A New Future of Education?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the education system–specifically the PK-12 system–and various proposals floating out there to improve student performance. Many of the proposals are about fixing the system, yes, or “reforming” the system, and throw out ideas like pay for performance, charter schools, closing low-performing schools, increased accountability, national standards.

In a recent New Yorker article, The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care. Atul Gawande makes the argument that instead of reforming the health care system, we need a whole new model for how medicine works. To wit:

And that will mean rewarding doctors and hospitals if they band together to form…accountable-care organizations, in which doctors collaborate to increase prevention and the quality of care, while discouraging overtreatment, undertreatment, and sheer profiteering.

What if what we really need, rather than fixing or reforming the system, is a whole new system of education? One where teachers and administrators, rather than working in isolation as individual teachers, individual schools, individual districts, banded together in more cooperative ways?

I’m coming from the world of education. Virtually my entire professional life has been in education. I believe in things like experience-based learning, student-centered classrooms, assessing student progress with projects and portfolios. I believe in teacher education programs and the importance of having well-educated and well-prepared teachers in the classroom.

And yet, something is obviously going wrong–continuing to go wrong–in many schools today where far too many students are dropping out or not meeting progress standards, and the students are disproportionally from low-income or high-minority schools. And while reform in various ways is one answer, perhaps thinking critically about more comprehensive, perhaps more radical, changes to education is another answer.

Thoughts?

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New, New Wave Feminism?

Perhaps inspired by the election of a new president of NOW, Echidne of the Snakes wrote an interesting post about feminism and what it means.

Feminism really turns into something very different depending on what your basic definition might be, even if you are unaware of that basic definition. If you start from the ideal of equal treatment for men and women you get one set of conclusions. If you start from the ideal of supporting women you get a different set of conclusions. Sometimes. Not always.

As several of her commenters noted, supporting women as an end-goal can lead you into some pretty strange and hard-to-defend positions. If you follow the theoretical argument, you end up defending the right of an individual women to make, well, stupid decisions. For me, the key is the the word individual. I can support women in general while acknowledging that an individual woman may not always be deserving of support in doing what she wants to do.

Or…am I falling into a trap whereby I am setting myself up as the superior woman, and others as…lesser?

Sleeping

In the end-of-term, off-to-Turkey busyness of earlier this spring, I wrote about my need for more sleep. Well, as it turns out, I did some major catching-up in Turkey. To wit, I fell asleep whenever and wherever I could. I regularly–like, every single time–fell asleep in the car. How could I not? We were invariably going somewhere with a longer-than-20-minute ride, after having eaten a big meal, sitting in the warm sun, with an almost-always sleepy baby on my lap. How could anyone not fall asleep under those conditions? Especially given my already sleep-deprived state?

Now that we are all back on East Coast time, we’ve settled into a much better sleep pattern. Fast Turtle is no longer waking us up at 5:30/6am. Now he sleeps until 6:30 or even 7:30am. Yay! Hurrah! The downside is that Baby Bug is regularly sleeping late enough that she’s not even awake before I leave for work. Boo!

Of course, new challenges in the form of an office move (mine) to a location 12 miles further away from home (but it’s a reverse commute! reverse commute, hah!) will doubtless throw a kink into our newly-organized routine. Isn’t that the way it always is? Particularly with little kids, a new pattern only lasts long enough for you to think tentatively, hmm, maybe THIS is the new normal, and then all the balls go flying in the air and you have to try to catch them all over again.

Annoying Bookstore Managers

Background: While I am pursuing my PhD, I work as the program assistant for an academic department (unrelated to my field of study) on campus. From this job I get an unparalleled view of the workings of higher ed (snort), and free tuition. Oh, and health insurance.

So, that said, I am seriously annoyed by people today. These guys who work in the campus bookstore just came by, ostensibly to bring around a printout of what courses for fall don’t have books ordered yet. The one guy acted all “hey, old friend! how are you?” I think I’ve met him, um, once? and he called me by a name that was not my name, not at all. Like, Yardley. YARDLEY. Because Yardly and Yancy sound so similar?? Like my name isn’t WRITTEN ON MY DOORPLATE. And, of course, it turns out that they don’t have the printout for me after all, but, “we’ll be back!” he chirped.

This whole exchanges annoys me on several levels:

(1) WRONG NAME, asshat. If you aren’t sure, don’t guess on someone’s name.

(2) You forgot the printout??

(3) Email the freakin’ thing, for god’s sake; why were you walking a copy all the way over to me anyway?

(4) DON’T email it, because if the book order for a certain course wasn’t turned in back in May, it’s not going to be ready until August with the profs come back. Yes, that’s late. But making all kinds of changes to how books are ordered, like moving the deadlines up into MARCH for fall semester courses, is OBVIOUSLY not making any difference to the profs who select the books. All I can do is pass on the orders, and harass the profs to get them in sooner. Which, we all know isn’t going to happen. Multiple emails a week, several phone calls & a personal visit isn’t going to make it happen faster. You are not going to change the culture of the faculty members who just do not get their sh*t together in time to order books in March. Let’s just agree that that is NOT going to happen and save me AND YOU a bunch of wasted effort, and instead concentrate on getting a book supply system where 3 weeks is enough time to order books. Cause, hey, if Amazon can get me and 50 gazillion other customers our book order in under 3 weeks, for less money than the bookstore charges, then you should be able to handle getting book orders done in August.

I just keep telling myself that my time spent here will be incredibly valuable once I’m a professor, as I’ll have first-hand knowledge of the trials that administrative staff go through. And, once I’m in a position of power, I will be able to tell the faculty to do their own freakin’ travel reimbursements, because “program assistant” does not mean “your personal secretary.” I’ll also tell them that if they use the term secretary one more time, I’ll shove a giant 2009 calendar up their arse, because it’s not 1959 anymore.

Money Shenanigans

An article posted today to the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on financial misdoings at Kansas State. Evidently a VP there, Robert Krause, got involved in moving money around in creative ways within different departments he was in charge of. Not surprising, the athletics department was a large part of the problems. Is it my personal bias showing here, or is it not almost always the athletics folks doing the hanky-panky or playing fast-and-loose with the rules?

However, in this case it was not only the athletics department, but several others with whom Mr. Krause had dealings. The article concludes with a lovely quote from one of Mr. Krause’s colleagues, who evidently said something along the lines of:

(I)n a small town like Manhattan, Kan., it’s nearly impossible to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest because the people with the money to invest often also happen to be the ones with enough knowledge to serve on a governing board. “You can’t avoid conflicts in these kinds of situations, you can only manage them.”

Really? That’s the explanation? We live in a small town with only a handful of capable people, and they just happen also the be the wealthy ones, so, we’re stuck with at least the appearance of impropriety just to get capable people to help us run things? Not to mention the fact that it seems pretty fairly well clear that the facts in this case go a wee bit beyond the mere appearance of conflicts of interest, right smack dab into actual, honest-to-goodness, improper acts. I don’t get it. Am I misunderstanding what this fellow is trying to say?

And, back to athletics. Is it as simple as, where there is money, there is wrong-doing? You don’t often hear about rogue French lit professors luring hot young French stars into the department with promises of free brie. Of course, I can’t imagine thousands of people paying to come and see a play-off that pits French majors against Spanish majors, either. Or whatever the equivalent to a big ol’American football game would be.

Please, enlighten me. What is it about sports that prompts us (as a country) to give so much money towards seeing other people play them? Why do we give so much assistance to college athletes, helping them get in where maybe they shouldn’t, helping them stay in, and, of course, all the money and other perks? Is it that college sports are one of the last male bastions on campus, one of the last places where men, largely, rule the roost? Or do I have an over-inflated sense of what college athletes really get out of a university?

Roll up your sleeves

Welcome to Yancy land! I’m obviously a fan of cutesey rhymes. I’m also a Ph.D. student (ooooooohhhh!) which mostly just means that I sit around reading obscure journal articles and the occasional text, just for kicks. And grades. Oh, wait, and intellectual challenge as well–can’t forget that one.

I have two kids, a husband, a too-big house that I alternately love and want to raze, and too little free time to do anything productive but plenty to spend countless hours reading blogs.

A (Different) Good Argument for Universal Health Care

One of the smartest (education-related) reasons for supporting universal health care coverage came from Dean Dad’s recent post:

My proposal for long-term prosperity: combine an educated population with national health insurance (since going without health insurance is a colossal barrier to starting a new business) and a focus on providing the kinds of public goods that lead to all manner of positive externalities – basic research, mass transit, that sort of thing. If that sounds a bit Scandinavian, well, Norway and Sweden aren’t doing too badly these days. Iceland followed our model instead, and effectively collapsed. In places with plenty of smart people running around, where the cost of failure isn’t so awful, it’s not shocking that Nokias and Ericssons pop up. Here, we get Wal-Mart. We can train people to work at Wal-Mart, and there may be times when that’s the least-bad short-term option. But it’s not the same thing.

I thought this was interesting; I hadn’t thought about the implications of universal access to health care for people who stay in their jobs because of the benefits, such as health insurance, who might prefer to go out on their own and do something different. As the bringing-home-the-benefits spouse, I personally would love to have health care for my family that wasn’t tied to my job. Then maybe grad students like me wouldn’t need to work full-time on top of going to school full-time; or at least we’d have the option of taking a GRAship and maybe a little teaching on the side to make it through school.

Haughty Intellectual, me?

Inspired by The Nuthouse

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Your result for The Personality Defect Test

Haughty Intellectual

You are 71% Rational, 43% Extroverted, 14% Brutal, and 86% Arrogant.

Haughty Intellectual

You are the Haughty Intellectual. You are a very rational person, emphasizing logic over emotion, and you are also rather arrogant and self-aggrandizing. You probably think of yourself as an intellectual, and you would like everyone to know it. Not only that, but you also tend to look down on others, thinking yourself better than them. You could possibly have an unhealthy obsession with yourself as well, thus causing everyone to hate you for being such an elitist twat. On top of all that, you are also introverted and gentle. This means that you are just a quiet thinker who wants fame and recognition, in all likelihood. Like so many countless pseudo-intellectuals swarming around vacuous internet forums to discuss worthless political issues, your kind is a scourge upon humanity, blathering and blathering on and on about all kinds of boring crap. If your personality could be sculpted, the resulting piece would be Rodin’s “The Thinker”–although I am absolutely positive that you are not nearly as muscular or naked as that statue. Rather lacking in emotion, introspective, gentle, and arrogant, you are most certainly a Haughty Intellectual! And, most likely, you will never achieve the recognition or fame you so desire! But no worries!

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more RATIONAL than intuitive.

2. You are more INTROVERTED than extroverted.

3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.

4. You are more ARROGANT than humble.

Compared to other takers

  • You scored 71% on Rationality, higher than 65% of your peers.
  • You scored 43% on Extroversion, higher than 41% of your peers.
  • You scored 14% on Brutality, higher than 13% of your peers.
  • You scored 86% on Arrogance, higher than 95% of your peers.

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I have to admit, as far as personality tests goes, I think this one’s pretty hilariously spot-on. Obviously, it’s about seeing your personality in a negative light (see, that’s what makes it funny…moron.) and I don’t *really* think I’m an elitist twat. At least not always.

Back!

It’s been such a busy month since we left for Turkey that I hardly know where to begin…hopefully it goes without saying that we had a wonderful, fabulous time, and were all sad to have come back. I’d like, at some point, to do some more in-depth posts on Turkey, and perhaps later this summer after my summer class is finished and we’re not sick with the killer flu and I have time to breathe more time for reflection, I’ll be able to do that. For now, it will have to suffice to say that the trip was amazing and I fell in love with everything about Turkey.

Did I say killer flu? Ahh, yes, I did. Although not the non-swine swine flu (although, really, how do they know? none of our doctors asked to do a culture, or whatever it is they can do to identify viruses…) it nonetheless was an un-welcome home gift that I did not need after just being out for three weeks. So, if any of you are suddenly struck with a high fever, go straight to bed and be prepared to injest more fever reducers and ice pops than you ever thought you could. For at least the next week. Good times!