Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Blatant Disrespect

Today is Star Wars Day, May the 4th (be with you).  One of my students today wore a BB-8 shirt, which tells me he's aware of the significance of the date.

This same student however, when I asked him to do something, said, "I'll try."  It's bad enough that he said that at all, but to say it on Star Wars Day?  It's bad enough not to heed the words of Master Yoda, but to do so on Star Wars Day?  That's just offensive.   Master Yoda had strong words on the subject:  "Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try."

Kids these days are so disrespectful.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Book Review: Math Education in the US, Still Crazy After All These Years

I just posted the following review on Amazon for Barry Garelick's book Math Education in the US, Still Crazy After All These Years:

A few weeks ago I won this book and the author, whom I know only via blogs, asked me to review it.  Here's my review in a nutshell:  this is exactly the book *I* would write about the current state of math education if I were but as eloquent as Garelick.

His observations are profound, if simple: "In a world where it doesn't matter when you learn something, because you'll get it eventually, there seem to be few if any critical junctures, no mastery of procedure, no building on what you've learned--no learning."  Have you ever been told, "Don't worry if baby doesn't get it (multiplication, fractions, negative numbers) now, he/she'll see it again next year"?  That is exactly what Garelick is talking about.  "Its substance was shallow, memorization was discouraged, students were kept dependent on mental crutches"--if you've heard a teacher say "Just let them use a calculator; the computation isn't what's important here, it's the higher-level thinking and deep understanding that we're after", then Garelick has told you what's really going on.  Are you told that "We don't teach children how to do the problem, we teach them how to think so they can figure out the problem on their own", Garelick again clarifies:  "...constructivism taken to extremes can result in students' not knowing what they have discovered, not knowing how to apply it, or, in the worst case, discovering--and taking ownership of--the wrong answer."

What I enjoyed most of all, though, was Garelick's clarification of ideas I've long had.  Again, I wish I could state my beliefs as clearly as he does.  For example:  "That critical thinking cannot occur without something to think critically about--namely facts--is of little concern to ed school gurus", or his entire discussion of working memory/cognitive load theory.

Garelick has his educational history correct.  He has his assessment of direct instruction vs. constructivism correct.  He has facts and figures and studies, and he quotes top-quality mathematicians.  He knows the education world, and he reveals its dirty little secrets.  He gets cause and effect correct; for example, "For many students, the 'why' of the procedure is easier to navigate once fluency is developed for the particular procedure."  And he adeptly slays the Common Core dragon of writing essays to explain how you got your answer and why it's correct.

I enjoyed this book so much because I share Garelick's fundamental beliefs about math education, where it's been and where it's going.  This is an exceptional book for anyone interested in navigating math education today. 

Monday, May 02, 2016

When Was The Last Time This Happened?

I have nothing to write about or comment on today.  Nada, zilch, nothing.

When have you ever known me not to have a strong enough opinion to write about something?

Are your feet cold?  

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Some May Call It May Day...

Thoughtful people call it Victims of Communism Day.

Over 100 million dead directly due to Communism in the 20th Century.

In the Soviet Union, the cry of "Death to the kulaks!" resulted in over 7 million dead.  The kulaks weren't the only ones to die, though.

Thankfully the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore.  Here's some of their worthless currency which I have as a souvenir of their fate:
click to enlarge

Do you wonder why I don't think Edward Snowden is a traitor?  Do you wonder why Orwellian government surveillance of citizens is so wrong?  Have you ever seen The Lives of Others, a German film about a Stasi agent who spies on a writer?  Do you remember the Berlin Wall, built not to keep others out but to keep East German citizens in?  Do you remember the night in 1989 when it came down?

Thankfully the German Democratic Republic doesn't exist anymore.  Here's some of their worthless currency which I have as a souvenir of their fate:

Do you remember the Solidarity labor movement in Poland?  Do you remember the declaration of martial law by General Jaruzelski?

Thankfully the communist government in Poland doesn't exist anymore.  Here's some of their worthless currency which I have as a souvenir of their fate:

They treated the proletariat so well, didn't they?

We're not done with Communism yet, however:
How many millions did Mao kill during the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, et. al.?

I don't have currency from North Korea or Cuba, but let's not forget them, either.

Setting aside the people imprisoned, "reeducated", etc., how many people did Communism kill last century?  Just look at the numbers for Stalin and Mao--just those two--and marvel.

So on this date I honor the hundred-plus million people who died because of a sick and perverted ideology.  May we never forget.

Update:  BTW,  with the exception of the Polish note, all of those shown are about the size of Monopoly money.  Just sayin'.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

New Linked Blog

After getting a valuable comment on one of my posts, I thought I'd head over to that commenter's blog, educationrealist.  I'm glad I did!

A new addition to the blogroll....

Friday, April 29, 2016

How Much Is Their "Fair" Share?

California's budget is overly dependent on income taxes, especially those at the top of the income spectrum.  How much is "enough", how much should the state squeeze them for?
The wealthiest Californians paid nearly half of the state’s income taxes in 2014 after seeing an uptick in their average income from 2013, according to updated income distribution data compiled by the state Franchise Tax Board.
A graphic in the article shows that the top 1% (average income: $261,000) paid about 35% of income taxes collected in 1996, in the middle of the Clinton presidency, and 48 percent in 2014.  Those numbers for the top 20% were 83 and 90, respectively.  The article isn't clear but I think I'm in the middle 5th, from which was collected 3.75% of taxes in 1996 and 1.76% in 2014.  The bottom 5th paid .08% and .04% for the same two years.

Is that not progressive enough?

Read more here:

And Like The Blink Of An Eye

I've previously written about my peer-evaluated term papers.  Last night I read each of them aloud, made minor changes, and submitted them.

And just like that, my semester is over.  I really enjoyed this course.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yet Another Reason Why "Free" College Is A Bad Idea

We know that students today aren't doing as well academically as they did in years past.  Those of us in education know that there are bad teachers, but there have always been bad teachers.  That can't be the cause.  We also know that "guidance" from the feds about suspensions and other forms of discipline, about "tracking", about "social justice" requiring even unprepared kids to take any class they want--all of these, and our litigious society, harm education for everyone.  Schools don't exist in a vacuum, they're a microcosm of society.  Society is ill, and it should come as no surprise that education is, too.

Our society already offers 13 years of no-out-of-pocket-cost education, but some people want more.  There's even a presidential candidate or two promising "free" college for everyone.  What's the point?  Why should people who don't take advantage of the 13 years we already give them get 4 more?
Only 37% of American 12th-graders were academically prepared for college math and reading in 2015, a slight dip from two years earlier, according to test scores released Wednesday.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” said that share was down from an estimated 39% in math and 38% in reading in 2013.

Educators and policy makers have long lamented that many seniors get diplomas even though they aren’t ready for college, careers or the military. Those who go to college often burn through financial aid or build debt while taking remedial classes that don’t earn credits toward a degree.
Barely 1 in 3--which is the fraction California decided should attend our UC's and CSU's when the Master Plan for Higher Education was drafted back in 1960.

Everyone doesn't need to attend college, and allowing people to do so "free" is a tremendous waste of taxpayer money.

Delayed Gratification

A couple of superintendents ago, our district added work time onto Mon-Wed and Friday classes so that students could get out early on Thursday.  For an hour after kids leave on Thursdays we teachers are supposed to "collaborate".  It's a great theory, it just doesn't work well.  Those of us who need to collaborate can't wait until Thursday afternoon--we talk between classes, or at break, or at lunch, or before and after school.  Even if we could wait until Thursday afternoon, our administration often gives us a list of things to be done during "collaboration time" that precludes our discussion of actual academic content.

Three times this semester we had extended, 3-hr meetings after school to discuss next year's accreditation visit and associated planning.  To compensate us for that additional time, our principal will now allow us to leave on Thursdays as soon as our last class is over.  Since there's no more mandatory collaboration time, anything that needs to be done will get done on "our" time, but it's still nice to be able to leave a little early on Thursdays.

I organize a happy hour each Friday after school, we call it 7th Period.  Getting to leave early today, I thought it would be fun to schedule a special Thursday edition of 7th Period in addition to tomorrow's and see if anyone new might show up.

Around 2:30 a small group of us met at The Cheesecake Factory and had a late lunch.  No rushing, no waiting for a microwave to be available, no students sending another teacher in to tell us that some student out in the hall "needs" to talk to one of us.  No, we sat for two leisurely hours and had a nice meal, with good company, conducting adult conversation, with no interruptions.

No one liked those 3-hr meetings, but we're reaping the rewards now!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Term Papers

I've received my peer evaluations for my term papers.  On each one I got dinged on a point.  On my personal education philosophy paper I was dinged for clarity--some of my sentences weren't easy to understand.  It's true that I don't write subject-verb-predicate, subject-verb-predicate, subject-verb-predicate, but I thought that was a little picky!  Is this blog so difficult to read?

On my history of education paper I was dinged for going over the 7 page limit.  I did so only if you count the abstract as a page, which I certainly don't as it isn't content.

I have until May 5th to submit them to my instructor.  I actually have until late on May 8th, but on Friday the 6th I'm heading to the airport immediately after school to go to Las Vegas for a mini-reunion--and I won't be home before late May 8th.

As far as I'm concerned the two papers are completed; as we used to say at West Point, RD=FC (rough draft = final copy).  Mine aren't really "rough" drafts, though, but highly polished "first" drafts.  If I didn't think they were good enough already I wouldn't have submitted them for review!  So I'll reread the first one and see if I can simplify a couple sentences, and I'll do a once-over on the second just to make sure I haven't missed anything.  I find that reading them out loud is a very good technique for catching errors.

And then I'll be done with my 8th course.  Two to go.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Game of Thrones

This past Saturday night I finished rewatching Season 5 of Game of Thrones, as Season 6 started Sunday night.  I've been pretty busy the last couple of evenings, but I think I'll go watch the season opener now.  I read about it today--believe it or not, people die in it!!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Teeter-totter

The last couple of days at school have been relatively easy--my classes have been reviewing for their last chapter tests, and I've just been answering questions on review assignments or clarifying Khan Academy videos.  As we have 2-hour block periods for the next two days, I have two days of nothing but giving tests.

In my master's class, though, things are revving up.  My two term papers have (finally) been peer reviewed/edited and now I have to see if I want to incorporate the suggested changes into them.  The final papers have to be completed and posted online before I leave for Las Vegas at the end of next week.

A couple weeks ago I won a contest and received a free copy of Barry Garelick's book, Math Education in the US: Still Crazy After All These Years.  I've been asked to write an Amazon review for it--perhaps I can read a little of it while my students are testing the next couple of days, as I certainly don't have much time to read it at home!