30 September 2009

Developmental Psychology of Schoolchildren

The field of developmental psychology seems to be about the development of school children, not the development of children in general, according to Peter Gray. Here is a post he wrote in response to his trying to find out what the "definitive" book set on the field of developmental psychology has to say about the subjects of play, curiosity and exploration.

24 September 2009

The Consequences of Standardization

Marion Brady, a long time curriculum critic, gives a good overview of the situation that has lead most of our schools to the place of kowtowing to standardized tests in this article from Education Week. Here's his conclusion:

Here’s a prediction: If implemented as it’s being advocated by spokespersons, the national standards-reform effort will fail. Period. It won’t fail because subject-matter specialists can’t agree on standards. And it won’t fail because of teacher incompetence, weak administrators, “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” union resistance to change, parental indifference, inadequate funding, lack of rigor, failure to employ market forces, too few charter schools, too little technology, or any other currently popular explanation of poor performance.

It will fail for the same reason the No Child Left Behind Act failed—because it will be driven by data derived from simplistic tests keyed to simplistic standards keyed to a simplistic, dysfunctional, obsolete, 19th-century curriculum.

22 September 2009

Raising Important Questions About Testing

Here is a post by Diane Ravitch that raises crucially important questions about the effects of high stakes testing regimes:
This raises the question: With scores so often rigged and fraudulent, how can we use them to pay bonuses or to close schools? New York City's last round of phony test scores (noticed as phony even by the august New York Times) triggered a payout of $33 million in bonuses to teachers; the union is laughing all the way to the bank! So millions are awarded in fraudulent bonuses at the same time that school budgets are cut to the bone. Is this the way that big business operates? If so, it is no wonder that we had a financial meltdown.

I fear that American education has now entered into a twilight zone, where nothing is what it appears to be, where numbers are meaningless, where public relations and spin take the place of honest reporting, where fraud is called progress.

21 September 2009

How long to form a habit?

Here is a post about a study that looked at the formation of habits.

The average time to a plateau was 66 days but the variation was 50 to 254 days. This is way more than the 20-30 days usually touted in self-help circles.

16 September 2009

Slippery Slope of Wearing Knockoffs

Here's Dan Ariely talking about the moral consequences of wearing fake fashion sunglasses:

Social Network Effects on Our Health and Happiness

Here are two articles that discuss a study of social network effects:

Are Your Friends Making You Fat?- New York Times

Buddy System- Wired Magazine

10 September 2009

Morality on the Brain

Here's a cognitive neuroscientist with a short TED talk about the brain area that deals with moral judgement:

06 September 2009

Hoping for a Strong America

Hi Mom,

I saw that quote from Margaret Thatcher you included at the bottom of your last e-mail. At first I brushed it off because it seems to refer to some of the gross mischaracterizations that are going around in some circles these days, but then it seemed to stick in my craw which suggested that there was something much deeper at stake. So here's what came out when I thought about it more thoroughly:

The United States of America today is some wierd amalgam of capitalism, democracy, socialism, federalism, republicanism, and numerous other isms. That's just the way reality is, so simplistic labels are all wrong. But more important than the label for the complex system is our moral sense of what that system is supposed to do. All the wisdom teachers throughout the world agree that we have a moral duty to care for one another. The last administration's policies seem to be dedicated to wasting our resources on hating one another. When you pick your favorite ism to make it the enemy then you are attacking part of America. Some people pick on socialism, some of my friends pick on capitalism or conservatism. They're all wrong. Caring for each other is the right thing to do, even when it's hard. And there is no harder time to care and no harder person to care for than someone who has hurt you. Ask Jesus, he knows all about that. And it seems shameful to me that some people are determined to allow the systematic denial of health care for millions of Americans by private insurance companies to continue.

The problem with recent government policies (which Thatcher, Reagan, Bushes 1&2, and probably even Clinton implemented) is that making the rich richer interferes with our ability as citizens to care for one another. I want the government to be a strong part of a society that encourages us to have empathy for each other and provides the infrastructure (roads, regulated markets, law enforcement, schools, military, universal health care, etc.) that makes it possible to express the responsibility I feel to act to help those in our nation who are vulnerable and/or in need. I believe in having a strong government that uses it's power to build positive relationships with other people, organizations, and governments, especially when they disagree with us.

Here's a short blog post I wrote a while back that addresses this concern with a youtube video.

The point is this, caring takes strength and hating is a sign of weakness. The whole reason for the 9/11 attacks was the weakness of the terrorists, that's why nothing comparable has happened since. Then we succumbed to the same weakness by seeking revenge instead of justice. The neo-conservative haters who are hysterically opposed to health care are showing their weakness. The question is whether or not the majority of Americans who want to express care can muster the courage show their strength.

Here's hoping America can be strong again.

05 September 2009

Music Fun

With piano:

Without piano:

04 September 2009

Domesticating Disease

This guys idea keeps cropping up in conversation and so it is time to blog it for easier access:

01 September 2009

Parent Involvement That Gets Results

If you take the assumptions of mainstream schools for granted then parental involvement seems to be important. Then the question becomes, "What kind of involvement should the parents have?"

What makes the difference is...
“academic socialization” mean[ing] that parents communicate their expectations for education to their kids and highlights education’s value and utility, like by linking schoolwork to current events. They also help their children create academic and career goals, discuss learning strategies with them, and make plans and preparations for the future.

As opposed to home-based or school-based involvement.

Hill and Tyson looked at three different types of parental involvement: home-based involvement, school-based involvement, and what they call “academic socialization.” In home-based involvement, parents talk to their kids about school, try to help them with their homework, take them to educational places like museums, and make sure they have access to books and newspapers. School-based involvement consists of attending school events, becoming a part of the PTA, volunteering at school, and building relationships with teachers.

Hat Tip to the Greater Good Blog.