Birth certificate mugs? Pour my coffee right in, wake ’em up!

May 18, 2011

I get e-mail that makes me smile on a dreary day (everything below quoted from the e-mail):

Ed —

Let me introduce you to Jerome Corsi.

This week he released a new book that the publisher says will be a bestseller “of historic proportions.”

The title is “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” — yes, really.

Corsi’s work is a greatest-hits reel of delusions, ranging from 9/11 conspiracies to claiming that there is an infinite supply of oil in the Earth’s core. In 2008, he published a book about Barack Obama claiming, among other things, that he (a) is a secret Muslim; (b) is secretly anti-military; (c) secretly dealt drugs; and (d) secretly supported terrorist actions when he was eight years old. So many secrets!

FactCheck.org called Corsi’s work “a mishmash of unsupported conjecture, half-truths, logical fallacies and outright falsehoods.”

There’s really no way to make this stuff completely go away. The only thing we can do is laugh at it — and make sure as many other people as possible are in on the joke.

So let’s just do this — get your Obama birth certificate mug here:

Last year, the President said, “I can’t spend all of my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead.”

This is about as close as we can get.

If the facts can’t make these ridiculous smears go away, we can at least have a little fun with it.

And then we’ll get back to the important work of supporting the President as he tackles real problems like high gas prices, the deficit, and unemployment.

Thanks,

Julianna

Julianna Smoot
Deputy Campaign Manager
Obama for AmericaPaid for by Obama for America

P.S. — Mug not your thing? How about a T-shirt?

Contributions or gifts to Obama for America are not tax deductible.


Surprise attack on public schools today, in Texas Lege?

May 18, 2011

From the Texas Freedom Network (late last night — so where it says, “tomorrow,” think “today!”):

Voucher Lobby Launches Big Surprise Attack on Texas Public Schools

TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR NOW TO OPPOSE VOUCHER SCHEME THAT WOULD DRAIN BILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM OUR NEIGHBORHOOD PUBLIC SCHOOLS

We have just learned that advocates of private school voucher schemes are planning to offer legislation as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18) that would drain billions of dollars from our neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools across Texas. A proposed amendment to important fiscal legislation in the Texas House of Representatives would allow the state to give so-called “Taxpayer Savings” grants – vouchers – to families that send their children to private or religious schools. The money would come directly from tax dollars originally intended for public education – even if recipients of these vouchers had never set foot in a public school!

This radical new voucher proposal is backed by a virtual “who’s who” of anti-public education groups, including the Texas Home School Coalition and Tea Party activists. They are dishonestly claiming that their voucher scheme will save the state money – but the loss in funding would be catastrophic for neighborhood public schools.

Legislators in 2007 and 2009 voted overwhelmingly to bar spending any taxpayer dollars on vouchers for private and religious schools. But now as lawmakers consider billions of dollars in cuts to the budget for public education, voucher advocates want to siphon off billions more in funding from our neighborhood schools.

TAKE ACTION

The Texas House of Representatives could vote on this reckless voucher amendment tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18). It’s critical that you CALL YOUR LEGISLATOR TODAY and TOMORROW MORNING and insist that he or she oppose this irresponsible effort to defund neighborhood public schools. Tell your legislator:

  • So-called “Taxpayer Savings” grants are nothing more than a radical and irresponsible private school voucher scheme. They could drain billions of dollars from neighborhood public schools on top of the billions in painful cuts to public education already in the current House and Senate budget bills.
  • These vouchers/grants would not cover the full cost of private school tuition and would therefore go mostly to tuition subsidies for high-income families – including families with children who were never in public schools to begin with.
  • This voucher scheme would send public tax dollars to private and religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. In fact, the proposed amendment includes no standards or regulations at all for recipients of these tax-funded vouchers – it’s simply a tax-dollar giveaway.

Click here to find out who represents you in the Texas House of Representatives and the contact information for his or her office.


Common Core of Errors and Nostalgia: Where is the future of education?

May 18, 2011

How do you plan for the future?

Oh, yeah, I know the old story about the ants and the grasshopper.  But it’s really a story about traditional agriculture and the need to look no more than a year ahead, as usually told.  In the classic Aesop version, the moral is about the need to prepare for “days of necessity.”    The story doesn’t say anything about how the ants planned for the advent of DDT, Dieldren or Heptachlor, nor for an invasion of immigrants from Argentina, nor for the paving of the forested field they lived in.

And that’s probably the point.  How do we plan for what we don’t know will happen, for what we cannot even imagine will happen?

In retrospect, much “planning” looks silly.  Bob Townsend, the former head of Avis and American Express, wrote a book years ago that I wish more educators would read today, Up the Organization.  In one of its brief chapters he talks about having been appointed poobah (vice president? managing director?) of “future planning” at one of those corporations, and how proud he was to have the title.  A few days after he got the job his bubble was burst in a most unusual way.  He got home for dinner, and his wife asked him, “What did you plan today?”

(I don’t do the story justice.  Go get a copy and read the story.)

Nancy Flanagan at Teacher in a Strange Land demonstrates the folly that Townsend’s wife brought to light, the folly in thinking we’ve got a good grip on what the future holds, and especially on what skills and education and training will be required to get there:  “Common Core Standards:  A though experiment.”

Soon after the report of the President’s Commission on Excellence in Education came out, and for some years after, there was much worry about just what was the “common core” of knowledge that a modern kid would need, both to be a successful student and prepare for a life of beneficial work, family raising, voting and tax paying.  Tradition and federal law had kept (and still keep) the federal government from writing a national curriculum, leaving that task to the states and local school boards — the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, plus territories of the Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico, and the more than 15,000 local school boards.  There is no national curriculum in the U.S., nor is there agreement from state to state or district to district on just what should be taught.  State standards exist, but they were supposed to be the floor above which students could soar, instead of what they have become, the too-low target at which students really aim in their drive to be good bubble-guessers.

Flanagan has a sharp and entertaining fantasy about what would have happened, if:

So now the Common Core Everything movement is worried about whether schools’ technological capacity is up to the task of constant, computer-driven assessment–and Bill Gates and Pearson are developing the aligned on-line curriculum that you always knew was just around the corner. Soon–all the pieces will be in place, and we’ll be on our way to that One Unified System that we’ve been pursuing for decades. At last. Too bad it’s taken so long…

Just imagine what could be in place if Ronald Reagan had leveraged the political will engendered by the “Nation at Risk” report to get Congress to agree to a set of common standards and tests.

Is it a glorious future?  Well, consider the standards for students to learn about business and communications:

The business career rooms are outfitted with zippy Selectric typewriters and dictation machines–Williams sees girls transcribing the tapes. He is especially pleased with the broadcast studio, where students can read the morning announcements over the public address system, meeting the standard for broadcast media. A group of students is taking French IV via distance learning there, watching a TV lecture, then mailing off their homework and quizzes. Elmwood could only afford one language lab, so Mr. Williams has phased out Latin and Spanish, deciding to offer only French in a four-year block. Rationale: the French Club can travel to France–but his rural students were not likely to meet Spanish-speaking people in the future!

Flanagan’s view is entertaining, and enlightening, even in that short glimpse.  Go read the rest of her fantasy.  If you agree — and you will find it hard not to — can you think of ways to prevent the obvious problems?  Can you think of how we could have dealt with those problems, in 1983 and 1989?  Are we avoiding those problems with our curriculum standards today?

Did any state plan to educate kids on the ethics of real estate deals, so they’d be ready to avoid the real estate bubble, or its bursting?  It’s still true that we are “ready to fight the last war.”

I responded:

Generally I argue, against those who claim any beneficial change in schools is “socialism” and should be fought, that we compete against nations who do better than we do, at least as measured by the international comparison tests — and every nation ranked above the U.S. has a national curriculum. So, I argue, there doesn’t appear to be harm in a national curriculum, per se.

But as you demonstrate, there could indeed be harm in a national curriculum set in stone that is wrong — or even the wrong curriculum set in Jello.

When I did quality work and consulting with big corporations, way back in 19XX, I often used the story about the difference between Nissan and GM on robotics. Nissan was seen as the wave of the future with fancy auto plants with lots of big robots doing high quality work in assembling autos. GM, on the other had, was struggling. GM sank $5 billion or so into a robotized plant in Hamtramck, Michigan — and had to close it down. Couldn’t make it work.

What was the difference?

Nissan used to make fenders by having metalworkers pound them out by hand. Nissan took a few of those workmen, and asked them to search for machines that would make their work easier. Those guys found some stamp presses, got expert on them, and Nissan was off to the races on automation. At each step, the people who actually did the work were brought in to make the next improvements. I saw one interview of a guy running several massive robots, and the interviewer asked what sort of education he’d gotten to get to that point. He said he’d started out pounding fenders with a hammer and anvil, years earlier.

GM saw those robots in that plant, and bought a whole plantful of them. When the robots were installed in Michigan, they began the search for people to run the machines, unfortunately having to let go a lot of the people who ran the old stamping machines, because they lacked the “necessary background.”

What is the equivalent front line worker in education today? What is the “necessary background?” Impose that on your story, you could get some good results.

By the way, I was handicapped greatly by my high school education. We didn’t have enough advanced math students to get a calculus class going. So I couldn’t get calculus. But, the district said, they had purchased a brand new machine to get going in “computer math.” It was a card compiler. Students could learn to punch IBM computer cards, and that would give them a leg up in the computer world . . .

35 years later, my kids needed help with their calculus homework. They took some of my old debate cards, on old [computer] punch cards, to school for show and tell. Antiques. ( I didn’t have any programs to send — I couldn’t fit the computer math into the schedule opposite “student council;” my counselor advised me to drop out of student council for computer math, a decision I probably would have regretted in my years in Washington.)

I spoke with one of my high school English teachers last year — she’s the doyen of the computer lab today, an after-retirement job.  Turns out the computer lab really needed someone who could teach kids to write, someone who knows grammar and a bit about reading and judging sources for research papers.

What did you “plan” today?


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