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November 2007

Every Now and Again, I Miss Texas...For All the Wrong Reasons

The People's Republic of Seabrook: "I can and do respect an individual’s right to hold whatever religious and moral beliefs they deem appropriate. This is still (nominally, at least) a free country, and freedom of religion is still a Constitutionally-guaranteed right. Sadly, freedom FROM religion doesn’t enjoy the same protection…and few states boast more people willing to force their version of Christianity on others than Texas, where ignorant, self-absorbed and astoundingly arrogant self-righteousness is a cottage industry ... When schools are required to present Intelligent Design as a legitimate, scientifically valid theory, teachers are reduced to participating in the wholesale propagandization of students. If uber-righteous zealots in Texas get their way, public schools will become the taxpayer-funded equivalent of re-education camps. Who needs critical thinking when faith will suffice? Who needs reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic when you have the Bible? Pretty scary stuff…. Intelligent Design is not science; it’s Christian doctrine dressed up in the language of objective science. In reality, it’s just one more insidious weapon employed by those who believe the separation of Church and State is anti-Christian. Comer’s situation merely points up just how little the Texas Education Agency is concerned with education. We’re talking about publicly-funded schools which, if these zealots have their way, will be turned into Sunday Schools more concerned with fostering faith and blind obendience than critical, creative thinking ...  What Would Jesus Do? I think he’d be kicking some serious @$$. These knuckle-dragging troglodytes are as much about the true meanings of the teachings of Jesus Christ as Ted Bundy was about long-term relationships. Of course, this is Texas we’re talking about…and things look quite a bit different there. My heart goes out to the children of Texas, who quite frankly deserve better than adults who want nothing more than to create obedient Christian soldiers ... How much do I miss Texas? When it comes to this sort of thing, not nearly as much as you might think." -- Read the Full Article

The Golden Compass

Tidings Online:  "I am receiving many email requests for information on the upcoming book-into-film, ' The Golden Compass.' The novel on which the film is based is part of a trilogy by Phillip Pullman called 'His Dark Materials,' said to come from a line in Milton's 'Paradise Lost.' The first volume was originally titled 'Northern Lights in the UK' when it was published in 1995 ... To prepare for the film's December release, I am currently reading 'The Golden Compass' and the rest of the trilogy ('The Subtle Knife,' 1997 and 'The Amber Spyglass,' 2000). New Line Cinema has said that if the first film does well, then they will make the others ... 'The Golden Compass' has generated a fair amount of controversy prior to its release based on what the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (and others) have described as Pullman's atheism and hostility toward Christianity. In a recent letter to the head of Scholastic Corporation, which has published the trilogy, Catholic League president William Donohue stated, 'It is not the movie, per se, that is the problem, it is the book - and the other volumes that comprise 'His Dark Materials' - that is the issue' ... As a proponent of media mindfulness (media literacy within the faith community and faith formation), I suggest that it is more useful to enter into communication and conversation about the books and the issues the books and movie may raise rather than to 'just say no.' If parents do not wish their children to see the film, they would do well to explain 'why' based on their own reading and research. Otherwise, kids may find a way to see the film --- either in the theaters or later, on DVD --- and may be unprepared to question its messages ... One commentator said that the film has been stripped of its religious references and now attacks the power of all big organizations and institutions. I don't think it is ever a mistake to question those who hold power that touches peoples' lives. St. Thomas Aquinas, a good patron of critical thinking (an attitude of inquiry), was never afraid of any question. And neither should we be afraid. " -- Read the Full Article

Helicopter Parenting Turns Deadly

The New York Times:  "Megan Meier, a 13-year-old from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, killed herself last year after an online relationship she believed she was having with a cute 16-year-old boy named Josh went very sour. What she didn’t know – what her parents would learn six weeks after her death – was that 'Josh' was the fictitious creation of Lori Drew, a then-47-year-old neighbor and the mother of one of Megan’s friends ... Or former friends. Megan had, essentially, dropped the other girl when she’d changed schools and tried to put an unhappy chapter of her junior high school life – fraught with weight problems and depression – behind her ...  Drew’s daughter, one assumes, would have eventually gotten over it. But Drew didn’t. Instead, she got revenge ... She created a fake MySpace profile (she later told police she’d done so to “find out what Megan was saying online” about her daughter, according to a sheriff's report). Working with her daughter, she led Megan to become infatuated with 'Josh.' And then she delivered the blow. 'I don’t like the way you treat your friends,' Drew wrote. According to Megan’s father, 'Josh’s last e-mail to his daughter read, 'You are a bad person and everybody hates you … The world would be a better place without you' ... The Meier case got massive play in the national media this past week, coming as it did on the heels of a major new survey showing that up to one in three children in the United States have been harassed or bullied online ... But for me the tragedy highlighted another troubling issue that threatens our homes just as steadily as poisonous online communications. That is the disturbing degree to which today’s parents – and mothers in particular – frequently lose themselves when they get caught up in trying to smooth out, or steamroll over, the social challenges faced by their children ... You only hear about the most freakish cases, like that of Lori Drew or of Wanda Webb Holloway, the Texas mother who in 1991 tried to pay someone to murder the mother of her daughter’s chief cheerleading rival. (“The motive here was love, a mother’s love for a daughter,” said a police investigator at the time.) Yet everyday examples abound of parents whose boundary issues are not so extreme, but still qualify as borderline wacko ... 'People now feel like having a good relationship with your child means you’re involved in every aspect of your child’s life,' says Rosalind Wiseman, author of 'Queen Bees & Wannabes' and “Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads,” who travels the country speaking with and counseling parents, teachers and teens. 'Nothing is off-limits' now between parents and their kids, she says. 'There’s no privacy and there’s no critical thinking.' " -- Read the Full Article

Annual Science Congress at Montmorency College Deemed a Success

The Laval News:  Laval, Quebec — "The future of humanity. While that might sound rather ambitious as a theme, it was the subject of a wide-ranging exploration undertaken by CEGEP students at the fourth annual science congress, Quinzaine des sciences 2007, held at Montmorency College from Oct. 30 to Nov. 14. For two weeks, activities offered at the college dealt with a range of questions dealing with the development of science and technology. Among the issues were the environment, residential eco-construction, cities and their infrastructure, clean water, health and life habits, poverty, demography and international development ... More than 2,000 persons were directly involved in 10 conferences, in the International Forum on Society and Science, in the Café scientifique, in exhibits, booths and scientific contests. The conferences the students attended proved to be very popular and were of very high quality. On Nov. 6, for example, three conferences took place simultaneously, in which 550 persons participated. A conference presented by the Armand-Frappier Museum in conjunction with an autumn series on biosciences was also very well attended ... A conference by Jean Lemire, given on Nov. 12 by the engineering firm DESSAU, filled the Salle André-Mathieu. Profits from this evening were donated to the Centre d'interprétation de l'eau de Laval, a local museum on water technology. The International Forum on Society and Science, whose theme was 'Building the Future,' forged a link between what it was trying to accomplish over the two weeks with another project, Perspectives, staged by the Science and Technology Council, contributing to reflections arising from a series of seven major socio-economic challenges to which scientific researchers will have to contribute in the coming years ... This cooperative effort has given rise to other significant developments, notably the Road of Science (Feb. 29 to March 9, 2008), and the 24 Hours of Science, an event organized by the province, in which the region of Laval will be playing its part next May. Given the success of this year's events, the college is already making plans for the fifth edition of the Quinzaine, to be held in November next year. It will again be the occasion to encourage the pursuit of studies and careers in science, to promote scientific and technological thinking, to learn more about the impact on society of science and technology, and to facilitate the sort of critical thinking that is necessary for individuals to act as responsible citizens." -- Read the Full Article

Kids Business Ideas Lure Real Investment

Turkish Daily News:  "Students all over Turkey are building virtual companies based on their own ideas and seeking investment from real business people. It's a course that is now part of their curriculum. A 13-year-old girl develops a gadget that can find the family TV remote control. She calls on her math and computer science skills to create it, art and design to package it, English and Turkish to lure investors and economics to market and sell it. Making innovation part of a culture is essential, according to Sirin Elçi, director of Technopolis Turkey. Innovation has become the go-to approach for nations to compete without taking advantage of low wage workers. A few years ago Elçi created a pilot project in which junior high school students were instructed to create viable business plans around something they invented ... The Ministry of Education soon put the project into a course called “Technology and Design” for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. People in the real business world began virtually investing in the students' ideas. These business men and women, entrepreneurs themselves, in turn were encouraged to finance innovative ideas, Elçi told the Turkish Daily News. Elçi regards the course's introduction into the curriculum as an innovation in itself, noting that critical thinking and interdisciplinary learning is a departure from the current curriculum. 'Innovation is not a natural fit with our traditions here in Turkey, she said pointing to an expression that warns people to, 'keep the new ways out of the old village.' The European Commission released a report in 2007 'to determine priorities of the EU for Turkey regarding education' which found the Turkish education system's biggest deficiency is its low capacity to develop a free market economy. The new course works to foster something more profound than how to navigate the free market; they learn to form an idea, make it, see it through to an 'end user' and ultimately earn something. " -- Read the Full Article

Irony and Pity

The News Record (University of Cincinnati's Independent Student Newspaper):  "I have found since the beginning of my college career, I have not made enough time for pleasure reading. It is a crime. There are thousands of inventive ideas sitting on bookshelves waiting to be read, and lately I have spent my little free time chatting online or looking at Facebook ...Technology bombards us with flashy images and sound effects. Books, specifically works of fiction, allow readers an escape from reality. They offer entrance into a make-believe realm where the reader is free to judge, interpret and understand objectively ... The literary world is full of timeless romances, tragedy, fantastic voyages, vicious villains and honorable heroes. Through novels, I have experienced bullfights in Pamplona, time in a rehabilitation for addiction institute and education in a prestigious school of wizardry. I can only imagine of all the enticing adventures that remain trapped between covers ...  This article is a published promise to myself, and a promotion to others, to develop or, in my case, rekindle an intimate relationship with the literary world ... Reading gives students a break from the technological beeps and buzzes, the sending and receiving and the pointing and clicking that consume much of society. A silent engagement with a novel allows readers to experience similar pleasures to those that come from television and movies; however, books require deeper critical thinking and an exercise of creativity ... Readers create mental pictures of characters and scenes. They relate to situations and develop relationships with characters, all while processing literary devices, symbolism and the author's message ... 'Reading makes students more sensitive to prose styles of the greats,' said Jim Knippling, field service assistant professor of English. 'Being exposed to 'the best that has been thought and said' is valuable. It helps develop a critical eye, which can be turned to use on other assignments.' " -- Read the Full Article

Future Bright for Academics

The Journal (Queen's University):  "Award-winning German Studies professor Jill Scott sees little distinction between professors and students ... 'What we’re doing is learning to learn,' she said ... Scott hopes to see more of what she calls 'integrated learning' in the future Queen’s classroom ... 'I’d like to see the walls come down with what we view as academics and what we view as everything else,' she said ... Integrated learning is a chance for students to gain critical thinking skills in their classes and then apply them outside of class, she said. Scott, who received the SSHRC Aurora Prize in 2005 for research, said she wants to see more undergraduate students interact with their professors and assist them in research to broaden their own knowledge." -- Read the Full Article

Palm Beach County School Board Sues

South Florida Sun Sentinel:  "The Palm Beach County School Board wants a judge to throw out or lessen an arbitrator's award for more than $165,000 in back pay for about 60 teachers, continuing the fight over a year-old union grievance ... An attorney for the School Board made the request in a lawsuit filed this week in Palm Beach County Circuit Court against the Classroom Teachers Association. The union represents the affected teachers, who worked last year at Odyssey Middle School west of Boynton Beach ... Arbitrator Mark I. Lurie 'exceeded his authority by effectively assessing damages for a violation of a provision of the [teachers' contract] which he had specifically ruled had not been violated by the School Board,' attorney Vicki Evans-Paré wrote in the lawsuit ... In a binding decision issued in July, Lurie ruled that the sixth, seventh and eighth grade teachers were entitled to extra money because they had been required to work a 45-minute daily session called Critical Thinking, in addition to their regular class assignments ... Lurie later agreed with the union's calculation of the award payments of almost $2,750 per teacher, based on each teacher working 125 class periods of Critical Thinking out of the 180 days on the school calendar ... In opposing the grievance, the district had argued that a majority of Odyssey teachers agreed to the modified schedule in advance and did not seek extra pay for it. The district also claimed that Critical Thinking, which addressed skills needed by students for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, was not an actual extra class period warranting more teacher pay." -- Read the Full Article

Skill Deficiency Among Youth a Cause for Concern

The Hindu:  "Unemployability and skill deficiency among graduating students is the biggest challenge higher education has to deal with, former President A.P.J Abdul Kalam said here on Wednesday ... Though a total of 10 million students — graduates, postgraduates and those who have passed Std X and Plus Two — come out of educational institutions every year, and job opportunities continued to soar, only a very small percentage of them was employable, he told a gathering of vice-chancellors on the concluding day of the 82nd annual meeting of the Association of Indian Universities, hosted by Anna University-Chennai ... Skill deficiency among youth was a more serious concern than infrastructure deficiency. Only 25 per cent of graduating students were found to be employable. Students were found to be deficient in areas such as strong technical knowledge, English proficiency, process orientation and critical thinking ability, all of which were highly sought after by the IT and IT-enabled services industry and the emerging Knowledge Process Outsourcing sector, Mr. Kalam said." -- Read the Full Article

'Best' Essays Merit Book Title's Reckless Superlative

EurekaStreet.Com.Au (Book Review): Drusilla Modjeska (Ed.), The Best Australian Essays 2007. Black Inc., 2007, website — "'The Turning Tide', title of Judith Brett's contribution to this year's The Best Australian Essays, might usefully be taken as a subtitle for the collection as a whole. Implicit throughout many of the pieces, and highlighted explicitly in Modjeska's editorial introduction, is an awareness of a world, and more particularly a nation, at a fragile moment of social and political flux ... In a curious case of synchronicity I find myself writing quite literally on the eve of transition for Australia and her politics; within the next 12 hours the results of Australia's election will be known and a new political era will begin, testing or confirming the concerns and hopes expressed in these essays ...  With pieces drawn not merely from authors and essayists, but more broadly from politicians, performers and sociologists, the collection juxtaposes explorations into literary, cultural and personal preoccupations of the past year ... Most interesting is the recurrence of the notion of humour, and of an awareness of absurdity in particular as an essential filter through which to think and write, most of all 'in the bleak times', as Modjeska has it ... This humour is exemplified in the 'hilariously transgressive moment' Luke Davies recounts from the austere anti-film Into Great Silence, where the silent order of monks 'ski' down a slope on their shoes, tumbling into a giggling heap at the bottom. It is also present in Gillian Mears' conception of her sufferings as 'Dr Seuss-style' nonsense, and Kim Mahood's approach to race-issues in Australia ...Humour is seen as a positive and enabling force in contemporary critical thinking, rather than being despised as mere levity. It is perhaps inevitably those essays within the collection that deny or suppress this crucial awareness of the absurd that stray into the realm of the dogmatic and self-important. " -- Read the Full Article

Atheists Flock to Secular Sunday School

Christian Today:  "Christian kids are typically sent to Sunday school for lessons on the Bible and morals. For non-believers, there's atheist Sunday school ... With an estimated 14 per cent of Americans professing to have no religion, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies, some are choosing to send their children to classes that teach ethics without religious belief ... Camp Quest, also dubbed 'The Secular Summer Camp', is on offer for children of atheists, freethinkers, humanists and other non-believers who hold to a "naturalistic, not supernatural world view", the camp website states ... The summer camp, offered across North America and supported by the Institute for Humanist Studies, is designed to teach rational inquiry, critical thinking, scientific method, ethics, free speech, and the separation of religion and government ... Atheist and humanist programmes are expected to pop up in such cities as Phoenix, Arizona, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon, and adult non-believers are leaning on such secular Sunday schools to help teach their kids values and how to respond to the Christian majority in the United States ... Outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins argues that teaching faith to children can be dangerous, noting the possibility of extremism ... 'The point about teaching children that faith is a virtue is that you're teaching them that you don't have to justify what you do, you can simply shelter behind the statement 'that's my faith and you're not to question that,' he argued in a debate with Christian apologist John Lennox last month. " -- Read the Full Article

Banned Words and Other Things

KEYE TV 42 (CBS):  Austin, TX — "In a newsroom where I worked, there was an entire wall devoted to banned words and phrases—words or phrases that were over worked, misunderstood, obscure or otherwise. I think all journalists and critical-thinking individuals need to consider the words they use. Yes, the English language is evolving, but is that evolution moving toward clarity?... Look at what text-messaging is doing to our language. LOL ... As a reporter many years ago, I turned in a script to a producer. The producer changed some paragraphs violating basic rules of the “King’s English” that we may have been taught in elementary school. I am talking about the subject of a sentence agreeing with the verb in the sentence. Well, I would have none of it. I told him that I would not record the script because I did not want my voice, my signature on something that was grammatically wrong. He protested saying, “Well, that’s the way that people talk!” I responded saying something that I pointed out in an earlier essay: “Those that know, notice. Those that do not know, do not notice.” The disagreement went all the way to the news director, and, yes, I won ... I am not saying that I am not guilty of using bad grammar or (more likely) misspelling something. I am saying that it is the responsibility of us in the media—print, web, and broadcast—to use good grammar and avoid trite, cliché, and other over-used words. We only promulgate and validate poor usage when we are lazy and choose to use these incorrect or tattered terms." Read the Full Article

No Child To The Rescue?

Los Angeles Times:  "What effect has the No Child Left Behind Act had on California’s achievement gap? Russlynn Ali and Richard Rothstein continue their weeklong debate." -- Read the Full Article

Move to Inquiry-Based Math Catches On

Rapid City Jopurnal: "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 ... Inquiry-based is really the latest 'catch phrase' for an approach that has been around for some time, said Stevens math teacher Tom Keck. Many teachers have been using inquiry-based approaches in their teaching for years, but this is the first time it’s been implemented on a broad scale, he said ... 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 ... 'It challenges the student to think about how it’s done, not just learning to manipulate a formula,' Julius said. 'It gives them a depth of understanding that they don’t get with the traditional approach.' "-- Read the Full Article

Moffat County School District Adopts New Science Curriculum

 — "Although his plans of becoming an astronaut never became reality, Roger Spears still finds ways of contributing to the field of science ... Spears, a Moffat County High School science teacher, was one of 200 finalists in the Educators in Space program in 2003. Although his eyesight prevented him from participating in the program, he continued to participate in scientific ventures with other teachers, one of which took him to study bacterial colonies in the Mojave Desert ... This year, he and other teachers in the Moffat County School District turned their attention to writing the district’s new science curriculum ... What they developed was a 'road map' that would lead the school district to meeting state standards while fostering critical thinking skills, said Norm Yoast, a science teacher at Craig Middle School."-- Read the Full Article

Reforming Education in Sri Lanka: Attempts and Failures

Daily Mirror:  Sri Lanka — "One of the reasons for the public to lose faith in our education system was the corruption and injustice that prevailed every year with Grade 1 admissions. It was an open secret that irregularities in the selection process took place at the school level as well as at the Ministry/Provincial level. The degree of political interference in this matter is also well known. Even honest officials and administrators are powerless in decision making. Due to political pressures the Secretary to the Ministry has to often violate the School Admissions Circular that he himself signs! ... Having studied the problem in depth and after having gone through a series of consultative processes through the National Education Commission for many years, a new system for processing applications for the popular 325 National Schools was devised. This sheme did not in any way tamper with the quotas allocated for children who lived near the school (the area rule’) or had siblings attending the school or had parents who had attended that school ... The innovation was to make the application process transparent from the very beginning, by feeding the applications into the computer using specially designed soft ware, and by posting the results on the web site at every stage of the selection. Those children who were eligible were short listed, and those who were eventually selected knew to what school they had gained entry. There was no mechanism to surreptitiously include a candidate who did not meet the required criteria. Nor was there room for political and other influences to creep in. This was primarily because the new system ensured transparency from the word ‘go’ ... For the first time an admission process that was free of corruption and where deserving children got places in prestigious schools despite social class, took place. At the same time courageous measures were adopted to address issues of corruption in the admission process in the previous years and this led to the interdiction of several school principals.However this entire scheme was done away with and the Operations Room for School Admissions, equipped with computers and trained staff was dismantled during early 2006 ... For the past so many years, the tragedy of the Higher Education system has been that less than 3% of the relevant age cohort and less than 15% of those who qualify at A’level, can secure placements in universities. This has made Sri Lanka one of the countries with the poorest rates of higher education enrolment. The 15 state-owned, state-funded and state-managed universities in 2006, could offer only 17,287 places to the 119,555 students who qualified. Moreover, these universities can hardly meet the required quality that we see in reputed universities elsewhere. They ceased to be halls for intellectual inspiration and academic strength long ago. Today, most have been reduced to breeding grounds and training camps for destructive political movements ... 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 as 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 healthcare. Political pressures prevented presenting this Act to Parliament and prevented the Ministry from implementing the changes proposed. " -- Read the Full Article

Intel Helps Local Schools Improve ICT Education

SunStar: Cebu — "An international computer processor and solutions developer has realized that it takes more than information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure to bridge the 'digital divide' ... Intel Technology Philippines Inc. (ITPI) stressed that the academe plays an important role in introducing the benefits of information technology (IT) education to elementary and high school students ... The company conducted the 2nd Intel Teach Conference, which brought together 200 teachers, principals and ICT coordinators in selected public schools nationwide ... The conference is in relation to the Intel Teach program, which aims to teach educators how to effectively integrate technology in the classroom with the goal of developing '21st century learning skills' among students, said, Cecilla Ubarra, ITPI education manager ... She said these '21st century learning skills' include technology and media literacy, effective communication, problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking ... 'It improves the way teachers — in science, math, English and history — use technology as an effective tool to promote critical thinking, creativity and collaboration among the students,' Ubarra said in an interview ... She admitted, however, that the implementation of the program is 'challenging' ... Other than poor Internet connectivity in distant schools and the lack of computers, Ubarra cited the lack of competent teachers, especially in public schools, as the main reason that affected the country’s educational system ... She said another challenge for Intel in implementing the program is that some teachers are scared to learn new concepts and teaching styles ... In other cases, school principals prevent their teachers from becoming more knowledgeable than they are, she noted ... 'Sixty to 70 percent of teachers have a good grasp of IT skills but they need to maximize their resources,” she said. " -- Read the Full Article

Critical Thinking is Essential to All

Daily Pacific News: Hagåtña,GU,USA — "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically," said Martin Luther King Jr., an Atlanta-born advocate of nonviolence and direct action as ways to social change ...'Nothing pains some people more than having to think,' King asserted, lamenting how it's rare to find people 'who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking,' because of the 'almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions' ... Indeed, human beings think, it's their nature, which separates them from animals that use instinct. Because humans think, some consistently confuse opinion -- an idea unsubstantiated by knowledge -- with thought, which involves careful analysis. But then, there are opinions and opinions, there are thoughts and thoughts, and there is critical thinking." -- Read the Full Article

K-12 Students Design Greenhouses for NASA Astronauts

Space Ref.Com (Challenger Center): Press Release  Alexandria, VA — "Join the Challenger Center for Space Science Education for the NASA K-12 Engineering Design Challenge and design a plant growth chamber for use by future astronauts living and working on the Moon by November 30th. Participating teachers and students will receive space-flown basil seeds returned by Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan, the back up to Christa McAuliffe, the first Teacher in Space, for follow-on experiments with their mini-greenhouses ... Classrooms will receive a special certificate for their engineering design along with space-flown and control (non-flown) seeds for conducting scientific experiments. All submitted designs will be showcased on the Challenger Center for Space Science Education website and may be reviewed for further testing by a special panel of NASA scientists, astronauts and engineers ... Classrooms will receive a special certificate for their engineering design along with space-flown and control (non-flown) seeds for conducting scientific experiments. All submitted designs will be showcased on the Challenger Center for Space Science Education website and may be reviewed for further testing by a special panel of NASA scientists, astronauts and engineers ... In the future, astronauts will use plants to provide food, oxygen, and clean water and waste recycling while living on the Moon or on Mars. In this design challenge, K-12 students design and test plant growth chambers using space-flown seeds and will receive national recognition for their efforts on the Challenger Center web site. Original designs should be submitted by November 30th to one of the fifty Challenger Learning Centers across the country. Please send along with the design, the teacher's name, school, town, state and grade level ... The Challenger Center for Space Science Education was founded in 1986 by the families of the astronauts of the space shuttle Challenger 51-L mission. Challenger Center programs raise student's expectations of success by fostering a long-term interest in science, mathematics, technology and engineering, motivating them to pursue a career in these fields. The network of 50 Challenger Learning Centers across the U.S. train more than 25,000 teachers annually to incorporate project-based learning and use the theme of space exploration to engage students in critical thinking, decision-making, communication and teamwork." -- Read the Full Article

Jordanian Church Leaders Say International Community Must Do More

Journal Chretien:  "The international community must increase its humanitarian assistance to Iraqis displaced by the ongoing U.S.-backed war, a group of Jordanian religious and human rights leaders told a visiting delegation of U.S. Christian journalists here Nov. 4 ...'There has always been a refugee numbers problem for Jordan, primarily Palestinians,' said Fr. Nabil Haddad, a leading spokesman for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church and founder of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, but now it so big with the Iraqis – the equivalent of 60 million refugees arriving in the U.S. in two years time' ... According to Jerry Van Marter, writing for the Presbyterian News Service, Jordan has taken in between 500,000 and 1 million Iraqis fleeing the unrelenting violence in their country since the U.S. invasion almost four years ago. During that time, the U.S. has granted 900 visas to Iraqis ... Van Marter writes that Sen. Aqel Biltaji, a longtime government official and official advisor to the late King Hussein and now his son, King Abdullah II, says that not only is the crush of Iraqi refugees in Jordan straining the capacity of the government, religious institutions and other non-governmental organizations to respond adequately, the larger conflict in the Middle East, exacerbated by the Iraq War and the seemingly stalled peace process in Israel-Palestine is jeopardizing Jordan’s status as 'an oasis of tolerance, acceptance and mutual respect' ... 'This is a sad time for us because it was the Americans who brought us education, democracy, medicine and critical thinking,” he told the group of 19 visitors here in the Jordanian capital, including this Van Marter and John Sniffen, associate editor of Presbyterians Today magazine ...'Now those doctors and teachers have been replaced by soldiers and destruction and an administration that has vetoed every United Nations resolution on behalf of the Palestinians and we have to ask, 'Are these the same Americans ?’ Biltaji asked." -- Read the Full Article

Running From 'No Child'

The Washington Post:  "Congressional inertia in reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act could well mean that the shape of federal education policy is left to the next president. But the law and its principles of standards-based reform have created splits within each party, and candidates are running warily. In large measure, Democrats are sticking to safe topics such as expanding pre-kindergarten programs, reducing class sizes and making college more affordable. Republicans are stressing their commitment to expanding choice in education ... When the issue of NCLB does come up, too often the impulse has been to launch a sound-bite attack. Among the worst: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) and his repeated vow to "scrap it"; Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.), who called his vote for the 2001 law 'a mistake' driven by his faith in its sponsor, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.); and former Tennessee senator Fred D. Thompson (R), who also regrets his vote because 'it's not working' ... In fact, No Child Left Behind, though flawed, is working. By bringing accountability into American classrooms, the law has made it impossible for schools to hide their failures in educating some children behind their successes with others. Results of testing as well as reports by outside groups show students doing better in math and reading, as well as a narrowing of the achievement gap between blacks and whites." -- Read the Full Article

Islam’s Detractors Wrong on Quran

The Badger Herald (University of Wisconsin):  "Attacks on Islam have been escalating over the last few years. It’s become a fashionable thing to do, and the fact that these 'informed opinions' stem from a complete ignorance of the true teachings of Islam and the Quran isn’t making it any better. I’ve had it with these attacks, and as a Muslim, I feel compelled to set the record straight ... In last Tuesday’s paper, Kyle Szarzynski wrote in his article ('Islam no defense for extremist action,' Nov. 20) about the Muslim response to the insulting cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten and subsequent republishing by many other newspapers including The Badger Herald. He described the cartoons as merely 'unflattering,' expressed his inability to understand the Muslim response and why 'leftists' were making up excuses for them ... Personally, I believe religion is subject to criticism and only through the process of critical thinking can we reach the truth. However, such criticism should be respectful and objective while avoiding hateful sentiments and patronizing spirits. We should strive to understand the other point of view instead of deeming it evil and unworthy of contemplation." -- Read the Full Article

Can Higher Education Manage Talent?

Inside Higher Ed:  "Much ink has been spilled lately about a looming talent crisis, with pundits and industry analysts warning that, in the not too distant future, American employers will not have the requisite talent to succeed competitively ... In theory, institutions of higher education know a lot about how to develop the skills required for success in the working world — skills like critical thinking and problem-solving. Contrary to the popular notion of the college campus as a cloistered ivory tower, most American colleges are professional schools that focus on preparing students for the marketplace; even within the liberal arts, we produce far alumni who go on into business than alumni who become poets or conduct basic scientific research. Indeed, examples abound of cooperation between colleges and employers to develop the workforce, and as the business community seeks to develop and retain talent, it seems increasingly amenable to turning to academe for its expertise ... But does higher education model what it espouses? One would expect that, in a knowledge economy, the producers of knowledge (those institutions of higher education) would value “talent management” and even have a competitive edge in that realm. But the data suggest that colleges lag behind industry in developing and retaining their own talent." -- Read the Full Article

Bring Back ROTC?

The Brown Daily Herald:  "The Reserve Officer Training Corps is an excellent outlet for national service and venue for personal growth, and we admire those who participate in it. But ROTC has no place on Brown's campus until the military allows all Americans to serve in uniform, without discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation ... In a rage against the U.S. war in Vietnam, Brown's faculty voted to remove ROTC from campus. Since 1972, the program has been absent from College Hill, though it's been available to students willing to trek across the city to Providence College's Patriot Battalion. But the number of participating students has been in decline - from a dozen or so in each class in the late 1980s to one or two a year today ... To be sure, ROTC is an excellent program, and its time has come again. At a time when the military needs smart, well-rounded, culturally sensitive officers to lead our troops abroad, Brown seems an ideal place to provide such leadership in these troubled years. A liberal arts education fosters critical thinking and intellectual curiosity - vital skills for today's officers, whose decisions made on the ground in Herat or Baghdad can profoundly affect our national security. While national media outlets repeatedly print essays about our generation's self-absorption, we know that President Bush's call for all Americans to engage in some form of national service - through the military, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach for America or other organizations - is a worthy goal ... But there is a line we won't cross, no matter our admiration for ROTC as a meaningful way to serve our country. Since the 1990s, the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy has been a stain on the nation, a policy promoting exclusion and forcing gay Americans to live a double life if they choose to serve." -- Read the Full Article

Teatro del Pueblo: Facing Latino Community Issues Through Theater

Twin Cities Daily Planet: "It’s a story that's been repeated over and over again: Impoverished Mexicans leave their country in search of a better life in the United States, only to find humiliations and mistreatment in exchange for a meager wage at backbreaking jobs. When these workers learn their rights and try to organize, they start to receive threats from their employers, including the threat of deportation ... This is the story of Help Wanted, a play written by Virginia McFarlen and directed by Alberto Justiniano, that Teatro del Pueblo has been bringing to colleges and community theaters throughout Minnesota. Help Wanted tells the true story of two Mexican sisters who, together with their co-workers, organize to fight for better working conditions at their Minneapolis hotel while they confront threats of deportation. The struggle and triumph of the Holiday Inn Express workers, upholding the right to organize without intimidations, became a watershed victory in the history of the labor movement. Today, it is an important lesson of struggle and perseverance for young people caught in the middle of the immigration debate ... Teatro del Pueblo is a small non-profit theater company located on St. Paul’s West Side. Besides developing plays with Latino themes and presenting them in the Twin Cities, the company has an educational program that brings small plays to colleges and high schools throughout greater Minnesota. The goal of the educational program is to educate young people about the issues facing Latinos, and to encourage conversations geared at breaking stereotypes and reinforcing critical thinking. Plays presented have included Echoes of the New World and a puppet show, based on the country mouse fable, that explores the differences, commonalities and relationships between Mexican and US cultures." -- Read the Full Article

Arts Center Struggles With Funding

Daily Press:  Escanaba, MI  — "Schools tend to the mind. Athletics tend to the body. Art tends to the soul. All three are vital and important in the development and sustainability of the person we are. Each share many of the same attributes, reinforcing the skills and values of the community. But each are not treated, valued or funded equitably ... At the bottom of the list of priorities often sit 'The Arts.' Yet it has been demonstrated over and over again that work in the arts develops unique mental skills. They expand the creative and critical capacities in us, helping us to think outside the box. These critical-thinking skills are now being incorporated into business college courses, recognizing that theories and knowledge needs to be paired with critical thinking skills to bring about innovation ... The arts enhance problem-solving skills, allowing us to work through everyday issues as well as the very thorny concerns that face business and society today. " Read the Full Article

Patients At Risk From Inexperienced Doctors

Herald Sun (Austrailia's Biggest Selling Newspaper):  "Emergency department patients are being put at risk by young and inexperienced doctors, a conference has been told ... Dr Sue Ieraci from Sydney's Bankstown Hospital told the meeting of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine on the Gold Coast that too many interns in emergency departments were inadequately prepared and unsupervised ... There might be a serious impact on patient care and safety unless there were urgent changes to training, she said ... She warned that for struggling interns and graduate foreign-trained doctors having routine training, emergency medicine was frequently seen as 'a barrier to be crossed' ... 'This can present a greater burden to emergency department safety and function," Dr Ieraci said ... She said the numbers of foreign-trained doctors also was increasing, "and many of them have never worked in Australia before, and may not have worked clinically at all for a number of years' ... She and another expert, Dr Deniz Tek from St Vincent Healthcare, called for a targeted effort to specifically train graduates in critical thinking, operational communication and decision-making skills before they turned up in emergency departments." -- Read the Full Article

Spies Like Us

BBC News:  "If you've seen Spooks (above) you'll know what fictional spies do. But what is the reality of the job? The BBC has been given unprecedented access to speak to real spies about their jobs ... It's a profession that used to be stamped top secret, access denied. However, in recent years the security services have tried to take some of the mystery out of what they do ... The aim is to attract new recruits from a much broader pool of talent - ones that better reflect the society they serve ... The BBC's Radio 1 and Asian Network have been given access to some of the younger operatives working in the security services ... Greg is what MI6 calls an operational officer and the rest of us call a secret agent or spy. He says despite the stereotypes, agents are not picked because of their family or educational background ...'I certainly didn't come from a rich background and I definitely didn't go to a top university,' he says ... 'MI6 were really looking for things such at the right people skills and critical thinking.' "-- Read the Full Article

Critical Thinking, Not Endless Testing

Daily Herald:  "About thinking … it's being said that students who leave college should be proficient in critical thinking, logical reasoning, a second language, insight into various cultures, computation, speaking and writing ... How long does it take all students to be competent in this critical thinking and reasoning? When should it start?" -- Read the Full Article

Creativity Bench Launched at Bahria University

The International News:  Islamabad — "In a colourful and energetic environment, the new lot of young managers of an informal student organisation at Bahria University took oath of commitment to promote critical thinking, innovation and indigenous idea generation among students ...  The organisation named ‘Creativity Bench’ has been formed by students to promote idea generation and creativity and offers an opportunity to its members to take the status of directors, deputy directors and even the active members of their teams for conceptualising and actualising professional roles ... During the current semester the members of bench comprised BBA-3 students who took the course of ‘Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking.' "-- Read the Full Article

Why I Am Not a Democrat (Or a Republican)

Nichomachus.Net:  "I spent the weekend before the election in Washington, D.C. being reminded of the passion for critique on which our country was founded. Standing in the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial, it’s dizzying to read 'I have sworn… eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.' I was a little disappointed when the first political campaign sign to catch my eye back in Durham read 'Stith: Right-Wing Republican. Don’t Be Fooled.' ... While the sign amused me — principally because I grew up in a place where self-identifying as a right-wing Republican is more likely the campaign than the anti-campaign — it bothered me the more I thought about it. The sign served only to distract voters from campaign issues by calling Stith a name — 'Republican' is a bad word in Durham, haven’t you heard?... The last two hundred years of U.S. history are filled with progress — in technology, quality of life, and cross-cultural communication for starters. But in politics, all too often we’ve regressed from our philosophical beginnings and opted for name-calling ... Democrats might defend themselves in two ways. First, they might say Stith’s campaign was devoid of issues. He offered criticism with no solutions; he ran a campaign of distraction from the start. Granted, it’s tough to debate someone who isn’t clear where he stands. But we might begin by pointing out that a campaign strategy occluding both his party affiliation and recent position in a conservative think tank gives us a good reason to think he mistrusts transparency in government ...  Or, they may offer a more childish defense: 'he started it.' True, Stith launched a campaign of distraction early in the election, specifically trying to drum up fear of Durham’s growing immigrant community. The politics of fear is the worst sort of politics of distraction because it wants not only to disguise the real issues, but wants to displace them with visceral emotions and prejudice. While emotions and prejudice are natural parts of human psychology, we believe in a democracy that they must be tempered by reason ...  So why did the Democrats, then, just result to name-calling? Did they not have enough faith in Durham’s citizenry to see through Stith’s deceit? Is the idea that critical thinking matters to politics mere shibboleth in the YouTube age? "-- Read the Full Article

Ten Inconvenient Truths About the United States

B92:  Serbia — "Over the past few months, I have written columns listing 'inconvenient truths' about Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia. Many of the more critical readers instead of thinking about my comments, have simply retorted 'What about your own country?' ... They have a point. So this week I have listed ten issues which makes the United States less than it could be, less than it should be. I would also add that would be easy for me to list at least one hundred qualities which makes me proud to be an American. But that is for another time ... Lack of critical thinking about our own system of democracy and its practices. We are taught from birth that our own system of democracy is the best in the world. We are exceptionally proud of it, but in an uncritical way. This has a lot of negative consequences. First of all, we fail to realize just how flawed the system is and how it is increasingly preventing us from moving forward. Ultimately, it will be one of the major factors why our role in the world will diminish. But secondly, overvaluing our own system causes us to undervalue all others. It also leads us to believe that "one model fits all" and to over-simplify the world as a result." -- Read the Full Article

Destination ImagiNation Teams Prepare for Events

Palestine Herald-Press:  "PALESTINE Story Elementary School’s Destination ImagiNation teams are about to set out for a destination limited only by their imaginations. The teams are made of GT classes from students in grades 3-5. Facilitator is Jennifer Sparks ... First-time teams (made up of students of similar age on teams of up to seven members) will be participating in a regional tournament March 1, 2008 in Mesquite. More than 10,000 teams participated in this program last year ... Over the next weeks and/or months, four teams will work together (over an eight to 12 week period) to solve many challenges ... No interference is allowed from anyone outside the team. Adult managers act as facilitators to a team. Team manager training is provided by experienced trainers in all affiliates ... Destination ImagiNation is a community-based, school-friendly program that builds participants’ creativity, problem solving, and teamwork in enjoyable and meaningful ways. The goals of Destination ImagiNation are for participants to foster creative and critical thinking. Students learn and apply the Creative Problem Solving method and tools. They develop teamwork, collaboration, and leadership skills."-- Read the Full Article

Sex Ed Must Aid Youths' Growth and Knowledge

Taipei Times:  "A set of sexual education materials has been the focus of much public concern recently ("Porn without sex ed can mislead," Nov. 22, page 2). In fact, sexual education disseminates not only knowledge, but also a set of values concerning sex. Also, it is not about sexual positions so much as it is about the nature of a healthy relationship between the sexes ... This is precisely why the government prohibits those under 18 years of age from viewing pornographic media, as the sexual relationships portrayed therein are often unhealthy and twisted; featuring rape, incest, irresponsible behavior, exaggerated duration of intercourse and the objectification of women ... The Department of Health confronting the problem by commissioning the Mercy Memorial Foundation to develop a sexual education curriculum designed to uncover pornography and to teach students how to make their own sexual decisions uninfluenced by pornography. The course is intended to foster critical thinking about pornography." -- Read the Full Article

Multiculturalism Exposes the U.S. to Terrorism

Family Security Matters:  "The people of the United States, for all practical purposes, like to believe we are fair-minded. We believe that everyone should get a fair shot. Most of us believe that if you work hard you should get ahead. Many of us have even embraced the ever-advancing multiculturalism counter-culture, which is completely antithetical to the concept of E Pluribus Unum: 'Out of many, one.' With regard to the latter, vindication has come to those of us who believe we are fair-minded while being opposed to the 'Balkanization' the United States ... It would seem that in our nation’s quest to prove to the world that we are inclusive and tolerant we have, literally, allowed those who want to kill us into some of the most sensitive areas of our government, areas where they put our national security at risk ... In two recent and separate instances, individuals linked to terrorism organizations have been allowed to rise to important positions within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, the Inspector General for the United States Agency for International Development has issued a report that states:  ' ... policies, procedures, and controls are not adequate to reasonably ensure against providing assistance to terrorists...[ USAID's] policies or procedures do not require the vetting of potential or current USAID partners' ... The USAID internal audit came in the aftermath of a fierce gun battle between Hamas and al Fatah terrorists at the Hamas administrated Islamic University in Gaza. After the battle, large caches of weapons and ammunition were displayed, recovered from inside the university. The Islamic University in Gaza received more than $140,000 in funding from USAID. Hamas is a State Department designated terrorist organization ... Our country is facing what I consider to be the 'perfect storm' ...  We have a powerful foe in radical Islamofascists who want to destroy our country. They want to eliminate our constitutional Republic, replacing it with a government run under the totalitarian tenets of Sharia Law. And as they prey on the good will of the American people, extracting money under the guise of charity for the oppressed, they have mastered the American legal system and are effectively using it against us, even as they establish enclaves of radical ideology within the borders of the United States ... We have another foe in the American Fifth Column, a group of visionless lemmings adherent to the Marxist/Leninist dictums of Socialism, who promote political correctness and multiculturalism. This group champions a mythical one-world utopia over the principles of self-sufficiency, liberty and personal freedom. They promote a caretaker government that provides as many entitlements and services as can be established through the extraction of private income while empowering that same government as the arbiter of all societal parameters regardless of the liberties granted to us under the United States Constitution .. Lastly, we have an American citizenry, who, because institutionalized education has moved away from instilling critical thinking skills in deference to special interest indoctrination, doesn’t understand the ideology behind the principles that founded our nation." -- Read the Full Article

Strategies to Access Rich Funds of Knowledge

Ode Magazine:  "We live in a society that is increasingly becoming more violent and racist. Around the world the news show us how minority groups rebel against mainstream politicians who are incompetent in building solid educational platforms. From the French quarters to the inner cities around he United States, xenophobic storms deluge and drown the chance for a positive outlook on cultural diversity and acceptance ... It is our responsibility as transforming educators to address these themes not only in our daily cognitive exchanges with our students, but also through meaningful homework, which can help us to build a strong bridge between the academic knowledge initiated within the schools and the funds of knowledge developed at home ... Theory proves that students who recognize themselves within the educational practices and are able to express and reinforce their ethnic identity through intercultural projects are more likely to become active citizens as well as to widen critical thinking skills. Consequently, we must expand educational methodologies that promote open forums and participatory activities." -- Read the Full Article

Educating Maine's Work Force Pays Off

Bangor Daily News:  Bangor, ME — "Building a strong economy means having an educated work force, as was discussed recently at a Maine Employers’ Initiative forum in Dover-Foxcroft hosted by the Maine Community Foundation’s Piscataquis County Committee ... Gathered at the Penquis Higher Education Center for the forum, attendees agreed that better educated workers make for a stronger economy, but expressed concern that too many younger workers lack the fundamentals of providing good customer service, including decent communication skills. They also often don’t show up for work on time or follow through on commitments ... What can we do to ensure that Maine’s work force is ready? One out-of-state employer began requiring an associate’s degree for all entry-level workers. The employer had greater confidence that new employees were more work-ready, were prepared to follow through on tasks and possessed well-developed critical thinking and communications skills." -- Read the Full Article

Translating More Books Into Arabic

Arab News: "Every time I come across the words “a pioneering project”, particularly when the said project is to be paid for by a government “authority”, I think: “Oh no, what a colossal waste of time and money!” And generally I am right. Over the last few years we have seen rather a lot of money thrown at well-intentioned projects doomed to fail. But for once, I have to eat my words, because today I read about a pioneering project that strikes me as an excellent idea well executed ... It’s about reading ... Why should we read the great works of Western civilization? For the same reasons as we should read the great works of Islamic civilization: Because being intellectually curious is the first step to enlightenment. If you only read what you already know or what you know to be from you own point of view, how will you develop any critical thinking? ... But most of us agree that knowledge is a good thing and lament the poor state of libraries and bookshops in the Arab world. Reading in English, as many of us do, is not enough. Something needs to be done to put more good quality translations on our bookshelves ... Well something is being done. The Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage Authority has launched the Kalima project. They are to translate seminal works of literature, science, political thought, philosophy and history into Arabic. The titles of the first one hundred books to be translated have been released. I am ashamed to say I have read only a tiny percentage of the books on the list, but in a way that is their strength. They have shied away from blockbusters and popular works and instead come up with an eclectic list of books. And this is the only first hundred, more will follow."-- Read the Full Article

Local, Family Solutions Needed to Reform Education

Lebanon Daily News: Lebanon, PA — "What separates a great nation from one in decline is the quality of the education that its citizens receive. Our very freedoms, our success and our wealth are influenced by our students, the education they receive and the ability to determine for ourselves our future careers ... Unfortunately, with the mass public-education system of the past 50 years, all too often the minimum standard has become the benchmark of success, rather than the cutoff for failure. No Child Left Behind is hardly a piece of legislation that a politician could vote against. Just the name of the act itself is intended to invoke sympathy. Sympathy and testing do not solve the problem. Education directed from Washington, D.C., or any state capital does not work ...

Another crucial aspect of rebuilding America’s education system is to reward education. It makes no sense that academic scholarships are few and far between. Making a student with an A average and great test scores qualify for a scholarship mainly due to parental income is silly. Financial need is but one aspect of a scholarship. Performance is the most important aspect. Making all students winners may seem like we are being kind, but once the student gets into the work force, it is about performance, experience, critical thinking and abilities. In an education system in which you cannot fail, it also means that you cannot succeed." -- Read the Full Article

A New Order of Things

Thoughts From The Heart on the Left:  "A number of years ago a colleague and I wrote a paper entitled “Liberal Arts and Science Education in the 21st Century”. (1) Our purpose in writing the paper was to suggest that 1) the goals for science education should be directed towards helping students think, 2) that science was a part of the liberal arts tradition, and 3) unless science was again considered a liberal art, there would be problems ... Last year I wrote that we would never have another president like John Kennedy. (2) As I noted then, it wasn’t so much that we would not allow his personal flaws and medical problems to be covered up as they were then but rather because he was probably the last President to speak in literate paragraphs with references to history. He expected those who heard his speeches to understand those references and to understand what he was saying. He did not expect people to always agree with what he said but he did think that those who heard his words should understand them. President Kennedy’s words could not be reduced to sound bites or jingoism; his thoughts were not simple statements easily forgotten but ones that dwelt in our minds and challenged us to think before acting ... Coupled with our observations, it is quite clear that we have not progressed towards a thinking society. If anything, we have regressed. Our clamor for quality education in elementary, junior high/middle, and high schools has lead to a glut of testing. But all we gain in testing is a measure of how many facts students know. Very little of the testing is directed towards critical thinking, evaluation and analysis, the higher end of the cognitive learning scale."-- Read the Full Article

Robot-Building Students Tap Many Skills

The Grand Rapids Press:  Middleville -- "Gwen, dressed in a white lacy gown designed for a Build-A-Bear pet, rolled down the paper-covered table to Pierre, her waiting groom ... The Lego robots, all plastic bits and pieces, were programmed to perform in the ceremony by Thornapple Kellogg Middle School seventh-graders. It was one of the culminating events of a new Mindstorm robotics class ... Zach Beardsley's robot, "King Bubbles," reigned supreme in the Robo Battle competition with a unique design aimed at making competitors knock themselves over ... 'It was just a lot of fun,' he said. 'I like programming the robots to do different things. It's fun to see what you can do' ... Katherine Pino, proud 'mother' of the robot bride, said the hands-on class is much better than textbook learning ... 'I like that you get to do it by yourself and figure things out,' she said ...'I like that you get to do it by yourself and figure things out,' she said ... 'It seems to go a lot with exactly what we're trying to provide to our students: problem solving and critical thinking skills,' Principal Jon Washburn said. 'It's not your traditional classroom. The teacher becomes more a facilitator.' "-- Read the Full Article

University Funds Hinge on Students

Arizona Daily Star: Phoenix — "Student performance could play a role in how Arizona's universities are funded ... And if the plans being discussed at the state Capitol take shape, it could be an early sign that the standards and test-based formulas of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act are about to graduate to the college level ... Arizona's three universities would see their funding based on student performance and graduation rates — not just head count — under plans being drafted by state Rep. Jennifer Burns, the Tucson Republican who chairs the House Committee on Higher Education ... 'This is real tricky,' said Matthew Ladner, vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank in Phoenix that has joined with voices on the left in criticizing the state's AIMS test. 'The thing to avoid is creating a kind of No Child Left Behind for higher education ... Ladner said a mechanism for measuring performance on the college level is needed, because there is no way to objectively compare university performance right now. Using funding to get there is not the solution, he said." -- Read the Full Article

Teens Get Girl Time with After-School Club

Seacoast Online (The Source for Seacoast NH and Southern ME):  Kingston — "On Nov. 13, GO a new after-school club for Sanborn Regional High School girls, had its opening day events ...GO stands for 'Girls Only.' The purpose of the club is to help teen girls develop strong critical thinking skills that will enable them to make positive life choices on health and social issues. GO's theme for the month of November is 'First Impressions' ... The emphasis is on helping girls to make good choices about skin care, makeup and dressing successfully for school, college interviews, job interviews and social occasions." -- Read the Full Article

CSU Offers New Tool to Prospective Students

The Colorodoan (Bringing Ft Collins Home):  "Prospective students and parents who want to learn about Colorado State University have a new tool aimed at providing transparency about what CSU does and how it does it ... CSU has long provided the same information in different areas, but the new College Portrait brings that information into one location and in a format that's shared by multiple universities ...'It's a pretty manageable way to organize information that, over time, we've found students and parents are looking for,' said Alan Lamborn, CSU academic vice president and vice provost ... The report details things ranging from percent of returning students (83 percent) to undergraduate graduation rates (67 percent within six years) to the number of undergraduate degrees awarded (4,369 last year) ... Other participating institutions include the University of Minnesota, the University of Kansas and the University of South Carolina ... The 'Voluntary System of Accountability' is a national effort by large public universities to offer a clearer understanding of what it is they do and how they accomplish it ... As part of the system, participating institutions will be testing students for four years, trying to understand what they have learned ... Those tests are called the Collegiate Learning Assessment ... There are two types of tests being conducted by universities: longitudinal and cross-sectional. The first requires that the same students are tested several times during the course of their college careers. Such tests show what specific students have learned. The second tests random freshmen and seniors, and if conducted during a long enough time, provides a gauge of what students overall are learning ... 'It's not a standardized test in the normal sense. It's an open-ended essay. Students are asked to make an argument or break an argument or an analytical piece,' Lamborn said. 'One of the things that's exciting about the CLA is that there isn't a program on campus where analytical reasoning and critical thinking isn't important.'" -- Read the Full Article

Strategy of Desperation

Nation News (Barbados' Leading Newspaper):  "Like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle being pieced together, the ruling Barbados Labour Party's (BLP) election strategy is gradually taking shape in full public view. Your mind is the target. You must be on your guard ... As I've observed previously, critical thinking isn't widespread in this society. Hence, many Barbadians unknowingly make themselves vulnerable to manipulation in support of interests which may not necessarily coincide with theirs ... Recent comments by a top BLP spin doctor raise an alarm. He suggested their competitive advantage over the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) lies in the effective application of propaganda ... In other words, he tacitly admitted the BLP uses deceptive communication which is what today's propaganda so often involves. The lack of such expertise, he claimed, is a fundamental DLP weakness." -- Read the Full Article

Heritage Malta launches Young Knights Educational Programme

The Malta Independent Online: St Julians — "Heritage Malta has launched a new educational programme called ‘Young Knights’, earmarked for primary and secondary school students who visit the Palace Armoury in Valletta ... It said that museum visits can have a profound impact on young people and there was no better way to engage with a historical object than to physically come into close proximity with the object itself. 'The aim of a museum visit is not to overwhelm students but to foster thinking skills and promote discussion' ... Heritage Malta’s Education Section has produced two workbooks as well as a teacher’s resource book, which is meant to provide teachers with useful information related both to the educational methodology within museums and to key historical episodes directly or indirectly linked to the national collection housed at the Palace Armoury. The workbooks consist of information, tasks and various interpretative materials designed to stimulate critical thinking and creativity, and to generate an appetite for learning within such a historical setting."-- Read the Full Article

Political Activism Will Derail Capitalism

Cuban News Agency: "Havana, Nov 22 (acn) The Sixth International Conference on Latin American Studies opened Wednesday in Havana with the words of Cuban economist Osvaldo Martinez who said, 'The capitalist system will not collapse due to economic crisis; it must be toppled with political activism' ... Martinez, a Cuban legislator and head of the World Economy Research Center, said that the current global crisis experienced by capitalism 'comes at an especially promising time' in Latin America as it's the only place in the world where there are anti-capitalist ruptures and new forms of integration such as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) ... The conference is sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies (CEA) and is designed to motivate reflection from a perspective of critical thinking. The gathering includes lectures on the world economy, the crisis of neoliberal capitalism and on the specific case of the United States. Other topics include forms of resistance, new leaderships, and Latina American and Caribbean integration ... The event is dedicated to the memory of guerrilla commander Ernesto 'Che' Guevarra and Cuban diplomat Raul Roa and gathers participants from Cuba, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Vietnam."-- Read the Full Article

Critical Thinking Needed, Even at Thanksgiving

Kennebec Journal:  "My mother's signature creation for Thanksgiving was chestnut stuffing ...This involved the messy job of boiling Italian chestnuts, completely peeling away the black outer shell and the hairy inner skin and chopping them up. Many, many chestnuts. We used to do it the night before. The result was a savory treat, famous far and wide among our many relatives as Rose's chestnut stuffing ... In the 1970s, my parents moved to Florida, God's little waiting room, whereupon my mother recused herself from any further contact with kitchen implements except for knife and fork ... My dad took over the role of Culinary Procurement Engineer and learned to cook oatmeal and even pot roast ... But what to do about Thanksgiving traditions? Would there never be chestnut stuffing again? ... One year I was met at the airport by my triumphant dad, who announced, 'I've found a kosher delicatessen that does the entire Thanksgiving feast, turkey, potatoes, vegetables, dessert, and they promise chestnut stuffing, too!' ... The next day we collected the entire dinner and brought it over to the relatives who were hosting the family party. On the way, the smells were heavenly, and we were all in a high state of anticipation ... Platters, bowls and food on the table -- turkey carved, grace said -- all this and chestnut stuffing, too! ... But no -- what's this -- something's not right here -- small screams from my mother -- oh no! They used Chinese water chestnuts! ... Well, water chestnuts do not make it as a stuffing ingredient. You can cook them forever and they remain little crunchy tasteless impediments. What was there to do but laugh and eat more gravy and cranberry sauce? ... Moral of the story: as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may have said, 'There are unknown unknowns.' What you don't know you don't know will cause 'mistakes to be made' ... Cultural expectations, habits and assumptions, while comforting and familiar, also may lull us into thinking we know everything we need to know." -- Read the Full Article

Can You Read This?

Long Beach Press Telegram: "Thank you in advance for reading this editorial. You are among a dying breed of people who read willingly and regularly ... Americans are reading less and their aptitude scores are declining, according to a report by the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA examined data from 40 studies that put the United States in the middle of the pack of industrialized nations in reading ... We suggest that college admissions officers not read the NEA report close to bedtime. If they do, they are likely to be kept up by the horrors of learning that Americans are reading for pleasure much less in all formats: newspapers, magazines, books, poems and websites ...The study was not able to say for certain whether electronic media are to blame, according to the Washington Post, but it is no secret that today's kids and young adults are consumed by social networking sites, video games, text messaging and other activities that have little to do with the literary canon or professionally packaged reporting ... Some of this could explain why boys in 12th grade scored far below (13 points) their female counterparts in reading comprehension ... Despite (or maybe because of it) living in the world's biggest economy, American 15-year-olds ranked only 15th among 31 industrialized nations in reading aptitude. Not surprisingly, the United States lagged behind nations that truly value education, such as Canada and France, but also placed behind places like Poland, which is still digging its creaky economy out of communism ... Americans ages 15 to 24 spend an average of seven minutes a day reading and two hours watching TV, according to the NEA. Most Americans of all ages do not read a single book from start to finish in the course of a year.

Think this is a class issue? Think again. The number of Americans admitted to college who were rated proficient in reading dropped 20 percent between 1992 and 2003 ...Workers are also showing up with poorer reading and writing skills, according to employment data culled for the survey. Though the Internet has given away so much knowledge for free, some of it is coming at the expense of critical thinking and the learning tied to discovering new information in books." -- Read the Full Article

Education Minister Urges Teachers to Innovate, Brave Hardships

Thanhnien News:   "Education minister Nguyen Thien Nhan wrote a letter to teachers nationwide on the Vietnam Teachers' Day, November 20, asking them to join forces in improving the country's educational system despite limited resources ... 'We should make sure that each hour our students spend in school is an hour of discovering and grasping easily and profoundly the natural world, cultural life and the history of our nation and of humanity,” Nhan wrote in the letter ... And for that to happen, he urged teachers to move away from traditional teaching methods that encourage rote learning ... 'At the college level, instructors should gradually shift away from testing students on what they have read in textbooks to asking them to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned to solve hypothetical or real-life problems' ... Nhan said he was aware that such a new way of teaching, which fosters students' creativity and critical thinking, would require greater efforts from teachers, but added that only by doing so would Vietnamese students develop intellectually."-- Read the Full Article

Sunday School for Atheists

Time:  "On Sunday mornings, most parents who don't believe in the Christian God, or any god at all, are probably making brunch or cheering at their kids' soccer game, or running errands or, with luck, sleeping in. Without religion, there's no need for church, right?... Maybe. But some nonbelievers are beginning to think they might need something for their children. 'When you have kids,' says Julie Willey, a design engineer, "you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on.' So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for atheist Sunday school ... An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies. The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S ... The pioneering Palo Alto program began three years ago, and like-minded communities in Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore., plan to start similar classes next spring. The growing movement of institutions for kids in atheist families also includes Camp Quest, a group of sleep-away summer camps in five states plus Ontario, and the Carl Sagan Academy in Tampa, Fla., the country's first Humanism-influenced public charter school, which opened with 55 kids in the fall of 2005. Bri Kneisley, who sent her son Damian, 10, to Camp Quest Ohio this past summer, welcomes the sense of community these new choices offer him: 'He's a child of atheist parents, and he's not the only one in the world' ... Kneisley, 26, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, says she realized Damian needed to learn about secularism after a neighbor showed him the Bible. 'Damian was quite certain this guy was right and was telling him this amazing truth that I had never shared,' says Kneisley. In most ways a traditional sleep-away camp--her son loved canoeing--Camp Quest also taught Damian critical thinking, world religions and tales of famous freethinkers (an umbrella term for atheists, agnostics and other rationalists) like the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass." -- Read the Full Article

We're Not in Kansas Anymore!

OPEdNews.Com: "The headline is an homage to The Wizard of Oz. I mean to convey the irony of thinking we live in a type of society that just doesn't exist anymore. At the time of the Wizard of Oz, we were full of hope, determination, grim entry into WWII, and people coming together for the common good. We've replaced The Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with The Patriot Act, The Military Commissions Act, Presidential Signing Statements, The Ministry of Homeland Security (oops, sorry for the Freudian slip) I mean the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Tasers, The Police State, Blackwater, and possible Martial Law ... Did you know that our model for public schools comes from the Prussian model of a militarized state? How is it that the American populace was better educated and better informed in the late 1700's and early 1800's than they are today when there were no public schools as we see them today? It's a question worth considering. The school system today is designed to turn out workers for the corporate system. It is clearly not designed to educate. It may be different at the elite Ivy League schools or some obscure Christian colleges, but the great majority are designed for job specialization and indoctrination. I wouldn't really know because I attended a school of military indoctrination known as a Service Academy. It's taken me years to claw my way back to some semblance of critical thinking. For more on the history of our educational system, I highly recommend John Taylor Gatto's book, The Underground History of American Education. You can find it and other information at his website here."-- Read the Full Article

New Futures Knocks Down Language Barriers

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: When Martha Valdez came to the United States from Mexico as a child, she was stuck in classes taught only in Spanish, didn't learn English and missed a lot of school. Now a mother herself, she glows when she hears her 7-year-old son, Joseph Cabañas, say his favorite subjects in school are writing and reading -- in English ...The New Futures after-school program he attends has given him a strong start. Here he finds help with his homework, improves his English, widens his vocabulary and builds his critical-thinking skills."-- Read the Full Article

Jordan’s Experiment in Social Acceptance, Renouncing Extremism

Journal Chretien:  "The Al Qaeda bomb blast came shortly after the prominent senator left the Hyatt hotel. He rushed back to encounter victims, wedding party celebrants ... As Akel Biltaji described his 2005 experience to me recently, we sat in the lobby of that same Hyatt in Amman. The tragedy’s likely cause ? Jordan, a predominantly Muslim nation, had dared to stand against radical terrorism. Today, tight hotel security dissuades such incursions ... It’s become popular in the West to deny, ignore, or downplay Muslim opposition to terror. But Jordan has taken a leading role among Middle Eastern nations in renouncing extremism ... The society is diverse. Women in traditional Muslim head coverings blend with people in Western attire, some wearing crosses. Jordan’s king rides a Harley. His new prep school favors critical thinking over traditional rote learning. There are beaches without burkahs."-- Read the Full Article

Critical Cuban Elections in January

Associated Press:  Havana — "Cuba announced Tuesday it has set Jan. 20 for national elections that are part of the process of determining whether ailing leader Fidel Castro continues as president ... The ruling, signed by interim leader Raul Castro and read on state television, set the date for elections to provincial and national assemblies — voting that is held every five years ... There was no explicit mention of Fidel Castro, but the 81-year-old leader of the Cuban Revolution must be re-elected to the national parliament before he could repeat as president of the Council of State to remain in full power ... Raul, 76, is the council's first vice president ... Cuba's constitution calls for the council's first vice president, currently Raul Castro, to fill the presidential slot when vacated. Fidel, Cuba's unchallenged leader since 1959, held the council presidency since its 1976 creation ... Phil Peters, a Cuba analyst with the pro-democracy Lexington think tank outside Washington, said January's vote would be 'an election with real suspense ... If (Fidel) doesn't put his name on the ballot he is effectively resigning,' Peters said ... Anyone 16 or older can vote in Cuba and casting a ballot is not mandatory. Membership in the Communist Party — the only legal political party on the island — also is not required ... Small dissident groups — which are tolerated but dismissed by Cuba's government as mercenaries of the United States — boycotted the municipal elections ...Detractors of Cuba's electoral process complain the country's president is not directly elected by citizens and say voters feel heavy pressure to support pro-government candidates ...'The current Electoral Law, marked by a totalitarian character, does not guarantee the elemental right of citizens to freely elect people who represent programs or proposals that differ from those of the only party that has governed for more than four decades,' dissident Vladimiro Roca wrote earlier this week in a declaration from the opposition coalition Todos Unidos."-- Read the Full Article

Let The Sane of Saudi Arabia Unite

The California Republic.Org (A Minority Report on Rational Opinion):  "A little over two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1744 to be precise, an alliance was forged between Mohamed ibn-Saud and Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab, whereby the former agreed to rule according to the doctrine preached by the latter. A succinct statement made by Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab shortly after the deal was struck expresses the essence of his doctrine, which is known as Wahhabism: “Blood, blood, destruction, destruction.” These four simple words summarize what was and what continues to be the message of Wahhabism. The partnership between the two men led to the first incarnation of the Saudi-Wahhabi state. Anyone who, like me, has read the nineteen books written by Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab will realize that he belongs more to the realm of proselytism than to that of Islamic jurisprudence. The first Saudi state lasted from 1744 until 1819, when Ibrahim Pasha, Mohamed Ali’s eldest son, led a military expedition which destroyed the state, razed its capital, Al-Dir’iyah, to the ground and captured its prince, Abdullah ibn-Saud, sending him first to Cairo then on to the capital of the Ottoman state where he was executed ... The first Saudi state banned what it considered to be heretical practices, including the building of tombs, music, singing, dancing and any other manifestation of un-Islamic conduct.  Members of other faiths were hated and despised as ‘unclean’. Such was the hatred of foreigners that European consultants brought in by King Abdul Aziz at the beginning of the twentieth century were spat upon by the Ikhwan, members of an ultra-orthodox offshoot of the original Wahhabi movement. The presence of non-Muslims on the sacred ground of the Arabian Peninsula was seen as a desecration, as was any hint of modernity even when it came to such trivial matters as the shape of beards and mustaches. To the theologians of the first Saudi-Wahhabi state the only rightful interpretation of Islam lay in the Hanbalite school of law [founded by Ahmed ibn-Hanbal and further elaborated by his two main disciples, ibn-Taymiyah and ibn-Qaiym al-Juzeya] even though it is by far the weakest of the four Sunni schools of law [the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafite and Hanbalite]. To this day, Saudi jurists remain committed to the version of Islam propounded by ibn-Hanbal, ibn-Taymiyah and ibn-Qaiym Al-Juzeya, even though they rank far lower in stature than such towering Islamic jurists as Abu Hanifa Al-No’man, Malik Ibn Anas, Jaafar Al-Sadiq and Ibn Rushd [the second teacher after the first, Aristotle] ... Where jurists like Abu Hanifa and Ibn Rushd relied on the tools of rationality and deductive reasoning, compilation was the hallmark of the Hanbalite School, which allowed no scope for reason or independent thinking but insisted on a dogmatic interpretation of holy texts. Thus while Abu Hanifa relied on istihsan [using few traditions and extracting from the Qur’an by reasoning the rulings which fitted his ideas] and Ibn Rushd on ta’weel [deductive reasoning], Ibn Hanbal insisted on a literal interpretation of holy texts. This led him to accept over ten thousand of the Prophet’s Hadith as apostolic precept. It also bred a climate which favoured unquestioning adherence to tradition over the use of critical faculties, creating generations of followers and imitators and leading Islamic societies to the point at which they find themselves today: sidelined from History, science and the march of human progress. The Hanbalite School has turned the Muslim mentality into a passive recipient of answers instead of one that asks questions, let alone one that engages in critical thinking, the main engine of human progress ... Today the Saudi state resists the education of women, frowns on television broadcasts, bans women drivers and considers music and singing sinful. The underlying logic behind these anomalies is not very different from that which informed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of Islam, the takeover of the masjid al-haram [the sacred mosque which is home to the Ka’ba] at the beginning of the fifteenth century of the Hejira calendar. All attest to the continued influence of Ikhwani ideas in the Kingdom, as do the ban on teaching music and philosophy in Saudi schools and the refusal to appoint women to the Shura Council or in cabinet posts. There is also the spate of fatwas inspired by this madness, like the fatwa in which Ibn al-Baz concludes that the earth is not round and the one proscribing the sending of flowers to the sick! To stop the madness, the Saudi establishment must take a firm stand preferably accompanied by a psychological campaign ... Having said that, however, we must in all fairness distinguish between Wahhabism, its Ikhwan offshoot and the Saudi family. The truth is that not one of the nineteen books written by Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab calls for any of the excesses required by the Ikhwan. Also, even though the Saudi family entered into an alliance with the Wahhabis at a certain political stage and with the Ikhwan at another, it does not necessarily share their views ... As a student of Saudi history of the last three centuries, I believe the House of Saud has reached a watershed in its relationship with both the Wahhabi school and the remnants of the Ikhwan. I think that when it transpired that most of the criminals of 9/11 were Saudi nationals, the Saudi family realized it was time for a showdown with the Wahhabis and the Ikhwan [the Nejdi, not the Egyptian, variety]. There is, after all, a historical precedent on which to draw, namely, the stand taken by the father of their oldest prince, King Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud, who took on the Ikhwan in the nineteen thirties, despite the undeniable role they played in his triumphant career, defeating their army led by Faisal al-Dawish."-- Read the Full Article

A Pause in the No Child Left Behind Law?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer:  "Reauthorization of the No Child Left Be hind law might be left behind this year and next, as a hotly contentious presidential election looms ... That might be for the best. If the 2002 law is to be tweaked - and it should be - it's better done after some sober thought, rather than amid the auctioneering patter of over-eager candidates selling themselves for the presidency ... NCLB, which mandates that all American youngsters be able to read and do math at grade level by 2014, became law in 2001 with bipartisan support. But tinkering with President Bush's signature education law quickly became divisive along partisan lines, touching on issues such as testing requirements and teacher performance pay ... Still, reauthorization is actually something of a fiction. The states, to maintain their federal education funding, wrote new laws based on NCLB, and the states pay most of the bills, so the sun won't set on this law." -- Read the Full Article

Obama: Clinton and Edwards Left the Money Behind

The Baltimore Sun: "Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) often tells voters that the problem with the 'No Child Left Behind' effort to improve public schools is that George Bush 'left the money behind' ... But in a policy speech on Tuesday, Obama added two of his rivals for the Democratic nomination for president to the list of culprits – immediately inspiring them to point the finger back in his direction ... In a speech unveiling his $18 billion plan to improve public schools, Obama accused Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina of making a 'serious mistake' in not voting for a measure in 2003 to require full funding of the program ... 'It's pretty popular to bash No Child Left Behind out on the campaign trail, but when it was being debated in Congress four years ago, my colleague Dick Durbin offered a chance to vote so that the law couldn't be enforced unless it was fully funded,' Obama said. 'A lot of senators, including Senator Edwards and Senator Clinton, passed on that chance. And I believe that was a serious mistake' ... But aides to the two Democrats noted that, as a member of the Illinois Senate, Obama voted to implement it at the state level without a requirement for full funding. And both camps pointed out other instances in which their candidates supported full funding of the law ...Obama left out the 'inconvenient fact,' said Edwards spokesman Chris Kofinis, 'that he supported No Child Left Behind as an Illinois state senator before he opposed it as a presidential candidate.'"-- Read the Full Article

2007 Purpose Prize Winner: H. Gene Jones

Ode Magazine: "Gene Jones, a decorated World War II bomber pilot, built his post-war career by turning failing businesses into profitable corporations. In 1999, at the age of 84, he turned his attention to the next generation. Combining his business savvy and love of music with his passion for education, Jones created Opening Minds through the Arts ... Based on scientific brain research, the K-8 program integrates the arts into core curricula as a way to boost individual academic achievement and improve at-risk children's chance for future success. For example, creative movement specialists help instill critical thinking and problem-solving skills in second graders, and third graders develop compositional skills by learning to play a recorder, read music and write original tunes ... Independent research shows that the program has raised students' scores on third grade standardized tests, increased attendance, reduced discipline problems, and boosted parental involvement. Project Zero researchers at Harvard have selected the program for inclusion in an upcoming report, Excellence in Arts Education and How to Achieve It. Started in three schools, Opening Minds through the Arts now operates in 36 schools, involving 17,000 students and 650 teachers in Tucson's largest public school district-the second largest in Arizona. Over the last year, many districts throughout the state have consulted with Opening Minds about bringing the program to their schools. "-- Read the Full Article

Stem Cell Breakthrough

Casey's Critical Thinking:  "Speaking of stem cell research, a friend has alerted me to the following story. Prolifers have been arguing for years that research on embryonic stem cells is both immoral and unnecessary (See my essay on the topic written in May 2002). Of course, advocates of embryonic stem cell research remain unconvinced. As I stated in my essay, we all want to find cures to diseases. Some of us, however, would like to avoid sacrificing innocent lives in the process."-- Read the Full Article

Decline of the Tenure Track Raises Concerns

The New York Times:  Dearborn, MI — "Professors with tenure or who are on a tenure track are now a distinct minority on the country’s campuses, as the ranks of part-time instructors and professors hired on a contract have swelled, according to federal figures analyzed by the American Association of University Professors ... Three decades ago, adjuncts — both part-timers and full-timers not on a tenure track — represented only 43 percent of professors, according to the professors association, which has studied data reported to the federal Education Department. Currently, the association says, they account for nearly 70 percent of professors at colleges and universities, both public and private."-- Read the Full Article

UNM Conference To Offer Effective Teaching Practices

UNM Today (University of New Mexico):  "Preparations are under way for the third annual conference, 'Success in the Classroom: Sharing Practices that Work,' planned for a full day, Thursday, Feb. 21, at the University of New Mexico Student Union Building ...'Fifty-eight faculty members presented on various aspects of teaching effectiveness in the past two conferences,' said Gary Smith, professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and director of the Office of Support for Effective Teaching (OSET) ...'This multi-disciplinary conference focusing on university-wide teaching has experienced tremendous success in previous years,' he added ... A special focus this year will be a number of presentations on use of writing assignments to enhance learning in different learning contexts. This conference thread will demonstrate how writing provides a key approach to teaching critical thinking skills across all academic disciplines." -- Read the Full Article

Flight Delays and Cause Analysis

Critical Thinking Cafe:  "When a problem recurs multiple times, in a wide spectrum of venues, over a period of several years, you can generally conclude that the solutions you're implementing aren't resolving the root cause of the problem. Thousands of travelers are hoping that airports and airlines in the U.S. have identified and resolved the root cause behind a year when 24 percent of flights were delayed by at least 15 minutes. In fairness to the industry, that means 76 percent of flights got where they were supposed to get on time ... One of the fundamental concepts for effective critical thinking and problem solving is clearly defining the problem. President Bush believes this problem is a demand for air services that exceeds supply. Reactions to his unprecedented efforts to ensure a better flow of flights and people during the Thanksgiving holiday confirm that we don't yet agree on the problem we're trying to fix." -- Read the Full Article

Promoting Excellence In Bruneian Education

BruneiDirect.Com:  Bandar Seri Begawan - "The Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education (SHBIE), UBD, is hosting the third SHBIE Annual National Seminar/ Workshop in Education 2007 (SANSWE `07) at the UBD Chancellor Hall from November 19 to November 21. The opening ceremony was held yesterday ...The objectives of the SANSWE `07 are to provide a forum for sharing information and experiences on current trends and practices in the education of teachers; review issues and the progress of the second SHBIE Annual National Seminar/ Workshop in 2006; establish a network and professional collaboration between SHBIE, the school system and the Ministry of Education; and provide opportunities to consolidate the experience, practices and research findings of teachers, researchers, policymakers and school administrators on current trends and practices in educating teachers ... Educating teachers plays an important role in educational reform. According to researchers, as education attempts to react to and reflect changes in societal demands, teachers are expected to serve as catalysts ... The Minister of Education said, 'Raising the status and quality of teachers must be at the heart of any attempt to create a world-class education system. A recent report by McKinsey, a global consultancy firm, says that well-intentioned schools, despite massive spending increases, smaller class sizes and greater school autonomy, can fail because they overlooked teachers. Therefore, we in the Ministry of Education and the universities must play an important part in preparing teachers for their new roles in the classroom ... However, the successful implementation of any education system depends on several key factors. One important factor is the skills and professionalism from teachers within that system. They should bring the best out of learners by engaging, encouraging and inspiring creative and critical thinking, and help create a generation of thinkers and intellectuals.'"-- Read the Full Article

Deborah Kenny: Radical Education Reformer

Esquire:  "Spend time with Deborah Kenny and you walk away knowing that one day her name will be engraved in bronze. As we climb the stairs to the fourth floor of PS 194 in Harlem, she points out where she and President Bush paused on a landing to wait for Representative Charles Rangel to catch up with them. The president and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee had come to visit Kenny because she works educational miracles … We push through the doors onto the top floor and into Harlem Village Academy, the charter school she opened in 2003. The difference from the lower floors, which house a typical city school, is stark. The HVA sparkles, it seems brighter up here, and the students are all neatly dressed in uniforms -- no baggy-ass jeans, no shirttails dragging, and no hats askew. As she takes you on a tour, you notice the subtler differences -- kids sit up straight in their chairs, no horseplay, no back-row whisperers. Students speak in complete sentences. The classrooms have names -- Duke, Syracuse, and Berkeley. The names are not mere dreams, and they are no accident ... In six years, Kenny's vision has grown into a trio of charter schools under the rubric of Village Academies, located in New York precincts where a muscular poverty has thrived for generations. The numbers alone tell a compelling story. Locally, passing rates for seventh-grade math hover around 30 percent. At HVA, the rate is a stunning 96 percent. Kenny takes kids, by lottery, from the same blocks and projects and turns them into stellar students ready to move on to higher education, proving that poverty and fractured home lives are conquerable by a quality education. How does a white woman, an erstwhile soccer mom, end up leading the charge for radical education reform in Harlem?... She had earned a Ph.D. in comparative international education from Columbia and taught public school in three states. Disillusioned by the systemic failures she encountered, she left for the corporate world, where she became vice-president of marketing for the parenting group at Time Warner and then head of Sesame Street Publishing. When she decided to start Village Academies, she knew she would utilize the business side of her background as much as the teaching side. She developed a business plan devoid of bureaucracy and heavily influenced by Jack Welch's notions of leadership analysis and accountability ... In founding her schools, Kenny strove to re-create urban education. Her emphasis is on teaching critical thinking, not standardized-test compliance. At VA's schools, student progress is monitored daily, and as problems arise, Kenny and her staff utilize a rapid-response approach to help students stay on course. If there is a sense of urgency in the way Kenny runs her schools, it is because she knows that she is in the business of saving these kids, of providing them with futures."-- Read the Full Article

Can Faith and Reason Coexist?

The Tribune (Serving Northern Colorado Since 1870): "What purpose does faith serve? What happens when faith contradicts reason? Is there an advantage to critical thinking, even in religion?... Faith or belief can mean trust, as in 'I have faith you will keep your promise.' 'I believe the bus will stop here.' This trust is usually based on experience. I have experience with you as a reliable person or with my judgment of character. My experience tells me the bus stops here every day ... Faith can also mean acting on an assumption for which you have no experience. As children, we assume that what our parents tell us is true. Blind faith in authority, such as our parents, lasts until we can test its validity and find that the authority is sometimes wrong. If you believe your roommate who says there are eggs in your refrigerator, you only need to look to test the validity of your belief. If you find no eggs, continued faith in having eggs will not help make an omelet ... And finally, faith can mean choosing to believe something for which no direct evidence is possible. Faith in a god or the afterlife or heaven is a belief in something that cannot be proved or disproved."-- Read the Full Article

Choose Your Illusion

The Daily Scare:  "Internet video sensation "Zeitgeist: The Movie" attempts to explode the conspiracies that blind us to the truth. But these days, reality is what you make of it ... The Internet world has been abuzz in recent months over an online-only documentary called Zeitgeist: The Movie. Viewable primarily on Google Video, the feature-length film is racking up daily hits topping fifty thousand, and a specific title search via Google’s engine comes back with three times as many results. With a tagline that poses the question, 'What does Christianity, 911, and the Federal Reserve have in common?' it is readily apparent that this flick has an axe to grind ... As with any work of propaganda, however, it employs liberal amounts of disinformation and ambiguity in driving its message home. Criticisms of the film’s take on Christianity dominate online reviews, and several convincing (or at least, better researched) rebuttals dismiss outright many of its tightly drawn parallels between Jesus and other deities. After a bit of web browsing and critical thinking, any amateur fact checker will quickly get tangled in Zeitgeist’s exegetical arguments."-- Read the Full Article

Experts Praise Barack Obama's Education Plan

Ad Hoc News: Pressemitteilung, Germany — "Barack Obama realizes that education in today's knowledge age is critical to the survival and success of both individuals and societies. His education plan is comprehensive making essential, strategic investments at each stage of education, from early childhood through higher education. Obama understands the central importance of investing in well-prepared and well-supported teachers and school leaders, as no reform can ultimately work without highly skilled educators in every classroom in every school in every community ... And he understands that schools in a globally competitive America must focus on 21st century skills; especially the critical thinking and problem solving abilities needed in a world where jobs and technologies are changing rapidly. Obama?s education plan exhibits the kind of strategic vision the U.S. will need to build an education system that can ensure a prosperous American future.? [Linda Darling Hammond, Charles Ducommon Professor of Education, Stanford University; Co-director, School Redesign Network]." -- Read the Full Article

Meet Your Future Employee

PC World:  "Whatever you do, please don't call Stephanie Lee a geek. Sure, she's majoring in information technology and marketing at Marquette University in Milwaukee, where she's a senior ... But she doesn't write code, she isn't gadget-crazed or Internet-obsessed, and she positively isn't interested in a career as a programmer or tech support jockey ... What Lee is interested in is strategy. During a high school summer internship, she was charged with finding a way for a manufacturing company to more efficiently track packages overseas. Lee combed the Web for research. She chatted up employees to understand the process and the pain points. She even came up with an ROI strategy that convinced upper management to adopt her technology choice to fix their problem ...The experience ignited a passion in Lee to pursue a career in IT. 'I've known ever since I was 17 that IT is for me,' says Lee. 'Most people assume that IT [people are] stuck in front of a computer the entire time, coding away. They don't understand that that's only one small component to our tool set -- our role is so much broader than that' ... Dream employee? Absolutely. Does that mean hiring managers can expect Lee's contemporaries to enter the workforce equipped with a similar grasp of the big-picture concepts of a career in IT?... Well, no, say IT executives, human resource professionals and computer science professors ... Members of Generation Y -- roughly, the group born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s -- are arriving on the job market armed with up-to-the-minute technology skills, but they're lacking in other areas, such as business communication skills ... 'By and large, this generation is very fluent with technology and with a networked world,' notes James Ware, executive producer at The Work Design Collaborative LLC, a Berkeley, Calif., consortium exploring workplace values and the future of the workforce. 'They're comfortable working with people in remote locations, they're comfortable multitasking, and they're not afraid to go looking for stuff. They have a sense of all things possible' ... Communication and basic math and writing skills, on the other hand, are not Gen Y's strong suit. According to a survey of 100 human resource professionals by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., although only 5% of college graduates overall were judged to be lacking in basic technical skills, more than half of entry-level workers possessed deficient writing skills and 27% were underperforming in critical thinking." -- Read the Full Article

The Korea Times:  "Korean lawyers are not meeting the expectations of Korean and foreign clients. The problem stems from the poor quality of education in general and legal education in specific ... Businesses in Korea know there is a problem. In a survey conducted a few years back, by Lexis-Nexis and the Korea Economic Daily, 97.3 percent of Korean companies stated that Korean law firms fall behind the world standard ... Lawyers, in Korea, know there is a problem. Chun Y. Yang, a lawyer at the largest law firm in Korea, stated in a speech that: 'Generally speaking, U.S. law practice is significantly more developed and sophisticated ... U.S. lawyers are expected and trained to think three, four steps ahead and be proactive ... The chances are average local Korean practitioners or even the relatively good ones will not be able to meet the high expectations of a U.S. client' ... President Roh Moo-hyun and the National Assembly know there is a problem. The Law School Bill states, ``Under the current system to nurture legal professionals, a gap exists between legal education and legal practices ... 'Also the current system does not sufficiently nurture legal professionals who have expertise in preventing and addressing legal disputes. Therefore, the purpose of this amendment is to provide legal services which meet citizens' various needs by introducing a U.S.-style law school system' ... However, the majority of professors either don't know or don't care about the problem, since no significant change that seems to address these problems has been acknowledged or addressed during the law school application process ... Students and legal professionals including judges, prosecutors and attorneys nearly universally believe that professors need to stop lecturing and focus on nurturing critical thinking and logical reasoning skills by engaging students. However, they believe that most professors are incapable of teaching in any other way." -- Read the Full Article

A Troubling Case of Readers' Block

The Washington Post:  "Americans are reading less and their reading proficiency is declining at troubling rates, according to a report that the National Endowment for the Arts will issue today. The trend is particularly strong among older teens and young adults, and if it is not reversed, the NEA report suggests, it will have a profound negative effect on the nation's economic and civic future ...'This is really alarming data,' said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. 'Luckily, we still have an opportunity to address it, but if we wait 10, 20 years, I think it may be too late' ... Titled 'To Read or Not to Read,' the report is a significant expansion of the NEA's widely cited 2004 study, 'Reading at Risk.' The NEA based that earlier study exclusively on data from its own arts surveys, and as a result, that analysis focused mainly on so-called literary reading -- novels, stories, plays and poems. This led some critics to downplay its implications ... The new report assembles much more data, drawing on large-scale studies done by other government agencies (such as the Department of Education) and by non-government organizations. These studies tend to use broader definitions of reading, said Sunil Iyengar, the NEA's director of research and analysis, with many looking at 'all kinds of reading,' a category that includes reading done online ... The story the numbers tell, Gioia said, can be summed up in about four sentences: ...'We are doing a better job of teaching kids to read in elementary school. But once they enter adolescence, they fall victim to a general culture which does not encourage or reinforce reading. Because these people then read less, they read less well. Because they read less well, they do more poorly in school, in the job market and in civic life' ... Particularly striking, Gioia and Iyengar both said, are the declines that occur between age 9 and age 17 in reading proficiency scores and time spent reading ... The percentage of 9-year-olds who say they 'read almost every day for fun,' the NEA report notes, rose slightly, from 53 percent to 54 percent, between 1984 and 2004. During roughly the same time period, average reading scores for 9-year-olds rose sharply. But the percentage of 17-year-olds reading almost every day for fun dropped from 31 percent in 1984 to 22 percent in 2004, with average reading scores showing steady declines ... Thirty-eight percent of employers rate high school graduates as 'deficient' in reading comprehension, while 72 percent rate them deficient in writing. Good reading skills correlate strongly with higher earnings and more job opportunities. Reading skills also correlate with increased voting, volunteerism, charity work, attendance at cultural events and even exercising and playing sports ... 'This is not a study about literary reading,' Gioia said. It's a study about reading of any sort and 'what the consequences of doing it well or doing it badly are.' In an increasingly competitive world, the consequences of doing it badly include 'economic decline.'"-- Read the Full Article

WSU Tri-Cities' Liberal Arts Program Goes Beyond Textbooks

Tricity Herald:  Tri-Cities, WA — "Albert Einstein said the value of a liberal arts education 'is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks' ... All baccalaureate education is built upon a strong liberal arts foundation ... It's the basis for every degree, regardless of the discipline, because it teaches students to understand humanity and its place in the world. It also educates students to think creatively ...The liberal arts curriculum is designed to provide a solid groundwork in critical thinking and communication skills." -- Read the Full Article

Liberal Arts and Science Education in the 21st Century

Thoughts From The Heart On The Left:  "The critical issue in today’s society is how unprepared today’s students are. We argue that the real issue is how unprepared today’s students are for tomorrow’s society. This is a result of how students learn, especially in science ... First, there is a gap between the information presented to the students and what they are expected to do with that information. Second, while students are presented large quantities of factual information, the presentation of such information does not show how the information is connected together nor how the information can be used in situations outside the classroom ... The presentation of facts without connection is not consciously done. Rather it is the result of teaching subjects as separate entities and from an essentially theoretical foundation. In addition, the presentation of science independent of other subjects and from a theoretical basis limits the teaching of both creativity and problem solving. The teaching of science independent of other subjects and from a theoretical basis has also removed science from its foundation as a liberal art ... A return to teaching science as a liberal art will help in part resolve the issue of unprepared students. For students to enter tomorrow’s society prepared to work on and solve the problems we know about today as well as the problems we do not know about, they must have an understanding of how to use the information presented in class AND be able to determine what information is needed to solve problems which have not yet been stated. This is the essence of the liberal arts tradition of science ... This can be done by increasing the amount of teaching in the area of creativity and problem solving skills. While critics may argue that it is not possible to teach creativity or problem solving, it should be pointed out that such skills are a direct outcome of the liberal arts tradition. Using real world situations (either in separate courses or in a cross-discipline nature) is what defines the liberal arts."-- Read the Full Article

California Leads in Number of Youths in Prison for Life

Los Angeles Times: "California has sentenced more juveniles to life in prison without possibility of parole than any state in the nation except Pennsylvania, according to a new study by the University of San Francisco's Center for Law and Global Justice. California currently has 227 inmates serving such sentences for crimes committed before they turned 18; Pennsylvania has 433 ... The study, titled "Sentencing Children to Die in Prison," also found that the United States has far more juveniles serving life terms than any other country -- 2,387 at present -- with Israel running a distant second at 7. Israel, the only other country that imprisons juveniles for life, according to the study, has not issued such a sentence since 2004 ...In the United States, life terms have fallen disproportionately on youths of color, with black juveniles 10 times more likely than white juveniles to be given a life without parole sentence, the report found. In California, black juveniles are 20 times more likely to receive such sentences ...'For many children, [life without parole] is an effective death sentence carried out by the state slowly over a long period of time,' said Michelle Leighton, chief author of the study. The report found that 51% of juveniles sentenced to life without parole are first-time offenders ... In California, state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a child psychologist, has introduced a bill that would modify the state's sentencing laws. SB 999, known as the California Juvenile Life Without Parole Reform Act, would allow for juvenile life sentences but amend the penal code so that such inmates would be able to apply for parole after serving 25 years ... 'Children have an extraordinary capacity for rehabilitation,' Yee said in support of the measure at a hearing in mid-April ... Brain maturation continues well through adolescence and thus impulse control, planning and critical thinking skills are still not fully developed." -- Read the Full Article

Democracy Versus Stability

Swans Commentary:  "As an activist writer working for political reforms, I keep noticing how those disagreeing with me exhibit faulty beliefs. Chief among these is the incorrect conflating of stable American government structure with a healthy democracy. True enough; the constitutional structure of American government has remained stable over a long period. But to think that the quality of democracy has remained stable is sheer stupidity ... I can understand why younger people might not understand what has been occurring. Their formal education and exposure to the mainstream media do not educate and inform them about the decline of American democracy. But people over about 50 years old should have their own personal observations to reach the conclusion that American democracy has been decaying over many decades. Of course, this requires political engagement and critical thinking, which, sadly, too many adults do not possess." -- Read the Full Article

Students, Politics and the Elite

The International News:  Karachi —" 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' —Hamlet ... Hamlet said the above lines while talking to his friend, Horatio. Interestingly Hamlet, feigning madness, could afford to challenge the cold, calculated, and confined philosophy of Horatio. To challenge some of the stereotypes in education one needs to go beyond the structured confines of thinking which have been constructed, perpetuated, and internalised through the process of socialization in the name of logic and reason. One such stereotype is positivistic view of education where education is viewed as a tool, which is neutral, and apolitical in nature and can be used with precision to get its objectives ... What are the objectives of education is a debatable issue. The positivistic paradigm of education proposes that education should lead the students to a set of certain competencies enabling them to have their economic chunk in the society. The better education, in this paradigm, is the one that brings you a larger economic chunk in life. The contemporary corporate logic has popularised, intensified, and legitimised this notion. This brand of education is supposed to be value free. The only value, if there is a value at all, is to maximize profit and for that it is fair that values should either be skipped or down played. Such education is apolitical in nature and thus claims to be devoid of all kinds of subjectivity ... This idea of education sans politics suits all centres of power, e.g., dominant groups, dominant states, and dominant superpowers. This kind of education can easily be linked with good jobs and more bucks and is offered as a panacea to all our economic needs ... The positivistic view of education offers to prepare successful students who are good citizens of society. The definition of success is measured with the help of salary and good citizenships, aims at following the dictates of state and act as an obedient citizen without challenging the practices of injustice around you. In other words goodness of citizenship is equated with conformity ... This paradigm is challenged by the critical paradigm of education. One of the proponents of critical paradigm Paulo Freire claims that education is a highly political act as it aims at improving peoples’ lives. Freire’s own work in literacy in Brazil demonstrates that how peoples’ lives could be impacted with the help of education. In a critical paradigm the ultimate goal is not to fetch a good job and have a successful personal life or lead a life of conformity as a good citizen. Rather this paradigm focuses the development; development at personal and societal level. The idea of development here is linked with the freedom it brings. The critical paradigm of education believes in values and significance of subjective interpretations. It focuses on developing critical thinking skills, which help the students to challenge the social, economic, political, and legal injustice. This paradigm does not suit the dominant groups and dictators. That is why they always try to patronize a purified brand of education that focuses on technical part of education and does not lead to the real objective of education, i.e., emancipation, development, and freedom."-- Read the Full Article

Are We At War Or Not?

Family Security Matters:  "Whether our struggle with Militant Islam is a war or whether it requires international police action like that in our drug war is a question roiling the Presidential political debates. This issue has been hovering out there since the attack on 9/11, and because there has not been another homeland attack since then, it has not been resolved ... We were attacked by al-Qaeda overseas for at least four years before the 9/11 attack, and the consensus in American and European governing circles was that this was an international law enforcement issue. Attacks on our military barracks, two embassies in Africa, and a military ship in harbor in Aden were not enough to provoke us. Furthermore, even if we had been provoked, whom could we attack? A gang of stateless Islamist criminals? ... We have not fought a war on thugs recently. But we did have a couple of historic precedents. When Barbary pirates (Morocco, Algiers, Tunisia) attacked and threatened American shipping and took hostages in the Mediterranean from 1800-1805, President Jefferson had enough and cleaned them out. Trouble on our Mexican border in 1916-17 Led to a military incursion in pursuit of bandit, Poncho Villa.  (Remember 'from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli…', the Marines’ anthem) ... But today, there is no national consensus on whether we really are at war or what form that war takes. How much damage can Islamist thugs actually do?  They do not have thousands of missiles, as the Soviet Union did, nor do they have armies capable of occupying vast areas of Europe or Asia, as the Nazis and Japanese fascists had. So what can they do?... A couple of warnings have popped up in the press recently that certainly merit discussion. Rolf Mowatt-Larssen is director of intelligence for the US Energy Department with the duty to think about the unthinkable, according to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. He is convinced that al-Qaeda is trying to acquire a nuclear bomb to use in an American city—and the nasty news out of Pakistan makes it a real possibility that they could get one. Al-Qaeda has been working on this project for more than a decade. In 1993, Osama bin Laden offered $3.5 million to buy uranium for a nuclear device. He said publicly: 'Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so' ... Obviously he didn’t get them then, and used airplanes loaded with fuel and passengers instead to attack us effectively enough. It certainly got our attention. But where is the follow-up?  We are pretty sure they have anthrax and other biological and chemical weapons, but have not mastered how to deploy them yet. They even planned (and fortunately aborted) a cyanide attack in the New York subway system just before 9/11, instead executing an attack that they thought better ... Another warning comes from Juval Aviv, once Golda Meir’s bodyguard whom she appointed to track down and bring to justice the Palestinian terrorists who took the Israeli athletes hostage and killed them during the Munich Olympic Games.  This man spoke in New York recently and has to his credit that he predicted the London subway attack a week before it happened. It is said that he gave information to the Bush Administration one month before 9/11 as well, although we do not know how specifically usable that information was ... In his speech, Aviv predicted that we will be attacked within the next few months with suicide bombers and truck bombs in places that people congregate: Disneyland, Las Vegas, NY, San Francisco, Chicago, shopping malls, subways in rush hour, train stations, casinos, etc. The attack will simultaneously detonate around the country. In big cities, they can just valet- park truck bombs, he says. He does not see a nuke in our near future, however.  But what is most disturbing to me is that he predicts the agents of this destruction will be home grown—Muslims both native and converts—who will be activated for this operation ... My reaction to all this is skeptical for several reasons: regarding nukes, the Islamists do not have the kind of infrastructures and high tech societies to sustain such a thing. The entire Muslim world is trapped in a quagmire of bad, backward governance and terrible educational systems. A high-tech weapon does not come from such a place unless it is a one-time fluke ... As for the suicide bombers, we have been hearing for a long time that there are Muslims in America willing to do this. I am skeptical of this too, because life is too good here for that kind of despair.  Imported suicide bombers are a possibility—and I wonder why that has not happened yet. There are rumors about such agents being smuggled across our Mexican and Canadian borders.  One almost made it from Canada in 1999, remember ... The capability of these medievalists falls far short of what they would like to do. However, if even one such caper succeeds (by luck, not skill), it will have an effect that will differ from what they expect. They delusionally expect us to crumble and convert to their kind of Islam or to crash into nothingness as a civilization. They are very wrong about this. It would galvanize us as the attack on 9/11 almost did. We will then know it is war and not cops and robbers." -- Read the Full Article

Vince Flynn, Left-Winger?

The Heart of the Matter:  "Leaving aside for the moment the question of effectiveness, note the either/or thinking by which Vince reaches his conclusion. Either we torture, or planes get hijacked. Is this true? Do we really have no anti-terror tools at our disposal but torture? If it is true, how did we get to the point where our options are so dire -- and so limited?... The binary assumption is common in modern rightist arguments. Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists. Either we stay the course in Iraq or we cut and run. Either we bomb Iran or accept their mideast hegemony. In a certain worldview, there are never more than two possibilities ... When I worked for the government, I was taught to make policy proposals in threes: two crazy, one merely unpalatable. For example, we can either nuke Iran, convert to Islam, or tighten up sanctions. The idea is to rhetorically limit the possibilities so the policy maker believes he has no choice. It's like a magician forcing a card ...  The question, then, is why do intelligent people present their arguments in such a deliberately distorted fashion? My only answer is that, like the person recommending policy choices above, they do so because they want to reach a certain conclusion, in this case that torture is desirable. The emotional urge is understandable -- we took a hard hit on 9/11 and it's natural that we want to lash out in response. But if we want our policies to be effective, don't they need to be driven more by logic and rational thinking than emotional urges? And when did the right become the slave of naked emotion? ...  This one throws me. Is the argument that medieval, Inquisition torture is bad, but modern, scientific torture is good? I can't imagine Vince would want to articulate such a principle, but that seems to be what he's saying. ... 'I know Amnesty International would disagree with me, but every American needs to ask themselves, "If you could turn back the clock one week [before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks] would you want Zacarias Moussaoui to have been interrogated by waterboarding?' ... I've heard this kind of argument before. It's a subspecies of the 'we only have two choices' approach -- again, waterboard or face another 9/11. But the subspecies has an interesting twist: note that it is by definition a fantasy. You actually have to go back in time, where you can have knowledge of the future, to make it work ... We don't have knowledge delivered from the future. It's the here and now in which the benefits and costs of torture need to be discussed ... '[Americans] are not opposed to torturing men like Sheikh Mohammed, but they don't want to run around and talk about it in public' ... This is a strangely emotional argument -- strange because, again, emotional appeals used to be a hallmark of the left, critical thinking the pride of the right. "-- Read the Full Article

Leaving No Child Revamp Behind

The Napa Valley Register:  "After dozens of hearings and months of negotiations, the reauthorization of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act has reached a standstill, despite numerous assurances from members of Congress that changes would be made to the law before the end of the year ... NCLB, which was passed with bipartisan support in 2001, holds schools and school districts accountable for students’ test scores. The law has drawn harsh criticism from teachers and school administrators as being unreasonable and unrealistic, prompting the education committees in the House and Senate to start work on a new version of the law ... Until congressional action is taken, NCLB will remain in effect as it is currently written ... Leaders of the education committees, who previously set a goal of unveiling a revised measure this month, said time has run out for reauthorization this year. Some legislators say reauthorization during 2008 — a presidential election year, in which little legislative work traditionally gets done — may be equally unlikely."-- Read the Full Article

An Institution Which Believes in Dialogue

The Daily Etala'at:  "At the advent of 21st century the need to educate the people got recognition at national and international levels. The government and international forums outlined the need to eliminate illiteracy in order to attain development and prosperity. Even the economists all over the globe approve the fact that education is the fundamental key for the development of any nation ... Creation of educational institution is one of the noblest intellectual creations of any government system. It is an abode of learning where knowledge is disseminated through teaching and where knowledge is created through research. University is a mental gymnasium and intellectual playground where teachers and students try to excel one another in a fascinating spot of exchanging ideas. Teaching is the most basic it provides the foundation for creative work. Creation of Islamic University of Science and Technology is the hall mark in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. The Islamic University of Science and Technology was promulgated by an act of Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly in November 2005. Islamic University is located 30 km away from the summer capital of the state of J&K. The picturesque campus has the Himalayan mountain range to one side of it and Jehlum river to the other. The location of the university is one among the best campus locations in India. IUST has striven to develop itself into an university of excellence in formal and technical education under the dynamic and intellectual guidance of its founder Vice Chancellor Prof Siddiq Wahid, who is a Harvard University return (world's top ranking university) with plenty of exposure and robust intellectual capacity. Prof Wahid along with all his colleagues Prof M A Masoodi (Ex Director Research   SKUAST-K and a well known Scientist in Entomology-Registrar). Prof A R Mattoo (a product of Leeds University London, Dean Academic affairs) and other not less important colleagues work day in and day out for promoting excellent academic and administrative standards of the university. This university believes in an informed and structured dialogue. A dialogue based on deep understanding of fundamentals. A dialogue which engages in specific issues rather than confine itself to mutual admiration of superficial features. The fact is that if there could be any synonymous name to this university it will be DIALOGUE. This university belies in attractiveness, multiculturalism, pluralism and celebration of differences ... The Centre is intending to carry out serious research programmes, special lectures, seminars, conferences on the subject of comparative civilizations. Moreover the Centre aims for the ground for training in the art of speculation, critical thinking and overall intellectual development of students at undergraduate and post graduate level.(Author is incharge Head IKCCC, IUST Awantipora)."-- Read the Full Article

Maryland's Mirage Of Accountability

The Washington Post:  "If we want to make sure that all of our students are prepared for college, we need an accountability system built on high standards and a high-quality curriculum. Each year I sign nearly 10,000 diplomas, and I want these important documents to truly represent that we have done everything we can to prepare our students for success beyond the doors of high school. I am concerned that the focus our state is putting on high school assessments as the method to ensure that our diplomas are meaningful will have the opposite effect ... We are devoting too much precious time and resources to a testing program that doesn't require our students to show that they are ready for college. The time is now for Maryland to embrace an accountability model pegged to high academic standards, such as those of the College Board ... Unfortunately, in reaffirming their support for the four current high school assessments in Maryland, the State Board of Education and State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick missed a chance to create a stronger accountability program. The deeply flawed HSA testing program and its new escape hatch -- the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation -- don't prepare our students for success. In fact, the state board actually weakened an already feeble system and created a convoluted alternative plan to give struggling students a way to get around demonstrating the content expertise needed to graduate. It might improve graduation rates, but it will do nothing to improve learning. Call it a 'mirage of accountability' ... According to the new rules, students can get 60 percent of the points necessary to pass the tests by simply signing their names on the test booklets and making a 'good faith effort' to answer some of the questions, as opposed to demonstrating mastery in any of the four subject areas. In addition, the bridge plan will allow students who can't pass the tests the opportunity to complete a 'senior project' to achieve the points they need to reach a passing score. In fact, students can complete a project in an area they already may be strong in to get the necessary points because there's no requirement that students complete a project about a topic they failed on the test ... I'm afraid that this will create a two-tiered diploma system and damage our efforts to close the achievement gap between African American and Latino children and their white and Asian American peers. Instead of pushing our school systems to do more for struggling students, systems will use this escape hatch to "help" these students reach the number of points needed to graduate ... I'm also concerned that this bridge plan is going to drain away our teachers' and administrators' time. With only 720 days to educate our high school students, our teachers and principals need every minute they can get to engage our students creatively and to nurture their critical thinking and problem-solving skills so that they will be ready to compete in the global economy." -- Read the Full Article

Reading Aloud to Children Offers Many Educational Benefits

Marianas Variety:  "For decades, teachers and child development experts have encouraged parents to read aloud to their children on a daily basis because of the many educational benefits it offers. In addition, extensive educational research has confirmed that reading aloud is one of the most important things parents can do for their children’s reading ability, and since reading is the gateway to all other academic areas, reading success is the key to overall academic success ... Below are some educational benefits of reading books aloud to children: Listening to books helps children develop a positive attitude toward books  as a source of pleasure and information ... Being read to helps children develop a positive attitude toward reading by making it a pleasurable experience ... Reading aloud expands children’s background knowledge, enhances their listening skills, increases their comprehension skills, improves critical thinking and problem solving skills, and sharpens their observation skills ... Reading aloud stimulates children’s imagination by providing them with opportunities to view situations from various perspectives, and by learning that events can be seen from different viewpoints."-- Read the Full Article

Tuscaloosa Parents Fight for School Choice

School Reform News (The Heartland Institute):  "Tuscaloosa, Alabama parents are pressing for the right to take their child out of bad schools and put them in good ones ... The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 gave parents a limited right of choice within the confines of government-controlled schools. NCLB allows parents to transfer their kids to better-performing public schools when their assigned schools persistently fail to help students learn to read and do math ... Now black parents in Tuscaloosa, Alabama are seeking to use NCLB public choice to enforce their civil rights. When the local school board proposed a rezoning plan last spring that, in the parents' view, would have moved black children disproportionately into low-performing schools, they objected. Through letters to the editor and media interviews, they cited their right to choose better schools under NCLB ... Parents in other parts of the country can also assert this right, but relatively few have. Fewer than 2 percent of eligible families have opted for school transfers. In many cases, school bureaucracies have failed to fully inform them of their rights or have begged off with claims that better schools have no vacancies ... Even if Tuscaloosa parents don't win their local battle, they are affecting the debate in Washington over NCLB reauthorization, which at press time was still underway ... 'What is emerging,' said longtime parental choice advocate Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Litigation, 'is a coming together of left and right to coalesce around solutions that secure better educational opportunities for kids ... The Citizens Commission on Civil Rights [CCCR], a liberal watchdog group, is the nation's leading proponent of strong enforcement of the public school choice provisions of NCLB,' Bolick continued. 'Its chairman, Bill Taylor, is one of the most respected veterans of the civil rights movement, and he recently broke ranks with many of his compatriots by writing a [Fordham Law Review] article supporting private school choice' ... Because NCLB does not provide a 'private right of action,' said Bolick, the Tuscaloosa parents 'face an uphill battle ...Without a true enforcement mechanism, NCLB is a toothless tiger,' Bolick continued ...Taylor's CCCR detects bipartisan support for adding teeth to a reauthorized NCLB. In a September 15 article for Education Next, CCCR Executive Director Dianne Piche said states could be required to create slots to enable children to move from poor schools to good ones. To accomplish that, states could lift caps on public charter schools, expand high-achieving schools, or provide for inter-district transfers, she wrote ... Best Strategy:   Lexington Institute education analyst Don Soifer sees potential for individuals' civil rights claims cutting through a regulatory morass that has stymied progress in student achievement. In Illinois, he notes, the Civil Rights Act of 2003 makes it unnecessary to prove mean-spirited discrimination to establish a violation. Student achievement data may make the case ... Soifer sees 'portability'--in which education money follows the child instead of going directly to schools--as 'the best strategy for ensuring that schools do not become the twenty-first century's vehicles for discriminating against a new generation of poor and minority schoolchildren' ... Under such a plan, Tuscaloosa families would be able to take a scholarship and pick any school instead of being shuffled from one assigned school to another."-- Read the Full Article

Assessing The Humanities

To Delight and to Instruct (Blog):  "With the increasing cost of running a university, and public funding streams increasingly drying up, the drive for efficiency and entrepeneurship is accelerating at rates that I find alarming. Universities are more and more getting into bed with corporations (though the myth of a university separate from the capitalist marketplace is only ever a myth), such that academic production is inextricably linked to the military-industrial complex, and is often explicitly part of that complex ... Whatever we may say about academia as a haven for liberals, systemically it is no less part of the systems of global capital than Chase Corp or Northrop Grumman. So let's be clear about the realities of academia: it’s hardly the ivory tower of pure intellectual discourse that we sometimes romanticize it to be ... So with all that Military Industrial Machine business swirling about our hallowed halls, it is no wonder that we daily observe, and as frequently lament the corporatization of the university, an institution that feels like it shouldn’t be corporatized ... And lately, this has shown up in administrative drives for assessment. Administrators, donors, corporate sponsors, government funding agencies, they all want data that says we’re doing a good job. The Bush Administration like to call it accountability, and we know where that has gotten us in primary and secondary education. But the drive to assess academic endeavors is essentially a drive to hold academic accountable ... In theory, I think assessment should be formative; that is, at its best, when we study ourselves closely, when we assess our work for ourselves, we should use it to improve what we do (a drive for better performance nonetheless; but that’s hard to argue against in practice). And so I always find myself wanting to do the kinds of assessment that are messy, that yield results that are complex and multifaceted, results that try to get at the complexities of the classroom and at the complexities of the kind of thinking we ask our students to do ... I often feel my colleagues (to greater and lesser extents) groan at this suggestion, for they know, as I do, that this is Not A Good Idea, and Will Not Fly With Administration. Because administration doesn’t really want us to tackle the complex vectors of teaching critical thinking or the nuanced space of the classroom." -- Read the Full Article

New UT Arts & Sciences Dean Aims for International Appeal

The Toledo Free Press:  "Yueh-Ting Lee arrived in Toledo in August to begin his appointment as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UT with the ultimate goal of making it 'one of the best arts and sciences colleges in the nation ... We have a lot to do and a way to go to be among the best colleges of arts and sciences, but we will work together in a collaborative team effort to achieve that goal,' Lee said ... Lee believes that arts and sciences should support the university's mission 'to improve the human condition by advancing knowledge through excellence in learning, discovery and engagement to serve as a diverse, student-centered public metropolitan university' ... The primary reason Lee decided to become dean was the 'great opportunity with the merger of UT and the [Medical University of Ohio],' he said. 'As a psychologist who has worked with the medical field, it's natural for me to work as a bridge between artists and scientists and medical sciences' ... Lee said he is an advocate of a well-rounded, liberal arts education with the integration and application of different knowledge, skills and values that apply to the real world ... It is very important to include knowledge of human cultures and natural and social sciences with intellectual and practical skills such as critical thinking, reasoning and writing with social and individual responsibility, Lee said. "-- Read the Full Article

The Dark Ages

The Times Online: "In these days when a paperback costs about the same as a Starbucks venti non-fat caramel latte with sugar-free syrup and an extra shot, it is reassuring to see that books are still being printed with no regard to price or the bestseller lists. I refer to all 1,840 pages and four volumes of Eighteenth-Century Coffee-House Culture, available for a mere £350 ... I assume you won’t be shelling out for all of Markman Ellis’s volumes immediately, but there is a great review in the TLS, with which we can begin our discussion. In 1750, there were more than 2,000 coffee houses in London. Caffeine was at a peak which we have only returned to now via the mighty empires of Starbucks, Nero and Costa ... But in the early days, coffee drinking was combined with thinking. Now it’s mostly combined with shopping, skiving off work or reading heat. Jürgen Habermas, the philosopher, credited the early coffee houses with creating an egalitarian public space for “rational and critical discussion”; a seedbed for democracy. Newspapers, pamphlets and fist fights burst forth. The coffee served – mostly to men – was thick and black. “Syrrop of Soot, or Essence of old Shooes” were the old versions of the Frappuccino. "-- Read the Full Article

Parents Mull No Child Left Behind Act

Ventura County Star:  Ventura, CA — "Special education teacher Demory Brown dreads it every year ...When it's time for state standardized tests, Brown makes sure her students are relaxed and focused enough to get through the exam. But the pressure is often too much for some of her young students at Oak Valley Elementary School in Buellton ...'I used to teach K-to-fifth graders, and the stress affects the students greatly,' said Brown, who now teaches grades K-3. 'You get to a point where you only do what you can do, and you have to let it go. Is it worth putting the child through absolute stress? I've had parents write letters opting for their child to not take it, because it's a physical detriment to the kids' ... Brown's experience was echoed by some of the 35 teachers, parents and community members at a discussion Thursday night at CSU Channel Islands about the federal No Child Left Behind Act and school accountability policies ... The public forum was the first in a series on the topic organized by the university's Education Department ... The No Child Left Behind law expires this year and is being considered by Congress for reauthorization. Critics of the law have said critical thinking and other 21st century skills cannot be easily measured solely by standardized tests."-- Read the Full Article

Campus Lockdown

Guardian Unlimited:  "A promising student protest was declared outside the Lahore Press Club on November 10 at 1pm, so Afnan and I arrived an hour and a half early to cover it. A grand total of five students attended, four of them affiliated with a Lahori communist chapter ... Nearby, reporters from at least eight news channels fidgeted with their microphones, waiting to cover the student protests that have been consistently securing front page space in all the leading English dailies (Dawn, Daily Times, News) ... 'I can't wait to see what the media does with this,' one comrade mused, and as if answering his question, journalists by the press club entrance laid a straw blanket out to sit on, and hoisted an anti-martial law banner. They created the scene where there wasn't one, and the TV workers ate it up. One of the students, a research assistant at Lahore University of Management Sciences, told me the LUMS students were on lockdown because they were preparing for exams ... But it's almost a cliché of sorts to scrutinise the efforts of the politically active and liberal upper classes based on their social standing ...'What's not being discussed is the fact that some of the student body in LUMS are heirs to these corrupt state mechanisms that need to be protested nationwide, and if you're going to encourage critical thinking, and political awareness, there's no better place to start,' said a LUMS staff member. 'In a few years, they might actually be in a position to change things.'"-- Read the Full Article

Language Learning at MSU Moves Into the Digital Age (Michigan State University): East Lansing, MI – "Say the word 'hybrid' and what may come to mind first is an environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient car ... But for students at Michigan State University, it means an innovative blend of traditional classroom instruction and online learning that is changing the way they acquire proficiency in reading, writing and speaking a foreign language ... Students in an upper-level German course co-taught by doctoral student Angelika Kraemer, for example, are using blogs, wikis, podcasts, chats and interactive comprehension activities to improve their understanding of the language ... The course, GRM 455, focuses on German fairy tales and explores how the stories have been used to communicate social and psychological experiences and to institutionalize culture, values and taste ...'One of the major benefits of implementing technology in language learning is that the students have more diverse opportunities to use the language,' said Kraemer, whose dissertation examines how students in upper-level German literature and culture courses can benefit from supplementary online practice in language skills ... Many of the electronic tools used in MSU language courses, including GRM 455, have been developed by experts in second-language studies in the Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR) ... A CLEAR program called “Conversations” allows teachers to record questions that can be accessed by students anywhere and anytime they’re online. SMILE (Server-Managed Interactive Language Exercises) is a program that enables instructors to create a set of online questions that tests students’ comprehension of any language and content area, including vocabulary and grammar, and then to provide instant feedback. A new program allows students to create their own 'mashup,' a Web application that combines data from more than one source – including video, audio, text and SMILE exercises – into a single integrated language learning tool ... Language faculty in the College of Arts and Letters are studying the benefits of hybrid courses with an eye to expanding offerings over the next two years ...'In my experience,' said Kraemer, 'hybrid courses enable students to make meaningful connections with other students and encourage self-directed learning, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, time management and computer skills. It’s a new and exciting direction for language learning and teaching.'"-- Read the Full Article

Fresh Creativity From the Disney Imagineers

Critical Thinking Cafe:   "A week of laughing, screaming, and eating through the world of Disney leaves you with a fresh appreciation for the word creativity. The innovative expressions of the Disney Imagineers capture you the moment you get anywhere near anything they've touched. While you can't bottle that amazing feeling you have at a Disney park, you can take home some of the concepts that propel the creative waves that hit you when you are part of the 'wonderful world of color' and any other world Disney offers ... When you find yourself big on problems and short on solutions, you'll get out-of-the-way ideas, new approaches, and a good dose of hope from reading The Imagineering Way, by the Imagineers. I came across this practical and relevant manual on creativity a few years ago and I benefit from every trip I make through its pages ... A collection of Disney innovators teamed up to create this little volume. It's easy to read, loaded with illustrations and one-liners, and small enough to carry in your briefcase or backpack the next time you hop on a plane. Some of my favorite lines include —  'If you find your logic is talking you out of a good idea, question the logic first, then question the idea (Luc Mayrand, p. 46) ... Most naysayers aren't malicious. They are the ones who need the affirmation. . . think of them as having aesthetic pneumonia ... Good ideas sell themselves. They don't always fund themselves, but they do sell themselves ... Many people never allow their creative abilities to surface because they fear what might happen ' ... If you're facing a project or challenge and you need some fresh ways to approach what you're doing--grab a copy of this book ... Walt Disney went broke at age 21. He slept on chair cushions in his studio and ate cold beans out of a can. Today, the sun never sets on the empire that carries his name. Maybe his team's ideas can help your business become more than you every imagined." -- Read the Full Article


RationallySpeaking.Org: " Aristotle thought that human beings are the rational animal. Recent neurobiological research on split-brain patients hints at the possibility that we are much better at rationalizing, rather than rational thinking. Now comparative psychology suggests that we inherited our abilities to distort reality from our primate ancestors ...  An article by John Tierney in the New York Times relates recent experiments conducted by a group of researchers at Yale university on capuchin monkeys (as well as four-year old humans). The monkeys were given a choice of three differently colored M&M candies, say red, blue and green. If they didn't show any preference, they were then given only two choices (red and green). If they picked one (red), they suddenly showed much less regard for the other one (green), even when the latter was newly paired up with the third type (blue). Four year old humans behave in a similar way when given choices of stickers to play with ...  The interpretation is that the capuchin monkeys are engaging in a phenomenon commonly observed in adult humans: rationalization. We've all done it. We know, at some level, that we really should buy the fuel efficient car with side air bag. But that red little sports car looks soooo cool. Never mind that it is a death trap and that it will break our bank account at the pump, we will find plenty of “reasons” to buy it, and once the choice is made, those reasons become even more entrenched, to diminish what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance,” the uncomfortable feeling generated when we realize that there is a disconnect between what we believe and what the evidence tells us, or between two different kinds of beliefs. I am not a vegetarian, and yet I believe that animals should be treated ethically. We can have a long conversation about all my reasons for this hard to reconcile position; of course, I think they are good reasons, and use them to tell myself that it's ok for me to keep eating meat ...  Sometimes we suffer from the opposite problem: we second-guess our choices, a condition referred to – tellingly enough – as “buyer's remorse.” It's a debilitating attitude, because we waste a lot of time and energy going back and forth on our decisions. Rationalization may ironically be an efficient way to proceed, because once we make a decision we stick with it and move on to the next problem. Of course, a truly rational person, Aristotle would say, should strive for a reasonable middle ground: after all, some decisions may deserve reconsideration (should we stay in Iraq?), while other choices have only minor consequences that we can live with (it doesn't matter which color M&M's you choose: they are all equally bad and delicious) ... The problem is that we are not particularly good judges of our own thinking processes. That is why exposing our ideas to the crossfire of other minds is the only way to learn. Conversations with others, especially if they espouse different perspectives from our own, are the food for thought that we constantly need to grow intellectually and sharpen our critical thinking skills. It may still turn out that I am in fact justified in rejecting vegetarianism, but I am now much more cognizant of the arguments on either side, and of why I made that choice." -- Read the Full Article

Dr. Cem Kaner on Software Testing as a Career

Thinking Tester:  "I take this opportunity to share few on great discussions happening at 'software-testing' Yahoo group ... For the purpose of focus, I am not sharing the entire thread and the beauty of the reply is such that you can read this without knowing or referring the original post that initiated this discussion:" — [Dr Kaner: Quote] — 'Let me start by distinguishing between a CAREER and a JOB. A CAREER involves a long-term, intentional focus on a field or type of work. A JOB is a temporary assignment with a particular employer. My career is focused on improving the satisfaction and safety of software users and developers. My current job is as a professor. I have also held jobs as a tester, test manager, programmer, human factors analyst, software development manager, technical publications manager, development director, organization development consultant, salesperson, software development consultant, and attorney focused on the law of software quality. Each of these has addressed different aspects of what has been, to me, the same career. People define their own careers. Many people define their career in terms of traditional categories (programmer, tester, lawyer, teacher), but the choice belongs to the person, not the category ... When you make a choice ('I am an X" or "My career is X'), that choice is both inclusive (Xness is in your path) and exclusive (if Yness is not part of Xness, and Xness is not part of Yness, then 'I am X' means also 'I am not Y'). When someone defines their career as 'tester,' I think that definition is too narrow ... I see software development as a bundle of coordinated tasks, including programming, design, testing, usability evaluation, modeling, documentation, development of associated training, project management, etc. Very few people would do all of these as part of the same job. Fewer would do them all on the same project or in the same week. But working at one company as a tester and another company later as a programmer is not inconsistent with calling myself a software developer at either/both companies ...  I don't generally encourage my students to pursue software testing AS A CAREER. They can make that decision later, after they have more experience. I prefer to encourage them to try SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT as a career -- to me, development includes testing. And that they take a job doing serious, skilled testing as PART of that career. Most of the best testers I know have significant experience outside of testing and apply that experience to what they do as testers or test managers ... We are professional investigators. Rather than building things, we find ways to answer difficult questions about the quality of the products or services we test. Our job--if we choose to do it well--requires us to constantly learn new things, about the product, its market, its implementation, its risks, its usability, etc. To learn these, we are constantly developing new skills and new cognitive structures in a diversity of fields. It also requires us to communicate well to a diverse group of people. We ALSO get to build things (test tools), but very often, we build to our own designs, which can be more satisfying than building an application that does something we'll never personally do (or want to do). Learning to do good software testing requires learning to do critical thinking well, and to back it up with empirical research. Not everyone will like to do testing. Not every engineer or programmer will have the skills or the interest to do professional-level testing. But for those of us who enjoy critical thinking, experimentation, and keeping the human relevance of what we do always in mind, there is nothing else like it in software development." -- Read the Full Article

Everett Top Choice for New UW Branch

The Seattle Times: "That cheer that went up in Everett on Thursday was the once blue-collar mill town glimpsing what may be a centerpiece of its revitalized future ... Consultants named the city's landmark transit station the first choice among four sites in Snohomish County to become home to a proposed new University of Washington branch campus that would emphasize science and technology ... The UW's plan calls for an ambitious outreach effort in the North Sound region to encourage more students to pursue careers in math and science. The effort could then be extended to the entire state, the report says, noting that the percentage of Washington high-school graduates who go on to college is below the national average and falling ... The plan recommends that UW North offer courses in engineering, health, education and business in conjunction with a strong arts and sciences core. It also would emphasize experiential learning and critical thinking, the report says." -- Read the Full Article

Stakeholders 'Speak Up' for 21st-Century Skills

eSchool News:  "Students, parents, teachers, and now—for the first time—K-12 administrators are invited to take part in Speak Up 2007, an annual survey that seeks to determine what is needed to give students a top-notch, 21st-century education ... Administered by Project Tomorrow (formerly known as NetDay), a national nonprofit group focused on improving science, math, and technology education, Speak Up gives education stakeholders a chance to make their voices heard and contribute to an ongoing discussion about technology’s role in the curriculum ... “National and state leaders look for the Speak Up data each year to gain insight from education stakeholders about how to fix America’s education system in order to ensure our continued global competitiveness. The survey is an avenue for everyone—students, parents, teachers, and school administrators—to participate in this national conversation,” said Julie Evans, chief executive of Project Tomorrow ... Given the importance of education in the upcoming 2008 presidential election, Project Tomorrow says, Speak Up 2007 includes new questions to help stimulate national and local discussions. These new questions will address topics such as student interest (and parent support) in science, math, and technology careers and the “national competitiveness” agenda; using Web 2.0 tools such as MySpace in school; views on the importance of so-called “21st-century skills,” such as critical thinking and learning a second language; the value of emerging technologies in education, such as video games, cell phones, MP3 players, and other portable computing devices; and designing the ultimate school for the 21st-century learner."-- Read the Full Article

Service Learning

The Vanguard (Bentley College): "Hello and how do you do? My name is Monica Jin, a freshman and fellow student here at Bentley College. I've been [working with] the Bentley Service-Learning Center (BSLC). The Center works to recruit students to learn through active participation in the community in hopes that they will learn valuable lessons that are vital to their academic, individual and professional development ... Service-learning is a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection. Participation involves cooperative experiences which promote skills associated with teamwork and citizenship. It offers the opportunity to engage in problem-solving by requiring participants to gain knowledge of the specific context of their service-learning activity and community challenges, rather than only to draw upon generalized or abstract knowledge that comes from a textbook. As a result, service-learning offers powerful opportunities to acquire the habits of critical thinking, such as the ability to identify the most important questions or issues within a real-world situation. This is a key attribute future employers look for in innovative graduates. The opportunities are truly endless." -- Read the Full Article

Educators Request 2nd Middle School

Cortez Journal:  "Cortez Middle School Principal Jamie Haukeness wants to offer Cortez students the opportunity to participate in an alternative, technology-focused middle school ... At the Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 school board meeting Tuesday night, Haukeness, in front of an audience of supportive middle school teachers, presented his idea for a 21st Century Learning pilot school ... Haukeness said the idea began percolating in his head a couple of months ago, after he had a conversation at a curriculum workshop with a superintendent from Colorado Springs who was familiar with a 21st Century curriculum. That type of curriculum is typically technology-focused and based around critical thinking and reasoning skills, and information literacy." -- Read the Full Article

Missing civility Should be Cured by Choice, Not Order

The Golden Gate Express Online: "SF State students can have a problem getting along with one another, despite the CSU civility standard that orders them to do so ... On Sept. 11, the memorial service on campus held jointly by the College Republicans and College Democrats was interrupted by World Can’t Wait protesters stomping American flags spray-painted with swastikas. In 2002, a verbal clash between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian student groups collapsed into physical conflict. And it seems doubtful the born-again Christian groups denouncing homosexuality and the college party lifestyle will go away any time soon ... The student demonstrators who last year stomped on Hezbollah and Hamas flags finally received a last word on the legality of their behavior. Last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil barred the CSU from punishing students, in this case the College Republicans at SF State, for violating the 'civility code,' which requires students to be civil to one another ... But the vitriol such groups often bring to the table does nothing but harm the campus population, discouraging real dialogue and reinforcing our often-deserved reputation as thoughtless, knee-jerk college know-it-alls ...Such problems don’t usually need to be dealt with legally, and neither the College Republicans nor any other familiar campus hell raisers should be punished for offensive speech or expression. They should, however, practice more adult discretion when deciding whom to offend and how. We sympathize with the Gator GOP in opposing terrorism, acts of violence and the violation of their freedom of speech. But such flagrantly hostile behavior as flag stomping—on either side—only fuels hate and ignorance ...  Observers see such strident, smug gestures, and their critical thinking functions shut down: they pick a side and stay there. The conversation is over—nobody’s listening." -- Read the Full Article

Youth Despair of Decent Future in Kosovo

Balkin Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN): "“I can’t take this anymore! I have simply stopped thinking about what’s around me,' says Eremire Krasniqi, a 22-yearold sociology student from Pristina. Taking another shot of rakia, a homemade brandy, in a local café, Eremire can count on the sympathy of many youthful fellow drinkers ... Her attitude is typical of young people in Kosovo today, few of whom see home as a place where they can pursue their ambitions. With no job prospects, and no end in sight for the dispute over Kosovo’s status that seems to block progress in all aspects of life, they are giving up ... Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe. Although the birth rate has fallen in recent years, half of its roughly 2-million-strong population is under the age of 25, according to a recent report of the UN Development Programme, UNDP, while over 65 per cent is under 30, according to government statistics. In Western Europe, only Ireland, where 40 per cent of the population was under 25 in 1996, comes close to matching this demographic profile ...'Having a large young population is of no help as long as there is no economic activity,' says Rainer Munz, a Vienna-based demographer. If Kosovo’s brightest and best are held back like this for much longer, its future looks grim ... According to Munz, Kosovo is squandering its most precious asset – its educated young people. But the problem begins with education itself, for the system does little to help those who want to get ahead in such a difficult job market.Governance and Competence in Higher Education, a report published in March 2007 by a local think-tank, the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development, KIPRED, savaged the quality of the university. Describing it as inefficient and corruptly managed, it listed some of the 'disturbing trends in higher education in Kosovo': “[E]xams can often be passed after payment, the re-labelling of courses is called ‘reform’ and students have to tolerate professorial arrogance - as doing otherwise may mean never passing the exams needed to graduate' ... The KIPRED report went on: 'Critical thinking also remains a low priority, as there is little emphasis on debate, interdisciplinary teaching, group work, or contextual problem-solving' ... Some students freely admit – albeit only in private - that they charge money for good exam results. 'I have sat more than 30 exams for different students and usually charge 50 to 100 euros, depending on the difficulty of the exam and the stakes involved in being caught,' one confided." -- Read the Full Article

Measuring Mortarboards

The Economist:  "Working out exactly what students and taxpayers get for the money they spend on universities is a tricky business. Now the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based think-tank for rich countries, is planning to make the task a bit easier, by producing the first international comparison of how successfully universities teach ... That marks a breakthrough. At the moment, just two institutions make annual attempts to compare universities round the world. Shanghai's Jiao Tong University has been doing it since 2003, and the Times Higher Education Supplement, a British weekly, started a similar exercise in 2004. But both these indices, which are closely watched by participants in a fickle and fast-expanding global education market (see chart), reflect 'inputs' such as the number and quality of staff, as well as how many prizes they win and how many articles they publish. The new idea is to look at the end result—how much knowledge is really being imparted ... 'Rather than assuming that because a university spends more it must be better, or using other proxy measures for quality, we will look at learning outcomes,' explains Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's head of education research. Just as the OECD assesses primary and secondary education by testing randomly chosen groups of youngsters from each country in reading and mathematics, it will sample university students to see what they have learned. Once enough universities are taking part, it may publish league tables showing where each country stands, just as it now does for compulsory education. That may produce a fairer assessment than the two established rankings, though the British one does try to broaden its inquiry by taking opinions from academics and employers ... The OECD plan awaits approval from an education ministers' meeting in January. The first rankings are planned by 2010. They will be of interest not just as a guide for shoppers in the global market, but also as indicators of performance in domestic markets. They will help academics wondering whether to stay put or switch jobs, students choosing where to spend their time and money, and ambitious university bosses who want a sharper competitive edge for their institution ...The task the OECD has set itself is formidable. In many subjects, such as literature and history, the syllabus varies hugely from one country, and even one campus, to another. But OECD researchers think that problem can be overcome by concentrating on the transferable skills that employers value, such as critical thinking and analysis, and testing subject knowledge only in fields like economics and engineering, with a big common core." -- Read the Full Article

Freedom of Speech in Some Universities is Selective

GlobalThink.Net:  "I remember well the 'teach-ins' conducted at universities during the Vietnam War. We students were supposedly not getting enough truth from our professors and government, which meant that the organized Left had to fill that gap. The day that I had my doctoral orals was memorable also for broken glass all over campus; the 'teach-in' had gone physical ... In those days (the 1970s), there were still multiple viewpoints on issues of current events in America’s universities, but in the aftermath of the discredited Vietnam War, the rise of the Black Power movement, and the disgrace of the Nixon administration that tarred all conservatism with it, universities have become the almost exclusive repository of radical left values ... These values declare that all 'victims' (this includes women, Blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, and now Muslims) must be not only protected, but promoted at every turn. When possible, job preference must be given to them and, of course, no criticism of any members of these protected 'victims' may be tolerated. But such a program has some built-in contradictions that have not been addressed ... For example, how can one protect Muslims, particularly militant Islamists, from criticism by women, homosexuals, and Jews (no longer considered victims)? For now, these other groups have been thrown overboard to protect the freedom of Muslims from criticism. This is awkward, to say the least, but there is solidarity among the university activists that the enemy of their enemy must be their friend. The enemies today are the United States, all former colonial powers (excluding 700 years of Arab and Turkish colonialism) and those former victims who have had the temerity to create their own state, the Israelis ... We were treated recently to Columbia University’s hosting of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who was often applauded when he insulted the United States in his speech—but was embarrassingly booed when he was asked about persecution of homosexuals in Iran and he denied that there were any! Denial is a particularly obnoxious habit of his, it seems, considering his record of Holocaust denial. But I don’t recall a single feminist present who questioned Iran’s horrible record of abusing women. Awkward indeed ... Being fed up with this status quo, an alumnus of Columbia and former academic, David Horowitz, organized a teach-in week on Islamo-Fascism held in over 100 university and college campuses. The purpose of this program was to expose the contradictions of blind support for one 'victim' (Islamists) over a range of that victim’s other victims ... At one panel discussion on October 24, Horowitz commented on the declining quality of education available to today’s students because only one view is tolerated on campus. Horowitz was a 1960’s liberal activist who turned conservative when he examined his former assumptions ... Another panelist was Phyllis Chesler, a noted feminist who has had the added experience of living as a young wife in Afghanistan under very oppressive circumstances. She saw Islam and Third World attitudes toward women up close and almost fatal to her. She has been outspoken about the conditions of women under Islam, and as a result, her former welcome-mat as a feminist speaker has been withdrawn from most distinguished university venues. She believes that academe has been 'hijacked, Palestinianized, Stalinized, Edward Said-ized, by a series of truly Great Lies.'  Fighting words! ... Also on the panel were speakers who have renounced Islam (a crime punishable by death in Muslim countries) who spoke from both scholarship and personal experience. This has not protected them from attacks that they should never be permitted to speak at a university. The attacks came from campus Marxists and the Muslim Student Association, both of which have more power on campus than women, apparently. The feminists have been totally cowed and Islamic Studies have degenerated into propaganda, not scholarship ... The good news for me is that such an event as Islamo-Fascism Week was held, that it was held on multiple campuses, and that even the reluctant popular press mentioned it. This gives students who are capable of thinking a chance to hear what they cannot hear in their classrooms. I find this hopeful indeed. "-- Read the Full Article

EMSB Marks Media Awareness Week

The Suburban (Quebec's Largest English Weekly Newspaper):  "Media Awareness Network (MNet) and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) partnered for the second consecutive year to present National Media Education Week. The purpose of the week was to promote media literacy as a key component in the education of young people, and to encourage the integration of media education into Canadian schools, homes, and communities ... Media Awareness Network is a Canadian not-for-profit centre of expertise and excellence in media education ... Its vision is to ensure children and youth possess the necessary critical thinking skills and tools to understand and actively engage with media."-- Read the Full Article

Tennessee Likes Streets More Than Its Students

Sidelines Online (Middle Tennesee State University):  "It is unusually depressing that a school in Murfreesboro has been referred to as a "Dropout Factory." Obviously, the connotation is that Tennessee puts children through 13 years of education just to see them fail before they reach the end with a diploma and a shot at college ... Tennessee's state government is notorious for choosing to fund smoother highways then the education of the future generations. This is telling our kids that better driving conditions are much more important than their futures ... Tennessee has a massive turnover rate and poor teacher retention. They leave for greener pastures and a lot more money with curriculum that is not actually laughable. They are also exposed to schools in other states that can afford to buy the technology to better instruct their pupils ... We cannot afford to provide the technology that is essential in this technological age. High school students are using textbooks, that to quote 'Family Guy,' refer to the Civil Rights Movement as 'trouble ahead' ... Textbooks are even becoming irrelevant as computers are more heavily relied on to do research and work. How can Tennessee afford to buy computers and software for students if we can't buy teachers who wouldn't know how to turn them on with a manual and a personal tutor?... Money isn't the only concern in education. Our schools 'teach the test,' referring to qualifying standardized tests such as the Gateway exam, the AP exam, etc. Teachers are so busy cramming answers into students that only apply to a 100 question test instead of teaching them 'outside the box' and critical thinking skills." -- Read the Full Article

Standardized Tests Planned at ISU, U of I

The DesMoines Register: "The University of Iowa and Iowa State University plan to use new standardized tests to measure how students improve from their freshman to senior years as part of a national effort to boost accountability of colleges ... The tests would be one part of the College Portrait, a project in which participating universities would create online profiles that allow easy comparison by students and parents. The most controversial part of the College Portrait is a section that shows how students scored on standardized tests given to groups of freshmen and seniors at each university ... The project began this week in response to pressure from the Bush administration for increased accountability from higher education ... 'The impetus is because of the fear that colleges will have something like No Child Left Behind,' said U of I Interim Provost Lola Lopes, referring to federal education standards for K-12 schools. 'We want to be part of the process that builds this system of accountability' ... The College Portrait would include many of the factors used in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, such as admission rate, student-to-faculty ratio, and graduation and retention rates. A new way of evaluating graduation rates, which tracks whether students who started at one school graduate from another, would provide a more accurate picture of graduation and retention rates, Lopes said ... The U of I will probably contract with ACT to conduct standardized tests on critical thinking and writing ability among groups of freshmen and seniors, starting as soon as fall 2008, Lopes said."-- Read the Full Article

Schools Need to Teach Environmental Literacy

TheMorningCall.Com: "Are citizens in the United States environmentally literate? Are our schools doing a good job preparing our children to be environmentally literate? When our kids read in the newspaper about issues pertaining to energy use, global climate change, and pollution, do they have a deep meaningful understanding about these issues or just some superficial awareness?... While it seems that environmental issues are often displayed in the media, a recent Roper report showed that most Americans believe they know more about the environment than they actually do. According to this report, 45 million Americans think the ocean is a source of fresh water; 120 million think spray cans still have CFCs in them even though CFCs were banned in 1978; and 130 million believe that hydropower is America's top energy source, when it accounts for just 10 percent of the total ... There are different levels to environmental literacy. The lowest level involves simple environmental awareness. Most people have heard of water and air pollution, energy efficiency, climate change, habitat loss, and solid waste. Current school structures with high accountability state testing in the sciences and social sciences will ensure that students understand ecological concepts. Unfortunately, some states today only have mandatory testing in mathematics, reading and writing, and as a result many elementary schools offer much less science and social studies instruction as they did before the No Child Left Behind law was enacted ... Another level of environmental literacy involves taking action with personal conduct that contributes favorably to the environment ... A more comprehensive level of environmental literacy goes beyond awareness and personal action. It involves a deep knowledge and understanding of environmental concepts and skills that are at a much higher level to understand environmental issues, some that are quite complex. This level of environmental literacy involves essential 21st century skills including problem-solving, critical thinking skills, and creative thinking. It involves deep understanding of complex problems and careful consideration of a range of solutions and consequences. This level of environmental literacy involves investigating questions such as: What are the impacts of global climate change? How does human activity contribute to global climate change? How will the world's current population growth affect our planet's natural resources during the next 30-100 years?"-- Read the Full Article

Why MBA Programs Matter in Minnesota

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "No matter what else has happened to Minnesota's higher and lower educational enterprises in this decade, one trend line has kept climbing: The numbers of Masters in Business Administration programs in the Twin Cities and seekers of MBA degrees has been steadily increasing ...The latest: Hamline University in St. Paul, the state's oldest post-secondary school, will launch its MBA program in January. By its count, it will bring the number of such programs available in the Twin Cities to 13 ... Success breeds scrutiny -- and criticism. That, too, has been on the uptick in business education around the country. Perceived deficiencies in graduate business programs have been assailed as contributors to corporate failings ranging from the Enron collapse to the subprime mortgage crisis. The programs are faulted as insufficiently attentive to global realities, ethical imperatives and leadership that goes beyond the bottom line ... Those critics may have a point -- somewhere else. In Minnesota, the leading MBA programs have made significant strides in this decade in precisely those directions. It may be that competition for students among the University of Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota State University-Mankato and the rest has given this state's programs a push in the direction of relevant, ethical, global business education ...The new Hamline MBA program represents another step in that positive progression ... 'Lack of integration is the major challenge to MBA programs,' said Dean Julian Schuster. Hamline proposes to meet that challenge by blending the usual components of business education into four 16-week modules, plus one 16-week specializaton session. Finance, accounting, marketing and operations are all still in the curriculum, but they will be taught in connection with one another and with leadership development, strategic analysis and ethical practices. Student cohorts will be assembled to proceed through the 21-month program in unison, so that the relationships students build can enhance learning ... The aim, said Hamline President Linda Hanson, is business education 'that also reflects the best traits of a liberal arts education. We want Hamline MBAs to have the critical thinking skills of a well-educated person.'"-- Read the Full Article

Rethinking Philosophy Today

The Daily Star:  Jahangirnagar University — "Launched in 2002 by Unesco, World Philosophy Day is being celebrated across the world, including Bangladesh, on November 15, for the sixth consecutive time ... This year, Turkey is hosting the international event, which will take place in Istanbul on November 22 and 23, with a roundtable entitled "Dialogue: Between whom and on what?" and another on "The philosophical foundations of peace and human rights: Where do we stand?' ... On the occasion of the day this year, Unesco has officially launched a special philosophical study entitled "Philosophy: A School of Freedom -- Teaching philosophy and learning to philosophise: status and prospects," which focuses on the state of the teaching of philosophy in the world at pre-school, primary, secondary and higher education levels, emphasising pedagogical and didactic orientations for the promotion of the teaching of philosophy in the world ... The philosophy program is an integral part of Unesco's activities, since all its major issues, such as peace, justice, democracy, freedom, human rights, education, and so on, have a solid philosophical background, with an analytical and conceptual rigour. In fact, Unesco was born out of a philosophical and ethical investigation into the conditions of the world, and thus, the philosophy program was undertaken by Unesco in 1946, just one year after the organisation came into being ... Philosophy is not, as often misunderstood by many, searching for a black cat in a dark room. As opposed to Asian philosophy that arose out of the sorrows and sufferings of human life, Western materialist philosophy, though born with the cosmological concern in the 6th BC in Greece, had treaded a long way to reach the mid-20th century, addressing common problems of human life and existence and instilling independent thinking for individual thought and judgement ... Philosophical study does not mean quibbling about what does not contribute to building intellectual tools, nor does it mean wrangling about what does not have any practical impact on social or intellectual change; rather, it entails the heart of human existence. Man is a rational being, and thinking is his distinguishing property, the activity of rationality. By philosophical study we mean critical thinking of fundamental issues of human life, the foundation of which is logic. Philosophical reflection means critical analysis of concepts, views, ideas, or beliefs.: -- Read the Full Article

Preparing for Prague Student Summit

The Prague Post:  "Looking back at those precarious high-school years, most people probably conjure up hazy memories of parties, driver’s training classes and first crushes — not workshops, strategic planning sessions and global conferences ... Yet, this is the reality for more than 400 students from around the Czech Republic who were tapped to participate in the second annual Prague Student Summit. The summit takes the learn-by-doing concept to a new level by allowing students to simulate what it would be like to work in the United Nations, the European Union or NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ... Participating students come together during five summit workshops throughout the school year. And, depending on what group they are in, discuss key issues and concerns regarding the global body they are simulating. Through these meetings, organizers say they hope to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills, emphasize teamwork and encourage higher education goals, among other things. The meetings will culminate in March during a final round of negotiations. "-- Read the Full Article

Comparing Greeks to Terrorists Unfounded

Ripon College Days:  "As a former Ripon College fraternity member and as a Jewish professional who lived and studied in Israel, I took offense to Joe Hentz's ridiculous letter to the editor in the most recent issue of College Days ['ResLife and Greek life at RC similar to Israeli (sic) and Palestinian conflict,' Oct. 31, 2007]. In addition to being grammatically offensive, the article reflected the author's lack of a sophisticated understanding of both the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the Greek system at Ripon College ... Fully refuting Hentz's assertion that Palestinian terrorists have reacted appropriately in the face of Israeli 'aggression' would take an entire course on the history of the conflict. I used to eat lunch every day in the rebuilt remains of a café that had been blown up three years earlier, killing dozens of young people who were themselves around the same age as the average Ripon student ... Violent conflicts in which neither side can claim to be right should not be summed up with such weak analysis as Hentz's. For example: 'I believe the current attitude of Residence Life and the rest of the current administration parallels the injustices that the Zionists and its cohorts began years ago.' This is not the first-rate critical thinking that we should expect from Ripon students; using such a ridiculous analogy suggests that Hentz knows little about either aspect of his comparison." -- Read the Full Article

A Bigger Role For Philosophy in the Curriculum

Quaker/Philosophy (What Does It Mean To Be A Philosopher And A Friend?):  "Philosophy used to have a very big role in the college curriculum. The role has grown progressively smaller with each decade. I think we have been outmanoevered by other fields (mainly by the social sciences) in the game of academic politics. We should have a big role to play. How can we get it back?... In the standard American college curriculum today the English Department gets every student for at least one and usually for two required courses in composition. This means big English Departments. People in general recognize that the thinking skills of college students are poor. So a demand for critical thinking has arisen. But Philosophy has been outmaneovered here. As philosophers we understand clearly that good thinking requires a grounding in logic. You don't have to be able to do proofs in predicate logic with overlapping quantifiers, but if you don't see the difference between modus ponens and affirming the consequent you are in bad shape. Most college students are in bad shape. A simple practical applied logic course would do them a world of good. But instead on our campus we have every department claiming that they teach critical thinking already. The art department claims that they teach students to 'think critically' when they teach them how to critique a work of art. Well, as valuable as that skill is, it isn't going to help people to see the fallacies in political speeches and editorials. You need a good solid grounding in logic for that and there is no substitute for it." -- Read the Full Article

Tanzania: Lack of Professional Ethics

AllAfrica.Com: "A couple of weeks ago lack of observance of professional ethics must have been a contributory factor in the incident whereby a Fuso lorry driver driving on the wrong side of the road resulted in a terrible road accident in which a Deputy Minister in the Tanzanian Government, Honourable Salome Mbatia, lost her life ... A lot of news footage this week and last week has been taken up by the story of two previously unknown Tanzanians, Emmanuel Mgaya 20 and Emmanual Didas 18, whose ill-health was made far much worse by the activities of health professionals who did not adhere to the most elementary of the codes of ethical behaviour of their professions ... These two young Tanzanians had put their trust in the professionalism of the staff of the Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI). They believed the advise given by all modern means of communication that when one is sick the sensible thing to do is to go to hospital and that one will thereafter return home in better health ... Young Emmanuel Mgaya needed an operation on his leg which certainly could not be located in his head; while the even younger Emmanuel Didas required an operation on his head which certainly could not be located in his leg ... A host of learned MOI professionals, including nurses, specialists in anaesthesia and surgeons, after administering anaesthesia on them, went ahead, in what seems to have been factory conveyor belt fashion, and operated on them on locations on their bodies that were the very opposite of where they ought to have been operated on ... Little did the two young Tanzanians realise that by consenting to be put under anaesthesia they had placed all their trust in the good ethical sense of the health professionals ... It is therefore a terrible tragedy that such trust resulted in such abuse of the trust! Critical thinking leaves one wondering how such so-called mistakes involving two human lives could have happened in the same institution on the same day."-- Read the Full Article

Literacy Classes Come to Town

The Timaru Herald: Timaru, NZ — "Literacy South Canterbury has joined other agencies at the Old Post Office building in Waimate and will be offering learning support every Wednesday from 10am to 2pm ... Literacy South Canterbury coordinator Jill Lyons said the service was free-of-charge, confidential and would be overseen by tutor Fritz Logan ... 'Literacy South Canterbury has offered second chance learning opportunities and learning assistance since 1979 ...  We have been working quietly in the background supporting residents of Waimate throughout this time ... A team of voluntary and paid tutors have provided tuition in reading, writing, spelling, maths, communication and critical thinking skills' ... 'The government supports this initiative with funding being made available to those who introduce a programme into the workplace."-- Read the Full Article

American Studies in Beirut: Learning to Love?

The Washington Post: Beirut — " Professor Patrick McGreevy is talking about an ugly moment in American history, but his students at the American University of Beirut (AUB) keep trying to tie it to present-day politics ... McGreevy, head of the new Center for American Studies here, teaches an Introduction to American Studies course to twenty-five undergrads. Today’s class is on the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 through which America exerted paternalistic control over many of its Latin American neighbors ... McGreevy projects old American cartoons from the 1800s and early 1900s onto a white screen. Uncle Sam, tall and lean, sits at the head of a classroom schooling infantile pupils named 'Cuba' and 'Puerto Rico' in the ways of liberty and democracy ... 'Americans didn’t like to think of themselves as colonizers,' McGreevy explains, so they called their expansionism a civilizing mission. 'Manifest Destiny' was the term -- the 'City on a Hill’s' divine mission to elevate the rest of the world to its level, justifying the subjugation of foreign publics aplenty, he says ... Maya pipes up: 'It's just like Iraq today; with all [Bush's] talk of democracy!' ... McGreevy responds diplomatically, 'Well, one can argue that.' Then he shifts back to the screen ... Another student chimes in, 'Look at Pakistan….I just heard Bolton say the U.S. should keep supporting the dictator [Pervez Musharraf].' ... McGreevy again responds delicately, 'Well, remember Bolton doesn’t represent all Americans, or even necessarily the Bush administration right now' ...  The professor’s no apologist for America’s foreign policy blunders, and he openly dislikes Bush, but right now he’s just trying to teach history. What’s a grey-haired professor with a doctorate from the University of Minnesota to do?... 'They’d just talk about that sort of thing [modern politics] all day if I let them!' he says after class with a laugh ... It's noon and the students bustle off onto the winding hillside paths overlooking beige buildings and the Mediterranean below. Maya and Farah linger to talk ... 'We don’t really get what we want from this class. We want to know how Americans are today, how they think' ...They have other, more advanced course offerings on current politics. But McGreevy concedes his class is not the hands-on sort of training other universities offer, which prepare students to work in the U.S. That’s not his aim. He’s in it to emphasize the liberal arts, and teach critical thinking. "-- Read the Full Article

Rensselaer Student Start-Ups Win Top Prizes at National Innovation Showcase

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Press Release):  TROY, N.Y. — "Two Rensselaer student start-up companies took first and second place at this year’s inaugural Innovation Showcase (I-Show) competition Nov. 9 in Seattle, Wash. Ecovative Design LLC and JDAxis Corporation, both companies that are focused on developing products to improve the environment and people’s lives, won first and second place, receiving $5,000 and $3,000 respectively ... The competition was sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in collaboration with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and Idea to Product (I2P) competitions ... The I-Show is a competition that encourages collegiate student teams to display and present their technological innovations to an audience that includes successful entrepreneurs, seed venture capitalists, and intellectual property specialists. Judges decide the best and most feasible ideas, and winners will receive cash prizes and additional product and start-up support, according to ASME ... 'Both of these winning projects started with the students identifying, understanding, and defining unrecognized needs, without being told what to do,' said Burt Swersey, a lecturer in Rensselaer’s department of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, who also serves as an adviser to the student start-up companies ... 'I insist that my students learn problem-finding skills. They must focus on ‘needs’ that would make life better for users and not ‘wants’ so the end result should be sustainable, affordable, and socially responsible projects,' Swersey said. 'I require problem-finding based on understanding through research, fact-based decisions using metrics, analytical modeling, critical thinking, creativity, and of course, developing an ‘attitude for success’ based on optimism, openness, and entrepreneurial thinking.' ”-- Read the Full Article

ETS and Certiport Announce Plans for Digital Skills Solution

Business Wire (Certiport Press Release):  Salt Lake City, UT — "Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Certiport today announced an agreement to create a solution leveraging their assessment and certification programs around digital literacy and critical thinking with regard to information and communications technologies (ICTs). The two industry leaders expect the combined solution will help a wide variety of organizations hone the skills of current and prospective employees, creating a more capable and productive workforce. " -- Read the Full Article

Math, Science Pupils in US Trail Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea

Bloomberg Press:  "Eighth-graders in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia trail their counterparts in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan in math, and lag behind Singapore and Taiwan in science, a study found.

The U.S. as a whole scored 10th in math and 12th in science among 46 nations surveyed, according to a report released today in Washington by the nonprofit American Institutes for Research. The District of Columbia had the lowest U.S. performance in mathematics, on a par with Macedonia and Jordan, with the average student scoring 'below basic' ...  The nation did outperform some countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and U.S. scores matched those in other English-speaking counties and Europe, the report said. That's not enough to prepare students to compete for careers in the global marketplace, the author said ... 'The bad news is that even our best-performing states are running far behind the highest-performing countries,' said the author, Gary Phillips, chief scientist at the institutes ... The U.S. has no states where students were considered proficient in math, though Massachusetts eighth graders fell just short ... The report compares state data collected by the 2005 and 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a U.S. test, with scores from the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study ... The U.S. 'needs more students preparing for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,' according to the report. 'To meet the demands of the future, a larger proportion of our workforce must have the problem solving and critical thinking skills to compete in a technologically sophisticated and global environment.' ' -- Read the Full Article

52 Years of the Bush-Clinton White House?

Venezuelanalysis.Com:  "There is much discussion about the change in the Venezuelan constitution that would permit unlimited re-election of the president. But I have been thinking about the United States White House during the past few days and the possibility that the Bush and Clinton families could run the country for possibly fifty-two years or even more ... Think about this: if Hilary Clinton should be elected the next president, the Bush and Clinton family will have controlled the presidency for twenty-four years. If she wins re-election in 2012, we are talking about twenty-eight years. If we include the time that George H. W. Bush was vice-president under President Reagan, the years would increase to thirty-six years that the Bushes and Clintons have been in the presidential palace ... Now imagine that Jeb Bush, who will be 63 in 2016, spends the next eight years in the White House and Chelsea Clinton, who will be only 44 in the election year of 2024, wins the votes of the electoral college for eight more years. We’re talking about the possibility of fifty-two years of Bush-Clinton family presidents and vice-presidents ... That is all legally possible under the constitution of the United States. My advice to the White House and its spokespeople in regard to the proposed constitutional changes in Venezuela:  keep your mouths shut, lest U.S. citizens wake up to the reality there ... One of the things that I enjoy about living in Venezuela in these times is that everyday when I buy the morning newspaper, my way of thinking is being challenged. It is invigorating ... I wonder if the Venezuelan university authorities also find critical thinking stimulating? ...  While we are on the topic of elections, I wonder why Spain doesn’t find someway to elect their king if they want to continue having a royal family.  It really doesn’t take much creative thinking to see it as a very appropriate way to choose the person who will occupy the royal throne in this twenty-first century.  It could even be another project of the Bush administration to bring more democracy into the world.  Having successfully brought “democracy” to Iraq maybe the U.S. could now invade Spain, oust King Juan Carlos, and call for elections within a year ... These thoughts come to mind because the King is reported to have told President Chávez to “shut up” at the recent Ibero-American summit in Chile.  What right does a person, who wasn’t elected democratically by anyone, have to tell the president of another country to shut up?" -- Read the Full Article

'Fake' News Appeals

Winnipeg Sun:  "In today's world there are endless ways to learn about international affairs and events occurring around the globe ...  In the past few years a specific genre of satirical television shows have taken hold and grown in popularity and influence among the public as a source of news ... Self proclaimed 'fake news' shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and its hugely successful spin-off The Colbert Report, both parody the traditional news format and combine real news and events with a live audience and humorous bent. Although both hosts have stated their first order of business is to make people laugh and not to enlighten their audience, many would argue that whether they like it or not more young adults are turning to alternative, unconventional news sources ... A survey released in January 2007 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 13% of Americans between the ages of 18-25 habitually watch The Daily Show to learn about current events. The Pew study also found that regular viewers of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are the most informed audience when it comes to international affairs. Obviously fake news is doing something special to attract an intelligent young audience capable of critical thinking." -- Read the Full Article

Forum Weighs Expectations for D.M. School Graduates

The Des Moines Register: "About 25 people turned up Monday night at Goodrell Middle School's library to help craft expectations for Des Moines Public Schools graduates ... The public has two more opportunities to offer comments this week ... District officials intend to hone goals for what the schools should achieve with each student before he or she graduates, then evaluate the systems in place and what needs to change educationally. The blueprint of expectations presented Monday by Superintendent Nancy Sebring was drafted after community conversations and surveys held last spring ... 'The grand umbrella over all of this is the desire that all of our graduates possess the knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful at the next stage of their lives,' Sebring said. 'We believe that ultimately what 13 years of education should provide is a standard of capabilities that students can take to the workplace, to post-secondary education, to a licensure or certification program, and into their communities as community leaders' ... The goals fall into five categories. Graduates will: ... Demonstrate strategies for lifelong learning, which includes critical thinking."-- Read the Full Article

Tradition Can Be a Two-Edged Sword

Business Standard: New Delhi (Excerpts from Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s speech at the annual convocation of Jamia Millia Islamia on October 30, 2007) —"The Muslim world has expanded beyond its traditional boundaries. The inherited paradigm of Muslims living principally in Muslim-majority societies, and thinking in terms of those societies, has now acquired different dimensions. Muslim communities in India, China and Russia have sought to develop locally relevant response patterns. The same is true of Muslim communities in the United States and in the member states of the European Union. None of these have been devoid of pain. There is therefore relevance in Tariq Ramadan’s observation that while globalisation causes the old traditional points of reference to disappear, it at the same time awakens passionate affirmations of identity. As a result, he notes, Muslim communities in the West are 'living through a veritable silent revolution' ... Awareness of identity and desire to develop it is one aspect of the matter, the capacity to actualise is another, while a third is the desire to strike a balance between identity and what Professor Ramadan has called an authentic dialogue with fellow citizens aimed at mutual enrichment. It is here that empirical evidence is of crucial importance. How much of an effort was made (and is being made) to give a comprehensive response to the challenge? What areas of community life were addressed? What obstacles were encountered? What was the success achieved? It is evident that significant sections of the community remain trapped in a vicious circle and in a culturally defensive posture. Tradition is made sacrosanct while the rationale of tradition is all but forgotten. Jadeediyat or modernity has become a tainted expression. Such a mindset constrains critical thinking, necessary both for the affirmation of faith and for the well-being of the community. The instrumentality of adaptation to change, Ijtihad, is frowned upon if not ignored altogether. "-- Read the Full Article

Election No Place for Affirmative Action

Vail Daily:  Vail, CO — "Barack Obama will not be president of the United States because he is black ... Surprised?...  Shocked? ... Confused? ... How you interpret that statement reveals a great deal about what kind of person you actually are, down deep, behind whatever public facade you pretend exists ... If you understand it to mean Obama will not become president due to the color of his skin, well then, perhaps you are a true racist at heart (and thus thoroughly deserving to spend the rest of your miserable little solipsistic life shuddering in the corner out of fear from those different from you, but I digress) ... It could also mean you are a jaded child of the ’50s or ’60s (or even the ’70s) and your parental-injected scruples disinfect your ability to look at the world from any other angle (think: religion) ... Or maybe you are convinced that only voters of like color will choose Obama, and since voters of color are generally the least likely to vote on any given Election Day, then his odds of receiving enough votes to win based on that criteria alone are simply slim at best ... On the other hand, there are those of you who just read my opening statement to mean Barack Obama WILL become president of the United States, yet his skin color will not be the reason ... Go ahead, read it again ... Regardless of in which category you just placed yourself, accept the fact that you are obviously willing to be categorized, thus qualifying you as a typical American voter ... Hooray for you ... Now realize I could have just as easily switched a few words and still ended up with similar results ... Replace 'Barack Obama' with 'Hillary Clinton' and 'because he is black' with 'because she is female' and the results are comparable. 'Racist' would become 'sexist' for condemnation’s sake and so on ... Use Mitt Romney, Mormon and infidel and most of it fits ... Kucinich and nerd, Giuliani and Sept. 11, McCain and POW, Edwards and perfect hair, etc ... My stereotyping point is the same either way; one year from now we will have elected a new American president and, like it or not, he/she/it will have the distinct pleasure of leading 300-plus million of us through the end of this century’s first decade and all the way, at least, until 2012 ... It’s a highly important decision for each of us, as the choice affects our children, our children’s children, etc., and we have less than 12 months to decide which candidate best fits our personal bill ... Think it’s a waste of time to bother this far in advance? Think again ... Those of you apathetically waiting to vote with your one-dimensional finger need to learn to use your entire body. This presidential election is not for the bi-annually self-righteous 'suddenly-giving-a-damn' about gay marriage and abortion, nor is it for those living in the isolationism of closing their collective eyes towards reality while waiting for magical beings to come and take them away to a better place ... Nope, this one is for the rest of us, the rational Americans of voting age capable of critical thinking who actually wish to see our family, our country, and our species continue in a positive direction."-- Read the Full Article

Association: Colleges Should Test Students, Publish Results

The Examiner (San Francisco): Baltimore —"Colleges should test students to measure what they learn and publish the results, an association representing a dozen public universities in Maryland and 216 nationwide decided Sunday ... 'This is a very sincere effort to be more accountable to the public,' said William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and chairman of the Voluntary System of Accountability project for the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges ... The association’s leaders voted Sunday at a meeting in New York City to ask its member institutions to use standardized exams to test students’ writing, reasoning and critical-thinking skills."-- Read the Full Article

English 200: A Waste of University Resources

Commonwealth Times: "If it's so important to know how to write a research paper, why is it that I've never read one? I read plenty of essays, narratives and poems, but I never read research papers. It seems that nobody ever reads research papers, although nearly everyone has written one ... Well, I looked up 'research paper' on Google. com. Of the 10 non-sponsored sites returned, all were about how to write a research paper. Not one had anything to do with actual published research papers ...The search did reveal one practical application of the research paper: There were about 10 sponsored links for companies that sell research papers to students. Learning to write a research paper is certainly a valuable skill to have if one is considering a career in the research paper business. I am not considering such a career, however. So where else is the research paper found? ... Is learning how to write a research paper important? Learning to conduct research is, but it in mind, I think we ought to carefully examine part of the course description from my English 200 syllabus: "From the careful and thorough researching and writing required in English 200, students will develop analytical, interpretive, and critical thinking skills necessary for, and transferable to, all disciplines in the academic community and beyond."-- Read the Full Article

The Student Suffers From Technology

Berkshire Eagle: Lenox — "Blackberries, cell phones, iPhones, laptops, any and all electronic gadgets should be banned from the classroom. It seems like a no-brainer, but from middle schools to universities, teachers are struggling to impart knowledge and information against a high-tech flood-tide of distractions ... At Williams College, the noted authority Thomas C. Jorling is teaching introductory environmental studies this semester — he came out of retirement after a distinguished career in public service and the private sector — with 10 years at Williams along the way ...'Trying to get students engaged is still a challenge,' he acknowledges. In fact, he was apprehensive about returning to the campus — more so than when he first joined the faculty 35 years ago ...'Part of that is because the expectations of student, faculty and the institution are very different now with respect to everything that's encompassed in the electronic revolution,' he said during a recent interview ... Let's be clear: For instant information from authoritative sources, you can't beat the Internet ... Those of us who grew up in the Dark Ages remember how we did our research in the pre-computer era — many painstaking hours in the library ... But all too many in the so-called 'emerging generation' seem to view the Web primarily as a place for text messaging, social networking, dating and displaying highly personal, electronic diaries online (also known as blogs) ... As professor Freedman described the current generational divide between teacher and student: 'This separates those who want to use technology to grow smarter from those who want to use it to get dumber' ... Harsh, perhaps, but realistic ... Let the last word on this subject today go to professor Michael Bugeja, director of the journalism school at Iowa State University ...'We're not here to entertain. We're here to stimulate the life of the mind. Education requires contemplation. It requires critical thinking. What we may be doing now is training a generation of air-traffic controllers rather than scholars.'"-- Read the Full Article

Growing by Leaps and Bounds

The Malaysia Star: "Besides expanding its infrastructure, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman is also coming up with lots of new programmes and emphasising soft skills ... With the emphasis on soft skills by the Higher Education Ministry, Utar has set up the Soft Skills Competency Unit (SSCU) to provide students with work-related skills such as entrepreneurial and critical thinking skills."-- Read the Full Article

From Karl Popper to Karl Rove

The Korea Times (Project Syndicate News Service): New York ? "In his novel 1984, George Orwell chillingly described a totalitarian regime in which all communication is controlled by a Ministry of Truth and dissidents are persecuted by political police. The United States remains a democracy governed by a constitution and the rule of law, with pluralistic media, yet there are disturbing signs that the propaganda methods Orwell described have taken root here ... Indeed, techniques of deception have undergone enormous improvements since Orwell's time. Many of these techniques were developed in connection with the advertising and marketing of commercial products and services, and then adapted to politics. Their distinguishing feature is that they can be bought for money. More recently, cognitive science has helped to make the techniques of deception even more effective, giving rise to political professionals who concentrate only on 'getting results' ... These professionals take pride in their accomplishments, and may even enjoy the respect of an American public that admires success no matter how it is achieved. That fact casts doubt on Karl Popper's concept of open society, which is based on the recognition that, while perfect knowledge is unattainable, we can gain a better understanding of reality by engaging in critical thinking." -- Read the Full Article

Multicultural Approach to Education

The Jamaica Gleaner (Established 1834): "Pandemonium seemingly reigned throughout the education sector recently when a particular textbook found its way into the Jamaican school system. Our Education Minister, Andrew Holness, was swift in his defence of the ministry's educational policy in stating that as an education sector, we do not subscribe to the notion of a homosexual family pattern. I also say amen to this, BUT, as a nation that is in a state of educational transformation, and also in the globalisation era, is there really another side to this whole scenario? I ask the question in light of what is termed 'multicultural education' ... Multiculturalism deals with diversity and an appreciation and recognition that variety is inevitable, among other things ... Jamaica is a 'Christcentric' country and so, we have been educated and indoctrinated in the Christian philosophical way of thinking. This has conditioned us to view most things from this Christcentric perspective. Anything outside of this comfort zone causes us to become uncomfortable, and at times arrogant, abusive and dismissive ... But as educators, should this be our approach to dealing with issues? Should we be exposing our children and general populace to look at other issues and thoughts critically and analytically?"-- Read the Full Article

Can Colleges Pass the Test?

The Baltimore Sun: "Standardized exams seek to track learning during students' careers ... College students in Maryland and across the country might soon be taking standardized tests to determine how much they've learned on campus - part of a national effort to hold universities accountable for student achievement ... An association representing more than 200 large public universities is expected to vote today to recommend that its member colleges adopt standardized tests and within four years begin to publish the results. A group representing another 400 colleges will take a similar vote this month ... The tests would measure students' critical thinking, reasoning and written communication. They would likely be given to representative samples of freshmen and seniors, allowing schools - and the public- to measure the improvement in scores ...The assessments are part of a broader initiative called the Voluntary Accountability System, which was developed in part to reassure Washington that publicly funded higher education does not need a No Child Left Behind law with uniform exit exams given to art history and engineering majors alike ...'There was concern that they would start trying to do these grade-by-grade assessments, which I think all of us feel would be inappropriate in higher education,' said University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan, who chaired development of the project with input from more than 80 public college administrators nationally. 'So it's time for us to come together as a community and develop a system of accountability' ... But other educators have profound misgivings about the notion that any generic tests can capture the learning produced by a college education."-- Read the Full Article

Colleges Revive Ethics in the Age of Enron

The Miami Herald: "Schools are going beyond right and wrong to stress critical, ethical thinking in all subjects for a generation touched by the greedy misdeeds of political and business leaders ... Ryan Kairalla and Josh Morales met on the first day of classes at the University of Miami three years ago and became fast friends after discovering they both wanted to be lawyers. They weren't thinking much about ethics back then ... Then one day, a guest lecturer appeared in their business law class and announced she'd be discussing business ethics ... 'One of us joked that must be an oxymoron,' Kairalla, 22, remembers ... This year -- after winning the national Ethics Bowl, beating powerhouse teams from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. -- the two are riding the crest of a growing wave in education: ethics across the curriculum ... From community colleges to universities, educators in the age of Enron and WorldCom are stressing the importance of teaching ethics as a building block in critical thinking. Philosophy professors everywhere are straightening their togas and being invited into computer labs and business seminars to give lectures, devise models for other instructors and show that, more than two centuries later, Kant has an awful lot to teach students wiring our modern society."-- Read the Full Article

Norman Mailer, 1923-2007

The Village Voice: "Norman Mailer, who co-founded The Village Voice 52 years ago, and who, as a writer, was best known for his walloping roundhouses, arrogant, despairing egocentrism, and tough-guy panache—as well as for having penned some of the most powerful prose of the 20th century—died early Saturday. He was 84 ... When Mailer founded the Voice in 1955 with his friends Daniel Wolf and Edwin Fancher, he had already published three novels, including The Naked and the Dead, a Tolstoy-esque debut novel set during World War II, which sold 200,000 copies in its first three months and instantly brought him a near-universal critical renown ... But it was at the Voice, in the handful of cultural and political articles he contributed in 1956, that Mailer first began to develop the outrageously sober-minded and superciliously self-effacing voice that would define his subsequent writing and make him one of the great stylists ­ and journalists ­ of his generation ... Norman Kingsley Mailer was born January 31, 1923, in Long Branch, N.J., the son of Isaac Barnett and Fanny Schneider. By the time Mailer was 9, they had moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Mailer entered Harvard University in the fall of 1939, intending to major in aeronautical engineering. But taken with the novels of James T. Farrell and John Dos Passos, he devoted himself to a literary career."-- Read the Full Article

Reason Subverted by Religiosity

The Jamaica Observer: "Reason continues to be subverted by religiosity, as illustrated by the recent controversy over a textbook reference to families of or created by gay people ... The authors of the textbook did no more than simply state that traditional family structures are broadening so as to include gay persons who live together or who have children ... The textbook does not 'promote' gay families. Yet the minister of education, Andrew Holness, justified the exclusion of the book from his ministry's 'approved list' on the basis that'... the Ministry of Education does not endorse or support the teaching of homosexual relationships as the accepted standard of family. We don't teach it and we don't recommend it' ... Citing legal, policy, and morality concerns, the minister rapidly assured church leaders that his ministry was not supporting the teaching of same-sex relationships, and that the government was committed to 'upholding the moral standards of the society and reinforcing a wholesome family structure' ... In a similar vein, Charles Reid, principal of Kingston High School, declared his opposition to same-sex relationships in Jamaican society, much less teaching about them in school. Piously, Mr Reid preaches that Jamaica should be grounded on biblical principles, and that he doesn't 'think anyone has the right to impose this literature on our children' ... Despite the fact that all of these self-appointed moral officers are education leaders, their sentiments represent a complete lack of critical thinking; indeed their views are an assault on reason."-- Read the Full Article

Is History History?

ThePolitic.Org (Yale University): " 'Yale’s distinguished History faculty—among the most eminent in the world—teach and write the histories of Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the United States and Canada, from ancient times to the present, seeking to make its study as exciting and rewarding in the twenty-first century as it was when first introduced it at Yale before the American Revolution' ... So reads the introduction to the Yale Department of History’s webpage. However, in a recent Miami Herald, I came across a statistic that seemingly belies this statement of excellence. One-third of seniors at Yale could not answer how President Kennedy responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I am frequently reminded at Yale that the History department is second-to-none in the entire United States, and as a History major myself, I have found the curriculum excellent in imbuing a large overall depth and breadth in historical knowledge and, more importantly, argument. Nonetheless, this statistic cast into doubt my overall confidence in not only my college but in colleges, high schools, and overall educational structures whose responsibility it is to educate the next generation. I find several problems that these institutions must face, lest the statistics that remain affixed to my hippocampus sound more like one-half, or two-thirds, or more ... The Herald article by Natalie P. McNeal focused on the lack of historical knowledge among American college students; however, gaps in any kind of knowledge rarely begin in the echelons of higher education—for a hole in the knowledge base to be manifesting itself there is indicative of a larger systemic deficiency in the initial realms of education as well. The state of Florida offers prima facie evidence of a systemic relegation of the subjects of history and civics to a realm of secondary importance ... When this lack of emphasis starts in the elementary schools, it is not difficult to imagine the effects this subsequently has on our middle schools, high schools, colleges, and our citizenry as a whole. When secondary students lack the terminology and conceptual frameworks important to civics, we often find middle and high schools doing the jobs to which elementary schools now give a mere 20 minutes a day. Secondary students’ having only a limited primary education in civics combined with an oftentimes-continued lack of emphasis on civics at the secondary level forced the Florida legislature to pass a law requiring middle schools to offer a semester of civics—a step in the right direction, but a step where a long walk is required ... Along this journey, we must address an overlooked downside to this de-emphasis in social studies education that especially begins in middle and high schools and hurts society immensely—a deficiency in critical thinking skills. Questions and answers on historical fact, like the one that began this paper, easily show deficiency; simply put, facts are right or facts are wrong. There is far more to learning (and history!) than names, dates, and short answers; the ability to think critically is almost indisputably the most important skill any education can afford. Jobs come and go, and skill sets can be important one day and obsolete the next, but the ability to think critically using given facts is an asset that will never lose its value." -- Read the Full Article

Innovative Methods to Reach At-Risk Students

The Union Tribune:  San Marcos – "Although bureaucrats often eye arts programs first when trimming public education budgets, Merryl Goldberg believes the arts can save at-risk students from falling through the cracks by helping them improve their communication, critical thinking and life skills ...The Cal State San Marcos professor is so dedicated to her belief that in 2003, she formed Center Artes. The organization helps teach history, language arts, science and math to at-risk students by using art and theater projects. Center Artes educators work with North County middle and high school students enrolled in Advancement Via Individual Determination, a program for at-risk students."-- Read the Full Article

New Plan to Test Undergrad Learning

The Daily Cardinal (University of Wisconsin, Madison): "

Coyote Point Museum Discloses Plan for Renewal

San Mateo County Times:  San Mateo — "Some things haven't changed at Coyote Point Museum in the year or so since a group of volunteers raised $600,000 to rescue the San Mateo institution from the brink of extinction ... The same animals roam the wildlife exhibits. The aging building on a windswept bluff overlooking the Bay still looks much the same, inside and out. Attendance hasn't budged ... Thursday night, however, as the nonprofit unveiled its new three-year strategic plan, the mood was optimistic, even celebratory. That's because of what has changed ... The board of trustees and executive director are new. The museum boasts more rotating exhibits, such as a "green farm" with hydroponic plants. For the first time in a decade, it has a balanced budget ... Perhaps most importantly for the museum's future, there is a renewed sense of its mission ... "What could be more important right now than environmental education?" said executive director Rachel Meyer, who has been with the museum six months ... 'The world is changing more rapidly than ever, and simultaneously, we've been destroying our habitat,' Meyer said. 'We need to help people develop critical thinking skills so they can keep up with the pace of change.'" -- Read the Full Article

Barack Obama and Generations

The Van Der Galiën Gazette: Netherlands —"Taylor Marsh - who’s endorsing Hillary Clinton - has another post up in which she criticizes Barack Obama. It’s well worth the read, even though I think that Obama wasn’t saying that Clinton is 'too old,’ just that different generations have different ideas and convictions, different styles, priorities, strengths, etc. Obviously, he’s trying to make the case that ‘his’ generation should be in charge of America now ... HRC, on the other hand, emphasizes experience which you could - then - interprete as saying that Obama is too young. If we’re getting angry about those kinds of arguments, well, I fear we’ll never stop being angry ... Taylor is, however, right when she writes the following: ... The argument Obama focuses on for his candidacy is “change.” But what’s new about it? Certainly not the message. What kind of change is he advocating? Change for the sake of it isn’t enough. I still don’t know why he wants to be president, other than to bring people together for change. But where will he lead us? ... Some posit that it’s simply his face. The sheer presence of him is enough to make the world change…The breathtaking banality of this supposition leaves you slack jawed. It’s like saying John Edwards’ musical southern drawl can bring the country together and obliterate race issues, something Edwards would never say, nor would his supporters ... Seriously, what is this “change” Obama offers? What policies are different than traditional Democratic policies? His votes on Iraq are like Clinton’s. As for Iran, at least Clinton showed up for the Kyl-Lieberman vote. On illegal immigration they’re also similar. Both Clinton and Obama want to expand NAFTA. What “generational” change is Obama offering beyond Clinton’s? Oh right, it’s his 'face' ... Barack Obama is saying he represents a new generation. What he’s also saying is that Clinton 'and others' have been fighting since the ’60s and those battles are not a badge of honor that can lead to a foundational movement for the 21st century if Clinton is nominated. Instead Mr. Obama seems to be implying it is a sign of age, not promise ... Of course, it’s a reasoning only those who are highly prejudiced - or lack critical thinking skills - would fall for, but that’s what Obama is hoping for. Repeat those points time and again and before you know ‘experience’ has become a dirty word. From his perspective it’s necessary for him to do so. After all, age and experience is his major weakness. He has to turn that around." -- Read the Full Article

In Search Of Democracy (In The Workplace!)

The Huffington Post:  "We've all been told that we live in a democracy. We've heard it repeated over and over by our schools, media, friends, family, co-workers and random people on the street. Democrats and Republicans alike say we've got so much of it here in the U.S. that we've got to export it overseas on fighter jets. Surprisingly, though, whenever I ask people this question all I get is silence ... The fact of the matter is that, despite our rhetoric, most of us in the U.S. rarely experience democracy in our daily lives. We elect people within our political system to represent our interests at local, regional and national levels. And we take great pride in using 'one person, one vote' to do it (the electoral college system being the one great exception). Feminism has brought democracy into a small yet growing number of our homes. But by and large the institutions of our daily lives, the places where we work, play, learn, and live are fundamentally anti-democratic. Children learn form their parents to do as they're told. Teachers take over the reigns from parents, placing more emphasis on command and control than on critical thinking. They, in turn, pass the product (us) on to our final destination -- our jobs -- where bosses tell us what to do and when to do it. Throughout the whole chain of command we're expected to merely do as we're told. Asking for input or sharing decision-making is not part of the equation. Parents, teachers and bosses who cultivate our desires and help us find our own path are the celebrated exception rather than the rule."-- Read the Full Article

Net Wisdom?

CBS News: "Is the Internet making us dumber? ... David Brooks implied as much a few weeks ago in his New York Times column 'The Outsourced Brain,' when he embraced the fact that new technologies and the Internet were doing all our intellectual heavy lifting nowadays: ... My G.P.S. goddess liberated me from this drudgery. She enabled me to externalize geographic information from my own brain to a satellite brain, and you know how it felt? It felt like nirvana ... Through that experience I discovered the Sacred Order of the External Mind. I realized I could outsource those mental tasks I didn’t want to perform. Life is a math problem, and I had a calculator ... Until that moment, I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less ... I filed that away in my mental attic at the time ... But then it resurfaced when I read an interview with law professor Cass Sunstein where he basically agreed with the essence of Brooks’ remarks, but was nowhere near as sanguine about it. As the Salon dot com interviewer opened: ... Freedom of choice is not always good for democracy. This observation is at the heart of University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein's book ' 2.0' (an update of '' in 2001), which argues that our country's political discourse is fracturing in the information age. Sure, the Internet has been a boon to democracy in all sorts of ways, Sunstein acknowledges -- but if new technology gives us unprecedented access to information, it also gives us more ways to avoid information we don't like. Conservatives are increasingly seeking only conservative views, liberals are seeking only liberal views, and never the twain shall meet ... While this isn’t necessarily the same as saying the Internet and technology is making us dumber, the common thread in both insights is that we’re not as sharp as we used to be. Where once we would have the mental pliability to reason out through an opposing view – or, in Brooks’ case, a different travel route – we’re losing that now. ... And yes, I’ll grant you that ‘sharp’ is a pretty nebulous term. But I think that by granting over a certain amount of our mental energy to an electronic box, we’re losing some critical thinking ability. The moment “google” morphed from a noun to a verb, it was clear we weren’t using the Internet as a reference tool (remember the encyclopedias at the library?) as much as a crutch."-- Read the Full Article

Foreign Students Enhance Global Outlook at U.S. High School

USInfo.State.Gov (US Department of State): "Washington -- Every year, high schools across the United States welcome foreign-exchange students into their classrooms, but at Washington International School (WIS), the student body itself is a microcosm of the global community -- and WIS exchange students further enhance the cosmopolitan mix ... An independent, private institution that educates children from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, WIS draws 'about 50 percent' of its students from 'families that are longtime residents of the Washington area,' according to Kate Meenan-Waugh, director of global initiatives and service learning at WIS. The rest of the students mostly are the children of diplomats or World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank officials, she told USINFO ... The foreign-exchange program benefits everyone at WIS, said Meenan-Waugh. Students who have been attending an international school for years 'can become very complacent and smug, thinking that they already know what it means to be from somewhere else,' but they inevitably learn a great deal from their new classmates. And exchange students often find that their preconceived notions about the United States -- and about Americans -- are inaccurate ... 'One [exchange] student assumed that the math course would be easy because she’d heard that math is not too rigorous' in U.S. schools, Meenan-Waugh recalled. However, the Socratic approach to lessons at WIS -- which involves posing thoughtful questions that help students develop critical thinking skills -- disconcerted the girl 'for the first couple of months. But once she got used to it, she loved it.'” -- Read the Full Article

Look Beyond Sarawak's Shores, Local Media Told

Bernama (Malaysian National News Agency): Kuching — "Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Mahmud wants local media practicioners to practice international standards of reporting that encourage analyses and critical thinking." -- Read the Full Article

New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology

The New York Times:  "Halfway through the semester in his market research course at Roanoke College last fall, only moments after announcing a policy of zero tolerance for cellphone use in the classroom, Prof. Ali Nazemi heard a telltale ring. Then he spotted a young man named Neil Noland fumbling with his phone, trying to turn it off before being caught ... 'Neil, can I see that phone?' Professor Nazemi said, more in a command than a question. The student surrendered it. Professor Nazemi opened his briefcase, produced a hammer and proceeded to smash the offending device. Throughout the classroom, student faces went ashen ... 'How am I going to call my Mom now?' Neil asked. As Professor Nazemi refused to answer, a classmate offered, 'Dude, you can sue' ... Let’s be clear about one thing. Ali Nazemi is a hero. Ali Nazemi deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom ... Let’s be clear about another thing. The episode in his classroom had been plotted and scripted ahead of time, with Neil Noland part of the charade all along. The phone was an extra of his mother’s, its service contract long expired." -- Read the Full Article

African and Mayan History Book Introduce Belize — "In March 2004 Prime Minister Said Musa officially launched the African and Maya History program at the primary school level.   This morning, with the introduction of the book Belize NEW VISION: African and Maya Civilizations – the heritage of a new nation , it marks the Government’s ongoing process to introduce the formal teaching of African and Maya Civilizations to our schools.   Director of the program and co-author of the book, Doctor Aondofe Joseph Iyo, says the aim of the African and Maya History Program is to make a substantive contribution to the formation of a positive self identity in the generation of students in the school system ... Ravey Vellos,Head of Department for Social Studies at C-C-C: ... 'From the onset, what we like about the writing of the book is that the book is not only giving information, but it forces the reader/student to be an inquirer, to be a researcher. The student is not only exposed to what happened or when it happened, but it has the student   go to another level of thinking where we call critical thinking where the student then would question and he would want to find out more. So the book in itself then provides basic information but it goes beyond that in that it provides information and leaves students to want to learn more.' "-- Read the Full Article

Religious Fundamentalism Versus Tolerance

The American Chronicle: "The definition of fundamentalism is implicit in the name. Fundamentalism refers to the underlying principles and essential theories or creeds which uniquely define any religion. Anyone who accepts on faith these basic principles and accepts them literally as absolutely unquestionable truths, is a fundamentalist. Dogmas are usually based on the testimonials or opinions of other people (usually long dead) and cannot be verified. Different opinions produce different systems of beliefs or religions. The percentage of individuals within any group who could be called fundamentalists may be a small minority or a large majority. Those who have these rigid beliefs are essentially intolerant of other ideas but do not necessarily promote violence. However some individuals or even large groups may become violent extremists or terrorists or even instigate a religious war if they feel that their religion or group is being threatened. These religious creeds are so rigidly accepted that a fundamentalist often reacts emotionally or even violently if these principles are questioned or criticized. The reason for this hostility is mostly defensive. Numerous conflicting religious dogmas or assumptions can’t all simultaneously be true and critical investigation is discouraged and often punished. This is a serious barrier to any type of social progress or world peace." -- Read the Full Article

Epidemiology 101 As an Undergraduate Mainstay

Inside Higher Education: "Flip through a stack of pre-med students’ transcripts and you’re bound to notice some patterns: chemistry, biology, calculus, maybe top it off with some economics or psychology for variety. Seldom do public health courses play much of a factor ... A group of science and liberal arts educators, backed by several higher education organizations, are trying to change that reality by persuading colleges to include such classes as part of their undergraduate curriculum. The prevailing message: Given the growing public health challenges facing the world, students — and especially would-be doctors — need an introduction to key issues in the field to be informed citizens ... The idea of making undergraduate public health courses more common got a boost in 2003, when the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine released its own report saying that all college students should be given access to a public health education, because “public health is an essential part of the training of citizenry.” Then last fall, leaders in public health education, and arts and science fields reached a consensus at a national conference that colleges should offer core courses such as “public health 101″ and “epidemiology 101.” Speakers on Tuesday also outlined their goals for another course, 'global health 101' ... The courses aren’t about health and wellness — how to take care of yourself, Riegelman said. They are intended to look at public health through a historical, cultural and sociological lens, introducing students to the health care system and themes such as poverty and geography that are studied by epidemiologists. Minors could be built upon these courses, the group says, and could include service learning requirements. The courses are meant to fulfill distribution requirements and be introductions to the field, not alternatives to advanced degree programs ... Professors involved in the initiative say the time is right to introduce such courses ... 'What’s different now is that the world is so challenged,' said Susan Albertine, an English professor and dean of the School of Culture and Society at the College of New Jersey, who helped write the public health and undergraduate education report. 'People are worried about pandemics, climate change, population shifts. There’s more of a reason to be engaged' ... That report was released through the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences. The AAMC session and last fall’s conference were both sponsored by the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research, the professional group of health promotion and disease prevention educators and researchers. The Association of Schools of Public Health and Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences also were behind the conference ... Both Albertine and Paul Marantz, a session panelist and co-director of the Institute of Public Health Science at Yeshiva University, said epidemiology is suitable for an undergraduate audience. It teaches critical thinking and problem solving, skills that are required in medical school, they argue. Marantz said courses in the field emphasize ethics and inference more than high-level math and rote memorization, making it appropriate for all college students. And epidemiology can be easily mixed with other academic fields to form an interdisciplinary course, he added."-- Read the Full Article

Review of UOP's Online MBA

Online College Blog (By Students For Students):  "Attending classes online is the smart way for busy people to earn degrees to advance in their present career or furthering their education. The University of Phoenix Online has earned its reputation as the premier provider of E-distant learning degree programs and courses, and is the nation’s largest accredited private university ... The Master of Business Program at the University of Phoenix employs the use of problem-based learning, where students can polish their problem-solving skills, as well as improve their communication, creativity, information processing, and critical thinking skills. Student progress is assessed by the student’s ability to demonstrate effectively through classroom presentations: their skills in problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking." --Read the Full Article

Know What the Real Goals Are

Education Week: "Current proposals to 'fix' the No Child Left Behind Act demonstrate the pitfalls of moving from broad and complex goals—'American prosperity, security, and civility' were the targets in 1983’s A Nation at Risk report—to simple objectives like 'adequate yearly progress' of students passing standardized tests ... The broad goals reflect concern over the ability of students to perform adult roles when they grow up: to be productive workers and engaged and knowledgeable citizens. The tests, meanwhile, are designed to gauge knowledge of academic subjects. They make no claim of predictive validity regarding students’ future performance or their ability to apply (or even remember) what they have learned after graduation ... Different goals — accountability and equity — led Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and President Bush to join forces on the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2001. Conservatives like Mr. Bush want accountability for public funds spent on education, and liberals like Sen. Kennedy want to be sure that the disadvantaged get their fair share of those funds. Conservatives recognize the 'soft bigotry of low expectations,' while liberals note that the best teachers and facilities are often found in more affluent neighborhoods. Today, liberals again join conservatives in decrying actions that would 'water down' the sanctions in the current law. Again, the larger goals are ignored ... All the reports on this issue arrive at similar conclusions and, interestingly, do so irrespective of whether their target is basic literacy, entry-level workers, technicians, scientists, or executives. Critical thinking, oral communication, using technology, and working in teams are the common skills sought; responsibility, the work ethic, and integrity are the common behaviors employers value. "-- Read the Full Article

Indoctrination U: Thought Police at the University of Delaware

PajamasMedia:  "In one-on-one sessions with RAs (Resident Assistants), University of Delaware students were questioned: “When did you discover your sexual identity?” In dorm meetings, they were pressured to pledge their allegiance to university-approved views on race, sexuality and environmentalism. When FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) spotlighted the indoctrination, a university official defended the “free exchange of ideas.” A few days later, the program was canceled ... How can academics talk about “critical thinking” while turning residence halls into reeducation camps? Well, they meant well. Everyone agrees they meant well. If only academics were capable of thinking critically about their own assumptions."-- Read the Full Article

Harvard Puts An Academic Face on Poker

The Boston Globe: Cambridge,MA — "While politicians ponder the future of gambling in the state, maverick Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson is bringing Texas Hold 'em into the classroom ... 'I like poker because it's a way of thinking,' said Nesson, whose classes examine the legal and ethical issues of the game. 'People who are into poker have a lot of trouble holding on to absolutes. To me, it's a way of thinking liberally and seeing what the world looks like from another person's point of view' ... Nesson, 68, who calls himself 'Eon, dean of cyberspace' and also teaches in the virtual world Second Life, partnered with the student-led Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society last month to bring seminars such as 'Poker: A Game of Truth in Life and Law' and 'Law as Rhetorical Poker' to campus. The lectures along with guest speakers ranging from attorneys and professors to poker greats are part of a wider push to give the game a serious academic treatmen ... Poker has exploded in popularity through televised tournaments and online gaming and has become a serious legal topic, whether it is a debate over how the game should be regulated, the threat of gambling addiction, online gaming's role in international trade, or poker as a proving ground for skills essential for business, law, and modern-day survival ... Harvard is home to the new Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society, a student-led organization that evangelizes on behalf of the game, with chapters at the University of California at Los Angeles, and Brown, Stanford, and Yale universities. Visiting professor Kevin Washburn is teaching gaming law at Harvard this semester ... 'I've been trying to get someone's attention about this for years. Poker is a microcosm for life," said Crandell Addington, a Texas poker legend who founded the World Series of Poker and came to last month's seminar to discuss the game ... Addington retired from the game more than two decades ago and now works as chief executive and chairman of Phoenix Biotechnology, a life sciences company that focuses on cancer research. He credits poker with many of the skills that have propelled him to success in the business world."-- Read the Full Article

The Fine Art of (Not) Lecturing

The Toronto Star:  "High in the upper balcony of Canada's largest classroom, a student waves her arm to the stage below ...'Black suit?' she calls down to psychology professor Dax Urbszat, who is asking 1,200 first-year students to recall what he wore the first day to class ... 'Wrong! Come on people; you watched me three hours that day,' prods Urbszat through his headset mike. 'Brown suit?' comes a guess from the Convocation Hall floor. In this three-hour lecture on memory, the University of Toronto students are testing theirs from the month before ...'I don't even own a brown suit. See? We remember only those things we think have meaning at the time, and ignore everything else,' says Urbszat. 'I tell you what: If someone gets it right, I'll tell you a question from the final exam' ...  Green shirt? White tie? Black shirt? ... All wrong ... But the notion that people don't remember what they don't pay attention to is now etched into first-year minds ... Here in the most daunting teaching venue in the country – a three-tiered, chandeliered hall of 1,500 seats booked with classes from Monday to Friday – the cut and thrust of the Q and A survives against tough odds ... If it can make it here, it can make it anywhere – which is good, because it's the intellectual cut and thrust that opens the brain to deep learning, says Nobel laureate Carl Wieman, Canada's new guru of science teaching. Wieman, who runs a think-tank on teaching science at the University of British Columbia, was flown here recently to help 500 U of T and York professors rethink how they teach ... His message? Don't drone. Get students talking and guessing and arguing. Our short-term memory can only process four ideas at a time, he warns, so don't try to cram whole chapters into an hour. In a nutshell: reduce the load; stimulate the brain ...'I can't imagine a three-hour lecture, personally, but getting students to flex their brains during class rather than just sit there passively is exactly what we want to see,' Wieman said in an interview ... It's that interaction – the answering and arguing and persuading – that stimulates protein in the brain, which in turn helps anchor ideas into long-term memory, he says ... This is crucial, says Wieman, if Canada hopes to produce the level of scientific savvy people need in an age when everything from farming to foreign policy is touched by science ... Science departments across North America lose wonderful students every year because we turn them off with first-year courses they find dry,' agrees York biologist Tanya Noel, a member of a new university committee designed to help science profs grab students' hearts and minds ...'We can't afford to be losing creative minds,' says Noel, 'not when critical thinking and problem-solving skills are increasingly important no matter what work you do.'"-- Read the Full Article

ACS Workshops Explore Effective Teaching

The Lebonon Daily Star:  Beirut — "The American Community School (ACS) hosted the annual NESA training workshop for in-service teachers Friday on the school's campus in Ras Beirut. ACS is a member of the Near East and South Asia (NESA) association of overseas schools, which serves member schools by facilitating sustainable and systematic school improvement ... ACS teachers, educators from Lebanese and Syrian private schools, and education students from Haigazian University were among the many attendees welcomed by the school's president, George Damon and AUB president John Waterbury, the conference's keynote speaker ... In a speech titled, 'Learning and Teaching and of the Two, Learning is More Important,' Waterbury recounted lessons he had learned as a youth swimming instructor ...'I learned that making a nonthreatening game out of [swimming], without shaming or ridiculing any of them, promoted self-learning and some self-confidence,' he said ... Waterbury described teaching as 'a battle that is never won [and one that] takes a special perseverance and devotion' ... 'The sessions allow presenters to communicate and share teaching experiences from their classrooms, with the educators searching for the best teaching practices - what has worked, and what hasn't,' said Amira Hachem, the NESA representative in Lebanon ... Lebanese public schools have never taken part in the annual NESA conference. However, Hachem may begin to include several public schools in next year's workshops. "Public schools need extra attention," she said, while praising several private schools for being 'on the right track' ... As an American school, Hachem said, the ACS curriculum caters to the development of a well-rounded child, emphasizing critical thinking and analytical skills. She expressed disappointment with the Lebanese education system's failure to promote the social development of students, and its emphasis the importance of memorization."-- Read the Full Article

Nazi Art, A Few More Thoughts

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A number of people have written to the paper and to Whitney Gould and I about the article we wrote about the Grohmann Museum. As you've likely read, some of the artists represented in the collection were commissioned to create work for the Nazi regime and some of the paintings may portray forced labor ... Many have written in saying that these are just landscapes, just scenes of industry and bridge building. There are no swastikas, no SS soldiers. They're harmless, some say ... I've been thinking about this. In a way what is so insidious about this art is how harmless it appears -- and appeared in its day. These artworks were made to glorify Nazi ideals, and to make those ideals, in fact, appear normal and acceptable. Art and architecture were used in this way to establish Nazi power and the myths about the German people and state ... So, to look on these works as simply "normal" pictures of landscape and industry all over again, is to disregard the true history in a particularly poignant way. It in fact allows the artwork to function now as it did then, to a lesser degree, of course ... By not akowledging the origins of these works, MSOE has made a whitewashing of a singular and gruesome history seem like no big deal. As if it were normal ... This is particularly eggregious for an institution of higher learning, one that has said so publicly stated that it wants to bring the humanities and critical thinking to an engineering school. By simply alerting visitors to the origins and purposes of the works in question the school could illuminate history in a truly valuable and rare way."-- Read the Full Article

A Business Best Seller in Japan

Business Week: "What do you get when you combine a guitar-playing eggplant with McKinsey-style reasoning? In Japan, a best-selling business book. Titled The World's Easiest Problem-Solving Class, it aims to teach consultant-style analysis to middle and high schoolers in a country where test-taking and rote memorization are second nature to kids at an early age. But since its June release the book has been snapped up by adults, rising as high as No. 2 on Amazon (AMZN) Japan, where it currently ranks No. 26 with 250,000 copies in print ... Author Kensuke Watanabe, a Japanese national who was educated in the U.S. and Japan and worked as a McKinsey & Co. consultant for nearly six years, says he wants to teach Japanese kids to "use critical thinking skills more and be more proactive in shaping the world." -- Read the Full Article

Pupils Urged to Get Newspaper Habit

The Border Morning Mail: Wodonga, Victoria — "Wodonga children are being encouraged to do what you are doing right now ... No, not sitting, at breakfast or procrastinating at work but reading a paper ... Wodonga Council is hoping its News’vember literary program will get youngsters interested in newspapers ... 'It is amazing what you can learn from reading a newspaper,' Norske Skog’s Andrew Garrett, whose employer is sponsoring the project, said ...'It can be used to provide lessons in basic reading, mathematics, politics, science, social studies, geography and critical thinking.'"-- Read the Full Article

Tearing Down the Berlin Wall of the American Campus

FrontPage Magazine: "Last week belonged to conservatives: Over one hundred campuses across the country hosted events as part of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a project initiated by the David Horowitz Freedom Center ... Publisher of and a 1959 Columbia University graduate, Horowitz returned to his alma mater Friday, unwelcome to many. 'When I came to this campus as a freshman 52 years ago,' Horowitz said, 'the gates and the atmosphere was a lot more hospitable to actual thinking than it is today.' Horowitz was a Marxist as an undergraduate …Another veteran activist/author who increasingly finds herself on the politically right side of the divide, Phyllis Chesler, spoke during an earlier event at Columbia on Wednesday. Joining her were Ibn Warraq, founder of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society, and Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men ... 'It is time to take the campus back so that the rights of free speech and academic freedom also apply to those who tell the truth about Islam and who espouse minority and dissident intellectual points of view,' Chesler said to the 100-person crowd ...'We’re breaking the taboo of ‘you can’t talk about Islam critically or objectively without risking being called a racist’…. It’s tragic that we need security to do so,' she told The Jewish Press, referring to the security guards hired by David Horowitz for the evening."-- Read the Full Article

Longing for IHUM

The Stanford Daily: "There’s an old adage, 'longer is better,' that is often misapplied or incorrect. When it comes to the length of Introduction to the Humanities (IHUM) sections, however, longer truly is better ... Last year’s IHUM self-study evaluated student input from five informal focus groups, 1,283 online survey respondents and a number of IHUM professors and Teaching Fellows. The study noted many students’ grievances with the 90-minute sections and recommended that the IHUM Governance Board 'delete the stipulation of 90-minute discussion groups.' Following this recommendation, this year’s IHUM courses were trimmed from five to four units and now have two 50-minute discussion sections per week. This reduction, however, is detrimental to students and to the program’s stated goal of the 'development of diverse analytical and critical skills for interpretation of primary texts' ... The most obvious reason why shortening discussion sections negatively impacts the IHUM experience is a matter of “too much material, not enough time.' The readings remain as long as ever, and when a student knows that most of what he read outside of class will not be covered in section, he experiences little incentive to complete the reading. If a student is expected to read a 60-page Supreme Court case or an entire treatise on political philosophy, he should have more than 50 minutes to discuss the myriad issues that a close reading of the text inevitably produces ... IHUM, as last year’s self-study revealed, is generally achieving its educational goals of sharpening critical thinking and aiding freshman in transitioning to a college level. It has its supporters and detractors in both humanities and more technically oriented students. The decision to shorten section times does little to change scheduling flexibility issues and discourages students from engaging completely with the texts in and out of class. For this reason, IHUM sections should once again be 90 minutes (or possibly expanded to include three 50-minute sections). Turns out that old adage is right after all."-- Read the Full Article

Helping Teachers Use Digital Media

The Arizona Republic: "Pressure is building for educators to grow the critical thinking and problem-solving skills today's students need to compete in a 21st-century global workforce ... Carly Shortz, a volunteer from Kingswood Elementary School in Surprise, organizes educators statewide to improve student achievement through the use of digital media and other educational technologies ... Shortz is events co-chair for the Arizona Discovery Educator Network Leadership Council. Arizona is one of the first states to organize a statewide leadership council. Discovery Educator Network Leadership Councils support teachers integrating educational technologies into existing curriculum with training events, networking opportunities and regular communications on emerging technologies and educational innovations."-- Read the Full Article

Neil Tambe: A Request for Criticism

The Michigan Daily (University of Michigan):  "With this week's unmasking of Johnny Quest, the notorious blogger who wrote sarcastically about the Greek community, our campus lost one of its newest icons and also one of its most critical voices ... Although his conduct was childish at times, Quest's blog posts added a valuable critique of campus culture. Campus communities and groups lack constructive external criticism, a valuable tool to improve organizations. Our campus could use more voices like Johnny's ... Quest was useful to campus because he brought freshness and consistency to the infrequent and usually mundane criticisms leveled against campus groups. He was a muckraker who ruffled feathers, was unafraid to be candid and was undeterred by political correctness. He was sarcastic without being an extremist. More important, his blog posts were more like a conversation that prompted many dissenters to disagree freely, which they did, rather than a lecture. Quest's writing was a quasi-exercise in organizational evaluation and encouraged critical thinking and argument."-- Read the Full Article

University Teachings 'Whites are Racist' Dropped!

World Net Daily: "University of Delaware officials, who just a day earlier had defended a residence hall series of teachings on which WND reported that told students "all whites are racists," today announced the program is being stopped ... 'While I believe that recent press accounts misrepresent the purpose of the residential life program at the University of Delaware, there are questions about its practices that must be addressed and there are reasons for concern that the actual purpose is not being fulfilled. It is not feasible to evaluate these issues without a full and broad-based review,' said a statement posted on the school's website by President Patrick Harker ... 'Upon the recommendation of Vice President for Student Life Michael Gilbert and Director of Residence Life Kathleen Kerr, I have directed that the program be stopped immediately. No further activities under the current framework will be conducted,' he said ... His statement said the school 'strives for an environment in which all people feel welcome to learn, and which supports intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, free inquiry and respect for the views and values of an increasingly diverse population. The University is committed to the education of students as citizens, scholars and professionals and their preparation to contribute creatively and with integrity to a global society. The purpose of the residence life educational program is to support these commitments.'" -- Read the Full Article