No Wonder Some People Oppose Common Core!

Assignments related to holocaust denial have been justified by the need to teach critical thinking skills to satisfy new Common Core standards. It seems to me school districts should think critically about the consequences of giving such assignments before they are given instead of waiting until there is an outcry from parents.

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Memorial Plaque Persecution of Jews
Memorial Plaque Persecution of Jews

After my husband directed my attention today to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Reuven H. Taff entitled “Turning Holocaust Denial into Homework,” I decided to see what else I could find out about this online. I wanted to find a more accessible site that did not require a paid subscription. I found it in another form on the Yahoo site:” California School District Under Fire for Holocaust-Denial Assignment” by Beth Greenfield.

The assignment in question was justified as an attempt to satisfy the Common Core standards on critical thinking by helping students to understand and communicate persuasive arguments. This particular assignment to eighth graders in a Rialto middle school required students to complete an essay on whether or not the Holocaust was an actual historical event or just a political scheme. Among the websites listed as legitimate resources for the assignment was one which denied the holocaust happened.

It seems to me that the people responsible for giving this assignment should have demonstrated more critical thinking skills themselves. The Wall Street Journal suggested a number of other topics that legitimately had two sides about which students could write. Among these were climate change, capital punishment, health care, immigration reform, tax policy, energy sources, and many more. You could probably think of many yourself. So why suggest to students with little background in world history that the holocaust might not have been real?

Rialto district officials, including interim Superintendent Mohammed Islam who issued a press release on the subject, said they were aware of the controversy caused by the assignment. Islam stated, ‘The intent of the writing prompt was to exercise the use of critical thinking skills. There was no offensive intent in the crafting of this assignment. We regret that the prompt was misinterpreted.’

It should be noted that Common Core standards were used as an excuse for giving this assignment. I would like to think teachers and curriculum writers would think critically about possible consequences of assignments, and which topics are most likely to be most important to the daily lives of American citizens as they become part of the voting public. Or maybe school officials would rather students didn’t think critically about such issues, since they might come to different conclusions than their teachers.

Barb’s People Builders recommends many materials that help teach critical thinking skills to elementary and middle school students.  Television ads, news opinion pieces, and political speeches also offer older students material to analyze critically. Teachers should equip students with critical thinking skills so they can methodically examine what they hear and read to differentiate facts from spin and propaganda. They should also help students acquire the research skills to find the truth mixed with all the falsehoods they hear and see every day.

Your take on this?

Birth of a Book on Vimeo

Here’s your chance to see a physical book being printed and bound. Enjoy.

Birth of a Book on Vimeo on Vimeo

via Birth of a Book on Vimeo.

An Open BookIn the video  below you will see a book being printed. I hope they hang on to a few of these old presses. You never know when we might need to go back to them. Even though it seems all writing is being done digitally with books able to be printed on demand, we all know that computers and electronics are almost ephemeral.

The Kindle or Nook or iPad you have today may be obsolete tomorrow. What will you read if the power supply is interrupted for more than a week? In a real disaster, books can even be burned to keep you warm.

Of course, preserving the presses isn’t enough. We need to also have a few people who remember how to use them. We’d need the materials for printing and binding. Otherwise, we might find ourselves someday in  world with no books.

 

To Keep Teenagers Alert, Schools Let Them Sleep In – NYTimes.com

New research indicate high students might be more alert for classes if school started later. What do you think? Take the poll after reading the reasoning.

Too Tired to Study
Too Tired to Study

To Keep Teenagers Alert, Schools Let Them Sleep In – NYTimes.com.

I can relate to not wanting to get up early. Now that I’m 70 and work until the wee small hours on my computer, I’m lucky to get six hours of sleep. Because much of my work takes concentration to detail, I usually wait until about 9 PM to start some projects. That gets me in bed sometime between 1 and 3 AM. I try to be up by 9, but it’s an effort, and an early medical appointment or test that means getting up by 6 AM knocks me out for the rest of the day. Even if I try to go to bed early, I lie awake because my brain won’t slow down.

However, when I was in high school I had no problem getting up early, and I also had to be on time for college classes that started at 8. On the other hand, our high school classes started about 8 or 8:30, if my memory serves me well. It certainly wasn’t before 8. Maybe that’s why I and my classmates didn’t have a problem.

It is a sad state of affairs when bus schedules become more important than student alertness. I used to walk to high school, which was probably about a mile away. I never measured, but it took about 45-60 minutes to walk, depending on whether we walked slowly so we could talk longer.

I think maybe some students have bus rides that long. I guess in many places it’s no longer safe to walk back and forth to school. That’s a shame. That walk home from school was a great way to socialize on the way home, get some exercise, and unwind. That exercise is good for fighting depression, another ailment that afflicts way too many teens today. We could have taken the bus, but if we had time, we walked home by choice.  We only took the bus in the morning when time was short.

PostLoop Provides Earning Opportunities on Discussion Forums

How would you like to get paid for discussing subjects that interest you with others in selected online forums? Now you can. Here’s how.

Chatting on PostLoop is Rewarding
Chatting on PostLoop is Rewarding

Do you enjoy social media and wish you could get paid for all that fun you have? Facebook and Twitter won’t pay you for talking, but two other sites I know of will. I’ve already talked about Chatabout which has paid me once now.  Today I’d like to introduce PostLoop.

PostLoop lets you pick forums from their list on subjects that interest you and you just join the discussions. Most of the forums limit you to a set number of paid posts you can make a day. You do have to go through a qualification process first on the PostLoop Forum so they can give you a rating. That rating will determine how much you get paid.

I have given you some pointers in this Bubblews post on the system for earning at PostLoop that has worked for me . So far I’ve been paid twice. The payout threshold is $5.00. Be sure and read the terms carefully to make sure you are eligible to be paid through PayPal.

What I like about PostLoop is that I can work as much or little as I please there, up to the limit I can post per site per day. You do have to refresh your subscriptions frequently to make sure your posts will count for payment, as it’s easy to go over the limit without realizing it. Sites can also be disabled or go off line temporarily as paid sites.

I find the discussions fun and stimulating, and they often give me ideas for writing on other sites. Try it and see if it’s for you. It’s free for writers.  Forum and blog owners use it to hire people like you to keep their sites alive and well.

I Guess I’m Just Not With the Times

Do you like the way the word “like” is now being used? Do you, like, see no reason to, like, be concerned about this? Are you like “The language is just evolving?” Or do you not like this contemporary usage any more than I do?

I have watched as today’s’ publishers of children’s and young adult books have been letting their characters model what I consider atrocious English usage.  Two of the most prevalent examples of this were using the word “goes” instead of “said.” Example: “So he goes “You’ve got to be kidding.” And so on.

like-1804599_1200-feature

The other example was the use of the word “like” as a  placeholder while thinking of something to say, or in the phrase “was like” instead of “said.” An example of the first would be “So he, like, wanted to take me out, but I, like, couldn’t, like, stand him.”  An example of the second would be “So he’s like “I don’t believe it! and I’m like “It’s true.”

As I read sentences like this in the new books being published a few years back I cringed, because I knew that reading this kind of dialogue would validate less than standard English among those who most needed to learn standard English. Today I saw “How to Use the Word Like in English.” I guess I’m now officially a dinosaur.

It’s also true that books that use this slang will soon be obsolete. Language fads don’t last long. I’m hoping these like-laden books will, like, disappear like very soon.

I believe this was written for people learning English as a Second Language. I rather wish it had been written to help ESL students understand this usage when they heard it, not to teach them that this is how to use the word. This usage not only wrecks the sound of the English language and supports fuzzy thinking, but it also tangles up the rules of punctuation.

Is this the kind of English usage now being taught in American public schools?

Is Penmanship Obsolete?

Is it still worth the time for children to learn cursive handwriting in this day of computers? What do you think?

Remember learning to print when you were very young, and later switching to cursive writing, which also had to be learned? Many of us were raised before children had access to keyboards and we learned to use typewriters when we got to high school unless we didn’t want to. So our entire elementary school success depended on our ability to write with pen or pencil on paper. Even in college, we used composition books for tests. 

Today things have really changed. Some schools believe cursive writing is obsolete and no longer worth teaching in the schools.  Has Handwriting Become Extinct? explains some of the reasons that it’s still worthwhile to learn this skill.  Handwriting seems to be especially valuable in helping us organize our thinking and in helping those who are beginning to suffer from memory loss. Seemingly writing our lists and notes by hand imprints them more firmly in our minds.

What do you think? Is handwriting obsolete or not?

 

 

How to Take the Joy from Literature

Sometimes as teachers, our attempts to help students find deeper meanings in literature may have unintended consequences.

Snowy Woods

This afternoon I’m weeding through some of my books and came across one by a favorite children’s author, Jean Little — Hey World, Here I Am! On page 28 I came across a poem, “After English Class.” It’s written in the first person in the voice of Kate Bloomfield, who describes how she used to like the Frost poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” She liked the sound of the words and their rhythm, and the imagery. She could see the snow and hear the jingling bells. I think that’s what Robert Frost would have wanted.

The next lines explain how the teacher ruined the poem for her:

But today, the teacher told us what everything stood for.
The woods, the horse, the miles to go, the sleep—
They all have ‘hidden meanings.’
It’s grown so complicated now that,
Next time I drive by,
I don’t think I’ll bother to stop.

Sometimes as teachers, our attempts to help students find deeper meanings in literature may have unintended consequences. Just as a student of biology may prefer a living whole frog to the dead one they have just dissected, the students who read a poem may just want to enjoy it and respond to it with  their own imaginations. Does the dissection the teacher provides keep students from gleaning meanings they might have discovered on their own?

Photo courtesy of http://pixabay.com/en/users/PublicDomainPictures/

It’s the Law in California: Transgender Students Rights to Trump the Privacy Rights of other Students in 2014

Ventura High School
Mixed Sex Restrooms OK?

It’s the Law in California: Transgender Students Rights to Trump the Privacy Rights of other Students in 2014

Those living in California are about to experience what public school students in parts of Colorado are already facing — biological boys who think they are girls using the girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers (and vice versa.) California AB 1266 is even less well-defined than the Colorado law. If you are a parent of a K-12 student in a California public school, how do you feel about having students in restrooms whose biology does not match their current gender identity? To learn more about this law and to get a petition to stall its implementation until the citizens can vote on it, go to Privacy for All Students. All petitions must be mailed in time to be in Sacramento by November 12, 2013, and 505,000 valid California voter signatures are needed to qualify this for the ballot.

If this matters to you, please go to the site, get a petition, sign it and mail it. Or get a long petition and get some other registered voters to sign it, too. Be sure and follow the instructions to the letter. Time is short. It would be prudent to get these mailed by November 1.

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother – YouTube

Watch Patricia Polacco’s picture book My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother expertly read aloud in this video. Use it as a role model for reading to your own children.

I’ve always loved Patricia Polacco’s books. Her illustrations are a perfect complement to the stories she writes, and both the stories and pictures tell us a lot about the author herself. In the video you see one of her favorite themes, that of the love that binds families together. You also get an example of how to read aloud with expression. Watch the video, but don’t let it be a substitute for reading aloud to your children yourself.

You can learn more about Patricia Polaccoand find her books, new and used, at Tomfolio.com’s Patricia Polacco’s Biography page

 

Illinois Policy Institute – A Rising Tide: School Vouchers and Their History of Improving Public Schools

Illinois Policy Institute – A Rising Tide: School Vouchers and Their History of Improving Public Schools.

We always knew that students in poorly performing schools who could attend private schools with voucher help improved academically. Now in Illinois it appears the schools they came from also begin to improve. This would suggest that competition benefits everyone but non-performing teachers.