Category: Education

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Where the Rubber Room Meets the Road

I have a suggestion for Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools: Publish a teaching offenders list.

I must be a slow learner, because until Saturday I hadn’t understood New York City’s losing battle with the powerful teachers union. Once teachers achieve tenure—after 3 years—they are employed for life and damn near undismissible, even for cause. Journalism professor Samuel Freedman wrote about the situation for the New York Times two years ago: “Where Teachers Sit, Awaiting Their Fates.” I missed that one, but not Steven Brill’s shocking “The Rubber Room: The battle over New York City’s worst teachers” in Aug. 31, 2009, The New Yorker.

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No Class, No Reunion

My 30-year high school reunion will take place this year—if it hasn’t already. But, sigh, I have no high school where to return. During my junior and senior years, my mom moved the family from the town where I grew up to Maine’s second-largest city in the south. While other kids wallowed in the memories, I walked the hallowed halls like an odd duck. I was a stranger among strangers. I left my memories and friends 300 miles away, in the town where I was born and there the school system that educated me. No memories. No prom. No graduation parties. No fun.

I regularly cut classes in the new school, which was quite unusual for me. I had bulked up on extra classes through junior year and was one-quarter credit shy of graduation going into my senior year. I only needed to sustain grades for college. 

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Homeschooling as a Lifestyle Choice

Yesterday’s New York Times story, “The Gilded Age of Home Schooling“, looks at the practice from a lifestyle choice. The lead gets right to the point: “In what is an elite tweak on homeschooling—and a throwback to the gilded days of education by governess or tutor—growing numbers of families are choosing the ultimate in private school: hiring teachers to educate their children in their own homes”.

Well, that sure blows the hell out of homeschooling as a religious or philosophical choice. And I agree with the Times take. The tutor approach often is about lifestyle, such as people who travel. “Many say they have no argument with ordinary education—it just does not fit their lifestyle”. 

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You Are Here

Uh-oh. Young adults may know their way around MySpace, but National Geographic says they don’t know New York from Iraq. Half of 18-24 year olds can’t find New York on a map and only 37 percent know where is Iraq. Uh, don’t we have a whole lot of troops there?

Oh my. Forty-eight percent of young adults think—OMG—India is populated by Muslims! And I suppose they think the same Indians who live there are Native Americans. 

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Cogito Ergo Sum

Newsweek has ranked the top high schools. The first Maine high school, in Yarmouth, showed up 289 on the list. Cape Elizabeth high school snatched 764th place. Bangor high school came in 948. The local high school, here in Kensington, Md., ranked 648.

What makes a good high school is a good question, but it’s not the right one. I say: What makes a good education? I recall the recent study that found many graduating college students couldn’t manage basic tasks, like comparing ticket prices (ha, the real reason rock concerts cost so much!) or figuring the cost of a sandwich and a salad (ah, the real reason for the popularity of McDonald’s Dollar Menu). 

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Seneca Schoolhouse

This afternoon, my daughter wrote a delightful post on her Weblog about a trip to the Seneca Schoolhouse in Poolesville, Md. But her post vanished in a wisp before she could save it to TypePad. Argh.

Molly encountered the same problem that a month ago had me cursing by name all 60,000 Microsoft employees (yes, it was exhausting but therapeutic). When she went to insert a photo, an Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 Preview pop-up warned about secure and unsecure content. Clearing the warning was supposed to let her post the picture. Like my experience, the process instead erased the entire post. Molly was so upset that she, like her dad, couldn’t redo the post. 

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Homeschooling in Maryland

A Reuters story on homeschooling looks at a growing phenomenon. Story leads off with two homeschoolers in in Columbia, Md., dressing up in period attire to study about the Renaissance. I can speak from experience that Columbia, Md., is a booming area for homeschooling. We’ve shopped in homeschool stores there and around the area.

My daughter’s homeschooling continues. I have confidence in my wife’s abilities as a teacher, although she and my daughter do have occasional down days (let’s just say that 11 is a difficult age). 

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Online Buying for Dumb People

I an in a foul mood because of Amazon affiliates. On January 17, my wife ordered textbook Japanese for Young People I: Student Book through one of Amazon’s affiliates. Twelve days later, we still don’t have the book, and another ordered with it.

I take the blame for the mistake. My wife asked my assistance when ordering the book, and being work rushed that day I failed to demonstrate diligence. I should have done what my daughter did: Check Amazon reviews of the seller. Many, many of the reviewers complained about long delivery times, no books received, or damaged items. I would have canceled right then, but I quickly learned that the seller provides no easy cancelation mechanism. So we gambled on the order, for which we received shipment notification on January 18, and lost. 

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Hey, America, You’re Your Illiterate

American Institutes for Research issued a nice, tidy little study today: “The Literacy of America’s College Students” by Justin Baer, Andrea Cook, and Stephané Baldi. Apparently many college students nearing graduation lack basic skills to properly function. Nothing more important than the ability to balance a checkbook or, uh, read.

Speaking of literacy, why is the study’s title in lower case on the cover page? Here’s a good gift book for the report’s editors.