I’m planning a series of posts telling how each of my four children learned to read. Obviously, I don’t have time to tackle that project until after Christmas, but here’s a little teaser in the form of what they’re reading right now.
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy … yes, at the ripe old age of sixteen, Nova finally knows where her towel is.
Ender’s Game series: Lock started this series somewhat reluctantly, at my urging. Of course he was instantly hooked, as I knew he would be! He has read the first two books, Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, and is now in the middle of Xenocide. I myself have read (and reread) the four books of the original series, but there are quite a few other books in the Ender universe and he says he wants to read them as well, so I’ve been finding cheap copies of them for him.
Harry Potter: Kyro, who skipped all the “little kid” books so determinedly I thought he was going to be one of those people who just doesn’t have a taste for fiction, dived right in when he discovered long, involved series with intricate plots and thick volumes.
The Warriors Series: I have my miracle and Minky, who absolutely hated to read, is now going gangbusters two grade levels above herself! Erin Hunter’s Warriors is four series with six titles in each series; she is currently reading the third book of the second series.
What I’m Reading
The Vegetarian Myth is my choice right now (I’m also rereading Harry Potter myself) and it is a simply fascinating look at how modern agricultural practice is killing the planet (and us) by former vegan activist Lierre Keith.
The Religious Right is boycotting places like Home Depot for being friendly to gays or something like that. Tell me, American Family Association, who you are helping by this boycott? I thought the mandate to Christians was to spread good news and love, the love of Jesus. What good news are you spreading? Who is learning about love by your actions? Who ends up believing the gospel because of your boycott? Sure, that’s just what the gospel message needs: put a bunch of people out of work by shutting down their stores. No work? No worries, because at least Home Depot can’t be nice to gays any more! (Christians: go read What Would Jesus Boycott? if you need more convincing.)
On the other hand, we have the LGBT groups boycotting the Salvation Army for the reverse reason. The Salvation Army is one of the biggest charity organizations around. They help enormous numbers of people. They are have one of the lowest overhead cost of any charity, which means more of your dollar goes to actually help people (as opposed to going to advertising mailers and salaries), and they are extremely well rated at Charity Watch. But – sorry, homeless folks. No Christmas dinner for you, because we’re boycotting this charity.
We’ve already established that I’m not talking to kids, right? This is America and not everyone agrees on everything … and most of us think that’s a pretty good thing. If you personally don’t like the Salvation Army, or Home Depot, or the corner store, then don’t take your money there. But seriously, grow up and play nice and quit the boycotts. Quit trying to drive everyone out of business who doesn’t agree with you. Guess what, you’ll never have everyone agree with you! So quit the name-calling and the “you can’t just tolerate me, you must agree with me” crap.
Next time you’re asked to join a boycott, ask yourself: Who is being helped? Who is being hurt? Am I hurting real people just to make a political point? And, practically speaking: Is forcing my agenda onto people who don’t want it actually going to help or hurt my agenda in the end? Let’s boycott the boycotts, because I can tell you then end of this war if you want to hear it: No one wins.
See the Wordless Wednesday hub for more wordless posts from other bloggers.
Rick Roach took the test and started something. Roach, a four-time official on the Board of Education in Orange County, Florida, one of the largest school systems in America with 180,000 students, took the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test), Florida’s high-stakes standardized test for 10th grade math and reading. And he made the results public. I simply must quote Mr. Roach’s comments from the original article:
The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62%. In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.
It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.
I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession.
It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.
If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.
It makes no sense to me that a test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning. Who decided the kind of questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they have to defend their decisions? As subject-matter specialists, how qualified were they to make general judgments about the needs of this state’s children in a future they can’t possibly predict? Who set the pass-fail ‘cut score’? How?
I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.
There you have it. An elected school board official from one of the largest school systems in the U.S., stating that standardized tests lack relevance to the adult, working world, and are perpetuated by specialists who lack perspective and are not accountable. There is actually a growing movement within and without the school system to opt out of high-stakes testing as irrelevant to any real-world application. In Fighting the Tests Alfie Kohn points out: “Don’t let anyone tell you that standardized tests are not accurate measures. The truth of the matter is they offer a remarkably precise method for gauging the size of the houses near the school where the test was administered. Every empirical investigation of this question has found that socioeconomic status in all its particulars accounts for an overwhelming proportion of the variance in test scores when different schools, towns, or states are compared.”
What Mr. Roach started by taking the test and publishing his results is actually a grassroots Twitterstorm tagged #takethetest: people are now challenging their own politicians to take their local standardized tests and publicize the result. Joe Bower actually managed to get Alberta’s Minister of Education Thomas Lukaszuk to respond to his challenge on Twitter (see a screenshot of the conversation); whether he’ll take the test or not remains to be seen.
Will you challenge your local politician to take the test? I wonder if any will respond?
The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools by Alfie Kohn
Birds fly. Fish swim. People learn.
~ John Holt
It turns out that the above quote is turning out to be more true than we thought! You’ve heard that babies are born already recognizing their mother’s voices, sometimes their father’s, and things like a passage from a book that mother read over and over. Well watch this amazing video from TED to see what else babies learn while in the womb!
TED, a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading started out as a conference for people from three worlds (Technology, Entertainment, Design) but its scope has become ever broader since then. I love the TED Talks!