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December 2007

McPherson High Debate Team Soars to New Heights

The McPherson Sentinel:  "With their breadth and depth of research, the McPherson High School debate team has learned about countless topics ... Failure is not one of them ... The team will send nine members to the KSHSAA state debate tournament scheduled Jan. 18-19 at Garden City High School. In addition, eight debaters will compete in the national qualifying tournament scheduled at Lyons High School Jan. 28-29 ... The team has been busy preparing ... ' [For] state preparation we have a lot of practices over Christmas break and we have a round-robin tournament and at the round-robin tournament you have parents that judge,' said senior Ashley McEachern ... She believes this extra work differentiates McPherson from other schools ... 'I think compared to other western Kansas schools, we put in more work and we have a better coaching staff. Also, we're constantly updating our files,' McEachern said ... At MHS, partnerships are a balance between personal input and the coach's choice ...'You start out picking your partner. You put down three people you'd like to be with and Ms. Newton (Melissa Newton, head debate coach) decides, but that's subject to change throughout the year,' McEachern said ... While the reasons students join debate may vary, the end result is the same ... 'Confidence and critical thinking,' Newton said. 'It gives them confidence in a way they've never had before.' ”-- Read the Full Article

Shabbiest of All Lies: Silent Assertion

Bicycling Paul Revere (NewsWithViews.Com):  "Back in 1860, one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain said, “Almost all lies are acts, and speech has no part in them. I am speaking of the lie of silent assertion; we can tell it without saying a word. For example: It would not be possible for a humane and intelligent person to invent a rational excuse for slavery; yet you will remember that in the early days of emancipation agitation in the North, the agitators got but small help or countenance from anyone. Argue, plead and pray as they might, they could not break the universal stillness that reigned, from the pulpit and press all the way down to the bottom of society--the clammy stillness created and maintained by the lie of silent assertion; the silent assertion that there wasn’t anything going on in which humane and intelligent people were interested ... 'The universal conspiracy of the silent-assertion-lie is hard at work always and everywhere, and always in the interest of a stupidity or sham, never in the interest of a thing fine or respectable. It is the most timid and shabbiest of all lies…the silent assertion that nothing is going on which fair and intelligent men and women are aware of and are engaged by their duty to try to stop' ... Today, the last day of 2007, and, as we head into 2008, silent assertion continues its ugly, perverse reign in the United States of America when it comes to warning signs at the local, state, national and international levels ... We cannot and must not allow this country to continue in the same direction—heading toward the ‘silent assertion’ iceberg. We can’t engage our emotions when we must employ our minds. We must get down to critical thinking and reasoned actions based on our realities."-- Read the Full Article

JoCo Library Planning New Services

The Kansas City Star:  "The Johnson County Library wants to know what kinds of new services its patrons would like to see ... About 60 people have taken part in three focus groups at three of the county’s libraries, she said ... Marsha Bennett, community relations coordinator, said focus group comments reveal that patrons often aren’t aware of some services, such as homework help, business services and online databases ... A patron survey will be available in late January or early February ...The survey will ask questions about how the library is used, what services should be offered or discontinued, and which activities and influences would have an effect on library services ... Through focus groups, meetings and surveys, the library is developing a strategic plan to set its course for the next three to five years. The goal is to have a plan in place by April ... The Kansas City Environmental Education Network is asking for nominations for the Teaching Environmental Stewardship Award ... The $500 award recognizes teachers in grades 4 through 12 for their efforts in teaching environmental stewardship. The teacher must promote critical thinking and responsible decision making."-- Read the Full Article

A Course Coated in Chocolate

Houston Chronicle:  Austin — "Romi Burks went to Belgium four years ago to study the behavior of a shrimp-like crustacean but found inspiration in the region's rich, dark chocolate ... An aquatic biologist with a degree in English, Burks has long tried to find balance between her interests in science and the liberal arts ... Chocolate helped her bridge that gap ... After returning to Southwestern University in Georgetown, where she is an assistant professor of biology, Burks began reading everything she could find about chocolate ... 'It just amazed me how many examples within culture and within disciplines that could be connected with chocolate,' Burks said ... She developed what she believes to be the first college course in the country that offers an interdisciplinary approach to chocolate. Students in her course not only get to taste some of the best bars around, they also learn about different cultures, marketing and fair trade ... Freshman seminars use one topic to expose new college students to skills such as reading, writing, critical thinking, discussion and creativity. Southwestern also offers seminars in human relationships with pets, religious conceptions of food, why people believe weird things, terrorism and surfing."-- Read the Full Article

Fewer Lawyers Make Virginia's Laws

The Roanoak Times:  "There aren't as many lawyers in the General Assembly as there used to be. To Glenn Lewis, this is a bad thing ... Lewis, who is president of the Virginia Bar Association, believes the state suffers from 'a dearth of lawyer-legislators' ... More attorneys should run for public office, Lewis wrote recently in the association's magazine, to avoid problems that are bound to happen when laws get written by non-lawyers. 'I suspect that lack of legal training can often show up in wrong-minded analyses or deficient drafting,' he wrote in the 'President's Page' column of the VBA News Journal ... However, the cross between a lawyer and a politician -- which some people might consider about as popular as a journalist moonlighting as a telemarketer -- is hardly a rarity in Richmond ... The way Lewis sees it, lawyers should make up at least 50 percent of each house in the General Assembly. 'We should always find room for qualified non lawyers, at least to serve as reality checks,' he wrote ... Lewis did not return calls earlier this month, so it was unclear whether his tongue was inserted in his cheek when he wrote his piece -- and if so, how far. But to some, the image of a lawyered-up legislature is not pretty ... 'People from all careers and all walks of life should have the opportunity to serve in public office,' said Sean O'Brien, executive director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership in Charlottesville ... Lewis' comments are 'borderline insulting to anyone else who thinks they have a grasp on critical thinking skills and the legislative process,' O'Brien said."-- Read the Full Article

Bonds Still Strong for Former Tutors, Students

The Boston Globe:  "For more than 15 years, they made it a Saturday morning routine: Young boys from city neighborhoods would pile into a Grove Hall rectory basement or a Dorchester school cafeteria to be taught subjects ranging from trigonometry to trumpet by a group of volunteer professional men. After a morning of academics, the group would take to area gyms or fields for hoops and tag football ... Yesterday, about a dozen former students and tutors of the now defunct SPES program - Latin for 'hope' and an acronym for Supplemental Program for Educational Skills - trickled into New Mission High School in Roxbury to reconnect and reminisce about a program many former students said was their lifeline to college and career ... And after about a dozen middle-aged white tutors and their now-grown African-American students gathered, they put on sneakers and sweats and, as they had done so often, played some hoops ...SPES "opened a side of the world for us we never would have seen," said Cory McCarthy, 30, a former student who is now dean of students and athletic director at New Mission. McCarthy joined SPES at 12, shortly after his father died. He said the program - and especially his tutor, Tom Harvey - taught him useful skills, such as critical thinking and outdoorsmanship, such as hiking in Vermont."-- Read the Full Article

No Debate About the Value of Debate

The Courier-Journal:  Louisville, KY — " '... Once I got my feet wet, I was gone on debating ' — Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcom X ... Tis the season of 'debate.' And, many debaters will feel like Malcolm X felt when he really got into debating. And, what are we currently hearing and reading about? The political debates, of course! As the new year approaches, many Americans will continue to ponder over whom to vote for in the presidential debates because 2008 is the year we elect a president. The debates started nearly a year ago, and the debaters are crying out to the masses saying, "Vote for me and I'll give you a better America." Nearly every other week on the cable networks, we see at least five to 10 debaters trying to influence and persuade the viewers to give them a chance ... To get even more personable with the citizenry, the sponsors are using the internet site 'YouTube' to get the questions to ask the candidates ... During this holiday season, moviegoers will delight in going to see the Denzil Washington-directed movie, "The Great Debaters," a story about an African-American debate team from Wiley College, a small African-American school in Texas. These young people, against all odds, debated some of the brightest and best future politicians and lawyers in the Ivy League and East Coast schools. This debate team won many debates, including beating the University of Southern California, which had the reputation at the time of being the best debate team in the country ... Did you know that there is such a debate team in our community? The answer is the University of Louisville's Malcom X Debate Program. This is an outstanding debate program, and its members have debated all over the country in national tournaments with teams from schools such as Dartmouth and Miami of Ohio ... This award-winning program has been recognized for its high placement in tournaments, and several of the members have been rewarded individually for their placements in the tournaments where they have participated. Dr. Ede Warner, debate director, and Tiffany Dillard, debate program coordinator, are working diligently with the team to to assist them in critical thinking, public speaking and, most important, building self-esteem' ... No doubt, in the near future we are going to be hearing more about this team. And, with that said, you will not get an argument out of me." -- Read the Full Article

Lessons to be Learned When Cults Make News

Los Angles Daily News: "I was born into the group the Children of God - or as they are called now, the Family International - a Christian cult that started in the late '60s made up of dropout hippies in Huntington Beach. They went international after the leader was sought for kidnapping and tax evasion. I'm in denial that anyone has heard of them. I pretend like they're obscure. Many will remember the 2005 suicide of their heir apparent, Ricky Rodriguez, right after he killed his childhood nanny, Angela Smith. That was sensational enough to make headlines and inspire a 'Law and Order' episode. Recently author Don Lattin released a book about the cult's history titled 'Jesus Freaks' ... My parents left the sect when I was 5, while my uncle and cousins remained members for the next 20 years. I obsessively follow any press that the group gets. While watching CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360' report detailing Rodriguez's death and the group's well-known child sex practices, Cooper said, 'Well, that has nothing to do with Jesus!' ... That is how we deal with things we don't like in religion. We reject all unpleasant elements as being frauds. Calling for the death of a teacher because she agreed to name a teddy bear Muhammad? That isn't actually Islam. The widespread molestation of boys by priests? That isn't actually Catholicism. The institutionalized and systematic abuse of lower and lowest classes? That isn't actually Hinduism. We even go so far as to tout pre-Columbian religions as being peaceful and passive. If we sidestep all the human sacrificing and war-making, they were ... So if the COG has "nothing to do with Jesus,' then what does? The Crusades? The Inquisition? The Conquistadors? The witch hunts? The slave trade? Manifest destiny? The Holocaust? Miscegenation laws? Fred Phelps? Crimes against women of questionable virtue? The entire presidency of George W. Bush? ... When you say you are a Christian, you become everything that is or was Christianity. Good, bad or indifferent - it's all Christianity. A drop of water doesn't get to claim autonomy while swimming in the ocean, even if that drop of water happens to be Mormon and running for president ... When the faithful aren't aware of the true, unflatteringly lit, warts-and-all history of their religion, its past follies and its vulnerability to mistakes, it leads to the insistence that America is and should be a Christian nation. Our Constitution is a product of the era of The Enlightenment, where the foundation was reason. But we are told that our Constitution "rests on a foundation of faith' ... This type of revisionist history causes the line of church and state to be blurred, which is precisely what our Constitution tries to guard against. And there is plenty of evidence that when that happens, it isn't beneficial to the church or to the state."-- Read the Full Article

Laughing Matters 3

The Memming of Life (Parenting Beyond Belief):  "I taught at a Catholic women’s college in Minnesota for 15 years. Half of my courseload was an interdisciplinary seminar in writing and critical thinking ... Teaching critical thinking at a Catholic college is strange, but only half as strange as it seems. Every official college document, from the Mission Statement to the Catholic Identity Statement, trumpeted the vital importance of critical thinking, open intellectual inquiry, the vigorous exchange of opposing views, etc. So critical thinking was alive and well in writing. Just not in practice. Issues of religion, race, and gender, among many others, had accepted, unchallenged orthodoxies. Unorthodoxy was killed off in one way or another, usually with suffocating silence ... My head eventually began to hurt from the dissonance. To relieve the pressure, I turned to humor, writing the satirical novel Calling Bernadette’s Bluff, the utterly fictional story of a secular humanist male faculty member at the utterly fictional College of St. Bernadette, a Catholic women’s college in Minnesota. It’s still selling the occasional copy after five years, which is nice, and reviews were good. Most of all, it saved me a blown cerebral artery by allowing me to get some things said. And by doing so humorously, I got the same reprieve as Erasmus from the (direct) wrath of the Powers that Were. For a while ... A few months after publication, a couple of students asked if I would like to form a student humanist group on campus, 'like the one in your book' ... Like the one in the book? I thought. Surely not ... I reminded them that things in the book went seriously unwell for the group in question, and for the college itself. They shrugged. So we did it. And things went badly ... How they went badly is a good story in itself, eventually involving locked doors, bad press for the college, the first student protest in the school’s history (against the censorious college president), hate mail for me, equal measures of faculty courage and cowardice, and a tenure standoff with the college deans. But that’s another story. This series is about humor and critical thinking."-- Read the Full Article

As 2008 Election Approaches, It's Time to Think for Yourself

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  "God is not on our side all the time no matter who we are, whether we are a country or an individual. And that boogeyman hiding in the closet who disagrees with us is not always Satan. Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives all take pleasure in demonizing those with whom they disagree ... It gets so ridiculous that it turns into thinking and reasoning by label, as in "that's a liberal idea so we must be against it" or "that one was cooked up by the conservatives so it must be a bad choice." All that is needed to defeat an idea is to put a tag on it. No thinking is necessary ... So many people are fearful of straying from their political and ideological camp that they refuse to consider the arguments of the opposition. Fearful of what? Ridicule by their compatriots or an inability to rebut the idea?... One positive event that may come from this long and often tedious political campaign for president is an attitude of more inquiry among the electorate. The predominant cry is for change, and change means critical thinking before voting. It could even mean that some conservatives considering the ideas of liberals and liberals admitting they may have missed the boat on a few issues ... Critical thinking demands we evaluate information available to us, not just follow the lead dog." -- Read the Full Article

SVLG, Intel Join to Help Bay Area Teachers with Math Education

The Mercury News:  "If mathematics is like a foreign language, then those who teach the subject ought to be fluent ... That is the goal of an intensive pilot program by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Intel that aims to improve the math skills of students in underperforming Bay Area elementary and middle schools ... Helping students means helping their teachers first - and that includes some veteran educators ... Take Marivic Walch of Bishop Elementary School in Sunnyvale, who has been teaching for seven years and describes herself as a 'math queen' ... 'I had many aha moments," she said ... Modeled after a successful program in Vermont, the 80-hour pilot course taught 38 Bay Area teachers in the past four months how to improve their skills from basic math all the way to algebra. The program is set to expand in 2008, more than doubling its scope, training 100 teachers in 20 schools in San Jose, Gilroy, Redwood City, Foster City, Newark and San Francisco ... 'The idea is to turn this into a fluency training in the language of math,' said Mark Pettinger, external affairs manager for Intel. 'This is meant for teachers who are good teachers' ... Math skills are indispensable in a high-technology work environment like the valley, said Dennis Cima, vice president for education and public policy with Silicon Valley Leadership Group. 'Algebra is such a gateway skill for high school achievement, for college, for critical-thinking skills,' Cima said ... Because of a shortage of qualified math teachers, many schools in the Bay Area and across the country are forced to hire teachers without mathematics degrees. The leadership group, made up of prominent valley business leaders, launched the program with Intel to improve the teaching of math, and ultimately, to improve students' math skills."-- Read the Full Article

A Failing Grade for US Public Education

Salem-News:  "These days the United States is falling behind the rest of the world in the education of its next generations. It seems, unfortunately, that about a quarter or more of US students graduate, or get a GED (if they do not drop out entirely), without the ability to read English, communicate in the language in its written form, do even rudimentary mathematics, demonstrate even the most basic understanding of how the country was founded and how it operates (civics) etc ... Kids from other nations, it seems, by the time they graduate from high school have a better, deeper and more well rounded education than US students often do who have received a two, and sometimes four, year degree from college! ... This is unacceptable and unless it is turned around the future of this nation is dire indeed! ... What needs to happen is severalfold ... Classes in critical thinking and basic debating skills as well as public speaking skills should be mandatory." -- Read the Full Article

Pakistan and the New Flavor of Political Kool-Aid

BlackVoices:  "You want to know which political candidate is going to do the best in the Iowa Caucus next week? Just listen to what they have to say about foreign policy. That is the only thing that will be on most voters' minds in the wake of Thursday's assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto ... If you haven't made the connection, if you haven't paid attention to the news, her murder turns things in South Asia (meaning Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and northeast India) into a God-awful mess, far worse than they were before. These areas are where the U.S. government has been seeking out terrorists for years -- yeah, the same "freedom fighters" that the Reagan Administration funded in the 1980s ... Some will say that this doesn't directly affect them, but it absolutely does. If things become any more chaotic in that region, fundamentalist Islamists -- who are not to be confused with traditional Muslims -- will have a healthy breeding ground for terrorism. And that will mean U.S. forces could possibly have to concentrate on northwest Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. This comes in addition to the occupation in Iraq, which could go on for years ... The next president will definitely spend his or her tenure dealing with this issue -- funding it, and sending your children to fight it ... Most African Americans speak in political terms of domestic policy, which is understandable. However, it behooves you to get an accurate grip on world events because they influence how much priority the president will actually put on domestic policy ... Going into Iowa, the two candidates with the best advantage are now Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani because they were the ones who actually had to deal directly with the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center ... Sen. Barack Obama, however, is still also a favored potential winner in Iowa as well as the New Hampshire primary, and his position has always been that the focus on Iraq has diverted resources away from tracking down terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He's probably right, but it remains to be seen whether or not actual experience dealing with a terrorist attack or critical thinking about it will win out."-- Read the Full Article

Wanted: Educated Work Force

Financial Week:  "No one is sure how to fix an American education system that churns out workers who are unprepared for the U.S. labor market. But there is a near unanimous consensus that the business community needs to take a leadership role if the U.S. wants to maintain its competitive edge in the global economy ... 'The ability to succeed in the 21st century is all about the race for human talent. That challenge will get harder and harder and harder if we don’t fix the education problem,” Thomas J. Donahue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber0 of Commerce, said in a speech in September to the Education and Workforce Summit of the Institute for a Competitive Workforce in Washington ... It doesn’t matter how many workers are available if they are uneducated,” Mr. Donohue said, pointing out that one-third of the K-12 students in the United States don’t graduate from high school. “We can’t be competitive if that doesn’t change. We have two serious problems: a shortage of workers and an underclass of people who can’t operate in the work environment ... 'Business must assume the mantle of leadership,' he said. 'We have to work with governors on innovative ideas to improve education. We have to get a seat on school boards. We can’t let unions and others make all the decisions' ... 'We are trying to get back into K-12 and beyond through initiatives with local school systems to make sure that the fundamentals are taught,' said Robert Leber, director of education and work force development at the Newport News (Va.) Apprentice School of Northrop Grumman, which designs and builds nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and is part of Los Angeles-based defense contractor, Northrop Grumman ... Ford has replaced many of its previous education initiatives with the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies (PAS), a three-year-old program that involves 20,000 students in 23 states and is still growing. Ford PAS’s objective is to give high school students interdisciplinary learning experiences that challenge them academically and develop their problem-solving, critical thinking and communication skills through courses that link classroom learning with the challenges students will face in post-secondary education and the workplace of the future." -- Read the Full Article

Critical Thinking

The Post:  Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan — "The standard of our education is far from satisfactory. We have a public education system that encourages rote learning rather than aiming to develop critical thinking among students. The teaching methodology at many schools in the public sector is completely outdated. Corporal punishment is a matter of routine. The purpose of education is to equip students with the tools of analysis and to develop the ability to think. Unfortunately, our education fails to do so." -- Read the Full Article

Open Letter to Dr Robert Davila and Gallaudet Community

Kokonut Pundit:  "I couldn't help but notice in a recent Alumni eNewsletter 'Green Gallaudet invites alumni to make the world a greener place' ... and a very recent newsletter announcement in Inside Gallaudet 'Gallaudet to join Focus the Nation’s fight against climate change' ... that have caused me some concerns lately. Though I'm glad to see that there are initiatives being undertaken on how we can go "green" using responsible, common sense practices and goals. We all want clean air and water. We all want to see healthy and productive lands. No one is denying that. People want to see environmental conservation efforts at the local and regional scale because results are relatively quick. However, I am quite concerned that bias or one-sided teaching is possibly being introduced to undergraduate students over the supposed man-made "global warming" issue. For one, this is because "global warming" was mentioned along with a link to "Focus the Nation" seen in the recent Alumni eNewletter ... 'Focus the Nation is exploding because, across the country, educators and students at every high school, college and university understand that we have just a few short years to act decisively to hold global warming to the low end of 3-4 degrees F' ... The key words,' ...a few short years.' This smells of preying on the uninformed by introducing hysteria with hyperboles, not to mention a way to make a buck by jumping the bandwagon scare of this supposed 'anthropogenic global warming' ... Climate change is a climate system that we have no real control over. For Gallaudet University to align, politically and environmentally, with an organization that uses hysteria and dire warnings should not be in the best interest of Gallaudet University when it comes to unbiased and neutral teachings. Nor should this be in the best interests for undergraduate students when crucial critical thinking skills are important rather than to be swayed by emotional hysteria." -- Read the Full Article

Workshops to Help Girls See Harm in Media Stereotypes

Central Maine Morning Sentinel:  Waterville -- "High school-aged girls are as vulnerable as anyone to television, radio and magazine messages about body image ... To help make them aware of the negative influences inherent in such media messages, free workshops are being offered starting next month ... The workshops are sponsored by Hardy Girls Healthy Women, Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville Main Street Program and Freshwater Arts ... 'Media Makeover: Changing the Face of Art' will be held at Freshwater Arts and at Colby. The series will culminate in the 10th annual Girls Unlimited! Conference to be held April 5 and hosted by Hardy Girls ... The workshops are intended to help increase girls' awareness of the negative daily messages they get from media and encourage critical thinking skills necessary to identify and combat harmful messages about how girls are supposed to look, act and feel, according to organizers."-- Read the Full Article

A New Buck for an Old Friend in Plymouth

The Citizen of Laconia:  "Friends of the Arts is seeking donations to the Annual Fund Drive to support their mission of providing quality visual and performing arts that are affordable and accessible to children and adults as both observers and participants ... This year features a new mascot for the Friends of the Arts Annual Fund Campaign: Art The Buck. Wherever you see Art T. Buck you'll find a community and/or school that Friends of the Arts has supported during the last 34 years by offering affordable visual and performance Arts and Art Education Programs ... Friends of the Arts exists on the belief that the Arts and Art Education are vital to the community and help contribute to a better future for our children. Students who participate in Art Programs have higher academic achievements, demonstrate stronger critical thinking & problem solving skills, and are four times more likely to participate in community service." -- Read the Full Article

The Future of Education

Deccan Herald:  Karnataka, India — "A recent survey conducted by Educational Initiatives – a prestigious testing-house in the elite, English medium schools in our major metros of New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai revealed some shocking results. The students were from class 4, 6 and 8 and the sample size was reasonably large - 32,000 students. The children were administered a test to evaluate their understanding of mathematics, science and English ... The test papers consisted of “intelligent” questions. Some of the questions were application orientated and they tested the child’s ability not just to reproduce the text-book answer but to apply it in a real situation. The children were able to answer standard text-book questions based on recall. But if the question varied even slightly from the text-book, and involved an element of thinking then the children were in a fix. The evaluators wanted to give a practical test too, but the impossibility of administering a 'practical exam' to thousands of children ruled out its possibility ... For instance, an open umbrella was shown and the children were asked the function of the thin metal rods in the umbrella? Which organ system in the human body did the thin metal ribs represent – muscular, skeletal, respiratory or the digestive system ... Another clever question was: What is the chemical formula of pure steam? There were four choices: CO, H2O, O2 ... Pure Steam does not have a chemical formula ... The survey revealed that schools – even with good infrastructure, qualified teachers and high charging fees failed miserably in helping children make sense of the world. All the chalk-and-talk method, rote learning dulls the mind and does not help critical thinking so essential for living." -- Read the Full Article

Looking at Problems Through a Lens of Hope

Critical Thinking Cafe:  "After a year of unplanned challenges, unexpected setbacks, and unheard of problems it is tempting to pack your hope in a box in the attic of your mind and think the worst that could happen might be the best that will happen. You start sounding like the Peanuts character Snoopy as he bemoaned, 'Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There's so little hope of advancement' ... During long nights in prison, Vaclav Havel could not have imagined that he would one day emerge as the central figure of the Velvet Revolution and become the first president of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic ... 'Many times in my life and not just when I was in prison, I found myself in a situation in which everything seemed to conspire against me, when nothing I wished for or worked for seemed likely to succeed. . . Whenever I found myself immersed in such melancholy thoughts I would ask myself a very simple question over and over again, 'Why don't you just give up on everything?' . . . Each time, I would eventually realize that hope, in the deepest sense of the word, does not come from the outside, that hope is not something to be found in external indications simply when a course of action may turn out well . . . hope is a state of mind, and we either have it or we don't, quite independently of the state of affairs immediately around us . . . Indeed, only the infinite and eternal, recognized or surmised, can explain the no less mysterious phenomenon of hope.'  (Speech by Vaclav Havel at the Hiroshima Memorial) ... Wherever you are in your journey as a leader, remember that your attitude is not dictated by your circumstances. The attitude you carry today is the attitude you choose to carry. Choose to look at life through a lens of hope. Unexpected vents often bring unwanted adjustments. Difficulties in business and in life are not dispersed through a merit system. Doing what is right--even solving a difficult problem---can make a situation more difficult than before. If you fixate on the tough things that cross your path you will likely become a very negative person."-- Read the Full Article

Intense, Rigorous - and Working

Winston-Salem Journal:  "The Greek historian Xenophon once noted that 'Fact is fine, but accuracy is everything.' It is unfortunate that the Winston-Salem Journal often creates misleading and inappropriate perceptions, rather than focusing on the many positives within our school system. Such was the case recently regarding the story on the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Parkland Magnet High School ('Unmet Challenge,' Dec. 10) ... Parkland’s IB program is still early in its developmental stage, but remarkable progress has been made. Last year, graduates of Parkland’s IB program earned many hours of college credit and routinely placed out of classes during their freshman year of college. More than $600,000 in merit-based scholarships and grants were awarded to these students. They were accepted into prestigious universities with rigid academic requirements and high expectations for students. Current IB students are also being recruited by a number of excellent schools ...The IB course of study is special, representing the very nature of broad-based college coursework. Students at Parkland study intensely in five components: English literature, mathematics, world languages, history and the natural sciences. Each is accompanied by four to five hours of testing, usually writing-based. They then specialize in an elective, usually in the arts, which is the magnet-school theme, or another course in the humanities, each of which requires similar assessments. In addition, all diploma candidates complete the Theory of Knowledge course, a survey in critical thinking and philosophy, and write an independent 4,000-word essay on a topic of choice, the likes of which most do not encounter until graduate school."-- Read the Full Article

'Kindergarten' Poem Could Use an Upgrade

Rochester Post-Bulletin: Rochester, MN —"In 1988, Robert Fulgham wrote a poem titled 'All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.' He wrote that these were some of the things he learned in kindergarten: Share everything; play fair; don't hit people; put things back where you found them; clean up your own mess; don't take things that aren't yours; say sorry when you hurt somebody; wash your hands before you eat; flush; warm cookies and cold milk are good for you; live a balanced life; learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some' ... While all of those are still important, the 2008 version of this poem may include learning a love of reading, acquiring numbers sense and critical thinking skills and understanding technology and the World Wide Web." -- Read the Full Article

Christians Urged to Rally Behind Student Suing Teacher

The Christian Post:  "Days after hundreds of students rallied in support of a California history teacher accused of anti-Christian comments, a pastor who led a counter prayer vigil that day called on Christians worldwide to join in the fight against Christian bigotry ... Over 200 protesters, including students, alumni, and parents, had gathered Wednesday in front of Capistrano Valley High School to defend James Corbett, an AP European history teacher charged with making "derogatory remarks" in class against Christians and traditional viewpoints of conservative Christians ... Pastor Wiley Drake of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park was among the smaller group of protestors who showed up and voiced their support for sophomore Chad Farnan, the student behind the suit ... Drake, who has served as the second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is urging "Christian prayer warriors from around the world" to support the Farnan family by leaving messages of encouragement on a special prayer line every morning, contacting members of the school district's board, and sending emails of prayer and support to members of the family ...'The small prayer vigil that was on location at Capistrano Valley High School, Mission Viejo will be growing," pledged Drake, who also plans to give daily coverage on the issue on his online radio show The Wiley Drake Show ... In the suit, Farnan and his parents charged Corbett with violating the Establisment Clause through such comments as, "When you put your Jesus glasses on, you can't see the truth' ... They alleged that as a government employee, Corbett cannot show promote or show hostility toward one religion and are asking for his removal from teaching ... Supporters of the long-time teacher, however, claim that his provocative comments regarding religion are relevant to the class and encourage critical thinking."-- Read the Full Article

Superficial Core Knowledge Model Steals Time From Critical Thinking.

USA Today:  "U.S. high school students are ... ignorant of things (that elementary) school students would have known a generation ago," a national magazine announced in a special report entitled Crisis in Education. Added a well-known historian: 'Fifty years ago a high school diploma meant something' ... Both comments were published in 1958 ... Such dire warnings — Our schools are failing! Our standards are falling! — predictably issue from two sources: people trying to discredit public education for political reasons and people nostalgic for a golden age that never existed ... Particularly troubling are efforts to cite this alleged knowledge deficit as justification for creating, and then teaching, a list of facts everyone should know. For starters, we may be skeptical about what's on the list and what isn't. More important, though, this isn't the best way to learn. That's why a group of Chicago education experts described E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge model as a "curriculum of superficiality' ... It's not that knowledge isn't important. It's that efforts to base schooling on the goal of knowing a lot of stuff — even dressed up with pretentious labels such as 'cultural literacy' — steal time from more meaningful objectives, such as learning how to think critically."-- Read the Full Article

Truly Critical: Thinking About Science, Religion, and Goodness

Beyond School:  "Did you ever notice that we have no holidays in which we revere history’s true - in the sense of “backed up with evidence” - miracle-workers, those hard-working saviors we call “scientists”?... Think about it: scientists, through the “miracle” of human reason, have eradicated diseases for literally billions of people through medicine, created light and warmth in winter through electricity, bread for the hungry through improved agriculture, knowledge of “the heavens” through astronomy, knowledge of creation and generation through biology and genetics. They’ve literally given man the “miraculous” power to fly around the earth and to the stars; to speak face-to-face from opposite ends of the earth (and from the moon); they’re close to creating life itself, and have already created a doubled average lifespan for all of us in a mere century ... Why we don’t give thanks at Temples of Science, and donate our tithes there to promote more Good Works, is a question for future historians - if our future is not cut short by nuclear- or bioweapon-armed religious fanatics in the name of one authoritarian book or another (and it’s funny that Buddhists, of all world religions I’m aware of, are the only ones not to claim knowledge of any god at all, and also the only ones not to be engaged in violence in the name of their creed). Why we take our children to hospitals when they’re sick - we used to take them to priests - but turn around and attack the teachings of science in our schools….this saddens and frustrates me to no end ... In the videos below, though, things are remarkably different: they’re among friends and fellow-travelers. No name-calling, no thumping of Darwin or Moses here. Instead, they unwind into a wonderfully intelligent discussion of their motives for attacking superstition, their fears of its untrammeled progress in the future, their frustrations at our culture’s ignorance of the basic principles of science and scientific 'knowledge' and 'truth' and, perhaps most remarkably, their own misgivings about both what they are doing, and how they are doing it"-- View the Video and Read the Full Article

Madrasa Students Need to Understand the World in Which We Live

Indian Muslims:  "Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqui is a leading Indian Islamic scholar, whose specialisation is Islamic Economics. Recipient of the King Faisal Award for Islamic Studies, he has taught at the Aligarh Muslim University and the King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah. He was a Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles and Visting Scholar at the Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah. He served for sixteen years as member of the central committee of the Jamaat-e Islami Hind. He is the author of numerous books, including a recent one on madrasas. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he talks about various issues related to madrasas in contemporary South Asia ... Q: Most of your writings are about Islamic Economics, but you have recently done a book on Madrasa Education, in which you have put forward a plan for reforms. Here you've argued for madrasas to also teach a modicum of 'secular' subjects. Why do you feel this is important?... A: I think this is necessary so that the madrasa students, as would-be ulema, can provide appropriate responses to the manifold challenges that Muslims are today faced with. They need to understand the world in which we live in order to make suitable responses to challenges. Modern sciences, especially social sciences, are crucial in this respect. No proper understanding of self, society and environment can come from exclusive reliance on old knowledge ... Q: You argue for the need for encouraging ijtihad, but that requires an environment of critical thinking. Would you say that the ethos in the madrasas is conducive to this?... A: With some exceptions, I would say no. Most madrasas do not encourage their students to ask teachers questions or to critically think for themselves. When I was teaching at the Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia, I was asked to be the co-examiner of a thesis prepared by a Sudanese student on labour relations in Islam. In the context of offering a solution to labour dispute, the student had written: 'I propose this…'. No sooner had he said this than the senior examiner pounced on him and scolded him, saying, 'How dare you propose anything? Your work is simply to transmit what has been written by the ulema of the past, not to propose anything new on your own!' "-- Read the Full Article

Experts: Students Must Have an International Focus

The Arizona Republic:  "In Mesa's Westwood High School, an International Baccalaureate class tests in the Theory of Knowledge ... Students greet each other in Mandarin Chinese at Desert Ridge High, part of Gilbert Public Schools ... In Scottsdale, students soon could team with international businesses to get more of a global perspective ... Across Arizona, experts are pushing for education with an international focus as the Internet breaks down physical barriers and a world economy requires more cross-border trade and knowledge ... As Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction, puts it: 'The economic future is in international trade' ... Statewide initiatives on international education have faltered so far. But many schools across the state are creating programs of their own or building on existing ones ... Hoping to broaden students' international knowledge, Mesa Public Schools will expand the demanding International Baccalaureate program from kindergarten through 12th grade ... The IB program launching next year into Frost Elementary and Hendrix Junior High schools will link the primary- and middle-school years into the established high-school program at Westwood High ... The Geneva, Switzerland-based IB organization reviews schools as they start the programs, monitoring the process that leads to becoming IB-authorized. It takes time, and it takes money ... In elementary and middle school, IB programs focus on a common theme that includes an international context, such as how countries share the planet's resources. "It's the best thing I've seen for students and staff," Frost Elementary Principal Tim Moe said ...The approach means moving away from textbooks. Students direct their own learning using critical-thinking skills, while teachers lecture less and ask more questions." -- Read the Full Article

Vocabulary That Feeds the World

Star-Gazette: Question: I want my four children to do something over the holidays that helps them appreciate how lucky they are compared to kids in the rest of the world. I'd like to find a project that promotes learning, too. I heard of a group that donates food to the hungry every time a student learns a new word. This could help my older kids prep for the SATs while doing good. Have you heard of this?... Answer: The charity you're probably thinking of is called It's just a couple of months old, and it has taken off like a rocket ... It works like this: When you land on the site, you're presented a word and possible definitions. Click on the answer that best defines the word. Get it right and you get a harder word. A wrong answer gets you an easier word ... For every word right, donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program ... The site's motto is "Learn Free Vocabulary and Give Free Rice' ... Its simple, inspiring, game-like proposition can get kids and adults interested in new words. With your teens, the trick is to make the learning stick so that they can "own" the words and use them in their writing and conversation ... As you play, list them in a Free Rice Word Journal. Use the words in sentences. Write the sentences on "sticky notes" and put them throughout the house. Find synonyms and antonyms for the new words ... 'I love this parent's attitude and wish more had it,' says Bill Laraway, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Silver Oak Elementary in San Jose, Calif ... Laraway involves his students in charitable giving and service projects all year ... 'This is a good time to reinforce critical-thinking skills,' Laraway says." -- Read the Full Article

Tempe District Using New Method for Education

East Valley Tribune:  "Cher Cooper phonetically sounds out each word in the sentence 'Look at the rainbow' as her kindergarten class follows along ... 'Let’s sweep back to the left and read what we wrote,' Cooper says to the Evans Elementary group gathered on a small patch of carpet around her ... The students all raise one finger in the air and in unison point to each word in the sentence, reciting it together. The successful completion of the exercise is met with lots of clapping and cheering by the mostly 5-year-olds ... Words are everywhere in this classroom. The backs of the pint-sized blue chairs are labeled 'you,' 'what' and 'have' ... Construction paper hearts and stars that hang from the ceiling read 'look,' 'my' and 'the' ... Cooper knows the students won’t sit still and pay attention long, so every few minutes they move to a different table where they’ll practice hands-on activities that ask them to say words and sounds aloud, write them down in sentences, sometimes even spell them out using their bodies as letters ... The students are asked to think about reading every moment that they are in the classroom and when they’re not doing it, Cooper knows ...'That’s not one of our words,' she tells a student who has written the wrong vocabulary word. 'Go back to your desk and read it again' ... About four years ago, the Tempe Elementary School District adopted the idea that 100 percent of its elementary students should be '100 percent engaged, 100 percent of the time' ...Two years ago, they expanded that idea to middle schools ...'The premise is that we no longer can let an individual child zone out or not be engaged in the learning,' said Lois Whisiker-Williams, language arts, social studies and Reading First coordinator. 'No longer is the day when you can say ‘I taught it, but they didn’t learn’ '...At first, the practices didn’t seem natural to teachers, Whisiker-Williams said ... 'It was very stilted,' she said. 'Teachers would try to fit it in through an activity. They would put names on Popsicle sticks and put the sticks in a can. They’d pull one out and call on that student. The level of anticipation is what helped students stay aware ... 'But then we realized, it’s not in the teacher’s edition – it doesn’t say insert student engagement here' ... They started integrating engagement into the entire class experience, the way Larsen and Cooper do, and are seeing more students develop the critical thinking skills they are after, as evidenced in test results." -- Read the Full Article

Democrats Make Bush School Act an Election Issue

The New York Times:  Washington, DC — "Teachers cheered Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton when she stepped before them last month at an elementary school in Waterloo, Iowa, and said she would “end” the No Child Left Behind Act because it was “just not working' ...Mrs. Clinton is not the only presidential candidate who has found attacking the act, President Bush’s signature education law, to be a crowd pleaser — all the Democrats have taken pokes. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has said he wants to “scrap” the law. Senator Barack Obama has called for a “fundamental” overhaul. And John Edwards criticizes the law as emphasizing testing over teaching. “You don’t make a hog fatter by weighing it,” he said recently while campaigning in Iowa."-- Read the Full Article

St. Helena Schools Take On New Strategy

The Napa Valley Register:  "St. Helena’s public schools will take the first step toward certification in the International Baccalaureate program next school year, said district officials last week ... During the 2008-2009 school year, officials with the prestigious program will evaluate whether St. Helena schools meet the requirements to become IB-certified ... The IB program embraces internationalism and encourages students to become active learners through an emphasis on asking questions and writing. The focus on internationalism will be reflected in an increasing emphasis on learning a second language ... At Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School, Spanish is an elective, but it will become mandatory with the adoption of IB ... It also promotes a holistic education by encouraging students to look at concepts through the lenses of multiple subjects like English, history and science ... School Board trustee Jim Haslip, who spoke against implementing the program during his 2006 campaign, said that’s probably because no one from the district has stepped forward to publicly champion the program. In a reversal from his campaign position, Haslip now says IB will greatly improve the education in St. Helena schools ... Haslip said that instead of judging students based on their performance on standardized tests, the IB program emphasizes writing and critical thinking, which benefits students whether they’re college-bound or not ... According to Assistant Superintendent Robert Haley, IB fosters 'students' ability to think, research and explain in writing what they’ve learned' ... The cost of the IB program, one of Haslip’s main concerns during his campaign, will be about $13,000 a year for all four schools ... However, a much larger amount has been spent on training teachers in the tenets of IB. The district sets aside more than $100,000 a year for staff development, and in the last year most of that has been spent on IB-related trainings. Most St. Helena teachers have undergone at least one IB training." -- Read the Full Article

Educators Worry Gifted Students Will be Overlooked

Southeastern Missourian:  "Second-grader Drake Mills doesn't know about the politics behind his education. He's just excited to come to the Explore program every Monday, one afternoon a week he can join like-minded students who enjoy a challenge ... Larger districts, like Cape Girardeau and Jackson, can afford gifted pullout programs, where talented students attend a half-day session once a week ... This is by far not the best method, gifted experts say. But parents, wary of losing services, admit it is better than nothing ...'The current trend is very clear: keeping the kids in the classroom with other kids and trying to differentiate in the classroom. Is that the ideal way? Absolutely not. It's hard for the teachers,' said Stephanie Tolan, a national gifted expert and author of more than 30 articles on gifted education ... But more often than not, the pressure falls on teachers and administrators to direct resources to the neediest and lowest students ... As No Child Left Behind legislation marches on, consequences for schools failing to meet standards have become more stringent ... Thinking critically ... Some people think a child who can compute math problems above grade level or read a difficult word is automatically gifted. In reality, the identification of a child as "gifted" hinges on higher-order thinking skills, teachers say. The ability to think critically or approach problems creatively could indicate a gifted student ... Explore and Alert, Jackson's gifted programs, do not teach material at an accelerated pace. Instead, they focus on critical thinking, creative thinking and communication skills." -- Read the Full Article

Parents, Need to Have THAT Talk About Santa?

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  (Editor's note:  If you're under 10, stop reading right now.) ..."It's the first Big Talk ... Sex, drugs, driving — those more serious topics are years away. Parents first face a frank discussion about the Santa Claus issue ... Some kids will have a hard time taking it all in ... Liz Fitzgerald, a Marietta mother of two, said when she and her son Brian had the Big Talk, he had a hard time believing Santa wasn't flesh and blood ... 'He said, 'There is no way my parents would ever buy these things because you guys are too cheap,' 'Fitzgerald recalled ...'All of the sudden he had this new appreciation for us,' she said ... Most kids begin doubting the details of Christmas Eve toy delivery at age 7 or so, experts said. But that can vary widely ... 'It never occurred to me to question Santa's existence until I was 10,' said Rebekah Richert, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside, who has researched the role of imagination in child development ... The doubts, experts said, reflect the development of critical thinking as children compare tales of St. Nick with what they know of the rest of the world: How can Santa visit every kid in the world in one night when it takes us 45 minutes to get out of the mall parking lot?"-- Read the Full Article

Holly Gets Off Lightly

The Age: "To some, the young woman atop the tree-sit tripod in the Victorian old-growth forest was just another unemployed feral greenie disrupting legitimate workers ... However, Holly Creenaune's appearance last week in a Melbourne court, after her arrest on January 17 last year in the Goongerah Forest logging coupe in East Gippsland, moved one of Victoria's most senior magistrates to exercise a rarely used discretionary power ... Deputy Chief Magistrate Jelena Popovic dismissed charges of obstructing a road and obstructing an officer (Creenaune having pleaded guilty), rejected an application for Creenaune to pay $1900 compensation, and described her as a 'remarkable young woman' ... 'I have to say I've never had the opportunity to meet somebody like Miss Creenaune, who has worked consistently and effectively in relation to improving our environment and maintaining the environment,' Ms Popovic said ... Creenaune, 23, Victorian-born but now living in Sydney, started a school conservation club when she was 12. As a teenager she worked for Rotary in a Brazil orphanage, and later she co-ordinated 2000 young people for Australia's largest environmental sustainability conference ... She was the recipient this year of the University of Technology Sydney human rights award, presented by Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court ... It denoted Creenaune's commitment to a range of social justice and human rights organisations and activities, including indigenous rights, climate change and environmental justice ...Now in her final year of a law and journalism degree, Creenaune said that her parents, both teachers, were not 'greenies or lefties' or even activists ... 'What they fostered in me as teachers was to use critical thinking skills, to read a newspaper and look beyond and take a critical eye to issues,' she said." -- Read the Full Article

American School in Pakistan

Unique Pakistan (Peaceful, Prosperous, Moderate Pakistan):  Karachi, Pakistan — "The development of an individual and a society is judged by the standard of education. As a person matures in knowledge of the larger world, a radical change occurs in his/her ability to integrate within the extended societal structure ... The same can be said for how a society interacts within the global framework. As developing countries in Asia play a greater role in the global economy, Pakistan’s ability to take part in this upcoming economic boom depends primarily on its ability to develop an educational system which allows our children’s boat to rise along with the larger Asian tide ... Currently, Pakistan’s schools are a bewildering hodgepodge of private and public systems without uniform standards. Those that maintain international standards are modeled on the limited British system. Some employ corporal punishment and rote memorization rather than fostering a sense of critical thinking and confidence required by citizens of the globe. Under-qualified teachers and under-funded systems mean that important development activities such as arts and music are ignored. While the world moves forward at a breathtaking pace in scientific and technological breakthroughs, most Muslim countries, including Pakistan, remain well behind the curve. Under these circumstances, the challenges Pakistani parents face to provide their children with the tools to thrive in today’s world are countless ... It is in this context that an exciting endeavor has been launched in Lahore which will eventually grow throughout Pakistan allowing our children to acquire excellent education that is globally competitive. The American International School System (AISS) was launched earlier this year to address the needs and concerns of parents who desire the high caliber of an American education within the Islamic and cultural norms of Pakistan." -- Read the Full Article

Don't Be a Scrooge About Having Problems

Critical Thinking Cafe:  "If I asked you to make a quick review of the past 12 months and to identify the moments when you learned the most or matured the most--either professionally or personally, those defining chapters of 2007 were probably connected with your involvement in solving problems. Knowing how to engage in critical thinking doesn't insulate you from life's problems--it just gives you a more defined and reliable method for solving them ... Speaker and author John Ortberg reminds us, "When teachers want students to grow, they don't give them answers--they give them problems! ('If a train leaves Cleveland at 3:00 going 50 m.p.h...') It is only in the process of accepting and solving problems that our ability to think creatively is enhanced, our persistence is strengthened, and our self-confidence is deepened. If someone gives me the answers, I may get a good score on a test, but I will not have grown. Just as our bodies simply will not grow stronger without being challenged to the point of exertion, so it is with our minds and our spirit" (If You Want to Walk on Water, page 47) ... An effective critical thinking process begins with a healthy attitude about problems--accepting the reality that life has problems and even the best efforts to anticipate and plan for them won't protect you from all of life's unexpected turns. As one wag put it, 'There are only two problem-free states: comatose and dead.' "-- Read the Full Article

Albany Adds 60 Schools to City List of Failures

The New York Times:  "Sixty New York City elementary and middle schools have been newly identified as failing under the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to a list released on Thursday by the State Education Department, which also showed that the number of failing schools was rising in both the city and the state ... The list was released more than a month after the city gave out its own grades to more than 1,200 schools. And a comparison of the two assessments showed some surprising contradictions, putting into sharp focus the difficulty of measuring what makes a school successful." -- Read the Full Article

A Rural Teacher With Global Reach

CBS News: Monmouth, OR — "Greg Craven is flat out. The fifth-period physics class he teaches is about to start, and there's still lesson planning to do. But at his cluttered desk over by the window, he's e-mailing last-minute changes to his guest column scheduled to run tomorrow in The Oregonian newspaper. And a producer from National Public Radio in New York has called about setting up an interview ... You could say this all illustrates chaos theory, he observes - searching for underlying order in things that seem random. Which relates to global climate change, as Earth heats up from a multitude of causes. Which relates to why this young high school science teacher in rural Oregon is juggling so many things on a wintery gray afternoon at Central High School here in Monmouth ... It all started last spring. Mr. Craven posted a nine-minute, 33-second clip on YouTube, the video-sharing website featuring everything from "stupid pet tricks" to presidential candidates pandering to voters ... Called "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See," it attempted to explain the reality and risk of what he says is "likely to be the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced' ... The video is low-tech - just a guy in a purple T-shirt standing at a whiteboard drawing a simple diagram to illustrate his point: The best available science shows us headed toward a global-warming disaster unless we take urgent steps to prevent it ... Craven also produced a follow-up YouTube clip, which takes into account criticisms he received, called "How It All Ends." Together the videos have "gone viral." They've rocketed around the Internet, spawning postings elsewhere and the creation of special websites by those impressed with his work. So far, the videos have attracted more than 4 million views, a query from a book agent, and a call this week from ABC's "Good Morning America" TV show ... Alicia Brown, a senior in Craven's physics class, likes his emphasis on critical thinking, as well as his ability to get students excited about the subjects he teaches ... 'He's made a history and English nerd like me like math and science,' she says."-- View the Video and Read the Full Article

Executives Cite Top Priorities for State

The Ridgefield Press:  The cost of doing business in Connecticut and high health care costs are among the top issues facing state businesses, reports Connecticut Business & Industry Association ... Key findings of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association’s (CBIA) 2007 annual membership survey were released yesterday. The results align with the opinions of Connecticut residents who responded to a recent CBIA/Zogby poll. In the Zogby poll, residents cited taxes, spending, health care costs and education as top priorities ... Employers continue to express concerns about the growing shortage of skilled workers and how it is affecting their ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace. All of the respondents said it is important that high school graduates have a strong work ethic ... Other skills executives said are important for high school graduates are critical thinking and problem solving (99%); oral and written communication, self direction and flexibility, and teamwork (97%); and ethics and social responsibility (95%). Respondents said they support high school reform and a change in graduation requirements if they expose students to career pathways (70%), offer courses that reinforce analytical and problem-solving skills (69%), impose higher expectations for all students (68%), and offer more rigorous math and science curriculums (67%) ... In addition, 60% of respondents said courses should be offered that prepare students for employment in a global economy, and 58% said there should be assessments that measure skills prior to graduation. Business executives also support using additional state resources to provide school-to-career programs for high school students (62%), internships and work study for college students (54%), apprenticeships for new employees (44%), and customized job training for current employees (28%) ... 'It’s clear that businesses are facing numerous challenges that can and should be addressed by state policymakers,' said Peter Gioia, CBIA vice president and economist ... 'We hope this survey will encourage state lawmakers to adopt policies, particularly in health care and education, that will create an environment that will help our economy grow and allow our companies to continue to compete, succeed and create well-paying jobs for the residents of Connecticut.' "-- Read the Full Article

Uganda: It's Not Only Africans Stupid

AllAfrica.Com:  "Amongst one of the traits that fascinate me about human nature is vanity. No one can claim immunity from it for everyone suffers from it or basks in it at one time or another ... Hence, it's natural for some people who interact with the public by writing to feel theirs is a single product which has an earth shaking impact in shaping the society or its outlook. When they wake up from their vain glory and see that their inspirational efforts haven't been noticed at all, leave alone having an impact, they feel affronted ... It was with this perception that I read Timothy Kalyegira's article: 'Uganda needs a new kind of education' (Daily Monitor, December 15). Kalyegira laments that despite his providing 'all through 2007" vital clues to understanding Ugandan history substantiated with 'research-based' evidence, people to 'his utter amazement' are unable to sense the clues or even understand that they were clues. To expound his observation, he cited as an example the simplistic and idealistic SMS and Email that are usually sent to BBC Network and Focus on Africa ... Up to this point, I don't have much disagreement with Kalyegira. Where I begin to differ is with his apparent portrayal of BBC as an independent media that airs all kinds of views impartially ... Now, it's my turn to be amazed with Kalyegira that he doesn't know that BBC suppresses some views unpalatable to the "New world order" or distorts in the name of editing. So, concluding that all SMS and email from Africa are naïve is wrong. It's only the ones we are allowed to hear that sounds that way ... Notwithstanding the need for education that enables African youth to engage in critical thinking, I would like to remind the vital point that Kalyegira missed. Despite the academic freedom that the West enjoys, the middle class failed to live pursuant to the sagacity of Harvey Cox who said: "It's always the task of the intellectual to think otherwise. Why?... Because the system succeeded in its subtlety to keep the public not to "stray from its proper confines" as aptly put by Noam Chomsky in his book Hegemony or Survival. He elaborated too how public opinion is manipulated through what's termed 'the manufacture of consent.' "-- Read the Full Article

Move to Inquiry-Based Math Catches On

Rapid City Journal: Rapid City, SD — "Jane Pfeifle is sold on inquiry-based math. “I don’t profess to know everything about it,” she said. “But I like what I see in my own house' ... The Rapid City mother of three children, ages 16, 14 and 10, remembers one particular experience that opened her eyes to inquiry-based mathematics. Driving to the bank to deposit several checks one day, Pfeifle asked her kids to quickly add them together. The 10-year-old, the child with the most inquiry-based math experience, completed the task first ... 'I watch him solve three- and four-digit problems and create story problems … just lickety-split,' she said. 'I’ve found myself starting to do it now' ... Five years ago, a district initiative incorporated inquiry-based learning to the Rapid City Area Schools. It began in the elementary schools and progressed to the middle and high schools, said Stevens High School principal John Julius ... The goal of inquiry-based math is to teach students critical thinking. In the inquiry-based approach, students are challenged to go beyond memorization and learn to independently solve problems, Julius said." -- Read the Full Article

Iraq Online

ElectronicIraq.Net:  "A quick look at the virtual space Iraqi media occupies on the Internet will reveal a remarkably accurate representation of the country's various news outlets. The many television channels which started broadcasting after the fall of the Baathist regime and the tens of newspapers which have sprung up over the last number of years have quickly claimed their own space on the World Wide Web, as have many other "new media" websites - various forums, blogs and online news providers. What makes this speedy development in Iraqi online presence extraordinary is the fact that Internet usage and penetration in Iraq is actually quite low. The most upbeat reports put usage at 1.77%. That amounts to less than half-a-million users in a country of about twenty-seven million citizens ... We all are conscious of the potential there, and the buzz around online media is growing louder. Even though we are aware of low levels of access, newspapers are continuing to update their sites, television websites are putting up web-exclusives, and bloggers are publishing new posts. Having lived in a country which limited access to information for so long, we all feel a sense of excitement about the fact that, today, information is available to us at the click of a button. This new freedom is arguably one of the few clearly positive improvements to our daily lives in Iraq, and it is important that the government and civil society maintain and encourage this access ... In order to understand the importance of the Internet, we must first differentiate between two types of socially and politically significant online presences. The first is the presence of the more traditional forms of media, and the second is based on the personal initiative of individuals - whether in the form of blogs or online forums - and websites representing various civil society organizations. Each has its own motivation and requires a different form of encouragement and support ... We also see a number of Iraqi Internet users rapidly embracing the idea of blogging, or what has been described as "citizen journalism". Iraq Blog Count, a website attempting to provide a comprehensive list of Iraqi blogs, links to more than 250 blogs, around 140 of which are active. Although earlier bloggers were posting in English, many new bloggers are writing in Arabic and Kurdish ... Posting on a blog or a forum is also immensely valuable to the individual, as access to these outlets provides contributors with a sense of empowerment. For many of us bloggers and online writers, the act of blogging itself is like breathing a breath of fresh air. We were raised in a political environment which thrived on fear; the fear to express opinions was instilled in us from an early age, with hundreds of stories about people who had "disappeared" after expressing dissent or unapproved opinions. It is very sad to see that this fear has not yet disappeared. Today, however, we do have channels for dissent, even if anonymous, on blogs and forums. It is almost like having to learn a new language, and a new method of fearless critical thinking, and these online discussion spaces are our practicing grounds. One can only hope that what has started as political involvement in an online discussion forum will translate into action offline, and ultimately motivate a new generation to become involved, not only in the political discussion but also in shaping the very policies covered. One notable example of this in the Iraqi blogosphere is the weblog Iraq the Model, and the decision taken by the bloggers who contribute to that weblog to run for office in the Iraqi elections." -- Read the Full Article

Challenging Our Students Will Help Them Succeed

New America Media:  Editor's Note: A recent University of Texas study shows that students who take AP level classes and exams get better GPAs and have a higher chance of graduating high school. A teacher at a small school located inside Berkeley High School witnessed this first hand when she challenged her students to step up to take the AP English exam. Susannah Bell is an English teacher at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California ... In 2000, I became involved with the Berkeley High School Diversity Project, which strove to reverse the inequities at Berkeley High by making recommendations based on action research and student shadowing, among other methods. On more than one occasion, I shadowed the same student – a 17-year-old African American female – through her day of classes and interviewed her about my observations. I observed that she excelled in the classes that were the most challenging, and predictably became disengaged and even disruptive in classes where the teacher used rote or pre-packaged methods for instruction. In other classes, she was virtually ignored by the teacher ... After this experience, I realized that my desire to challenge my students to achieve their highest potential was not just a goal – it was an obligation. At about the same time, my “school-within-a-school” program was transitioning to official “small school” status, which meant that our team of teacher-leaders had more autonomy over curriculum and scheduling. We transitioned from the traditional high school model to one in which core history and English teachers would “loop” with their students – that is, we would follow the same group of students over all four years of their education ...The next summer, I participated in my first AP training and discovered that the curriculum was indeed rigorous, but also engaging. I presented a radical idea to my students in the Class of 2007, when they were juniors. I proposed to them that to “level the playing field” with those students who had been given such rich opportunities throughout school, I would teach an AP curriculum their senior year to the entire class, and – in addition – offer an augmentation period to those who wanted to prepare for the test. This would mean that everyone would have the same level of rigorous instruction, but that those who wanted to take the test would essentially have to take a separate, additional English class. To my happy surprise, they enthusiastically agreed. Twenty of my 60 students signed on for the augmentation class, which included a summer reading assignment, an additional two days per week of a face-to-face class (which began at 7:30 a.m.), and a two-hour per week online component ... The following year, I began implementing the AP curriculum in all my Senior Composition classes, and the students who were taking the class for AP credit began attending the extra class. In the first semester, the students wrote much more than they ever had, using significantly more sophisticated vocabulary and demonstrating a higher level of critical thinking than ever before. I saw results sooner than I had expected."-- Read the Full Article

Educators Denounce No Child Left Behind

Milpitas Post:  Milpitas, CA —"After nearly six years adhering to the law's guidelines and sanctions, the Milpitas Unified School District passed a resolution opposing the re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind Act proposed by Rep. George Miller and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ... The resolution was passed by a unanimous vote at a Nov. 27 school board meeting. Proposed by Superintendent Karl Black, the resolution states 'that (NCLB) is not working, and it is hurting our students, teachers and schools' and the re-authorization of NCLB, currently delayed in Congress, 'does nothing to improve this current law,' according to the resolution ... The resolution cites the No Child Left Behind Act's shortcomings in its 'one-size-fits-all' approach that ignores student needs, shortfall in federal funding exceeding $56 billion, and undermining of local control ... 'At our last superintendents meeting, we were very aware that Congress was looking at reauthorization. We didn't like the plan from Miller and Pelosi. It was the same as the last few years. As superintendents we made a decision to go to all of our boards and ask for a resolution,' Black said ... No Child Left Behind Act is a federal law that holds Title One schools, schools with a low-income population of 37 percent or greater, accountable for their students' performance on an annual state test. Every year a certain percentage of student sub-groups based on ethnicity, income, English fluency and student disability must score "proficient" or higher on this test. This is referred to as making Average Yearly Progress ... If one of these groups of students fails to meet AYP goals in two consecutive years, the school must complete federally mandated programs that become more in number each year a school fails to meet the AYP goals."-- Read the Full Article

Schools Must Foster New Kind of Thinking

Tucson Citizen:  "Everyone agrees that Arizona children need to graduate prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, the work force and society ... But what does that demand of school systems, especially when capabilities required today are so different than those just a generation ago? ... In a recent national poll, Americans overwhelmingly agreed that today's students need more than basic skills to compete in the new global marketplace ... They need to be effective communicators, creative thinkers, problem solvers and innovators, and they must have global awareness ... In 2006, Arizona ranked 17th among the 50 states for total exports but sixth for high-tech exports ... Our future clearly is embedded in the increasingly global economy ...  It's critical that Arizonans understand the additional skills and knowledge today's students need so they will support policies and provide resources to produce them." -- Read the Full Article

THE BRIDGE: Christmas, Religion & Jesus

EURweb:  *Sadly, most people have no idea where the Christmas holiday traditions come from, but they swear that it is all about Jesus ... Surprise! The Christmas holiday as we know it is really an aggregation of a bunch of mythology and customs that were actually around before the birth of Jesus, who, according to Scripture, was actually born in September ... And, while some Christians may not want to hear it, even the story of a god’s rebirth into a new being predates Jesus ... According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, ten per cent of Protestants, twenty-one per cent of Roman Catholics and fifty-two per cent of Jews do not believe in God.  Surprised?  Well, there’s more that may also shock you. Eighty-four per cent of women believe in God, while only seventy-three per cent of men do ... In terms of education and faith, eighty-two per cent of those with no college education believe in God, while only seventy-three per cent of those who went to college have faith ... Eighty-seven per cent of Republicans believe, while seventy-eight per cent of Democrats and seventy-five per cent of Independents have faith ... When it comes to race, guess who has the greatest faith?  African Americans lead the faithful at ninety-one per cent, while eighty-one per cent of Hispanics and only seventy-eight per cent of whites have faith ... That brings us back to the holiday season.  Many people do not believe in God and yet they celebrate Christmas.  Still, others believe in God, but do not believe in Jesus Christ and yet, they too, celebrate Christmas ... The season has come to symbolize much more than the Christian holiday it originally was designed to be.  It is now a season—a season of love and giving, a season of understanding and a season of peace and kindness ... Such a powerful season should have a powerful impact on people, particularly men and women who claim to love and believe in Jesus Christ, who, incidentally, was not a Christian, but a Hebrew ... My point?   Well, it’s rather simple. As a man of God, I am at once disgusted and saddened by the lunatics and overbearing heretics who claim to represent God and who claim to know Jesus (Yahshua, the Black revolutionary).  As a scholar, I already know that they have more than likely never read the Bible for themselves or studied history and therefore, have no real clue as to the reality of Jesus of Nazareth ... Knowledge of the Bible and of history will reveal that what Jesus was trying to deliver to other humans, more than anything else, was an understanding of conscious evolution, which means that he had mastered the power of critical thinking.  What would Jesus do?  Well, he wouldn’t be hating people because they hold divergent faiths.  Believe that." -- Read the Full Article

The Perils and Perks of Helicopter Parents

U.S. News & World Report:  " 'Helicopter,' 'hovercraft,' 'hummingbird.' They're terms used to describe parents who micromanage their children, especially during the college application process. Although the slang is not meant to be complimentary, some parents take pride in their helicopter status ... The question is at what point does a parent go from 'helpful' to 'helicopter'? If secretarial help is acceptable, is it OK to work on the essay? How extensively? To come up with the essay topic? It's hard to know where to draw the line ... There's also a worry that students who get into college with help from their parents will suffer after they arrive and are left to sink or swim. But far from abandoning a child in college, the quintessential helicopter parent hovers all the more. In fact, the ubiquity of cellphones—sometimes referred to as 'the world's longest umbilical cord'—makes it easier than ever to stay in touch. A recent study gathered for the National Survey of Student Engagement suggests that helicopter parents do more good than harm. The survey sampled 9,162 students from 24 colleges and universities. And even after controlling for parent education level, the data show that 'compared with their counterparts, children of helicopter parents were more satisfied with every aspect of their college experience, gained more in such areas as writing and critical thinking, and were more likely to talk with faculty and peers about substantive topics.' "-- Read the Full Article

Abdullah Revives Malaysian Authoritarianism

Asia Times: KUALA LUMPUR — "Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi took to the premiership four years ago, postured as a humble, well-meaning repairman. His words cut past Malaysia's shiny facade to fix the ethnic, social and economic fissures that after years of official neglect had worn away at the multi-racial country's foundations ... He spoke of good governance, of weeding out corruption, of closing one of the region's largest rich-poor divides. He introduced Islam Hadhari, a 'balanced' approach to the faith that lightly hinted all was not right with Malaysia's deeply political and increasingly conservative brand of Islam. And he delivered his message with a soft voice and sensitive gaze that seemed in retrospect sincere about defusing deep-seated political and racial resentments ... In the time since, Malaysia has spiraled toward political instability, culminating in three major street demonstrations over the last five weeks ... The embattled leader accuses the protestors of threatening national stability and on Monday said he would not hesitate to authorize use of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial, adding, 'I'll do it without feeling guilty, without feeling sad.' On Thursday, he made good on his word, signing detention orders for five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), which recently held a 10,000-strong rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur to protest the perceived marginalization of Malaysia's Indian community ... Abdullah's strong-arm tactics, however, do not address the root cause of the socio-political crisis, nor will they easily resolve the boiling situation. Sources of resentment and division include the country's affirmative action program, which favors the majority ethnic Malays over minority groups, and a brand of Islam which is slowly but surely encroaching into the public and political sphere. Badawi's ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), has made a habit during its five-decade rule of squelching dissent and brazenly proceeding as it sees fit ... The government's habit of reacting to crises by digging in its heels - rather than redressing them through legal prosecutions and reforms - has contributed to what was already an uneven brand of development. Economically, in broad terms, Malaysia has performed well. Poverty is expected to fall below 3 % by 2010; unemployment is low; Malaysia now imports, rather than exports, labor ... But socially and institutionally, it has not kept pace. Innovative and critical thinking is famously in short supply, while race and religion dominate the political landscape and are now seriously threatening national stability. The judiciary and media and other key institutions are widely seen to lack credibility, while the government dismisses recent international concerns over its abuses, including last week by the US, as an 'internal affair'."-- Read the Full Article

Saudi King Pardons Rape Victim

The New York Times:  "Riyadh (Reuters) — "Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has pardoned the victim of a gang-rape whose sentencing to 200 lashes caused an international outcry, a Saudi newspaper said on Monday ... The daily al-Jazirah cited Justice Minister Abdullah bin Mohammad al-Sheikh as saying the king alone had the right to issue pardons if it was in the public interest ... The 19-year-old Shi'ite woman was abducted and raped along with a male companion by seven men last year in a case that has drawn criticism from around the world ... Ruling according to Saudi Arabia's strict reading of Islamic law, a court sentenced the woman to 90 lashes for being alone with an unrelated man and the rapists to prison terms of up to five years ... The Supreme Judicial Council last month increased the sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison and ordered the rapists to serve between two years and nine years in prison ... If confirmed, the pardon would represent a rare occasion where Saudi rulers have publicly challenged Saudi Arabia's hardline clerics, who have wide powers in society according to a traditional pact with the Saudi royal family ... Clerics of Wahhabi Islam dominate the justice system which King Abdullah said in October he wanted to reform."-- Read the Full Article

Say No To Rote Learning

The Times of India: "Contemporary educational debates in India have largely focused on the issue of access to higher education, especially professional courses in engineering, medical and management ... While increasing access is clearly important, the issue of significantly improving the quality of what is taught and learnt in our schools and colleges should receive far more attention. We are simply not aware that our entire educational system, including the vast majority of our best schools and colleges, is substandard ...Two decades of research have established unequivocally that most children complete five years of schooling in our government schools acquiring very limited literacy and numeracy skills. This initial deficit is not significantly made up by many who make it to the class 10 board examinations ... It's mainly students from the poor and lower middle classes who attend government schools that suffer from the prevailing orthodoxy that access issues need to be solved before improving quality ... What is the quality of teaching and learning provided by our best English-medium schools, which cater to the middle and upper classes? Contrary to popular belief, here too the quality of education provided is mediocre. Middle and upper-class Indian parents, after spending enormous amounts of time and money on getting their children into these schools, feel that their job is done ... Most students from these institutions do well in competitive examinations and are more likely to be selected by elite institutions of higher education. Consequently, there is a widespread belief among parents and educators that both the quality of teaching and learning must be reasonably good in our best English-medium schools ... The results of a large-scale study conducted last year flatly contradict this rosy view ... From the best 142 English-medium schools in five metro cities - Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi - 32,000 students were selected from classes 4, 6 and 8. They were administered tests to evaluate their understanding of key concepts in mathematics, science and English ... Students fared poorly in questions testing understanding or application of knowledge to new situations. They were only able to do answer questions based on recall or standard procedures. They were simply unable to answer questions that appeared to be different from what they typically encountered in their textbooks ... Whatever else our best schools may claim to be teaching, clearly most of them are failing miserably in one of their principal goals - to help students understand what is learnt, relate it to the world outside the classroom and to think critically." -- Read the Full Article

Challenger Center Goes 'Green' With New Learning Center

The Aero News Network:  "The Challenger Center for Space Science Education’s newest Learning Center will be the first such location to incorporate a sustainable building design in support of the interactive experience that immerses over 400,000 students a year in science, technology, engineering and mathematics concepts ... The new Challenger Learning Center will be designed and built by the architectural, interior design and engineering, award-winning New Jersey firm, Cubellis. Mount Laurel Township was selected by New Jersey Educational Information Resource Center (EIRC) to be the home for the newest Challenger Learning Center ... Fifty Challenger Learning Centers across the US incorporate project-based learning and the theme of space exploration to engage students in critical thinking, decision-making, communication and teamwork."-- Read the Full Article

It's Time for Muslim Comedians to Stand Up

The Washington Post:  "Woody Allen is my God. Nothing strange about that, you might think -- except that he is an Upper East Side New York Jew, and I am a British Pakistani Muslim from the working class. His characters are moneyed intellectuals whose only contact with dark-skinned people comes through the jazz soundtrack playing in the background while they agonize over their relationships. I grew up with a father who worked in a car factory, and the only white person who came near our home was the newspaper delivery boy ... And yet, when I first saw "Annie Hall" as a teenager, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. It didn't matter that I had never set foot in the United States or that I missed some of the cultural references. (Who is this Marshall McLuhan character, anyway?) I saw myself in Woody Allen. Self-doubt cloaked in self-deprecation? Check. Existential dread rubbing up against carnal desire? Check. He was so much like me that I almost forgot that I wasn't, in fact, Jewish ... Woody Allen isn't the only comedian who uses humor to take the audience where it might otherwise fear to tread. Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor also harnessed comedy's power to expose fears and challenge prejudices. Today, Chris Rock uses humor as therapy, self-expression and social commentary. But while Jewish and African American comedians have learned to universalize their experience and laugh at themselves, we Muslims sometimes struggle just to convince the world that we have a sense of humor ... What comes to mind when you hear the word "Muslim"? It's more likely to be beards, bombs and burqas than stand-up comedians. Muslims aren't exactly famous these days for lightheartedness. Sudanese Muslims weren't laughing when a British schoolteacher, Gillian Gibbons, recently allowed her pupils to name a teddy bear "Muhammad." She narrowly escaped a prison sentence for that transgression. But I think my fellow Muslims in Sudan went too far with that one. Wouldn't it have been funny if British Muslims had demonstrated against her arrest with a "Spartacus"-inspired mass march to the Sudanese embassy, each person carrying a teddy bear?... Earlier this year, I sat in a West London hall watching a heavily bearded Muslim man rip into his audience. Azhar Usman is no fundamentalist; he's an American comedian who tours with two fellow Muslims in a show they call 'Allah Made Me Funny.' Everywhere I looked, British Muslims of all ages -- some women wearing head scarves, some men in suits -- were doing something you hardly ever see: laughing. Here were ordinary, moderate Muslims reveling in a good time, as if in defiance of the extreme voices that overpower theirs in the public square ... Usman, 30, is one of several emerging Muslim comics who are touring the United States and the world trying to break down stereotypes, encourage critical thinking, create an identity and get people to laugh." -- Read the Full Article

New MOE Sex Ed. Program Denounced

The China Post:  TAIPEI, Taiwan -- "Members of various parent and cultural associations denounced yesterday the "explicit content" of a new sex education program set up for elementary school students by the Ministry of Education (MOE). They further asked the MOE to withhold from the literature two illustrations that show how parents make love and have children, before the new academic year begins in September 2008 ...'The risk is that children could imitate what they see in the illustrations,' said Rosa Marie Shiao, head of the department of Abstinence Education Research and Development at Fujen Catholic University. She insisted that the MOE should consult with parents before allowing the new material to be used in elementary classrooms ...The two images in question are part of a three-stage course designed recently for elementary, junior and senior high school students, accompanied by 100 illustrations about understanding sexuality ...'We can't keep children in an entirely sex-free environment,' said Gau Song-jing, director of general affairs at Taipei Municipal Dali Senior High School, and supervisor of the new curriculum ... Gau cited a recent survey conducted in collaboration with the MOE, showing that 15 percent of elementary school students in Taiwan have watched porno movies prior graduating, compared with 38 percent in junior high, 39 percent in senior high, and 79 percent in university ... Gau also noted the new program aims to teach 'intimacy' to children in order to increase their awareness of -- and their ability to identify -- inappropriate behaviors by classmates, and in particular sexual harassment by adults. He added that by focusing on critical thinking, children and teenagers would learn about "self-management" and respect other people's bodies, too." -- Read the Full Article

Character Is the Only Issue That Counts

The Napa Register:  "Everyone talks about character, but do you vote based on it?... Two factors stand out in this season’s primary campaigns: The large number of still viable candidates, and the fact that in order to run for president, so many have had to make major changes in their positions ... Mitt Romney is perhaps the most visible on this, going from being quite a liberal Republican to a newly-minted right-wing Christian candidate. Rudy Giuliani has gone from a “sanctuary city” mayor to a shut-down-the-border enthusiast and even Hillary Clinton moving from progressive liberal hiding in moderate mush to moderate mush pusher who, um, is still really a progressive liberal. OK, so no change there ... This literally screams a lack of character, and indeed character is perhaps one of the most overlooked issues in this campaign. People are angry about all the lying, yet at the same time have become numb to it, passing it off as if to say, 'Well, that’s politics' ... I hear constant complaints from citizens about government lying, but does it ever occur to people that the citizens are lying to the government a lot more, and that that may be where a lot of the problem is coming from?... As you go through this primary season, I hope you will keep character high on your list of issues that you use to evaluate candidates. I also hope you will keep it high on your list of how you evaluate your own behavior, whether that be in politics or otherwise. Character may sound like an old-fashioned word, and sadly that may be the case ... Character is what you do when nobody is looking. In the end its all you’ve got. And in the end what will save America won’t be a partisan political policy, it will be telling the truth." -- Read the Full Article

Campus to Open Books

The Daily Advertiser:  Lafayette, LA — "Want to know how many students at UL completed their degree in four, five or six years?... Or the ratio of students to faculty?Or maybe how well students at UL master core learning outcomes such as critical thinking and written communication by the time they graduate?... Sometime early next year, that information and more data will be easily available on UL’s Web site for parents and prospective students as part of a national initiative called the Voluntary System of Accountability ... UL, along with the seven other universities within the UL System, are part of an initiative called the Voluntary System of Accountability. The VSA was created through a partnership between two national higher education organizations — the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges ... The idea behind VSA is to provide the public data about higher educational institutions beyond their sticker price and recruitment marketing — like how well students are performing and how well the graduates of today are prepared. The online system uses a template and places a requirement on some of the features that universities must include." -- Read the Full Article

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Kiko's House (Blog):  "Pesky. There's no other description for evolution. It just keeps evolving. The most recent flap comes from Texas, the state that demonstrated that evolution is not as far along as we'd like to think by sending us George W. Bush. Not that that is the only indication of the state's hostility to the notion of evolution. Others have manifested themselves as well ... It may be recalled that Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, a movie the National Science Foundation and Rutgers University had a role in producing, was described as "blasphemous" by an audience that was given a preview in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and Industry. The film suggested that life might have begun in the undersea vents in an undersea volcano. One viewer said: "I really hate it when the theory of evolution is presented as fact." That viewer was not alone as Christine Castillo Comer will be the first to tell you. Christine has first hand experience with the perils posed by evolution ... Christine has worked in the Texas education system for 36 years. She spent 27 years in the classroom and 9 of them as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science. While working as the director of science she discovered that evolution doesn’t affect everyone equally ... Christine received an e-mail message from the National Center for Science Education announcing that Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University would be giving a talk in Austin. National Center for Science Education is known as a pro-evolution group that thinks evolution happened in the past and is continuing. She sent that notice to a group described as an 'online community.' That got her fired."-- Read the Full Article

A License to Blog?

CNet.Com:  "On Thursday, David Hazinski posted a column on the website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggesting that "unfettered 'citizen journalism' [is] too risky." He points out that the online medium creates an opportunity for anyone to provide informational content, but that this new venue is prone to inaccuracies and hearsay. He argues that so-called citizen journalism "isn't journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse' ... In his article, Hazinski suggests that unless the news industry acts now to regulate amateur-professional journalism, it will be 'just a matter of time before something like a faked Rodney King beating video appears on the air somewhere.' In his defense, a similar scenario did play out over 3 years ago when Benjamin Vanderford, a San Francisco resident, produced a fake video depicting his own beheading at the hands of Islamist extremists; then again, it was a publisher from the establishment press, William Randolph Hearst, who is credited with helping catalyze the Spanish American War through manufactured news. Hearst told a reporter, 'You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war,' and history indicates that he may have done just that.Hazinski provides a road map for the reforms he feels will help bolster trust in citizen journalism: ... Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity ... They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning ... Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff's auxiliaries are trained and certified.Though I don't agree with the impetus for Hazinski's article: that alternative journalism isn't journalism and that it undermines the credibility of the establishment press, I do feel that the actions he outlines are sensible and would serve to advance the availability of information with a certain degree of accuracy." -- Read the Full Article

Oregon Teacher's Climate Message Goes Global

The Oregonian:  "Central High School science teacher Greg Craven had one night before the last day of school to finish "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See" in time to let his students know about it ... Downing cans of Red Bull, Craven holed up in a science lab of the school in Independence, near Salem, editing all night. At 6a.m., bleary-eyed, he posted his nine-minute, 33-second global warming video on YouTube ... His students linked to it on their MySpace pages. By that night, 60 people had clicked on it. The next day, 300. By Monday morning, 1,000. Craven was psyched. That kind of 'viral' growth gets you noticed on YouTube, the Internet's anarchic video smorgasbord. Within two hours, his wife called: It's up to 10,000, she said ... Six months later, Craven's earnest and quirky appeal to act on climate change has collected more than 4 million views worldwide ..."-- View the Video and Read the Full Article

CU's First Time Bar-Takers Rank Higher Than Other Schools

The Campus Press:  "The Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis released a campus-wide survey recently showing statistics concerning student engagement and CU's curriculum success and failures in 2006 and some of 2007 ... Officially, it is called the National Survey of Student Engagement ... The survey was administered by a team of surveyors at Indiana University, both online and on paper. The survey was given at over 550 universities nationwide, according to the Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis ... The survey gathered information from all three CU campuses, which includes Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs ... 'Students are satisfied with CU-Boulder,' the study's Web site said. 'At least three-quarters of freshman and seniors reported they would attend CU-Boulder if they were starting college again, and rated their education as positive' ... The Web site also reported that CU-Boulder students are actively engaged learners. Almost all of the seniors and freshman surveyed said they asked questions in class and worked on class projects during class, and made presentations ... the office highlighted that 75 percent to 83 percent of freshman through seniors reported that, "CU enhances their critical thinking and analysis skills and contributes toward gaining a broader education. More than half (59 percent to 82 percent) of all freshman and seniors reported that their coursework substantially emphasizes synthesizing and organizing ideas, applying theories or concepts to practical problems and analyzing the basic elements of an idea, experience or theory' ... The survey also looked at statistics on passage rates of the state bar exam, the licensure test for becoming a lawyer ... Douglas Enzor, assistant to the dean of the School of Law, reported that 91 percent of CU law students who took the bar exam this past July passed. That number is higher than other universities ... In the survey CU is often compared to other similar American Association of Universities schools. Similar AAU institutions had an average passage rate of only 60 percent in 2006." -- Read the Full Article

Stephen Prothero: Religious Literacy

UNT Virtual Library Blog (University of North Texas - Dallas):  Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - And Doesn’t by Stephen Prothero (HarperSanFrancisco) — "America is the most religious nation on earth, but American citizens - even the most pious - know almost nothing about religion, Stephen Prothero contends in this novel examination of the decline of familial and public religious education in the United States ... A nominal Anglican and chair of the religion department at Boston University, Prothero calls religion 'the most volatile constituent of culture' and the greatest force for good (and evil) in the world. And with the world becoming more religious, contrary to the early secularization theory of Prothero’s sociologist colleague Peter Berger, the author argues that American ignorance of religion is not merely a spiritual problem - it is a civic problem that can lead to tragic consequences ... Prothero claims that America never acquiesced to the secular paradigm, despite the secularists’ call for a 'naked public square,' and today religious language appears in virtually every inauguration speech, State of the Union address, public policy squabble in Congress, and in every discussion of military-foreign policy. Religion is a factor in the abortion debate, in discussions about illegal immigration and even in inquiries about the qualifications of Supreme Court nominees. It makes sense then, Prothero writes, to know something specifically about the Christian faith, but also about other religions as well ... Prothero’s central thesis about why America has become starkly ignorant of religion may startle some readers; he provides no indictment of activist judges who abolished prayer in school or struck down public displays of the Ten Commandments. Instead, Prothero posits that it was 'the nation’s most fervent people of faith who steered us down the road to religious illiteracy' ... In this sense, Prothero’s observation is not entirely new. Norte Dame historian Mark Noll probed the problem of a lack of critical thinking among evangelicals in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. There, Noll, addressing the question of why evangelicals seemed reluctant to engage culture, suggested that the 'scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.' Prothero’s approach, on the other hand, is different. More than merely lamenting religious ignorance or intellectual inaction, he provides explanation for why there is a lack of religious learning among Christians and among the culture at large."-- Read the Full Article

Hanna Rosin: God's Harvard

Pop Matters:  God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America by Hanna Rosin (Harcourt) — "When Hanna Rosin began reporting on Patrick Henry College in 1999 for the Washington Post, her first impressions were understandably skeptical.  Located an hour northwest of Washington, D.C. in Purcelville, Virginia, it’s a conservative evangelical school with a student body of around five hundred, and has existed for less than a decade.  In many ways, Patrick Henry is still in the process of establishing a solid foothold; faculty turnover has been high, and last spring’s edition of official newsletter The Trumpet of Liberty celebrates the school’s new status as an officially accredited institution ... And yet as Rosin writes about her first visit in the introduction of God’s Harvard, founder Michael Farris had outlined a “revolution” even before laying the first brick, to “enlist the purest of born-again Christians in a war to ‘transform America’ by training them to occupy the ‘highest offices in the land’ ”.  His goals may not have been modest, but Patrick Henry has already established remarkable inroads within the Republican Party and become a target of extended liberal criticism.  How does such a school manage to become a flashpoint of the culture war?  Just as importantly, how do Patrick Henry’s students place themselves within Farris’ overarching vision? ... As Rosin details, Farris is the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and he is primarily responsible for the burgeoning evangelical home schooling movement over the past two decades.  Around eighty-five percent of Patrick Henry’s students are evangelical home schoolers, all with high scholastic potential; the average SAT score range of the student body that Rosin cites is 1230-1410, on par with the University of Virginia and Rice University.  The school’s curriculum is primarily designed to prepare students for political and cultural leadership roles, with the first two years focusing on classic liberal arts (literature, philosophy, history), and the second two years involving government and political science courses, internships, and a senior research seminar ... In many ways, this formula has been quite successful to date.  Rosin finds that out of roughly one hundred White House internships that are available annually, PHC has 'taken between one and five of those spots in each of the past five years—roughly the same as Georgetown'...  Many other students have landed internships with Congressional Republicans, and graduates have worked for the White House, FBI, CIA, and various conservative think tanks. Liberal critics have interpreted these rapid accomplishments (particularly the White House internship rate) as a potentially dangerous alliance between church and state ... It’s not an accident that out of the several anti-religious right books released in 2006, more than one, including Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming and Lauren Sandler’s Righteous, argue that Patrick Henry is evidence of how certain evangelicals and fundamentalists seek to conquer American government, as well as the intellectual tragedy that occurs when college students are indoctrinated into an overly certain and narrow worldview."-- Read the Full Article

Banning Books Deprives Children of Critical Thinking

Appleton Post Crescent: Appleton, WI — "Are people so afraid the strength of their religious beliefs won't hold up against fairy and fantasy tales?... The decision by St. John Neumann and Lourdes schools to pull the "The Golden Compass" books from their library shelves (at least temporarily) is depriving students of the possibility for critical thought and a deeper understanding of their faith ... How quickly — or conveniently — we forget the Crusades, where non-Christian thought was reason enough for war. Perhaps the Christian Taliban is waging its own war in Oshkosh by censoring mainstream media while slowly easing us into a long night of fascism by brainwashing students with provided opinions while censoring anything else ... Having said that, I think the Catholic schools are well within their rights as private schools to pull any books they want from their shelves. However, these are not places where I would want to send my children. Banning books is for the paranoid."-- Read the Full Article

The Case for Ethnic Studies is Compelling

Arizona Daily Star:  Tucson, AZ — "When I was in high school at Cholla in the early '70s, we didn't have ethnic studies. Fortunately, I had a few teachers who understood the lifelong valuable concept of studying ideas from people who didn't look like the majority ... One of my teachers, Geta LeSeur, who taught English and whom I've written about previously, introduced to her ethnically diverse classes literature from women and men of color, along with the accepted works of white males ... Native American. Black. Chicano. Poetry. Essays. Novels ... Prior to this period, it was unheard of — in nearly all of Tucson, I dare say — to read literature outside the foisted norm. I didn't know African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans and Mexican-Americans wrote prose and poetry ... This powerful, eye-opening literature spoke truth to me as a young Chicano trying to make sense of the confusion around us ... There were the Vietnam War, civil-rights marches, Nixon and Watergate, Wounded Knee, César Chávez and grape boycotts, and more ... The rich literature gave me a realistic view of my changing world, and LeSeur and other forward-thinking Cholla teachers helped me develop critical-thinking skills and instilled a lifelong love of learning ... That was the precursor to ethnic studies, which since then has been introduced and expanded in schools and universities across the country, including Tucson. But ethnic studies are maligned and misunderstood by many, including Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction."-- Read the Full Article

Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom

Center for Writing (University of Minnesota:  "Although we define "critical thinking" differently, most of us agree that we want students in our classes to do more of it. When we see them hesitate to grapple with issues, actively interrogate evidence, or argue persuasively, we may be tempted to assume that the problem stems from students' lack of willingness, courage, or ability. In this workshop, Bill Condon (Washington State University), will argue that lack of inspired student thinking can, instead, result from lack of clear instructor expectations." -- Read the Full Article

Religion in Europe: The Discovery of Tolerance

The Economist:  "A typical Protestant view of European religious history might go like this. In medieval times, the Roman Catholic church grew increasingly corrupt and impervious to criticism. Then came the Reformation, with its new breath of freedom and tolerance. After a brief fightback that culminated in the ghastly Thirty Years War in 1618-48, Europe moved smoothly towards the Enlightenment and today's ideal of secular tolerance. It was all quite unlike, for example, Islam and the horrors of the Ottoman empire ... Most of this conventional picture is entirely wrong, as this splendid book by Benjamin Kaplan shows. Certainly, the medieval Catholic church continued to stamp heavily on heresy, but Enlightenment Protestants were often also deeply intolerant, not only of Catholics but also of each other (Mr Kaplan's book opens with the burning of Servetus, a noted Spanish Protestant, in Calvin's Geneva). It took more than 150 years after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 for most Europeans even to grasp the concept of religious tolerance. Well into the 19th century, the Ottomans were far more hospitable than the rest of Europe to religious minorities ... it would be a long time before Europe's Christians rediscovered such a spirit of religious tolerance. That is something critics of today's Islamic world should remember, as should unquestioning believers in the virtue of the European Enlightenment. As well as its fine story-telling, Mr Kaplan's book has the great merit of reinstating religion and quarrels about religious practice at the heart of the modern European history—where they clearly belong."-- Read the Full Article

The Failure of Testing to Address Actual Proficiency

Santa Barbara Independent:  "My wife had a group of elementary school kids do a scavenger hunt at the Farmers Market to gather fruits and vegetables for a “tasting day” at school. On the morning of the tasting, big banners hung from the cafeteria ceiling for all to see — Tasting Day. A child walked into the cafeteria and visibly slumped, his smile vanished, and his eyes clouded. When my wife approached him, he said, 'I thought we were done with testing' ... Welcome to the post-accountability No Child Left Behind (NCLB) world, where no child is left untested. Are today’s students better readers and mathematicians than 10 or 20 years ago? Has all this emphasis on content standards, annual testing, and exit exams worked? No. It is time to recognize that the standards-based, test-driven, school-accountability movement has failed. After 10 years, these measures have not improved education."-- Read the Full Article

Children's Book Back on Shelf at School Library

The Pueblo Chieftain: Pueblo, CO - "The debate over “The Golden Compass,” both the Philip Pullman book and the new movie based on the novel, has spilled over to the halls of a local middle school ... 'Compass,' part of trilogy written by the British author, was pulled from the library shelves at Ortega Middle School for what critics regard as the book's anti-religious views. The book was returned to circulation by district officials last week ... Assistant Superintendent Jerri Stucky said school district officials and other district librarians did not find adequate reason based on school policy and recommendations from the American Library Association for the decision to pull the book ... Alamosa High School Librarian Mark Skinner, who was present at the Dec. 3 meeting when the book was reinstated, reviewed the district's policies at a community forum on the topic hosted by Adams State College Monday night ... Skinner, who opposed the removal of the book, said the school's instructional resources and materials policy called for both sides of controversial issues to be represented with materials so that users may develop, with guidance, the practice of critical thinking."-- Read the Full Article

Questions You Should Ask Your Elected Officials

The Daily Advertiser:  "To better assess how your election might affect this nation at this critical juncture, I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions. ... How do you intend to remain independent from the most generous contributors to your party and to your campaign for office? ... Do you plan to seek the end of the primary source of political corruption - private funding of political parties? ... Do you intend to eliminate and outlaw professional lobbying on the grounds that it constitutes an irreconcilable and indefensible conflict with this nation's fundamental democratic principles? ... Do you intend to end the unchallenged monopolistic control exercised by the American Medical Association on health care and to institute a publicly funded health care system from which no American citizen will be excluded?... Do you intend to call upon the international community, including Iraq's neighbors, to assist the United States in stabilizing the nation of Iraq so that withdrawal of American troops can be substantially completed within the first year of your presidency?... Do you intend to promote sweeping changes in the nation's educational system aimed, in particular, at moving the focus of education away from rote learning and preparation for standardized tests toward actual comprehension of curriculum topics and critical thinking?... Do you have plans to require Israel to comply with all resolutions addressed to it by the United Nations since 1948 as a condition for the release of further foreign aid to that nation? ... Will you seek an end to the control of the entire U.S. economy by private interests and promote the dissolution of the Federal Reserve System and its replacement by a federal governmental body actually owned and controlled by the American people? ... American taxpayers are constantly being called upon to rescue this industry or that corporation. We are being told America is a free market society. In free market societies, there is a process in place to deal with business failure - bankruptcy. It is disgraceful to debate welfare support for American households while corporate panhandlers continually line the hallways of Congress and the White House ... If you are elected, will you pledge to stop government intervention in business failures and to put an end to this bizarre form of corporate socialism?"-- Read the Full Article

Schools Expanding International Program

The Arizona Republic:  "Hoping to broaden students' knowledge of the world, Mesa Public Schools will expand the demanding International Baccalaureate program from kindergarten to senior year ... School board members Tuesday reviewed the IB launch next year into Frost Elementary and Hendrix Junior High, linking study from the primary and middle school years into the established high-school program at Westwood High ... Officials outlined a three-year process for becoming IB-authorized, which will be about $60,000 in start-up costs ... "It's the best thing I've seen for students and staff," Frost Principal Tim Moe told the board ... IB focuses on teaching students critical-thinking skills, favoring the question-and-answer format over teacher lectures, along with an emphasis on foreign languages .. The most popular IB program in the United State involves the high school Diploma Program, where students must test successfully at the end of their senior year in each of six subject areas, including a foreign language ... There's one big advantage to having an IB diploma: Many universities accept students as college sophomores because of the college credits earned in the program ... Now, Mesa educators will offer all three main segments for a seamless K-12 IB education - primary school, middle school and high school." -- Read the Full Article

Chabot College Selects Salinas Educator as Next President

InsideBayArea.Com:  Hayward, CA — "Dr. Celia Barberena will usher in a new era by becoming Chabot College's first female president in the school's 46-year history ... The current vice president of student services at Hartnell College in Salinas has been tapped by district officials to replace retiring president Dr. Robert Carlson beginning Jan. 14 ... 'It is so surreal and it's just beginning to settle in,' Barberena said during a phone interview today. 'But I'm very excited at the opportunity to serve such a multicultural student body and an area with such a variety. That is my passion . . . to serve nontraditional and first-generation college-bound students' ... A native of Nicaragua, Barberena came to the United States on an academic scholarship to study at Ohio's Findlay College, where she attained degrees in economics and sociology, and earned both her doctorate in education administration and supervision, and her master's in Spanish from Bowling Green State University ... Prior to her current post at Hartnell, she served as the dean of special programs at Modesto Junior College. She has also taught Spanish at Sacramento City College, and Critical Thinking and Study Skills at Bowling Green State University."-- Read the Full Article

Teach Israeli Children Value of Democracy

The Jewish Daily Forward:  "For all the talk about Israel facing an existential threat, be it from Iran or from Gaza, perhaps the biggest danger to the country is emanating from a place far closer to home. Israelis’ commitment to democratic values is on the decline: They are losing faith in rights, diversity and equality, according to a survey by the Israel Democracy Institute ... Only 54% of Israelis believe in freedom of religion, according to the report, and just 50% believe that Jewish and Arab Israelis should enjoy equal rights. Needless to say, American Jews can appreciate why Israel must retain its democratic values to ensure a strong, tolerant and diverse society ... Given these startling figures, it is critical that we act now to reverse this trend, a true existential threat. Instilling an appreciation for human rights and democratic values through education is the most effective way to combat the erosion of these values and to ensure a stronger, more tolerant society. Israel is a multicultural society, composed of a diverse range of population groups, based on nationality, religion and ethnicity. This diversity enriches our lives as Israelis, our culture and the mosaic of ideas put forth in the public discourse. At the same time, these differences create social cleavage ... As disparities grow, Israeli society has become increasingly segmented and polarized. In this reality, feelings of victimization breed resentment, antagonism and violence ... Blatant prejudice and hatred are manifest in a variety of ways, from cries of “Death to the Arabs” in soccer stadiums to building separation fences between Jewish and Arab communities to racist draft legislation brought to the Knesset. According to the Israel Democracy Institute’s survey, 55% of Israeli Jews believe the government should encourage Arab emigration and 78% are opposed to Arab political parties joining the government ...Commitment to democratic and humanistic values must start early on. The education system is a natural setting for teaching these fundamental building blocks of democracy. It can contribute to ensuring the stability of democracy by exposing students to values beyond those they encounter at home and in the media, which are influenced by consumer culture and economic interests ... Education for democratic values, which acquaints students with a spectrum of views, promotes their respect and tolerance for other people’s opinions and narratives, and allows them to form their own views through critical thinking. Without exposure to diversity, students risk being manipulated by non-democratic forces and risk forming prejudiced attitudes toward fellow citizens."-- Read the Full Article

Don't Just Think, Think Critically

Guam Pacific Daily News:  "I write in this space not to sell a point of view, but to share what I know that I have learned from others who have walked life's paths before me. I hope that my writing and sharing will provoke thought or help someone, but at some point, this column, too, will have to end ... After my Nov. 27 column, I continued to read. Additional materials I ordered from the Foundation of Critical Thinking have arrived, among them, three Thinker's Guides, from which I have been reading: ... 'Critical & Creative Thinking'; 'The Art of Asking Essential Questions'; and 'How to Write a Paragraph, How to say something worth saying about something worth saying something about' -- yes, you guessed it, I put my finger on the word 'something' mentioned three times, to grasp the sentence. I must say, I am very humbled by all that I read ... The Foundation defines its mission, to 'seek to promote essential change in education and society through the cultivation of fair-minded critical thinking' ...  Of course, because we're humans, we think, we form opinions and ideas about anything or anybody. Any person is capable of thinking. But as the Foundation warns, 'Much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced.' The Foundation posits that 'all thinking is not of the same quality.' So, while any person can think, there is thinking and there is thinking." -- Read the Full Article

Knowledge Management and Competitiveness

Business Intelligence Network:  "The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, recently issued its annual ranking of the world’s most competitive countries. The U.S. regained its number one position, having lost it to Switzerland in the 2006 listing. The release of the WEF study was met with huge interest by multinational companies as well as the heads of state of just about every country. What is this all about?... In effect, we hear a lot about the knowledge economy as the goal that individual nations must seek. The World Bank defines it as “an economy that creates, acquires and uses knowledge effectively for its economic and social development.” But what are the links between a knowledge economy and a competitive one? How does knowledge impact the ability of a firm, or of a nation, to compete?... In a global economy, competitiveness has become increasingly important to enterprises. Not only that, the attention that nations must give to competitiveness seems to also be in crescendo as the countries vie to attract firms to establish themselves or invest in their territory. But, interestingly enough, competitiveness seems to have less to do these days with the traditional economic factors tied to land, capital or labor and more to do with knowledge – the new organizing principle for society ... Most self-respecting nations have set up competitiveness councils or advisory bodies over the last few decades. The U.S. has a private Council on Competitiveness that attempts to lead the drive on U.S. productivity and global leadership. It is an organization that was founded by private sector, academic and labor leaders to address the economic challenges of the mid-1980s ... Nations as diverse as Bahrain, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, Greece, Guyana, Ireland and the Philippines are just some examples of countries that have established some entity to address national competitiveness issues ... Competitiveness, in turn, is measured by a number of organizations that conduct international comparisons of how well nations are doing in this arena. The two most prominent entities engaged in this are the aforementioned World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland) and the Institute for Management Development in Lausanne. The former publishes national rankings in its Global Competitiveness Report, and the latter in its World Competitiveness Yearbook ... The WEF measures competitiveness through 90 variables in 12 different categories which it groups under the titles of Basic Requirements, Efficiency Enhancers, and Innovation and Sophistication factors. The variables are further classified into clusters that are referred to as the “Pillars of Competitiveness” and they include: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market efficiency, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and innovation ... Now let’s turn our attention to the knowledge economy. It’s the World Bank through its Knowledge for Development (K4D) Program that has become the principal source of expertise in comparing how well (or badly) countries are faring in their journey toward a knowledge economy. If you go to the Bank’s website, you will find the top ten countries in their computations. They are: ... 1. Sweden ... 2. Denmark ... 3. Norway ... 4. Finland ... 5. Netherlands ... 6. Switzerland ... 7. Canada ... 8. Australia ... 9. United Kingdom ... 10. United States ... Competitiveness today depends on knowledge. Specifically, we acknowledge today that competitiveness depends on collaboration and knowledge sharing through cyberspace ... If we were to compare the list of common countries we culled from the competitiveness and knowledge economy rankings, we would also find a significant overlap with that of the top dozen countries as percent of population online. Clearly, there is a phenomenon at work here. As we rely more and more on the Internet to find, capture and transfer knowledge, all these factors converge. We need knowledge to be more competitive; we need knowledge management to get maximum return from our knowledge; and we must do this in the new medium: cyberspace ... The handwriting has been on the wall for companies for some time. Now it is also clear that governments have to do their part to make sure that their private sector has all the necessary tools to compete." -- Read the Full Article

Which Came First: The Intellectual or the Leader?

American Thinker:  "There's been a lot of talk within the past, oh three election cycles, about how the 'smartest' or most 'intellectual' candidate would make the best president. Coincidentally, they are all Democrats: ... In 2000, Al Gore was considered more 'intellectual' than George W. Bush, despite the fact that his college transcript was rife with Cs and C-minuses. He also dropped out of the Vanderbilt Divinity School after receiving a number of Fs ... In 2004, John Kerry was touted as being "smarter" than George W. Bush, even though his undergrad GPA was one point lower than Bush's - a fact that was conveniently unavailable until after the election ...Hillary Clinton has been anointed the best and brightest of the class of 2008, followed closely by the 'clean and articulate' Barack Obama - although don't expect to see Mrs. Clinton's grades anytime soon; they likely have been sequestered like her papers from her days as First Lady ... But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the above politicians really are intellectually superior to their rivals. We can therefore ask not only why George Bush beat two 'intellectuals' in their respective presidential races, but also, do intellectual types really make the best leaders?... Intellectuals will likely always feel as though they are more deserving of leadership roles in our society. But if we take a serious look at our educational system from the bottom up and revamp it to highlight problem solving and critical thinking skills over ideological brainwashing, perhaps that group will shrink to a more manageable size. For not only do we need independent thinkers in our political class, we also need independent thinkers in the electorate. Our future as a democratic republic depends on it."-- Read the Full Article

Intelligence Agencies to Launch Common Performance Appraisal System

Government Executive:  "The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has launched a new directive that will establish a common performance management system across the 16 intelligence agencies, the office's top personnel official said Tuesday ... Intelligence agencies have until Oct. 1, 2008, to implement the system, which will rate all civilian employees at the General Schedule Grade 15 and below on a certain set of criteria, said Ronald Sanders, chief human capital officer for ODNI. The ratings will be used first in the fiscal 2009 appraisal cycle ...The common elements will assess nonsupervisory employees on their collaboration, critical thinking, communication skills, technical expertise, integrity and accountability. The directive also establishes specific objectives for supervisors and managers to gauge their leadership and management competencies ... 'It takes courage to speak truth to power,' Sanders said. 'We can't just say, 'Do it.' We have to make sure our human capital systems are linked and reinforce those kinds of values and behaviors.' " -- Read the Full Article

A Place of More

Inside Higher Ed:  "Writing from the other side of the world, Sothearwath surprised me by asking a favor: 'Do you have any research or study on reading and writing? I am here ok, but I have lots to read' ... Until recently, Sothearwath (not his real name) taught English at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), in Cambodia. Now, he had just begun a doctoral program at a university in another Asian country. For the past four years, I’ve spent each January at RUPP working with him and his colleagues. I endeavor not only to help the Cambodian instructors teach more effectively, but also to learn how to be a better teacher back home. I lead workshops on various topics — learning theory, assessment, responding to student writing — usually in classrooms as dingy as they are airless. But, most importantly, I hold follow-up individual coaching sessions with the faculty. We meet in their departmental office, a cramped but slightly air-conditioned double room. Most of the teachers share 'desk space' at three round tables and take turns sliding in and out of the seat next to mine at their appointment times ... Sothearwath had achieved his great goal: He was studying abroad, in a place of more. Still, in Cambodia, resources are few, Internet access expensive, and even the best professionals remain the products of an intensely traditional, hierarchal and dangerously dictatorial culture. All serious Cambodian learners must overcome this. What would enable him to do so now?... I continued my correspondence with Sothearwath, sometimes twice a day. (He was clearly awake all night, many nights.) I reminded him of his abilities and resilience; I sent research data bases; and I continued asking targeted questions about his research: What writing assignments build critical thinking skills? Why? How? His return e-mails revealed some progress, his language becoming more clear as his thinking found form. As did my American social work student, he needed confidence building as much as skill sets. But Sothearwath also, and expectedly, needed more. He revealed that facing what he felt was a dooming deadline to critique existing research, he took some of my curriculum materials (giving me full credit for my work), mocked up a study based on them, slapped together a power-point presentation, and presented it in a class. 'I had no choice because I had to give them something,' he explained."-- Read the Full Article

Ethiopia - Jimma University Partners with Yale to use Open Yale Courses

Nazret.Com: "Jimma University of Ethiopia is to partner with Yale University to use Open Yale courses in its classrooms. Jimma University is among about 10 universities that will participate in this program. Yale University is also making some of its popular undergraduate classes available online for free for anyone with internet access ... Today, Yale University is making some of its most popular undergraduate courses freely available to anyone in the world with access to the Internet ... The project, called 'Open Yale Courses,' presents unique access to the full content of a selection of college-level courses and makes them available in various formats, including downloadable and streaming video, audio only and searchable transcripts of each lecture. Syllabi, reading assignments, problem sets and other materials accompany the courses ... The production of the courses for the Internet was made possible by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The seven courses in the sciences, arts and humanities—which were recorded live as they were presented in the classroom to Yale students—will be augmented with approximately 30 additional Yale courses over the next several years ... Diana E. E. Kleiner, Dunham Professor of the History of Art and Classics and the director of the project, noted that the full content of all the courses is now readily available online and may be accessed at the users’ convenience ... 'We wanted everyone to be able to see and hear each lecture as if they were sitting in the classroom,' Kleiner said. 'It’s exciting to make these thought-provoking courses available so broadly for free. While education is best built upon direct interactions between teachers and students, Yale believes that leading universities have much to contribute to making educational resources accessible to a wider audience. We hope this ongoing project will benefit countless people around the world' ... Kleiner said the courses reflect the broad liberal arts education provided by Yale College, which encourages critical thinking, intellectual exploration and creativity. She said Yale plans for future Open Yale Courses to include music and the arts." -- Read the Full Article

Focused Philanthropy Does the Most Good for Education

The Mercury News:  "Earlier this fall, the San Jose Education Foundation hosted the forum "Investing in Education: Why Private Dollars Matter," at Adobe Systems. The participants were Alberto Ibarguen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which funds projects in San Jose; Bruce Chizen, who retired this month as CEO of Adobe Systems; Michael Kirst, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University; John Porter, superintendent of Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose; and Michael O'Farrell, who retired this year as vice president of global affairs for Applied Materials. Mercury News editorial writer John Fensterwald was the moderator ... Bruce Chizen: Early on, Adobe gave to just about any school that appeared to be in need. We decided to look at what Adobe did well and at needs of education overall. We came up with Adobe Youth Voices (a program that enables youths to use multi-media tools, including video, digital photography and Web design to explore and comment on the community) ...We decided to invest in those schools that had leaders, teachers and administrators who cared about helping kids in disadvantaged areas with critical thinking and with effective communication. We've committed $10 million over five years. We have 75 schools worldwide, six schools in San Jose where we're focused on about 500 kids and we hope to grow that next year. At Burnett Academy (a San Jose Unified middle school) we have "A Day in the Life" photo project. One teacher told us about one kid who was clearly on the path of dropping out, who's now so engaged. Hearing success stories like that leads us to believe that a more structured program is going to make a difference." -- Read the Full Article

Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest Pays $24,000 in Prizes

ARI (Ayn Rand Institute):  IRVINE, CA -- "College student John DeWald, from London, England, is the winner of the Ayn Rand Institute's annual 'Atlas Shrugged' essay contest, for which he received a prize of $10,000 ... Open to undergraduate- and graduate-level college students, the 'Atlas Shrugged' essay contest requires contestants to write on one of several topics dealing with the characters and themes in the novel. The contest is designed to promote critical thinking and writing skills. Essays are judged on both style and content ... First published in 1957, 'Atlas Shrugged' is a mystery story about the murder--and rebirth--of man's spirit. It offers the spectacle of human greatness through the astounding story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world--and did ... Since 1999 about 10,000 college students from around the world have entered ARI's 'Atlas Shrugged' essay contest. This year more than 1,400 students submitted their essays, and the winners were awarded a total of $24,000 ... Information about next year's competition, which again offers a $10,000 first prize, is now available ..."-- Read the Full Article

Yale Holds Conference On Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

Venezuelanalysis (Venbezuela News, Views and Analysis):  "Venezuela and its President Hugo Chavez may be confusing to those only following the mainstream media's reporting of recent events.  In an attempt to overcome such mystification, last week Yale University's Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies hosted a conference focused on Venezuela and its so-called Bolivarian Revolution.  The conference, held just days before the controversial Constitutional Referendum, was organized by historians Greg Grandin of New York University and Yale's Gil Joseph.  Titled, 'Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution at Home and Abroad,' the conference brought together scholars, politicians, filmmakers, and activists to take a deeper look at Venezuela and its leader Hugo Chavez.  Professor Gil said the event was organized to foment discussion and debate and not to promote one side or another.  'The organizers of this event, panelists and attendees reflect a real diversity of views' ... The event closed with a few final words by the organizers. 'We don't really learn about what is happening in Venezuela from the media. We have a record here at Yale for these public forums and it is important that this reach beyond specialists on Venezuela,' said Prof. Joseph. Prof. Grandin added, 'What is clear from the reading the press in the United States is that there is an inverse correlation between time spent talking or writing about Venezuela and critical thinking. At the very least, the intelligent debate and commentary generated by this conference demonstrated that one can have an intelligent discussion about the possibilities and limits of Chavismo, one that stands in sharp contrast to the shrill alarmism found in the major media.' "-- Read the Full Article

A Teacher, Giving It Everything

The Washington Post:  "In all the endless jabbering about how to make the District's schools better, the voices least heard tend to be those of the teachers. Parents, kids, administrators, outside experts, politicians all have their say, but teachers--in part because they often fear speaking out, in part because they feel crushed by the demands of their bosses, parents and kids--often don't get their experiences and messages out to the wider public ... All of which is too bad, because I've always found in reporting about schools that teachers know more than anyone else about what works and what doesn't, what is best left in the dream world of reformers and consultants and what is reality only in the minds of elected officials who care most of all about test scores ... So it's always intriguing to watch teachers experiment with letting it all out on their blogs ... here's a second-year teacher, expressing the frustrations that come pouring out whenever I talk to starting teachers in the city: ... 'What's the point of shoehorning kids into AP when they're beyond caring? What's the point of dragging them into Physics when the whole point is to have a sense of wonder about the world and a set of critical thinking tools they can use to examine that world? That's what education means to me. I'm not achieving that. I don't know if it's possible for me to achieve that with these high school kids. They're curious, all right. They ask questions all right, when I give them the opportunity. But they're too used to being spoon fed the answers. And when the answers aren't immediately available, they give up. And maybe they should. I mean, what's the point of giving them a glimpse of [what] their white, suburban counterparts are getting? It's not like my students are ever going to live in that world. So why show them something they can't have?... The thing is, is that I do care about and respect my students. They are people. They are nearly adults, and their decisions make sense for them, in the world they live in. Who am I to try to press advanced math and science on them, when they're so convinced they don't need it? Who am I to tell them that now, at the end of their school careers, they should learn how to study when they did just fine without knowing how for so very long? ... I want to serve these kids. I want to be useful to them, and help them to achieve what they want. The best thing I have to offer is Calculus and Physics. That's what I know. But is that really of any use, to more than just a few of them? Isn't there some way I could be more useful, rather than killing myself teaching these classes when most of them don't need or want them? ' ... This is the teacher whose blog I return to the most. I don't know who she is, but I like her--I admire her spirit and intentions, her commitment and her honesty. She's upfront about reporting the petty nonsense that her colleagues get obsessed over, challenging the administration over scheduling disputes rather than engaging on the system's efforts at wholesale change. She's frank about her own failings and frustrations in the classroom. She sounds like she'd be a good teacher to have in class."-- Read the Full Article

We're All at Fault for Kids Unaware of the World

Arizona Daily Star:  Tucson, AZ — "Our view: Students need to do more than pass standard tests; we must inspire their curiosity, help develop thinking skills ... The vice president of the Arizona Board of Regents said he is worried that college graduates leave Arizona public universities with a diploma but without the basic knowledge of major issues, such as global warming and world religions ... According to a Capitol Media Services story, Ernest Calderón, a Phoenix attorney and regent, said in recent speech: "What universities need to do is undertake their primary mission of fully educating our students so that they realize that they have challenges ahead. It'll be their generation that probably has to solve these challenges' ... Students must possess the curiosity to want to know more than what's on the test. They must be inspired to ask questions, to ask why, to demand answers and to think through problems. And they must develop the thinking skills required to see beyond their textbooks and standardized tests. This kind of curiosity can't be taught in any single class; it must be infused throughout a child's life ... But in a state, and a country, where academic achievement is defined by scores on standardized tests, it should be no surprise that many students are limited in their critical thinking. Students are conditioned to want to know only what they need to know to do well on the test. This mind-set does terrible damage ... Students bear responsibility for their own education, too. We cannot allow them to be bystanders in their own education — they make choices about what is important to them, whether they want to learn about their world." -- Read the Full Article

Educate Students by Making Local Connections

The Augusta Chronicle:  Augusta, GA — "The link from education to gains in the economy is a direct one. This is not another economic impact study telling you what the (dollar) impact that Hull College of Business has on the local economy. Instead, the focus is on the broader mission of Hull College of Business and how education contributes to the local economy ... The current role of many business schools is in line with the role of most universities. That is, to educate students. We all can accept the basic premise that the more educated our workforce, the greater potential for higher wages and more spending in our local economy ... With shrinking state budgets, however, many universities must find alternative sources. Alumni are one such source often called upon, but schools like Augusta State University are at a disadvantage where the focus has been on smaller, and arguably more personalized education than the larger state schools ... How does a university such as Augusta State keep up with these larger state universities? It specializes and develops partnerships with the local community ... The business school and local community is a natural fit. Business schools traditionally have kept with the general mission to educate students. The challenge to today's business school is to get traditionally academic researchers to interact with community business leaders to help solve real-world problems ... In fact, this has even been a recent topic of discussion with the Warren Bennis and James O'Toole Harvard Business Review article that critiques the academic model of business schools. The main point is that the long-term foundation does not prepare students for the immediate workforce ...The main problem that I have with this critique is that preparing students for immediate success is just that ... short term. What happens when the business world changes? What happens when the nature of the industry changes? What happens when there is a new entrant into the market place? Foreign competition?... If our business graduates are not given the analytical and critical thinking skills to succeed, then what can we expect? But this also applies to business professors! "-- Read the Full Article

Parents Must Protect Their Children ...

Lexington Herald Leader:  "Parents must protect their children, but they also must foster critical thinking ... Protecting your children is a natural reflex for parents ... Sometimes it can be a clear physical danger, but often it's a psychological threat that has Mom or Dad covering their offspring's eyes and ears ... So it is somewhat understandable that some Christian parents wanted to get Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy of books out of their children's reach after hearing that the books and forthcoming movie of the first book, The Golden Compass, had an atheist agenda and that the heroes kill God, or a god, later in the series ... But the whole episode, which has included some schools pulling the books from their shelves and proposed boycotts of the movie, has me humming a tune by contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Derek Webb. He's a provocative artist in Christian circles, and one of his songs, A New Law, addresses people who don't want to think for themselves. He sings: 'Don't teach me about/ Truth and beauty/ Just label my music ' ... Or ban books, or run movies out of town ... Here's another idea: Why don't we raise critical thinkers?... By developing those skills in our kids, we arm them to engage in a world that will come to them with a wide variety of messages and ideas. We protect them against people who would prefer to do the thinking for them." -- Read the Full Article

Only Tinkering, No Reform of Education

The Sunday Times Online (Sri Lanka's largest-selling Independent English language Sunday Newspaper):  Final part of the Lalith Athulathmudali Memorial Oration: ..."In a country with a robust and vibrant private health care delivery system, existent for many years, such a move in higher education seemed hardly out of place ... Sri Lanka is unique, because unlike India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, it does not allow the establishment of foreign universities. In fact it is one out of about four countries in the world, with the most restrictive higher education policy. As a result we continue to lose over 7 billion rupees in foreign exchange, as well as lose bright and talented students to foreign universities, every year. In addition to this annual financial drain, the brain drain we see also includes those qualified professionals, who wish to give their children a good quality education, which they feel they cannot do while living in Sri Lanka ... Sri Lanka is also one out of very few countries that legally prohibit establishing private/international schools (in Grades 1-9). The 250 such international schools operating today, are able to do so because they are registered as business ventures in accordance with the Companies Act ... The University Education Reforms of the Presidential Task Force, proposed a new Universities Act. This preparation began during 1999-2000. After a lot of discussion amongst university academics and administrators the draft new Act was approved by the Cabinet. Some of the changes that were proposed included ... Reforming university curricula, introducing modular/unit-based approach, synchronising academic terms, de-linking the A’level examination from university entry, introducing English medium instruction, integrating IT and using it as a learning tool ... Restoring state-owned universities to what they used to be, i.e. bastions of critical thinking, with cutting-edge research and academic freedom, with improved funding from the state and modern management techniques ... Depoliticising the University Grants Commission and the Vice Chancellors, giving them financial and governance autonomy,the freedom to generate income and recruit staff with the brightest minds and sharpest skills ... Liberalising university education, allowing the establishment of private, fee-levying degree awarding institutions as well as private universities, subject to scrutiny and monitoring as well as quality control by independent Quality Assurance Authorities ... Had this been presented and enacted in Parliament and had these changes been implemented, not only would we have retained the fundamentals of free university education with improved quality, but we would have also accommodated a reputed private higher education delivery system, as it is in health care. Political pressures prevented presenting this Act to Parliament and prevented the Ministry from implementing the changes proposed ... We must also not delude ourselves that we have offered the fundamental right to qualitative education, to everyone, as it is enshrined in the Constitution - because we haven’t. Lalith Athulathmudali, in his address to the Sri Lanka Association of the Advancement of Science, on December 3, 1990, eloquently summed this up: ...'so many of us want to be educated to contribute to the well-being of Sri Lanka, but you are denying us that right and opportunity’. That complaint is not just against the Government, it is against those who are holding positions of trust in our education. Ultimately it is a charge against all those of us who label ourselves as persons of scholarship or education.'" -- Read the Full Article

One Man's Meat

The Sunday Times (Manila):  "For a long time now, journalism used to be taught by journalists. Knowing how to handle the standard news story—a textbook for journalists in developing nations—was a basic equipment. Soon it was found that good reporters for specialized coverage characteristic of the modern world could be trained faster and better if those who already know the basics of economics, education, politics and science are the ones trained to report. They may not produce classic news stories but they will come up with stories with depth and intelligence ...Today, we do not only need journalists with a good liberal arts education but also those who are adept in the handling of the latest communication technology.  So there is a need to re-examine the practice of hiring journalists, active or retired, to teach journalism. Journalism faculties have realized that many a freshman fresh from high school can navigate the worldwide Net better than a teacher who is a veteran journalist whose concept of journalism is still the five 'Ws' or who can work Pagemaker and Indesign and produce a better newspaper page than the white-haired layout man or makeup artist ... 'The major obstacle facing journalism schools is the stark realization that students need to have critical thinking skills first, and then we need to ask to them to start applying the multimedia  skills on top. Without the first, there can be no use of the second that makes any sense.' ” -- Read the Full Article

Here’s Why Teachers Who Ban Wikipedia are Misguided

ZDNet:  "Speaking at a conference in the UK the other day, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales poured it on pretty thick against teachers who ban the IMHO overly-criticized online encyclopedia Wikipedia in the classroom: ...'You can ban kids from listening to rock ‘n’ roll music, but they’re going to anyway,” the BBC website quoted Wales as saying. “It’s the same with information, and it’s a bad educator that bans their students from reading Wikipedia' ...  As a former college instructor, the boyfriend of a 29-years-in teacher and someone who has been paid to perform and present objective research for over thirty years I declare that ...Teachers wedded to textbooks and more standard encyclopedia entries need to understand that Wikipedia’s subject depth as well as speed-to-entry are not minuses but pluses ...These attributes are simply irreplaceable for students who are researching obscure or fast-changing topics. And given Wikipedia’s ubiquity, why deny students the opportunity to use and then vet what, arguably, is the most commonly accessed and available reference work in the world?...  And it’s not that Wikipedia entries are thrown together and only cite one side of an issue. The Wikipedia entry for Skype, for example, has a lengthy section on”Criticisms.” A student researching Skype will not be able to obtain such a comprehensive foundation of understanding by going to the Skype site, hitting the message boards, or even using Skype ... We live in a world where sources disagree sometimes. I believe use of Wikipedia as one of multiple sources in classrooms or term papers would go a long way toward fostering critical thinking skills.'"-- Read the Full Article

From Pakistan, Campus Lessons for India

Hindustan Times:  "Pakistan is trying to reform its education system - a complex and huge battle that has pitted the government against university teachers and student associations opposed to change, Islamic clerics trying to block the main streaming of madrassa education, and those fighting a change in textbooks to take out religion and introduce modern education ... Much of that has resonance in India, home to one of the largest education set-ups in the world. Excerpts of an interview with Pakistan's Education Minister Shams Kassim-Lakha, president of the Agha Khan University for three decades, after his meeting in New Delhi with South Asian counterparts ... Q. Madrasa reform has been billed as one of the major achievements of the Pervez Musharraf administration. How did the government deal with that?... A. Firstly, people always talk of madrasas as the place where bad things happen. Yes, they may have happened. But for 1,400 years Muslim countries and Muslim Ummah around the world relied on the institution of the madrassa. It has been a wonderful institution that provided education, provided those who could not afford even food and lodging, but in many cases the nature of the institution got a little bit behind times. Which is OK, but it doesn't give you critical thinking skills of the kind you need today to compete in this world ... That happened because heavy emphasis was on memorizing and not necessarily the application of knowledge. Consequently in many countries of the world they have had this problem that those who graduate out of the madrasa are good at certain things but unable to cope in others. With a lot of these things compounding - poverty is there, unemployment is there -  people have no choice but to send their people to madrasas ... Where things could be better and are being looked at is to reform the curriculum. Religious teaching is not what we are trying to reform. If they want to teach it their way, good luck, please do it - who am I to tell you my sect is better than yours?... But you are welcome to use the national curriculum with whatever modification is necessary ... on math, English, science and computers. Those are the critical factors of being able to cope with life. This programme has been introduced." -- Read the Full Article

City On a Hill

The New York Times:  "Garry Wills, one of America’s best journalists and historians of the last half-century, has always enjoyed taking familiar subjects and staring at them long and hard until they look strange and new. In “Head and Heart” he invites readers to reconsider American religious history, challenging the conventional wisdom on many issues while synthesizing much of the finest recent scholarship. It is an odd and quirky book, however, going into extremely fine detail in some areas, hurrying past others with a few casual remarks, and deviating in its last hundred pages into political polemic ...The 'head' of Wills’s title is Enlightenment religion, embodied in the thoughtful but sometimes chilly deism of Washington, Jefferson and Madison. The 'heart,' by contrast, is evangelicalism, to be found in America’s emotionally intense but intellectually thin revivalists, like George Whitefield before the Revolution and Charles Grandison Finney not long after. These are the great polarities of America’s religious history, and their creative conflict has contributed to America’s religious diversity and vitality, and to church-state separation. 'Head' has generally been the religion of the elite and 'heart' its populist counterpart under the leadership of revivalist stars like Francis Asbury, Dwight Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham ... The Massachusetts Puritans of the 17th century predated both, and their shadow looms over all later episodes. They too were intensely but narrowly intellectual, agonized over the destiny of their eternal souls, sought signs and portents of the imminent Second Coming and expected regular divine intervention in their everyday lives. They thought of religious freedom and mutual tolerance not as ideals to strive for but as instruments of the Devil. In 1660 they hanged Mary Dyer, a 40-ish mother of six, for boisterous declarations of her Quaker beliefs. A few decades later, by contrast, they made a heroine of Hannah Duston, who escaped captivity by killing 10 Indians with a hatchet, six of them children, and bringing home their scalps for a bounty ... How did we get from the Puritan ideal of zealous intolerance to a contemporary America in which no church is established and most Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others try to coexist? By means of the Enlightenment. Wills praises the Anglo-American philosophers and statesmen of the late 17th and 18th centuries, beginning with John Locke, who advocated toleration, disestablishment and humanitarian reform, and whose influence reached its height in the era of the American Revolution ... Wills is far more heady than hearty, but he recognizes that the two need each other. Occasionally they come together perfectly; he reserves high praise for people who blended intellectual rigor, humanitarianism and evangelical zeal. Anthony Benezet (1713-84), for example, who he suggests is “the one unquestionably authentic American saint,” was a Quaker who worked out a powerful Christian case against slavery, permitting reason rather than Scripture to have the last word but warming his arguments with God’s love. Both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass exemplified the ideal combination in the Civil War era. More recently Martin Luther King Jr., long a hero to Wills, took arguments from brainy theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr but inspired grass-roots civil rights workers by adding the fiery rhetoric of African-American tradition ... Too much head or heart, unbalanced by the other, causes trouble. Wills rebukes today’s evangelicals for their intellectual feebleness. He shows that their effort to make born-again Christians out of the founding fathers is simply bad history. He dismisses their claim that creationism is a science, and he reproaches them for demonizing the social transformations of recent decades as a “secular humanist” conspiracy. A Christianity that refuses to face up to intellectual difficulties, he believes, will always render itself ridiculous." -- Read the Full Article

Racism and the American Psyche

CounterPunch (America's Best Political Newsletter):  "Race is in the news again. First it was the Jena Six, then Nobel laureate James D. Watson’s assertion, that black are less intelligent than whites, and finally, a series of articles two weeks ago in Slate arguing that there was scientific evidence to back Watson’s claim ... The reaction to these recent developments was predictable. There have been a number of heated debates on the internet concerning not only race and intelligence, but also the appropriateness of studying race and intelligence. Two crucial points have yet to be made, however. The first concerns the contentious association of intelligence with IQ score and the second is the equally contentious assumption that we have anything like a clear scientific conception or race ... Let’s take the first one first. What is intelligence anyway? We have no better grasp of this than we have of the relation of the mind to the brain ... Sure the mind, and therefore intelligence, is intimately connected with the brain. Read Oliver Sachs if you want to see just how intimate that connection is. Sachs is one of my favorite authors not simply because the substance of his writings is so fascinating, but also because he is himself so clearly intelligent. Not only does he not go leaping to conclusions on issues that lie outside his area of professional expertise (though I have to say I’d be more interested to hear Sachs’ social and political views than Watson’s), he doesn’t go leaping to conclusions about the implications of what he has observed in his own work in neurology. He’d be one of the first people, I think, to defend the claim that we do not yet have a clear enough idea of what intelligence is to be reliably able to quantify it. We don’t even understand it well enough yet to be able to say confidently that it is quantifiable. At this point, all we can say is that it appears so intimately connected with the brain that it can, in some sense, be associated with, or represented by, we-know-not-yet-what neurological activities or tendencies ... I construe my job as an educator not to impart knowledge, but to nurture intellectual confidence. (Of course this could be partly a defensive mechanism because I am a philosopher, which means I don’t have any knowledge to impart.) I try to teach critical thinking skills, of course, but even more important to me is somehow to get my students to believe in their own intellectual potential because even these skills, I believe, can, at least to a certain extent, be acquired naturally by people who are confident in their ability to acquire them. I say, teach people to believe in themselves and then see what they are able to do with that faith. But be very careful when you start judging the results because if anything of value has emerged from the recent debates on race and intelligence, it is that many of us are much closer to the edge of idiocy than any of us would like to admit ... What we have here are noted intellectuals who have failed to grasp even the most basic facts about what constitutes natural scientific research and failed to understand that to parade this ignorance in the way they have before a public still marked by social and economic inequities that cut along racial lines is offensive in the extreme. The whole thing has been very humbling. It has shown, I believe, that racism is still very firmly entrenched in the American psyche." -- Read the Full Article

When Meaningful Modifiers Go Missing

The Kansan:  "Debate and critical thinking are necessary for recommending good public policy. There are generally two methods for public debate: information and insight to advance a point of view or intimidation and invective to oppose one ... A subtle form of intimidation occurs when an issue is reframed by removing important modifiers — words that add clarity, precision and accuracy. When meaningful modifiers go missing, arguments become unarguable ... For example, it’s easy to dismiss as narrow minded anyone who opposes immigration, objects to stem cell research, rejects evolution or discounts global warming — but I don’t know anyone like that ... Gone missing are the modifiers: illegal immigration, embryonic stem cell research, Darwinian evolution and man-made global warming. Removing key modifiers shuts the conversation down, replacing well-intentioned debate with marketing techniques — brand, packaging, repetition, celebrity, etc." -- Read the Full Article

Can Western-Style Education Transform the Middle East?

Journal Ghretien:  "If you only learn to repeat what you’ve been taught – and not to think for yourself – you may be ill prepared to vote ...That’s the lesson the Jerusalem-born librarian conveyed as we sat in her office in a brand new boarding school near Madaba, Jordan. When Afaf Kazimi moved to Jordan many years ago and could vote for the first time, she simply cast her ballot on another’s recommendation without knowing much about the candidate. 'I voted for the wrong person,' she concluded in hindsight ... Much of her early school education had involved rote memorization – learning facts for tests, as is common in the Middle East – and had lacked training in critical thinking, skills she developed later. Now she’s excited to be part of a new experiment that blends Western analytical emphases with traditional Arab culture, helping students avoid the educational path she and others had to take." -- Read the Full Article

Can Children Think Philosophically?

StephenLaw Blogspot (Royal Institute of Philosophy Journal):  " Here's a bit from my book The War For Children's Minds. I include it as opening the case for saying critical thinking is something children can do, even at a fairly young age, and it's good for them. It's offered as a response to comments by Ibrahim Lawson and sr that children cannot think critically below 14 (and so shouldn't be thinking critically about religion before then)." -- Read the Full Article

How Risk and Uncertainty Influence Decisions

Critical Thinking Cafe:  "While you may not know his name, whenever you make a major decision you encounter the tension (and emotional struggle) he recognized and defined. For twenty years, Frank Knight and his colleague Jacob Viner directed the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago. Knight's dissertation titled Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit (1921) drew a distinction between risk (when the probability of an outcome is possible to calculate and insure against) and uncertainty (when the probability of something cannot be determined) ...The underlying problem with any major decision is you cannot know the outcome or be certain, after the decision is made, whether or not another choice would have been a better option. The use of a criteria-driven decision making process helps you ensure against the risks in a decision by making the process as quantified as possible. Tension builds when you expect even the best decision process to eliminate all of the uncertainty that is inherent in a decision ... I've met several people with the title Risk Manager. I've never met anyone that told me they were hired to be the Uncertainty Manager. (A few years ago, Fast Company provided some valuable insight into this tension in an article titled No Risk, No Reward.) ... It is difficult to protect against every risk and impossible to eliminate all uncertainty in a major decision. When the criteria in a decision are clearly identified and accurately quantified they can be compared against the alternatives, making any decision a logical process that balances emotion with reason ... Attempting to eliminate all uncertainty in a decision often results in no decision at all (which is the decision). You can't eliminate decision uncertainty so balance it by accurately and effectively managing a decision's risks." -- Read the Full Article

Keeping It Old School

The Big News:  "Imagine spending a relaxing weekend canning food and doing laundry, washing the clothes manually and letting the clothes hang out to dry ... This may seem like a view of the past for some, but for Steven Steel, an associate professor in the honors program, this is a way of life ... While some people may recycle, use solar energy or just simply cut back on using energy consuming products, Steel would rather just not use the wasteful products to begin with ... According to Steel, living in a house which was built in 1887 doesn't mean he doesn't have a choice. He chose to live without using much energy ... Steel says ...  "It [conserving energy] was more of a learning process of my own, a critical thinking process trying to be thoughtful of the impact of my lifestyle."-- Read the Full Article

How Much Did the Ancients Know?

LewRockwell.Com:  "In the news of "The only surviving copy of the 500-year-old map that first used the name America" going on display at the Library of Congress it appears that  Reuters is rather amazed by the map. Others also seem amazed that there is such accurate detail of regions not yet explored by Europeans in 1507 on the map. How a German monk named Martin Waldseemuller made these maps is simply a mystery according to the mainstream media ... I suppose that is better than calling the map a forgery as is often done with anything that violates the history we are taught in school. Usually it is far easier to declare something that doesn't match to be untrue rather than to do the investigation and find out what is really lacking is one's knowledge of the subject. It is not much different than what we see in the election campaign with regards to Ron Paul on subjects the other candidates haven't done their homework on. Ron Paul is cast as a "kook" or what he talks about as "imaginary" simply because the critics don't know or understand it ... What we are taught in school is what is considered "safe" or "acceptable" for the masses. It is not information that will encourage critical thinking, but lessons that will reinforce that the world is what one is told it is. If they say that Europeans thought the world to be flat until Columbus sailed off to the islands around Cuba, that's the way it was. That's the acceptable history. A history that we are to believe is a slow progression from following game animals and picking berries to the technology we have today." -- Read the Full Article

The Old and New Shapes of Nuclear Danger

The Nation: " 'After I became an American citizen, the thing that stands out so clearly in my mind is the Reagan/Gorbachev summit at Reykjavik,' California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently. 'The leaders of the two most powerful nations on earth were actually discussing the elimination of nuclear weapons. Such a breathtaking possibility. I still remember the thrill of it.'

The occasion was a conference at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, led by the four authors of an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal last January. It called for 'A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,' as championed by Reagan and Gorbachev at Reykjavik, and its authors were George Shultz, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan (Shultz was present at Reykjavik); William Perry, Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton; Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Richard Nixon; and former Senator Sam Nunn--four archbishops of the cold war nuclear priesthood, most of whom until now have dismissed the idea of nuclear abolition as undiscussably utopian and naïve. The four cited proliferation and the terrorist danger, and warned that the world is entering 'a new nuclear era that will be more precarious, psychologically disorienting, and economically costly than Cold War deterrence.' Significantly, they invoked moral as well as practical reasons for their proposal, approvingly quoting Reagan's opinion that nuclear weapons are 'totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.' The conference at Hoover was the second in a series convened to explore concrete pathways to the goal of abolition. The group will eventually publish a book and hold an international conference to present their findings ... As Schwarzenegger self-deprecatingly observed, he knows more about weight lifting than throw-weights; yet he went on to speak compellingly of the new nuclear dangers. (It is a perverse pleasure to be able to quote Schwarzenegger, Shultz, Kissinger, Perry, Nunn and Reagan approvingly in a single article in The Nation, which normally does not keep company of this kind. The hopeful aspect may be that in our fractious time there are still some issues that can recall us to our common humanity.)... More important for understanding the present moment than this impressive performance is that the negotiation can be seen as the culmination of an evolution of thinking as long as the cold war. The problem presented by the advent of the bomb in 1945 was how to absorb such a stupendous, disproportionate force as the energy released from mass into the fluctuating, frail, contingent realm of historical events. A protracted effort at what might be called translation was required--a slow sifting and weighing, in heart and mind, of each aspect of the nuclear dilemma. For a single modern historical era, the cold war lasted a remarkably long time--and thereby offered a pedagogical advantage. Considered as a laboratory in which to examine the bomb, it provided ample leisure for investigation. You might say that it held the mysterious and elusive atomic fire steady in its tense grip long enough for people to discover some important things about it and to reflect on it quite deeply. "-- Read the Full Article

How to Help Your Child Improve on Standardized Tests

Scripps News:  "Dear Dr. Fournier ... My son is a high school junior who is taking the ACT for the first time next week. He sometimes has difficulty on tests, but he compensates for this in other ways. For instance, he never misses a homework assignment because a very good homework average keeps his grades in an A to B+ range -- even if he slips on a test. Because my son wants early acceptance into his No. 1 college choice, he must make at least a 34 on the ACT. Is there anything he should do this week that could help him?... ASSESSMENT ... My office receives more phone calls during the weeks before the ACT or SAT tests than any other time of the year. Students want to prepare for a college entrance exam as if they were taking a test in school, and unfortunately, many students are in the habit of cramming for those weekly or monthly exams. Cramming is always a poor learning technique, relegated only to times when absolutely necessary to memorize small pieces of information. This won't work for the ACT for two reasons. First, the ACT is too comprehensive and covers too many different modules. Second, preparing for the ACT is very different from studying for a typical test which relies heavily on memorization. Instead, the ACT measures a student's critical thinking and analytical skills."-- Read the Full Article

Chavismo and Democracy

The Nation:  "On December 2, by a slim margin--50.7 percent to 49.3 percent--Venezuelans rejeconstitutional reforms championed by President Hugo Chávez. Fiercely debated in Venezuela, the referendum sparked a spirited discussion among our contributors. This article is part of a forum representing a range of opinions and analyses, which also includes cted a slate of sixty-nine Mark Weisbrot: ... "Progressive Change in Venezuela"; Sujatha Fernandes: "What Does the 'No' Vote Mean?"; Chesa Boudin: "A Silver Lining for the Bolivarian Revolution"; and Elisabeth Young-Bruehl: "Behind the Student Movement's Victory" ... Last Sunday, Venezuelans went to the polls and narrowly defeated a set of sixty-nine proposed reforms to their country's Constitution. The amendments, backed by President Hugo Chávez, were condemned by his critics at home and abroad as a tyrant's power grab. Gloating headlines and gleeful postmortems hailed the wisdom of common Venezuelans rising up to snatch back democracy from the brink. "Freedom wins!" ran a statement released by Florida Republican Congressman Connie Mack. Roger Noriega, the old Iran-contra hand who as George W. Bush's Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs helped organize the 2004 coup against Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide, predicted that Chávez would be "slashing in every direction and will provoke another crisis' ... But Chávez has so far responded with poise, going on TV to call the results a sign that "Venezuelan democracy is maturing." As Ezra Klein points out on his blog, "referenda meant to increase the powers of the executive do not, in fact, fail by two percent. And when they do, the dictator does not, in fact, say, 'I congratulate my adversaries for this victory. For now, we could not do it' ,,, Whether this graciousness is sincere or forced, lasting or fleeting, an honest accounting of the referendum--even as it signaled a defeat for the specific strategy that the Venezuelan president chose to pursue following his landslide re-election last December--was a triumph for the general model of political accountability that Chávez has tried to consolidate since coming to power, as well as a showcase for the kind of deliberative democracy that he has played no small part in fostering ... Critics of Chávez inevitably dismiss his support as the product of emotive populism, as did Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, who, with more than a whiff of condescension, wrote in a report for The Nation's website that the Venezuelan president serves as a "mirror for the wretched of the earth, and they are joyous when he succeeds at being the vulnerable ideal he projects." Others, such as Teodoro Petkoff, who ran the campaign of Chávez's opponent in last year's presidential election, talk about Chávez's "magical realist" hold over the poor, who are apparently entranced by the baubles their president dangles in front of them. But what can be more populist than a plan supported by Petkoff designed to weaken Chávez's support by promising millions of poor Venezuelans a black debit card called Mi Negra, backed by the national treasury, which would give them access up to $450 per month (call it neoliberal populism, giving to the poor just enough to force the defunding of state services). This promise alone should be enough to end once and for all the charge that Chávez is an irresponsible populist. That the vast majority of citizens rejected this proposal in favor of a more organized form of state-backed economic redistribution should confirm that it is critical thinking, not populist enchantment, that accounts for Chavismo's support." -- Read the Full Article

Students Learn the Process of Thought

Traverse City Eagle-Record: "  Traverse City, MI -- Long Lake Elementary students, in a recent math lesson, looked at pictures of bridges and roller coasters that used triangle-shaped supports in the architecture ... They discussed the shape's structure, examined its properties and wondered how else it could be used ... It's an example of a thinking routine called 'I See, I Think, I Wonder,' part of a program to encourage critical thinking skills Traverse City Area Public Schools launched nearly five years ago."  -- Read the Full Article

NEA Underscores Importance of Closing Achievement Gaps

All American Patriots (Dispatches Form the Depths of US Government): Washington, DC – The results of the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released today by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the United States again rates in the lower half of 57 other participating countries and scored below average in student achievement. PISA surveys the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in science, math and reading. Students from 30 OECD member countries and 27 additional countries and jurisdictions participated in the 2006 PISA ... NEA President Reg Weaver, who also serves as vice president of Education International, said, “Once again, Finland ranks number one in the world in the PISA survey. Is it a coincidence that Finland has no standardized testing and provides each child with an individualized education plan? Additionally, in Finland, teachers help to make key decisions regarding budget allocations, scheduling, and curriculum, which influence learning. This country has designed an education system exclusively focused on helping students excel' ... The 2006 PISA results do not show significant increases in math and science compared to 2003 when the last assessments were performed. The results, however, do suggest a correlation between equity and quality ... The study recommends that educational policies should target disadvantaged children and that low performing schools and students would greatly benefit from specialized curricula and additional resources. 'These findings confirm what NEA has known all along—gaps in student achievement must be narrowed in order to level the playing field so that American children will be able to compete in the global economy of the future,' said Weaver ... The results also highlight that all students can benefit from expanded education opportunities such as providing early childhood education and increased learning time. “No Child Left Behind has forced teachers to teach to the test and narrow curricula, depriving students of the well-rounded education they need,” Weaver said. “Good science instruction requires teachers and students to become engaged in critical thinking and laboratory activities, which require sustained amounts of time and resources. These are luxuries that today’s teachers don’t have. We must provide teachers with the resources and time they need to teach—not test—our students. Teachers also require ongoing training opportunities so they can keep up with constant innovations in science' ... One of the major goals of Education International, which represents more than 30 million teachers and education workers, is to promote equality through the development of education. 'This must be made a priority in America so that U.S. children aren’t left paying the price for our education policy’s shortcomings,' Weaver said." -- Read the Full Article

Success in Learning

The Detroit Free Press:  "The success of students at Oakland County's International Academy can be measured a variety of ways -- from test scores to the colleges its graduates attend to its repeated recognition as one of the top public high schools in the country ... It's also apparent in the increasing number of students applying for spots in the school, and the number of schools across Michigan considering similar offerings ... Already, 10 other schools in the state offer International Baccalaureate curriculum -- rigorous courses that challenge students' analytical and critical-thinking skills -- and 19 others have applied to add the program ... The International Academy is planning to expand from about 700 students now to 1,400 students over the next four years, which would make it the second-largest IB school in the world ... Macomb County's school districts will open an IB school in fall 2008, similar to the one in Oakland County. And Grosse Pointe Public Schools are expecting a report this month about adding an IB program ... 'What IB is actually training you to do is step in the shoes of a practitioner,' said Bert Okma, principal and founder of the International Academy in Oakland County, an IB school that's been ranked by Newsweek magazine as one of the top 10 high schools in the country since 2002. 'It's not just asking you to know biology, it's asking you to think like a biologist.' "-- Read the Full Article

Making An Impact

The Prague Post: Czech Republic — "Alex Raiman is no stranger to self-sufficiency. Raised in Hanover, Germany, as the son of Czech immigrants, he served in the German military for two years before returning to his native Prague in 2004 to begin his university studies.

While his days as an officer are behind him, Raiman, 25, says he’s ready to apply that disciplined work ethic to his latest role as the president of Impact, reportedly the nation’s first student-run consultancy business, which launched last year ... 'I wanted to start a student-run business that was both creative and intellectually demanding,' says Raiman, a senior majoring in business administration and international European economic studies at the University of New York in Prague (UNYP). 'I wanted to be able to take our classroom theories and get hands-on practice. … It’s basically entrepreneur boot camp' ... In an effort to gain real, firsthand knowledge of the business world — something textbooks can’t provide — Impact members have gotten a running start on their careers while still attending university classes. Students say they hope Impact will provide them with the experience and contacts necessary to land that all-important first job after graduation ... While some business owners might be wary of entrusting their consulting needs to university students, it’s the group’s enthusiasm and free thinking that may actually be its biggest asset ... 'While experience is usually a big advantage in business, it can potentially make you single-minded and limited to the available options,” Raiman says. “Of course, it’s necessary to have critical thinking skills and be able to work independently, but as students, we’re not yet spoiled by corporate culture. We’re open to a broader range of options.” -- Read the Full Article

Systemic Problem Solving

Critical Thinking Cafe: "Your system is perfectly designed to gove you the results you're getting ...That statement by W. Edwards Deming underscores why so many problem-solving efforts fail to achieve their intended objectives. No problems stand alone. The interconnectedness of human relationships, organizations, markets, supply chains, etc. make it impossible to approach any problem as an isolated event, independent of a larger system ... Our English word 'system' comes from two root concepts - to combine and to cause to stand, resulting in a term that refers to 'a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole' (Webster's New Collegiate Distionary). Thomas Merton's idea that no man (or organization) is an island extends far beyond the philosophical and theological discussion of his book by that title. Nothing is completely independent ... When revenue drops in a company, management often looks first to the sales organization for answers. Obviously, more people buying a product or service results in more revenue for the company. But failing to look at the entire revenue-generation system could result in a lot of blame and problem correction going to the wrong place. While money invested in better recruiting, more robust training, and a new method for managing the sales process will provide marginal improvement, those remedies may not address the heart of the issue ... Revenue in any organization is dependent on a system that includes ... 1. Revenue ... 2. Closed sales ... 3. An effective sales process ... 4. A pipeline of qualified prospects ... An adequate number of qualified leads ... Effective marketing that attracts qualified prospects ...  When this system is viewed as a whole entity (and looked at in relation to all the other systems in an organization) it becomes apparent that lagging revenue may have a root cause far from the point where a customer makes a buying decision or where a salesperson helps the prospect evaluate the value of a product or service. Sales growth is dependent on a pipeline of qualified prospects. A sales pipeline develops from an adequate number of qualified leads. Those potential clients are generally reached through some type of marketing ...  If you don't like your results, don't focus on isolated events--look at the entire system. The cause of your problem may lie far from your point of immediate pain. "-- Read the Full Article

UF’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service Receives $1.5 Million

Inside UF (University of Florida):  Gainesville, FL — "A major gift to the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida will give the university greater opportunities to produce future public policymakers in Florida and on the national scene ... Retired U.S. senator and former Florida governor Bob Graham, his brother William A. Graham and the Philip L. Graham Fund joined to give $1.5 million to the Graham Center. The donation will establish the Philip L. Graham Program Fund to provide support for graduate and undergraduate programs in public leadership. The fund will also support research, teaching and the advancement of civic education at all educational levels in Florida through programs at the Graham Center ...The Graham Center seeks solutions to public problems in the areas of public leadership, the Americas and homeland security. The center will address these issues by giving students opportunities to train for future leadership positions, to meet with current policymakers and to take courses in critical thinking, language and world cultures. These opportunities will allow students to confront issues that are important for the advancement of Florida and the nation." -- Read the Full Article

Sexual Non-Discrimination to be Enforced in Policy

The Signal (College of New Jersey Student Newspaper Since 1885):  "Student organization constitutions at the College are now required to list "sexual orientation" in a non-discriminatory clause for membership qualifications and address how they plan to fund themselves, among other minor changes, as finalized in a bill passed by the Student Government Association (SGA) at its last meeting ... The bill, 'B-F2007-01: Bill to Revise the Format of Organizational Constitutions,' is the first passed by SGA this academic year. Section 1 under 'Article III - Qualifications of Membership' in student organization constitutions must now state that the organization does not 'discriminate based on sex, race, religion, color, ancestry, national origin, marital status, handicap, age, sexual orientation and lifestyle.' Previously, sexual orientation was not listed ... All future clubs at the College will be required to follow the changes when developing a constitution in order to receive recognition from SGA ... Paula Maas, director of Assessment from the office of Institutional Research and Assessment, spoke to SGA about the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) ... '(The CLA is) a national test - and it really is a test, it's not a survey - that was recently developed to determine if college students are learning some really critical things during their time in college, and that's critical thinking, writing, analytical thinking and problem solving,' Maas said."-- Read the Full Article

Student 'Philosophers' Learn New Thinking Skills

The Republican:  Springfield, MA — "Editor's note: Mary Cowhey, who teaches second grade at Jackson Street School in Northampton, discusses here her approach to helping students develop critical thinking skills. The piece is part of the Republican's Newspaper in Education monthly series featuring teachers and their students' efforts to improve as writers. The teacher participants are fellows in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project based at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst: — "Philosophy in second grade?... Sure, but we're not discussing Plato and Aristotle ... We're talking about the nature of bravery in 'Dragons and Giants' from 'Frog and Toad Together' or 'Hey, Little Ant' and the nature of power ... I began having philosophical discussions with my students 10 years ago, as part of a collaboration with philosophy professors Tom Wartenberg of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, and Gareth B. Matthews of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst ... At first I thought I could shoehorn it into my schedule at 2 p.m. on Thursdays, as a way to sharpen my students' critical thinking skills ... Once the children developed these habits of mind, philosophical discussions quickly overflowed that tidy time slot ... Students started raising philosophical questions during morning meetings and throughout the day ... Initially, I saw philosophy as a way to develop thinking, listening and speaking skills ... Last year, I began to ask the children to write essays on topics such as bravery, with the discussions serving as pre-writing activities." -- Read the Full Article

The Relationship Between Culture and Critical Thinking Abilities of Prospective Teachers

ScienceDirect: School of Educational Sciences, North-West University, Vaal Triangle Campus, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa — "Abstract: ...The emphasis placed on the individualistic and universal nature of cognitive development in some cognitive development models has resulted in the neglect of the cultural context in the development of cognitive abilities. Consequences of this approach for cognitive development are the strong emphasis which is placed on age-dependent patterns of growth and uniformity. Furthermore, the occurrence of changes in the relationship between an individual and the surrounding environment as crucial for the development of cognitive abilities are neglected. In this paper, a cultural approach to the development of critical thinking abilities is proposed in contrast to the traditional, individualistic approach ...The linked purposes of this paper are: ... • to elucidate the critical thinking abilities of a mixed cultural group of 114 prospective first-year student teachers studying for a BEd degree at a South African university by means of the Watson–Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal; and ... • to provide insight into the relationship between the critical thinking abilities of the group of prospective teachers and their various cultures ... The study found that (1) a considerable number of the sample of prospective teachers are not yet functioning on Grade 12 level with regard to the execution of critical thinking skills. The sample's apparent inability to execute critical thinking skills is clear from this research and (2) it seems as if the various cultural worlds of these prospective teachers have not prepared them for the execution of critical thinking abilities." -- Read the Full Article

Shifting the Norm

The Diamondback (The University of Maryland's Independent Daily Student Newspaper):  "It will be a dismal day when cost overruns force The Diamondback's printing presses to come to a grinding halt and campus news is delivered solely via the World Wide Web ... No, the paper isn't facing a financial catastrophe, but the days of being able to pour over articles printed in dark, black ink on creamy, white paper are sadly numbered. As we spend more of our lives online, print media is slowly stalking its way into obscurity. Last month, The Washington Post reported a 50 percent drop in its newspaper profits, an irreversible trend spurred by our acclimation to 'on-demand' media, where we get what we want, when we want it ... And though we'll one day be leaving the exciting era of newspaper barons behind, there will be a bizarre and beautiful future to look forward to at the wake. As the Internet matures, we're increasingly able to unshackle news content from a specific medium and tailor the information we're presented with through customizable news feeds ... The next 10 years present a picture even more peculiar. The computers comprising the Internet are, in essence, a gigantic distributed computing machine, and while individual computers may fail, the entire machine has an unfathomable calculation capacity and never turns off. We'll soon have techniques powerful enough to harness the artificial learning ability of this machine to automatically filter and deliver content to users. Instead of reading through articles organized by a savvy editor on broadsheets, we'll click through articles arranged by a sophisticated algorithm on websites ... Sound impossible?... It's already happening ... Whenever you send a link to a friend on AIM or tag a photograph in Facebook, you're teaching the aggregate network of the Internet how to pick out valuable content. When techniques to analyze these habits go online, we'll start being served content attuned to our interests with uncanny precision ... As user-provided content becomes more prevalent and our ability to sift through the junk improves, corporations will inevitably shift focus toward these profitable media outlets. Many thought Rupert Murdoch was crazy for buying for $580 million, but he was ahead of the curve, as the website is a place where users willingly spend hours amid advertisements looking at cheap content. With more than 100 million blogs operating today, our appetites have slowly shifted from media produced by centralized companies operating for profit to a confederacy of individuals operating for pleasure ... Some even think that on-the-spot news will be reported for free in the future because we'll be so interconnected: Witnesses of an event will simply have to blog about what they saw and their stories will be spliced together by an algorithm to create a reasonable account of the occurrence. Fortunately for journalists, algorithms can't duplicate the tenacity and critical thinking required for true investigative reporting. The art of journalism has a place in the new century, but the business of journalism may not. The ability of journalists to lay history's rough draft will always be an invaluable public resource even if print media is no longer a profitable path for piggybacking advertisements." -- Read the Full Article

UI Professors Receive Grants to Aid Educators

Iowa City Press-Citizen: "Hundreds of high school students across the state of Iowa will benefit from improved mathematics instruction and curriculum thanks to state and federal funding received by a University of Iowa College of Education professor earlier this year ... Cos Fi, a UI assistant professor of mathematical education, received a three-year, $426,000 grant titled 'mportant Mathematics and Powerful Pedagogy (IMAPP).'He received the grant, which runs through 2009, from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Education, which jointly administer Title II grants authorized by the federal No Child Left Behind Act ...Title II grants are intended to increase the academic achievement of all students by helping schools and school districts ensure that all teachers are highly qualified to teach and to increase the academic achievement of students in mathematics and science by enhancing the content knowledge and teaching skills of classroom teachers ... Fi is one of two professors in the UI College of Education to receive such grants. Brian Hand, a professor in the science education program, received a grant from the same funding sources to promote science and literacy in the classroom ... Brian Hand, a science education professor in the UI College of Education Department of Teaching and Learning, is working hard to reverse the trends of U.S. students' declining science achievement with a three-year, $400,000 grant titled 'Helping Iowa Teachers Promote Critical Thinking and Inquiry in Science and Literacy in K-8 Classrooms.' Hand's co-principal investigator is Lori Norton-Meier, a UI alumna and assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Iowa State University. The grant began earlier this year and runs through 2009."-- Read the Full Article

Roth Praises Activisim, Questions Chalking

The Wesleyan Argus (Since 1868): Middletown, CT — "President Michael Roth spoke about his ongoing campaign to spread and strengthen the University’s reputation, as well as redefine academic priorities, at Sunday night’s Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) meeting ... Roth also spoke candidly about his conception of the ideal Wesleyan student, his issues with chalking and attempts to 'Keep Wesleyan Weird ... I have been impressed by the serious, energetic activism of groups at Wesleyan working for peace, on the environment, on anti-racism, and on behalf of workers,' Roth said. 'This is not about weirdness, it’s about progressive politics and building our campus culture' ... WSA member Saul Carlin ’09 asked Roth about the 'Keep Wesleyan Weird' movement, which began last year amid criticisms that administrators were lessening the University’s uniqueness ... 'Frankly, I think its nonsense, it’s puerile,' Roth said. 'Wesleyan has been a leader in political struggles. That’s not weird, that’s admirable' ... Roth said he discussed what makes Wesleyan unique at November’s Board of Trustees meeting, and emphasized the University’s core values ... 'Wesleyan has been at the forefront of critical thinking about issues of social justice since the 1960s,' Roth said. 'This is far more important than cultivating an interest in the tunnels, or composing anti-corporate juvenilia.' "-- Read the Full Article

Ex-Terrorist Speaks at UWM

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  " Self-described former terrorist Walid Shoebat told an audience of about 750 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday night that Muslims in the Middle East are raised to believe in the destruction of Israel ...

But after his speech, which got a standing ovation, the question-and-answer session became raucous and heated ... One questioner, Abd Elhamid Elsayed, a Muslim opposed to Shoebat's message, didn't get to his question quickly enough for some people, who shouted at him to finish. Security officers pulled him away from the microphone ... Another man yelled, 'Hallelujah!' ... Shoebat said he was born in Bethlehem to a Muslim father and an American Christian mother held in the Middle East against her will. As a young man, he said, he committed acts of terror against Israel, including throwing a bomb at a bank in Bethlehem that he said killed no one ... He later moved to Chicago, where he said he openly advocated for the Palestinian group Hamas. He converted to Christianity in 1993 and lives under an assumed name ... 'The idea of destroying Israel never left our minds,' Shoebat said. 'We didn't have any of the critical thinking you enjoy here in the West. . . . We had the idea that Israel must be wiped out, and we must establish a state.' "-- Read the Full Article

On the Bolshevik Myth

Anarkismo.Net:  "I always have mixed feelings when I see Leninists attack anarchism in their press. On the one hand, I despair as I know they will waste a lot of space getting it wrong. And that a lot of time will be required to correct the errors, distortions and stupidities they inflict on the world (as I have already done in 'An Anarchist FAQ').  I also feel hope as it shows that anarchism is growing so much that they feel they have to spend time attacking us. We have three classic examples of this in International Socialist Review issue no. 53 ... For some reason, while attacking anarchists and anarchism Marxists feel they have to take our best ideas, experiments and activists. Often they discuss anarchist activists and strangely fail to mention they were anarchists. Louise Michel has suffered this fate, as have the Haymarket Martyrs. The latter have now suffered an even worse fate, with an academic, James Green, trying to appropriate them for Marxism! ... In an interview in ISR and a recent book, Green tries his best to turn the Haymarket Martyrs into Marxists. He asserts that 'Albert Parsons believed a strong socialist movement needed to follow the prescription put forward by Karl Marx: that is, such a movement needed a mass working-class following.' As if that were not Bakunin's position: "for the International to be a real power, it must be able to organise within its ranks the immense majority of the proletariat of Europe, of America, of all lands.' (Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 293) (see 'An Anarchist FAQ': H 2 7) ... Clearly, Green's attempt to expropriate the Martyrs for Marxism runs aground on the shores of reality ... The Martyrs did come to see that both the state and capitalism had to be abolished at the same time and, as Green says, "the working class had to have its own institutions and its own militia, its own communal forms of decision-making.' That is, they came to the same conclusion as Bakunin had and is why they called themselves anarchists ... It is one of the ironies of Marxism is that attempts of working class people to organise communally have always been repressed not only by traditional ruling classes but also by the so-called 'dictatorship of the proletariat.' This has always been an embarrassment for modern day Leninists, who seek to defend such repression. If this means ignoring or denying well known facts then so be it ... Phil Gasper (in an article ironically entitled 'Critical Thinking') does precisely this when he defends Trotsky against bourgeois criticism, arguing as regards the crushing of Kronstadt that 'the sailors were threatening an armed rebellion and demanding that the Bolsheviks be purged from the soviets.'  One slight problem, though, it is not true. As Paul Avrich proved long ago, "'Soviets without Communists' was not, as is often maintained by both Soviet and non-Soviet writers, a Kronstadt slogan.'In fact, the Kronstadt program 'did allow a place for the Bolsheviks in the soviets, alongside the other left-wing organisations . . . Communists . . . participated in strength in the elected conference of delegate, which was the closest thing Kronstadt ever had to the free soviets of its dreams.' (Kronstadt 1921, p. 181) ... It is true that the soviet democracy the Kronstadt rebels actually demanded would have resulted in the Bolsheviks losing power as few people would have voted for them. Yet the results democratic process can hardly be termed a 'purge.' "-- Read the Full Article

Girls Dominate the Siemens Competition

Business Week:  "For the first time in the prestigious national math and science contest's nine-year history, girls were awarded both grand prizes ... In a first for the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for U.S. high school students, girls walked away with top honors in both the individual and team categories ... The individual grand prize of a $100,000 scholarship went to Isha Jain, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa., for research into bone growth. Results of the nine-year-old competition were announced on Dec. 3. As winners of the team grand prize, Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Harinoff, seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, N.Y., will split a $100,000 scholarship awarded for their research on tuberculosis. (For a slide show of the 20 finalists, see 'America's Smartest Students.') ... Jain admits to being surprised by her win. "I came in here thinking I had no chance at all," she says. "The caliber of the projects is absolutely phenomenal." She and her fellow champs beat out 1,641 students and 1,361 projects, persevering through grueling local and regional competitions. In the final stage, over the first weekend in December, finalists made oral project presentations before an audience and judges at New York University in Manhattan. Sponsored by the Siemens Foundation, the contest was started in 1998 after Siemens (SI) lost its bid to take over the original Westinghouse Science Competition, which was first held in 1942 and is now known as the Intel Science Talent Search (INTC) ... Women lag far behind men in professional math, science, and computer fields, an issue that became the subject of renewed debate in 2005 when then Harvard President Lawrence Summers suggested the lack of top female scientists may stem in part from biological differences between men and women. Jain vehemently disagrees, but acknowledges with some annoyance that 'the guy-to-girl ratio in math and science competitions is absolutely ridiculous. It's usually seven or eight guys to one girl.' The results of this year's Siemens Competition may signify that more girls are 'finally stepping up to the plate and are more than capable,' Jain says. 'And I'm proud to be a part of that' ... Siemens Foundation President James Whaley says the percentage of girls entering the competition has increased each year; this year, 48% of the contestants were female. Eighty percent of this year's competitors were from public schools, and one team of finalists consisted of home-schooled girls ... The team winners, Schlossberger and Marinoff, are part of an independent study group at their Long Island high school that requires every member to enter the Siemens Competition. They chose their project, FtsZ Inhibitors as Novel Chemotherapeutic Agents for Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis, because TB is one of the world's leading killers and new treatments are desperately needed. Their research may lead to one, the judges say: 'These students synthesized new compounds to kill tuberculosis by targeting a specific protein that could lead to a new treatment for drug-resistant TB' ... Schlossberger says she was drawn to science at a young age as an avenue for exploring critical thinking and problem-solving, while Marinoff says she has always found science very empowering. Both say they got tremendous encouragement from older women scientists to pursue their research."-- Read the Full Article

'Classrooms for the Future' Shown to Positively Impact Students

Earth Times:  Harrisburg, PA -- "An independent study of Pennsylvania's innovative Classrooms for the Future initiative has found that the program is improving the quality of high school instruction, resulting in stronger engagement by students and teachers and an intensified focus on critical thinking and problem-solving skills." -- Read the Full Article

Georgetown Student Awarded Marshall Scholarship

Georgetown University News:  "Georgetown University student Stephen Silvius (COL '07), a Mathematics/History double major from San Bernadino, Calif., has been selected as a recipient of the Marshall Scholarship for 2008 to pursue graduate degrees in the United Kingdom next year ... 'Steve is an outstanding member of the Georgetown community,' said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. 'We are pleased his achievements are being recognized with this prestigious scholarship and we look forward to the certain success of such an enthusiastic, innovative and driven young leader and teacher' ... Silvius joins 15 other Georgetown alumni who have been awarded Marshall Scholarships. The scholarship recognizes young Americans of high ability who hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year college or university in the United States with a minimum GPA of 3.7. The program links future American leaders to the United Kingdom by funding two years of graduate study at a university in the UK ... At Georgetown Silvius founded Georgetown Outreach for Learning and Education (GOLE) to bring together a variety of small groups of service-minded students doing all kinds of tutoring and related work in the inner city. Working together, the groups established ways to allocate resources and offered training that exponentially increased their effectiveness. Even after his graduation, GOLE continues as one of the most robust undergraduate organizations ... Driven to seek solutions and improve processes, Silvius is both passionate and critical of the way math is often taught today. 'Problem-solving, critical thinking, analysis, logic and creativity are the truly important skills in mathematics,” wrote Silvius in his personal statement for the Marshall committee. 'These are too often stifled by curricula which insist on emphasizing procedural skills, complemented by teachers who only teach the how and not the why of mathematics' ... The Marshall Scholarship program was founded by an Act of Parliament in 1953 and commemorates the humane ideals of the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan). They are funded by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and administered by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission in the UK. The selection process in the United States is managed by the British Council, on behalf of the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the regional Consulates-General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco."-- Read the Full Article

ICS Earns Bronze Medal in National Ranking

Village Soup: "AUGUSTA (Dec 3): U.S. News and World Report ranked Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone as the 35th-best in the nation, placing it in the top 100 high schools and earning a gold medal in its first ranking ... Four Maine high schools earned silver medals, placing them in the top 505, and eight earned bronze medals, meaning they are in the top 1,591 high schools out of more than 18,000 in the country ... The magazine reported the results in its Nov. 30 edition, which hit newsstands nationwide Monday ... MSSM is the only school from Maine to make the gold medal list, which focused primarily on college readiness and is based in large part on the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses and tests, and how they perform on them. Six other schools in New England made the top 100 — one from Vermont and five from Massachusetts ... 'This is a significant accomplishment for Maine’s only public magnet school,' said Maine Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron. 'It is good recognition for Maine School of Science and Mathematics and demonstrates the success of this unique learning opportunity for students from all over Maine. We recognized in the 1990s how critical math and science were to the economic future of the state and for our students. The Maine math and science school is a foundational component of our STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) agenda' ... 'Our graduates tell us that their education at MSSM sets them apart from graduates of other schools,' said Walt Warner, executive director of the school. 'They feel more-than-adequately prepared for their first and, often, second years of college because of the quality of teachers and their ability to create a really stimulating learning environment ... 'At MSSM, they are in an environment where free and creative thinking is encouraged. Students feel they are able to effectively communicate with teachers what they understand. They develop skills that require creative, analytical, and critical thinking.' " -- Read the Full Article

Purging the University of Thinkers

New University (University of California -Irvine):  "There is a chill over open-minded and critically-thinking academics. The assault on free thinking comes at the worst of all possible times. As the United States gears up for war with Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, FOX News and other outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, in collusion with government departments such as the Department of Homeland Security, spew fear. They have to. The government and Murdoch, who owns a large portion of the “news” we receive, have to create a hysterical fear in us to further their agenda of war and corporate empire ... They specifically attack professors in fields where critical thinking takes place, such as the social sciences and humanities, and shut them down ..." -- Read the Full Article

Kronman Manifesto Fuels Discussion On Humanities

Yale Daily News:  "University President Richard Levin drew on an unusual source for his annual freshman address this September ... Undergraduate education should … encourage you to wrestle with the deepest questions concerning lived experience: What constitutes a good life? What kind of life do you want to lead? What values do you hope to live by?” Levin told the 1,300 freshmen crowded into Woolsey Hall ... Levin’s words were not inspired by Plato, Homer or Herodotus. They came from Sterling Professor of Law and former Law School Dean Anthony Kronman ... Kronman’s book “Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given up on the Meaning of Life,' an ode to what he believes is a loss of the humanistic tradition in higher education, was recently published by the Yale University Press. Since its publication in September, the book, which cites Yale’s year-long freshman Directed Studies program as the ideal college curriculum, has sparked debate about the traditional works of the 'Western canon' and their place in college classrooms ... At Yale and on campuses across the country, students and professors are grappling with the argument at the heart of 'Education’s End,' — that despite recent trends toward a focus on pre-professional learning, the canon is still central to a liberal-arts education. Kronman writes that the study of the humanities, while centered on the past, can actually help students move forward in a rigorously professional world ... Kronman said he was inspired to push the academic world back to its classical beginnings during his tenure as dean of the Law School, when he said he began to worry about 'shifting fashions and sensibilities within higher education' ... When he stepped down in 2004 after 10 years on the job, Kronman decided to 'return to his roots' and teach philosophy — a subject he majored in as an undergraduate at Williams College. Kronman joined the faculty of the Directed Studies program, which appealed to him because of its focus on humanistic inquiry ... Director of the Yale Press Jonathan Donatich said 'Education’s End,' which garnered over a dozen reviews in national publications, has received unusual publicity for an academic work ... 'Tony has hit onto something here,' Donatich said. 'A lot of people feel very strongly about what he’s talking about' ...  At St. John’s College, students’ entire studies are based on the Great Books Program, a systematic study of the western canon. Jonathan Coppadge, a St. John’s graduate who works in the school’s admissions office, said he does not think a classics-based education limits a student’s academic trajectory to the humanities. Seventeen percent of St. John’s alumni go on to work in business, he said ...'Graduates find that this kind of critical thinking and creative questioning that is nurtured in St. Johns is exactly the kind of critical thinking that is required in the business world, in the political sphere and in special education,' Coppadge said." -- Read the Full Article

Homeland Security Program Receives Federal Funds

The UConn Advance (University of Connecticut):  "The Department of Homeland Security has awarded a $1,334,200 competitive training grant to the Center for Continuing Studies at UConn ... The Center will develop and deliver a Collaborative Leadership in Homeland Security program for state and local homeland security senior and emerging leaders nationwide during the three-year project period, which began Oct. 1 ... Roy Pietro, executive director of academic partnerships and special programs in the Center for Continuing Studies, says the purpose of the training program is to 'develop a new breed of homeland security leaders, equipped with requisite critical thinking skills and collaborative leadership abilities. This will allow them to make effective strategic planning and incident management decisions on issues and challenges impacting the security of all Americans.' ” -- Read the Full Article

School Libraries are the Essential Bedrock of a Good Education

Houston Chroinicle:  "With all the angst over the Houston Independent School District's bond election and the need for new and refurbished schools, the district said little about one of its basic deficiencies: lack of library books. The silence suggests that many principals pay too little attention to their libraries or think of libraries as optional to learning ... According to a recent Chronicle report, a miserable 70 percent of HISD schools either lack the books or the up-to-date collections to meet voluntary state standards ... Other area systems are anemic, too: About 60 percent of Cypress-Fairbanks schools failed to meet the state standard ... While some schools are trying to catch up with vaulting new populations, HISD's systemic problem implies an across-the-board failure to establish that books are an essential tool for developing deep understanding of topics, critical thinking skills and the lifelong joy of reading."-- Read the Full Article

Education Starts Early

Edmonton Sun:  Edmonton, ON — "Environmental awareness is growing in classrooms across Canada ... Collin Barker may be one of the shortest lobbyists in Ontario, but the boy's got the moxie of a grown man .... 'I'm one of those very big conservationist kinds of people,' says the straight-shooting 10-year-old ... So when Barker learned his local community arena in Tilbury, Ont., didn't have recycling boxes, he exercised his democratic right and wrote a letter to his local councillor ... 'I felt mad and frustrated at the same time because if everyone has three cans of pop and there are a hundred people, that's 300 cans sitting in the dump,' an excited and breathless Barker explains, putting particular emphasis on the word 'dump' for dramatic effect ... Today, those pop cans meet a different fate and sit in blue boxes in the arena, destined for the 'meltdown thing' thanks to Barker's efforts ... He's one of dozens of kids across the country hoping to be crowned the country's smallest and greenest earth steward in the Sunlight Eco-Action Kids Awards contest ... But while the debate about man-made global warming continues to be fought outside the classroom, how is climate change being presented to youth inside the school system?... Just as environmentalists credit Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth as the spark that ignited a global consciousness, educators widely cite Gore as the turning point for schools in Canada ... In April, Tides Canada Foundation distributed DVD copies of the movie to all 477 public high schools in B.C. A few months later, the foundation did the same for 302 high schools in Ontario ... But in order to present the 'other side' of the debate, Michael Chernoff -- a former director of the largest oil and gas producer in Canada, Encana Corp. -- offered free copies of The Great Global Warming Swindle, considered the anti-thesis to Gore's documentary ... "An important part of teaching high school is teaching controversy, role playing and critical thinking skills,' adds Elise Houghton, a spokesman for Environmental Education Ontario." -- Read the Full Article

Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee: Just-Shoot-Me

The Huffington Post:  "In America, anyone who wants to can grow up to be president. That's the problem ...  There is no guarantee at all that the next occupant of the Oval Office will be as opposed to the Iraq war as the vast majority of the American people have been for several years. There is no reason to assume that the White House will be held in 2009 by someone who believes that what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have done to the Constitution constitutes impeachable high crimes. It is today entirely possible that the next president will leave health care to the pharmaceutical lobby, energy policy to the oil companies, and science to the Scriptures. There is nothing remotely comforting about our current system for selecting presidential candidates, about the way presidential campaigns are conducted and covered, or about the process in which ballots are cast, counted and translated into electoral votes. To think otherwise is denial, wishful thinking -- the magical thinking of children ... Despite all this country has gone through, anything can happen next November. Why should we believe that 2008 will not produce a president as incompetent and lawless as 2004 did, or as unelected as 2000 did? ... If we think the news media in 2008 will rescue us from lying and demagoguery, we must have slept through its coverage of the run-up to Iraq, its yawning at Valerie Plame's outing and the Justice Department's corruption, its enabling of the Social Security "crisis," of "amnesty" propaganda, of the "other side" to evolution and climate change ... If we think that three billion dollars' worth of campaign ads in 2008 won't persuade Americans that day is night and black is white, we must not recall the Swift Boating ... If we place our faith in the critical thinking skills of the American people, we must have amnesia about the majority persuaded that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 ...What I'm trying to get at is the stupendous sense of powerlessness among our citizenry that our current political system has created. It's as though the best democracy can do is to cough up this beast that we're being required yet again to ride. The nominating system, despite the folksy patina that quadrennially makes reporters swoon, is thoroughly idiotic, and it's gotten worse every time than the cycle before, yet we treat it like a force of nature, not an act of hacks. Money is more important than ever. And though the Web has enabled unprecedented citizen pushback on candidate deception and media spinelessness, its reach feels puny, compared to the paid messages that special-interests can buy in the marketplace; its impact feels impotent, compared to the partisan fearmongering posing as news and the circus acts masquerading as information on our mass media." -- Read the Full Article

World-Renowned Scholar Presents Workshop to Social Work Faculty

Stimulus (University of Tennessee):  Knoxville, TN — "CSW faculty were asked to put on their 'thinkingcaps.' Dr. Linda Elder, president of the Foundation for Critical Thinking and executive director of the Center for Critical Thinking (the Center), conducted a workshop at the college on how faculty can help students learn to analyze, assess, and reconstruct the way they think about any subject, content, or problem so that they can improve their communication and problem solving skills and question assumptions that might prevent them from considering alternate viewpoints ... Elder was invited to conduct the workshop at the request of the faculty who are teaching the new MSSW curriculum, which is founded on critical thinking. 'Our new curriculum emphasizes the utilization of evidence-based practices. This requires that students be able to critically think through the literature and be capable of selecting the most efficacious interventions given their client/client system’s unique situation,' stated Dean Sowers. 'The teaching of critical thinking skills throughout the curriculum is an exciting new piece of our master’s program" ... Elder is an educational psychologist and former vice president of State Technical Institute, the largest community college in Tennessee. She has co-authored four books and the Thinker’s Guide series and has taught both psychology and critical thinking at the college level. Her work in the classroom helped her understand firsthand the challenges that educators face in transforming student minds. She has developed an original stage theory of critical thinking development, which she helps K-12, college, and university faculty integrate into their curricula and teaching strategies ... Elder defines critical thinking as 'that mode of thinking—about any subject, content, or problem—in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.' The importance of critical thinking, according to Dr. Elder, is that it can improve our quality of life and what we produce, make, or build.  It changes our thinking that is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or prejudiced into thoughts that are relevant, logical, and fair ... Elder states that critical thinking is the first and most important insight necessary for the appropriate design of instruction and curriculum. She believes that content is a mode of thinking about something, a way of fi guring something out, a way of understanding something through thought ... In the workshop, Dr. Elder focused on the eight elements of thought: Point of View, Purpose, Question at Issue, Information, Interpretation and Inference, Concepts, Assumptions, and Implications and Consequences. By carefully assessing each element when studying various concepts, students learn to analyze content more deeply and are able to better understand what they learn ... Approaching content in this way can help educators encourage critical thinking in their students. As a result, a well-cultivated, critically thinking student will be able to raise vital questions and problems, gather and assess relevant information, and reach well-reasoned conclusions and solutions ... Dr. Elder’s experience and knowledge will benefit the college in many ways. Most importantly, MSSW graduates will leave the college armed with skills that will help them achieve greater results in their work with clients and find solutions to problems that many of our society’s most vulnerable populations face every day."-- Read the Full Article

A Note On Bias

Parenting Beyond Belief (The Meming of Life):  "Final thoughts before we start our romp through the Bible ... I’ve received an email from a Christian from Iowa assuring me that, as an atheist, I cannot possibly see the Bible objectively and therefore should give up the pretense of trying ... I assured her she was right on one count — I am not objective. Neither are Christians, of course, but that does not disqualify their opinions on the book. What I do is recognize their subjective bias and compensate for it. The old grain of salt ... In the course of eleven years teaching critical thinking, I ran into the bias question over and over. Students research capital punishment or gun control would throw up their hands. 'I don’t know who to believe! Everyone on both sides is biased!' What they meant is 'Everyone has an opinion!'... They had the common collegiate misconception that only neutral, dispassionate voices are worth listening to ... I asked whether the views expressed by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 'Letter from Birmingham Jail' were invalidated by the fact that he was not neutral on the question of racism, whether Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex was useless because she came down firmly on one side of the feminist question, and whether Christ’s bias toward mercy and forgiveness made him hopelessly irrelevant as a source of ethical guidance ... That always snapped things into focus ... The trick is to recognize that 'bias' — an inclination to one side of a question or the other — is nearly universal, and is not in and of itself a bad thing. Most thinking and engaged persons will be 'biased' in all questions that have any significance to them. Disregard those voices and we’ve limited ourselves to the apathetic and the stupid — probably not the best plan. The key is not to pretend we are unbiased, but to chose our leanings on the basis of evidence and ethics, to recognize the direction and extent of the bias, to reveal that bias as fully as possible, and to do our level best to ensure that it doesn’t blind us to good information from other perspectives ... When assessing others, we need to determine not whether they are biased, but whether their bias is so controlling that their ability to contribute to the conversation is disabled ... The most pernicious form of bias is confirmation bias – the tendency to see evidence that confirms the conclusions we’ve already reached. Scientific research has to build in all kinds of safeguards to control this one." -- Read the Full Article

Give Your Children an Outside Chance

Sunday Herald (Scotland's Award Winning Independent Newspaper:  "Scarlett is an eight-year-old who loves getting her hands dirty. She mucks out the stables of her family's horses in return for a chance to ride in the fields around her Stirlingshire home and for her, wildlife, woodlands and nature are there to be explored and enjoyed. It's an attitude that has been cultivated by her mother, Elizabeth McQuillan, who has passed on her own love of horses and the outdoors to her daughter ... 'It is quite a powerful mother and daughter bonding experience since we are out in all weathers together, sharing a common interest,' says McQuillan. 'We have a lot of fun larking around in the mud, and work together as a team to do all the chores around the yard. Exposure to the outdoors has meant that Scarlett has a good understanding of nature and the environment, and having the responsibility of a pony to care for has helped her to become a self-sufficient and capable girl' ... Contrast Scarlett's childhood with that of 10-year-old Jack Cairns and his brother Archie, eight. 'I guess the nearest my boys come to nature is when we swept up the leaves together last weekend,' says the boys' mother Niamh, 40. The Cairns family live in Jordanhill, Glasgow, and spend most of their spare time either at home or in urban leisure centres, cinemas or swimming pools ... 'We tend not to go to parks or for walks at weekends,' adds Cairns. 'Our holidays don't really involve the outdoor life either since we like to go to Florida. Typically, at the weekend, we might take them swimming, to the cinema or to get a new DVD or game. I do a lot for them. I've actively encouraged their friendships with the quieter boys who are keen gamers, rather than the boys who go out with their pals for the afternoon. I just don't want them out of my sight. I'm scared of something happening to them, I suppose' ,,, So which of these family experiences - Scarlett's or the Cairns boys - is more typical? And which is more beneficial for children's health and wellbeing: the risks and responsibilities of the outdoors, or the safety and security of life indoors? ...What's more, children's alienation from the natural world doesn't just occur in cities. It is a growing problem in rural villages according to Richard Louv, whose book Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder argues that even some youngsters living in the countryside have lost touch with nature, eschewing wildlife for an "urbanised" existence in front of the TV or computer screen at home ... With obesity, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on the increase among children, Louv believes getting them back in touch with the natural world could go a long way to combating these modern-day problems. 'Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self-interest our mental, physical and spiritual health depend upon it,' he says ... In a society that is becoming ever more urbanised and sedentary, the statistics do seem to suggest a link between poor mental and physical health and children's alienation from the great outdoors. In 2006, an NHS Scotland survey revealed that more than a third of 12-year-olds were considered overweight, with almost 20% obese and 11% severely obese. Meanwhile, according to the NHS, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants for children has quadrupled in the past decade. About 46,000 children in Scotland have been diagnosed with ADHD and in some areas the numbers of prescriptions for drugs to combat that disorder have, according to Scottish government figures, doubled in the last four years ... What this means, writes Louv, is that our society is suffering from what he terms 'nature-deficit disorder'. He goes on to argue that the nature-deficit disorder is a product of withdrawing nature from childhood experience over the past few decades, and claim that not only children, but families and by turn the whole of society is showing the symptoms of this disorder ... There is a solution, he believes, but it would require a complete reversal of the current trend. In other words, children need to get back to nature. 'As children's connections with nature diminish and the social, psychological and spiritual implications become apparent, new research shows that nature can offer powerful therapy for such maladies as depression, obesity and attention deficit disorder,' he says, adding: 'Environment-based education dramatically improves test scores and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking and decision-making.' " -- Read the Full Article

All Candidates Should Have to Defend Religious Beliefs

Indianapolis Star: "An ongoing debate asks whether Mitt Romney should publicly discuss his religious beliefs ... Why single out Romney? All candidates should discuss their religious beliefs. Why? Because we act on our beliefs ... Romney believes his prophet, Gordon Hinckley, receives messages directly from God. We are entitled to know, for example, how Romney would act if Hinckley receives a message from God that we should attack, say, Venezuela. Would Romney listen to God or 97.6 percent of us who are not Mormons? ... Voters should question the logic and critical-thinking skills of candidates Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and others who believe the Bible is literally true, that snakes talked, dead men walked and Noah crammed 10 million species of animals in one tiny boat ... I number among the 40 million (and growing) skeptical Americans who believe candidates should defend their religious claims, which to us appear downright ludicrous." -- Read the Full Article

Theatre As Classroom

The Boston Globe:  "It's A one-second trip from Cambridge to the Bronx at the American Repertory Theatre, where Nilaja Sun's one-woman play, 'No Child,' tells a story about a visiting artist who tries to turn a class of unruly students at Malcolm X High School into 'thespians' who put on a play about putting on a play ... Such stories about how the show must go on are as familiar as 'Kiss Me Kate.' What's different is the political season ... 'No Child' takes on the federal No Child Left Behind law, and the play slaps the law across the face ... It's common to debate educational policy, to conclude that a law is generally good or bad. But Sun does a different and engaging thing: She requires policy to stand up for itself onstage - home of humanities' great rages and hopes ... The result is a theatrical complaint that No Child Left Behind is too small to matter to teenagers who face poverty, crime, abuse, crumbling schools, overwhelmed teachers, missing parents, and public indifference ... As Sun walks and talks through a dozen roles - teachers, students, the school custodian - she is acting out a tacit critique: If all the world's a stage, then Congress is a theater where there's a glaring lack of imagination. It's where laws get cooked up based on partial versions of life, such as the Bronx-less reality of No Child Left Behind - a law that struggles to help those most in need, one that seems, in the fictional halls of Malcolm X High, like little more than bad theater ... Sun is an informed critic. A Catholic school graduate, she has spent nearly a decade as a visiting artist in New York City's public schools. She wrote the play on commission for the New York State Council on the Arts and the Epic Theatre Ensemble, a New York City nonprofit that advocates the idea that 'plays are ideally suited for helping students explore the connection between politics and their personal lives' ... Playing a character allows an actor to think and say new things about life - or about federal law. Can't afford a media campaign or a wired lobbyist? Put on a play that asks the question: Can't a 10th-grader just get a script? Aren't high school productions a powerful way to teach reading, critical thinking, acting, focus, teamwork, and discipline? Shouldn't all students have the experience of putting on a show, of exceeding their own expectations, of basking in stage lights and applause?... No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization now. The debate over the law's future is playing out in the usual settings, in Congress, in the news, in living rooms. The play 'No Child' will keep the debate onstage at the ART through Dec. 23. And it deserves credit for asking this about education reform: What would Shakespeare do?" -- Read the Full Article

A Good Education

Pensées:  "I will be graduating in just a few days with my Bachelor’s degree. It has been a long process; I started it back in 1997 after I graduated from high school. After I failed out in 2000, I didn’t re-enter until 2005. My last three semesters were full-time while having a full-time job and a wife and son. No way could I have done this without the support of my wonderful wife (thanks, Sweetie!), family (thanks, Mom!) and friends. And of course, God ... Anyway, the point of this post was to be the most valuable thing I am taking with me from my education: the ability to think critically ... Critical thinking is not necessarily critiquing someone else’s thoughts or work, although that is part of it. Critical thinking is rather the ability to stop and think logically and as objectively as possible about an idea or thought, and evaluate it on its own terms without shades of personal bias or prejudice ... I think that this is a skill that is sadly lacking in America. Too many people simply swallow whatever the news media or their political and religious leaders tell them because they are either too lazy or naive to check out the facts for themselves, and form their own opinions, or they do not realize that everyone has an agenda, and a person’s perception of facts or events may not be accurate ... Part of what helped develop this skill was my exposure to ideas that are antithetical to my conservative evangelical Christian faith and worldview. By having my beliefs challenged, I was forced to dig deeper and understand where many of my beliefs came from, and what the philosophical underpinnings of them were. This in turn helped me to discard or modify those that were based upon faulty premises or reasoning (I am not going to get specific here, but if any of you are curious, email me and we’ll chat) ... The point here is that my education was not important because of the information I acquired, but because I gained the ability to think critically about my thoughts and the thoughts of others ... In the words of Western novelist Louis L’Amour (one of my favorite authors!!!!), 'Education is not important for what you learn, but for what it makes you think.' "-- Read the Full Article

School Books Being Dumbed Down for Exams, Say Authors

The Guardian: " Exam boards are to review the way school textbooks are endorsed after leading authors complained that they are being leant on to write more simplistic texts to win the multi-million pound contracts ... Textbook writers today claim that they are being told to write books which encourage "parrot-learning" to get pupils through exams at the sacrifice of wider critical thinking and learning ... There is widespread concern that children are reading fewer books, losing confidence in reading and enjoying it less after an international study this week found that England had slipped to 19th of 45 countries and provinces in reading skills, down from third five years ago." -- Read the Full Article

Fletcher Second-Graders Run Mock Investigation

The Post-Journal (University of Phoenix):  "It was a ‘‘kid-friendly CSI investigation’’ as Fletcher second-graders worked to piece together the mystery of ‘‘Who Borrowed Mr. Bear?’’ on Friday ... According to Leslie Bennett, Fletcher principal, the unit is part of the Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) program, which encourages students to develop critical thinking skills by doing fun problem-solving activities ... Although the exercise is set up so that, by the end, all the clues will point in one direction, students were encouraged to make their own judgments about what the evidence said, according to Teresina Isabella, one of the teachers who oversaw the project ... 'You are your own detective. You’re using your own brain,’' Mrs. Isabella told her class ... Instead of teaching children to memorize the right answer, critical thinking education focuses on teaching children strategies on finding the answer. Instead of telling children what to think, it teaches them how to think." -- Read the Full Article