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March 15, 2010

National education policy will ruin US schools

Obama is so intent on establishing his conservative, hard-ass bona fides that he will permit Arne Duncan to destroy the US educational system by eliminating its most important facet -- it isn't a national system! The Big Idea -- it's bad education policy - latimes.com
We now face a wave of education reforms based on the belief that school choice, test-driven accountability and the resulting competition will dramatically improve student achievement. Once again, I find myself sounding the alarm that the latest vision of education reform is deeply flawed. But this time my warning carries a personal rebuke. For much of the last two decades, I was among those who jumped aboard the choice and accountability bandwagon. Choice and accountability, I believed, would offer a chance for poor children to escape failing schools. Testing and accountability, I thought, would cast sunshine on low-performing schools and lead to improvement. It all seemed to make sense, even if there was little empirical evidence, just promise and hope. Today there is empirical evidence, and it shows clearly that choice, competition and accountability as education reform levers are not working. But with confidence bordering on recklessness, the Obama administration is plunging ahead, pushing an aggressive program of school reform -- codified in its signature Race to the Top program -- that relies on the power of incentives and competition. This approach may well make schools worse, not better.

Writers need discomfort

Does a room of one's own really help you write a great novel? | Books | guardian.co.uk This lovely column from the Guardian is a reaction to a charity that is looking to provide a female writer with rent-free accommodation, a stipend, and a row-boat (seriously).
Real writers need frustration. They need embarrassment. They need cold, uncomfortable rooms, miles from a mobile signal. There should be an infestation of at least one parasite, a backlog of warnings from the Student Loans Company and just enough coffee for what Don DeLillo calls "an occasional revelation". Woolf wrote standing up at her desk. So did Hemingway, Dickens, Philip Roth. John Fante starved through Wait Until Spring, Bandini. Orwell coughed blood in the coldest winter on record to finish Nineteen Eighty-Four. "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle," he wrote, "like a long bout of some painful illness." And it's not just the realists. PG Wodehouse had bending exercises and seven-day weeks from the age of five ("before that, I just loafed"). Marina Lewycka, on the other hand, wrote A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian between pots of tea and "little snoozes" – and what do you know: no fewer than five literary clich�s in the first paragraph alone. Personally, I like to hold "hungry" creative writing seminars through lunch, far from a vending machine, at the cold end of campus with the heating down. You can almost see Dan Brown leaving and David Foster Wallace taking his place. "I want to smell the breath of a stranger as he speaks my name," wrote one student this week. They're no more prolific, but they're gutsier. Discomfort cures overwriting.

March 12, 2010

U.S. unrolls national educational standards, goals

Proposed Set Of U.S. Academic Standards Unveiled : NPR The national education standards are part of an opt-in program, but forty-eight states have opted in. Only Alaska and Texas refuse to take part.
A group of governors and school superintendents released a proposed set of academic standards Wednesday that lays out what students should be learning in math and English every year from kindergarten through high school. The guidelines are part of a push to iron out the jumble of state standards and raise expectations for American schools. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia joined in the effort to develop national standards, leaving Alaska and Texas as the lone holdouts. If proponents have their way, third-graders across the country will understand the function of adjectives and adverbs, while eighth-graders will be introduced to the Pythagorean theorem. More broadly, the standards are meant to prepare kids for the possibility of college. The proposal, backed by President Obama, was unveiled by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It emerged with surprisingly broad agreement after years of bitter debate between the federal government and the states over who should set academic standards.

March 10, 2010

Recommended Reading: The Rage of Achilles by Terence Hawkins

Disclosure: Terence Hawkins is a long-time Friend of the...