Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Am I That Smart?

Posted: July 30, 2016 in Education, Religion

~ Sweet Old Bob
I must precede my perspective with an attempt at self evaluation. Now, this can be a slippery slope to madness, as in “he’s beside himself” being a description of someone who is trying to self-analyze. But, I believe I have moments of clarity. One that I recently drew an agreement, was saying “you can’t disregard religion or science as explanations for what’s going on in the world.”
As I related this to someone I included a reflection on my days as a high school junior. I started out the year taking physics for my science course. I was working part time as a dish washer at the time. For some reason I decided to quit my job. To fill in the extra time I decided to add another course. It was chemistry. In one of the classes I was supposed to explain how a battery works. There are two explanations. One is in the discipline of chemistry, the other in physics. I wrote a paragraph that included elements of both because I had read them as I studied both. The teacher who taught both courses, in my opinion, should have graded me down for not sticking to the course I was writing for. She didn’t. I just believe there are more than one way to explain a phenomenon. A religious explanation of anything shouldn’t be excluded from the conversation just because it doesn’t toe the mark in a religious one.
In a series on evolution, one episode was called “What about Religion?” It did a pretty decent job of presenting evolution to a class in a religious college. The fact that scholars who teach religion do their best to explode the myth that evolution teaches that we descended from monkeys. Evolution does not teach that we evolved from monkeys. The fact that we and certain primates share 99% of the same gene pool should be offered as evidence that we and these primates do share something in the physical world. Would this scientific fact make religious explanations false?

Liberal Arts or S T E M

Posted: July 20, 2012 in Education
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When I was in the 6th grade, Mrs. Long had an expression she used when she was about to institute an innovative approach to learning. Her “funnywonder” phrase seemed funny to those of us who questioned her teaching creds… probably because she spoke with this foreign accent – from the south. I seem to remember looking at my classmate across the aisle from me and we smiled incredulously to each other. I don’t think I need to expand on the results of my reflections further as I’ve pretty much covered the fact that I now consider probably one of the best I had. When my grandmother took me to visit her years later Mrs. Long had kept a copy of a newspaper I wrote and published while I was in her class. But I digress.

All these years later I think of her special talents when I consider education and the deeper elements of it.

To the point: the last time I thought about it I always considered Math a liberal arts pursuit. So it gets lumped together with science, technology, and engineering in these highfalutin approaches that would improve our science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Apparently the process of including it with the other three branches of education denies its liberal arts status. Yes, there is applied math as a course of study in our schools. I thought applying math was smart to get students interest that might not be there if you tried to teach it as a purely academic course. My awareness of that fact was made when someone derided the course as something substandard among the curricula in secondary schools.

According to an article in today’s Kitsap Sun on page 4A of the print edition, “Liberal arts pushback blooming in state”, there is a local effort to create, yet another, better approach to educating our young people. I believe this is an essential process in raising the level of the dialog about education.

What Did I Miss?

Posted: May 6, 2012 in Education, Humor
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I finally found a citation, via Google, that gives me some information about my favorite college professor, Dr. Franz Schneider. It is in the citation from the url:
http://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/libraries/foley+library/departments/special-collections/exhibitions/gonzagahistory1946.asp

I found out that Dr. Schneider was the “…professor of English and honors program director…”. I think I can resolve the connection between Fr. Leary and Fr. McCluskey by referring to the dedication page of my 1962 Spires yearbook from G. U. It seems that from the time Fr. Leary probably sat dumbfounded at the sheer stupidity of a certain freshman who declined to accept the invitation to join the honors society because he didn’t “much care about literature”. His reason for asking him to join was his score on a certain test he took upon applying for admissions. However, the best he could get from Dr. Schneider was a “C” in his class (Interpretation of Prose or Interpretation of Poetry). So, I doubt if he could have done much good in the honors program. But, you are your own worst analyst, so what do I know.

In the aforementioned dedication it revealed that Fr. Leary was “Dean of Education, Academic Vice President, initiator and guide of the Honors Program…” So, Fr. Leary was guide to Dr. Schneider’s program director. I would have to query somebody about the exact relationship between the two.

So, this is my groundhog day moment; wondering how I would have fared if I had gladly, with all humility, accepted the invitation. Am I a genius (as in James Joyce’s “A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”), or an idiot? Or, am I somewhere in between? I look back at certain key moments and wonder what would have happened if…

Of a Conservative Perspective

I just read a column in today’s edition of The Kitsap Sun that compelled me to write to some of my dearest friends who have expressed a desire to stifle progress towards equal rights for those who have an orientation of personal physical tendencies. The column is by Leonard Pitts; and is accessible via the link to the Detroit Free Press’ on line edition, opinion. Other avenues are available via Google; this is the one that seems to be the most direct to this column.

I am always trying to enjoin my fellow citizens in a civil and thoughtful dialog on a number of issues. Many of the issues I am interested are somewhat academic because they are removed from my personal life. I have only an interest in matters of civil rights for various minorities as a caring citizen.

Mr. Pitts’ column should awaken those minds that are not too far asleep to reason that challenges their preconceived notions. I have to interject that I often revisit my long-held ideas and notions to grow in knowledge and wisdom.

Another friend who is serving in the Washington State legislature would probably find this column and its sources interesting because he has shown a very much lively intellectual quest for more knowledge and wisdom. If he reads this he knows who he is. For the rest of you his name is Drew.

For him and any other of my friends who don’t agree with my progressive views I would relish a response.

Once in while it behooves us to stop and ponder whether what we are doing is important; or whether we should turn our attentions to other, more pressing priorities. I did just that a few moments ago as I read an article by Christopher Dunagan in this morning’s Kitsap Sun, “Sediment flow at old dam site watched”.

I am often checking my motives for reading the articles by Mr. Dunagan, thinking I might be doing this because he is the wife of my grandson’s head start teacher; and he helped us move from our former residence. While this might be an underlying motive, I think what is more important is my desire to be aware of my environment and the features, live and ascetic.

So, would I have everybody to be this zealous of his own awareness regarding what’s happening? The short answer is, “yes”. In fact I would (metaphorically speaking) surgically remove a non-reader’s senses, one by one, so they would understand the importance of being aware of one’s environment and community.

I also believe that those who ignore their environment and community ultimately fall into a pit of ignorance and lethargy. Once they do this they are almost sure to become morose and depressed; to the point of drinking to stop the feelings of emptiness.

I would also offer this community awareness as an alternative to music to spur mental activity and slow the fall into Alzheimer’s.

“Those who don’t read are no better off than those who can’t” is a very good expression of my reasons to read. Yes, one should balance reading non-fiction and fiction. The first is a direct connect to the world, the later is a good backdrop that enables us to more fully understand our world. If one accepts gaining knowledge as an ongoing education might even accept the idea that reading, thought it is not the only way of gaining knowledge, is important in its being a more intensive way to gain knowledge than hearing or viewing sources.

Now, I have to offer a slight departure from this radical approach. I see my grandson, who is high functioning autistic, getting a lot of mind stimulation from watching certain shows on TV, and movies. I would offer that some minds are stymied by the challenge of converting the written word to mental images. The quest to alter this is worth pursuing, however. If the non-reader were to mount the challenge to improve reading comprehension, he/she would gain another important avenue of improvement.

“An informed citizenry is essential to a functioning democracy” is also a great reason to keep informed of one’s community. I would create multiple copies of signs to accompany displays of local print media. Of course this is a chauvinistic approach that ignores the truth that the print media is not the only way to become informed. It does imply that the print copy that is available to the reader is the best; and draws the prospective reader to access it, either by purchasing it or visiting the library (that temple of knowledge in most communities) and reading available issues there.

Years ago, there was a radio drama on KVI AM radio. It was called “Theater of the Mind.” I believe Jim French hosted it. I especially remember one episode that Jim wrote.

It was about a guy who woke up from a deep sleep on a battlefield. There were bullets flying, bombs exploding, people getting shot and many dying.
Suddenly somebody yelled “cut” and everybody stopped fighting and started to walk off the field. Our hero, I’ll call him Bob, asked somebody, “What’s going on?”

The reply was, “This is an action serial on TV. To satisfy the audiences’ desires for realism they are shooting the battle scenes with real bullets, bombs, etc. See that guy over there with the sergeant’s helmet? He’s the hero and won’t be shot. That is he won’t be shot as long as the director, a woman, wants him. You see, he’s the director’s boyfriend. When she gets tired of him, she will have him written out of the script and he’ll be killed. Of course, she will choose somebody else to be her boyfriend…until he doesn’t satisfy her anymore.”

Just as he predicted the hero was eventually killed. By that time, the director had picked our hero, Bob, as her new boyfriend.

Bob was sure that his initial introduction was true and that he would eventually meet the same fate as the previous ex-boyfriend.

How would he escape the same end? He found out where they kept the script after it had been written. When he sensed the director was tiring of him he gained access to the script and read it. Sure enough, there it was in black and white. He was slated for termination the next day.

I do not remember how Bob avoided his elimination; but he did. How I relate this to reading the daily newspaper is it is the script for what befalls individuals who haven’t a sense of right and wrong. Beings this sense is only common to those who grow up in a specific culture. Their culture conflicts with the law because of the way some legislatures create laws to accommodate the moral orientation of the majority within a community. Ok, so I cannot locate the quotation extant from The Tyranny of the Majority; is that important? Well, yeah. I would like to be able to extract the full sense of the term.

Thomas Sowell’s column in today’s Kitsap Sun has 12 points; one of which is sensible. So, as one might pan for gold one can read a column like this and find a truth that, while having some profundity, cries for clarification. The paragraph:

“The real egalitarians are not the people who want to redistribute wealth to the poor, but those who want to extend to the poor the ability to create their own wealth, to lift themselves up, instead of trying to tear others down. Earning respect, including self-respect, is better than being a parasite.”

I would add that corporate America is all about efficiencies at the expense of employing those whose talents are meager; but who deserve a living wage. I wouldn’t do away with incentives to better oneself. Certainly a better material life and/or more leisure to pursue mind improving activities is/are (a) laudable goal(s). If the educational community would quit trying to tie every learning experience to job pursuit and promote bettering students’ minds they might get those who perceive the false hope of riches if you learn more, rather to concentrate on achieving a truly liberal arts curriculum.
Yes, liberal arts have earned a negative connotation by the giggling masses. If you would read (reread) Newman’s “Idea of a University” you might realize a more perfect goal for getting a degree. Follow this link for the complete text.
Oops! I started reading the preface and I find this startling message, “…that Knowledge and Reason are sure ministers to Faith.” Could I, by a careful reading of this treatise, be sucked (uh, I mean drawn) back into the fold?
So, my journey to add to Mr. Sowell’s nugget has taken me far afield. Maybe the simple addition of the concept of making more jobs available should be the supreme goal of corporate America. After all, it was Henry Ford’s wise idea to make his workers’ wages high enough to enable them to purchase the product of their labors that should be the supporting concept that would rationalize that supreme goal. The antithesis of that mindset is Walmart’s keeping workers’ wages low so they can only afford Walmart’s products.

Yesterday there was a column printed in the Kitsap Sun by Thomas Sowell. The heading was “`Higher education’ mantra is hollow”. My first reaction was to blow it off as just one more crack-pot idea from a conservative pundit who I usually disagree with – sometimes finding his thought processes rather meager. But I took a metaphorical deep breath and decided to take the time to read Sweet Old Tom’s (SOT?) thoughts on the Higher education mantra. After reading it I realized that my first inclination was a real good example of intellectual laziness, which I think we all fall prey to sometimes when we get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle.
The first paragraph:

One of the sad and dangerous signs of our times is how many people are enthralled by words, without bothering to look behind those words.

Hot damn! This is a real grabber for me. I guess I’ll just have to give this a serious read. Without getting into the rest of the column’s credibility I will just conclude that I am really glad that I took the time to overcome a weakness that can keep me from enriching my thought processes by reading, and in this case, re-reading for intellectual refreshment.

My experience with tests and testing comes, first, from my journey through an educational system of the post WWII years.  Second, I am a former Navy man who graduated from Navy instructor school and had the opportunity to administer tests and teach the process of developing curricula and tests to other instructors in a program called "Personnel and Training Evaluation Program” – or PTEP. I have raised four children and had an unhappy experience with a multiple choice test administered to my no. 2 son. I also taught in a vocational education environment and used my skills to develop and teach a course in computer maintenance.

 

Let’s start with my personal experience taking tests. One of my teachers confided with my grandmother that I did better on the i. q. test than anyone else in my high school. I graduated 26th out of 33 in another, smaller high school. So, my grades definitely were lower than my i. q. would seem to warrant. I quit college after 2 ½ years for two reasons, really: one, I ran out of money; and two, my grade point average was below a “C” level. I also tested high in tests in the Navy but my final contribution to society is yet to be realized. I knew an officer on the first ship I served on who distinguished between capacity and ability. There is also another quality measured by the emotional quotient, or E. Q.

 

Then, there’s my Navy experience. As an administrator and instructor in the PTEP I knew how a well constructed multiple choice test item can be valid for evaluating a testee’s knowledge of a subject. A multiple choice test item has a couple of advantages, of course. It enables the administrators to grade tests quickly and efficiently; leaving time for other tasks devoted to improving instruction. Its objectivity is another. Grading an essay test falls prey to the expertise and care of the person grading the test. An element of subjectivity is always present in grading. However, if a validity index isn’t used the test item’s validity remains unknown. It’s a simple but effective measurement; but I haven’t seen it used since I left the Navy.

 

As a parent I found out how wrong it was to rely on standardized test results in deciding on what schedule my son was to have when he went from 8th grade to freshman year in high school. I noticed that my son’s math teacher ignored his good results in a standardized math test and recommended him for basic math for the next year. When I called her and asked her about the apparent inconsistency between his standardized test score and her recommendation she immediately capitulated and put him into algebra; which he proceeded to flunk and become discouraged with high school in general. I believe it contributed a lot in his decision to drop out before graduation. His successes since high school are a testament to his abilities; but not his capacity to learn. It was a good example of the failure of the standardized test to accurately measure that capacity.

 

Finally, I would agree with educators that standardized tests are more a harm than a help in achieving the ultimate goal of educating young minds.