Smorgasbord: A National Lack of Knowledge


“’Tempus omnia manifestat’: Allegory of Art and Knowledge” by Johann Melchior Füssli (Swiss, Zurich 1677–1736 Zurich) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

E.D. Hirsch, Jr on how a lack of shared values and culture relates to poor literacy

“I believe that our current schools have not understood how great a quantity of specific knowledge is needed to gain mastery of the written and spoken national language.”

A Sense of Belonging – Democracy Journal

A nation that barely reads has elected a president that barely reads

“When President Trump began receiving his intelligence briefings in January, his team made a request: The president, they said, was a visual and auditory learner. Would the briefers please cut down on the number of words in the daily briefing book and instead use more graphics and pictures?”

This deficit in knowledge and reliance upon shallow sources of visual information means that many people are easily manipulated by propaganda—whether from Russia or marketers.

‘Horrible’ pictures of suffering moved Trump to action on Syria – Washington Post

Speaking of a deficit in knowledge

Chester Finn highlights the difficulty in reforming curriculum

“Curriculum, therefore, is generally left to districts, which frequently leave it to individual schools and often to individual teachers or departments within them.”

“In other words, however much importance an education reformer or public official may place on curriculum, in America it’s hard to find and grasp any levers that enable one to do anything about it.”

Curriculum becomes a reform strategy – Flypaper

Middlebury professor who was attacked for interviewing Charles Murray speaks out about the need for civil discourse

Professor Stanger’s NY Times piece on the “Middlebury affair” is worth reading. I wonder what, exactly, student protestors at Middlebury found so extremely frightening about Murray’s work that they couldn’t even bear to read, let alone rebut, his actual research and arguments. Perhaps they are afraid of their own racism and prejudice, and attack him to make themselves feel righteous and morally upright.

As Stanger suggests, the real enemy here is “ignorance empowered.”

Middlebury, My Divided Campus – NY Times

High school muckrakers out their principal’s lack of credentials

“[The principal] declined to comment directly on students’ questions about her credentials, ‘because their concerns are not based on facts,’ she said.

In an emergency faculty meeting Tuesday, the superintendent said Robertson was unable to produce a transcript confirming her undergraduate degree from the University of Tulsa, Smith said.”

There is still hope for our future.

These high school journalists investigated a new principal’s credentials. Days later, she resigned. – Washington Post

The New York Times mistakenly equates absolute test scores with school quality

“To attribute test scores solely to ‘school quality’ ignores the powerful role that family background plays in shaping opportunity,” Reardon writes in his comment on the Times story. Research has found that although schools are important, out-of-school factors, including poverty, have an even greater influence on student achievement levels.”

New York Times Misuses Their Data When Linking School Quality to Home Prices, Researchers Say – the74

Personalized learning platforms ≠ school-based autonomy

I’m not at all opposed to efforts to marry individual student performance data with automated feedback mechanisms. There’s plentiful space for innovation and advancement there. But I also believe we need to be clear-eyed about what such systems may entail.

A Providence superintendent reveals what may be a common fallacy around what a “personalized learning” platform really means:

” ‘Providence is committed to school-based autonomy, with each school involved in choosing its own technology and instructional methods to support personalized learning,’ says Christopher N. Maher, the district’s superintendent. ‘By owning these choices, school leaders and teachers truly buy into personalized-learning concepts and practices.’ “

A “personalized learning” platform developed by Facebook does not equate with greater “school-based autonomy” beyond the ability of a school to “choose” that platform (and curriculum). But the platform itself necessitates reliance upon a non-public system, which dictates the content that students are exposed to and which collects and houses that student data. So put the stress there on “buy,” rather than on “autonomy.”

If a school truly wants to be “autonomous”, they would not cede their content and instruction to a non-public platform. Just saying.

Will Personalized Learning Become the New Normal? Inside Rhode Island’s Statewide Tech Initiative – the74

Seattle shows us how to battle privileged NIMBYism

“By emphasizing outreach to underserved groups such as renters, immigrants and refugees, Nyland is shaking up traditional notions of community engagement and redefining community as something based not on geographic proximity, but on personal and cultural affinity.”

…”For the first time since its inception in the late ’80s, the city’s neighborhoods department would spend as much time engaging with underrepresented communities as it did listening to the concerns of white property owners.”

How Seattle is Dismantling a NIMBY Power Structure – Next City

How segregation affects the affluent

“In many ways, students in Lexington are the byproduct of the self-segregation that Enrico Moretti writes about in his book “The New Geography of Jobs,” which addresses the way well-educated, tech-minded adults cluster in brain hubs. For their children, that means ending up in schools in which everyone is super bright and hypercompetitive. It’s hard to feel special.”

It Takes A Suburb: A Town Struggles to Ease Student Stress – NY Times

NY State is making moves to battle segregated schools

Finally.

New York state plans to use new federal education law to help integrate schools – Chalkbeat NY

Rick Hess points to the potential horror of federal involvement in education

“what happens ‘when you get a Democratic administration, an Elizabeth Warren administration, and they decide that eligible schools … need to have anti-bullying programs and other accommodations? ‘“

Yes. Truly frightful.

Conservatives to DeVos: Be careful what you wish for on school choice – USA Today

A reminder from David Kirp: The real work of education is incremental

“The truth is that school systems improve not through flash and dazzle but by linking talented teachers, a challenging curriculum and engaged students.”

Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These? – NY Times

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