Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Is Your Child a Potato? (draft #1)

December 24, 2017

Is Your Child a Potato?

The question is sloppy. I should have asked: Is your child’s future a potato? I’m wondering if you support more choice in where you get your potatoes than your child’s education.

I have a brilliant idea! Let’s create a system of government-run grocery stores. We’ll run them according to government-approved philosophies of food and its production. Everyone will have to accept what the government decides is best practice in food, because that’s how democracy works. We’ll subsidize these government-run grocery stores to lower the cost of public nutrition.

Non-government, unsubsidized grocery stores generally won’t be able to compete on price, but there are always niches. Health-food co-ops and splashy gourmet destinations could cater to hippy weirdos or the wealthy. However, no government “vouchers” should be useable at non-government grocery stores, because that steals dollars from public nutrition.

Oh wait, my brilliant idea is really dumb.

Yet, the description does apply to a real case of how the public meets a fundamental need. Substitute “schools” and “education” in the proper spots above, and you have our system of public education.


Choice matters when many possibilities exist. Here’s a sampling of some reasonable, yet very different, possibilities in education:

• Benchmark-free education
• Assessment-heavy vs. assessment-light
• High student choice
• Lots of group-work and cooperative learning
• Minimal group work (because there are no group transcripts)
• More philosophy, less literature and social studies (a study by the British Education Endowment Foundation finds that teaching philosophy in elementary school improves language and math scores).
• Subjects emphasized according to economic value, i.e. math, science, reading
• Less emphasis on subjects: described variously as phenomenon-based, interdisciplinary and holistic; aimed at understanding events and phenomena. (Finland has done this for years, and regularly tops international test scores while providing more vacation, more play, and less testing.)
• Subject specialization: arts, performing arts, science, engineering, language-immersion, etc.
• More–much more–music and language in early childhood, because children learn those subjects best. (The German Socio-Economic Panel finds: “Music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance….[kids who learn an instrument]…have better cognitive skills and school grades and are more conscientious, open and ambitious.”)
• Hands-on vs. abstract
• Skills vs. creativity
• Responsible for the whole child vs. responsible for academics
• Lots of recess and play (recent Harvard study officially discovered the obvious: “Play is one of the most important ways in which children learn.”)
• Really strict
• Single-sex
• Multi-age classrooms
• Traditional humanities (emphasizes innovation, but also political power and heroes– “dead white males”).
• So-called “socialist” humanities (lives of women, marginalized groups, and the working class; might use A People’s History of the United States or Lies My Teacher Told Me as a textbook.)
• Direct instruction vs. inquiry-based on constructivist instruction

Some specific examples:

• Montessori
• Playworks
• Waldorf
• Kipp
• Other cultures

There’s no justification for financially penalizing a family choosing one of these educational philosophies, or a non-government provider of them.

Objections to school choice are rhetorical and narrow.

Typical propaganda is that more freedom to choose a school, especially in a free-market approach, would steal money from public education. That rhetoric equates “public education” with the government institution. Without propaganda, “public education” is just the education of the public. That’s what matters. A child doesn’t cease to count as a member of the public because she goes to private school; private schools provide public education.

Another common criticism is of particular implementations of school choice, rather than underlying principles. It may be true that many implementations are corrupted by politics. But, that’s like arguing socialist principles have been disproven, because, you know, Stalin. Showing that Betsy Devos is wrong is not the same as showing that school choice is wrong (not that I’m comparing the Trump administration to Stalin, or anything).


Parental Homophobia

June 18, 2016

I’ve never seen a pride-based logo or meme for being the parent of a gay child. There are plenty of expressions of parental pride, such as “My child is an honor student at…”, and I once saw a bumpersticker proclaiming “My child can kick you honor student’s butt!” (I’m ashamed to say I giggled). And, there are many expressions of gay pride and straight support for the gay community. But, I’ve never seen an expression of specifically parental support.

Why does it matter? It’s widely reported that parental homophobia is very destructive, since it teaches the kids to hate themselves. It’s also a well-known cause of teen homelessness. Articles like these are increasingly common, and back in the late 90’s when I volunteered at an agency for homeless youth, we were told as part of our regular training that gay and lesbian kids being kicked out by their parents was a common cause of homelessness.

On that note, a few sketches of something that could go on a t-shirt, or become a meme in some way….

ppgc The triangle-heart combination seems a bit awkward, as a matter of graphic design. A friend suggested the pink triangle had a negative historical connotation, since it originated with the Nazis, although I think the gay community has completely reappropriated it.

Another style…..

rainbowheart ppgc

Some do-it-yourself design sites are set up to make this easy on a retail basis.

Maybe I’m out to lunch, having no personal experience with the issue. It’s just a thought that popped into my head after working with marginalized teens, reading articles such as the one from Rolling Stone, and then a story on NPR yesterday that the Orlando shooter may have had repressed same-sex interest. Basically, parents who support their LGBT children are good role-models for “at-risk” parents, so why not give them a vehicle to play that role?

Where’s My Free-market?

February 11, 2016

This should be an SAT question.

Which of the following items doesn’t fit with the others?

A) Our society needs to improve its teaching & schools
B) Our society is founded on free-market principles
C) We should make the teaching profession unattractive by underpaying relative to the training it requires and reducing benefits.

“To be sure, international comparisons can be instructive. It is useful to know that teachers in high-scoring Finland are prepared much more thoroughly than teachers in most U.S. states, and that high teacher salaries in Singapore and Taiwan have eliminated shortages in math instruction.

“But too much time in the United States is spent fear-mongering and declaring that our economy is about to tank because of how U.S. schools purportedly stack up against schools in other nations.

Aesthetics and investing

November 8, 2007

I often think of stock investing as similar to chess or baduk, or some other high-level game of strategy and tactics. There is a blend of the analytical and the intuitive, and a clear definition of winning and losing. The added bonus is that you can make good money off it if you develop sufficient skill.

But one interesting difference is that high-level strategy activities often have an aesthetic quality. The great games of chess, even poker, are described as being beautiful. Even sports with a fair amount of strategy are described as having aesthetic value when done well.

Nobody ever talks about trading as being beautiful. If anything, its intangibles are often considered to be negatives: shallowness, materialism, greed, etc.

Is this just a bias against investing (because money is involved, perhaps)? Or is it true that a great game of chess can be beautiful in a way that great investing never is?

Cool Video

July 4, 2007

Women in Western art.


April 1, 2007

My first take on blogs was that they are dumb. What’s the point? Vanity publishing for all, well there’s a social revolution the world needs. A few years later, my opinion hadn’t changed. There had to be some kind of conceit behind blogging.

So here I am, attempting to blog. Is it a conceit? Probably. So? The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world, and I’ve never seen anything so conceited. My blog is like the Taj without the admission fee. Lucky you.

Why blog? Why journal for a public audience? Partly, because self-expression is fun. Partly, because it is a way of keeping friends and family (our fans!) up to date.

Does it matter if anybody reads my blog? Is that like asking about the sound of a tree falling when nobody can hear? The falling matters to the tree. Maybe it would want someone to notice.