Archive for the 'education' Category

This World is Sorely Lacking in the Fred Rogers Department

August 17, 2006

Please watch this.

Here’s the backstory:
In 1969 the US Senate had a hearing on funding the newly developed Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The proposed endowment was $20 million, but President Nixon wanted it cut in half because of the spending going on in the Vietnam War. This is an video clip of the exchange between Mr. Rogers and Senator Pastore, head of the hearing. Senator Pastore starts out very abrasive and by the time Mr. Rogers is done talking, Senator Pastore’s inner child has heard Mr. Rogers and agreed with him. Enjoy.

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?
What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?
It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:
I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.
© 1968 Fred M. Rogers

fossil hunting in lilydale

September 14, 2005

The ECHO-South group today had a trip to the old St. Paul Brickyards. Unbelievable place. This is pretty much where kids die in cave cave-ins every few years.So about a quarter-mile in (to the park, not the caves — no caves for me thank you very much) we hang a left and there is a HUGE clay “mountain”. Totally natural and literally brimming with amazing fossils. Back in the forest there is a network of trails that takes you to some rather pristine areas so close to the city. Two-hundred foot sandstone walls being slowly carved away by the water seeping through the rock. There were 10-foot wide slabs of limestone crawling with perfect coral fossils.

This is apparently an area with fossils from the Ordovician Period (we were at almost 30 degrees SOUTH of the equator at this time — now we’re 45 degrees NORTH) of the Paleozoic Era (~460 million years old) and include marine invertebrates such as crinoids, bryozoans (sponges) and brachiopods. These are more than twice as old as the dinosaur fossils at the museums.

I had more fun than the kids. I can’t wait to go back.

—-
More good info on fossil hunting in Minnesota

robert paul reyes is a horrible writer/excellent jackass

May 8, 2005

Robert Paul Reyes is a horrible writer. He’s also an awful journalist. My first exposure to Reyes came a few months ago as I was trying to wrap my head around some of the arguments pro and anti-homeschooling. His article Home Schooling; Not A Good Idea, which you’ll see did not have its intended effect, came up high in my search results. I’ve not read too many articles with semi-colons used in the headline, so I was intrigued by what I might find within. Being what Reyes would call himself, “a godless liberal”, I figured we might see eye to eye on some things. Diving in, I couldn’t stop reading — and giggling.Sentence by sentence, paragraph after fluffy paragraph, this guy is a simple bundle of pre-conceived notions. Research? Cite sources and studies? Not for this free-wheeler. He’s much more comfortable cracking out a piece in ten minutes on his gut feelings than actually putting any work in. If that’s what journalism is, we’re all “journalists”. My 5-year old son can do this all day long.

He begins:

The popularity of home schooling has soared in recent years. According to USA Today, some 2 million children are being home schooled and the number of kids being home schooled is rising about 10% a year.
This is where the citations begin and end. It’s a half-assed one too. When did “USA Today” mention this? Link to the article? I’ve heard this number quoted before, although the government (National Center for Education Statistics) thinks it’s closer to 1.1 million, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

News flash: Not everyone is qualified to be a teacher. A lot of parents can’t balance a checkbook or find Iraq on a map — let alone teach their young-uns Algebra & Geography. Just because you love little Johnny does not qualify you to be his teacher.
“News Flash?” Is he seriously using “News Flash” as a device here? I bet half of my teachers growing up couldn’t balance a checkbook, but oddly enough I can. There are good teachers, bad teachers and worse learning environments. In a classroom filled with 30+ learners and one instructor, there is little chance that even an average student can get the amount of work and practice needed to fully master any of the skills “taught”. My wife and I can teach our sons algebra, geography, English…

Most parents home school their children because they are dissatisfied with public schools. I wonder if these same parents home treat their kids when they are severely ill, instead of taking them to a hospital, because they are dissatisfied with the health care system?
Here are some figures (again from the NCES) on the real reasons people homeschool. I think it’s fair to say that people who home school generally aren’t thrilled with the public schools. It doesn’t take a doctor to teach. It does take a doctor to open up a human (skillfully) and remove an appendix, or legally write a prescription. If I’m not happy with a doctor I’ll take my children to someone else. Most people can’t pick and choose a teacher. I think Mr. Reyes needs a refresher course in logic — Venn Diagram?

Home schooling a small child stunts his emotional and psychological growth. It’s at school that a child learns how to communicate with his peers, respect those different from himself and to work as a team to accomplish goals. No, matter how loving and nurturing a home, it can’t replace a school as a crucible for social development.
It’s also at school that children learn to bully and to be bullied by others. It’s a great environment for teaching children to belittle others to hide their deficiencies. I love the “respect those different” line. As if this is the sole domain of the public schools. We’re not church-goers, but our kids are exposed and “respect” all sorts of people. Schools are a place for social development, but not the only. I fail to see what is so natural in having a class of children who were all born within a year of each other. In the real world, you work and socialize with people of all ages.

A dog that’s been confined to a kennel for years will not make a good pet and a child who’s been confined to his home during his formative years will find it extremely difficult to adjust to the real world. We don’t need any more Jerry Dalhmers and Paul Hills let loose on our society.
Jerry Dalhmer. Does he mean Jeffrey Dahmer, the Ohio Public High School graduate? I think he does. The only “Jerry Dahlmer” famous enough to have a reference on the Intarweb is this fictional character from a practice law school exam. Also, Paul Hill was a stoner at Coral Gables High School in Florida. We certainly don’t want any more, Alexander Graham Bells, Simon Bolivars, Andrew Carnegies, Charlie Chaplins, Winston Churchills, Thomas Edisons, Albert Einsteins (who was too stupid to be in public school), Wyeths, Wright Brothers, Roosevelts, or da Vincis screwing up our wonderfully designed public school society.

These impressionable youngsters who are captive to the rigid dogma of their parents are robbed of the wonderful diversity of ideas and cultures that thrive in our public schools. If the number of kids being home schooled continues to grow our democracy will soon resemble the theocracies of Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
There are some parents who have a rigid dogma and push it on their children, but to generalize this point is really a disservice to any of the readers who remain after such garbage up until now. I wonder what Bob thinks having a family is like. His fantastic vision of family life is laughable. As for us becoming Pakistan, Iran or Saudi Arabian-like theocracies, I don’t think homeschooling is our biggest issue (Bush, DeLay, Frist…).

Home schooling poses a serious threat to our educational system. Laws should be passed making it illegal for parents without a teaching credential to home school their children… …Parents who home teach their kids in blatant disregard of the law should be prosecuted. Eventually we will all pay the price for their stubbornness and rebellion.
To those who hung out until the bitter end, this is the payoff you’ve waited for. The idea section. “Serious threat”, how? Up until now, he’s talked about how damaged my children will be, how they might even become a “Jerry Dalhmer”. All of a sudden, without a seque it’s a “serious threat to our educational system”. There is no reason given. I can assume it’s the money issue, but who knows what he’s thinking (roving bands of Dalhmers!). And we definitely need more laws. Let’s make sure those legislators tackle these HOT issues. Let’s remove those parents who care about their kids and their education and make these children wards of the state. This will definitely solve the “serious threat” and wipe out any chance of the Dalhmerization of any child. It will be such a better world when parents stop caring for their children and they are all come preloaded with identical knowledge chips. I think ol’ Bob Reyes can’t wait.

With the wide range of public, parochial and private schools there is no reason why any parent should choose to home school his kids. We have the best public school system in the world and parents should take full advantage of it.
If you don’t want your kids in public school and you’d just as soon have mom or dad around to be with the kids instead of farming them out to daycare, private schools are often out of reach and have many of the same ills. As far as being the “best public school system in the world”, Bob’s being naive again. It’s a difficult argument to back up (or tear down) so he’s playing a safe card, but the steady stream of skilled labor jumping our borders isn’t entirely based on money.

He’s a prolific writer, but it’s certainly easier to crank out the articles when you know everything already. This gem from a piece on an anti-war essay based on Star Trek says an awful lot, “My I.Q may be above average, but I’m still silly enough to believe in a world where we are all brothers and sisters“. Please! I’m getting cavities reading this.

Think his prose and journalism is bad? You aren’t going to believe what this guy can do to a poem. Here’s a classic:

I WRITE

I write,
My soul the author.
My heart the critic.
My brain the editor.
(c) 1998 Robert Paul Reyes (he loves to see this)

Hey Reyes, I think you might want to use the ol’ editor a bit more and maybe get off your “ass the researcher”.

One of my favorite lines ever by a critic is this one by John Simon on the work of recently deceased poet Robert Creeley. It is apropos in the case of Reyes also, “There are two things to be said about (his) poems, They are short; they are not short enough.”

It appears to me that this guy is trying to hit a specific number of words written in his lifetime. Lots and lots of short and really bad articles. As I mentioned before, he writes a lot. I’ll keep my eyes open for a chest-thumping homage to himself when he hits his goal.


Other links to Reyes work:What Ever Happened to Civil Discourse? – this piece is written with the sole purpose of highlighting this nugget “The Lynchburg Ledger is planing on putting my mug shot in a billboard with a caption stating that I’ve been quoted in the ‘New York Times’“. He continues after a bit of self-efacing that comes no where close to masking the intent of the piece and then BAM!, right back with this, “My acquaintances and co-workers can be proud of my success as a writer, and still be critical of my political views –without summarily dismissing me as a left-wing radical.“. Hard to believe, but it gets better: “I look forward to the day when people will think of me as ‘the columnist from the Lynchburg Ledger’ and not as ‘that Liberal idiot who thinks he is a writer’,” and the closing — wait for it…
In the immortal words of Rodney King: ‘Can we all just get along?’“.
Sigh. Or as Rodney King actually said, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Cat Hunting Anyone? – wow. Just “wow”.

Rap Music Is An Abomination [Lil’ Kim, 50 Cent, Shyne, Tupac, Etc] – This sounds so much like Jackie Harvey (apart from the words “nihilist” and “perverse” which Bob took straight out of that dog-eared thesaurus on his desk). “It’s too bad that I’m a voice crying in the wilderness against the dehumanizing message of rap music. Can I get an “Amen” from African Americans who are also worried about the harm that nihilist and perverse rap music is doing to their community?”

UPDATE!
Chris O’Donnell hits on a number of the same issues I do in his excellent rebuttal to this awful piece by Bob.

howtoons rock

February 21, 2005

Got kids (or not) and love science? Howtoons are the answer for a boring Sunday afternoon (or even Monday evening)! With simple instructions and explanations, your kids and you can learn a lot while having a lot of fun in the process.