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View Full Version : Education Reform Edition (eeeeeeeli & ledocs)


Bloggingheads
01-07-2011, 09:51 AM

graz
01-07-2011, 11:27 AM
Here's a working link:http://apollo.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/33425

TwinSwords
01-07-2011, 01:32 PM
Thanks!

Hey, it's eeeeeeeeli and ledocs! Awesome. Too bad I'm at work and can't watch until later. I'm looking forward to this!

Update: Wow! 78 minutes! Even better! Remember when these things were supposed to be short? (I hate short diavlogs.)

Unit
01-07-2011, 03:07 PM
Excellent dvlog!

Ocean
01-07-2011, 10:02 PM
Great to see and listen to both of you discussing such an important topic. It was a thoughtful, well informed conversation by two very intelligent and knowledgeable people.

I commend eeeeeeeli's dedication to his population of kids. I have, and still work with a similar population in the mental health field. As he very well articulated, so many times the task of the day is to put out fires, that longer term educational planning seems to be always elusive. There may be a time when teachers working in such difficult conditions burn out and need a break for a while, working in less stressful districts. In the public school system this isn't always possible since they would lose seniority by changing districts.

Ledocs was thoughtful in his questions and lead eeeeeeeli through different topics with candor. Perhaps next time we can hear a bit more about his experience and apparent disappointment with higher education.

Thank you both for a wonderful discussion.

graz
01-07-2011, 10:11 PM
We're screwed huh? If we think that addressing the problems of education in the U.S. can be easily fixed. Well there's always hope and the efforts of dedicated teachers like Eli is part of the solution. Thanks to both for providing insight and considered opinion. I wish ledocs had closed out with a guitar solo. Maybe next time.

Ocean
01-07-2011, 10:17 PM
I wish ledocs had closed out with a guitar solo. Maybe next time.

That would have been grand.

rfrobison
01-07-2011, 11:54 PM
Kudos to both you and ledocs for an excellent discussion. I have a question: About 59 minutes in, you criticize the sort rote forms of instruction that the push for standardized tests in schools ends up fostering "as lower order thinking."

Although in the abstract, I sympathize with your position, I wonder what you make of places like Korea, Japan and Singapore, where there is a heavy, heavy emphasis on just that--and yet kids consistently outscore their American counterparts in math, reading, and science.

Here in Japan, I talk to people all the time who spent a year or two in the States in "good high schools" who, to a person, say what their American counterparts were studying in, say, 10th grade, they were learning in 7th and 8th. Uniformly, they say the math and science courses they took in the U.S. were absurdly easy. And despite claiming to be "poor at math," for example, aced those classes with no effort whatsoever.

Is it not the case that drilling, and rote memorization and such actually work? My general sense is that the U.S. education system is great for the extremely gifted kids, and those with special educational needs (e.g., handicapped students), but that we fail the vast middle by expecting too little of them in terms of being able to do actual tasks, partially because the educational theorists who train teachers find the Asian pedagogical approach old-fashioned, authoritarian, and dull.

Meanwhile the Asians (and Finns) kick our butts year in and year out. Thoughts?

Unit
01-08-2011, 01:32 AM
Kudos to both you and ledocs for an excellent discussion. I have a question: About 59 minutes in, you criticize the sort rote forms of instruction that the push for standardized tests in schools ends up fostering "as lower order thinking."

Although in the abstract, I sympathize with your position, I wonder what you make of places like Korea, Japan and Singapore, where there is a heavy, heavy emphasis on just that--and yet kids consistently outscore their American counterparts in math, reading, and science.

Here in Japan, I talk to people all the time who spent a year or two in the States in "good high schools" who, to a person, say what their American counterparts were studying in, say, 10th grade, they were learning in 7th and 8th. Uniformly, they say the math and science courses they took in the U.S. were absurdly easy. And despite claiming to be "poor at math," for example, aced those classes with no effort whatsoever.

Is it not the case that drilling, and wrote memorization and such actually work? My general sense is that the U.S. education system is great for the extremely gifted kids, and those with special educational needs (e.g., handicapped students), but that we fail the vast middle by expecting too little of them in terms of being able to do actual tasks, partially because the educational theorists who train teachers find the Asian pedagogical approach old-fashioned, authoritarian, and dull.

Meanwhile the Asians (and Finns) kick our butts year in and year out. Thoughts?

Excellent question. My take is more practical: the more narrow the scope the less opportunities for distraction, both from the teachers and the kids. My impression is that the Asian curricula are more concentrated on basic skills and in the end are able to go further. An extreme example of this is the "Japanese" method called Kumon that exists in some parts o the US as well.
For instance, the US system does quite well in spelling and the reason, I think, is because there are less opportunities to "waste" time. The more philosophical question is: is it really "waste"? Is there value in dillydallying? Ranging far and wide with creativity and fun instead of methodically honing specific skills? I'm not sure about this, it's yet another great conundrum.

One of the reasons I liked e...eli's presentation is that he seemed to really appreciate the great diversity in learning experiences and approaches, the complexity of it all.

Baltimoron
01-08-2011, 02:37 AM
Kudos to both you and ledocs for an excellent discussion. I have a question: About 59 minutes in, you criticize the sort rote forms of instruction that the push for standardized tests in schools ends up fostering "as lower order thinking."

Although in the abstract, I sympathize with your position, I wonder what you make of places like Korea, Japan and Singapore, where there is a heavy, heavy emphasis on just that--and yet kids consistently outscore their American counterparts in math, reading, and science.

Here in Japan, I talk to people all the time who spent a year or two in the States in "good high schools" who, to a person, say what their American counterparts were studying in, say, 10th grade, they were learning in 7th and 8th. Uniformly, they say the math and science courses they took in the U.S. were absurdly easy. And despite claiming to be "poor at math," for example, aced those classes with no effort whatsoever.

Is it not the case that drilling, and wrote memorization and such actually work? My general sense is that the U.S. education system is great for the extremely gifted kids, and those with special educational needs (e.g., handicapped students), but that we fail the vast middle by expecting too little of them in terms of being able to do actual tasks, partially because the educational theorists who train teachers find the Asian pedagogical approach old-fashioned, authoritarian, and dull.

Meanwhile the Asians (and Finns) kick our butts year in and year out. Thoughts?

Firstly, I'd like to hear more about "kumon" from Unit. I'm not aware of the methodology by name, but perhaps I've seen it practiced in Busan as well.

Secondly, and this comes from someone who was not a good math student and tried to combine science with languages in high school. I couldn't get around my bad math skills and the rules that dictated I needed math before I advance beyond Honors Chemistry. I tried to take math as if it were another foreign language, but it just didn't work. But, from what I've observed from South Korean students in university and cram schools, as well as from the stories I get from family and friends, teachers are worse than dictators. They still hit students, and scandals still arise here where students catch teachers on their phone cameras hitting students' bodies with their "love sticks". Teachers' unions claim that their members can't teach without a stick, to maintain order. Teachers, even the ones I teach with, also ramble on for most of the class, pass out photocopies by the tree load, and press a button, to play a CD instead of letting students talk. Students are often asleep, or just mindlessly copying information.

As a result, students are dependent on books. I teach conversation, so perhaps there's a disconnect. But, my students just want to hear me talk and parrot a page in the book. I f I get them to talk or correct them, as is my job, many grumble or complain. But, they can't summarize a paragraph, let alone a story. They can't arrange ideas into an essay. professors who grade TOEFL exam essays have told me that they can spot Korean or Japanese students because it's like reading a collection of hundreds of words that don't quite go together, rather than reading an essay. That's because students try to memorize a collection of essays, and then piece them together into the best answer that fits the question. Students know grammar by rote, but they can't actually use it spontaneously. And, many try to rattle off the grammar to me when I correct a simple mistake. "He go store."

"No,'He goes to the store.' "

"Yes, teacher, but the third person singular is not conjugated with 's'."

"Yes, it is. 'He goes.' " And then, we have this ten-minute argument after which everyone is annoyed. The students have gotten a earful of disconnected information compiled and dryly regurgitated for years. And then, they just assume every foreign teacher had the same experience, and is just a dictator too. It gives them the license not to care and not to put in the effort, because their teachers didn't. Also, when students do talk of 'good teachers', it's often for qualities unrelated to pedagogy: nice; generous (he bought me lunch when he asked me to his office to copy his notes for him); cute; funny. OTOH, most students say I'm 'tough'. Professors at the grad level BTW ask grad students to copy their notes and inchoate essays during long 'study sessions'. So, grad students learn to work in teams that can't write an essay alone. Individually, I taught writing to grad students who still couldn't write a coherent sentence, paragraph, or essay. I don't know about anyone else, but I learned essay writing in high school.

Combine this with a lack of interest in reading newspapers or other non-fiction, correlating studying with sleep deprivation because of the test cramming, and western media images, and there's this population of South Koreans who like expensive clothes, but can't even express an opinion in Korean, let alone English. The educational system is good at producing engineers, to produce widgets in teams and English Lit profs who can't have a spontaneous conversation in English.

Baltimoron
01-08-2011, 03:11 AM
This was a very informative diavlog, and I hope both will return to complete their discussion. As for the question of the direction of reform, I think there's another debate Americans need before they tackle schools.

First, though, before both, Americans need to decide how to pay for teachers. Conservatives are lambasting unions (http://www.economist.com/blogs/multimedia/2011/01/confronting_public-sector_unions) for blowing holes in state budgets, but Kevin Drum argues that the problem is lost revenue due to the recession (http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/01/hole-state-budgets).

On one hand, I recall what a professor said: "If you want to make money, become a bricklayer. Learn a trade. If you love learning, go to college." OTOH, education isn't about learning so much as it's a credential. If one wants to make things, apprenticeship might be a wiser course. Universities, I think, are idea factories. America seems to be becoming more of an idea factory than a manufacturer. I see South Koreans and I see younger people much better educated to be engineers than Americans. Unfortunately, the task for Americans is to create the next kind of economy and let South Koreans do the making. When Americans have decided what the next step is, then educators can figure out how to teach what society needs.

Of course, there's the opinion, too, that learning is only for an elite that really wants to dedicate itself to scholarship. Credential, or vocation, I keep going back and forth.

Unit
01-08-2011, 12:36 PM
Firstly, I'd like to hear more about "kumon" from Unit. I'm not aware of the methodology by name, but perhaps I've seen it practiced in Busan as well.

Kumon is an extreme drill-based program, in part remedial, but also for just skill-honing. Our daughter tried it out for a semester, not that she was having a hard time, but to see what it was all about. She did OK but it was extremely repetitious. I'm afraid that such monotonicity can be bad for someone who is already spontaneously attracted to learning. On the other hand, it could work for someone who has no good reason to study but would like to achieve some practical results.

eeeeeeeli
01-09-2011, 12:50 PM
Kudos to both you and ledocs for an excellent discussion. I have a question: About 59 minutes in, you criticize the sort rote forms of instruction that the push for standardized tests in schools ends up fostering "as lower order thinking."

Although in the abstract, I sympathize with your position, I wonder what you make of places like Korea, Japan and Singapore, where there is a heavy, heavy emphasis on just that--and yet kids consistently outscore their American counterparts in math, reading, and science.

Here in Japan, I talk to people all the time who spent a year or two in the States in "good high schools" who, to a person, say what their American counterparts were studying in, say, 10th grade, they were learning in 7th and 8th. Uniformly, they say the math and science courses they took in the U.S. were absurdly easy. And despite claiming to be "poor at math," for example, aced those classes with no effort whatsoever.

Is it not the case that drilling, and wrote memorization and such actually work? My general sense is that the U.S. education system is great for the extremely gifted kids, and those with special educational needs (e.g., handicapped students), but that we fail the vast middle by expecting too little of them in terms of being able to do actual tasks, partially because the educational theorists who train teachers find the Asian pedagogical approach old-fashioned, authoritarian, and dull.

Meanwhile the Asians (and Finns) kick our butts year in and year out. Thoughts?

Thanks!

Honestly, I wish I was more familiar with international education. There are a lot of different structures going on. For instance, in many European countries, students are tracked - beginning I believe as early as 9th grade - into two quite different paths. Thus it would be really different to compare scores. And what are those scores based on; what do the tests look like?

Interestingly, while I'm not so familiar with techniques in Japan, I know the approach in Finland is in many ways the opposite of what we're doing here. They're implementing less "accountability", giving teachers better training (they pay for 3 years of college), emphasize higher thinking in the classroom, and spend money on social services for needy children. See this (http://www.nea.org/home/40991.htm) article.

Anyway, to the point on rote/drill learning. Different subjects are going to require different approaches. Learning the steps to solve a math problem are going to be much different than a critical discussion of Moby Dick. Standardized testing will be much better suited for the former, but struggle with the latter. So as we race to "teach to the test", I'm much more concerned with the loss of content in English than I am in math. What's more, many subjects not in the standards, and thus not tested, are simply being left out of curriculum. Teachers are being forced to teach to very narrow criteria, all in the name of better "scores".

Different populations also require different approaches. If kids are far behind in cognitive and language skills, they're going to really struggle when asked to do higher-order stuff. So, as an example, a science class is presented with an assignment to get into groups, and compare and contrast the ways in which DNA transcription is like an assembly line, and create a flow chart showing each step. Without the skills to process such a complex task, many will simply be frustrated. So you end up doing much more "scaffolding", which essentially "dumbs down" the lesson. Pedagogically, this is perfectly appropriate. But while some students are going to benefit, some students are going to suffer. This isn't to say that higher order thinking can't be taught to students with lower skill-sets, just that it is harder and takes more time. This is why smaller class sizes, class aides, and extended hours would benefit them tremendously.

One last note - this is purely anecdotal, but I've spoken with college professors who complain of Asian students lacking the sort of social and communication skills of American students. This might be partly cultural, but a non-testable skill such as working well in groups and democratic decision making is a very important - yet again, non-testable - skill. Of course, if American kids aren't entering those classes in the first place, the point is moot!

ledocs
01-10-2011, 01:27 PM
I do not remember exactly what was said 59:00 minutes in, or by whom, but I suspect that the criticism of rote learning was not of drill and memorization per se but of teaching to the standardized tests, which are themselves dumbed down. I had to do a lot of rote learning at an advanced age in order to learn languages, so I have nothing against rote learning. It can even be fun.

Something that did not come up in the diavlog, though, is that my own experience with math and science teaching in high school was that it relied far too much on drill and rote learning and was not theoretical enough. In particular, I think if my math and science teachers had known anything about the history of their subjects, I might have become more interested in those subjects. As I was saying recently to my wife, no one ever told me what the practical applications of a theoretical knowledge of the mathematics of conic sections might be. I went to one of the best public high schools in the country, Lowell High in San Francisco, Stephen Breyer is a graduate, I was in the "advanced classes" in science and math, and the teachers were terrible, in my opinion. We just did problem sets, the teacher repeats the solutions in his teacher's guide, I hated those classes. I was competitive with people who later got doctorates in math or computer science. It was not that I had no aptitude. This was 1965-1967, probably a golden age as compared with the situation today. In junior high school, on the other hand, I had two years of a math program with the acronym SMSG in different public school systems (Columbus, Ohio and San Francisco, CA), this was "the new math" satirized by Tom Lehrer (a math professor) in his song of that name. That was a good program, although perhaps a bit too theoretical, I think it presented problems for the teachers at that time, who had not been trained in that program, it was too sophisticated. But I liked that program a lot, it made math fun. I particularly enjoyed probability theory, to which we were introduced in 7th grade. I never paid the slightest attention to what happened in math class in high school.

And my niece is now a freshman at MIT. She never goes to class. She simply studies the textbooks, does the problem sets, and reads the online notes to the lectures or something. I think that math and science classes directed at students with some aptitude should be more theoretical and spend less time on repeating solutions to the problems set out in the texts.

popcorn_karate
01-19-2011, 07:26 PM
My general sense is that the U.S. education system is great for the extremely gifted kids, and those with special educational needs (e.g., handicapped students), but that we fail the vast middle by expecting too little of them in terms of being able to do actual tasks, partially because the educational theorists who train teachers find the Asian pedagogical approach old-fashioned, authoritarian, and dull.


gifted kids are not treated well in the american schools I am familiar with. It was a constant battle with boredom for me and is the same for my children. both my son and daughter have been identified by the "tag" (talented and gifted) program which is supposed to be a way to make school more interesting for smart kids, but the program is not funded and absolutely no actions have resulted from being involved with the program.

So, at least in poorer areas, the schools definitely do not serve gifted kids any better, and probably worse than the average student. we are looking at allowing our son to skip the last two years of high school and get an AA at a community college instead, and transfer into university after that.

Starwatcher162536
01-19-2011, 08:13 PM
That they outscore us on criterion they specifically train for is unsurprising. I question if this dominance on entry level STEM standardized tests is meaningful. I've known a number of bright foreign students that had Jr level STEM university classes nearly bring them to a near nervous breakdown because all of a sudden they can't get by with "Problem type I, use algorithm A. Problem type II, use algorithm B. ..." type thinking. I'm really not impressed if someone gets a 1550 on their SAT but can't tell me me why factoring (or is that foiling?) to get (x-A)(x+B)=0 lets them figure out x's two values.

Don Zeko
01-20-2011, 01:50 PM
gifted kids are not treated well in the american schools I am familiar with. It was a constant battle with boredom for me and is the same for my children. both my son and daughter have been identified by the "tag" (talented and gifted) program which is supposed to be a way to make school more interesting for smart kids, but the program is not funded and absolutely no actions have resulted from being involved with the program.

So, at least in poorer areas, the schools definitely do not serve gifted kids any better, and probably worse than the average student. we are looking at allowing our son to skip the last two years of high school and get an AA at a community college instead, and transfer into university after that.

I don't have the slightest idea how representative my case is, but I had a very good experience with the gifted program in my local public school system. There were three tiers of the gifted program, which began in the 3rd grade and ended when kids got to high school. You had normal classes, you had the gifted program, in which kids went to advanced math and science classes but regular English and history classes, and then you had the highly gifted program, which consisted of about 150-200 kids per grade in a county with a population of about 300,000 (It's a post-integration city-county school district). The program was concentrated in one school, which made the logistics pretty challenging, but allowed students to be in advanced classes for all four core academic subjects.

In high school you didn't have that explicit tier system, but honors classes and a sort of honors+ seminar course were available all four years. Starting in junior year for most students, AP courses were concentrated at a central location that students would commute to from their home schools, so if the logistics could be managed one could take a full selection of AP courses, with very good teachers and pass rates on the AP exams.

I was in the highly gifted program and then took a full selection of AP classes, so I never really had to deal with the "too bored to succeed" phenomenon. Anyway, that's my bit anecdata.

popcorn_karate
01-20-2011, 05:50 PM
I don't have the slightest idea how representative my case is, but I had a very good experience with the gifted program in my local public school system. There were three tiers of the gifted program, which began in the 3rd grade and ended when kids got to high school. You had normal classes, you had the gifted program, in which kids went to advanced math and science classes but regular English and history classes, and then you had the highly gifted program, which consisted of about 150-200 kids per grade in a county with a population of about 300,000 (It's a post-integration city-county school district). The program was concentrated in one school, which made the logistics pretty challenging, but allowed students to be in advanced classes for all four core academic subjects.

In high school you didn't have that explicit tier system, but honors classes and a sort of honors+ seminar course were available all four years. Starting in junior year for most students, AP courses were concentrated at a central location that students would commute to from their home schools, so if the logistics could be managed one could take a full selection of AP courses, with very good teachers and pass rates on the AP exams.

I was in the highly gifted program and then took a full selection of AP classes, so I never really had to deal with the "too bored to succeed" phenomenon. Anyway, that's my bit anecdata.

you obviously didn't go to school in a poor area, but I'm happy to hear that some middle class kids have a lot more opportunities than my kids do. the tag program had some minimal funding when i was in school but that is now gone in my district.

Ocean
01-20-2011, 06:58 PM
you obviously didn't go to school in a poor area, but I'm happy to hear that some middle class kids have a lot more opportunities than my kids do. the tag program had some minimal funding when i was in school but that is now gone in my district.

As far as I know, in my experience as a parent in the US, the Gifted and talented programs vary a lot from state to state and even district to district. I've seen "enrichment" classes, which are a couple of hours a week in elementary school, to special, pull out programs, honor classes, and in some districts access to entirely different specialized programs. The one aspect that became clear to me was that all of them require students to be high achievers. If you have highly intelligent, divergent thinker, non conformist, or with (paradoxically) learning disabilities, there are no appropriate programs.

I would suggest that you look into your own home enrichment, if your kids are receptive, and/or weekend or summer programs for gifted kids. Those can be a good supplement.

popcorn_karate
01-20-2011, 07:36 PM
I would suggest that you look into your own home enrichment, if your kids are receptive, and/or weekend or summer programs for gifted kids. Those can be a good supplement.

thanks for the advice, thats what we do, self-reliant rural folk that we are. taking the kids and the dogs on a five mile hike out the back door is a kind of enrichment that i think is priceless. But i also shell out for more structured activities.

the original point of my comment was that american schools (in poor areas) are no better for high achievers than for low achievers - catering to anything but the median costs money.

I brought up the tag program to point out that if you live in a poor district, the "existence" of a program doesn't mean anything, its just a way to sweep the problem under the rug and allows for some hand-wavey feel good rhetoric for a principal or superintendent to spout to the uninformed or report to higher-ups that they "have a program".

clearly the lack of services for high achievers is a lesser problem than the lack of services for low achievers, but it sure would be nice to have schools that weren't abject failures for anybody.

Ocean
01-20-2011, 07:52 PM
thanks for the advice, thats what we do, self-reliant rural folk that we are. taking the kids and the dogs on a five mile hike out the back door is a kind of enrichment that i think is priceless. But i also shell out for more structured activities.

the original point of my comment was that american schools (in poor areas) are no better for high achievers than for low achievers - catering to anything but the median costs money.

I brought up the tag program to point out that if you live in a poor district, the "existence" of a program doesn't mean anything, its just a way to sweep the problem under the rug and allows for some hand-wavey feel good rhetoric for a principal or superintendent to spout to the uninformed or report to higher-ups that they "have a program".

clearly the lack of services for high achievers is a lesser problem than the lack of services for low achievers, but it sure would be nice to have schools that weren't abject failures for anybody.

I agree with pretty much all you're saying. I'm not sure, though, that we're using the term "high achievers" with the same meaning. I meant "high achievers" as those kids who are smart (in various degrees), tend to be self motivated to achieve (good grades, rewards), or are conformists and do all they're expected because that's the way they understand their role. I distinguish them from kids who are very smart (sometimes very highly intelligent) but end up having poor grades for a number of reasons (non conformists, divergent thinking, or other more problematic dynamics).

Somewhere I remember reading something about the way education was established in the US and how the idea that catering to the median was the main goal. The assumption is that smarter than average kids don't need help. Many of those who have written books about gifted children tend to disagree vehemently with that idea.

ledocs
01-22-2011, 12:44 AM
I want to mention something that came up while I was doing background reading for this education discussion, because it is relevant here and does not come up in the diavlog. It has to do with this hypothetical equivalence of left and right in US politics, equivalence as to tactics, good faith, and respect for truth, or "opportunism," to put things in the terms of the recent Loury-Althouse diavlog:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/33634 (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/33634)

I came across the following policy analysis paper, written under the auspices of the Cato Institute, by one of their affiliated scholars, Adam Schaeffer.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa662.pdf

There are about 25 tables in this paper, in which the author purports to show that public school districts are greatly understating the actual costs of public education. But nowhere in the paper does the the author give a single example of how he gets from the publicly reported and available cost per pupil column to his "Real Cost per Pupil" column in these tables. I wrote to the author in an attempt to get one or two properly sourced example adjusting calculations and did not hear back. The author does provide labyrinthine URL's to the websites of public school districts and municipalities, but no one who was not being paid to do so could be expected to expend the effort to try to extract from these websites the figures that Schaeffer has used to arrive at his "Real Costs per Pupil."

What I suspect has happened here is that Schaeffer has played games with the rules of accounting, that he has counted actual payments to retirees as an operating cost to school districts, instead of using the annual cash payments by the districts to their pension funds. If, on the other hand, these cash payments to pension funds are not included by districts in their “Cost per Pupil” calculations, Schaeffer has done us a service by pointing this out. Schaeffer may also have used cash outlays for capital improvements instead of using an annual depreciation allowance, an allowance which should already be included in the “Public Cost Per Pupil”. I do not have an hypothesis about what games he might have played with his third major category of purportedly underreported expenses, debt service.

Another thing that has really shocked me is an “interview” like the following one conducted with Schaeffer on Fox TV. I don’t watch Fox News, I did not realize how bad, i.e. propagandistic, it could be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzXyM5tKok4

The best analogue I can think of for this "interview" is that of an infomercial for exercise equipment in which Chuck Norris is the interviewee.

dieter
02-01-2011, 07:15 PM
Since ledocs retired to France and the topic at hand is education, let me share this video about newly formed intervention teams of elite educators who are supposed to help out teachers in difficult schools.

Quartier Général - Violence à l'école : l'engrenage (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Koix-gp5AC4)

The head of the intervention team in Marseilles even looks like an action movie actor, whose name escapes me at the moment.

eeeeeeeli
02-02-2011, 02:36 AM
Since ledocs retired to France and the topic at hand is education, let me share this video about newly formed intervention teams of elite educators who are supposed to help out teachers in difficult schools.

Quartier Général - Violence à l'école : l'engrenage (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Koix-gp5AC4)

The head of the intervention team in Marseilles even looks like an action movie actor, whose name escapes me at the moment.

Ah... if only I spoke French! I did a google translate and pulled out this:
"At 12, Nicolas is the fifth student in the Paris region. He has been expelled from his institution for hitting another child of his age. Nicolas is now supported by a specialized team.... Finally, Headquarters followed the new emergency teams against violence at school. Special units that leave the mind calm after serious incidents. These experts of violence will they manage to restore calm to school?"

Sounds intriguing. The continuation environment (high school) where I work is actually much better for troubled kids in many ways then mainstreamed classrooms. Many drop-out, and many do little work and are mainly interested only in sex, drugs and violence. But they're out of the teacher's hair, and with the individualized attention we can meet more of their needs. It isn't perfect. And some days they seem to do no work at all. But for many of them they are simply in a safe environment in which they can let their guard down.

I had an interesting talk with the counselor yesterday about meeting the emotional portion of their needs, which for at least 50% of the students is the main barrier to academics. They've tried providing one-on-one counseling sessions, but the population has trouble making appointments. Then the bigger problem is being able to build rapport. Many students are so emotionally closed off that it takes weeks or even months to get comfortable with any adult.

I'm reminded of this story (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/health/views/18mind.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general) in the NY Times, in which a psychiatrist argues that one of the most crucial aspects of any kind of therapy is simple human connection - something that surely won't happen in a class of 40 kids. Then again there was the study (http://www.themoneytimes.com/featured/20101224/placebo-effect-works-even-without-deceptionstudy-id-10145499.html) which seemed to find that the real therapeutic effects of placebos were in the doctor's relationship with the patient - that they were being paid attention to, as patients who were informed of the placebos did as well as those who were blinded!

Anyway - a bit tangential. But goes to the concept of making meaningful interventions in students lives, meeting not just their "academic" needs but looking at their whole story. There are a lot of cumulative effects of poverty
that wear a kid down over the years - whether its the wrong crowd, stress at home, drugs, violence, etc. By high school many have simply reached the breaking point. And I honestly don't blame them for wanting to punch someone in the face.

Tidbit from the trenches: yesterday I was talking with a group of young mothers/mothers-to-be who I'm trying to design a sort of parenting elective for. One of them is rolling her eyes as she describes a girlfriend of hers who has 3 kids by 3 different guys, while her boyfriend has 4 kids by 3 different girls.

I turn to one girl - heavy eyeliner, sort of chola-style - who has previously discussed her deeply dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend ("I hate him but he says he'll hurt himself if I leave"). I ask her, "You don't have a baby do you?" She shakes her head non-nonchalantly and replies, "Nah, but we're trying."

"What?!!", I reply, shocked. "Is this the same boyfriend you're always talking about hating?"

"Yeah," she says, "I know we're prolly gonna break up but this way I have something to remember the good times by, you know?"

bjkeefe
02-28-2011, 07:26 PM
ED Kain, a blogger from Balloon Juice and The League of Ordinary Gentleman, has started a new True/Slant Forbes blog that concentrates on education policy (http://blogs.forbes.com/erikkain/).

Announcement here (http://www.balloon-juice.com/2011/02/28/my-new-education-policy-blog/).

eeeeeeeli
02-28-2011, 10:24 PM
Nice. Good to see Forbes keeping it real. :)