracking. These are some of the new actions China is taking to lessen student academic burden. The Chinese Ministry of Education released Ten Regulations to Lessen Academic Burden for Primary School Students this week for public commentary. The Ten Regulations are introduced as one more significant measure to reform China’s education, in addition to further reduction of academic content, lowering the academic rigor of textbooks, expanding criteria for education quality, and improving teacher capacity.

The regulations included in the published draft are:

1. Transparent admissions. Admission to a school cannot take into account any achievement certificates or examination results. Schools must admit all students based on their residency without considering any other factors.

2. Balanced Grouping. Schools must place students into classes and assign teachers randomly. Schools are strictly forbidden to use any excuse to establish “fast-track” and “slow-track” classes.

3. “Zero-starting point” Teaching. All teaching should assume all first graders students begin at zero proficiency. Schools should not artificially impose higher academic expectations and expedite the pace of teaching.

4. No Homework. No written homework is allowed in primary schools. Schools can however assign appropriate experiential homework by working with parents and community resources to arrange field trips, library visits, and craft activities.

5. Reducing Testing. No standardized testing is allowed for grades 1 through 3; For 4th grade and up, standardized testing is only allowed once per semester for Chinese language, math, and foreign language. Other types of tests cannot be given more than twice per semester.

6. Categorical Evaluation. Schools can only assess students using the categories of “Exceptional, Excellent, Adequate, and Inadequate,” replacing the traditional 100-point system.

7. Minimizing Supplemental Materials. Schools can use at most one type of materials to supplement the textbook, with parental consent. Schools and teachers are forbidden to recommend, suggest, or promote any supplemental materials to students.

8. Strictly Forbidding Extra Class. Schools and teachers cannot organize or offer extra instruction after regular schools hours, during winter and summer breaks and other holidays. Public schools and their teachers cannot organize or participate in extra instructional activities.

9. Minimum of One Hour of Physical Exercise. Schools are to guarantee the offering of physical education classes in accordance with the national curriculum, physical activities and eye exercise during recess.

10. Strengthening Enforcement. Education authorities at all levels of government shall conduct regular inspection and monitoring of actions to lessen student academic burden and publish findings. Individuals responsible for academic burden reduction are held accountable by the government."
yongzhao  2013  china  policy  education  edreform  admissions  tracking  evaluations  assessment  standards  standardizedtexting  homework  testing  teaching  learning  schools  schooling 
august 2013 by robertogreco
The Human Rights Struggle in Europe: Educational Choice | Psychology Today
"State-mandated exams subvert self-directed education, because they dictate the content and timing of learning and undermine children’s sense that educational assessment is their own responsibility and pertains to their own personal, unique goals and values."
europe  netherlands  belgium  sweden  germany  homeschool  unschooling  standardization  standards  self-directedlearning  education  deschooling  learning  2013  petergray  assessment  humanrights  colonization 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Why Common Core Standards Will Succeed | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
"Reform-minded policy elites–top federal and state officials, business leaders, and their entourages with unlimited access to media (e.g., television, websites, print journalism)–use these talking points to engage the emotions and, of course, spotlight public schools as the reasons why the U.S. is not as globally competitive as it should be. By focusing on the Common Core, charter schools, and evaluating teachers on the basis of student test scores, these decision-makers have shifted public attention away from fiscal and tax policies and economic structures that not only deepen and sustain poverty in society but also reinforce privilege of the top two percent of wealthy Americans. Policy elites have banged away unrelentingly at public schools as the source of national woes for decades.

National, state, and local opinion-makers in the business of school reform know that what matters is not evidence, not research studies, not past experiences with similar reforms–what matters is the appearance of success. Success is 45 states adopting standards, national tests taken by millions of students, and public acceptance of Common Core. Projecting positive images (e.g., the film Waiting for Superman, “everyone goes to college”) and pushing myths (e.g., U.S schools are broken, schools are an arm of the economy) that is what counts in the theater of school reform.

Within a few years–say, by 2016, a presidential election year–policy elites will declare the new standards a “success” and, hold onto your hats, introduce more and better and standards and tests.

This happened before with minimum competency tests in the 1970s. By 1980, thirty-seven states had mandated these tests for grade-to-grade promotion and high school graduation. The Nation at Risk report (1983) judged these tests too easy since most students passed them. So goodbye to competency tests. That happened again in the 1990s with the launching of upgraded state curriculum standards (e.g., Massachusetts) and then NCLB and later Common Core came along. It is happening now and will happen again.

Policy elites see school reform as a form of theater. Blaming schools for serious national problems, saying the right emotionally-loaded words, and giving the appearance of doing mighty things to solve the “school” problem matter far more than hard evidence or past experiences with similar reforms."
larrycuban  policy  edreform  commoncore  politics  businessasusual  standards  2013  success  theater  blame  schools  publicschools  poverty  inequality  economics  distraction 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: The Purpose of the Common Core is Creating "Better" Data
"It is incredibly important to reformers to be able to say things like "This teacher/school produced three more months of learning than that one." It is essentially the whole ball game. It is also pretty much a load of crap. But it is somewhat less bogus if you have the opportunity to authoritatively redefine the nature of learning on a year by year basis, limited to things that are relatively easily tested. That's the whole point of the Common Core, to tighten up and entrench their whole construct."
tomhoffman  commoncore  2013  standards  standardization  assessment  yearoveryear  edreform  education  policy 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Editorial: The Trouble with the Common Core
"We'd like to believe these claims and efforts can trump the more political uses of the Common Core project. But we can't.

For starters, the misnamed “Common Core State Standards” are not state standards. They're national standards, created by Gates-funded consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA). They were designed, in part, to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum, hence the insertion of the word “state” in the brand name. States were coerced into adopting the Common Core by requirements attached to the federal Race to the Top grants and, later, the No Child Left Behind waivers. (This is one reason many conservative groups opposed to any federal role in education policy oppose the Common Core.)

Written mostly by academics and assessment experts—many with ties to testing companies—the Common Core standards have never been fully implemented and tested in real schools anywhere. Of the 135 members on the official Common Core review panels convened by Achieve Inc., the consulting firm that has directed the Common Core project for the NGA, few were classroom teachers or current administrators. Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results.

The standards are tied to assessments that are still in development and that must be given on computers many schools don't have. So far, there is no research or experience to justify the extravagant claims being made for the ability of these standards to ensure that every child will graduate from high school “college and career ready.” By all accounts, the new Common Core tests will be considerably harder than current state assessments, leading to sharp drops in scores and proficiency rates.

We have seen this show before. The entire country just finished a decade-long experiment in standards-based, test-driven school reform called No Child Left Behind. NCLB required states to adopt “rigorous” curriculum standards and test students annually to gauge progress towards reaching them. Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year in every grade from 3–8 and again in high school. (Before NCLB, only 19 states tested all kids every year, after NCLB all 50 did.)

By any measure, NCLB was a dismal failure in both raising academic performance and narrowing gaps in opportunity and outcomes. But by very publicly measuring the test results against benchmarks no real schools have ever met, NCLB did succeed in creating a narrative of failure that shaped a decade of attempts to “fix” schools while blaming those who work in them. By the time the first decade of NCLB was over, more than half the schools in the nation were on the lists of “failing schools” and the rest were poised to follow.

In reality, NCLB's test scores reflected the inequality that exists all around our schools. The disaggregated scores put the spotlight on longstanding gaps in outcomes and opportunity among student subgroups. But NCLB used these gaps to label schools as failures without providing the resources or support needed to eliminate them."



"Rethinking Schools has always been skeptical of standards imposed from above. Too many standards projects have been efforts to move decisions about teaching and learning away from classrooms, educators, and school communities, only to put them in the hands of distant bureaucracies. Standards have often codified sanitized versions of history, politics, and culture that reinforce official myths while leaving out the voices, concerns, and realities of our students and communities. Whatever positive role standards might play in truly collaborative conversations about what our schools should teach and children should learn has been repeatedly undermined by bad process, suspect political agendas, and commercial interests.

Unfortunately there's been too little honest conversation and too little democracy in the development of the Common Core. We see consultants and corporate entrepreneurs where there should be parents and teachers, and more high-stakes testing where there should be none. Until that changes, it will be hard to distinguish the “next big thing” from the last one."
assessment  standards  commoncore  inequality  nclb  rttt  2013  education  schools  us  policy  democracy 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Standards-Based Grading: The End | ThinkThankThunk
"The idea of remediation is a serious hang-up for those that like to have hang-ups about new ideas. At BIG, we’ve left this whole idea of scheduled learning–and therefore hacking scheduled learning–behind, which is all SBG really is, a nice hack of a broken system. Like sending Internet packets down phone lines.

Our students work towards a competency for the following reasons:

• Faculty take an enormous amount of time learning about the student’s passions, interests, and current projects.

• Our goal is to produce a resume-building experience and product the student can take with them long after they graduate.

• The student co-designs the projects, competencies, and work.

• Students seek out faculty time, and have significantly less required “seat time” than in a traditional environment.

• The pedagogy at BIG is wildly student centered

• Notable absence: for a grade

The last couplet of points is the most important. We’re seeing an insurrection of grading initiatives around the country, which almost by definition means that the whole thing is going to implode under the weight of poor implementations. Sad, but education is as education does.

So, why is SBG a gateway drug? Because the minute you admit that you’ve been grading ineffectively, you end up admitting all sorts of things are weird about school. Like schedules, like cookie-cutter assignments, like students doing work to be “done with it.”

It’s a gateway to student-centered pedagogy. It’s a gateway to asking what kind of projects can be done that envelope multiple standards. It’s an exercise in creating deadline-murdering, interesting projects."
remediation  grades  grading  education  teaching  learning  standards-basedgrading  assessment  competency  pedagogy  2013  schedules  standards  experience  shawncornally 
july 2013 by robertogreco
What I Learned in my First Week of Running a School | ThinkThankThunk
[Highlighting 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 12, and 13]

"1. Competency-based education is really attractive to a certain group of parents and students; those that know their kid needs a real CV to compete coming out of the gate.

2. No one has any idea what a project is.

3. If you start a project without an external audience in mind, it’s probably going to be sucky.

4. If you start a project with a genuinely interesting question, it’s probably going to be legit. (How different are the proteins in blue, green, & brown eyes? vs. the much crappier: How does DNA make proteins?)

5. Middle school students can’t drive.

6. There’s an astonishingly small number of students who gravitate towards (and are properly served by) book-first learning. BIG is operating at 10% of students really flourishing this way. <implications implied implicitly>

7. Blurred Lines is a fun tune, but wildly inappropriate.

8. Ripping off Piet Mondrian for your logo makes you look like a fop, and minimizes time in Illustrator.

9. Writing competencies should be individualized to the student and needs to map back to at least 3 curriculum standards, or you’re just never going to stay at a good pace (just below Grueling/Meager Rations.)

10. No one talks about grades at BIG. It just doesn’t come up.

11. Keep a Google Doc for every student that has all of the crazy good ideas that pop up. You won’t remember everything, and the kids won’t either.

12. The context upon which you can hang content has a surprisingly wide latitude for most students.

13. Symposium time is necessary. (When 5-10 students get together to share progress, failures, successes, and ideas with each other)

14. We really need a mascot and colors. Currently we’re The Fighting Whalephants."
competency  competency-basededucation  middleschool  projects  projectbasedlearning  teaching  education  learning  schools  bigideasgroup  bigideasschool  shawncornally  2013  audience  parents  context  content  reflection  sharing  standards  pbl 
july 2013 by robertogreco
russell davies: 7 things I learned at wieden and kennedy (portland edition)
"As I venture further out into the world, away from the 10-year comfort zone (discomfort zone?) of w+k and Nike I realise that so many of my assumptions about the way that brands and communications and people work were formed there. And that many of these assumptions are horrifying and original to many of the people I bump into. So I thought I'd list some here. These are not anything that anyone tried to persuade me of, they're not 'the wieden way', they're conclusions I've drawn, assumptions I've made. So don't blame them if I'm an idiot. (If you want to explore some of what Dan actually thinks you could try this little speech w+k london found on a hard drive.)

1. Hire advertising people, you get advertising

As Dan will admit (claim?), when they started they found it very hard to hire conventional advertising talent. No-one would move to Portland. So they got people who'd failed elsewhere or kids straight out of school. These people didn't know how to make advertising. Or not in the way it was supposed to be made. They worked out for themselves how to communicate, seduce, persuade, engage, how to make a stunning piece of film or a compelling couple of pages but if often didn't look much like advertising. Even now, thousands of years later, when some of the habits have ossified and they really, clearly, do know how to make advertising there's an inclination to push it further, to not make advertising. I think this a lesson for everyone who wants to be the w+k of the future; hire just advertising people, you'll get just advertising.

2. The key to creative genius; work harder

I know it's boring but this became so incredibly clear to me. The most exciting, inspirational, talented thinkers and doers just work harder than everyone else. Often they also work more effectively, so it doesn't necessarily look like hard work, but basically they put in more hours, pay more attention and care more than the regular folk.

3. You can't divorce the medium from the message

W+K never gave up on its own media people. Media thinkers and media doers were always integral. And often the smartest people in the place. This led to innovative and informed thinking about not just what we'd say and how we'd say it, but also where we'd say it. So w+k didn't get stuck in that trap of shoveling creativity into a pre-bought schedule. We didn't fill 30 second boxes with stuff. You've got to have media people in the building, it makes life better.

4. Do good work, the money will follow

When I moved from Portland to London I was one of only two people in the London office who'd also worked in Portland. And I think the rest of London management couldn't quite believe Dan when he'd say this to them. They wanted to believe it, but they'd grown up in big London agencies where the bottom line is all. There's not a lot to say about this, it's just true.

5. Hold everyone to the same standard

I moved to Portland to work on Microsoft. It was clear in about 5 minutes that we were the pariah half of the agency. Everyone was either Nike or Microsoft. It was like high school. Jocks and geeks. They did fantastic work every 5 minutes, won all kinds of awards, got to meet celebrity athletes. We struggled to get any decent work through, won nothing, attended three day product briefings on Exchange Server.

And we all knew it would have been so easy to just roll over, give Microsoft exactly what they wanted (which was obvious and do-able) and rake in gobbets of cash. We could have funded a dozen pro-bono accounts which would have made us feel better and won us some awards and life would have been almost sweet. Except we weren't allowed. Peer and management pressure made it clear that everyone was held to the same standard, however hard our client and our task we were expected to do extraordinary and thrilling work. This seemed divisive and wrong at the time but looking back I realise it was genius. Because if you have multiple standards you have multiple agencies. If you treat some clients as creative opportunities and some as cash cows that's just what you'll get. And sooner or later the cash cows will leave the field. Everyone's seem what it's like to be the Account Director on the regional retail account that'll never do good work. It sucks. And it sucks even more when you have to sit and present your work to all the guys who work on the cool accounts. Kudos to Dan, he always expected us to make the work better. And, sometimes, before we got fired, we did some pretty decent work.

6. You can tell from the work if people enjoyed making it

This seems more true to me every time I walk in another agency. The places that are miserable make lack-lustre work (is it chicken or is it egg?). The places with energy make energetic, fulsome, toothsome work, bursting with ideas. If the process is depressing, the work will be flat, if the process has life, the work will connect.

7. Brands that influence culture sell more

This feeling was always in the air. People were trying to build popular culture not piggy-back on it, trying to create new culture, not just repeat old ones. About the worst thing you could say about an idea was that it had 'borrowed interest'. And it was palpably clear that this instinct led to more effective, more profitable brands. So I remember writing 'brands that influence culture sell more' in a creds deck and getting the highly prized Wieden nod of approval. That was a good moment. (Or at least I think I remember writing that, it seems to have turned up in other places too, so maybe I heard it somewhere first, perhaps through some sort of strange wormhole into the future.)"
advertising  business  culture  design  planning  russelldavies  2006  work  making  standards  creativity  brands  branding  influence 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Watering the Roots of Knowledge Through Collaborative Learning - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"These problematic aspects of the model are symptoms of its first major fault, a violation of the wisdom of Confucius: "Tell me, and I will forget; show me, and I will remember; involve me, and I will understand." I have demonstrated this fault directly. One fall at Columbia University, I had the usual 80-student class of bright, ambitious undergraduates fulfilling their science requirement by taking my lecture course on the solar system. Most attended the lectures, and, mostly, they paid attention (I do not use PowerPoint). They worked through long quantitative problem sets, took biweekly quizzes, and performed well on the midterm and final exams. They then went home for Christmas and on to the spring semester.

The following September, I gathered most of them again and administered a test on some of the material we had covered. I gave the same test to my new class before my first lecture. The results were statistically indistinguishable. So much for pouring knowledge from the full container to the empty ones—it leaks out.

The second major fault of the current educational model is that learning is an isolated activity. Yes, we bring a number of students together to form a "class," but then we do everything possible to isolate students from each other: "No talking in class"; "Please leave two seats between each person for this exam"; "Do all your own work." We desocialize learning, separating it from the periods of normal human interaction we call dorm-room bull sessions.

The third misplaced pillar of educational practice is competition and its accompanying correlate, quantitative measurement. Standardized tests proliferate; grade-point averages are calculated to four significant figures. We pretend that these numbers measure learning and use them to award scholarships, sort professional-school applicants, and, sadly, evaluate self-worth. And we are surprised that cheating—the goal of which is to get a higher score—is widespread. If a group of students works together effectively and efficiently to solve a hard problem, in school this is called cheating. In life, as the British educator Sir Ken Robinson notes, it's called collaboration, a valued asset in most real-world settings."



"General education is often thought of as a means to expose students to a broad range of "essential" knowledge and to provide a historical context for the culture in which they live. These are valid, but insufficient, goals. The purpose of general education should be to produce graduates who are skilled in communication, imbued with quantitative reasoning skills, instinctively collaborative, inherently transdisciplinary in their approach to problems, and engaged in their local and global communities—broadly educated individuals with an informed perspective on the problems of the 21st century and the integrative abilities to solve them."
davidhelfand  questuniversity  2013  via:tealtan  education  design  curriculum  academia  highereducation  highered  tcsnmy  cv  teaching  learning  unschooling  blockprograms  collaboration  deschooling  measurement  standardization  standardizedtesting  standards  social  isolation  comparison  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  coloradocollege  flexibility  depth  depthoverbreadth  generalists  generaleducation  adaptability  shrequest1 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Why Standardization Efforts Fail
"Standardization is a poorly understood discipline in practice. While there are excellent studies of standardization as an economic phenomenon, or as technical a phenomenon, or as a policy initiative, most of these are ex post facto and written from a dispassionate academic view. They are of little help to practitioners who actually are using and creating standards. The person actually creating the standards is working in an area of imperfect knowledge, high economic incentives, changing relationships, and often, short-range planning. The ostensible failure of a standard has to be examined not so much from the focus of whether the standard or specification was written or even implemented (the usual metric), but rather from the viewpoint of whether the participants achieved their goals from their participation in the standardization process. To achieve this, various examples are used to illustrate how expectations from a standardization process may vary, so that what is perceived as a market failure may very well be a signal success for some of the participants. The paper is experientially, not empirically based, and relies on my observations as an empowered, embedded, and occasionally neutral observer in the Information Technology standardization arena. Because of my background, the paper does have a focus on computing standards, rather than publishing standards. However, from what I have observed, the lessons learned apply equally to all standardization activities, from heavy machinery to quality to publishing. Standards names may vary; human nature doesn’t."
standards  standardization  management  administration  policy  2011  carlcargill  economics  informationtechnology  humans  human 
may 2013 by robertogreco
LEARNING BY DOING / MUSHON ZER-AVIV | Open Design Now
"Mushon Zer-Aviv describes his efforts to teach open source design as an attempt to investigate why collaborative work combined with individual autonomy has not been common practice in design, as it is in open source software development. He discusses whether what worked for code might just as easily be transferred to design: the physical object as binary structure."
designeducation  projectbasedlearning  pbl  learningbydoing  deschooling  unschooling  peer-to-peer  github  revolution  standards  blueprints  teaching  hacking  knowledge  cocreation  danphiffer  shiftspace  collaboration  collaborative  collaborativeworks  design  learning  education  autonomy  opensource  opendesign  open  mushonzer-aviv 
january 2013 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: when voices are lost...
"And voice cannot flourish unless children can express themselves as they need to, in the safety of a community which accepts that voice and encourages it and hears it carefully, and all of that exists in a place where children do not crawl down the sides of corridors in fear, or fear punishments because they behave as children, or where they are measured according to nonsensical adult measuring sticks.

In the end, we don't need "more security" and we don't need "higher standards." Yes, we need to remove killing machines from our nation, but really, we need to care a whole lot more. We need to rearrange our priorities in such a way that our children come first, that our children and our learning spaces and our educators have the resources - all the resources - which they need and all the safety which allows them to be children and adolescents - to learn, to f--- up, to learn more, to grow, to be who they are."
love  freedom  standards  guncontrol  safety  security  parenting  schools  children  irasocol  2012  sandyhook 
december 2012 by robertogreco
What Should Children Read? - NYTimes.com
"There are anthologies of great literature and primary documents, but why not “30 for Under 20: Great Nonfiction Narratives?” Until such editions appear, teachers can find complex, literary works in collections like “The Best American Science and Nature Writing,” on many newspaper Web sites, which have begun providing online lesson plans using articles for younger readers, and on ProPublica.org. Last year, The Atlantic compiled examples of the year’s best journalism, and The Daily Beast has its feature “Longreads.” Longform.org not only has “best of” contemporary selections but also historical examples dating back decades.

If students read 100 such articles over the course of a year, they may not become best-selling authors, but like Mr. Gladwell, they’ll get the sound and feel of good writing in their heads. With luck, when they graduate, there will still be ranks of literary nonfiction authors left for them to join."
2012  narrativenonfiction  radiolab  thisamericanlife  learning  teaching  davidcoleman  sandrastotsky  dianeravitch  standards  writing  malcolmgladwell  saramosle  commoncore  curriculum  schools  nonfiction  education  reading 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Will · Interesting Disclaimer by Common Core Assessors
"Since these non-academic factors are so important, PARCC College- and Career-Ready Determinations can only provide an estimate of the likelihood that students who earn them have the academic preparation necessary to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing courses."

[This is the small print. Too bad we don't lead with "There are no guarantees." That's what I've tried to do. Then we could stop pretending that curriculum is important and get on with letting kids learn. We need to step aside and focus on being examples of good humans. That's all that matters.]
comments  whatmatters  2012  standardization  standardizedtesting  testing  parcc  standards  curriculum  schools  learning  education  disclaimers  commoncore  smallprint 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Will · Our Numbers Obsession Will Kill Us
"You may think the Common Core is more about critical thinking and skills than about content, a move in the right direction, but it doesn’t matter. The assessments will HAVE TO BE about the quantifiable, since we’ve done such a good job at raising the stakes around how the results will be used.

We’re borked.

"According to the late Gerald Bracey, who conducted extensive research and authored numerous books about the misuse of data on education among policymakers, politicians, and the media, a measure of some of the most valuable achievements that test results cannot capture include: creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, self-discipline, leadership, resourcefulness, and a sense of wonder."

The immeasurable."
numbers  softskills  jamespaulgee  geraldbracey  standards  standardizedtesting  standardization  education  learning  immeasurables  measurement  assessment  commoncore  2012  willrichardson  shrequest1 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Everything You've Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong
"Overall, the last 10 years have revealed that while Big Data can make our questions more sophisticated, it doesn't necessarily lead to Big Answers. The push to improve scores has left behind traditional assessments that, research indicates, work better to gauge performance…

Even the godfather of standardized testing, the cognitive psychologist Robert Glaser [26], warned in 1987 about the dangers of placing too much emphasis on test scores. He called them "fallible and partial indicators of academic achievement" and warned that standardized tests would find it "extremely difficult to assess" the key skills people should gain from a good education: "resilience and courage in the face of stress, a sense of craft in our work, a commitment to justice and caring in our social relationships, a dedication to advancing the public good.""

"A look at Maria's schoolwork, on the other hand, is a glimpse at a learner's progress. …"
standardization  standards  commoncore  publicschools  history  tfa  wendykopp  billgates  michellerhee  latinos  immigration  learning  sanfrancisco  missionhigh  bigdata  education  policy  robertglaser  assessment  standardizedtesting  rttt  nclb  kristinarizga  2012  teachforamerica 
august 2012 by robertogreco
10 things parents should unlearn… « What Ed Said
"10 things I think (some) parents should unlearn…

1.  Learning is best measured by a letter or a number.

2. Product is more important than process and progress.

3. Children need to be protected from any kind of failure.

4. The internet  is dangerous for children.

5. Parents and teachers should discuss students without the learner present.

6. Homework is an essential part of learning.

7. The school is responsible for the child’s entire education.

8. Your child’s perspective is the only one.

9. Learning looks the same as when you went to school.

10. Focus on (and fix) your child’s shortcomings, rather than their successes."
unlearning  parenting  unschooling  deschooling  2012  ednasackson  process  processoverproduct  tcsnmy  learning  assessment  testing  standards  standardization  responsibility  education  cv  teaching  studentdirected  students  failure  risk  risktaking  howwelearn  howweteach  schools  lcproject 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Education in the Age of Globalization » Blog Archive » Common Sense Vs. Common Core: How to Minimize the Damages of the Common Core
"The Common Core is unstoppable now. But there are a few things we, as parents, educators, and taxpayers, can do to minimize its damages on our children:

1. Don’t be fooled by the claims of the Common Core advocates. …

2. Don’t narrow your curriculum. Don’t cut arts, music, sports, recess, field trips, debate teams, or other programs in order to align with the Common Core. …

3. Don’t standardize the teachers. Don’t force the teachers to become Common Core machines. Don’t make them standardized knowledge transmitters. …

4. Don’t waste your money. Don’t waste your precious dollars on the numerous Common Core products and services purport to help with your children’s college and career readiness. …

5. Don’t judge your students or teachers based on test scores…"
teaching  curriculum  yongzhao  2012  standardizedtesting  standardization  learning  tcsnmy  policy  education  standards  commoncore 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Yong Zhao Interview: Will the Common Core Create World-Class Learners? - Living in Dialogue - Education Week Teacher
"This is getting silly. The world is not filled with heartless, cruel, cold individuals, and the world actually needs individuals who understand emotions and feelings. If they had read any recent studies about creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial talents or books related to multiple intelligences, they would understand the importance of emotional intelligence and the value of empathy."

"I have tackled this issue in my upcoming book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, to be released by Corwin Press in mid August. My basic suggestion is that excellence comes from the individual--individual students, individual teachers, individual schools, and individual communities. A true high expectation comes from the students themselves when are allowed autonomy and rewarded for genuine contribution to the society using their talents, passion, time, and efforts."
self-assessment  autonomy  teaching  empathy  well-being  children  learning  policy  standards  standardizedtesting  standardization  2012  education  yongzhao  commoncore 
may 2012 by robertogreco
Yong Zhao in Conversation: Education Should Liberate, Not Indoctrinate - Living in Dialogue - Education Week Teacher
"Using standardized tests to measure student performance in a few subjects distorts the whole picture of education, confuses test scores with real education that prepares competent and responsible citizens, and reduces education to test preparation. These simplistic accountability measures distract policy makers, educators, parents, and students from addressing what really matters in education, waste precious political and financial assets, and unfairly blames educators for societal problems. The lack of faith in public education could lead to the demise of the great American tradition--a decentralized public education system that strives to educate all children in their local context…

I think educators have to shoulder the responsibilities of public intellectuals--we need to advocate, educate, and act…"

[See aslo: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/05/yong_zhao_common_core.html ]
standards  accountability  assessment  publicschools  schools  2012  well-being  learning  teaching  policy  commoncore  standardizedtesting  standardization  us  education  yongzhao 
may 2012 by robertogreco
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