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MathInSalinaKansas 23 Jun 2006 - 13:28 CarolynJohnston

From a forum I sometimes visit, I followed a link today to an urban legends website with a page on an internet claim about an 8th grade final exam supposedly given in Salina, Kansas, in 1895. Here are a few of the test questions in the arithmetic section:

``` Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours) 1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic. 2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold? 3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1050 lbs. for tare? 4. District No. 33 has a valuation of \$35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at \$50 per month, and have \$104 for incidentals? 5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at \$6.00 per ton. 6. Find the interest of \$512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent. 7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at \$20.00 per in? 8. Find bank discount on \$300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent. 9. What is the cost of a square farm at \$15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods? 10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt. ```

When I looked at the Urban Legends page about this 1895 test I found that, contrary to my expectation, they weren't debunking the claim that it was a genuine final test from 1895. They were taking issue with the claim that it showed that educational standards had fallen since 1895:

``` What nearly all these pundits fail to grasp is "I can't answer these questions" is not the same thing as "These questions demonstrate that students in earlier days were better educated than today's students." Just about any test looks difficult to those who haven't recently been steeped in the material it covers. If a 40-year-old can't score as well on a geography test as a high school student who just spent several weeks memorizing the names of all the rivers in South America in preparation for an exam, that doesn't mean the 40-year-old's education was woefully deficient -- it means he simply didn't retain information for which he had no use, no matter how thoroughly it was drilled into his brain through rote memory some twenty-odd years earlier. ```

Lame, lame, lame. If you can't prove that this is not an authentic graduate exam from 1895, then complaining about it just makes you sound like a whiner (and notice the dig about 'rote memory' -- memorization is in very bad odor these days).

Besides, it's not about us (and what we retained) anymore: it's about our kids. And I am afraid it does imply that we've dumbed down the junior high curriculum. Only a tiny minority of kids graduating 8th grade these days could handle sophisticated word problems like these, even if we gave them the bushel-conversion formulas for free. Apart from the emphasis on farming applications, which is kind of funny and endearing, the application area of problems 6 and 8 (just for an example) is as alive, or more so, in 2005 as it was in 1895, and we simply do not teach it. In the late 1980s, I taught an elective course at LSU on the material covered in these problems. The entering students were completely ignorant of that material, mastery of which I claim is necessary to living adult life competently (and they were very glad to finally learn it, too). Many students who were stronger mathematically, and didn't take that elective math course, are no doubt still ignorant of it, because it is not taught in public schools anymore.

The second thing that leaps out at me is that these are mostly application problems -- word problems -- not problems testing either basic computation or deep understanding of the beauty of mathematics (with the exception of problem 1). It was just assumed that these kids could do the computations necessary to solve these problems, without calculators. What they needed to do was to solve those problems, and get the right answer, and that hasn't changed a bit. And I'll bet there was no partial credit given for having the right idea, either.

CompareAndContrast
CompareAndContrastPart2
CompareAndContrastPart3
CompareAndContrastPart4
CompareAndContrastPart5
CompareAndContrastPart6
CompareAndContrastPart7

NotTheWholeStory 08 Jul 2005 - 00:35 CarolynJohnston

Catherine sent me a link today to an article about the Everyday Math curriculum. A host of well-known mathematicians have given Everyday Math a lot of negative press. A group of mathematics professors led by David Klein at Cal State Northridge wrote an open letter to the Secretary of Education urging the U.S. government to publicly withdraw its 1999 recommendation of Everyday Math (among other new-new math curricula).

I am familiar (very familiar) with Everyday Math, and it has clear weaknesses that we'll discuss at length in time, but I was struck by the following quote in today's article:

``` Klein said that as a result of whole math programs such as EM, CSUN and other colleges must offer entering freshmen remedial math classes at a level as low as third grade. He said he’s seen, for instance, calculus students who can’t add fractions. "This is kind of the lost generation, ruined by these liberal-minded policies," Klein said. "The truth of the matter is it’s just a crummy program." ```

It may be a crummy program -- I have certainly found it hugely frustrating to work with -- but it wouldn't be fair to blame Everyday Math for the existence of vast numbers of calculus students who can't add fractions. The problem has been around a lot longer than Everyday Math has.

I taught at SUNY Binghamton in the early 80s, and we had plenty of calc students who couldn't add fractions. When I was a grad student at Louisiana State University, the remedial math caseload on the mathematics department was so heavy that a whole class of 'instructors' -- essentially the equivalent of high school teachers in schooling and training -- were employed by the math department to teach remedial math classes, and a typical grad student was assigned full responsibility for 2 classes of remedial math every semester. That's more than 60 students per grad student.

And these classes were serving just the students who had been identified as needing remedial math classes; many slipped through the cracks. You bet a lot of the students in LSU's calculus classes couldn't add fractions. Nor is the problem confined to LSU; public universities everywhere, with few exceptions, have large remedial math loads. It's been going on for at least twenty years, long before Everyday Math appeared on the scene.

I don't think there are any simple explanations. But I do think we're floundering, and we need to look to countries with a better track record for guidance.

Furthermore, any math professor can point to plenty of failures in math education within his own experience, but individual failures don't help to explain what we're doing wrong at the policy level. For that, we'll need sound research.

NotTheWholeStoryPart2 23 Jun 2006 - 13:29 CatherineJohnson

So just how far back does the U.S. fraction deficiency go, you ask.

In 1923, the NEW YORK TIMES reported that fewer than half of seventh grade students could convert the fraction 1/5 into a decimal.

The Columbia Teachers College had a plan.

``` The new aim of the progressive arithmetricians is to abandon drilling in artificial problems and to bring mathematics close to every-day life. ```

``` from: 'New Teaching Puts Life into Dreary Arithmetic', NYTIMES December 9, 1923 ```

Apparently, the plan was working.

``` The new method is so successful, according to its sponsors, that one school has playfully threatened to abandon it for the reason that the pupils are so enthusiastic over arithmetic that their teachers can scarcely interest them in other subjects. ```

This was the start of progressive education in America.

So flash forward to 1989, and we find NAEP reporting that 60 percent of seventh grade students can 'express simple fractions' as decimals.

A mere 70 years of progress, and 10% of American seventh graders who wouldn't have known that 1/5 is the same thing as 20% back in 1923 do know in 1989.

That was my first thought.

My second thought was, OK, I'll take it. 10% is 10%.

Then I noticed Chris Correa's second post on the subject.

``` I browsed through the publicly released NAEP questions and found the most comparable question to be from 1992: ``` ``` Of the following, which is closest in value to 0.52? A) 1/50 B) 1/5 C) 1/4 D) 1/3 E) 1/2 ``` ``` Only 51% of eighth-graders correctly answered this question. Nearly 30% of students responded that 1/50 was closest in value to 0.52. ```

This is my beef with constructivism.

It's not like constructivism hasn't been given a fair shake.

Constructivists have had a good hundred years to show us what they can do.

I say it's time to move on.

[Thank you, Chris Correa.]

GodeyLadysBook 18 Jul 2005 - 01:37 CatherineJohnson

SteveH mentioned the Godey's Lady's book.

Naturally I can't find all the Godey's images I dug up the other day, but I found a couple of other great links:

Godey's Lady's Book online and Godey's list of illustrations

This one is wonderful, too.

HistoryOfHistoryEd 18 Jul 2005 - 14:57 CatherineJohnson

Lots of good threads going on in response to various posts.

SteveH asked about an article Ed read yesterday in the new American Historical Review that traces the equivalent 'ed wars' in history-social science.

Turns out the article is available online: From Bold Beginnings to an Uncertain Future: The Discipline of History and History Education by ROBERT ORRILL AND LINN SHAPIRO.

In September there will be an online forum about the essay. Ed has already written his response.

resource for professional history journals & discussions: History Cooperative

### update

I've pulled some passages describing events in or around the year 1916:

As the social sciences organized, however, they increasingly rejected this view of a close kinship with history. By the 1920s, as Dorothy Ross points out, a disengagement from historicism was fully under way across all of the social science disciplines.31 In fact, social scientists now often defined themselves by drawing attention to what they argued were the shortcomings of historical thinking. Historians, they said, were given to literary narrative and romance, while social scientists were devoted to factual analysis and reality. The latter was empirical science, the former a kind of sentimental humanism. No longer justified after the horrific experience of World War I, this indulgent historicism—as the social scientists saw it—reflected a flawed evolutionary faith that counted on social ills' giving way to the slow drift of historical progress. Thus, the study of history, if overdone, tended to cover over social problems rather than work toward their solution.

[snip]

the most outspoken and determined opponents of history education emerged from a loose network of new professionals whom historians came to refer to as "educationists." Historians applied this designation very broadly, often with disapproval, to education officials and faculty in schools of education who, to varying degrees, believed that the disciplinary framework governing the school curriculum should be jettisoned and replaced by one organized around pressing (or mundane) problems in the immediate social environment. In the words of one influential educationist, David Snedden, the purpose of schooling was not primarily to stimulate the intellectual development of individual minds—as history and the other disciplines advocated—but instead should be to make students "fit to carry on the group life." Schools, that is, were agencies that existed to serve the social order; and this meant that both the goals and the substance of education should be specified through an analysis of immediate "social necessities," and not by reference to the structure and substantive concerns of disciplinary learning. In practice, Snedden argued, the goal should be to replace courses in disciplines such as mathematics and history with studies focusing on aspects of daily life such as vocational skills and hygienic habits.37 Looking back, the historian Richard Hofstadter described the efforts of the educationists as an attempt to produce a "de-intellectualized" school curriculum; and given the views of Snedden and his allies, this seems a fair appraisal of their intent.38

Although Snedden and like-minded educationists sought to disestablish disciplines altogether, their top priority was to eliminate history from the curriculum.39 If that could not be fully accomplished, they hoped at least to transform school history into something close to what Snedden called "contemporary social science." Listening to Snedden speak about history education, the Cornell historian George Burr observed that "this seems much like history with the history left out." And so it was. Increasingly, educationists such as Snedden—most of whom identified themselves as progressive pragmatists—interpreted John Dewey's call to "live forward" to mean that the past should be rejected and shed rather than rediscovered and assimilated.

### the NEA enters the picture

In 1918, the cause of the educationists was given powerful impetus by the report of the NEA's Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education (CRSE). The leading question before this commission was what should be the mission of the high school, given that at least some secondary education was fast becoming universal and that educational planners increasingly had to take account of "large numbers of pupils of varying capacities, aptitudes, and social heredity, and destinies in life." In short, what conception should rule the school curriculum under conditions of mass education? Answering this question in a report that came to be known as the Cardinal Principles, the CRSE pronounced that, henceforth, the governing mission of the high school no longer was to engender "intellectual power" but instead should be to fit the student for democratic life "through activities designed for the well-being of his fellow members and society as a whole." To this end, disciplinary frameworks should be subordinated to and reoriented toward supporting seven objectives said to be essential to the good order of social life: "health," "command of fundamental processes," "worthy home-membership," "vocation," "citizenship," "worthy use of leisure," and "ethical character."41 Obviously, these aims reflected a very different and rival educational vision from the disciplined-based one advanced earlier by Eliot's Committee of Ten and the AHA's Committee of Seven. To the present day, these two contending points of view—one focusing on intellectual development and the other emphasizing social behavior—continue to oppose one another in a long-unresolved debate about the central purpose of schooling in the United States.42

By endorsing the idea of a curricular domain called social studies, the CRSE gave educational standing to a concept that existed concretely as little more than a phantom presence. Much later, in 1938, John Dewey was still trying to answer the question "What Is Social Study?" while warning against attempts to give it too definite a meaning.43 Indeed, its appeal to school administrators may have been the operational latitude that the social studies rubric permitted in labeling courses for academic credit. In the social studies dispensation, they did not have to be governed by standard usage, as was necessary when designating a course as, say, "algebra" or "ancient history."

This is why New York state has a 'social studies' standard.

Not a history standard.

HistoryOfTeachersAndNCTM
CharlesBabbage

HistoryOfTeachersAndNCTM 18 Jul 2005 - 01:39 CatherineJohnson

More from From Bold Beginnings to an Uncertain Future: The Discipline of History and History Education by ROBERT ORRILL AND LINN SHAPIRO:

Among the most important of these [educational associations] were the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Like the start given to NCSS [National Council for the Social Studies], the impetus to form these organizations came largely from faculty in schools of education, who feared that they would have little influence in the overall educational enterprise if K-12 teachers joined and became part of the culture of the existing disciplinary associations. Although these organizations claimed to represent the interests of teachers, they were, in fact, largely led and sustained by educationists throughout the formative years of their existence. Indeed, the early governance structure first established for NCSS effectively disallowed teachers from holding leadership positions in the organization.46

OK, I say let's keep the teacher's unions and get rid of the ed schools.

(That may be pretty close to Diane Ravitch's position, as a matter of fact. But I need to fact-check.)

HistoryOfHistoryEd
CharlesBabbage

CarlFriedrichGauss 23 Jul 2005 - 01:55 CatherineJohnson

A Nerd In The House
Gauss Story

HowAsiansAndWesternersThinkDifferently 29 Jul 2005 - 16:54 CatherineJohnson

I've mentioned Richard E. Nisbett's book The Geography of Thought a couple of times.

I can't possibly get into a whole long Thoughtfest about whether Asians actually do or do not think differently in some overarching way than Westerners....at least, not until I figure out reciprocals. (news flash: I've made progress on that front, thanks to Dan K!)

So here's what looks like a decent summary of the book (which I haven't read myself) in Education Review, and here's what looks like an interesting critique of the book at a blog I keep meaning to spend some time reading, Gene Expression.

warning: I've glanced at these 2 sites, & that's it. Both look interesting. End of message.

Nisbett is a psychologist who teaches at the University of Michigan. He's a serious guy, the recipient of a Guggenheim and a blurb from Howard Gardner, no less.

THE GEOGRAPHY OF THOUGHT is interesting to me, because of what Nisbett has to say about Asian superiority in math.

Most Americans (I'm willing to bet) think Asians are genetically superior in math. I've had 4th graders tell me Asians are genetically in math.

Nisbett says that not only are Asians not genetically superior at math, the only reason they're functionally superior at math is that, in essence, they're outworking us. Asian culture, in his view, does not particularly support mathematical thought, by which he means logical thought, or the logic of noncontradiction.

Most advances in mathematics were made by Westerners, few by Asians, and older generations in Asia in fact aren't particularly talented in math. (This is certainly something I heard from the Chinese mom I met at tennis lessons. Her husband, a Ph.D. mathematician, is to this day in awe of American mathematicians. I was shocked when I heard this, because I had the same Asian-math-awe everyone else does.)

### excerpts from THE GEOGRAPHY OF THOUGHT:

The Greek faith in categories had scientific payoffs, immediately as well as later, for their intellectual heirs. Only the Greeks made classifications of the natural world sufficiently rigorous to permit a move from the sorts of folk-biological schemes that other peoples constructed to a single classification system that ultimately could result in theories with real explanatory power.

A group of mathematicians associated with Pythagoras is said to have thrown a man overboard because it was discovered that he had revealed the scandal of irrational numbers, such as the square root of 2, which just goes on and on without a predictable pattern: 1.4142135 ..... [yup, that bugs me, too] Whether this story is apocryphal or not, it is certainly the case that most Greek mathematicians did not regard irrational numbers as real numbers at all. The Greeks lived in a world of discrete particles and the continuous and unending nature of irrational numbers was so implausible that mathematicians could not take them seriously.

On the other hand, the Greeks were probably pleased by how it was they came to know that the square root of 2 is irrational, namely via a proof from contradiction....

The Greeks were focused on, you might even say obsessed by, the concept of contradiction. If one proposition was seen to be in a contradictory relation with another, then one of the propositions had to be rejected. The principle of noncontradiction lies at the base of propositional logic. ....The basic rules of logic, including syllogisms, were worked out by Aristotle. He is said to have invented logic because he was annoyed at hearing bad arguments in the political assembly and in the agora! Notice that logical analysis is a kind of continuation of the Greek tendency to decontextualize. Logic is applied by stripping away the meaning of statements and leaving only their formal structure intact. This makes it easier to see whether an argument is valid or not. Of course as modern East ASians are fond of pointing out, that sort of decontextualization is not without its dangers. Like the ancient Chinese, they strive to be reasonable, not rational.

Chinese philosopher Mo-tzu made serious strides in the direction of logical thought in the fifth century B.C., but he never formalized his system and logic died an early death in China. Except for that brief interlude, the Chinese lacked not only logic, but even a principle of contradiction. India did have a strong logical tradition, but the Chiense translations of Indian texts were full of errors and misunderstandings. Although the Chinese made substantial advances in algebra and arithmetic, they made little progress in geometry because proofs rely on formal logic, especially the notion of contradiction. (Algebra did not become deductive until Descartes. Our educational system retains the memory trace of their separation by teaching algebra and geometry as separate subjects.)

The Greeks were deeply concerned with foundational arguments in mathematics. Other peoples had recipes; only the Greeks had derivations. On the other hand, Greek logic and foundational concern may have presented as many obstacles as opportunities. The Greeks never developed the concept of zero, which is required both for algebra and for an Arabic-style place number system. Zero was considered by the Greeks, but rejected on the grounds that it represented a contradiction. Zero equals nonbeing and nonbeing cannot be! An understanding of zero, as well as of infinity and infinitesimals, ultimately had to be imported from the East.

pages 24-27

how Asians and Westerners think differently
describe this picture
how Asians and Westerners think differently, part 2
Harold Stevens, RIP
how Asians and Westerners think differently, part 3
creativity gap, part 2
don't know what we don't know

ChannellingJohnDewey 01 Aug 2005 - 18:40 CatherineJohnson

Why is constructivism here?

Good question. I know even less about history than I do about math, but fortunately I'm married to a historian, which comes in handy.

Constructivism is here, I gather, thanks to Jean Jacques Rousseau. One of these days I'll make Ed sit down and write a short explanation of just how & why, exactly, Rousseau managed to come up with an idea that is running math education in the New World today, 150 years later.

More recently, in this country, the Prime Mover was John Dewey:

Only by wrestling with the conditions of the problem at hand, seeking and finding his own solution (not in isolation but in correspondence with the teacher and other pupils) does one learn."
John Dewey, How We Think, 1910

Sound familiar?

UPDATE 11-20-2006: No! The prime mover was not John Dewey!

John Dewey was the loser, not the winner!

Ellen Lagemann explains ... with admirable precision: ‘I have often argued to students, only in part to be perverse, that one cannot understand the history of education in the United States during the twentieth century unless one realizes that Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost.’

source:
Progressivism, Schools and Schools of Education: An American Romance (pdf file)
David F. Labaree
Paedagogica Historica,
Vol. 41, Nos. 1&2, February 2005, pp. 275–288

And here is an Inquiry Circle, which I found at the Inquiry Page!

Wait.

Isn't it supposed to be a spiral?

### update

I may have located our Opposite Number.

from The Inquiry Page:

The Inquiry Page is more than a website. It's a dynamic virtual community where inquiry-based education can be discussed, resources and experiences shared, and innovative approaches explored in a collaborative environment.

Here you can search a growing database of inquiry units, and you can also build your own inquiry units. You can see pictures of inquiry-based activities and learn more about some of our partners who use inquiry methods. Learn how to assess and evaluate inquiry-based education or look for more inquiry resources to support what you're doing. Or you can simply find out more about what inquiry and The Inquiry Page are all about.

That's a whole lot of Inquiry. So right off the bat, they've got us beat, because there's nobody here at KTM with the chops to squeeze 8 'direct instructions' into 4 sentences.

Based on John Dewey's philosophy that education begins with the curiosity of the learner, we use a spiral path of inquiry: asking questions, investigating solutions, creating new knowledge as we gather information, discussing our discoveries and experiences, and reflecting on our new-found knowledge.
Problem identified.

The reason I have screaming, yelling, crying, and playing out the clock here at home is that I've been using direct instruction. If I'd been using a spiral path of inquiry we'd be having a gas.

Each step in this process naturally leads to the next: inspiring new questions, investigations, and opportunities for authentic "teachable moments."

I'll just bet.

johndewey

TheInstructivistOnHistoryOfProgressiveEd 01 Aug 2005 - 18:42 CatherineJohnson

A terminological clarification

I gather from comments here and there that there is some confusion about the term "progressive" as in progressive education.

The “progressive” in progressive education derives its name from the Progressive movement (ca. 1890-1920 or thereabouts). It fought social ills and did much good (child labor laws, anti-trust laws, food and drug laws, muckraking...). The term should not be confused with “progressive” as it is used now in the political sense (a euphemism for the far left).

Progressive education was propelled by a laudable desire to humanize the often harsh and unimaginative educational practices of yore but was marred by a profound anti-intellectualism......

read the whole thing at The Instructivist

GeorgeOrwellPartThree 15 Aug 2005 - 22:49 CatherineJohnson

So I wonder if all this talk about e21 means maybe we'll do a couple of things differently this century?

RisingInequalityPart2 20 Aug 2005 - 01:28 CatherineJohnson

from The Economist (probably subscription only):

This is not the first time that America has looked as if it was about to succumb to what might be termed the British temptation. America witnessed a similar widening of the income gap in the Gilded Age. It also witnessed the formation of a British-style ruling class. The robber barons of the late 19th century sent their children to private boarding schools and made sure that they married the daughters of the old elite, preferably from across the Atlantic. Politics fell into the hands of the members of a limited circle—so much so that the Senate was known as the millionaires' club.

Yet the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a concerted attempt to prevent America from degenerating into a class-based society. Progressive politicians improved state education. Philanthropists—many of them the robber barons reborn in new guise—tried to provide ladders to help the lads-o'-parts (Andrew Carnegie poured millions into free libraries). Such reforms were motivated partly out of a desire to do good works and partly out of a real fear of the implications of class-based society. Teddy Roosevelt advocated an inheritance tax because he thought that huge inherited fortunes would ruin the character of the republic. James Conant, the president of Harvard in 1933-53, advocated radical educational reform—particularly the transformation of his own university into a meritocracy—in order to prevent America from producing an aristocracy....

The evils that Roosevelt and Conant worried about are clearly beginning to reappear. But so far there are few signs of a reform movement [today]. Why not?

The main reason may be a paradoxical one: because the meritocratic revolution of the first half of the 20th century has been at least half successful. Members of the American elite live in an intensely competitive universe. As children, they are ferried from piano lessons to ballet lessons to early-reading classes. As adolescents, they cram in as much after-school coaching as possible. As students, they compete to get into the best graduate schools. As young professionals, they burn the midnight oil for their employers. And, as parents, they agonise about getting their children into the best universities. It is hard for such people to imagine that America is anything but a meritocracy: their lives are a perpetual competition. Yet it is a competition among people very much like themselves—the offspring of a tiny slither of society—rather than among the full range of talents that the country has to offer.

The second reason is that America's engines of upward mobility are no longer working as effectively as they once were. The most obvious example lies in the education system. Upward mobility is increasingly determined by education. The income of people with just a high-school diploma was flat in 1975-99, whereas that of people with a bachelor's degree rose substantially, and that of people with advanced degrees rocketed.

The education system is increasingly stratified by social class, and poor children have a double disadvantage. They attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries (school finances are largely determined by local property taxes). And they have to deal with the legacy of what Michael Barone, a conservative commentator, has labelled “soft America”. Soft America is allergic to introducing accountability and measurement in education, particularly if it takes the form of merit pay for successful teachers or rewards for outstanding pupils. Dumbed-down schools are particularly harmful to poor children, who are unlikely to be able to compensate for them at home.

America's great universities are increasingly reinforcing rather than reducing these educational inequalities. Poorer students are at a huge disadvantage, both when they try to get in and, if they are successful, in their ability to make the most of what is on offer. This disadvantage is most marked in the elite colleges that hold the keys to the best jobs. Three-quarters of the students at the country's top 146 colleges come from the richest socio-economic fourth, compared with just 3% who come from the poorest fourth (the median family income at Harvard, for example, is \$150,000). This means that, at an elite university, you are 25 times as likely to run into a rich student as a poor one.

Alan Greenspan on rising inequality
rising inequality, part 2
rising inequality, part 3
median income families UCSC students
another statistics question
channeling the Wall Street Journal
Financial Times on US college costs
Economist on US higher ed
The Economist on rising inequality in universities

RisingInequalityPart3 19 Aug 2005 - 17:02 CatherineJohnson

Dan raised the question of mean family income versus median at Harvard. So far I haven't been able to track down a figure for the median. If anyone knows what it is, I'd like to hear.

Meanwhile I have found a fact sheet (pdf file) on college and income. The important context here is that the single most important predictive-slash-causal factor in determining whether or not a high school student goes on to graduate from college is the rigor of his or her high school's curriculum, not parent income, parent education, or race. (statistics question about high school rigor)

• Only 6.1% of lowest-quartile (socio-economic status, or SES) 1990 High School graduates entering post-secondary education had received a Bachelor’s degree by 1995, compared to 41.1% of students in the highest quartile SES.

• For black students in this same cohort, the rate for completion of a Bachelor’s degree was 16.9%, 17.8% of Hispanic students, and 27.3% of all white students.

• The correlation between income and college attendance is extremely significant: While 85% of high-school graduates from families earning more than \$75,000 go to college, only 53% of graduates from families earning less than \$25,000 do so.

• In many states, the percentage of black students attending flagship state universities is much less than the percentage of all black college students in the state. For example, at the University of Georgia, in 1993 5.8% of its students were black, compared to 19.1% for the rest of the students enrolled in Georgia public colleges. This suggests that more black students are attending less rigorous and prestigious four-year schools and community colleges. [NOTE: no statistic as yet on number of low-income whites attending flagship universities. I suspect it's low, but I don't know.]

What Alan Greenspan and others are saying about these figures is that they are caused, in large part, by bad schools. A rising inequality of incomes follows directly upon a rising inequality of schools.

From where I sit, it seems entirely possible that the problem is a generally declining quality of schools, which affluent parents have the means to counter. Either way, the effect would be the same.

And here is Tom Mortenson again (author of What's Wrong with the Guys?:

• Having a bachelor’s degree is today far more closely correlated with financial success. According to Tom Mortenson, a higher education policy analyst, “a person by age 24 whose family income falls within the top quartile is ten times more likely to have received a bachelor’s degree than a person whose family who falls in the bottom quartile.” More startling is that in 1979, “…before the redistribution of higher education opportunity began, the difference was four times.”

Speaking of men, the fact sheet repeats the statistic that alarms me most:

number of females enrolled in college: 56% number of males enrolled in college: 44%

I find this horrifying. I've been dipping in and out of Lawrence Kotlikoff & Scott Burns's The Coming Generational Storm, and one of his main points has to do with the crisis you find yourself in once women flock into the marketplace and stop having at least 3 kids apiece. It's off-topic, but I'll have to post some of that discussion one of these days. It's pretty amazing. Kotlikoff says basically we went through a huge social revolution with major implications for what would happen down the line without even thinking about it!

Actually, maybe it's not so far off-topic. It's more mathematical blindness.

I always felt, instinctively, that one child wasn't enough. As a matter of fact, I felt 2 kids weren't enough.

But I felt that way because I had 3 siblings myself, and I wanted my kids to have the same thing. (Talk about the worries you have aren't the worries you get.)

It never crosed my mind that a whole lot of one-child families might be a problem for the entire country down the line.

I believe that's Kotlikoff's point. We had a massive change in number of children born to indiviual women without anyone stopping to think there might be consequences.

Alan Greenspan on rising inequality
rising inequality, part 2
rising inequality, part 3
median income families UCSC students
another statistics question
channeling the Wall Street Journal
Financial Times on US college costs
Economist on US higher ed
The Economist on rising inequality in universities

EdSchoolAccreditation 26 Aug 2005 - 22:11 CatherineJohnson

Charles of instructivist points us to EducatioNation's post on NCATE.

WeAreTheRadicals 28 Aug 2005 - 17:41 CarolynJohnston

I think Carolyn's unfortunate discovery is an indication of how embedded into our educational system the CMP type math is. My goal with our daughters is simply to limit the damage as best I can.

There's no question that 'progressive math' is deeply embedded into public education in our country, and moreover, has been for decades.

A few months ago, Catherine wrote this post about the start of progressive math education, at Columbia Teachers College in the 1920s.

Since then, I've read Hirsch's book, The Schools We Need (and why we don't have them), about the origins of the thinking behind progressive education (also at Columbia), how it came to totally dominate professional education schools and the public schools they feed, and what some of the reasons are for its continued support by educators.

Here's Hirsch on constructivism, which he claims is only the most recent name applied to the discovery learning method that has been around for years in progressivist education:

In mathematics, [the progressivist] orthodoxy recommends that instead of making students rote-learn the multiplication table and solve a lot of workbook problems, schools should encourage them to work on 'real-life' problems and 'shift toward mathematical reasoning -- away from an emphasis on mechanistic answer finding.' While no sensible person would dissent from the goal of developing students' mathematical reasoning skills, he or she might very well question the claim that the failure of American grade schools to teach math competently stems from their use of traditional practices such as rote memorization of addition and subtraction facts. One of the complaints parents make is that their children are not mastering such facts. Is it possible that the ideas recommended by the NCTM are the very ideas that already pervade the very schools they are to transform?

Constructivist math curricula take the position, in their marketing and with their adherents, that they are maverick programs, transforming boring, traditional, failing, fossilized math programs into an exciting new form. It's a great marketing strategy... but it's really just the same old thing -- diminishing skills and understanding -- wrapped up in a new package with a new name.

Look at all the parent groups, and websites like this one, springing up in order to stand up for higher standards and more content in the math classroom. Aren't the mavericks supposed to be the ones who are on the outside fighting to get in, and the orthodoxy the ones with the power base? Which of us is which?

WhatIsNewMath 02 Sep 2005 - 20:42 CarolynJohnston

In a note on the Requests Page, AndyJoy posted this question:

Can someone give me a quick definition, history, and explanation of "new math"? I thought I understood what it was, and the things I've read here recently confirm that. However, I'm taking "Math for Elementary Teachers" right now, and my teacher's definition seems to be completely different. Can someone enlighten me?

I would say, shooting from the hip, that the modern notion of new math is, at base, discovery learning: i.e., kids have to discover all mathematical concepts and algorithms for themselves. It is anti-instruction, and very Rousseauian (is Rousseauian a word?). It's the opposite of direct instruction, i.e., teachers explaining concepts and demonstrating methods.

Does this say it in a nutshell? Please chime in.

And Andy, you have to tell us what your teacher's definition is.

HeatherMacDonaldOnConstructivism 21 Sep 2005 - 21:05 CatherineJohnson

As usual, Charles-the-Instructivist has the goods:

BlueCollarWhiteCollarUnionsSchools 01 Oct 2005 - 00:19 CatherineJohnson

from the Wall Street Journal today (subscription required)--

My father encouraged his children to study a profession. Why? "Because, no matter the job market, you'll always be able to hang up a shingle," he assured us.

[snip]

In my youth, future white-collar wearers took college-prep courses while other kids were lumped into vocational programs, where they welded and drilled. We learned how to solve those pesky word problems involving cars speeding away from Cleveland at 62 miles an hour with half-tanks of gas. They actually learned how to make those cars go.

Forget revenge of the nerds. These days it's revenge of the electrician, the mechanic and the plumber: Blue collars aren't what they used to be. General Motors may advertise Mr. Goodwrench, but a good mechanic must master computer diagnostics. Go over to the waiting room at the Mercedes dealer and you'll see white-collar America at the mercy of blue-collar. I might be able to forecast the future path of the euro-to-yen ratio, but you think I can replace the catalytic converter under the hood of my car? Say, where'd they hide the hood latch, anyway?

My point is not merely that the educated class is the bumbling class .... Rather the old-fashioned distinction between blue collar and white has been lost in an economy that demands ever-stronger skills and active brain cells. In the 1950s (and into the 1960s) a stumblebum in a gray flannel suit with a bachelor's degree had a good chance of receiving a high, stable income complete with suburban house and a manageable mortgage. Think Darrin on "Bewitched." But these days carrying around your college diploma doesn't entitle you to much. For one thing, a college degree is a cheapened currency. In 1950, only 6% of the population had one, compared with 28% today.

[snip]

The outsourcing threat from Asia no longer aims at just the blue collars. American architects, radiologists and tax accountants feel nervous about Indian competitors (hence the white-collar unions). A guy wearing a turban in Bangalore can push the TurboTax buttons just as fast as a guy in Teaneck.

In "Bait and Switch," Barbara Ehrenreich's latest plunge into working-world disguises, she impersonates a laid-off white-collar executive. She wastes her time attending self-help seminars and sneering at hapless people while rejecting job offers. What should she have done? Taken a job! Learned a new trick besides snobbery! A year of community-college schooling can raise an older female's income by 10%, according to a Chicago Federal Reserve Board study.

Blue-collar assembly workers started facing these threats a long time ago. Between 1940 and 2000, U.S. manufacturing output soared 11-fold. But while one-third of U.S. workers once walked through a factory gate, only 13% need to do so today -- a stunning productivity gain. Ross Perot's twangy warning of the "giant sucking sound" was aimed at blue-collar assemblers. But now the white collars are itching.

[snip]

We are in a global race for IQ points. Not useless Mensa meeting points but applied IQ points. Brains put to work. Those countries that best harness IQ will prosper most. The U.S. produces about half the annual patent filings in the world. That's an outstanding number. But new ideas are not enough if we do not have a motivated, educated work force to exploit them. Despite improved high-school graduation rates, our kids are the Jamaican bobsled team of education, to judge by international test scores. They lose to the Slovenians.

Mr. Buchholz, an economic adviser in the White House of George H.W. Bush, is the author of "Bringing the Jobs Home" (Penguin/Sentinel, 2004).

### applied IQ points

Now there's something I wasn't thinking about back when I got a Ph.D. in Film Studies.

JeanPiagetAndDiscoveryLearning 10 Oct 2005 - 23:34 CatherineJohnson

I'm old enough to remember the days when every 20 year old feminist on the planet was on a mission from God to debunk Freud. HUGE quantities of energy went into lambasting the concept of, just to draw a random example out of a hat, penis envy.

We should have been debunking Piaget.

### update

Ed just read this and said, 'Oh, Piaget is guilty of multiple sins. He's one of the founding fathers of structuralism.'

It's always worse than you think.

(Ed: 'He wrote a famous little book called Structuralism.)

Structuralism is available for \$.073 from Amazon.

### and here's Ed

in case you're curious

InstructivistOnConstructivism 15 Oct 2005 - 14:02 CatherineJohnson

...working on a grand theory of radical constructivism:

Constructivists cite Piaget and Vygotsky as their progenitors. Piaget did groundbreaking work on how toddlers develop intellectually and came up with different stages (really a continuum divided into stages to get a better handle on this development). For example, a toddler might recognize at some point that an object that is moved behind another object and disappears from sight does not cease to exist (permanence). Or a toddler might discover on his own that an object falls when released or that bumping into a wall is not a good idea or that a flame is hot.

The constructivists' fallacy is to carry this notion of discovery and individual experience to absurd lengths and apply it to later years -- to adolescence and even adulthood. Learning then becomes solely a matter of discovery and individual experience from which one constructs one's own knowledge and meaning. But you cannot "construct" broader knowledge ex nihilo and keep reinventing the wheel endlessly. You need external input. You need to benefit from the knowledge accumulated over thousands of years.

I hadn't thought of radical constructivism in this way, as a form of infantilization. It makes sense.

### chalk and talk

And, under the it's always worse than you think heading, we have this:

I have a new one for you, I think. It seems that chalkboards are losing favor. When I first heard that, I was excited, because I thought it meant they were going to replace them with whiteboards and markers, on which even I can write legibly.

But no, apparently the chalkboard is a threatening figure which should be covered up, so as not to offend anyone. This is according to an acquaintance of mine who's employed by Joel Klein. I have not heard what, if any, action is to be taken against the offending graphite monstrosity.

Instructivist has seen the same thing:

You are so right about the vanishing chalkboard. I have been to many schools where the board was completely covered up with posters, notes and what have you.

One reason is the disparagement of explicit instruction and writing on the board, known pejoratively as "chalk and talk" (that rhyming again). Some teachers prefer an overhead projector for various reasons. One of them is that you can write something and keep an eye on the kiddies. With the board you have to turn your back on the pupils and that might create an opportunity for mischief.

I've been revisiting Stevenson's & Stigler's excellent The Learning Gap, a report on a 10-year study of Asian math education at the elementary school level. Japanese teachers create carefully composed student groups, called han, to work collaboratively on math problems.

They also--and this is important--treat the entire class as a group. Stevenson and Stigler formally recommend that American teachers spend more time teaching their classes as a whole.

I don't believe it would be possible to do that without a blackboard or whiteboard -- without a common means of communication between teacher and class other than the teacher simply talking while students listen.

### teach to the group

from The Learning Gap, page 211:

Rather than teaching different lessons to different groups of children and thereby limiting the time any one group spends with the teacher, teachers should try to spend as much time as possible working with the whole class.

### update, from the Instructivist

I am distinguishing between run-of-the-mill constructivism (Piaget at al) and the extreme form known as radical constructivism. I call the former merely infantilist and the latter something straight out of the loony bin because of its denial of objective reality. Radical constructivism a la von Glaserfeld is more like postmodernism of the Social Text variety (remember the Sokal hoax?)

HistoryOfMathCourses 06 Dec 2005 - 02:26 CatherineJohnson

From A Brief History of American K-12 Mathematics Education in the 20th Century by David Klein:

The following table gives percentages of high school students enrolled in high school math courses.

Percentages of U.S. High School Students Enrolled in Various Courses

 School Year Algebra Geometry Trigonometry 1909 to 1910 56.9% 30.9% 1.9% 1914 to 1915 48.8% 26.5% 1.5% 1921 to 1922 40.2% 22.7% 1.5% 1927 to 1928 35.2% 19.8% 1.3% 1933 to 1934 30.4% 17.1% 1.3% 1948 to 1949 26.8% 12.8% 2.0% 1952 to 1953 24.6% 11.6% 1.7% 1954 to 1955 24.8% 11.4% 2.6%

Looks like the '23 reforms may not have been successful.

This reminds me that David Klein's paper is part of my Great Unread. I need to get to it soon.

Here's a question that springs to mind: why do we see the sharp decline in algebra enrollment?

Does David explain the steep decline in math course enrollment by a difference in numbers of students enrolled in high school?

AnneDwyerIsObsessed 19 Dec 2005 - 17:20 CatherineJohnson

from Anne Dwyer:

How do you know you're obsessed with mathematics education?

When you walk into a used book store and have to buy a Grammar School Arithmetic book published in 1892 because you want to see what math education was like before the progressive movement got involved.

Here are some cool things that I hadn't seen before:

The book teaches how to divide by a fraction (flip and multiply) but it also teaches this method for simplifying a fraction: Reduce 3/4/5/6 to a simple fraction (of course it was written as three fourths over five sixths) The answer: divide the top and bottom by 12 which is the lowest common multiple of 4 and 6 and it reduces to 9/10. I like this method because it works just like getting an equivalent fraction.

A number is divisible by 2 if the last or right hand digit is even.

A number is divisible by 4 if the number denoted by the last two digits is divisible by 4.

A number is divisible by 8 if the number denoted by the last three digits is divisible by 8.

A number is divisible by 3 if the sum of its digits is divisible by 3.

A number is divisble by 9 if the sum of its digits is divisible by 9.

A number is divisible by 5 if its last digit is a 0 or 5.

A number is divisible by 25 if the number denoted by the last two digits is divisible by 25.

A number is divisible by 125 if the number denoted by the last three digits is divisible by 125.

A number is divisible by 6 if its last digit is even and the sum of its digits are divisible by 3.

A number is divisible by 11 if the difference between the sum of the digits in the odd places is either 0 or a multiple of 11.

Well, I have a roped-off pew in the church of my heart for the obsessed.

Edie: An American Biography by Jean Stein

key words: divisibility

PathDependency 24 Jan 2006 - 15:04 CatherineJohnson

-- CatherineJohnson - 24 Jan 2006

HowClassroomsHaveChanged 16 Sep 2006 - 20:33 CatherineJohnson

Ann Althouse has a terrific thread on the subject of boys & girls in school.

Here's one Commenter's take on how classrooms have changed:

"[E]very decade the industrial classroom becomes more and more protective of the female learning style and harsher on the male.

He goes on to cite evidence of better achievement by girls, which is fine, but I'm curious how the classroom has actually changed.

I wish I could point to data, but all I can do is compare the classroom environment now that my kids are experiencing with my own experiences 25-30 years ago. I would list the following:

• de-emphasis on competition [ed.: check]

• greater emphasis on group projects [ed.: check]

• greater emphasis on daily homework (which puts a premium on clerical skills, organization and compliance with rules & procedures) and a corresponding de-emphasis on tests & quizzes. [ed.: quizzes! I remember quizzes! whatever happened to quizzes?]

• turning math and science classes into something akin to subdisciplines of english and social studies ('constructivist math', 'writing across the curriculum' programs) [ed.: check]

• behavior issues now addressed by grade deductions (in my kids school, any unexecused absence means a loss of 1% of the straight-scale semester grade and a zero on any work due that day). [ed.: check]

• greater emphasis in college admissions on GPA (where girls do better) than on standardized tests (where boys do better -- or at least equally well).

• greater percentage of female teachers (even in 7-12 math/science) [ed.: check]

• endless 'you go girl', 'take your daughter to work day', kinds of messages in an out of school. [ed.: check]

• considering the poor peformance of boys in schools as currently set up as evidence of boys inherent unsuitability for education rather than our education system's unsuitability for boys. (Even the article under discussion strays somewhat from the 'why our schools are badly designed for boys' into 'why boys are inherently defective' territory). [ed.: check & double check]

11:21 AM, December 04, 2005

Brilliant.

Although....I'm not sure colleges are placing greater emphasis on GPA (isn't it the reverse?)

And it's not clear that homework has increased; Loveless says it hasn't. Although I wouldn't be surprised to find homework has increased over what it was 30 years ago. I don't remember doing any homework ever in junior high.

of course, boys are nuts

I love this comment:

Newsflash! Boys ain't girls and no amount of socialization will change that. Give a boy a Barbie doll and he'll turn it into a gun. Actually happened when my little guy was playing with some neighborhood girls. Said gun-crazed maniac is now a pillar of the community and a father of four.
via joannejacobs

Cathy Young on boys & girls

In a 1990 survey commissioned by the AAUW, children were asked whom teachers considered smarter and liked better; the vast majority of boys and girls alike said "girls." Journalist Kathleen Parker recalls that her son, now a teenager, had a grade school teacher who openly said she liked girls more and singled out boys for verbal abuse-such as telling a student who had his feet up on the desk, "Put your feet down; I don't want to look at your genitalia."

I'm pretty sure the AAUW suppressed this finding at the time — wasn't this the poll on which they based their big 'Girls At Risk' report?

I think so.

Haven't fact-checked.

(oops — wrong: A few years later, it effectively hushed up a study it had commissioned-The Influence of School Climate on Gender Differences in the Achievement and Engagement of Young Adolescents, by University of Michigan psychologist Valerie Lee and her associates-when the findings failed to support the shortchanged-girls premise.)

I like this passage:

Traditional schoolmarmish distaste for unruly young males may be amplified by modern gender politics. Some educators clearly see boys as budding sexists and predators in need of re-education. Some classrooms become forums for diatribes about the sins of white males, and some boys may be hit with absurd charges of misconduct-such as Jonathan Prevette, the Lexington, North Carolina, first-grader punished with a one-day suspension in 1996 for kissing a girl on the cheek.

This is the problem (well, maybe it's the problem).

In any case, this is the problem for me.

I'm not a schoolmarm, and I like boys. Nevertheless, boys in the classroom are tough to deal with.

Boys in the FAMILY are tough to deal with. I'm ready to fire my own son. Also my husband. (Another Core Meltdown over tests/study habits/homework last night. This is getting old.)

Female teachers being impatient with boy students would be fine (probably) if it didn't happen in a context of male original sin.

"If you listen to 10- or 11-year-old boys, you will hear that school is not a very happy place for them," says Bret Burkholder, a counselor at Pierce College in Puyallup, Washington, who also works with younger boys as a baseball coach. "It's a place where they're consistently made to feel stupid, where girls can walk around in T-shirts that say 'Girls rule, boys drool,' but if a boy makes a negative comment about girls he'll have the book thrown at him."

Even apart from feminism, some "progressive" trends in education may have been detrimental to boys. For example, British researchers have found that "whole language" reading instruction, based on word recognition by shapes, pictures, and contextual clues rather than knowledge of letters, is particularly ineffective with male students.

Early "school turnoff" may cause many boys to develop an anti-learning mindset the British have labeled "laddism" — a mirror image of the prefeminist notion that it isn't cool for a girl to be too bright. "The boys become oppositional and band together in the belief that manly culture doesn't include grade grubbing," observes University of Alaska psychologist Judith Kleinfeld. For black boys, this attitude may be exacerbated by the notion that learning is a "white thing."

This is what concerns me. (eek! That makes me a concernocrat)!

There's only so much guff a child will take.

Two summers ago, when I started reteaching Christopher math, he'd developed a major case of laddism when it came to math.

Math is for geeks.

Math is for nerds.

I'm not Asian.

etc.

Once he started succeeding in math again, thanks to Saxon, all of that talk went away & I was hearing 'I like math.'

That's what I want to hear.

I want to hear, 'I like math.'

Also: 'I like school.'

I don't think anyone knows what's actually going on, but I do think it's safe to say that public schools aren't causing boys to feel more school-friendly.

USA Today report on 135:100 boys:girls ratio in college
sexism in Everyday Math
invisible boys
boy trouble (New Republic on boys)
slacker boys, middle school, & forbidden positive images of boys in textbooks
throw rocks at them
please remain seated at all times
Ann Althouse thread sums up classroom change
cooperative vs. competitive learning
the boy show (character ed)
the other boy show
Where the Boys Aren't

letter from Robert Lerner, former commissioner NCES
Tom Mortenson's research
The Boys Project board
for every 100 girls —

-- CatherineJohnson - 24 Jan 2006

PutOnYourBigGirlPanties 04 Feb 2006 - 22:37 CatherineJohnson

I'd noticed that eduwonk had been somewhat perseveratively quoting Margaret Spellings' line about putting on her big girl panties.....which was just odd enough not to cause me instantly to go read the article it came from....but then joannejacobs finally read the article herself, which galvanized me into action.....and let me tell you, I'm glad I got over to WAPO.

Margaret Spellings: In Her Own Class is fantastic:

Spellings is blunter than you might expect, vivid and bigger, as if her photo had been cropped and enlarged. She is a tall woman swinging an iguana-green purse, wearing edgy rectangular glasses and chewing gum. (She spits it into the garbage when you arrive, as if you were the teacher.) Spellings scanned the crowd: "Colin's the little hottie of the school."

She had her babies without pain medication. She's a tough enough manager to be called a "bulldog on details" by Rove; strong enough to raise her girls as a single mom when her first marriage ended; brave enough to admit that she dreams of being a torch singer draped over a piano; Texan enough to live by the motto (on her notepad) "Put on your big girl panties and deal with it."

the good news is —

— she's got a kid in middle school:

Middle school is tricky, Spellings said -- too many hormones and too loose a curriculum. When boys in white shirts and ties shuffled onstage, Spellings said, "They're so awkward, it cracks me up." Her own experience in seventh grade was "the low point of my life," she said. ". . . There's a lot of mush going on in middle school -- one of the nuts we haven't cracked in public education policy."

You can order the big girl doll here.

-- CatherineJohnson - 04 Feb 2006

RaysArithmetic 22 Feb 2006 - 23:35 CatherineJohnson

I've just discovered a series of arithmetic textbooks from the 1800s while cruising geometry workbooks at christianbooks.com. (fyi, Charles put me on to christianbooks, which has the apparently-out-of-print Saxon Physics for a good price. I'm still mulling that one.)

According to the publisher, Ray's Arithmetic was the most popular arithmetic series in the 1800s, selling more than 120,000,000 copies.

Does anyone know anything about these books? Have you used them? Seen them? Read them?

The books have glowing reviews at Amazon. My ADD TO BOOKBAG finger is starting to twitch.

The 8-volume set is \$100, but you can buy individual titles as well.

Christianbooks has posted 14 pages of Ray's New Practical Arithmetic online.

titles
Ray's New Primary Arithmetic
Ray's New Intellectual Arithmetic
Ray's New Practical Arithmetic
Key to Ray's New Arithmetics (Primary, Intellectual)
Ray's New Test Examples in Arithmetic
Ray's New Higher Arithmetic
Key to Ray's New Higher Arithmetic
Ray's New Arithmetics-Parent Teacher Guide

uh-oh

I'm going to get myself in serious trouble.

Fortunately, the listing appears to be closed.

I've sent an email to the seller just to make sure.

sources:
Amazon
Biblical Worldview Learning Center
Farm Country General Store
Homeschoolingbooks.com
Mott Media

-- CatherineJohnson - 21 Feb 2006

TodayInTheTimes 22 Feb 2006 - 00:10 CatherineJohnson

The New York Times has identified a Whole New Problem: college students who send inappropriate email to their professors.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Jennifer Schultens [associate professor of mathematics at UC Davis]

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Meg Worley, an assistant professor of English at Pomona College,
has rules for student e-mail...."One of the rules that I teach my students is,
the less powerful person always has to write back," Professor Worley said.

Various hypotheses are offered for the advent of this phenomenon, including this observation, from a professor of education:

Christopher J. Dede, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has studied technology in education, said these e-mail messages showed how students no longer deferred to their professors, perhaps because they realized that professors' expertise could rapidly become outdated.

"The deference was probably driven more by the notion that professors were infallible sources of deep knowledge," Professor Dede said, and that notion has weakened.

I'm sure that's it.

-- CatherineJohnson - 21 Feb 2006

EisenhowerOnDewey 23 Feb 2006 - 15:57 CatherineJohnson

Educators, parents and students . . . must be induced to abandon the educational path that, rather blindly, they have been following as a result of John Dewey's teachings.

— President Dwight D. Eisenhower

source:
John Dewey & the Decline of American Education: How the Patron Saint of schools Has Corrupted Teaching and Learning
by Henry T. Edmondson III

Martin Davis isn't crazy about the book...

And here is a pre-written college term paper on John Dewey!

Don't say I never did anything for you.

Meanwhile, somewhere inside a parallel universe . . .

The education of engaged citizens, according to [Dewey's] perspective, involves two essential elements: (1). Respect for diversity, meaning that each individual should be recognized for his or her own abilities, interests, ideas, needs, and cultural identity, and (2). the development of critical, socially engaged intelligence, which enables individuals to understand and participate effectively in the affairs of their community in a collaborative effort to achieve a common good. These elements of progressive education have been termed "child-centered" and "social reconstructionist" approaches, and while in extreme forms they have sometimes been separated, in the thought of John Dewey and other major theorists they are seen as being necessarily related to each other.

These progressive principles have never been the predominant philosophy in American education.

-- CatherineJohnson - 23 Feb 2006

YourPtsaMoneyAtWork 01 Mar 2006 - 00:02 CatherineJohnson

from today's Wall Street Journal:

...the PTA has been losing members steadily for almost a half-century now, from a high point of more than 12 million in the early 1960s to a current membership of about half that. Today only about a quarter of K-12 schools in the U.S. have a PTA chapter. The reasons for this decline are familiar ones: money and politics.

[snip]

In 1897, the members of the first National Congress of Mothers -- the name of the group that would eventually become the PTA -- saw their mission as fostering "a love of humanity and of country...and the advantages to follow from a closer relation between the influence of the home and that of the school." The president of the national PTA declared at a recent convention: "We simply must change the country." What happened?

In "The Politics of the PTA" (2002), Charlene Haar explains that the PTA shifted its focus mainly because of its longstanding alliance with the National Education Association. Formed in 1857, the NEA once shared the parent group's concern for schoolchildren in such matters as school curriculum and the qualifications of public-school teachers. Indeed, in 1920, the National Congress felt so much in line with the NEA that it moved into the association's impressive Washington headquarters. Already allied with the teachers group on support for a "progressive" curriculum that would emphasize "life skills," the PTA would from then on curb its more general social programs and limit itself to matters directly affecting education.

Ms. Haar chronicles the major policies on which the two groups cooperated throughout the 20th century. Having begun as equals, the PTA gradually became the subservient partner. Both organizations refused to support the National Defense Education Act -- passed in 1958 in the wake of the Soviet's launch of Sputnik -- because, as Ms. Haar explains, it "provided funds for mathematics, science and other defense-related curricula but could not be used for teacher salaries." By the 1960s, the PTA was known as "a coffee-and-cookies organization" -- unquestioningly offering its seal of approval to the newly unionized NEA. It was the issue of teacher strikes, though, that dealt the reputation of the PTA its final blow. In 1961 the AFT, representing New York City's teachers, staged the nation's first citywide strike, and in 1968 Florida teachers followed with the first statewide strike. To avoid conflict, the PTA abandoned any pretense of independence and supported the walkouts. A few years later, the PTA tagged along with the NEA, lobbying for a cabinet-level federal department of education. What followed were a series of legislative victories for the teachers unions. Among their outstanding lobbying successes, backed by the PTA, was the defeat of a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Moynihan in 1978 proposing a tax credit for as much as half of private-school tuition. In the aftermath, many parents began their exodus from the PTA, including a large number of Catholics whose tuition fees for parochial schools would have become less burdensome under the plan.

Today the PTA supports all of the union's positions, including increased federal funding for education and opposition to independent charter schools, to vouchers and to tuition tax credits for private and religious schools. This "parent" group lobbies for teachers to spend less time in the classroom and to have fewer supervisory responsibilities like lunchroom duty. Moreover, they want a pay scale for teachers that is based on seniority, not merit. In November, the PTA even helped to defeat California's Proposition 74, which called for limiting teacher tenure by extending the probation period for new teachers from two to five years, a proposal designed to give administrators more time to weed out bad instructors.

With polls indicating that the union label is a liability with the public, an arrangement has developed whereby the NEA provides needed financial support for the PTA, which in turn bolsters union positions at the grass-roots level. As one union official put it: "[T]he PTA has credibility...we always use the PTA as a front."

PTO?

Tim Sullivan, a Massachusetts entrepreneur and former New York City public-school teacher, saw the need among the independent groups forming around the country for the kind of information and services once provided by the PTA. In 1999 he founded a company for independent parent-teacher groups. PTO Today publishes a magazine and maintains a Web site that provides opportunities for parent networking on its message boards. Both in print and online, PTO Today answers the kind of questions that parents of public-school children ask -- how to organize a family night, how to raise money for extras like arts-and-crafts supplies and what kind of insurance is necessary for field trips. With any luck, the PTOs will put the PTA out of business entirely.

source:
Losing the 'P' in PTA (\$)

I've heard of "PTO's," but I didn't realize PTO was a differen organization.

in a nutshell

• PTA membership is down from a high of 12,000,000 in the early 1960s to roughly half that today

• approximately one quarter of K-12 schools in the U.S. have a PTA chapter

• PTA housed in NEA headquarters since 1920

• PTA supports all NEA positions:
- supports decreased classroom hours for teachers
- supports decreased 'supervisory duties' for teachers
- opposes independent charter schools
- opposes vouchers
- opposes tuition tax credits for private and religious schools
- opposes merit pay
- opposed Proposition 74
- "[T]he PTA has credibility...we always use the PTA as a front." (NEA official)

PTO Today (PTO website)
PTO versus PTA by Tom Sullivan

The Politics of the PTA (Studies in Social Philosophy and Policy) by Charlene K. Haar
interview with Charlene K. Haar

update: it's always worse than you think

from the Heartland Institute interview with Haar:

When Charlene K. Haar made what she thought was a routine request to the National PTA, the reaction she received was so surprising it piqued the former public school teacher’s curiosity to learn more about the century-old Parent-Teacher Association.

Instead of a parent organization dedicated to the enhancement of the nation’s schools, Haar discovered a group dominated by teacher unions and little attuned to the interests of parents and their children. Her findings are detailed in the book, The Politics of the PTA (Transaction Publishers), published last fall.

Haar had been looking up information at the PTA headquarters in Chicago for a research project and asked for a copy of the PTA’s nonprofit tax return, Form 990. She was told it would be sent to her, but what she also received was an accusatory letter from a PTA finance official, who suggested her intentions for asking questions and visiting the headquarters were suspicious, and that she was misrepresenting herself.

“If I hadn’t received that letter, I would have completed my study of the PTA as a 10- or 12-page article for Capital Research Center, and that would have been it,” said Haar. “But because I received this very curious letter, I decided there must be something they were hiding, that they didn’t want their members to find out about, and that they didn’t want to have publicized. That encouraged me to go ahead with a larger study that ended up in The Politics of the PTA.”

-- CatherineJohnson - 24 Feb 2006

ArithmeticWeNeed 21 Mar 2006 - 13:41 CatherineJohnson

Here's something fun you can do with a Mary Dolciani textbook.

Mary Dolciani

Mary Dolciani Halloran (1923-1985): A great American mathematician, Mary Dolciani had a considerable impact on modern mathematics education. An inspiring teacher at Hunter College, she authored over thirty mathematics books. A specialist in number theory and modern algebra, she was active in many professional organizations and lectured to teachers and administrators throughout the United States.

source:
Herkimer's Hideaway

Mary Dolciani's bio at the NCTM

Mary P. Dolciani is remembered for the great impact she had on students and for her professionalism in the mathematics community. Her enthusiasm for mathematics, teaching, writing, and research and her love of life continue to be inspirations to many. She was a teacher of undergraduate students and a teacher of teachers for 42 years. In her memory, the Houghton-Mifflin Company made a gift to the Mathematics Education Trust (MET), establishing a fund for the improvement of the quality of mathematics teaching.

[snip]

Her accomplishments and contributions to the field of mathematics will continue to be remembered in a special way. The MAA headquarters in Washington, D.C., is named the Dolciani Mathematical Center. In 1979 the building was dedicated by Mary Dolciani as a living tribute to her father, an immigrant who died at a young age and struggled to provide for her education.

Barry Garelick on Mary Dolciani

Mathematicians have agreed for years that emphasizing sets and number bases in math programs designed for the lower grades was a horrendous mistake. Notwithstanding these errors, however, the difference between the current slew of textbooks and those from the new-math days of the 1960s is definitely worth noting: Accomplished mathematicians wrote many of the texts used in that earlier era , and the math—though misguided and inappropriate for the lower grades and too formal for the high school grades—was at least mathematically correct. Some of the high school texts were absolutely first-rate, and new-math–era textbooks like Mary Dolciani’s “Structure and Method” series for algebra and geometry continue to be used by math teachers who understand mathematics and how it is to be taught. (They usually use them on the sly, since most teachers are required to use the books that the schools have adopted.)

I first learned about Mary Dolciani in Barry's article, and now have a small collection of her books, including Pre-Algebra: An Accelerated Course (Amazon has posted excerpts), Algebra Structure and Method, Book 1, and Basic Algebra. I'll probably order her other high school books as well.

I'm starting (re-starting) algebra in a couple of weeks.

I've decided to use two books, Saxon Homeschool and Brown & Dolciani, Structure and Method. I'll use Foerster's Algebra 1 [THANK YOU, BOOK FAIRY!] 'on the side.'

I am going to use these books to learn algebra.

I figure (re)learning algebra will keep me busy. I'm not going to have a lot of time left over to infuse equity by gender into the classroom.

And anyway, if I'm going to spend my time sniffing out gender inequities in math books, I'm going to be looking at sexism in Everyday Math.

the voice of the Amazon bird

I love Amazon reviewers:

I just had to use Pre-Algebra: An Accelerated Course for school, and we got done with it. I (was) in Seventh Grade.

This book really teaches everything you need to know for Algebra, as I have looked at the Algebra I book (next book in the series.) This book is actually kind of confusing. It does not explain things very well, as it only defines vocabulary, and shows example problems. I wouldn't have done very well in this course if it wasn't for the daily notes our math teacher made us take.

This book tells basically everything, in a challenging manner. The "A" problems indicated that the problems were pretty basic. The "B" problems indicated that the problems were fairly dificult.

The "C" problems indicated that the problems were very hard, nearly making you want to rip your brains out. However, this was an accelerated course, so it's to be expected. The problems took a lot of math sense and logic. The only things that this book didn't teach was Polynomials. We had to use worksheets from the Eight grade pre-algebra book (by Glencoe) to do this.

Some of the methods in the book are clearly outdated, including using Trig tables and Interpolation. We used other methods when we came to that.

Overall, this book really prepared us for Algebra, in a challenging manner, and was 10 times better than Everyday Mathematics (used in elementry), even though some of the methods are outdated. Dolciani should be congradulated. [sic]

P.S., Our school is using these books again, even though many are falling apart. They are just buying new used ones, because this was the only good Pre-Algebra AP book they could find.

Well, Algebra 1 was pretty good (as algebra books go). I was a student who used it. It explains the concepts you need to know well, but sometimes you get lost on the wording. or at least I did, and it cost me an answer or two. But considering the whole book, thats not bad. Compared to those Chicago Math Books, it's way better, those i get lost about every other sentance. [sic] So anyways, i give it 4 stars.

Basic Algebra is a wonderful algebra book, and I only wish it would be reprinted in a more affordable copy with all of the extras---teacher's copy, supplementary worksheets, tests and answer guides. I use this book in teaching algebra to my special education students, and even my 8th graders are handling the lessons with skill, and developing solid comprehension in the use of algebra. When I tutor at a learning clinic that I own, students arrive, confused from the mishap instructions in the Chicago Math books and/or their clones. I pull out this wonderful book and reteach the lesson using a well-designed process. The child returns to class understanding the concept. Constantly the children complain, "Why can't we have decent books like this one to use at our school?" I totally agree. Why can't we?

Basic Algebra, now with Richard Brown listed as lead author, is fantastic. I used word problems from it for Singapore Math. The students in that class were brainy 4th graders, but I think Basic Algebra would be a fantastic book for children considered LD. I'm planning to post some of the teaching strategies later on.

-- CatherineJohnson - 21 Mar 2006

ParentBillOfRights 02 Apr 2006 - 01:11 CatherineJohnson

I've been reading articles about George Mason, who refused to sign the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights:

Mason was among those who opposed adopting the draft constitution because it had no language to protect individual rights. They failed at first. But the Declaration of Rights Mason had written into Virginia's constitution 11 years earlier became the model for the Bill of Rights that was adopted in 1791 as the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. It became Americans' guarantee of free speech, free association, religious liberty and all our other fundamental freedoms.

Naturally, that got me to thinking...maybe parents and students at Irvington Middle School need a bill of rights.

That seemed like such a good idea that I figured somebody else must have beat me to it.

So I started Googling things like "student bill of rights"; "student bill of rights" "middle school"; "parent bill of rights"; "parent bill of rights" "middle school"....

One thing led to another, and I landed on this document: Bill of Parent Rights and Responsibilities, New York City Department of Education, January 2005 (pdf file). (It's posted on this webpage as well.)

This document has been prepared by:

Jemina Bernard, Executive Director
Office of Parent Engagement
New York City Department of Education

Office of Parent Engagement, I thought!

How does New York City get an Office of Parent Engagement and we don't?

Not that I want to pay for a whole new Office of Parent Engagement (although Ed has decided the Irvington School District needs an ombudsman).

I started flipping through pages.....and I realized that some of this sounds like the rights my disabled children actually do have.

Then it occurred to me: I need to be looking at the specific language used in special education.

Meanwhile, this isn't a bad place to start:

THE RIGHT TO BE ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN

Parents have the right to be given every available opportunity for meaningful participation in their child’s education.

Parents have the right to:

1. be treated with courtesy and respect by all school personnel, and to be accorded all rights without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender, age, ethnicity, alienage, citizenship status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or economic status.

2. participate in communication with teachers and other school staff and share concerns regarding their child’s academic, social and behavioral progress.

3. visit their child’s school to meet with his or her teacher and principal at mutually agreeable times.

4. participate in meaningful parent-teacher conferences to discuss their child’s progress in school.

5. be informed of their child’s academic and behavioral progress in school.

6. be encouraged to participate and receive assistance in participating effectively in governance and educational decision-making through the School Leadership Team at their child’s school.

7. be accompanied by a friend, advisor, or interpreter at hearings, conferences, interviews and other meetings concerning their child, in accordance with established procedures.

8. be provided, if they are hearing impaired, with an interpreter at any meeting or activity which they attend which is specific to the academic and or disciplinary aspects of their child’s educational program, provided a written request is made prior to the meeting or activity; if an interpreter is unavailable, other reasonable accommodations shall be made.

9. have school staff make every reasonable attempt to ensure that parents receive important notices from the school, such as notices concerning parent-teacher conferences, open school week, parent association notices, etc.

10. be a member of the parent or parent-teacher association of his or her child's school without regard to the payment of dues.

etc.

THE RIGHT TO FILE COMPLAINTS AND APPEALS

Parents have the right to follow appropriate procedures to pursue complaints or appeal decisions affecting their child.

Parents have the right to:

1. appeal any entry in their child’s records on the grounds that it is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of their child’s privacy rights and request that such records be amended, in accordance with Chancellor’s Regulation A-820.

2. follow applicable procedures for filing complaints or appealing decisions which they believe violate their own or their child’s rights.

What I don't see here is the right to have one's complaint and appeals resolved within a specified period of time, or ever.

parent rights in 1970

I'm just starting to look into this area.

Here's a page that mentions a Parent Bill of Rights in Philadelphia in 1974.

As well, the state of Texas has a law governing parent rights. Haven't read yet, but I like this section:

(a) A parent is entitled to:

(1) review all teaching materials, textbooks, and other teaching aids used in the classroom of the parent's child; and

(2) review each test administered to the parent's child after the test is administered.

(b) A school district shall make teaching materials and tests readily available for review by parents. The district may specify reasonable hours for review.

(c) A student's parent is entitled to request that the school district or open-enrollment charter school the student attends allow the student to take home any textbook used by the student. Subject to the availability of a textbook, the district or school shall honor the request. A student who takes home a textbook must return the textbook to school at the beginning of the next school day if requested to do so by the student's teacher. In this subsection, "textbook" has the meaning assigned by Section 31.002.

You have to love the fact that somebody actually had to write a law requiring the school to let kids take the textbooks home.

oh - wait!

They didn't even get that far.

The school has to let students take textbooks home subject to availability.

yeah, well, I can see that.

Our 7th grade Spanish class doesn't have enough books to go around.

So if everyone wanted to take a textbook home to study, they'd be in trouble.

-- CatherineJohnson - 02 Apr 2006

DontKnowNothinAboutHistory 08 Jun 2006 - 21:12 CatherineJohnson

no surprise here

The State of State World History Standards 2006

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Jun 2006

GirlsAndBoysLiteracyIn1870 14 Jun 2006 - 15:05 CatherineJohnson

This is interesting:

To the Editor:

David Brooks blames an alleged feminist takeover of the high school curriculum in the 1970's for boys' difficulty in school. But boys have performed poorly relative to girls for as long as educational data have been collected.

The 1870 United States Census shows that boys had greater access to schooling than girls but lower literacy rates; by 1924, boys were 11 percent less likely to enroll in high school nd 24 percent less likely to graduate.

In 1957, presumably before "new wave" novels about "introspectively morose young women" replaced Huck Finn on reading lists, the typical girl was at the 60th percentile of her high school class, whereas the typical boy was at the 40th percentile.

Such statistics received less attention in the past, when academically disinclined young men could still count on a healthy supply of well-paying manufacturing jobs. In today's economy, however, boys' difficulty in acquiring basic skills is a major social problem; blaming feminism only distracts us from identifying and addressing its root causes.

Ilyana Kuziemko
Cambridge, Mass., June 13, 2006
The writer is a graduate student in the department of economics, Harvard University

I wonder if that's true?

Ed always says, "Boys don't like to read as much as girls do."

I was a "bookworm" as a child; Ed was always out playing sports.

-- CatherineJohnson - 14 Jun 2006

WilliamHeardKilpatrickMathBrain 07 Aug 2006 - 20:55 CatherineJohnson

William Heard Kilpatrick, the real father of progressive education in America, began life as a math guy:

Kilpatrick completed his bachelor’s degree at Mercer University in 1891. Lacking any compelling career goals, he undertook graduate study in mathematics at Johns Hopkins University, an event which changed his thinking and his life. The environment there, which prompted open-ended intellectual inquiry and his discovery of the domain of modern, evolutionary science, led him to embrace the ideas and outlook of modern science and to pursue secular truth.

After completing one year of graduate work at John Hopkins, Kilpatrick served as a high school teacher and principal in Blakely, Georgia. During these years, he began his systematic study of education and began applying progressive techniques to public schools—habits he would continue throughout his public school career. At a summer institute to develop his pedagogy, he saw the need to get students involved in meaningful experiences, and became committed to devising activities that would build on their interests. Though dedicated to teaching and his students, Kilpatrick returned to Johns Hopkins to continue his study of mathematics. He left after a year, disillusioned by what he considered low-quality teaching and an insufficiently robust academic program.

[snip]

In 1897, Mercer University offered Kilpatrick a faculty position in mathematics and astronomy. He served as acting president of the school from 1903–1905, returning to the faculty full time during his final year. His growing religious doubts culminated in a heresy trial that resulted in his resignation from Mercer at the conclusion of the 1905–1906 academic year. Kilpatrick then served as a principal and mathematics teacher in Columbus, Georgia.

During a summer school session while at Mercer University, Kilpatrick took a course offered by John Dewey. Though his initial reaction to Dewey was not positive, Kilpatrick’s later interaction with him changed his philosophy of life and education.

[snip]

While at Teachers College, he ran into Dewey again. Instead of getting discouraged, he took on the challenge of explaining Dewey to others, and became a protégé of the progressive education movement. Kilpatrick eventually became known as Dewey’s chief interpreter for his popularization of Dewey’s somewhat dense educational philosophy.

Hirsch says no one understood Dewey's prose or lectures. He gained a following thanks to Kilpatrick.

-- CatherineJohnson - 07 Aug 2006

Ed and I cracked up yesterday when we learned that Sayyid Qutb, the Karl Marx of Al Qaeda, went to ed school.

Wright draws a fascinating picture of Sayyid Qutb, the font of modern Islamic fundamentalism, a frail, middle-aged writer who found himself, as a visitor to the United States and a student at Colorado State College of Education in Greeley in the 1940’s, overwhelmed by the unbridled splendor and godlessness of modern America.

source:
The Plot Against America

Paul Berman says Qutb earned his Masters degree at Colorado.

So if Qutb hadn't "kissed the gallows" in Egypt he could have been a certified teacher here in the US.

bonus factoid

Osama Bin Laden is 6 feet tall.

-- CatherineJohnson - 07 Aug 2006

NegativeLearning 02 Nov 2006 - 18:58 CatherineJohnson

Last year I was trying to figure out if it's possible for a teacher, a Phase 4 math teacher to be precise, actually to destroy the knowledge a child already had.

Can you come out of a course knowing less than you knew going in?

Looks like you can.

And here's the cool thing: there's a term for it!

I just took the quiz. Thank God I got everything right.

Christopher's going to take it now.

You can take it once a month. I'm assuming they change the quiz once a month - unless they're trying to capture the phenomenon of negative learning in an online quiz, of course.

This is bunk, of course. "Negative learning" in college can not be demonstrated by showing that seniors know less than freshmen. My question still stands. It is interesting, potentially, to see college freshmen knowing more about American history than college seniors. Could this mean that history teaching in K-12 is improving?

From afar, Christopher's social studies courses seem fairly serious and content-rich to me.

I say "from afar" because our school tells parents essentially nothing about what our children will be studying. No course syllabi, no topic matrix, no scope and sequence.

And they're none too forthcoming when asked a direct question, either.

UPDATE 1:21 pm: Ed says it's definitely possible to have "negative learning" in college. These kids are learning (some) American history and civics in high school, but then taking no American history courses in college and thus forgetting what they learned in K-12. Makes sense.

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Oct 2006

ChevalierDansLOrdreNationalDuMerite 08 Nov 2006 - 12:51 CatherineJohnson

-- CatherineJohnson - 14 Oct 2006

TheNameIsBond 09 Dec 2006 - 02:01 CatherineJohnson

We took Christopher to see Casino Royale this weekend.

All those folks worrying about the decline of the west and Eurabia can relax.

James Bond is back.

Way back.

We're going to see it again.

-- CatherineJohnson - 04 Dec 2006

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