Twilight of the Idols

...Or how one blogs with a hammer: an undergrad's views on education, cuisine, and more.

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Tuesday, January 27

Homeschoolers Are People, Too

Of course, this AP Education writer seems shocked by the revelation - but then, I suppose, so are a lot of people. The article is pretty positive about homeschooling, which is a refreshing change. Unfortunately, that postive attitude comes with a price; the writer manages to note that homeschooling is better than traditional schooling because there are no standardized tests:

Such young people have grown up academically with a greater emphasis on learning — rather than testing — compared with conventionally educated students, said Laura Derrick of the Home Education Network.

*sighs* You can't win them all. On an eerie side note, the University of Evansville (which I attended for two years) is mentioned at the bottom of the article.

Sunday, January 25

Ahhh, Bureaucracy!

Michael Winerip's latest column in the NY Times is worth a read. He gives the dirt on a set of schools in NYC that are doing quite well for themselves, but - due to bureaucratic nonsense - are now labeled as failing.

Ridiculous stuff like this is why federal control of education (heck, of anything) is a terrible idea. Ignoring for the moment that I don't care one bit for public education, I can still readily assert that local school boards know more about what their students need than administrators and legislators in Washington, DC do. We'll see how long No Child Left Behind makes it before either a) it gets overturned, repealed, or otherwise eviscerated or b) it becomes obvious to everyone that the goals it sets will not be met. I wonder which will happen first...

Sunday, January 18

You Must Be Kidding Me: Student-Athletes Need MORE Money And Benefits?!?!

From the New York Times:

...California Senate Bill 193 was a blinking red light that captured the attention of the organization that oversees thousands of students participating in athletics at hundreds of institutions.

The bill, which has been approved by the State Senate, calls for California universities that belong to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I to pay athletes the full cost of attendance.

That would include the room and board and books that come with the standard athletic scholarship, as well as extra items, like emergency travel and some out-of-season medical expenses for athletes for injuries that linger after the season.

What the heck do athletes do for society that is so valuable that people's hard-earned wages - after being converted into tax dollars by the state, of course - need to pay for their entire college education (which is almost invariably in "General Studies")?! Seriously, this proposal is so ridiculous as to render me almost incapable of making a well-reasoned point that doesn't involve at least five of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television.

Of course, I don't support sports in colleges in the first place - they're always a drain on the school's money (as a whole - some individual sports may make money at some schools, but to my knowledge there is no solvent sports program in any school in the US). Sure, I don't think athletes should get scholarships based on their athletic ability - I mean, hello, they're called scholarships, not athletiships! - but it's a longstanding trend in the US. This proposal, though, is absolutely absurd - and of course, California isn't the only state doing this:

The California bill has pushed the N.C.A.A. to mount its own reform effort, including a new initiative that would pay student-athletes an additional $2,400 a year.

The N.C.A.A. membership considers the initiative its issue because other states — including Nebraska, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma — are considering expanded financial support for student-athletes.

If we're going to have state-run schools and have our tax dollars pay for kids to get a college degree (which I think is a dubious proposal, to say the least - but that is neither here nor there), then the very least the state could do is offer money to people who want to do something a bit more genuinely productive with their lives - offer free schooling to people who are training to be doctors or chemists or teachers - not athletes!

Are college sports so vital to the existence of America, so essential to the very fabric of our being, that we as citizens should be coerced by our state governments to not only pay for their ability to play by funding the stadiums they play in and the schools they attend but to in fact directly pay the players themselves by rewarding them with a college degree as well as a place to live and food to eat while they "earn" it? I think not.

Thursday, January 15

A Step In The Right Direction

A commission of leaders from a variety of fields has put together a report saying that merit-based pay raises will greatly increase the quality of instruction in schools.

The best part? While the writer naturally interviewed representatives of teacher unions (who aren't so keen on the idea, as one might expect), the teacher interviewed in the article concedes that the idea is fair:

Parrish says it seems fair. The school, she says, has greatly expanded regular training for teachers, and the student evaluation is done in a way designed to minimize factors outside her control, such as whether a child comes from a poor home. Still, she's nervous.

"I tell you, as many years as I've been in teaching, I've had good years and bad years," she said, referring to both her own performance and some unruly classes. "There are years I'd hate to think that I'd be paid based on the performance of the children given the situation I was given. You don't want to make excuses, but on the other hand, it needs to be fair."

Monday, January 12

Never Underestimate The Power Of Human Stupidity

This Reuters article is just ridiculous - I'm amazed that this scheme worked once and I'm not exactly sure how anyone could be so dumb as to think it would again. Here is the article in full:

German police are investigating after an angry man returned a computer he had just bought saying it was packed with small potatoes instead of computer parts.

The store replaced the computer free of charge but became suspicious when he returned a short time later with another potato-filled computer casing, police in the western city of Kaiserslautern said on Monday.

"The second time he said he didn't need a computer any more and asked for his money back in cash," a police spokesman said.

Police are now investigating the man for fraud.


Sunday, January 11

Back In The Saddle Again

Well, I have been back in Bloomington for a few days now. I've got my apartment well on its way to being clean and organized - I didn't move, but I hadn't cleaned in about two months. (ick!)

At any rate, I am feeling a lot better than I did three weeks ago. I slept a lot over break, and I spent most of the rest of the time either hanging out with my wonderful girlfriend or my family (or both - my family likes her more than they like me, heh).

The good news: for Christmas, I received a pile of books - Diane Ravitch's The Language Police, the Thernstroms' No Excuses, Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics, and plenty more. Currently, I'm reading Language Police, and it's excellent. The book tends to have less meat than I'd hoped - Ravitch assumes that her readers have thought and read a lot about the subject and because of this she doesn't form her arguments as well as she could have. My opinion so far: while Ravitch may not convince anyone who isn't already convinced, her book is worth reading for the train-wreck value at the very least.

And as for posting, I'm not sure how my workload will be this term, but I know I'll be taking time to keep up with things here. No promises on just how often - I imagine it'll probably two or three times a week, though. For now, expect further thoughts on my Christmas books as I read them as well as whatever other interesting education-related tidbits I dig up.

I hope everyone's holidays went well - and it's good to be back!


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