When they say, “I’m Going to Fix Education.” Don’t believe it!

What does it take to fix education?

You heard me. Don’t believe it if a political figure says, “I’m going to fix education,” or if they call it “our broken educational system” it’s all the same. Well let me soften it a bit and say don’t believe them unless they give you a well constructed description of what is broken or needs fixing. Then you should insist on a well-constructed, real world, doable, unemotional solution. I know that sounds like a lot, so…

Start by defining the problem.

There are those who say: “Schools are failing our children. The educational system in America is broken.” Those are some really scary and yet very common sound bites. They are full of fear and anger but short on what they mean, and short on solutions. So, why would anyone say that?

Let’s be honest. Despite U.S. leadership in creativity in the world (such as high tech innovations, and entertainment), despite being an economic power house in the world, there are a lot of Americans who are woefully undereducated. A cruel person would say stupid but I’m not that cruel. So, one way our schools are letting us down – we’re putting a lot of people out on the street with diplomas and no ability to think or use facts.

Read moreWhen they say, “I’m Going to Fix Education.” Don’t believe it!

For Educational Policy: Reject Standardized Tests, Embrace Facts Part 2

For many students Standardized Tests don’t measure facts or process.

Standardized tests measure the parents income and education as much as they measure the student’s skills in a particular subject. There is so much debate and literature on this that I’m not even going into it. My purpose here is to show parents, other teachers, and policy makers what MY experience has been, what I did about it, and perhaps influence a few decisions about assessment.

The vast majority of my students had math skills and knowledge far below grade level. Read Part 1 for the statistics. Rather than rehash my earlier arguments let’s look at examples of what I encountered with my 14 to 17 year old, high school, algebra students.

Multiplication of decimals – a 5th grade standard

Suppose you were giving a multiple guess test and you gave the problem:

 34.6
x .03

With the following answer choices:

A)   34.4
B) 10.38
C) 1.038
D)   34.9

What would the student answers tell you about their math skills?

Read moreFor Educational Policy: Reject Standardized Tests, Embrace Facts Part 2

For Educational Policy: Reject Standardized Tests, Embrace Facts Part 1

One more issue to be polarized over – Standardized Tests

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to assess, evaluate, judge, test or whatever euphemism makes you comfortable. Many of us just don’t absolutely need what currently is used for standardized tests.

We just got through testing (and graduation) season and a new semester is upon us. There have been the usual complaints about standardized tests. I agree with all of them. Some universities have even stopped considering the SAT and ACT. I agree that standardized tests in the aggregate show us more about financial background and demographics than they do about actual skill levels or individual motivation. More importantly, for the lower grades, standardized tests don’t do a good job of telling us what to teach, or how to teach it.

There’s the rub.

I have encountered many adults (and that includes parents, administrators, and some teachers) who seem to assume that just because a child has reached a certain age or grade level that they are ready for whatever academic rigors that class or grade level demands. It ain’t necessarily so. My experience has been: you can’t just teach a ‘one size fits all’ Algebra (or any other) curriculum due to social promotion [for a more complete discussion of the destructive practice of social promotion read: Unspoken Obstacle]. Don’t assume that we can ‘Just bring them along’, as I’ve often been told to do.

If we are to reach each child, we teachers need to know what to teach each particular child, and how to teach it. The best way to accurately do that is through some sort of assessment. Few who are against standardized testing have put forth a solution to the need for assessment and what kind of assessment will tell us what we need to know. If you think all assessment is suspect and does no good you can stop reading now. My experience has been that some sort of assessment is necessary – just not standardized testing as it is done today. Here’s why I believe that, and what I did to assess my students.

Read moreFor Educational Policy: Reject Standardized Tests, Embrace Facts Part 1

I Cursed My Kids!

Yes, I cursed my kids!

I’m not a bad guy. Yet, I cursed my kids. Why did I dare to do such a thing? Well, it seemed necessary. Not necessarily for their education, but for my sanity. Be honest… If you have children of your own or are a teacher, you’ve certainly considered it. But this time… I cursed my kids!

Be Nice!

I know we are always supposed to be positive in affect and attitude. The media tells us that, as adults, we are to be bright and shining lights of encouragement to all our students, especially the most challenging and difficult ones. My Twitter feed abounds with feel good exhortations from other educators about being nice. And I agree with them. But this time… I cursed my kids!

Read moreI Cursed My Kids!

Stupid Criminals and the Tramp Stamp

Stupid Criminals

Many of my students have had trouble dealing with authority figures. I would often try to teach them effective ways of dealing with authority to avoid going to jail. [See: Punked Out To Authority] People go to jail for many reasons. I always acknowledge that there are unfair laws, unfair applications of the law, racism, bad cops and just plain bad days. I do also admit that the world does contain some very bad people who commit very bad crimes and they deserve our enmity and (for the protection of others) jail. Then I make my students aware of something that surprises many of them. There is a large segment of the prison population that aren’t just criminals; like many of my students (and some of my relatives) they are are stupid criminals. These are some of their stories.

Jailbird Brothers

My brothers liked to laugh at me. Whenever we would talk about police, they would drag up the following story. We had just left a Jethro Tull concert at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.

Read moreStupid Criminals and the Tramp Stamp

My Neighbor’s Gun – A Gun Death

True Story of A Gun Death

Antonio shot and killed himself early in the morning, right outside my kitchen window. I didn’t see it. I heard it, and ran to the window to see what was going on. Antonio was lying face down, bleeding and vomiting into the cement pond. I ran out to see if I could be of any help. And, to be honest, I wanted to make sure the shooting was over.

Antonio was twitching, but it didn’t look like the twitching of life. I moved the gun, a .38 revolver, using my house key. I didn’t want him to suddenly grab the gun and start shooting even though I considered it unlikely. Then I grabbed a wrist that wasn’t bloody and found no pulse.

Other neighbors began to cautiously peer out of their apartments asking, “What happened?” I shouted, “Call 911 there’s been a shooting.” Then I ran into my apartment and called 911 myself. I told them I believed Antonio was dead but to send paramedics anyway, and that the shooting was over. The sheriffs didn’t take my word for it. They didn’t send in SWAT but they did have the paramedics wait until the detectives cleared the scene as safe (except for the biohazard bleeding into the cement pond).

What to do? Responsibility, Repression or Status Quo?

Antonio lived in the apartment next to mine for the last two decades.

Read moreMy Neighbor’s Gun – A Gun Death

Sex Abuse 105: How Hollywood Romances Teach Sex Abuse

Hollywood Romance Movies Actually Teach Sex Abuse!

What do Al Pacino, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Sean Connery, Kristin Scott Thomas, Arthur Godfrey (and too many others to list here) have in common? They’ve all made movies or records which show some sort of sex abuse and/or violence as the path to romantic love.

Sex abuse scandals are in the news daily. There is plenty of outrage but still no one is talking about how to effectively end sex abuse (or at least keep it from being so ubiquitous) other than simply telling the abused to ‘speak up’ (a worthwhile strategy, but limited). No one is asking the right questions. Those who are outraged continually act as if any behavior that they think constitutes sex abuse is obvious, has always been obvious, and everyone knows it’s obvious. Well folks, here on Planet Reality, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Read moreSex Abuse 105: How Hollywood Romances Teach Sex Abuse

Sex Abuse 104: The Chimpanzee Lecture

Sex Abuse and The Chimpanzee Lecture

This lesson/lecture is amazingly effective at getting students (as well as adults) to reflect on how they respond to social/sexual interactions and how biology plays a hand in sex abuse. It is culled from a wide variety of readings but you can find most of these ideas in two books: The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1991); [and even more importantly]: Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1997). Both by Jared Diamond the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel.

This post is part 4 of a 5 part series on sex abuse education and what I try to teach my students. Part 1 is about Mixed Messages. Part 2 is about my personal experience with sex abuse in Hollywood. In Part 3 I examined a common misunderstanding of the law (Attractive Nuisance), empathy and social norms. Part 4 (The Chimpanzee Lecture) is my biology teacher’s reason for not being surprised at the misunderstandings or power plays that lead to sex abuse. I have used this lesson in my classroom when teaching about sexual relations. Part 5 is about how Hollywood ‘romantic movies’ actually teach men to abuse women in order to be loved.

This is not about blaming or excusing anyone.

This is not about declaring any one gender or opinion right (i.e. I’m not trying to say that the girls should learn to act or feel like guys or vice versa). It’s about understanding the biological differences in what we feel and what needs to be taught to everyone. This is not intended for those broken souls who are incapable of learning. There will always be those humans who are so crazy, or so convinced that the way they see the world is the way everyone else does or should, that they are not bound by any social norms. But we’ve got to start somewhere and these are things which need to be taught.

As I said before: I do have my own experiences and a few suggestions which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences (which I also discuss with my students in the classroom) as additional information in our mutual quest to teach everyone to treat others with dignity and respect.

What got me started on teaching this lesson.

I started developing this lesson after trying and failing to get our girls to think about how they were dressing. It got so bad [see Naive Sophistication] that, one day, in frustration, a female administrator came over the school PA system and said, “You girls have got to start covering up. This ain’t no barbecue and we don’t need the meat!” I used The Chimpanzee Lecture in my life skills classes, my financial planning classes, and any time a student asked a personal/social/sexual question in which I thought this lesson would be helpful.

I always give the following warning to my students. This warning concluded my last post (Attractive Nuisance): we ignore biology at our peril. Having equal rights socially does not mean we have the same goals biologically.

I quoted Rosalind Wiseman from her excellent book The Guide:

Girls are “…trying to achieve the impossibleby pleasing both girls and straight guys,
two groups with competing agendas.”

So what does biology teach us about what those competing agendas really are?

Read moreSex Abuse 104: The Chimpanzee Lecture

Sex Abuse 103: Attractive Nuisance

Sex Abuse and Misunderstanding the Law

This post is part 3 of a 5 part series on sex abuse education and what I try to teach my students. Part 1 is about Mixed Messages. Part 2 is about my personal experience with sex abuse in Hollywood. Here in Part 3 I’ll examine a common misunderstanding of the law (Attractive Nuisance), empathy and social norms. I have used it in my classroom when teaching about sexual relations. Part 4 is my biology teacher’s reason for not being surprised at what happened (Part 4: The Chimpanzee Lecture).

This is not about blaming or excusing anyone. It’s about understanding what needs to be taught to everyone. This is not intended for those broken souls who are incapable of learning. There will always be those humans who are so crazy, or so convinced that the way they see the world is the way everyone else does or should, that they are not bound by any social norms. But we’ve got to start somewhere and these are things which need to be taught.

As I said before: I do have my own experiences and a few suggestions which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences (which I also discuss with my students in the classroom) as additional information in our mutual quest to teach everyone to treat others with dignity and respect.

Don’t “SHOULD” on me!

The psychologist Dr. Pat Allen warns against use of the word ‘should’ and I also want to warn you. So when I use the word ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ in the following paragraphs, read it as if it was capitalized, bolded, italicized, and in quotation marks – meaning, beware of this word and your thinking.

I’ve heard males say, “Why do girls (women) wear provocative (tight, short, low cut etc.) clothing if they don’t want to attract attention? Girls shouldn’t dress that way. They’re just asking for it.” Girls will say, “We should be able to dress however we want.” The boys are demonstrating a lack of understanding of the law and good manners. They are corrupting the concept of attractive nuisance. Girls are ignoring biology. Let me explain…

Attractive Nuisance or Girls shouldn’t dress that way.

Read moreSex Abuse 103: Attractive Nuisance

Sex Abuse 102: My Hollywood Experience

Sex Abuse

This post is part 2 of a 5 part series on sex abuse education and what I try to teach my students. Part 1 is about Mixed Messages. This post (Part 2) is about my personal experience with sex abuse in Hollywood. I have used it in my classroom when teaching about sexual relations. I think it shows a common misunderstanding of the law (details in Part 3: Attractive Nuisance) and a biology teacher’s reason for not being surprised at what happened (Part 4: The Chimpanzee Lecture).

This is not about blaming or excusing anyone. It’s about understanding what needs to be taught to everyone. As I said before: I do have my own experiences and a few suggestions which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences (which I also discuss with my students in the class room) as additional information in our mutual quest to teach those around us to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Not a Hollywood Sex Scandal Yet…

Early in my West Coast musical career I was living with a beautiful, talented singer named Laura. To give you an idea of how beautiful and talented Laura was, think of Jennifer Lopez in the movie Selena. One day I was returning from a rehearsal and I found Laura crying her eyes out on our living room couch. I asked what was wrong and between sobs she told me.

Read moreSex Abuse 102: My Hollywood Experience

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: