Tag: school

Comprehensive moral instruction

April 11, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More
Comprehensive moral instruction

We’ve all seen many Internet lists offering suggestions for improving one’s life or state of happiness. This list, by a young man named Henrick Edberg at The Positivity Blog, caught my attention today, perhaps because it includes some of my own favorite bits of productivity reminders and folk wisdom, including the “80/20 rule” and the advice to not beat yourself up for making mistakes. His list also includes a nice twist to the golden rule: Give value to get value, not the other way around. Another item on his list reminds us to express gratitude to others in order to enrich our own lives, reminding us that expressing gratitude is socially contagious.

What also intrigued me was Edberg’s pre-list commentary: He laments that the nuggets of advice in his list aren’t taught as part of the high school curriculum.

But I still think that taking a few hours from all those German language classes and use them for some personal development classes would have been a good idea. Perhaps for just an hour a week in high school. It would probably be useful for many students and on a larger scale quite helpful for society in general.

I think I know why there are no such classes in public schools. Teaching advice on how to navigate through the complexities of life in a positive state of mind would too often trigger discussions regarding “morality,” which too often trigger discussions of specific religious teachings which, in turn, tend to anger at least some parents and students, which would then shut down the course (in public schools, anyway). I suspect that this causal chain is a big reason that so many schools tread lightly on teaching students how to navigate through life, even though there is an immense amount of information that needs to be discussed. Instead of vigorously teaching what the students need to know to be functional and virtuous, most schools ostensibly defer to families and churches (though they actually defer at least as much to pop culture, including magazines, “news” programs, television shows and movies) to fill that “moral” vacuum of students.

In America, however, even “serious” teachers of morality often insist that the way to best live one’s life is by obeying a standardized set of “moral” rules. Is the advice to follow any set of rules really the best approach for instructing us how to get along with each other down here on planet Earth? Is it even possible for any form of obedience to serve as the foundation for a high-functioning society? I think not.

I’m going to digress at this point . . .

[more . . . ]

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Whence school leadership?

November 9, 2009 | By | Reply More
Whence school leadership?

At ASCD Leadership, Tom Hoerr asks a string of easy-to-understand questions, all of which lack easy answers. The topic is school leadership–how will we recruit the next generation of people to lead our schools? Here’s the main problem:

Each week I read about the impending shortage of school administrators. There aren’t enough people choosing to pursue administration, and the attrition rate of those playing a leadership role is too high.

Under the reasonable assumption that maintaining quality school leadership is one of the most critical jobs in the entire country (even more important than being a Wall Street Banker who earns 100 times the salary, I would maintain), why hasn’t more national attention been focused on this problem of recruiting the best and the brightest to become school leaders? Perhaps it’s that too many of us only give lip-service to the need for quality education.

Tom is the principle of New City School in St. Louis. He is also a friend, at least in part, because he is a thoughtful person whose opinions I respect. ASCD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that represents 175,000 educators from more than 135 countries and 58 affiliates. According to the website,

Inservice is the ASCD community blog—a place for educators to gather and share ideas. We hope it will promote the kind of exchange that happens in inservice meetings, where educators discuss how best to support their students. We want it to be a resource for everyone who cares about and serves education, learning, and teaching.

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The Right is wrong

September 4, 2009 | By | 32 Replies More
The Right is wrong

My 10 year old daughter came home from school last week, and while she sat with me eating her after-school snack asked me;

“Is President Obama a racist?” she said.

“No, honey, where’d you hear that?” I said.

“Well, [so and so] said that in class to me today and I just wanted to know,” she said.

“Did the person tell you where they had heard such a thing, honey?” I asked.

“Yeah, [their] grandpa said it,” my daughter replied. “He heard it on TV.”

My daughter and I had a discussion on what is racism, its source in ignorance, and how it’s just plain wrong. We also talked about the TV and radio shows which spread intolerance and bigotry for profit and political gain. My daughter’s eyes glazed over a little, and I said;

“Thanks for letting me know what’s up with you! Go play with your friends!”

Well, I never thought it could happen but, there is obviously no lowest depth of putrid vile chicanery that the far right wing racists will go to block anything that President Obama is up to keep his promise of change in America. Now they’re indoctrinating racism into 10 year old school children.

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Conservatives: Obama is now coming after our children!

September 4, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Conservatives: Obama is now coming after our children!

President Obama is going to give the nation’s kids a pep talk to work hard in school. According to conservatives, this is a terrible thing.

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The straight scoop regarding public high school dropouts

February 13, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More
The straight scoop regarding public high school dropouts

Aimee Levitt has written a terrific article on the high dropout rate among public high school students, using the local St. Louis school district to illustrate a national problem. Her article, which appears in the St. Louis Riverfront Times, is entitled “Class Conscious: St. Louis educators are desperately seeking ways to get kids back in school.”

Consider the following:

  • In the United States, one student drops out of high school every 9 seconds.
  • On average, dropouts earn $10,000 less per year than workers with high school diplomas.
  • Dropouts are much more likely to be unemployed, recipients of government assistance, imprisoned or suffering from poor health.

Here in St. Louis, 22% of the public high school students drop out every year. This means that half of the students who started ninth grade this year will have dropped out by the time their class graduates.

Levitt’s well-written article documents the scope and depth of the problem. She also profiles many of the people working hard for the children. One of these people is Terry Houston, of Roosevelt high school. Two years ago, when he became principal, there were “38 known gangs in the building” and “attendance was less than 60%.” That is the extent of the problem, a problem that Houston has had some success in addressing, according to Levitt.

A wide-ranging solution will require the work of numerous people, of course, including people who run GED programs, education reformers from City Hall, case managers for social services, educators to run alternative programs for children who have already dropped out, and, of course, the parents of the students, many of whom are maintaining lifestyles that all-but-guarantee that their children will fall into similar dyfunctional lifestyles.

Levitt’s story is detailed and disturbing, but it also offers us some reasons to think that we can actually do better than we have been doing. After all, real human lives are at stake when we allow children to drop out of school. If that is not reason to use Herculean effort to change the system, what is?

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Michelle Rhee’s approach to reform an abysmal school district

November 20, 2008 | By | Reply More
Michelle Rhee’s approach to reform an abysmal school district

The November issue of The Atlantic features Michelle Rhee, the new 38 year old Chancellor of the Washington D.C. School District.   This is an excellent biography, titled “The Lightning Rod,” which focuses on what Rhee had to do to get anything done at all.  Consider her bold approach: Since her arrival, in the summer of […]

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Alaska: the anti-education state

November 17, 2008 | By | 1 Reply More
Alaska: the anti-education state

Andrew Sullivan offers some shocking statistics to back up the claim that Alaska is not a place that values education for its children.  And nothing like the anti-education governor to serve as the spokesperson for this anti-education: Her eldest son has a history of vandalism and was given a GED on the way to Iraq; […]

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Why do boys wear pants and girls wear dresses?

June 17, 2008 | By | 22 Replies More
Why do boys wear pants and girls wear dresses?

It’s the political season and there are a lot of bad arguments being made these days. There are plenty of non sequiturs, red herrings, ad hominem attacks and ex hominem attacks. It is the season when we vividly see that there is no such thing as pure reason. Instead, cognition is always infused with emotion […]

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Center For Inquiry questions politically-skewed high school textbook for classes on U.S. government

April 7, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More
Center For Inquiry questions politically-skewed high school textbook for classes on U.S. government

I read quite a few textbook quotes from this report and I must agree:  they are shockingly inaccurate.  This book repeatedly pushes the conservative line, even when the facts don’t support it–just like the Bush Administration.   The existence of this high school textbook is yet more evidence that we are living in a post-fact era.  […]

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