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Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Response to I.Q. tests and merit pay studies

The I.Q. test is a loathsome thing put before young students in an attempt to pigeonhole them before they even know what they're being tested for. My kindergarten I.Q. tests were below 100. Today I score around 140. Which test is correct? What a huge difference! What if my parents had believed those first tests and just given up on me?

This is the first thing I want all of you to understand; an I.Q. test only measures where you are, not where you will always be. So, especially for those of you with children, I advise you to forget everything you thought you knew about I.Q. and the imperfect testing they've developed to date, and please never let them pigeonhole your kids into some kind of slow-learner club.

The carrot and the stick, not just the carrot, and not just the stick. They go together like cheese and crackers, and while one's ok, both together are perfect. I clicked the link and read about the merit pay study. It has some validity, however it has one major flaw, such a glaring flaw in fact, that it renders the study only mildly noteworthy as perhaps a footnote, but never a chapter.

Why didn't they study the most important grades: kindergarten, first grade, and second? These Vanderbilt researchers decided to study the ability of teachers to change the study habits of kids who'd already had five years or more of practice in screwing off. Furthermore there was no downside for these teachers. They no doubt just went ahead and did the same thing they always did, but probably at a higher decible level. Lets ask this question: What if....

What if the children had all of a sudden started doing better? It seems to me that certain questions would have started to be asked...why hadn't they been trying this hard all along? This would certainly be the first thing on my mind if I was running a school. As I signed that 15,000 dollar check. I'd have to wonder whether it would take an extra 15,000 every year to get this teacher to keep doing her job.

How about next time you do a real study Vanderbilt? New teachers fresh out of college, new students fresh into kindergarten and first grade. Incentives for teaching well, AND so important, dire consequences for the reverse. Now, that's a study I could believe in. Finally, for those of you who believe there's something significant in 15 points difference on an I.Q. test, please, open that closed mind of yours.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Freedom of Religion and Prayer in School

We've all noticed―and many have commented on―the slow creeping degradation of America's public school system. Coincidentally, the banning of prayer and any other religious teaching in public school in 1963 is just about the same time that our public school system started going downhill.

While I'm not a follower of any particular religion, I think most religions have much to offer with regard to morals and character and living in the way that good people believe we should. What is ironic, is that this kind of moral teaching is straight in line with what our school system should be teaching our children. A teacher can say to his classroom that hurting others or stealing is wrong, but he's forbidden from using examples from the Bible―or any other religious text. The children listening to this teacher trying to tip-toe around religion to teach these moral lessons, experience a disconnect―for lack of a better word. Without the moral lessons instilled in children by religious teaching, the only thing children end up learning is the importance of not being caught. They learn that if you don't get caught there are no consequences. Contrast this with lessons from the Bible for example. While you may not have been caught performing your dastardly deed, God saw it, and you will pay the consequences! Other religions have similar paradigms. In any religion no wrong act goes unpunished.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

All religions have as their preeminent dictum that adherents must spread their belief as widely as possible. Teachers are forbidden from practicing this part of their religion while on the job. Both freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion are denied to the teacher. When I read the above amendment to the constitution I'm frankly appalled, and disgusted, and infuriated, that a group of eight Justices could take a sentence like "Congress shall make no law" and somehow by byzantine logic and deceptive circumlocution extend the meaning of it to say that teachers are forbidden from exercising their freedom of speech and their freedom of religion in the classroom.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I can see her now, that wise old woman—quiet and serene—her eyes lifted towards an unknowable future. Her gentle smile lets us know that with a little patience everything will work out for the best. Then again, maybe she's just an idiot. Complacency of this sort is often mistaken for wisdom, when in fact it's merely laziness or simple stupidity.

Often, the worst mistake I can make in any conflict is to overestimate my opponent. This sounds contrary to popular wisdom, but in my experience is all too often the truth. The imagined deep play unfathomable by mere mortals such as we, is often simply a bad move. Right or wrong I must have confidence in my own perception of reality.

The lie, the bluff, the trick, these are mankind's penultimate weapons. It's hard to remain confident while that grinning devil suggests so unswervingly that it is we who've blundered and not they.

Resist the urge to second guess yourself. Better an honest mistake than a lifetime of anxiety and second guessing. In the military they call this making a command decision. Right or wrong make your choice and live with it. Making no decision at all is a choice you will likely regret.