Education Archives

October 16, 2003

You can lead a horse to water...

It turns out that throwing money at problems may not solve them, particularly when we're discussing schools.

For the second year in a row, tens of thousands of New York City public school students who qualify for free tutoring under federal law will not get the extra help, companies that provide the tutoring said yesterday.
Enrollment is apparently running behind last year's rate, when 30,000 out of 240,000 -- 12% -- of eligible students bothered to sign up.

Of course, the liberal party line -- which the New York Times portrays as the truth -- is that it's really the fault of the city. The application process is too confusing, or the city doesn't publicize it enough, or the deadlines are too short. That's after the government made a more extensive effort to inform parents and extended the deadlines.

No acknowledgement that perhaps, just perhaps, if people are unwilling to make even minimal effort to help themselves or their children, there's nothing the government can do about it. (Of course, if the parents cared enough to take an interest, the students probably wouldn't need tutoring in the first place.)

November 13, 2003

It's all Greek to me

Eugene Volokh points us to this exceptionally silly bit of political correctness at San Diego State University:

San Diego State is . . . dropping the word "foreign" from the general catalog's "Foreign Language Requirement."

According to Dean of Division of Undergraduate Studies Geoffrey Chase, the University Senate decided to delete the word "foreign" from the title last Tuesday. Chase said the extraneous word carries negative connotations and should, therefore, be omitted in the next publication of the general catalog.

This calls to mind Ted Turner's infamous edict banning the use of the word "foreign" from CNN in favor of "international." The difference there, though, was that Turner was trying to market CNN as an international media outlet, rather than an American one. Hopefully, SDSU isn't trying to market itself as a non-American university.

I did find this amusing, in the story:

Members of the Undergraduate Council, who drafted a rationale, in support of this initiative wrote: "The term 'foreign' has been used to designate something alien and is as ethnocentric and inappropriate as using 'oriental' to designate a person of Asian descent."
juxtaposed with
Although the action does not change graduation requirements, linguistics and oriental languages professor Zev Bar-Lev disagrees with the council's decision and considers it harmful.
I think they're coming for you next, Mr. Bar-Lev.

December 24, 2003

Reporters And Teachers Who Don't Know Basic Math...

...and the bloggers who mock them. Joanne Jacobs has the scoop. (Warning: if you think fractions and quadratic equations are hard, you might not understand what is so mockable about these stories...)

January 21, 2004

Mission Accomplished

My wife nearly spit up her milk when Tom Daschle said:

Education is the second key to our "opportunity society." Two years ago, the president signed a new education law. The heart of that law was a promise: The federal government would set high standards for every student, and hold schools responsible for results. In exchange, schools would receive the resources to meet the new standards. America's schools are holding up their end of the bargain; the president has not held up his. Millions of children are being denied the better teachers, smaller classes and extra help they were promised.

Fortunately, we have Time Warner Cable DVR service, so we could pause and rewind and discuss all the speeches at will. After rewinding and listening to this passage again to make sure that that was indeed what he had said, my wife astutely pointed out that if, as Daschle claims, "schools are holding up their end of the bargain," which presumably means that the schools are already beginning to meet the higher standards, then there is nothing for Daschle to complain about! If the schools are meeting the higher standards without more federal money and resources, that's a good thing. The goal of No Child Left Behind is not (or should not be) increased funding for the sake of funding!

March 13, 2004

Good for only one thing

Brown University has established a panel to "examine" its "debt" to slavery. The panel is supposed to determine whether Brown should pay reparations to blacks.

Or, rather, it is supposed to determine that Brown should pay reparations to blacks, because, as Brown president Ruth Simmons explains:

Dr. Simmons said she would not reveal her opinion on reparations so as not to influence the committee.

``Here's the one thing I'll say,'' she said. ``If the committee comes back and says, `Oh it's been lovely and we've learned a lot,' but there's nothing in particular that they think Brown can do or should do, I will be very disappointed.''

Hint, hint, hint.

Oh, and reducting identity politics to the absurdum, Simmons added:

"I don't think there can be a person with a better background for dealing with this issue than me,'' she said. "If I have something to teach our students, if I have something to offer Brown, it's the fact that I am a descendant of slaves."
You'd think someone would be embarrassed to argue that she can't contribute anything, that someone who has multiple degrees from Harvard and a three decade career in academia is nothing more than what happened to people who have been dead for a century. But I guess in the modern era of skin color determining destiny, that's not even a remarkable statement. Unfortunately.

May 18, 2004

Testing 1, 2, 3

When I was growing up, I thought my parents put too much pressure on me about getting into college; it seemed absurd to me that they were obsessed with me building the perfect "resume" starting as early as middle school. None of my friends' parents were that obsessed.

Whether I just lived a sheltered life or whether things have changed -- for the worse -- I can't say, but now I read with a mixture of amusement and horror the stories of parents who spend thousands of dollars on private college admissions planners, essay coaches, SAT prep tutors, trips around the world so those kids will have something about which to write their essays, etc. (And then there are the parents who game the system and then file lawsuits when that doesn't work perfectly.) Of course, stories of Manhattanites trying to get their children into the "right" preschools are still absurd. (Right?)

With that in mind, read this New York Times article on whining, obsessed parents who seem to have lost perspective, although with an interesting twist. The trend nowadays is to complain about too much standardized testing in schools; these parents are complaining about too little.

The short version: there's a private school in New York called the United Nations International School, which primarily (though not exclusively) serves children of diplomats. As such, the curriculum is oriented towards the International Baccalaureate program. Most families intend to send their children to the school all the way through high school, and hence do not care about the workings of the public school system. However, a small segment of the student body will be attending public high schools, and for that reason their parents want the UNIS to prepare students for that path, a significant part of which involves standardized tests:

Many say their children need the standardized scores to apply for summer enrichment programs on college campuses or to qualify for transfer to selective New York City public high schools.
The UNIS has done away with the tests, and these parents are upset. All that makes sense, until you see what the complaint of the parents is. In fact, the UNIS has done away with the tests only before the fifth grade, and has made them voluntary after that. And that's what worries the parents:
While the assessment test will still be available in middle school, these parents say their children will be introduced late to the tricks of the trade: pacing themselves on timed tests, knowing when to guess on a multiple choice question, carefully marking the bubble next to the right answer.

"My fear is the school is not preparing my children properly and they'll be at a disadvantage relative to other kids," said Jeffrey Sovern, a law professor at St. John's University and a leader of the protest.

That's right; these obsessed parents are worried that their kids will be at a disadvantage because they won't be taught in third grade how to color in a circle with a pencil. They're worried that their kids won't get into selective high schools because their kids aren't taught in elementary school how to guess on a multiple choice question. Hello, people! If your kids can't pick these complex skills (Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe) up within four years starting in the fifth grade, they don't deserve to be going to selective high schools!


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