Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Surveys, when completed properly, often-times lift our spirits

The Chamber of Commerce in nearby Cedarville asked the campers here to fill out a survey of various topics which pertain to local youth. I’m not really sure what this information will be used for, but at least it took up about fifteen minutes of valuable class time during first period.

Some of the answers reflect the concern some campers have about recent gang activity in Cedarville. This has started to spill over into camp. The most visible of the local gangs is a group going by the sign SKSK, which translates to Scary Kids Scaring Kids!

I found a small cache of surveys under my desk that were apparently not picked up. Here are some of the more memorable answers.

1. List some of your hobbies.

Best Answer: Skating, destroying school property and wat (sic) not.

2. What are some of the problems facing youth in Cedarville?

Best Answer: The problems are trying not to get shot or shanked.

3. If you could have one thing built in Cedarville, what would it be?

Mode answer: A shopping mall! (Apparently these kids don’t read the newspaper or listen to the news.)

4. If you had access to lights, what would you light up at night in Cedarville?

Best Answer: The dark places!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No Dog Left Behind: The Fallacy of 'Tough Love' Reform

This came to me in an email, and I was encouraged to spread the news. Spells it all out quite nicely. Not funny, just good information. Thank you, Mr. Brady

By Marion Brady

From Education Week, Jan. 28, 2009

Driving the rural roads of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, I've occasionally been fortunate enough to be blocked by sheep being moved from one pasture to another.

I say "fortunate" because I've gotten to watch an impressive performance by a dog,a border collie. And what a performance! A single, midsize dog herding two or three hundred sheep, keeping them moving in the right direction, rounding up strays, knowing how to intimidate but not cause panic, funneling them all through a gate, and obviously enjoying the challenge. Why a border collie? Why not an Airedale or Zuchon, or another of about 400 breeds listed on the Internet?

Because, among those for whom herding sheep is serious business, there's general agreement that border collies are better than any other dog at doing what needs to be done. They have "the knack." That knack is so important, those who care most about border collies even oppose their being entered in dog shows. They're certain that would lead to border collies being bred to look good, and looking good isn't the point. What counts is talent, interest, innate ability, performance.

Other breeds are no less impressive in other ways. If you're lost in a snowstorm in the Alps, you don't need a border collie. You need a big, strong dog with a good nose, lots of fur, wide feet, and a great sense of direction for returning with help. You need a Saint Bernard. If varmints are sneaking into your henhouse, killing your chickens, and escaping down a little hole in a nearby field, you don't need a border collie or a Saint Bernard. You need a fox terrier.

Want to sniff luggage for bombs? Chase felons? Stand guard duty? Retrieve downed game birds? Guide the blind? Detect certain diseases? Locate earthquake survivors? Entertain audiences? Play nice with little kids? Go for help if Little Nell falls down a well? With training, dogs can do those jobs well.

So, let's set performance standards and train all dogs to meet them. All 400 breeds. Leave no dog behind. Two-hundred-pound mastiffs may have a little trouble with the chase-the-fox-into- the- little-hole standard, and Chihuahuas will probably have difficulty with the tackle-the- felon-and-pin-him-to-the-ground standard. But, hey, standards are standards! No excuses! No giving in to the soft bigotry of low expectations. Hold dogs accountable.

Here's a question: Why are one-size-fits-all performance standards inappropriate to the point of silliness when applied to dogs, but accepted without question when applied to kids? If someone tried to set up a national program to teach every dog to do everything that various breeds are able to do, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would have them in court in a New York minute. But when authorities mandate one-size-fits- all performance standards for kids, and the standards aren't met, it's the kids and teachers, not the standards, that get blamed.

Consider, for example, what's happening in math "reform." School systems across the country are upping both the number of required courses and their level of difficulty. Why? Is it because math teaches transferable thinking skills?

There's no research supporting that contention. Is it because advanced math is required for college work? Where's the evidence that colleges have a clear grasp of America's educational challenge and therefore should be leading the education parade? Is it because most adults make routine use of higher math? No. Is it because American industry is begging for more mathematicians? Not according to statistics on available job opportunities. Is it because math has played an important role in America's technological achievements, and if we're to continue to be pre-eminent, a full range of math courses needs to be taught?

Bingo! And true. But how much sense does it make to run every kid in America through the same math regimen, when only a small percentage has enough mathematical ability to make productive use of it? How much sense does it make to put a math whiz in an Algebra 2 classroom with 25 or 30 aspiring lawyers, dancers, automatic transmission specialists, social workers, surgeons, artists, hairdressers, language teachers? How much sense does it make to put hundreds of thousands of kids on the street because they can't jump through a particular math hoop?

Some suggestions:

One: Stop fixating on the American economy. Trying to shape kids to fit the needs of business and industry rather than the other way around is immoral.

Two: Stop massive, standardized testing. For a fraction of the cost of high-stakes subject- matter tests, every kid's strengths and weaknesses can be identified using inexpensive inventories of interests, abilities, and learning styles.

Three: Eliminate grade levels. Start with where kids are, help them go as far as they can go as fast as they can go, then give them a paper describing what they can do, or a Web site where they can do it for themselves.

Four: When kids are ready for work, push responsibility for teaching specialized skills and knowledge onto users of those skills and knowledge employers. Occupation-related instruction such as that now being offered in magnet schools will never keep up with the variety of skills needed or their rates of change. Apprenticeships and intern arrangements

will go a long way toward smoothing the transition into responsible adulthood.

Five: Abandon the assumption that spending the day "covering the material" in a random mix of five or six subjects educates well. Only one course of study is absolutely essential. Societal cohesion and effective functioning require participation in a broad conversation about values, beliefs, and patterns of action, their origins, and their probable and possible future consequences. The young need to engage in that conversation, and a single, comprehensive, systemically integrated course of study could prepare them for it. It should be the only required course.

Six: Limiting required study to a single course would result in an explosion of educational options (and save a lot of money). We say we respect individual differences, say we value initiative, spontaneity, and creativity, say we admire the independent thinker, say every person should be helped to realize her or his full potential, say the young need to be introduced to the real world, then we spend a half-trillion dollars a year on a system of education at odds with our rhetoric. Aligning the institution with our core values would give it the legitimacy and generate the excitement it now lacks.

Alternatively, we can continue on our present course. For almost 20 years, "reform" has been driven by the assumption that the system, the math, science, language arts, and social studies curriculum in near-universal use in America's schools and colleges since 1892, is sound, from which it follows that poor performance must be the fault of the teachers and kids. This, of course, calls for tough love, standards, accountability, raised bars, rigor, competitive challenges, public shaming, pay for performance, penalties for nonperformance.

Wrong diagnosis, so wrong cure. The problem isn't the kids and the teachers; it's the system. More than a century of failed attempts to drive square pegs into round holes suggests it's past time to stop treating human variability as a problem rather than as an evolutionary triumph, and begin making the most of it.

Marion Brady is a retired high school teacher,

college professor, and textbook author who writes

frequently on education. He lives in Cocoa, Fla.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to eliminate public schools in four easy steps!

Found this interesting article at yesterday. Here is just a chunk:

The reason many people accept conservative claims about taxation and government is that they hold up for many common experiences, especially when conservatives are in control of the government. Conservative officials enact policies that make life worse for people while claiming that things will get better. Then they draw upon these negative experiences to advance their agenda. No Child Left Behind is an excellent example. The strategy works like this:

1. Declare that the agenda is to "improve" public education.

2. Pass legislation that cripples public schools.

3. Cry out for "reform" when people see how bad our schools are doing.

4. Get rid of public schools and replace them with private schools, especially schools that teach conservative ideology (e.g. elite charter schools, religious schools, etc.).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Danger, Will Robinson!

Who did NOT see this coming?

Last Tuesday, a truck dropped off a Yang Ming shipping container, and set it right outside of Spellings Hall. It sat there all week. Nobody opened it up. Nobody told us what was in it. It was all a total mystery. Today, we found out what was inside. Robots! Very real-looking robots! Four of them, all identical and all female!

Superintendent Kim Chee, it her quest to totally demoralize the faculty here at Camp Nickleby, decided to try using robots to teach the classes here. Teachers would only have a secondary role in the classroom. Considering we don’t get to really educate kids anymore, just train them through rote learning to fill in the correct bubbles on a standardized test, she thought robots could do the work of highly-qualified teachers, and do it on the cheap!

Digging a little deeper into the story, one of our counselors discovered that Chee has a cousin back in Seoul, South Korea who works as an engineer for the Korean Institute for Industrial Technology (KITECH). They designed these robots, known as Robotic Interface Learning Facilitators (RILF). The Korean-made RILF teaching android is capable of facial expressions on its humanoid face. RILF also recognizes 400 words and can hold a basic verbal exchange, the minimum requirement for most public school high school teachers forced to teach to the test.

"The robot can serve to provide information in department stores and museums or read stories to children; it’s capable of both education and entertainment functions," said KITECH engineer Sum Young Dong, part of the team that created the RILF, and Chee’s cousin.

Dong says the android, which has the face and body of a woman in her 20s, is 160 cm tall and weighs 50 kg. RILF can move its upper body and “express” happiness, anger, sadness, petulance, sarcasm, pleasure and unbearable snarkiness. But the robot is still incapable of moving its lower half (kinda reminds me of my college days in the 70s). RILF-2, which is set to go into production by 2014 (NCLB’s deadline) will have improved vision and ability to express emotions and can sit or stand. It will also feature an optional plug-in Obsequiousness Module, making it totally adaptable to administrative work.

According to a 2004 report by the International Federation of Robotics, Korea ranked 6th in the world in terms of robot market size and 5th in the number of robots used. The government aims to grow the industry to among the world’s top three by 2013 with a global market share of 15 percent, and it expects that, with the ever-increasing demand for docile, lobotomized, non-union teachers in the United States, teaching robots will certainly be the wave of the future.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Flea Market Record of the Week!

I have been tchotchky-free for the last two weeks, but I seem to be backsliding on my personal commitment to avoid flea markets and junk stores. But I have really good excuse this time! Camp Nickleby is starting to feel the financial pinch and is looking for ways to keep the doors open (more about this in a later posting). In order to cover our propane bill for the months of January and February, our Superintendent forced us to have a garage sale at the camp.

Many of the parents were willing to volunteer their time and donated what they could. They filled up their F150s and brought us 'treasures'. Amid the piles of kitchen appliance skeletons, worn out weed-whackers and obsolete Trash-80 computers, there were many aging vinyl LPs. Most of these were too scratched to be played or were by artists who no one cares about anymore. I felt like Steve Buscemi in Ghost World, rummaging through the boxes. But one LP in particular caught my eye. Nancy Harmon's Double Spirit album. I'm sure when this was released, it went to the top of the charts with a bullet. It features Nancy on her Wurlitzer Model 4037 organ, playing some of everyone's favorite gospel tunes. Who could ever forget Jesus Be A Fence All Around Me, Packing Up Getting Ready To Go (go where?), and the every-popular I Want A Double Portion?

The visage of Nancy on the album's cover, bathed in a heavenly, ethereal light, is something to behold. Although copious liner notes are sadly missing, not even an insightful commentary on the album by Nat Hentoff, the back of the LP lists other albums available for purchase through A. A. Allen Revivals, Inc., Miracle Valley, Arizona 85645. Wonder if that's next to any of John and Cindy's houses? A few that I found intriguing are: (Taken from the actual liner notes, verbatim. You could not make this stuff up!)

"WHAT THEN?" No. 109
The sermon Brother Allen sings! As many as 2500 sinners at one time have come screaming to the altar for salvation as Brother Allen sang this "Sermon in Song." It is dramatic, anointed, dynamic, convincing! Makes sinners see themselves as they exactly are. Many have said, "This song took me straight to the judgment."

"I AM LUCIFER" No. 111
Actual recording of a woman who was demon possessed and was brought to the Allen Campaign. As the demon within her began to speak, declaring, "I am Lucifer," the recorder was turned on and for almost an hour this demon reveals the plan of the devil to destroy God's people through demon possession and oppression. It is the greatest lesson in demonology ever heard! A great Bible study. A real eye-opener to the skeptic. Convincing. Spiritual. Biblical.

One of the most amazing recordings of demons speaking through people who are possessed by them. Recorded in an actual service where A. A. Allen is actually casting out demons and these demons are talking and saying, "I will not come out; you cannot cast me out!" etc. A real lesson and Bible study in demonology. Convinces the worst skeptic that demons are not only real but that God has given His servant power over them. Proves demons are real today!

This would make a great party album!

But wait, it gets better!

Intrigued, I went to The Internets and used The Google and looked up Reverend A. A. Allen. What a treasure trove I came upon. This might well be another gift that keeps on giving.

In 1955, A. A. Allen purchased a tent for $8,700 that would seat over ten thousand people, and soon became one of the major healing evangelists on the revival circuit. Allen was arrested in 1955 for suspicion of drunk driving in Knoxville, Tennessee and was defrocked by the Assemblies of God. After he "jumped bail", he re-ordained himself and set up the "Miracle Revival Fellowship". At his peak, he appeared on fifty-eight radio stations daily, forty-three TV stations, and even owned an airfield with 150 aircraft.

Allen died at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco, California on June 11, 1970 at the age of 59. Following a 12-day investigation and an autopsy, the coroner's report concluded Allen died from liver failure brought on by acute alcoholism. Police found his body in a "room strewn with pills and empty liquor bottles." The coroner reported that when Allen died he had a blood alcohol content of .36, which was "enough to insure a deep coma". Allen was buried at Miracle Valley, Arizona on June 15, 1970.

Can I hear an amen!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Apparently, Our Children Is Learning!

Went into Cedarville last night to see if anything was left at the Circuit City store there (not much), buy a new pair of shoes and pick up some fast food for dinner. Much to my surprise, the typo on the reader sign outside the ‘restaurant’ had been corrected! Thandra Lou Breckenridge (Camp Nickleby Class of 2008), who is in charge of the sign’s messages, corrected her mistake. I’m not sure whether this came about because a customer pointed out the misspelled word to the manager (highly unlikely), Thandra Lou was perusing through her new Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus (again, improbable), or she is a loyal Camp Nickleby reader (the obvious answer) and was thus alerted to her poor spelling skills. The power of the press lives on!