Russ on Reading’s catalog on Common Core State Standards — important reading

January 20, 2014

Russ Walsh gives strong voice to support from public education in a variety of ways — his old blog, Russ on Reading, carried a good deal of serious thought about the Common Core curricula recently, especially as it relates to reading.

Education professor and consultant Russ Walsh

Education professor and consultant Russ Walsh

Bookmark his site, and pay attention to what he says. This is a key issue in your state, in your schools, and in your legislature, today. If it’s not in your newspaper, you’re being steamrolled.

A Compilation of Common Core Concerns

The Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts has come under increasing scrutiny. Here is a collection of my posts from the past year on the Common Core and some of the concerns I have about the new standards and literacy instruction.

A note only because it’s necessary to keep reminding people in Texas:  CSCOPE is/was not Common Core.  Texas chose not to join in the Common Core Coalition years ago.


Bloomsday 2012 – pubs, and copyright. Yes!

June 16, 2012

James Joyce fans, and other literati fans:  Happy Bloomsday, June 16.

It was on that fictional June 16, 1904,  that the fictional Leopold Bloom worked so hard to find his way home in Dublin, lured by the sirens of this pub, hampered by the Scylla and Charybdis of that pub, but finally — Yes! — finding his own doorway, yes, and entering into it, yes, and making literary history, yes.

Bloomsday

James Joyce caressing, or torturing, a guitar. Bloomsday (Photo credit: bluelephant)

Oh, yes! Yes!  Yes!

Is anyone reading Ulysses in your town?  Public performance?

2012 heralds, or laments, the ending of the extended copyright on the novel in the UK.  James Joyce’s son Stephen has been a close and controlling shepherd of the rights to use the words of the book.

In 2004 the threat of disruption from the Joyce estate to the planned Bloomsday centenary was deemed so great – Stephen Joyce warned he would sue for copyright infringement if public readings formed any part of the festival – that the Irish government was forced to pass emergency legislation to protect itself. In 2007, a US court upheld the claim of a Stanford academic that the Joyce estate engaged in abusive conduct in exploiting its copyright.

This year, Dublin’s New Theatre have organized an entire festival dedicated to Joyce’s entry into the public domain, featuring new work only made possible by the expiry of the Joyce copyrights. Scholars from around the world – including a few former targets of legal action from the estate – will gather at Trinity College Dublin for a week-long symposium on the author. Experimental film, cabaret, even an iPhone app, all form part of the city’s program of festivities.

Bloomsday performers outside Davy Byrne's pub

Bloomsday performers outside Davy Byrne’s pub, in Dublin (in 2011?) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not clear that the copyright is ended in the U.S.  I doubt that will slow any of the scheduled readings.

How will you celebrate Bloomsday? 

Have you read the book?  Of those who show up to readings, or to lift a pint in a Dublin pub, what percentage do you think have actually read Joyce’s book?

Bloomsday, More, and Related Resources:

Leopold Bloom's gorgonzola sandwich

Leopold Bloom’s gorgonzola sandwich (perhaps you need to have read the book . . . ) (Photo credit: Dunechaser)


The anti-teacher, anti-lawyer, anti-education, anti-math, anti-civil rights truth behind “Kill all the lawyers”

March 10, 2012

Mostly an encore post — something we shouldn’t have to repeat, but thoughts that deserve a place in everyone’s mind in an election year.  I originally posted this back in 2006.

Poster from Michael Boyd's 2000 production of Henry VI, Part II, at Stratford

All this murder of lawyers, teachers, accountants, education and civil rights, is bloody business. Poster from Michael Boyd's 2000 production of Henry VI, Part II, at Stratford; PBS image via Wikipedia

In an otherwise informative post about a controversy over alternative certification for school administrators, at EdWize, I choked on this:

The Department leaders, Klein, Seidman and Alonso, lawyers all (perhaps Shakespeare was correct), are rigid ideologues who have alienated their work force as well as the parents of their constituents

Did you catch that? Especially the link to the Shakespeare line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers?”

This is not exactly history we’re fisking here — it’s drama, I suppose. Still, it falls neatly into the category of debunkings, not too unlike the debunking of the story of Millard Fillmore’s bathtub.

The line from Shakespeare is accurate. It’s from Henry VI, Part II. But it’s not so much a diatribe against lawyers as it is a part of a satirical indictment of those who would overthrow government, and oppress the masses for personal gain.

It is Dick the Butcher who says the line. Jack Cade has just expressed his warped view that he should be king, after having attempted a coup d’etat and taken power, at least temporarily. Cade starts in with his big plans to reform the economy — that is, to let his friends eat cheap or free, while other suffer and starve.

Dick chimes in to suggest that in the new regime, the lawyers ought to be the first to go — they protect rights of people and property rights, and such rights won’t exist in Cade’s imagined reign. Cade agrees. The purpose of killing the lawyers, then, is to perpetuate their rather lawless regime.

At that moment others in Cade’s conspiracy enter, having captured the town Clerk of Chatham. The man is put on trial for his life, accused of being able to read and keep accounts. Worse, he’s been caught instructing young boys to read.

There is no saving the poor Clerk at that point.  Cade orders the Clerk to be hanged, “with his pen and inkhorn around his neck” (even the pen was considered dangerous!).

Thus Shakespeare relates how terrorists of old steal government and rights, by killing the lawyers, the educated, and especially the teachers.

It’s still true today. Those who would steal rights from people, those who would oppress others, assault the rule of law, education, and those who spread learning. Beware those who urge death to law and learning; they are related to Dick the Butcher, philosophically, at least.  (No offense to honest butchers, I hope — especially to members of the UFCW.  Dick the Butcher was not a member of any butcher’s union.)

Here is the text, from the site “William Shakespeare — the Complete Works”:

CADE
Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows
reformation. There shall be in England seven
halfpenny loaves sold for a penny: the three-hooped
pot; shall have ten hoops and I will make it felony
to drink small beer: all the realm shall be in
common; and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to
grass: and when I am king, as king I will be,–

ALL
God save your majesty!

CADE
I thank you, good people: there shall be no money;
all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will
apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree
like brothers and worship me their lord.

DICK
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

CADE
Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable
thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should
be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled
o’er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings:
but I say, ’tis the bee’s wax; for I did but seal
once to a thing, and I was never mine own man
since. How now! who’s there?

(Enter some, bringing forward the Clerk of Chatham)

Smith the Weaver and Dick the Butcher seize the Clerk of Chatham, Bunbury print of Henry VI, Part II scene

Smith the Weaver and Dick the Butcher seize the Clerk of Chatham, in Act IV, scene ii of Henry VI, Part II. Engraving by Henry William Bunbury, from collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library; original published by Thos. Macklin Poets Gallery, London, 1795

SMITH
The clerk of Chatham: he can write and read and
cast accompt.

CADE
O monstrous!

SMITH
We took him setting of boys’ copies.

CADE
Here’s a villain!

SMITH
Has a book in his pocket with red letters in’t.

CADE
Nay, then, he is a conjurer.

DICK
Nay, he can make obligations, and write court-hand.

CADE
I am sorry for’t: the man is a proper man, of mine
honour; unless I find him guilty, he shall not die.
Come hither, sirrah, I must examine thee: what is thy name?

CLERK
Emmanuel.

DICK
They use to write it on the top of letters: ’twill
go hard with you.

CLERK
Sir, I thank God, I have been so well brought up
that I can write my name.

ALL
He hath confessed: away with him! he’s a villain
and a traitor.

CADE
Away with him, I say! hang him with his pen and
ink-horn about his neck.

>Exit one with the Clerk

More, Resources (some from Zemanta):


3 million Monday?

October 8, 2011

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub may have its 3 millionth reader on Monday, October 10.  At present rates, Tuesday for sure.

Thank you, readers.


Strike a blow for freedom and the Constitution: Read a banned book!

September 26, 2011

John Maunu reminded me this week is Banned Books Week.  Details from the American Library Association:

Banned Books Week 2011

September 24−October 1, 2011

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings.  Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections.  Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.

For more information on getting involved with Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, please see Calendar of Events, Ideas and Resources, and the new Banned Books Week site. You can also contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220, or bbw@ala.org.


Read a book for International Literacy Day, September 8

September 8, 2010

I almost never remember on time:  September 8 is International Literacy Day, a day designated by the United Nations to celebrate literacy.  International Literacy Day logo 2010

From the Dag Hammerskjöld Library:

Literacy is a cause for celebration since there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. However, literacy for all – children, youth and adults – is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target. A combination of ambitious goals, insufficient and parallel efforts, inadequate resources and strategies, and continued underestimation of the magnitude and complexity of the task accounts for this unmet goal. Lessons learnt over recent decades show that meeting the goal of universal literacy calls not only for more effective efforts but also for renewed political will and for doing things differently at all levels – locally, nationally and internationally.

In its resolution A/RES/56/116, the General Assembly proclaimed the ten year period beginning 1 January 2003 the United Nations Literacy Decade. In resolution A/RES/57/166, the Assembly welcomed the International Plan of Action for the Decade and decided that Unesco should take a coordinating role in activities undertaken at the international level within the framework of the Decade.

Sources listed by the Dag Hammerskjöld Library:

Links to UN and UN System sites:

Unesco

United Nations

UNICEF

United Nations Development Programme

World Bank Group

Additional resources:

The additional resources links on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not necessarily represent an endorsement by the United Nations.

Asia-Pacific Literacy Database

Center for Literacy Studies

Commonwealth of Learning

Education International

International Reading Association
—   International Literacy Day

Literacy Online

Proliteracy Worldwide

SIL International – Literacy

StoryPlus Foundation

Even more resources:

It’s fascinating to me that activities on International Literacy Day seem to be noted in out-of-the-way U.S. newspapers, and even there not much.  Do Americans care about literacy, really?

I half expect the Texas State Board of Education to pass a resolution condeming literacy, since the UN worries about it.


Ideas are incombustible: Banned Books Week 2009

September 22, 2009

Banned Books Week 2009 is set for September 26 through October 3.

Which banned book will you read just to poke the eye of the censors, and to wave the flag of freedom and liberty?

Ellen Hopkins wrote several controversial books, including Burned which is out of favor in Pocatello, Idaho, close to my birthplace.*  She has written a Banned Books Week Manifesto, which she recites in the video.  You can read an interview with Ms. Hopkins at the site of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC).

___________________

*  Does Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub have any readers in Pocatello?  Pocatello readers:  Do you know of anyplace you can get a copy of Burned to read, in Pocatello?

Banned Books Week resources:

Encourage others to read banned books, too:

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Hey, authors! Will you make your books available to the blind?

September 14, 2009

Boing-Boing carried a compelling post from Cory Doctorow, who wrote the “young adult” book Little Brother.

Back in August, I got a surprise in the mail: a long Braille computer printout and a letter. The letter was from Patti Smith, who teaches visually impaired middle-schoolers in Detroit’s public school system. She explained that almost all the Braille kids’ books she had access to were for really little kids — kindergartners, basically — and how discouraging this was for her kids.

The reason she was writing to me was to thank me for releasing my young adult novel Little Brother under a Creative Commons license, which meant that she could download the ebook version and run it through her school’s Braille embosser (US copyright law makes it legal to convert any book to Braille or audiobook for blind people, but it is technically challenging and expensive to do this without the electronic text).

I wrote about this on my personal blog, and it inspired my colleague, the sf/f writer Paula Johansen, to write to Patti to offer up her own YA titles as ebooks for Patti’s students.

Well, this got me thinking that there might be lots of YA writers who’d be glad to see their books get into the hands of visually impaired, literature-hungry students, so I worked with Patti to put together the pitch below. Please pass it along to all the YA writers you know. I would love to see Patti’s class start the school year with a magnificent library of hundreds and hundreds of fantastic YA books to choose from, so that they can start a lifelong love-affair with literature.

Thanks!

I am Patti Smith and I teach at OW Holmes, which is an elementary-middle school in Detroit Public Schools in Detroit, Michigan. My students are visually impaired, ranging in age from 2nd grade to 8th grade. Five of my students are Braille writers and two are learning Braille. I would love books for young adults in electronic format (Word or RTF) so that I can plug the file into my computer program and emboss the book in Braille so my kids can have something to read. I have found it very difficult to find books for young adults; most seem to be written for very young readers. My Braille readers are all age 11+ and it is a challenge to find relevant books for them to read. Thank you so much!!

Patti’s email is TeacherPattiS@gmail.com

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Pamela Bumsted.

Pass this along so others can see, too:

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Why bother to learn spelling in an age of computerized spell-checkers?

August 4, 2009

As often, slam-poetry veteran (and former teacher) Taylor Mali has important advice for people who trust computers too much:  “The Impotence of Proofreading.”

Um, this probably isn’t really safe for work, at least not in Texas or Alabama, and maybe not advisable for classroom use either.  But every English teacher in your school will have horror stories to add:

Am I the only one who thinks that reading a lot is a great way to overcome these problems?


$1 billion boondoggle: Bush’s reading program doesn’t work

May 2, 2008

From today’s New York Times:

Published: May 2, 2008

President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.

Read the study here:

Created under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, the Reading First program provides assistance to states and districts in using research-based reading programs and instructional materials for students in kindergarten through third grade and in introducing related professional development and assessments. The program’s purpose is to ensure that increased proportions of students read at or above grade level, have mastery of the essential components of early reading, and that all students can read at or above grade level by the end of grade 3. The law requires that an independent, rigorous evaluation of the program be conducted to determine if the program influences teaching practices, mastery of early reading components, and student reading comprehension. This interim report presents the impacts of Reading First on classroom reading instruction and student reading comprehension during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years.

The evaluation found that Reading First did have positive, statistically significant impacts on the total class time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the program. The study also found that, on average across the 18 study sites, Reading First did not have statistically significant impacts on student reading comprehension test scores in grades 1-3. A final report on the impacts from 2004-2007 (three school years with Reading First funding) and on the relationships between changes in instructional practice and student reading comprehension is expected in late 2008.


Censoring Santayana’s dangerous idea

March 10, 2008

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

  • George Santayana (The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Last year a seventh grade kid approached me about a problem he had with the Texas history text. He pointed to a photograph of a Ku Klux Klansman, pointy-hood and all. It was a photo probably from the 1920s, in no way flattering to the Klansman, and it accompanied a couple of paragraphs explaining the resurrection of the Klan in that era. The book explained what some did to fight the Klan (not enough, but that’s a topic for another time).

“That’s racist, Mister!”

I asked him why he thought the photograph was racist.

“That’s a Klansman! They killed people!”

Yes, it’s a Klansman, and yes, Klansmen killed people unjustly. That’s part of history, a part of history we need to remember to prevent it from happening again. I explained that the photo did not endorse the Klan in any way, and that section of the book actually spoke against their actions.

You’re a racist, Mister! That picture is racist and should be cut out!”

Our conversation had taken an inexplicable (to me) turn, away from the content of the photo or the book, into uncharted realms of inanity.

“Why don’t you take your complaint to the principal, and tell your parents about it,” I said. “I think this is a conversation you and I should have with your parents present.”

Of course, the student did nothing I asked. Within a week I had a handful of other students complaining about the picture. Some of those conversations were better, but not much. Students had a difficult time understanding how reading about racism was not practicing racism. Learning about the mistakes of the past in order to avoid them, was the same as making the mistakes, the students argued.

This occurred shortly after several parents in another Texas school district had complained about the use of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it contains a slang term for “negro” now considered particularly offensive when used by whites. The complaining parents were black. Never mind that this great American novel’s point is that racism is wrong, slavery an abomination to a just God, and that Jim is much greater a man than those who held him captive in slavery.

I worry that too many people lack enough education in history to make rational decisions about what should be considered “good to read” and what should genuinely be kept out of curricula.

Case in point: A janitor and student at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) was investigated for creating a “hostile work environment,” and one of his offenses appears to have been his reading of a history of a defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in South Bend, Indiana. It is unclear from details we have, but it appears complainants could not tell the difference between reading the history of a Klan defeat, and reading a book promoting the Klan.

Should we worry? I’d like your opinions, and experiences if you have any; details of the Indianapolis case below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


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