Monday, October 4, 2010

Public School Manifesto

Children are not failures. Our public schools fail millions of children each year. Why do children get failing grades in school, and what should we do about it?

  • The number one reason for failure is that the environment that they are in is not working for them.

We force children to stay in the same class with the same students and the same teacher for a whole school year, when it is obvious that the placement is not working for the child. There is really no harm to try something different for a child who is not succeeding in their current environment.

If we give a student some guidance and real choices about where and how they spend the day, we can improve the value of their personal school experience immensely.

Why don't we give students the ability to find the classrooms and the teachers and the subject matter that work for them. Sure, it would be great if we could successfully train every child to be a rocket scientist, but the reality is that no matter how many recources we place against it, some children will not master rocket science. It would be more effective to let every child get value and learn stuff that moves them towards their educational goals everday that they are in school.

  • If we put children in an approrpiate environment they will learn at their own pace and up to the own personal potential.

The idea that our birth year will dictate how fast we learn, what we should
learn and the appropriate peer group for every child in school is ludricrous. Every child will learn at their own pace. Learning groups should be fluid and flexible and should maximize the number of children in learning environments that let them succeed at their pace through topics and subjects that are at their level, interesting and meaningful to them and fit in with their overall educational plan that has been worked on together with their teachers, their families and others who make up their learning village.

Getting educated is a personal experience that never ends. To think that every child will flourish in specific age-group environments with a teacher who was assigned without their consultation is just crazy. Choice and real alternatives for children who are not succeeding where they are will turn lives around.

  • We shouldn't penalize the children who are succeeding to help the children who need a different plan so that they can be successful too.

Too often curriculum gets watered down and opportunities become limited for the students who can meet the minimum standards that schools and communities have set for everyone. By lumping all children together because of their birth date, regardless of their current mastery level, interests and readiness to engage in the classroom's activities in a positive way hurt all children. The ones who get good grades and give the teacher a feeling of satisfaction are being held back just as much as those children who are not succeeding in the classroom.

  • Current classroom placement are set up to minimize the effort needed to know where a child should be at any point during the day, and who is responsible should something bad occur. We need a system that maximizes flexibility so that as many children as possible can be engaged in meaningful work and learning things at school at school that will serve them well.

I think we need to look at the calculation of how many children are
thriving at our school, for the resources we are spending. I believe that
if this was the measure, we would find much more efficient models to create
learning environments where the vast majority of children are thriving and
making progress on their educational goals.

We might not get every child to meet a minuimum standard set by the current standard setting board, but I believe that we can help every child find a niche that will allow them to become successful, happy and productive adults.

I believe learning how to thrive as an adult is way more important than algebra. However, for those like me who want to thrive as an engineer or a scientist, there is nothing more important than algebra. Let students, with the help and guidance of their teachers and families, do their best to find their niche and successfully prepare for a happy adult life --- whatever that might be.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Colbert Quote on The Last Word

Lawrence O'Donnell's First The Last Word Show. He uncovered this great clip of Stephen Colbert speaking on the plight of the migrant worker.

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Why doesn't this clip go viral? Ahhh.....the psychology of humans can be disappointing at times.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Twitter Experiment

Well, I haven't posted here since I had the idea to start this blog last year. Sigh. But I have decided to expand my foray into social media by making my very own twitter account.

What is Twitter good for?

I have to admit, before yesterday, I had decided --- not very much --- without even a cursory glance at the product.

But, then I was watching a clip of Lawrence O'Donnell on Morning Joe on MSNBC talking about the difficulties of our educational system:

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And I thought, wow, someone saying what I have beeen thinking. How can let him know that I was impressed? Then, how can I build on this?

And so my twitter experiment was formed. My first tweet was to praise this clip. However, I quickly realized that 140 characters would never be enough for me to cogently express my ideas, so here I am, back resurrecting my blog.

Can I use twitter and my blog to make a difference on the issues that are important to me?

Follow me on twitter. Join in the conversation either on twitter or my blog and let's work together to figure out ways to make public schools a place of opportunity and learning for as many children as possible.

Stay tuned for my other pet projects --- Energy Independence, Food Independence, Health, Wellness and Quality of Life.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Will the stimulus package be equitable?

3 million jobs. 850 billion dollars. It sounds great.

Let's ignore the consequences to future generations when we spend all of this money. It's a great thing. Perhaps it will get our economy going again.

Shovel ready projects. Step back a few paces. Who gets hired for these shovel ready projects? Are they going to be government employees with all of the rights and benefits that other federal employees make, or are we going to give the contract to the lowest bidder. Will there be any stipulations about criteria for a reasonable multiple for the the total compensation for the lowest paid worker and the highest paid worker. Are there going to be any stipulations that these contract firms must have a workforce that matches the diversity of the community it is working in, and that the pay to under-served populations is equitable with the white men on the payroll?

Or are we going to continue the graft policies of the past and watch millions of dollars line the pockets of the rich and connected while women and minorities continue to lose ground in this "new" economy?

However much I would like to think that we will use the opportunity of government sponsored infrastructure project to make inroads on attracting women and minorities to well-paying skilled construction and management jobs, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is this the end of Chrysler?

Chrysler has shut down it's manufacturing for at least a month. Will they ever open their doors again?

It looks to me that it will be at least a year before the auto industry sees any demand at all, and if Chrysler's doors are closed for the year, I can't imagine them opening their doors again.

What does that mean for US manufacturing? What does it mean for everyday people living in the US?

I personally see it as the beginning of the end for US mega-manufacturing companies for durable goods. I think the next five years will bring about a new wave of boutique manufacturing.
The money for investment of huge factories and even huger output just isn't going to be available this next decade.

We will find out that small and flexible, high quality manufacturing from people we know is value that we can depend on. We will buy less, and we will demand that what we buy will be useful and will last. Cheap junk fueled by the mindless marketing has seen it's hayday and has started it's decline. Unfortunately, the US automakers have put themselves in this category and unless they can dramatically change, their industry will disappear too.

New York Times article about the Chrysler shut down.