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Quote for the Week

I think that with all the emphasis on achievement, careers and competitiveness, science education has become — with notable bright spots to be sure — a joyless, alienating and frustrating experience for millions and millions of kids.  There are those science-fair-winner types and then there’s the rest of the class, not grooving on the material and hence, they find out, doomed to mediocre futures. Seems like ambivalence and hostility aren’t such surprising responses to such a message. … I think things might go better if the narrative of our scientific understandings of nature — what some are calling “Big History” — were told early and often, capturing the interest and imagination of students from a young age. They might then be eager to learn the problem-solving, evidence-based process of scientific inquiry that has led to these understandings.

–Ursula Goodenough, “It’s Time For A New Narrative; It’s Time For ‘Big History'”, in 13.7: Cosmos & Culture (10 February 2011); courtesy of Wikiquote

Quote for the Week


The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.

–Martin Buber, courtesy of Wikiquote.

Quote for the Week


Education makes the wise slightly wiser, but it makes the fool vastly more dangerous.

–Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Prcrustes:  Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

Cult of Personality II: Attack of the Conformists

This was written about six years ago or so, slightly edited here, and ties in with my last post (which was also written about that time).

This Saturday I went to a PD (teachers’ jargon for Professional Development).  The topic was learning more effective ways of finding a job in education.  Certainly, since I am working on my certification to teach secondary school [have long since got it!], and am about halfway through, this is something of interest!  The sooner the better!

In any case, there was one thing that was said that I found interesting, since it ties in to the last post, and because I hadn’t thought of it before.  The presenter was talking about the various hoops one goes through in the course of applying for a job:  resumes, interviews, &c.  Having worked at one thing or another for the last 17 years or so, most of that was hardly news to me.  He also mentioned, though, that some districts (not many in my state, yet, apparently) use a personality test.  I don’t remember the specific name, but it is produced by the Gallup organization, and supposedly measures things like empathy, enthusiasm, and so on.  Now, I have discussed what my opinion of such tests is, especially in regard to hiring.  The presenter said that he wasn’t in favor of them, either–just giving us a heads-up to expect them.
The reason he said he disagreed with such tests, though, is intuitively obvious, and yet one I hadn’t actually thought of.  Companies that use these, he suggested, run the danger of getting a whole bunch of employees who are the same personality type, and thus who all think the same way.   In other words, a bunch of super-conformists.  As he pointed out, a truly healthy, functional, and competitive organization needs people of different temperaments and outlooks.  The old saw, “It takes all kinds,” is just as true here as in society.  When you have everybody thinking the same way, there is no one to serve as a reality check, to say, “Hey, maybe what we’re doing isn’t working.”

As I said, this is really in-your-face obvious; but then again, everything  is, once it’s in your face!  I was really happy to  hear this, because it indicates that there is still some sanity out there.   The gentleman was a former hiring consultant to one of the school districts, and it’s nice to know that not all hiring people have bought into such stuff as this.  It was also good to have some of my intuitions about the negative impact of such tests in the hiring process borne out.

2+2=…uh, wait, let me grab my calculator….

This is an essay originally written about seven years ago.  The subject matter is just as pertinent, if not more so.

Over the last month I have been working every other day as a substitute teacher.  I am currently working towards secondary school certification so I can teach full-time in the public schools at the high school level.  Of course, I’ve taught for seventeen years, but I still need that piece of paper for the public schools…but don’t get me started on that….  Anyway, most recently I taught for six years at a proprietary (i.e. for-profit) two-year college.  It was during this time that I discovered that proprietary colleges are the tool of Satan.  Don’t get me started on that, either.  Anuway, as you may guess, doing the proprietary college thing didn’t work out, and it’s time for a change.  Thus, partly for continued income (always a good thing, especially if you’ve got a mortgage, a toddler, and four cats!) and partly to get my foot in the door, I’ve been subbing at the high school and middle school in the town where I live.  Next semester, when I will be taking all night classes at college, I hope to substitute every day, rather than every other day, as now. Meanwhile, even subbing every other day has provided some interesting insights.

My field is mathematics–let me point that out right away.  Also, let me point out a few other things.  First, I’m a mediocre mathematician–I’m not even fit to unlace John Nash’s shoes, mathematically speaking.  I’m a damn good math teacher though.  Though I actually am an arrogant bastard, that’s not boastful blather, but a reasonable hypothesis based on seventeen years of consistently good performance evaluations–except for one from the aforementioned Satanic college, which according to a friend in the know there, was political; but don’t get me started on that!–and testimonials by former students.  I know my weaknesses, though, and as I said, I am a mediocre mathematician.  I graduated from a state university not known as a training ground for great mathematicians, and before that I graduated from a high school of only about 800 (graduating class of 160).  I was raised in a very small town of a population roughly equal to the student body of my high school (which was, obviously, in a different town).  The point is, mathematically, both in aptitude and training, I am nothing special, to say the least. Read the rest of this entry

As a teacher and son of teachers I found this fascinating (and true to my experience) and wanted to pass it on. h/t to El Pelón

Corey Robin

Like Doug Henwood, I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out why people—particularly liberals and pseudo-liberals in the chattering classes—hate teachers unions. One could of course take these people at their word—they care about the kids, they worry that strikes hurt the kids, and so on—but since we never hear a peep out of them about the fact that students have to swelter through 98-degree weather in jam-packed classeswithout air conditioning, I’m not so inclined.

Forgive me then if I essay an admittedly more impressionistic analysis drawn from my own experience.

Like many of these journalists, I hail from an upper middle class background. I grew up in Chappaqua, an affluent suburb of New York. My parents moved there in 1975 for the schools, which were—and I believe still are—terrific. From elementary school through senior year, I had some of the best teachers I’ve ever…

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Quote for the Week

When the mind is made up, the ear is deaf to even the best arguments.  This is the sign of a strong character.  In other words, an occasional will to stupidity.

–Friedrich  Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Article 107, translated by Marianne Cowan (my emphasis)

Here’s an aphorism for the Internet age!

For Those Starting School


School starts today both for me (as a college teacher) and my daugher (as a fourth-grader), coincidentally.  In different areas, school starts back at different times.  In any case, whether you’ve already started, start today, have not started yet, or are neither a student nor teacher, enjoy this video by Tom Chapin.

Quote for the Week

It must also be remembered that one of the three branches of Primary Education in Hellas would be called play in England: an afternoon spent in running races, jumping, wrestling, or riding would not be regarded as work by an English schoolboy. Music, too, is usually learned during play-hours in an English school. Even Letters, when the elementary stage was past, meant reciting, reading, or learning by heart the literature of the boy’s own language, and most of it not stiff literature by any means, but such fascinating fairy-tales as are found in Homer. There is little trace of Hellenic boys creeping unwillingly to school: their lessons were made eminently attractive.

Courtesy of Wikiquotes.

Another Quote for the Week

Art that means anything in the life of a community must bear some relation to current interpretations of the mystery of the universe. Our rigid separation of the humanities and the sciences has temporarily left our art stranded or stammering and incoherent. Both art and science ought to be blended in our early education of our children’s emotions and powers of observation, and that harmony carried forward in later education.  (emphasis as given at Wikiquote)

Courtesy of Wikiquotes.

I know I’ve already done the Quote of the Week, but I ran across this and it’s too good not to post.