Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ron Paul on Education

The New Republic has a review of Ron Paul's new book, The School Revolution here.  According to the review, Paul's prescription for good education is simply to have students read assigned books and write papers on them.  Many commentators point out that his program is much too simplistic.

There are a number of fatal flaws to his program, as other commentators have pointed out.  But the one that jumps out at me concerns reading.  Kids who can read the kind of books he is suggesting will have to be excellent readers.  Kids become excellent readers through wide reading.  And once kids start reading widely, there is no stopping them and no restricting them to libertarian thought.   Good luck restricting avid readers to pre-approved books.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tablet Computers in the Schools

The NY Times has an article here describing the push to get tablet computers into the hands of every school child.   It was interesting to me that most of the comments (at the time of this writing) were negative, with most parents thinking their kids had enough screen time.

My 37 years of teaching high school English engraved two truths on my soul.  One is that if kids are not interested and engaged, they don’t learn.  Technology could be a huge help here. 

But the other truth is that only avid readers develop sophisticated academic skills.  If children were given online bookstore accounts and helped to download books they could easily love, then I would support tablets computers.  The kind of reading that develops avid readers—series books, genre fiction—would be easily available to them. 

It became clear to me while teaching that higher-income children are more likely to become avid readers because they have the parents with the money to buy that next books in a series they love, or the next novel by their favorite author.  If we could put that capability into the hands of all of our children, there would not be an education crisis.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

School Lunch Box Wars

The NY Times Motherlode has a column here describing the many restrictions that schools are placing on home-packed lunches.  Some really seem to be unbelievable to me.

In all of the years I had cafeteria duty at the high school where I taught, I never worried about what kids ate.  I just worried about the kids (almost always girls) who didn’t eat anything.

I have a question for adults who are so determined to control what children put in their mouths:  Have you never heard of eating disorders?

I'm definitely with the parents who want to slip some treats into their children's lunch boxes. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mixing Homeschooling and Local Schooling

The Wall Street Journal has a column hereby a home-schooled teenager explaining the value of homeschooling.  She also attempts to answer the critics of it, but does make a few poignant comments.  For example, she misses being able to attend a prom. 

Note: This article is behind the WSJ's paywall, but you may be able to access it by putting "I'm Homeschooled--Hold the Pity Please" into the Google search engine.

I’m sorry that homeschooling and attendance at a local school are usually an either/or proposition.  Surely homeschooled children could benefit from being able to take occasional classes in their local schools—particularly advanced science and math classes.   They should also be able to participate in the social and athletic events at their local schools, like proms.

And wouldn’t it be great if students who were enrolled in local schools could elect to take a few courses at home?   Perhaps they want to pursue an individual English course of books and essay topics selected and supervised by their parents.  Or an individual history course that was heavy on visits to historical sites.   Even parents with full-time jobs might be able to take the time to teach one or two courses.

A mix like this would necessitate greater flexibility on the part of school districts and home-schooling parents, but I think would result in a richer educational experience for children.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Comments from the Wall Street Journal on the Affordable Care Act

The Wall Street Journal has an article here describing a speech former President Clinton gave in defense of the Affordable Care Act.  The article did a fairly good job in summarizing the benefits described in the speech.  I was interested to see some thoughtful comment disagreeing with the benefits he named, and so went to the Wall Street Journal to read the comments.  The tone, and content, of the comments were very disappointing, as they did nothing but personally attack the former president.

I taught Rhetoric for years, and always pointed out to my students that the most common logical fallacy in political discourse is the personal attack.    If I were still teaching, I would definitely print out the comments for this article.  Wow.  Example after example after example of pure personal attack--comments with no substance at all.