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.


“Growing up in East Texas, we didn’t have any money for books” – Moyers on Banned Books Week

October 4, 2012

Since the death of Radio Free Texas, banned books take on even more importance in the history of freedom and free thought, in Texas.

This is the state where, still, even the governor and the State Board of Education carry on unholy crusades against books and ideas, like evolution, racial equality, and voting rights.  Moyers knows what he’s talking about.

More:


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):


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.


Quote of the moment: David Brooks, books vs. internet

July 12, 2010

Wisdom comes in keen insights:

These different cultures foster different types of learning. The great essayist Joseph Epstein once distinguished between being well informed, being hip and being cultivated. The Internet helps you become well informed — knowledgeable about current events, the latest controversies and important trends. The Internet also helps you become hip — to learn about what’s going on, as Epstein writes, “in those lively waters outside the boring mainstream.”

But the literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import. To learn these sorts of things, you have to defer to greater minds than your own. You have to take the time to immerse yourself in a great writer’s world. You have to respect the authority of the teacher.

Right now, the literary world is better at encouraging this kind of identity. The Internet culture may produce better conversationalists, but the literary culture still produces better students.

It’s better at distinguishing the important from the unimportant, and making the important more prestigious.

David Brooks, “The Medium is the Medium,” New York Times, July 9, 2010, page A23


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?


Impromptu Banned Books Week Carnival

October 4, 2008

Banned Books Week flies by way too fast.  So many banned books, so little time.

Was it appropriate for Sarah Palin’s only debate with Joe Biden to come in Banned Books Week?  Or, was it fate?

Liam Sullivan at Panorama of the Mountains had a great idea, running a list of good blog posts on banned books, “Banned Books Week 2008″ — I’ll try to encourage readership at his blog by not repeating any of his listings here.  That will make this little impromptu carnival shorter by a lot, and challenging to me to compose.

Let’s start with some of the big dog blogs.

Boing-Boing featured the great window display from the Twin Hickory Public Library in Glen Allen, Virginia:

Window display at the libraray in Glen Allen, Virginia, for Banned Books Week.  via Boing Boing

Window display at the Twin Hickory Public Library in Glen Allen, Virginia, for Banned Books Week. via Boing Boing

A display showing live humans reading may become even more rare over the next few years, as the No Child Left Behind Act begins to affect Americans.

Jesus’s General noted the same display, but with a banner that shows the necessarily political character of standing up for books and knowledge in an era that tries to discount education as “elitism,” and smart and educated people as “elitists,” as if “elite” didn’t mean “the best.”  Which brings up a sore point with me:  How have the book banners been so successful in stamping out dictionaries?  Dictionaries are great books to promote freedom — but just try to find a good one in most homes, or in school classrooms.  My father and mother kept a dictionary on their desk at the store they owned; a good dictionary used to be a great high school graduation gift for a student off to college.  When was the last time you saw such a thing used as such a gift?  I digress.

Banned Books Week banner found at Jesus General

Banned Books Week banner found at Jesus' General

Jesus’ General said:

Books can be dangerous. Many contain ideas. Sometimes unpopular ideas. Ideas that may make one think. Ideas that engage and transform us. Ideas that set off our imaginations. Ideas that can change the way we see the world. Ideas that may make decide to help change the world for the better. Clearly books can be subversive. And we can’t have that! An informed and imaginative people could do incredible things.

Paper Cuts, a book blog at the New York Times site, asks “What are you doing for Banned Books Week?” it features a nice photograph of the public library in Wasilla, Alaska.  Barry Gewen offers great insights into Banned Books Week.

One of the most informative of these lists is “Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course, Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century” — because it provides background on various censorship efforts over the years. It’s also the most amusing list, though it’s hard to laugh after your jaw has dropped.

George Orwell’s “1984” was challenged in Jackson County, Fla., because it was considered “pro-Communist.” Who would have imagined that the Wichita, Kans., public library would, ayatollah-like, challenge Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” for being “blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed”? In 1973, “Slaughterhouse Five” was actually burned in Drake, N.D. And Lindale, Tex., banned “To Kill a Mockingbird” from a school reading list in 1996 because it “conflicted with the values of the community” — leading one to wonder just what Lindale’s values are, and why anyone would want to live there.

Farm School, in honor of Banned Books Week, does a bang up job of nailing down the facts on the charge that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tried to ban books, when she was mayor of Wasilla (not exactly, but the details — truth is in the details).

Abby the Librarian carries another rundown of posts about Banned Books Week, including one from Mommy Madness that notes that banning books takes away a parental responsibility, giving it to the government.  (Did you catch that, Joe Leavell?)

Everybody’s Libraries carries an explanation of “Why Banned Books Week matters.

I’m Here, I’m Queer – What the Hell Do I Read? notices an uncomfortable trend, that several of the most-challenged books are challenged because they discuss homosexuality in non-condemning terms.

Cover of Ray Bradburys Fahrenheit 451, via Maias Blog - Just Add Coffee

Cover of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, via Maia's Blog - Just Add Coffee

Maia’s Blog – Just Add Coffee discusses Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and the irony of banning a book about banning books, in “Banned Books Week, Day 6.”  As you might imagine, this is the sixth in a series of posts.  The other books covered are Brideshead Revisited, Ivanhoe, Sons and Lovers, The Phantom Tollbooth (challenges coming, I presume, from the Taliban, al Quaeda, and Dick Cheney),  and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish gives Phillip Pullman, the author of The Golden Compass, a vent about religious objections to books.

Another roundup of Banned Books Week posts, at Books Worth Reading.

Chez Namastenancy rounds up even more, and points especially to a quiz about banned books at the venerable on-line site of the venerable British newspaper, The Guardian. (English teachers:  Can you say “bellringer?”)

Notes from Evil Bender discusses the importance of keeping ideas on the shelves of libraries, especially those ideas that some find “offensive” to “family values.”

School Library Media Activities Monthly carries this simple quote:

“Banning books is so utterly hopeless and futile.  Ideas don’t die because a book is forbidden reading.”- Gretchen Knief, librarian, protesting a proposed 1939 ban against The Grapes of Wrath

Which posts about Banned Books Week sang out to you, that I’ve missed noting here?  Comments are open — please share.


NY story: More money = better schools, better tests

June 24, 2008

Headlines across New York this morning shout about improved test scores, especially in reading and math, almost across the board. Scores are up in the “troubled” schools of New York City (and in the less-mentioned untroubled schools), scores are up in Buffalo. The news is so universally good that some are worried about statistical goofs, or cheating.

And while most economists with the possible exception of Milton Friedman would think it’s not news, some people point out that scores are up in poorer districts that got more money for educational programs.

At a news conference in Albany, the state education commissioner, Richard P. Mills, called the results “encouraging and exciting,” saying they were evidence that the state’s emphasis on giving more money to poorer school districts and focusing on high standards was successful. “The schools have delivered,” he said. (New York Times)

The War on Education continues unabated, however. The headline in the New York Daily News: “State math and reading exam scores released; critics question improvements.”

A beleaguered parent commented at the Daily News site:

our children are forced to do homework over weekends, Christmas vacation, winter break, spring break, etc. to prepare for these tests – their scores are up because they’ve worked hard all year!

If we’re wise, we’ll applaud the students and teachers, and we’ll wait for a lot more analysis. NYC Educator? JD2718? Is this good news for teachers in New York? Good news from teachers?

Update, June 26: NYC Educator takes note, “Test Scores Explode Statewide.”  JD2718, “Integrated Algebra Conversion Chart, Later Today.” Also:

Other notes and resources:


Dreaming: What school libraries could do

September 29, 2007

Great piece on the opposite-editorial page of the Dallas Morning News today, with solid suggestions on how to improve high school libraries, thereby improving reading and student achievement. Andrea Drusch, a student at Lake Highlands High School, vents a bit, and we would do well to pay attention.

Most English teachers will tell you, “Kids just don’t read like they used to.” I disagree. Recently my high school treated students who passed all classes with a trip to Stonebriar Centre. Upon arrival, a large group flocked straight to Barnes & Noble, where they stayed until the bus ride home. On the bus, they exchanged books and discussed favorite authors. If high school kids are willing to dish out $17 on books at the mall, then why isn’t a room the size of a basketball gym full of books free of charge appealing to them?

Well, the walls aren’t exactly lined with Oprah’s Book Club selections. Instead, libraries try to appeal to 17-year-olds with the same old Crucibles and Scarlet Letters they have been trying to shove down our throats for years.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble and Starbucks have students lined up out the doors, and it ain’t just for the coffee. At Starbucks, students can pile a table sky high with books and conduct study groups, or just decompress and chat. Barnes & Noble chooses the books it provides to its customers through something called the New York Times best-seller list, not through what 10th-grade English teachers think is appropriate.

Make school libraries more like these places.

I don’t blame the librarians, though — I’ve been to too many school board meetings where the latest cuts in the library budgets weren’t even questioned. I hope that parents, and maybe librarians, will copy Ms Drusch’s article, and send it to their school board, principals, English teachers, and to the social studies and science teachers, too.

Libraries should be places where kids hang out to learn. Getting them to hang out there would be an improvement over turning the library into a book museum, or a book vault, as too many schools have done.

For the record: The latté I had at the Irving (Texas) High School library the last time I was there was pretty good, despite it’s being a bit do-it-yourself. I had to wait in line to get it, there were so many kids in the library.

[Full text of Andrea Drusch's piece below the fold, in case the DMN ever takes it down.]

Read the rest of this entry »


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