Monthly Archives: September 2009

Compounded Stupidity

So I found this via lblanken on twitter that Obama is disappointing me further.

I read these articles and they really beg for satire. So, I am forced to oblige.

(italics and footnotes are mine, I removed some portions for brevity, everything else is from the original at this link)
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Original By LIBBY QUAID, AP Education Writer Libby Quaid, Ap Education Writer – Sun Sep 27, 3:29 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Students beware: The summer vacation you just enjoyed could be sharply curtailed if President Barack Obama, KIPP, and standardized test makers get their way.

Obama says American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe.

“Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas,” the president said earlier this year. “Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom. After all what will better prepare you for a future we can’t predict than sitting silently in a room doing worksheets in preparation for multiple choice tests?

The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.

“Addressing the causes of dysfunctional families, dangerous communities, and crime would be too difficult,” the President said. “I’d rather ineffectively treat the surface symptoms.”

“Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “We’re ready to prepare these kids for the industrial revolution!”

Fifth-grader Nakany Camara is of two minds. She likes the four-week summer program at her school, Brookhaven Elementary School in Rockville, Md. Nakany enjoys seeing her friends there and thinks summer school helped boost her grades from two Cs to the honor roll. No doubt this is an important measurement. Our educational institutions long ago mastered assessment and are good at predicting future success1 based on grades.

But she doesn’t want a longer school day. “I would walk straight out the door,” she said.

Unfortunately, Nakany has forgotten that this action would lead to her arrest and detention and quite probably the arrest and detention of her parents as well.

Does Obama want every kid to do these things? School until dinnertime? Summer school? And what about the idea that kids today are overscheduled and need more time to play?

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Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.

“Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,” Duncan told the AP. “I want to just level the playing field. We’ve long ago proven that it’s all about quantity. I’m also concerned that kids in other countries may have more toys.

While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it’s not true they all spend more time in school2.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days). We would cite the abundant research supporting the idea that any of these tests matter in any way but, umm, we forgot where we put it.

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Regardless, there is a strong case for adding time to the school day. A strong case, that is, if you believe these tests matter and that doing well on them somehow means something.

Researcher Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution looked at math scores in countries that added math instruction time. Scores rose significantly, especially in countries that added minutes to the day, rather than days to the year.

“Ten minutes sounds trivial to a school day, but don’t forget, these math periods in the U.S. average 45 minutes,” Loveless said. “Percentage-wise, that’s a pretty healthy increase. And don’t forget, we’re going to find that research we’ve temporarily misplaced that any of these tests matter at all.

In the U.S., there are many examples of gains when time is added to the school day.

Charter schools are known for having longer school days or weeks or years. For example, kids in the KIPP network of 82 charter schools across the country go to school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., more than three hours longer than the typical day. They go to school every other Saturday and for three weeks in the summer. KIPP eighth-grade classes exceed their school district averages on state tests.

KIPP students will now excel in their future careers as bubble-filler-inners or, the more lucrative fact-memorizer. Additional benefits include forcing students into the traditional work schedule as early as possible and preventing any unsupervised, unstructured socializing.

“Just because we isolate your children, manipulate them (and you) with fear, and force them to memorize and repeat rather than think for themselves does not mean we are a cult,” explained KIPP principal, Jim Jones.

Summer is a crucial time for kids, especially poorer kids, because poverty is linked to problems that interfere with learning, such as hunger and less involvement by their parents. The key is to remove children from these unhealthy and ignorance creating environments similar to what was done to aboriginal children in a variety of countries.

That makes poor children almost totally dependent on their learning experience at school, said Karl Alexander, a sociology professor at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, home of the National Center for Summer Learning.

Disadvantaged kids, on the whole, make no progress in the summer, Alexander said. Some studies suggest they actually fall back. Wealthier kids have parents who read to them, have strong language skills and go to great lengths to give them learning opportunities such as computers, summer camp, vacations, music lessons, or playing on sports teams.

“If your parents are high school dropouts with low literacy levels and reading for pleasure is not hard-wired, it’s hard to be a good role model for your children, even if you really want to be,” Alexander said. “Clearly, they aren’t raising their children the way I would and that’s wrong. We need to take their children away.”

Aside from improving academic performance, Education Secretary Duncan has a vision of schools as the heart of the community3. Duncan, who was Chicago’s schools chief, grew up studying alongside poor kids on the city’s South Side as part of the tutoring program his mother still runs

“Those hours from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock are times of high anxiety for parents,” Duncan said. “They want their children safe. Families are working one and two and three jobs now to make ends meet and to keep food on the table. Soon we’ll need to give children 24 hour care as parents are forced to work continuously. I look forward to that day of safety and control.

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Associated Press writer Russell Contreras in Boston contributed to this report.


1 We’ve also rigidly defined success as fitting in and making money.

2 Which really makes you wonder what is going on with our DOE.

3 Albeit a community where parents don’t see or interact with their children and children are brainwashed automatons.

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Wolverine poems and other gifts from the Internet

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Picture CC from DuneChaser

Four people got to this blog today searching for “wolverine poems.” I hate to leave people disappointed.
I’m not sure which wolverine they’re looking for so I’m covering my bases.

Wolverine: The Haiku
Wolverine is the
man with adamantium
bones and sharp claws.

Wolverine: The Animal
Carcajou, skunk bear,
you glutton! I call you out
as a big weasel.

This did inspire me but it also got me thinking about how many fun sources for poetry/writing prompts that are out there just begging to be used.

I’d love to do things with Google Trends. Take today’s (at around 9-10 PM Eastern) trending topics- No. 1 with a bullet is “applebees menu1.” I would also be forced to use #44 “goonies 2″ Then it’s on to #64 “agent cody banks” and finish it off with #47 “19 pound indonesian baby” and #48 “sycophants definition.”

I consulted the Applebee’s menu yet again. It had answers, but not the ones I wanted. I was hungry . . . for knowledge.

Is Goonies 2 an actual possibility? Am I getting my hopes up for an inevitable disappointment?” I wondered again. My mind tends to drift when I am stressed.

I tried to relax. I knew Agent Cody Banks was on the case. I had no way of knowing that a 19 pound Indonesian baby had already changed that plan.

A man approached and sat down. He stared right at me.

“Do you have the sycophant’s definition?” he asked in an accent I couldn’t quite place.

“What is the animal with the highest blood pressure?2” I wondered. “FOCUS!” I screamed internally.

I had no idea what I was in for.

Just good, clean3, chaotic fun.

The fun thing about stuff like this to me is it’s low cost for you time-wise and has a lot of flexibility.

  • roll dice to see which numbers you’ll use
  • pass on the story with each subsequent writer picking from the list for their sentence or have them go in order
  • mix this with your vocabulary word to create some challenge and interest

Picture 4
Another random thing I’d love to do with English. On Twitter, Peter Sokolowski4, posts popular searches from Merriam-Webster’s site. He also explains why the search is popular based on what’s going on in the news. I’d love to have the kids trying to figure out why the word has suddenly become of such interest. It will also, likely, give your kids an ego boost when they know words that the English speaking world apparently does not.

Presto, change-o, you’ve got context, current events and all sorts of other interesting possibilities with absolutely no work on your part.


1 Which tells you it’s Friday and people have poor taste in restaurants.

2 #52 – I’m forcing myself to stop now.

3 Cleanliness not guaranteed. Consult Google before blindly giving this list to a class of k12 students. Make sure you know why certain searches are in the news because while it may seem innocent it may not be. I would never want to be responsible for exposing someone to Tardy to the Party, today’s #3?!?

4 Editor, lexicographer and all around interesting guy

New(ish?) Exhibit 2.2 API is Sick Fast

OK, the new1 Exhibit API is crazy fast. It still takes a second or so to load but once it’s up and running the selection speed is dramatically improved. DRAMATICALLY2.

I’ve been pitching the Simile project3, especially Exhibit, for quite a while for all sorts of educational uses. It really is fairly simple and allows you to create the kind of powerful data-driven interactive websites that would simply be impossible if you aren’t able to write code. You need to create these kind of interactive database sites because they are interactive and allow students to manipulate data and see it in a variety of contexts. That enables, and encourages, all sorts of processing and helps students see connections.

David Huynh and the rest of the people who are working on this BSD licensed project have really made some incredible speed improvements.

To change to the new API, just replace the original API reference in the header of your page ([code]]czo1OTpcImh0dHA6Ly9zdGF0aWMuc2ltaWxlLm1pdC5lZHUvZXhoaWJpdC9hcGktMi4wL2V4aGliaXQtYXBpLmpzXCI7e1smKiZdfQ==[[/code]) with
[code]]czo1ODpcImh0dHA6Ly9hcGkuc2ltaWxlLXdpZGdldHMub3JnL2V4aGliaXQvMi4yLjAvZXhoaWJpdC1hcGkuanNcIjt7WyYqJl19[[/code] = instant speed jump4.

As a way to force myself to do it, I’m going to take this pretty new API and attach it to this interesting data set on X Box games5. Why? Well, because I can and it’s awesome.


1 How new, I’m not sure. Allison C. from UR mentioned it in relation to the Confinder database last night and after seeing the speed improvements I’m changing all my Simile projects over ASAP.

2 Please note that I do not use all caps LIGHTLY.

3 Yeah, it’s like I work on commission for them but sadly they send me no money.

4 I didn’t have to rewrite anything so as far as I can tell you won’t have to change any of your main page but I’m not promising anything.

5 Check out the rest of their free data sets. A very interesting source which Dan, no doubt, has already found.

Dog Earns M.B.A. Online: Fires Former Coworkers

Unmuzzling Diploma Mills: Dog Earns M.B.A. Online
Original Article By Marc Parry (as always italics and footnotes by me)

How’s this for “hounding” diploma mills?

GetEducated.com, an online-learning consumer group, managed to purchase an online M.B.A. for its mascot, a dog named Chester Ludlow. Things then took an unexpected turn when Chester was hired as the group’s leader based, in part, on his newly acquired credentials.

The Vermont pug earned his tassles by pawing over $499 to Rochville University, which offers “distance learning degrees based on life and career experience,” according to a news release from GetEducated. He got back a package from a post-office box in Dubai that contained a diploma and transcripts, plus a certificate of distinction in finance and another purporting to show membership in the student council.

“It was the diploma itself that drove our decision to hire Chester” explained Brian Groom, President of GetEducated.com. “Granted, we’d rather have promoted one of the GetEducated staff. They have so much more experience and demonstrated skill but they just didn’t have the right degrees. You know how it is.”

Sadly, Chester was forced to fire the very people responsible for his new degree and subsequent new position. It seems the GetEducated.com crew misused time and company resources during the very stunt that resulted in Chester’s degree.

GetEducated.com believes Chester is the first dog to get a diploma for life experience. As for work, it turns out Chester is taking to it like a duck to water.


“It’s amazing!” crowed Mr. Groom, “I really can’t tell the difference between Chester and someone with a real MBA. If he keeps this up I may have to evaluate my employees based on performance instead of their willingness to spend grotesque amounts of time and money on traditional education1.”


1 What I find most ironic about this whole deal is that people with the “fake” degrees are usually doing fine until they get exposed. If that’s the case then they didn’t need the degree to begin with. If I were Higher Ed I’d take note of that.