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Modern School

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Member since: Sun Dec 12, 2010, 01:09 PM
Number of posts: 794

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Police Kill Texas Teen At School

Police in Brownsville, Texas fatally shot 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez in the hallways of his school this week. The boy was brandishing a pellet gun, which police believed to be a handgun, the Chicago Sun Times reported. The police fired three shots at the boy, including one that entered the back of his head, suggesting that the boy was facing away from the police and not an imminent threat, according to the WSWS.

The boy’s parents are accusing the police of using excessive force and demanding they be punished. While many of the details of the case have yet to be released, it does seem excessive to have shot the boy three times, particularly in the back of the head, when a single bullet to the leg would have likely brought the boy down and ended the standoff. Also, the school was apparently locked down, which meant the threat to other students was minimal, giving police more time to try to talk to the boy and negotiate a surrender.

This tragic event will no doubt add to the general national hysteria around school safety and school shootings. It should be noted, however, that student homicides are rare at school, accounting for less than 2% of all youth homicides, according to USA Today, with kids 50 times more likely to die violently outside of school (often at the hands of their parents or other relatives). According the U.S. Department of Education, there were 15 school homicides in 2008-2009, the most recent year for which data is available, compared with 34 in 1992-93. Sadly, this week’s school homicide was at the hands of the police.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/police-kill-texas-teen-at-school.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Jan 5, 2012, 10:08 PM (0 replies)

Americans Too Fat To Fight “War On Terror”

Obesity or Jingoism Problem?
According to the Harper’s Index, 75% of Americans aged 17 to 24 are ineligible to join the military. The most common reasons, in order, are obesity, drug or alcohol problems, and low “aptitude.”

Since obesity is more common among the poor, one might wonder if the days of the “economic draft” are coming to an end.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/americans-too-fat-to-fight-war-on.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Jan 4, 2012, 08:11 PM (0 replies)

Is The OWS Movement Too Nice?

Aside from the few allegations of protesters throwing paint, smashing windows, or spray painting buildings, the tactics of the OWS have been pretty peaceful, mellow and nice. Sure, it troubles some that they have persistently tried to live outdoors in public where their frustration and anger are clearly visible to all, or that they have shut down a few terminals of a few ports for a few hours, costing a few companies a few million dollars. But let’s be honest, when compared with protests of the past, particularly those occurring during the Great Depression and the numerous violent mining and train strikes between 1870s and 1920s, the OWS movement has been pretty damned pleasant and nonthreatening. Consider the following historical examples:

The Great Upheaval of 1877
“There was a time in the history of France when the poor found themselves oppressed to such an extent that forbearance ceased to be a virtue, and hundreds of heads tumbled into the basket. That time may have arrived with us.”

These words were spoken by a cooper to a crowd of 10,000 workers in St. Louis, armed with lathes and clubs, participating in the national wave of strikes known as the Great Upheaval. Other speakers in St. Louis openly called for the use of arms and violence, not only to defend themselves against the violence of the militias and police hired by the bosses to suppress the Great Strike, but for outright revolutionary aims:

“All you have to do. . .” said one speaker, “is to unite on one idea—that the workingmen shall rule this country. What man makes, belongs to him, and the workingmen made this country.”

The Great Upheaval began in the fourth year of the nation’s worst depression in history. It came in the wake of great accumulation and concentration of wealth by a few major capitalists, particularly the railroad owners. In 1862, Congress granted them huge swaths of land. In 1863, they passed the National Banking Act, which greatly increased the wealth and power of financial capitalists.

The Great Upheaval began in Martinsburg, WV, on July 16, 1877, when the B&O (Baltimore and Ohio) Railroad slashed wages by 10%. The train crews refused to work, drove out the police and occupied the rail yards. Local townspeople backed the strikers. When the militia was sent in to run the trains, the strikers and their supporters derailed the trains and guarded the switches at gunpoint. While they halted all freight movement, they continued to move mail and passengers, thus maintaining public support. When militia reinforcements were sent in, most mutinied or refused to fight, as they were sympathetic to the workers. (For more, see here, here and here).


1892 Frisco Mine was dynamited by striking Coeur D’Alene miners after they discovered they had been infiltrated by Pinkertons and after one of their members had been shot. Prior to this, the mine owners had increased work hours, decreased pay and brought in a bunch of scabs to replace striking workers. Ultimately, over 600 striking miners were imprisoned without charge by the military in order to crush the strike. (Sources: Wikipedia; Fire in the Hole)

1899 Bunker Hill: Bloody strikes had been going on at this and other Idaho mines over the course of the 1890s. The mine owners had been using scabs, Pinkertons, armed goons, soldiers, lock-outs and other tactics to squeeze the workers and crush their union. In retaliation, the miners loaded a train with dynamite and delivered it to the Bunker Hill mine in 1899, killing one scab and one WFM member. (Sources: Laborers.org; Wikipedia)

1920 Matewan Battle: Ten people were killed when coal company officials in Matewan, West Virginia, tried to remove striking union workers from company housing, sending agents from the Baldwin-Felts detective agency. Sheriff Hatfield, who supported the miners’ right to organize, tried to arrest the detectives who, in turn, tried to arrest Hatfield. Unbeknownst to the detectives, they had been surrounded by miners. When the smoke had cleared, there were 7 dead detectives (including Albert and Lee Felts) and 4 dead townspeople. In the time leading up to the Battle of Matewan, numerous miners had been assassinated by vigilantes, goons or detectives. (From Workday Minnesota, Wikipedia, Daily Bleed and Matewanwv.com)

1921 the Battle of Blair Mountain: 20,000 coal miners marched to the anti-union stronghold Logan County to overthrow Sheriff Dan Chaffin, the coal company tyrant who murdered miners with impunity. The Battle of Blair Mountain was one of the largest civil uprisings in U.S. history and the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War, lasting 5 days and involving 10,000-15,000 coal miners confronting an army of scabs and police. The battle began after Sheriff Sid Hatfield (an ally of the miners and hero from the Battle of Matewan) was assassinated by Baldwin-Felts agents. Much of the region was still under martial law as a result of the Battle of Matewan. Miners began to leave the mountains armed and ready for battle. Mother Jones tried to dissuade them from marching into Logan and Mingo Counties, fearing a bloodbath. Many accused her of losing her nerve. The miners ignored her and a battle ensued between miners and cops, private detectives, scabs and eventually the U.S. military. The uprising was quashed after aerial bombardment by the U.S. government. (From Workday Minnesota, Wikipedia and the Daily Bleed) (From the Daily Bleed)

January 3, 1931 Roughly 500 farmers marched into the business section of England, Arkansas, to demand food for their starving families after their crops were ruined by a long drought. The farmers threatened to take the food by force if it was not freely provided to them, one of scores of such incidents that occurred during the Great Depression (and surprisingly have not happened more frequently during the current one). (From Workday Minnesota)

January 4, 1933 – Angered by increasing farm foreclosures, members of Iowa's Farmers Holiday Association threatened to lynch banking representatives and law officials who instituted foreclosure proceedings for the duration of the Depression. In April, 600 farmers battled the sheriff and his deputies to prevent a foreclosure. A group of farmers dragged a district judge from his chair, put a rope around his neck, and threaten to hang him unless he promised not to issue any more eviction notices. That same month, state officers in Crawford County were beaten, prompting the Iowa governor to declare martial law in three counties and send in the National Guard. (From the Daily Bleed)

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/is-ows-movement-too-nice.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Jan 4, 2012, 08:10 PM (3 replies)

Ed Reformers Want More Studying, Like Koreans, Who Want Less Studying, Like Americans

U.S. Ed Deformers love to hold up South Korea as the epitome of a successful education system (along with Finland). One of the hallmarks of the South Korean system is obsessive hard work, long hours and "educational masochism." While the U.S. Ed Deformers see this as positive, the South Korean government has recently begun enforcing a 10 p.m. curfew on education coaching-schools (called hagwons) and started sending out teams to conduct nightly raids on hagwons that run past the curfew.

According to the Time article, the Korean government is so concerned about student’s addiction to studying that they are paying bounty hunters to turn in violators. At his 2008 inauguration, President Lee Myung-bak said, "One-size-fits-all, government-led uniform curriculums and an education system that is locked only onto the college-entrance examination are not acceptable." Some Korean politicians are even calling for reduced testing and increased emphasis on creativity.

The U.S. has been moving in the opposite direction, bee lining toward a one-size fits all, government-led uniform curriculum (Common Core Standards and NCLB exams). Reformers are calling for longer school hours and more studying, though slashed budgets are resulting in the opposite. U.S. students have been beating themselves up in the growing competition to get into the most elite universities, sometimes taking four or more AP classes at a time and spending thousands of dollars a year (like the Korean counterparts) on test prep classes and tutoring.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/ed-reformers-want-more-studying-like.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue Jan 3, 2012, 10:45 PM (1 replies)

Five Dysfunctions of a Professional Learning Community

By Steven Weber, (originally posted on the Whole Child Education blog) http://whatworks.wholechildeducation.org/blog/five-dysfunctions-of-a-professional-learning-community/

I thought this article was particularly interesting since I have experienced many of the dysfunctions Weber describes. While PLCs are one of the multitudinous education reforms du jour, they are often considered to be teacher-driven and grass roots, in contrast to charter schools, merit pay, evaluation “reform,” and others opposed by unions.

A couple of points I would add to Weber’s 5 dysfunctions are that “trust” and “buy-in” are impossible when PLCs are imposed by administrators, as they often are. If teachers are not given actual decision-making authority, or the scope and goals of the PLC are not limited to what the teachers can actually control, PLCs become just another way for administrators to impose their agendas on teachers.

What Is a Professional Learning Community (PLC)?
“The very essence of a learning community is a focus on and a commitment to the learning of each student. When a school or district functions as a PLC, educators within the organization embrace high levels of learning for all students as both the reason the organization exists and the fundamental responsibility of those who work within it.” —Rick DuFour, Bob Eaker, and Becky DuFour (2007)

From Isolation to Collaboration
As I have watched teachers and administrators make the shift from teaching in isolation to operating as a collaborative team, I have witnessed several commonalities across schools. This article addresses five dysfunctions of a PLC. The purpose of this article is to describe how dysfunctional behavior can interfere with the school’s commitment to the learning of each student.

All Teams Are Potentially Dysfunctional
Lencioni (2007) wrote, “Like it or not, all teams are potentially dysfunctional. This is inevitable because they are made up of fallible, imperfect human beings.” This is nice to know because educators frequently struggle with teamwork, sharing resources, and working with a coworker who views teaching and learning from a different lens.

Click http://whatworks.wholechildeducation.org/blog/five-dysfunctions-of-a-professional-learning-community/ to read the rest of the article, learn about the 5 dysfunctions, and see some videos on the subject.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2011/12/five-dysfunctions-of-professional.html
Posted by Modern School | Mon Jan 2, 2012, 08:55 PM (2 replies)

Less Than 25% of California Schools Have Librarians

Less than 1 out of 4 California schools have full-time credentialed librarians, according to the state Department of Education (See San Francisco Chronicle, 1/2/12). There are only about 900 school librarians in the state, down roughly 20% from two years ago. Many schools have cut librarians entirely, while others have hired them part-time or are sharing them with one or more other schools. Some have put non-credentialed staff or parents at the front desk and one school has even hired students to staff its library.

While anyone can run a book through a bar code device, credentialed librarians are trained to teach students research techniques, deliver curricula, and instill a love of books and reading. Credentialed school librarians can help teachers develop lesson plans and research projects and teach students how to use databases, properly cite sources, and explain copyright laws. Some studies have found a correlation between having full-time credentialed librarians and student achievement.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/01/less-than-25-of-california-schools-have.html
Posted by Modern School | Mon Jan 2, 2012, 08:53 PM (1 replies)

Too Much Evolution For KY Superintendent

Evolution, is fine, just like junk food, so long as we aren’t giving our kids too much of it, suggests Ricky Line, superintendent of Hart County Schools in Kentucky. Line wrote to the Kentucky Board of Education to complain about the overemphasis on evolution in the schools.

The Panda’s Thumb blog paraphrased his letter to the school board:
“I have a deep concern about the increased emphasis on the evolution content required in the new End-of-Course Blueprint. After carefully reviewing the Blueprint, I find the increase is substantial and alarming .…
I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point in education that we are teaching evolution, not the theory of evolution, as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us. I do not believe in macroevolution, and I do believe in creation by our God. …
I take no issue with the teaching of microevolution, the documented proof that a species changes over time, just as humans are taller on the average than they were 50 years ago. I also take no issue with macroevolution being taught as a theory.

Fortunately for the integrity of science education in Kentucky, the Commissioner of the Kentucky Board of Education, Terry Holliday, wrote back to Line explaining that he was misusing the word “theory” to mean “guess” or “hypothesis,” and that both macro- and micro-evolution are well-established scientific principles, supported by ample evidence, and necessary concepts for their students to master if they hope to be college-ready.

Unfortunately for the children of Hart County, Ricky Line continues to assert that macroevolution wasn’t supported by evidence and that creationism was true (though he failed to provide any evidence for this truth).

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2011/12/too-much-evolution-for-ky.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:12 PM (9 replies)

Too Much Evolution For KY Superintendent

Evolution, is fine, just like junk food, so long as we aren’t giving our kids too much of it, suggests Ricky Line, superintendent of Hart County Schools in Kentucky. Line wrote to the Kentucky Board of Education to complain about the overemphasis on evolution in the schools.

The Panda’s Thumb blog paraphrased his letter to the school board:
“I have a deep concern about the increased emphasis on the evolution content required in the new End-of-Course Blueprint. After carefully reviewing the Blueprint, I find the increase is substantial and alarming .…
I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point in education that we are teaching evolution, not the theory of evolution, as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us. I do not believe in macroevolution, and I do believe in creation by our God. …
I take no issue with the teaching of microevolution, the documented proof that a species changes over time, just as humans are taller on the average than they were 50 years ago. I also take no issue with macroevolution being taught as a theory.

Fortunately for the integrity of science education in Kentucky, the Commissioner of the Kentucky Board of Education, Terry Holliday, wrote back to Line explaining that he was misusing the word “theory” to mean “guess” or “hypothesis,” and that both macro- and micro-evolution are well-established scientific principles, supported by ample evidence, and necessary concepts for their students to master if they hope to be college-ready.

Unfortunately for the children of Hart County, Ricky Line continues to assert that macroevolution wasn’t supported by evidence and that creationism was true (though he failed to provide any evidence for this truth).

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2011/12/too-much-evolution-for-ky.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:11 PM (1 replies)

Charles Darwin: Killer of God or Role Model for Pious Students?

Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution are typically portrayed by creationists as fundamental threats to Christianity. Yet Darwin himself was so religious he delayed publication of his book, “On the Origins of Species,” for twenty years (until 1859) in part, many believe, out of fear of upsetting his religious family and friends.

In “Charles Darwin about the Evolution of Religion,” Michael Blume discusses Darwin’s chapter on religion in “Descent of Man” (1871), in which Darwin said:
“There is no evidence that man was aboriginally endowed with the ennobling belief in the existence of an Omnipotent God. On the contrary there is ample evidence, derived not from hasty travelers, but from men who have long resided with savages, that numerous races have existed and still exist, who have no idea of one or more gods, and who have no words in their languages to express such an idea. The question is of course wholly distinct from that higher one, whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the universe; and this has been answered in the affirmative by the highest intellects that have ever lived.”

So, while Darwin argues that belief in God is not a natural trait with which we are born, suggesting that, like other traits, it evolves over time, he also affirms his belief that there is a God and that this is a proven fact. This is hardly the kind of statement one would expect from an atheist or from someone out to debunk Christianity.

However, belief in God does not rule out belief in natural selection, evolution of species, or evolution of the Earth through natural geological processes. Darwin did believe in these ideas, despite his religiosity, because of the ample evidence. He was able to develop a remarkably accurate and effective model for evolution by natural selection through careful observations of artificial selection by farmers, as well as anatomical comparisons of fossils and living species. Like all good scientists, he held himself to a high standard of reproducibility and objectivity in these observations, amassing a large data set from many different regions of the world.

In light of his high regard for scientific evidence and the scientific process, it is interesting that he also had such confidence in the existence of God, despite a dearth of credible evidence, relying entirely on arguments by philosophers and religious leaders. While this double standard for “proof” is interesting, it should not be surprising. Darwin’s highest educational degree was earned in theology. He grew up in a religious family, in a religious community, during religious times. These influences were so powerful he remained a believer in God throughout his life, despite the mounting evidence that the Earth was not created in 6 days in its current form, or even in 10,000 years, contrary to the teachings of his religion.

This story can be instructive for those of us who teach biology, particularly in religious communities, where students often resist learning the evolution content or have trouble comprehending it due to their cultural biases. For these students, we can provide as much evidence as we want, but even this will not necessarily overcome the influences they are getting at home and in their communities. Considering that studies suggest that teaching students about scientists’ adversities tends to result in better educational outcomes, more effective learning, and greater buy-in, lessons on evolution might be more effective if accompanied with a discussion of Darwin’s religiosity and examples of the struggles he went through in developing his theory. It would be particularly helpful for students to hear how and why he accepted his observations, despite the fact that they contradicted the teachings of his church.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2011/12/charles-darwin-killer-of-god-or-role.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:10 PM (2 replies)

Charles Darwin: Killer of God or Role Model for Pious Students?

Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution are typically portrayed by creationists as fundamental threats to Christianity. Yet Darwin himself was so religious he delayed publication of his book, “On the Origins of Species,” for twenty years (until 1859) in part, many believe, out of fear of upsetting his religious family and friends.

In “Charles Darwin about the Evolution of Religion,” Michael Blume discusses Darwin’s chapter on religion in “Descent of Man” (1871), in which Darwin said:
“There is no evidence that man was aboriginally endowed with the ennobling belief in the existence of an Omnipotent God. On the contrary there is ample evidence, derived not from hasty travelers, but from men who have long resided with savages, that numerous races have existed and still exist, who have no idea of one or more gods, and who have no words in their languages to express such an idea. The question is of course wholly distinct from that higher one, whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the universe; and this has been answered in the affirmative by the highest intellects that have ever lived.”

So, while Darwin argues that belief in God is not a natural trait with which we are born, suggesting that, like other traits, it evolves over time, he also affirms his belief that there is a God and that this is a proven fact. This is hardly the kind of statement one would expect from an atheist or from someone out to debunk Christianity.

However, belief in God does not rule out belief in natural selection, evolution of species, or evolution of the Earth through natural geological processes. Darwin did believe in these ideas, despite his religiosity, because of the ample evidence. He was able to develop a remarkably accurate and effective model for evolution by natural selection through careful observations of artificial selection by farmers, as well as anatomical comparisons of fossils and living species. Like all good scientists, he held himself to a high standard of reproducibility and objectivity in these observations, amassing a large data set from many different regions of the world.

In light of his high regard for scientific evidence and the scientific process, it is interesting that he also had such confidence in the existence of God, despite a dearth of credible evidence, relying entirely on arguments by philosophers and religious leaders. While this double standard for “proof” is interesting, it should not be surprising. Darwin’s highest educational degree was earned in theology. He grew up in a religious family, in a religious community, during religious times. These influences were so powerful he remained a believer in God throughout his life, despite the mounting evidence that the Earth was not created in 6 days in its current form, or even in 10,000 years, contrary to the teachings of his religion.

This story can be instructive for those of us who teach biology, particularly in religious communities, where students often resist learning the evolution content or have trouble comprehending it due to their cultural biases. For these students, we can provide as much evidence as we want, but even this will not necessarily overcome the influences they are getting at home and in their communities. Considering that studies suggest that teaching students about scientists’ adversities tends to result in better educational outcomes, more effective learning, and greater buy-in, lessons on evolution might be more effective if accompanied with a discussion of Darwin’s religiosity and examples of the struggles he went through in developing his theory. It would be particularly helpful for students to hear how and why he accepted his observations, despite the fact that they contradicted the teachings of his church.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2011/12/charles-darwin-killer-of-god-or-role.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:09 PM (1 replies)
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