The old college try

Victor Davis Hanson properly eviscerates Maureen Dowd’s laughably inane column denouncing Perry’s college grades as proof positive he couldn’t be a good President. Bad grades! Terrible example! He’ll show students they can succeed in life even if they have bad grades! The problem for liberals even bringing up the argument:

When Dowd trashes Perry and Bush (why not quote the hardly impressive Kerry record?), she is arguing that long ago college records and scores are a good barometer of presidential success (that is dubious if one were to compare a Lincoln or Truman to Wilson or Carter), and, by inference, that the current president is also apparent proof. But does she have inside information about the Obama undergraduate record at Occidental and Columbia? If not, why not, given the supposed importance of undergraduate grades to liberal observers? I suppose we are to conclude that supposedly poor students like a Perry or Bush released their grades or had them leaked, but brilliant undergraduates earning top slots at Harvard Law have no need to release obviously straight-A transcripts and no worry that anyone would care?


Finally, VDH scores another point for real knowledge from an ag school vice race-class-gender idiocy masked as learning:

Finally, some of Perry’s education reforms would probably do more to raise SAT scores and improve undergraduate education than the current race/class/gender industry that has turned a once classical curriculum into therapeutics, and tried to apply an illiberal equality of result standard of college performance rather than the old ideal of an equality of opportunity. In regard to Dowd’s sneer quote of  ”What appears to be a course called ‘Meats’,” it might, in fact, offer more real knowledge (about animal science, nutrition, and physiology) than, say, any of hundreds of classes in our universities like  ”Queer Mobilities” at Yale or “Desire and Repression: Economic Anthropology and American Pop Culture” at Princeton or “Of Mean Streets and Jungle Fevers: Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee” at Harvard?  

I got caught in the idiocy during grad school. I had a tough choice one semester as the only two literature–I use the term loosely–courses available for my schedule were Queer Theory Shakespeare or Jihadi Lit. Choices, choices. It was a long semester. At least I balanced it out with a little Melville.

Althouse chimes in and points to this MoDo outtake:

“Perry told the students, ‘God uses broken people to reach a broken world.’ What does that even mean?”

Althouse responds:

But if you’re so smart, why can’t you understand the poetically rich “God uses broken people to reach a broken world”? You think intelligence is demonstrated by the pompous overachiever’s use of big words and long sentences?

Crisp aphorism marks the genius.

Liberals don’t get that. Nor does the sesquipedalian who chooses to punish others with trite sentences loaded with excess verbage. With a teleprompter no less.

How do you teach character?

Dominic Randolph works as the headmaster of an exclusive prep school in NYC. He cut out AP classes. He limits homework. He focuses, instead, on what he calls the education of “being a successful human.” But how do you instill “successful human” in kids? Affluent ones, no less? From the NYT:

The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”


Randolph and his counterpart at a Harlem charter started searching for the keys to success in their students. They met Angela Duckworth along the way, a grad student in psychology who had worked as a teacher.

“The problem, I think, is not only the schools but also the students themselves,” she wrote. “Here’s why: learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying — but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging. . . . To help chronically low-performing but intelligent students, educators and parents must first recognize that character is at least as important as intellect.”

Be still, my beating heart.

Duckworth’s early research showed that measures of self-control can be a more reliable predictor of students’ grade-point averages than their I.Q.’s. But while self-control seemed to be a critical ingredient in attaining basic success, Duckworth came to feel it wasn’t as relevant when it came to outstanding achievement. People who accomplished great things, she noticed, often combined a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take. She decided she needed to name this quality, and she chose the word “grit.”

She developed a test to measure grit, which she called the Grit Scale. It is a deceptively simple test, in that it requires you to rate yourself on just 12 questions, from “I finish whatever I begin” to “I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.” It takes about three minutes to complete, and it relies entirely on self-report — and yet when Duckworth took it out into the field, she found it was remarkably predictive of success. At Penn, high grit ratings allowed students with relatively low college-board scores to nonetheless achieve high G.P.A.’s. Duckworth and her collaborators gave their grit test to more than 1,200 freshman cadets as they entered West Point and embarked on the grueling summer training course known as Beast Barracks. The military has developed its own complex evaluation, called the Whole Candidate Score, to judge incoming cadets and predict which of them will survive the demands of West Point; it includes academic grades, a gauge of physical fitness and a Leadership Potential Score. But at the end of Beast Barracks, the more accurate predictor of which cadets persisted and which ones dropped out turned out to be Duckworth’s 12-item grit questionnaire.

Teaching kids who’ve never had the luxury of someone modeling specific behavior–positive behavior–can be gravely difficult. I liken it to a priest explaining his realization of working in the inner city: referring to God the Father meant nothing to kids because the only father they knew was one of abandonment. Head-slap moment. How could they identify? How could they understand that this was the one father who would never forsake them?  I digress.

Grit, zest, self-control. Social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. “Performance character” as opposed to “moral character.” The two schools–one posh, one poor–both focus on identifying which traits students possess and helping the kids learn to improve.  Both schools meet resistance from within.

Read the rest.

“You…you…daffy daffy daffodil!”

I just love daffodils – what’s not to love? They are sunny yellow. Frilly petals. And the name…who can be angry when they say daffodil?

Which is why I instructed one of “my boys” (in a former life I worked as a school based mental health counselor) to substitute the word daffodil when he was angry for some of the more…. ah…colorful language he usually dished out.

That very afternoon he got ticked off at his teacher and blurted out in his full on angry voice, “You….you…daffy daffy daffodil!” He still got sent to the office. The teacher didn’t know what the “code” was but was certain that it meant something other than sunny yellow flowers. I explained WHY I suggested the word and that it was my desire to start with eliminating the R-rated language, and then we’d work on self-control. She wasn’t pleased and asked for punishment. Happily the principal recognized the baby step forward and with firm admonishment not to call his teacher a flower’s name again, he sent my boy back to class.

I guess if we were in England, however, that little outburst would be considered hate speech.  From LifeSiteNews:

Children as young as three years old are being recorded in a government database as “racist” or “homophobic” for using words that are construed by teachers as politically incorrect.

In 2008-9, 29,659 incidents were reported relating to children as young as nursery-school age, who are monitored under the Labor government’s “hate speech” regulations, according to figures obtained by the Manifesto Club, a civil liberties organization.

Approximately 95% of the cases of “hate speech” relating to school children involved name calling alone, without any physical contact or violence.

Incidents recorded included a student calling a fellow student a “broccoli head,” which was deemed racist, and another “homophobic” dispute between primary school children who called each other “gay” and “lesbian.” Another student was deemed homophobic for telling a teacher that an assignment was “gay.”

Ummm…two things on this.

1. Broccoli head!?! Racist?!? Srsly?!?

2. Now about “homophobic” primary school kids using the terms gay and lesbian – for the record 20 years ago, my ADD/ADHD/BD (add diagnosis du jour) boys whom I worked with at that elementary school were guilty of giving each other black eyes, breaking furniture, stealing,  cussing up a storm (I’m gonna guess daffodil might be hate speech, too – mea culpa) and a whole lot of hell raising, but they NEVER ever called each other “gay” or “lesbian.”  Ya wanna know why?

Because NO ONE HAD TAUGHT THEM.   Sexual orientation was NOT on their radar screen nor were the terms in their vernacular.  So here is my genius idea for cutting down on “homophobic hate speech” – stop teaching 3 year olds about lesbians! Presto! They will stop using that homophobic word! Can’t use it if you don’t know it! Just sayin’…..

No idea for the whole “broccoli head” thing – especially if the school is serving it up all soggy and sans salt….blech!

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“What kids watch matters, it’s not just how much they watch”

So says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a child development specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital regarding the effects of watching SpongeBob. No joke:

The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch “SpongeBob,” or the slower-paced PBS cartoon “Caillou,” or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched “SpongeBob” did measurably worse than the others.

Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure — results that parents of young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.

Kids’ cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program “could be more detrimental,” the researchers speculated. But they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.

 There are problems with the study: size, scope, etc. The spokesperson from the American Academy of Pediatrics reiterates its recommendation: two hours a day is just fine for kids over 2.

If 9 minutes of SpongeBob affects the mental function of 4-year-olds, imagine what 2 hours can do. 

University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” shouldn’t be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming.

She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. “I wouldn’t advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they’re expected to pay attention and learn,” she said.

What a crock. When should children be exempt from paying attention? Learning? Playtime is a natural means of exploration. But kids hopped up on SpongeBob and the like can’t focus enough to play, either, let alone sit still or, God forbid, listen to a parent.

Do yourself and your kids a favor: kick the habit of allowing your kids to rot in front of the telly if you haven’t already.

H/t: Hot Air headlines 

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ACLU sues schools to prevent internet block of gay websites: Reason 10,016 to homeschool

At home you have control over the internet. Schools apparently do not:

A fierce legal battle on free speech and family values is brewing about Internet filters used by school administrators to block students’ access to gay educational and advocacy websites.

Gay rights groups say school systems cannot impose blanket bans on gay-related informational and cultural websites on school computers, while values groups warn that the absence of the blocking filters could leave children exposed to sexually explicit material.

Of course.

Mr. Cortman said the ACLU is not satisfied if schools remove the block on specific websites, such as those for the “Day of Silence” and “It Gets Better” campaigns.

Instead, the ACLUwants schools to remove filters on “entire categories” of content, such as “LGBT,” “sexuality,” “lifestyle,” “homosexuality” and “sex education,” Mr. Cortman said. If these broad filters are disabled, students likely will have access to inappropriate sexual material.

Who cares if the kids have access to inappropriate sexual material on the web when they receive the same in the classroom?

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What liberals missed in Finland’s educational success

Most readers of Smithsonian magazine’s profile of successful Finnish schools glommed on to this as the explanation for Finland’s achievement and our demise:

In the United States, which has muddled along in the middle for the past decade, government officials have attempted to introduce marketplace competition into public schools. In recent years, a group of Wall Street financiers and philanthropists such as Bill Gates have put money behind private-sector ideas, such as vouchers, data-driven curriculum and charter schools, which have doubled in number in the past decade. President Obama, too, has apparently bet on compe­tition. His Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers, a philosophy that would not fly in Finland. “I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,” said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”

Of course. Missed the human aspect. No fantastic teacher would stand for marketplace reforms. Yada, yada, yada. What liberal readers missed a few paragraphs ahead was this:
“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives not just Kirkkojarvi’s 30 teachers, but most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education.
Only the cream of the crop in Finland are allowed to teach. How egalitarian, no?  What a stark contrast to our own teachers of tomorrow, who show the smallest gains in learning, critical thinking or complex reasoning. Teachers’ unions exist to protect the weak and incompetent. That problem doesn’t exist in Finland.
More unexpected wisdom:
In 2010, some 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots, according to Sahlberg. By the mid-1980s, a final set of initiatives shook the classrooms free from the last vestiges of top-down regulation. Control over policies shifted to town councils.
Two more “conservative” ideas on how to reform the education system, eh, competition and local control. The Finns even abolished the “inspectorate.” Wouldn’t we love to see that happen to the Department of Education? A fine idea, indeed.

Twain, Eliot, Melville, Dickens, Austen, Hawthorne, Ellison: Reason 10,015 to homeschool

That’s just off the top of my head, but there are more: Harper Lee, Bronte, Bronte, Wharton and Swift.

So much literature, so little time for summer reading. I recall summer reading lists of yore, good reads all. But that wasn’t the case in a New Jersey school district where teachers, librarians and school administrators recommended smut for students, which was then approved by the board. Ready for this? Via FoxNews:

One book, “Norwegian Wood,” was on a list for incoming sophomores in an honors English class. The book includes a graphic depiction of a lesbian sex scene between a 31-year-old woman and a 13-year old girl, according to a report first published in the Gloucester County Times. 

Not just smut, but illicit and illegal. Nice.

The other book in question was “Tweak (Growing up on Methamphetamines).” That book included depictions of drug usage and a homosexual orgy. 

“That has created a controversy,” Earling told Fox News Radio, referring to the drug usage – along with the lesbian and gay sex scenes. “We’ve pulled them from our summer reading list.” 

Can you imagine engaging students in class discussion? Oh, Suzy, did the depiction of statutory rape bother you? Whoopsie! Let’s all keep an open mind!

I’m not sure which bothers me more, that the books were on the list or this:
The superintendent said students have seen more graphic things on television or in the movies – and noted that only about a dozen people actually complained. 
I’m trying to chalk that up to the fact that very few kids actually do their summer reading.
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Liberalism gone wild: how to reduce the stigma of free lunch

Why everyone receives one, of course, regardless of need.

This is no joke from the Detroit Free Press:

All Detroit Public Schools students will receive free breakfast, lunch and snacks in an effort to remove the stigma of being from a low-income family.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture program chose Michigan as one of three states to participate in the pilot program. Charter schools and districts in Michigan can participate if at least 40% of students are eligible for public assistance.

Who needs to pay for meals, eh? The line moves much faster when you don’t have to whip out a wallet.

“One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash,” said DPS Chief Operating Officer Mark Schrupp. “Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low-income. Now, all students will walk through a lunch line and not have to pay. Low-income students will not be easily identifiable and will be less likely to skip meals.”

Although not required to participate, parents are still being asked to fill out a survey that includes income analysis to ensure that children, schools and the district will continue to receive millions of dollars in benefits and resources from the state and federal governments, as well as private grants. Program funding dependent on the surveys includes tutoring, after-school programs, field trips, technology and equipment, DDOT bus cards, free college testing, enrichment activities and others.

The never-ending flow of other people’s money, now to those who don’t even need it.

Why am I not surprised? That free Obama money, making the rounds.

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What will it take to deem unionized state-run schools a total failure?

This stings:

For many students, getting a high school diploma doesn’t mark the end of a high school education.

Three out of four graduates aren’t fully prepared for college and likely need to take at least one remedial class, according to the latest annual survey from the nonprofit testing organization ACT, which measured half of the nation’s high school seniors in English, math, reading and science proficiency.

Only 25 percent cleared all of ACT’s college preparedness benchmarks, while 75 percent likely will spend part of their freshman year brushing up on high-school-level course work. The 2011 class is best prepared for college-level English courses, with 73 percent clearing the bar in that subject. Students are most likely to need remedial classes in science and math, the report says.

What is the point of having a high school diploma if it means nothing? Oh, I forgot, students cannot be held back for the lack of learning or in the absence of doing coursework. Might damage fragile egos. Oddly enough, I think the realization of a meaningless education might do more to damage one’s self esteem, but what do I know?

75% of state-run unionized schools are incapable of doing college-level coursework. Why they are admitted in the first place isn’t a puzzle: the longer a college or university can keep a student paying for classes that never earn credit, the more money said college makes. Cynical, yes, but true.

As far as 73% of students not needing remedial English: since colleges have long since abandoned basic grammar compliance, i.e. subject-verb agreement, in favor of multiculti descriptivist grammar, English 101 means nothing.

Much like that high school diploma.

Disingenuous Obama hack statement:

“These ACT results are another sign that states need to raise their academic standards and commit to education reforms that accelerate student achievement,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday.

What education reforms would Duncan have you believe are happening? After all, he’s granting waivers to schools as an exemption from No Child Left Behind standards.

Solutions? Stop pouring more money into schools as it only feeds the union beast. Starve the beast, then crush it.

Related: So college students can’t think critically, eh?

Tech breaks, or reason 10,014 to homeschool

According to Time Magazine, Kids Who Use Facebook Do Worse In School. The problem: 

  • The more time elapsed, the more windows opened on the student’s computer. The amount of windows peaked at 8-10 minutes, and on-task behavior declined at the same point
  • When students stayed on task, they performed better
  • When they toggled between windows and other tasks, they performed worse

“The more media they consumed per day, the worse students they were,” says Rosen. “If they checked Facebook just once during 15 minutes, they were worse students.”

The solution? Help the addicts get their fix:

Psychologists and teachers can combat the decline in productivity by teaching students about the concept of metacognition — knowing how your brain works and how to study. For studying, that means turning off Facebook and not task-switching.

One strategy that Rosen recommends to schools is “tech breaks,” in which teachers help students increase their attention span. Teachers start by picking a 15-minute block of time in which students must put away their phones and focus. When the time expires, students are allowed a one-minute tech break to use apps, sends texts or check Facebook.

“One minute turns out to be a pretty darn long time,” says Rosen. “We now know neurologically that if we don’t have a tech break, kids are already starting to think about anything other than what the teacher talking about. If they know they get a tech break, they’re able to stop those thoughts. It works amazingly.”

Why do the kids have phones in the classroom in the first place? A few years ago, we would confiscate said electronics. Do schools now face lawsuits for enforcement of basic etiquette? A violation of … media rights? Is Facebook such a problem that kids can only be asked to do 15 minutes worth of work in a state-run classroom in order to get the one-minute fix as a reward? “It works amazingly.” Yes, I’m sure it does, as a reinforcement of bad behavior. Unreal.