Everyone wants to "fix" our educational system.  But as long as most people have no choice over which school they attend, which teachers they sit under, and what they study, the system as a whole cannot be fixed.  At best we will continue to have an education lottery, because as long as schools are where people go to be taught, rather than to learn, everything depends on the teachers.

Today's Orlando Sentinel reports that although Florida's schools are being asked to place greater emphasis on the sciences, participation in county-wide science fairs is down drastically.  Some are blaming competition for students' time by other contests, such as Odyssey of the Mind; others bring out those customary whipping-boys, the pressures of standardized testing and of too many hours of employment. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 23, 2007 at 6:30 am | Edit
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I found this gem reading MacDonald's story, The Portent.  Not profound, but there are several readers of this blog who will appreciate it.

[part of a dialogue between a student and his tutor

"I am afraid you will despise me, when you find how badly I spell."

"There is no fear of that," I rejoined.  "It is a mere peculiarity.  So long as one can think well, spelling is altogether secondary."
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 22, 2007 at 4:50 pm | Edit
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The Well-Educated Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer (W W Norton & Co, NY 2003)

The Well-Educated Mind reminds me of Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book, only it's less intimidating. In a time when most people who can read, don't, and in which teachers are thrilled if their students read anything at all, no matter how worthless or even harmful, it's sobering to be reminded that—avid reader as I am—there is a world of reading far beyond the level of attention I bring to a book. My palate can distinquish between a white wine and a red, and can distinguish each from kerosene, but the sophisticated analysis of even a moderate expert is beyond by attainment. Susan Wise Bauer encourages me to believe it is not beyond my reach, however.

This may be what those annoying English teachers were trying so unsuccessfully to convey when they sucked all the fun out of a book by their analysis. If so, I missed the point altogether, because Bauer's approach—which incorporates historical, social, and literary context along with what amounts to a serious paying attention to what one reads—is both challenging and intriguing. In reality, I have to admit my list of books to read once, let alone three times with note-taking, is intimidating as it is. Still, I've already gained just by reading this book. (Once only, and even so not quite all of the extensive readings section before I had to return it to the library.)

Like The Well-Trained Mind, The Well-Educated Mind would be worthwhile for the extensive list (with summaries) of recommended reading alone. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Edit
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When I read the story of Melissa Busekros, I wonder anew why some people are so anxious to subject our country to the authority of international governing bodies.  Fifteen-year-old Melissa was ripped from her home by German police, committed to a mental hospital, and placed in state custody, all because her parents, concerned that the chaotic environment of her school had contributed to her failure in two subjects, chose to have her tutored at home the next year.  She was (and apparently still is) cut off from contact with her parents and siblings, with the excuse that she is suffering from "school phobia" and contact with her family would exacerbate the problem.

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany.  That's bad enough for German citizens, but could be disastrous for the rest of Europe if the German philosophy gains the upper hand in European Union politics.  And should the United States decide to submit to the authority of the United Nations or another international authority, we would put ourselves at risk of similar tyranny. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 9, 2007 at 9:15 am | Edit
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The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child.  Volume 3:  Early Modern Times, by Susan Wise Bauer (Peace Hill Press, Charles City, Virginia, 2004)

Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.  Sometimes I can't help checking out the curriculum explosion that has taken place since the younger days of our own home education experiences.  As one might expect, some is awful, some great, and much in between.

Based on this one sample, Susan Wise Bauer's history books are on the high end of in between.  In addition to the five-star praises, there are some harsh reviews on Amazon for the first volume of this series.  Some of them clearly have an axe to grind on issues that don't bother me; some I agree with but find minor (such as her overuse of exclamation points); others I think refer to faults that were largely corrected by the time she wrote the third volume. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 8:43 am | Edit
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Check out this essay by Andrew Pudewa on teaching writing.  I've been perusing his site, which I find very interesting, and was struck by this common-sense view of how to encourage children to develop good writing skills.  I'm especially pleased that he managed to drag in most of my favorite writers of educational philosophy:  Dorothy Sayers, Maria Montessori, Glenn Doman, and Arthur Robinson by name—and John Holt is well represented, though anonymously.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 10:40 am | Edit
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According to this WebMD article, napping helps babies process and retain new information.  Extrapolating to all ages, maybe a good book or educational video, or a stimulating intellectual discussion, would be a profitable pre-bedtime ritual.  And maybe we should stop being so hard on students who snooze during class....
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 9:53 am | Edit
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I do feel sorry for Lake Brantley High School's band. When our kids played in it, many of the members secretly (or not so secretly) wanted the football team to lose so they wouldn't extend the marching season by making the playoffs. (An understandable side effect of the unreasonable rule requiring students to play in the marching band if they wanted to be part of the concert band.)

Still, even the hardest-hearted (that would have been me, had I known) must have felt a thrill when Brantley became the first Seminole County football team to play in a State Championship game, which was held at Miami's Dolphin Stadium last night. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 10, 2006 at 7:29 am | Edit
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In the past few decades, the number of college-bound students has skyrocketed, and so has the number of world-class schools. The demand for an excellent education has created an ever-expanding supply of big and small campuses that provide great academics and first-rate faculties.

So says Newsweek, which procedes to list 25 top schools it calls the "New Ivies," rivaling the traditional powerhouse schools in excellence. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might find your alma mater on that list, which includes Carnegie Mellon, Colby, Kenyon, Vanderbilt, Davidson, RPI, and my own University of Rochester. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 7:05 am | Edit
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At our children's elementary school, the administration made it clear that parents were not particularly welcome to visit their children’s classrooms, although occasional visits would be possible if special arrangements were made several days in advance.

Not long afterward, the school sent home a pamphlet about choosing daycare, in which it was stated that under no circumstances should children be in a daycare situation in which parents could not drop in at any time, without warning. If such visits were not allowed, the pamphlet warned, parents should suspect that the daycare provider had something to hide.

As far as I know, no one in the school’s administration appreciated the irony.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 1:55 pm | Edit
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Even young children can benefit from music lessons. I knew that, but it's nice to read about this McMaster University study of twelve four- to six-year-old children, half of whom took Suzuki violin lessons. The tiny violinists performed better on both a general memory test and on a measurement related to attention and sound discrimination.

Twelve students is a small sample, so I'll add one more. When I administered early kindergarten "readiness" tests for our local elementary school, the one little boy I knew was a Suzuki violin student showed a marked superiority on the tests of listening skills and auditory processing.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 1:05 pm | Edit
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Back in 1990, just before we took the plunge into homeschooling, I sat down one day and typed out every reason that came to mind for our decision. My purpose was not to make a reasoned argument for homeschooling, but to have something written down to which we could refer when the going got rough, to remind ourselves why we had made that choice.

At the time, I posted the list on the good ol' GEnie Education Round Table, my online support group. Now that I have my own blog, I thought it would be fun to publish it again. The list is specific to our particular school situation in places, and somewhat dated, but most of the reasons would still be valid were we beginning our homeschooling journey today.

At the time of writing, we had one child going into sixth grade and another going into third, both at our local public school. The elder had completed kindergarten and first grade in a private, Montessori school. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 8:23 pm | Edit
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I'm cleaning out old computer files, and came upon this article by Paula Rothermal of the University of Durham. Unfortunately, I no longer have any idea where I acquired this comparison of home- and school-educated children in the UK.

For reasons of copyright, the above link goes only to an abstract of the paper, but I'm posting a few interesting quotes that I believe fall into the "fair use" category. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 3, 2006 at 6:07 pm | Edit
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Let me make clear up front that I'm glad our grandchildren are on schedule for most of the currently-recommended childhood vaccinations. I can be pleased with that because their parents have taken the time to research the issues, and decide which vaccines they think are worth the risk, and which are not, and are willing to pay the extra costs—in money and time—to spread the vaccinations out rather than subject their children to the assault on the immune system caused by receiving many vaccines on the same day. Moreover, the children are breastfed, which helps their immune systems deal with the vaccines.

Vaccines have prevented much suffering and death, and they do work; witness the frightening polio outbreaks in Africa when immunication efforts were hindered by Muslim clerics skeptical of both the vaccines and the good will of the vaccinators. But they are far from risk-free, and the government and the medical community are doing parents a disservice by pushing vaccinations as if they were entirely safe and absolutely essential for their children's health. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 3, 2006 at 7:35 am | Edit
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When Larry Summers, then President of Harvard, dared suggest that genetic differences between men and women might, in general, predispose them to greater abilities in different fields, I had no problem with that. When he was pilloried and forced to resign, I was appalled (though not surprised) at the continuing evidence that liberals aren't necessarily liberal, those who call loudest for tolerance aren't tolerant, and "academic freedom" is an oxymoron. If the presence of a Y chromosome instead of an X can make differences that are visible and obvious, to insist that it can't possibly make more subtle differences, and to forbid inquiry into the matter, is as bad as the Catholic Church in Medieval times. Worse, because I don't think the Church ever claimed to be open-minded.

Yet as fast as Harvard tried to distance itself from Summers' heresy, there are more serious worms in its own apple. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 7:05 am | Edit
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