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October 2007

No College Left Behind?

The Georgetown Independent:  "Better wait before throwing away those Number 2 pencils; soon, even college students may be required to take performance-measuring standardized tests ... Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, still dealing with the fallout from the controversial No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program, has proposed a similar plan for colleges. Last year, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which Spellings created, concluded that colleges should "measure and report meaningful student learning outcomes," that tests should be used for purposes of comparison, and that accreditation should be heavily dependent on the outcomes and publication of these tests ... In support of these findings, Charles Miller, the chairman of the commission, stated, 'We need to assure that the American public understands through access to sufficient information, particularly in the area of student learning, what they are getting for their investment in a college education' ... Many academics are worried that a standardized testing format for colleges would lead to a mandate similar to NCLB, which critics have said actually hurts schools because it forces tests but does not provide funding necessary to help them meet goals. The backgrounds of Spellings and Miller help fuel this speculation; Spellings has advised Bush on education at the state and federal levels and was instrumental in implementing NCLB, while Miller, as a member of the Board of the Regents of the University of Texas System, helped make the system first in the nation to require the use of standardized testing and publication of the outcomes ... Georgetown Professor Heather Voke, who studies education policy and school reform, is not among those getting onboard. "I think it would be a horrible mistake to apply the high-stakes testing approach that has been used in middle and high schools to higher education,' Voke said. 'As we've seen in the case of No Child Left Behind, the power that this would give the federal government over teaching and learning is far-reaching; this small measure leverages big changes in what and how teachers will be able to teach in classrooms across the country. Such changes aren't incidental--they're exactly what this policy and NCLB hope to produce' ... Others echo Voke's concerns about negating the freedom and individual character of professors and institutions."-- Read the Full Article

Humming History's Tune

Lancaster Online: Lancaster County, PA —  "A Penn Manor High School teacher recently used music as a catalyst for critical thinking in her American history class ... But her use of music is nowhere near the likes of 'Schoolhouse Rock!' or 'The Alphabet Song' ... 'This is more profound thinking,' Lara Paparo says ... Last week, during a lesson on the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Paparo played the song 'You Will Go' for her freshman classes ... She's the first history teacher in the nation to use this song in a classroom ... 'You Will Go' is part of a musical American history program by Emmy-Award winning composer Lynda Roth of Laguna Beach, Calif ... Penn Literacy Network, a professional development program in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, has partnered with Roth to put her music in classrooms ... Roth's brainchild is called The Muse Project ... Its first program, 'America Revealed,' is a choral curriculum derived from original texts in American history and literature." -- Read the full Article

Decisions 'At Face Value'

Insights and Ideas About Critical Thinking and Problem Solving:  "Princeton University released the findings of a very interesting research project. The study involved showing participants a pair of faces for a very brief period of time – as short as a tenth of a second. After viewing the faces, the participants were asked to reveal their 'gut reaction' as to which face appeared more competent ... The faces shown were actually the images of individuals running against each other in political races. If a study participant recognized any of the faces, their input was thrown out of the study. In the data that remained, researchers made a startling discovery. Roughly 70% of the time, the face selected as 'more competent' was the face of the winning candidate in recent senate and gubernatorial elections. While the study only proves that facial recognition is a decent way to beat the odds in predicting election winners, it begs two questions. First…'How in the world could I have lost that 7th grade Student Council election to Billy ‘Crazy Eyes’ Cunningham?' Second… 'How do we truly make decisions that affect our lives?'... From a political standpoint, Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Iowa, says that we really only make these snap judgements if we don’t have a lot of information to go on. Apparently, if I don’t know a candidate’s position on the issues most important to me, I suppose his haircut and eye color will suffice. Scary thought. These unnamed gut reactions could drive a decision that affects futures ... The key to an effective decision making process is describing your decision criteria in detail before you enter into the decision itself. Assure that everyone understands not only what will be the factors in the decision, but which will be most important. Is cost more important than quality? Is speed to market more important than impact to our existing customers? If a decision making team can reach consensus on these issues, then the decision itself becomes much easier when you can see how each alternative measures up against the criteria you have established. What’s more, after the decision is made, others can clearly see the rationale behind the decision, and are less likely to challenge the initial choice."-- Read the Full Article

Kentucky Rethinks Gen Ed

Inside Higher Education: "It was time, explains Kumble R. Subbaswamy, provost of the University of Kentucky. Faculty and administrators there hadn’t considered major changes to the general education curriculum for nearly two decades ... Several years after a review of Kentucky’s current program began, the campus earlier this month received something tangible to discuss. A faculty committee released its general education reform proposal and called it a “radical departure” from what’s now in place, a common requirement that students choose from among a list of survey courses ... Much of the new program would be specially designed mini-courses taught in five-week segments during students’ freshman year. The courses would emphasize how professors approach major issues in their fields. But some faculty see the proposed changes as only complicating the curriculum and adding more work for them ... The committee offers a harsh assessment of Kentucky’s current general education package, saying it 'is often described as an arbitrary collection of unrelated courses. The curriculum is not blended into a coherent, well-integrated program; it instead appears to be fragmented' ... Many of the 100-level courses currently offered will continue to serve as prerequisites for many programs, but Subbaswamy expect enrollments in these courses to decline ... The committee said its report is part of — and also a response to — a national conversation about how changes to general education requirements can help students be better prepared. It cites two studies that influenced its thinking about the importance of spurring analytical thinking: the report 'College Learning for the New Global Century' and Harvard President Derek Bok’s book Our Underachieving Colleges ... At Kentucky, faculty members last week had their chance to speak out on the proposal before it returns to the steering committee and eventually goes up for a University Senate vote, which could come as early as December ... Subbaswamy, who helped appoint the committee, said he is pleased thus far with the conversation since the recommendations went public ...'There’s been a strong desire for more coherence,' he said. 'We’re concerned about whether we’ve become too menu-driven and whether we are helping students develop the skills needed for critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning.'”-- Read the Full Article

'Day of Science' Draws 1,400 to Recruitment Fair

KnoxNews (Scripps Newspaper Group): "As its workers near retirement, the U.S. Department of Energy faces a potential crisis filling positions at its national laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory ... Couple that with America's loss of competitive advantage in science and engineering in recent years, and you have the backdrop for the "Day of Science" on Monday at the Knoxville Convention Center, a DOE recruitment fair for students interested in careers at U.S. national laboratories ... The average age of the DOE worker is 50, said Jeff Pon, chief human capital officer for the DOE ... 'That means we're in a human capital crisis, if you will, in getting the most qualified people in science, technology, engineering, math and management into our ranks,' Pon said ... The Day of Science that ORNL typically holds draws 250 to 275 students. That number went up this year ... This year 1,400 students from 125 colleges and universities registered. In particular, the DOE reached out to black students. A third of schools represented were historically black colleges and universities ... The recruiting fair also drew attention to the challenge the U.S. faces in getting more students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics ... Science and math curriculum is difficult, and American students don't always have the motivation to tackle the work, said Johanna Vega, a sophomore biology major at St. Phillips. Students need to be taught critical thinking and analysis, she noted."-- Read the Full Article

Education Board Self-Evaluates Plans

News 14 Carolina: Greensboro, NC -- "The State Board of Education took stock of North Carolina's education performance over the last year during a three-day retreat ... The 11-member panel is also raising the bar for the next year and finetuning programs it hopes will better prepare the state's school children for the future ... The annual retreat includes activities like team building, but the first order of business was an honest self-assessment of the Board's success at meeting goals it set for itself this time last year ... 'We certainly set for ourselves improving the graduation rate," said Board chairman Howard Lee. 'We did that. It was up slightly this past year' ...The Board says one of the largest challenges is preparing the state's young people for the ever-changing marketplace for jobs ... 'Today's job market requires that students have really rigorous math classes and science courses,' said Garland. 'And business and industry are also telling us that our students need the soft skills that we don't actually offer courses in like critical thinking, problem solving, communication' ... Garland and Lee call them 21st Century skills, ones the Board is set on infusing in all of the state's classrooms, so North Carolina's graduating students can compete successfully as adults."-- Read the Full Article

New Interview with Paleontologist Jack Horner

M&C (Books): "He had a character loosely based on him in Jurassic Park and is also the author of several books—and now he is being featured in a full, online interview ... In it he speaks of growing up in Montana, his career, his education as well as his beliefs on education ... One of the interesting points he makes is that he feels students don’t need to be taught more “facts” and instead needs to focus more on critical thinking ... You can read more about what Jack Horner has to say here ... DS: This is the sixth DSI, and we begin querying perhaps the most well known paleontologist in the nation, John R. Horner, better known to the public via his books and PBS appearances as Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, especially since you are a noted globetrotter. There are many queries that I would like to put to you, personal and professional, but let’s commence with the basics. I always allow my interviewees to introduce themselves to potential readers who have not heard of their work, so could you please elucidate the uninitiated as to who you are, what you do, what your aims in your career are, and your general philosophy, if you will, on life, science, and the cosmos? "-- Read the Full Article

Why Don't More Entrepreneurs Use Critical Thinking?

Lushbooks (Blog): Why Don’t More Entrepreneurs Use Critical Thinking?
There are probably three main reasons that more entrepreneurs do not use critical thinking ... 1. Critical thinking is not learned naturally by most people, without catalyzing conditions ... 2. It’s not commonly taught in the public education system, if anywhere at all, and certainly not in many careers ... 3. The results of critical thinking sometimes resemble idealism, and there’s a chain of confusion about idealism. It’s confused by some with “bleeding-heart liberalism”, which is confused with socialism, which is confused with communism - considered a sin by most Americans. Idealism and communism are wholly different, but how do you go against this kind of societal misconception?... Having capital to throw at a problem often dulls the thought process towards coming up with more cost-effective, efficient solutions."-- Read the Full Article

Reporting the Pakistani Taliban 'Confession'

CBC News (Alberta) — Kandahar Dispatches: "For the media at Kandahar Airfield, it was a bizarre weekend to say the least ... One event in particular reminded us that we are definitely not in Canada. Our phones started buzzing, practically simultaneously, early Saturday afternoon. Text messages, phone calls, e-mails were coming in from our 'fixers' ... They are the local journalists we hire to keep an eye on things outside the wire, videotape 'breaking news' we can't get to quickly and help us conduct and translate interviews in Pashto and Dari ... They had important news, they told us ... Afghan Security Intelligence Officials were having a news conference in the late afternoon ... Brief mentions of the arrests of several 'Pakistani Taliban' were followed by promises of updates when possible ... The local media gathered to find they were being offered an opportunity to interview three Pakistani men, who had an amazing tale to tell ... In leg shackles, they were paraded into a room by security agents, later telling a tale of being recruited to 'do jihad' in Afghanistan, because foreigners were oppressing Muslims ... After training for three days to fire Russian guns and set explosives, they were on their way to Uruzgan Province to do their Muslim duty, but along the way they had doubts about their mission, they claimed ... They could see only Muslims and no foreigners or infidels (words that are often interchangeable in these parts). They were, according to Afghan authorities, arrested before they reached their destination to carry out jihad on the foreigners ... The three had now seen the error of their ways and said they'd been duped by their recruiter in Pakistan. They asked forgiveness of the Afghan government and promised, if released, to tell others not to believe the lies they'd believed ,,, They insisted they had not been coerced to say anything. I asked my fixer how this story would play out in the local Afghan media. He told me virtually all the media are pro-government in Kandahar, so the story would very likely be told as an heroic tale of capture and conversion, and would be unquestioned ... This is where the dilemma begins for the Canadian media .. I thought it might be interesting for the news junkies out there to peer into our processes a bit and see how we decide to treat such stories. There was a flurry of calls to the assignment desk, to editors, to show producers, as everyone weighed in on the legitimacy of the story ... There was never any consideration to put the story out there 'unquestioned.' Obviously, there was no way of our checking the veracity of their claims ... However, there was also no dismissing this story as unimportant. It's well known that fresh supplies of insurgent fighters (and such things as cash and weapons) are brought in through Pakistan. Trying to keep relations neighbourly with Pakistan, it's not something Afghan officials like to talk about, but NATO commanders will tell you it's one of the biggest challenges they face ... Journalists like their stories to be neatly wrapped up with a bow: a beginning, middle and an ending nicely woven together in a package of words ...There are too many loose ends in this story for my liking. But, we tell you the story the best we can. We tell you what we know for sure and we raise questions even if we don't have all the answers ... We add a healthy dose of skepticism to the parts that seem a little too convenient. But, most of all, we have faith in you, our readers, viewers and listeners, to bring your own critical thinking to the table."-- Read the Full Article

Intel Corporation Presents Holistic Approach for the Effective Use of ICT in Education

Al Bawaba:  Jordan — “'Implementation of ICT in education is instrumental to economic development,' says Intel Director of Worldwide Corporate Affairs ... Educators, students and pedagogues today attended the Intel World Ahead Program - Education Workshop  designed to promote the innovative and effective use of ICT in education. The workshop, held at the Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa on October 27th, presented a framework for analyzing policies in ICT, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, teacher training, and school organization ... Speaking at the workshop, Shelly Esque, Director of Worldwide Corporate Affairs for Intel Corporation said, "Knowledge is the source of comparative advantage in today’s global economy. Technology enables the rapid evolution of ideas and industries, and those who benefit most are those who can innovate and adapt most quickly. For these reasons, success at the individual, and ultimately the national level, is linked to the quality of education. Students must develop key 21st century skills such as digital literacy, problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration. They must also excel in mathematics, science, and engineering – the building blocks of technical innovation.'"-- Read the Full Article

"All the World’s a Stage" - The Updated Version

The QandO Blog (Free Markets, Free People):I recall the old joke about the teenager reading Shakespeare for the first time and complaining that it had too many cliches in it. Those with a bit better sense of history may chuckle at that, but it's indicative of a real problem in discussing current events. Those with no sense of history can make certain very elementary mistakes when trying to interpret current events ...  Even worse are those whose views on history are taken from superficial or flawed sources, but don't realize that their sources are questionable. Mark Steyn goes to work on those folks ... 'It seems to me, for example, that when antiwar types bemoan Iraq as this generation’s Vietnam “quagmire,” older folks are thinking of the real Vietnam — the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and whatnot — but most anybody under 50 is thinking of Vietnam movies: some vague video-store mélange of The Full Metal Deer Apocalypse. Take the Scott Thomas Beauchamp debacle at The New Republic, in which the magazine ran an atrocity-a-go-go Baghdad diary piece by a serving soldier about dehumanized troops desecrating graves, abusing disfigured women, etc. It smelled phony from the get-go — except to the professional media class from whose ranks The New Republic’s editors are drawn: To them, it smelled great, because it aligned reality with the movie looping endlessly through the windmills of their mind, a non-stop Coppola-Stone retrospective in which ill-educated conscripts are the dupes of a nutso officer class'... Unlike WWII, for which there was a range of movies was made, Vietnam movies pretty much all reflect the 'quagmire', 'immoral war', 'baby killing' narrative. And if you didn't live through that era, how else do you get your impressions of Vietnam? ... Of course, Steyn is a movie and drama critic, as well as being a top rank political columnist. So he notices another impact of movieitis: ...' It’s the same with all those guys driving around with “9/11 Was An Inside Job” bumper stickers. That aligns reality with every conspiracy movie from the last three decades: It’s always the government who did it' ...  I'd never thought of that, but it makes perfect sense. By any reasonable standards of logic, the Truthers are utterly delusional. Heck, even Bill Clinton sees that ... How did they get that way? Well, their education in many cases doesn't really teach them critical thinking skills, so believing that Oliver Stone has a better take on JKF than the Warren Commission because he presents his conclusions in a more polished form is not an unlikely trap to fall into. "-- Read the Full Article

Bondar Backs Gore's Truth

The Vancouver Province: "Canada's first woman in space says the Oscar-winning documentary about climate change featuring Al Gore may be self-serving, but it should still be brought into classrooms for discussion to promote critical thinking ...'Sometimes you have to hit human beings on the head with a hammer in order to give them a headache that will make them respond,' said former astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar ... Bondar, who was in Ottawa last week for the North American launch of a new United Nations report on the state of the global environment, said An Inconvenient Truth started important discussions in society despite its weaknesses ... Bondar's comments came a few days after two well-known climate scientists, Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann, published an online article that slammed the media for recent coverage of a British court judgment on Gore's movie. They suggested the judgment was taken out of context by some reporters who downplayed the judge's decision not to restrict British schools from showing the movie, focusing instead on nine "errors" made by Gore, listed in the ruling ...'The judge, Justice Burton, found that 'Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate,'" the climate experts wrote in an article published at"-- Read the Full Article

In Arabia, a Glimmer of Hope

Daily News: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — "Teen-age schoolgirls giggled and snapped pictures with their cell phone cameras as they took turns posing with the visiting celebrity. Some gave the guest a polite peck on the cheek while others wanted an autograph ... The scene would not have been shocking at a rock concert in America. But here in the Arab world, it was a moment of breathtaking hopefulness. The celebrity was Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, and most of the girls were dressed in black Islamic robes and head coverings, some showing only their eyes ... As role models go, a female African peace activist is hardly standard fare in the Persian Gulf. But a revolution in this oil-rich Arab nation has begun, one waged with the help of imported soft power from around the globe. If the rest of the Arab world follows, and if America takes yes for an answer, peace might have a chance ... This tiny country of 4 million, 75% of whom are foreign workers, has long been friendly with America. We have air bases here, and Emirates' troops took part in the 1991 war to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait ... But something new and dramatic is happening - a movement to embrace Western educational ideals. Scientific standards, liberal arts and even critical thinking are now openly praised. American-style philanthropy is taking hold. First Lady Laura Bush got a red-carpet welcome on her trip to promote breast cancer awareness. The Louvre and Guggenheim are building museums. New York University is building a campus, and the New York Academy of Sciences signed cooperation deals with the government ... That such striking initiatives are coming from a Sunni Muslim theocracy, even a moderate one, is something I didn't believe until I got here. I was part of an invasion of some 200 foreigners for a conference grandly called the Festival of Thinkers. Sponsored by the government, which paid our expenses, the gathering featured 16 Nobel Prize winners, scholars, scientists, educators and journalists."-- Read the Full Article

Dedicated Teachers Need Of The Hour

BruneiDirect.Com:  Bandar Seri Begawan — "Teachers are a major force in education and are expected to equip themselves with dedication to prepare the nation of Brunei Darussalam towards becoming a progressive, peaceful and prosperous country ... Committed Teachers Enhance the Capability of the Nation or Guru Beriltizam Memperkasa Bangsa is the theme for Teachers' Day 2007 celebrations. This year's Teachers' Day theme refers to the idea that Brunei is in need of a society that is able, self-reliant and capable of facing challenges in the international arena. The affluence and integrity of a nation can only be realised by its people who are skilled and is able to achieve progress and development in all aspects. In order to develop as a country, human resource plays a very crucial part and this is where teachers come in as the primary agents for the process of change. Teachers need to understand that they have to possess dedication and commitment to their profession ... Students today, are tomorrow's leaders and it is in teachers that we entrust the responsibility of upholding the Bruneian identity. The Bruneian nation needs to enhance its capability for the Bruneian identity to ensure its capabilities to reach an equal status to other nations in the world ... Dedicated practitioners of the teaching profession are considered as excellent models that should be highly educated and motivated, creative yet innovative and effective in their teaching. They should also utilise the variety of different teaching strategies and methods available in their classes. In order for teachers to bring about a healthy and harmonious interaction with their students, they need to adopt an effective management and leadership styles. This stimulates the development of analytical and critical thinking skills of school children. Committed teachers work hard and persistently try to mould a citizen that is knowledgeable, able to excel and is patriotic."-- Read the Full Article

Shippensburg University Celebrates its New President

The Sentinel: "William N. Ruud was ceremoniously inaugurated as Shippensburg University’s 15th president Friday morning in the Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University ... another theme at the event was the amount of change facing the world and the role of education in managing the changes technology and the information explosion are bringing. Both Ruud and the guest speaker, Gerald S. Jakubowski, the president of the prominent engineering college Rose-Hulman Institute of Techology in Terre Haute, Ind., and one of Ruud’s best friends, focused on the need to educate as many people as possible so that critical thinking skills can be brought to bear on the management and understanding of technology and information ... Ruud said Albert Einstein once said, 'We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used to create them.' "-- Read the Full Article

Policon PSA: Critical Thinking "A little change of pace for us ... I found this entry in my textbook today, "Introduction to Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice: Grossmont College Edt." (P.J. Ortmeier, 2006, Pearson Education, Inc.), and personally feel that to evaluate myself on the following standards every so often is a useful practice, so I would like to share it with everyone ...  The Critical Thinker: Knows what he or she does not know ... Is open-minded and takes time to reflect on ideas ... Pays attention to those who agree and disagree with him or her ... Looks for good reasons to accept or reject expert opinion ... Is concerned with unstated assumptions and what is not said, in addition to what is stated outright ... Insists on getting the best evidence ... Reflects on how well conclusions fit premises and vice versa. The Uncritical Thinker: Thinks he or she knows everything ... Is close-minded and impulsive; jumps to unwarranted conclusions ... Pays attention only to those who agree with him or her ... Disregards evidence as to who is speaking with legitimate authority ... Is concerned only with what is stated, not with what is implied ... Ignores sources of evidence ... Disregards the connection or lack of connection between evidence and conclusions ...  I also use this excellent page from Cal State Northridge that outlines the logical fallacies. Knowing them is the first step to guarding against them in one's own discussions: ... Ok, back on topic now, just thought this stuff was interesting. Going to read the fallacies page again during dinner myself. I caught myself in the Argumentum ad misericordiam today, and I don't have a blackboard to write out "I will not appeal to pity" 50 times on." -- Read the Full Article

District 196 Tries a New Approach to Identifying Gifted-and-Talented Students

Minnesota This Week Newspapers: "Cedar Park Elementary gifted-and-talented teacher Jennifer Griffin puts a slide up with four pictures – a dog, a cat, a car, and an apple ... 'Which of these four items doesn’t belong?' she asks a group of restless kindergartners ... She’s not necessarily looking for a 'right' answer. In Griffin’s class, there are any number of 'right' answers. What she’s really looking for is any sign of complex thinking."-- Read the Full Article

Good Teaching and Learning

The Huffington Post: "OK, I'm tired of writing negative blogs. Is everything bad? Southern California is burning (check out Mike Davis' 'The Case for Letting Malibu Burn' in The Ecology of Fear for an understanding of the political social basis of these disasters). The war slogs on. But I need a happy blog. OK, so here is a little praise for good schooling, that rare and delightful practice we sometimes come across. Even though I'm doing some PhD studies at UC, I still get a chance to go back and visit my comrades from Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Berkeley High and to observe the classes where I used to teach. Still wonderful stuff going on there! And, now that I'm reading, reading, reading, I have more words, more language, to describe what I saw in my years of high school teaching. What works? What sucks? I'm starting to have more to say about this ... It so happens that a fellow grad student called my attention last week to a new book published by University of California Press, Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education, by Peter Sacks. In his investigation, Sacks spent some time at Berkeley High and he ended up interviewing Doug Powers, the lead teacher of the Academic Choice program, and me, the lead teacher (at the time) of CAS and main spokes-person for small schools. Being interviewed of course is frustrating. . . there is so much more I wish I had said to Sacks. But in the main he gets it right, characterizing the conflicting philosophies and approaches to learning held by the elite track and the diversity oriented teachers, students, and families ...A key aspect of the issue of equity and access (the democratic responsibility to educate all students), is in examining how these two sides, these two approaches, think of teaching and learning. Essentially, Powers and the AC teachers (and most AP teachers), pretty much agree that there is a body of knowledge they need to bestow on the students, and that pedagogical methods (group work, etc.) are so much coddling. Lecture-and-test is how real, muscular teaching is done. Powers asserts, "This school, being an actual functional high school, is, for a lot of kids, delivering a pretty high level of academic knowledge, which I don't feel like most people even understand. I think there is a huge confusion among most people in education. There is an actual knowledge base of what kids should know at the end of high school, and I think that (Bill) Gates doesn't understand it at all." (Sacks, p. 75). The reference to Gates, of course, has to do with the funding his foundation has given to the effort to break up large, factory model schools into smaller learning communities. The story of Academic Choice and its political maneuvers, countering the untracked model of small schools, goading on competitive parents who want to position their children for the "best" colleges, creating a "white flight" panic, is another story - one that Sacks explains quite well ... But let's get back to the teaching and learning issue. A CAS student who could have done well in the AP track had this to say, "In AP US history, you are being taught to get a 5 on the AP test. You are taught the things that are on the AP test and there's no room for anything else. But in CAS US history, and in all of my CAS classes, we focus much more on analysis and critical thinking instead of just having facts and dates thrown at us and having to regurgitate them every two weeks for a test. That is not what it is in CAS. I think it is so much better, because I feel like I'm learning much more, and I'm thinking much more. My thought process has grown so much in CAS. My history teacher's name is Mr. Pratt. He does say, 'You guys need to know what year the Spanish-American War was,' but that's not the most important thing. It's much more important that you're able to think critically about what caused the Spanish-American War and whether the US options were just, and what were the ramifications on foreign policy, and all of that stuff." (Sacks, p. 83). Yes, there are plenty of teachers who do wonderful teaching, cooperative learning, deep exploration. We hear so much about the "problems" in schools but in the classrooms miracles are happening every day."-- Read the Full Article

Middle School in Redmond is First in State to Get IB Status

The Bend Bulletin: "Students and teachers at Redmond’s Obsidian Middle School are celebrating today, and for good reason: Theirs is the first middle school in the state to be authorized as an International Baccalaureate School ... The school was authorized this summer to implement the IB program’s intensive, internationally focused curriculum after eight years of planning, research and staff training. Now, all of Obsidian’s approximately 720 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are learning in a new way, with increased focus on interactive lessons, creative thinking and global outreach ... Administrators hope that after students complete the IB “Middle Years” program, they will be ready to move on to the International School of the Cascades in Redmond, where they can take IB classes for certificates or graduate with an IB diploma, which is recognized at universities around the world ... It’s been a big undertaking to get the program up and running, but according to Redmond Superintendent Vickie Fleming, the results should speak for themselves ... The Middle Years program, which covers the three grades at the middle-school level and continues into ninth and 10th grades at the high school, includes the same statewide curriculum used by other schools, repackaged to fit the IB focus. Students are required to take at least one trimester in each of eight subject areas: humanities, technology, math, arts, sciences, physical education, language arts and foreign languages ... Within those subject areas, teachers are encouraged to transform old lesson plans to include more critical thinking activities and interactive projects. Students are tasked with exploring their own lives through journaling and reaching out with required community service."-- Read the Full Article

Censoring Students Robs Democracy

The Atlanta Journal-Consitution: "There are very few places in high school where students are actually encouraged to develop their own viewpoints and opinions, even if they differ from what's taught by the teacher or read in the textbook. The high school newspaper is one of those places ... In addition to being a monthly publication of school news and student achievement, it serves as a community bulletin board for student opinions. On these pages students learn how to carefully craft their thoughts into meaningful words, and how to tolerate and tactfully respond to opposing viewpoints. These lessons help develop students into citizens for our participatory democracy ... At East Coweta High School, the civics lessons were ceased. Concerned that the content of student editorials might offend some people, Principal Derek Pitts pulled the plug on the student newspaper. Roughly 500 copies of the September issue of Smoke Signals were taken by the administration, mainly due to the content of two opinion columns. One was a satirical column modeled after 18th-century essayist Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" that suggested the bottom of the class be euthanized. Another was a column in which the paper's managing editor criticized the school's beauty contest, questioning its value in education ... Not surprisingly, both pieces spurred some reaction at the school — definitely the intention of any column writer. The discontent it sparked created a great educational opportunity for the entire student body ... Deeply offended at the mere suggestion, despite its satire, of euthanization of students? Upset because being named the school beauty queen is your yearly goal? Then formulate your thoughts, talk to other students, teachers and administrators, do some research supporting your stance, and write a response piece for the next issue ... n an era of No Child Left Behind and the standardization of education, the high school newspaper creates a rare forum where students can actually develop ideas and test their critical thinking skills. Writing a column in the newspaper requires students to thoughtfully craft their opinions, showcase them to the student body and be prepared for criticism of their viewpoints."-- Read the Full Article

HEC to Send 800 Students Abroad on Scholarship

The Post:  Islamabad — "Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Attaur Rehman Thursday said the HEC would make all-out efforts to impart quality education to the youth ... He was addressing the 11th All Pakistan Inter-university debate contest organised by the HEC and the Ministry of Education to promote communication skills and critical thinking among the students. A total of 30 students from different universities took part in the contest ...The chairman said the commission was committed to exploiting the latent potential of the youth through quality education to achieve national prosperity.He said the commission had launched several programmes with generous cooperation of the present government with a view to bringing the country at par with developed countries in terms of socio-economic development ... As part of such efforts, the chairman said, the HEC was offering several scholarship programmes and this year it would send about 800 students under such schemes for higher studies abroad. He said the HEC fully recognised the contributions of teachers as they played a crucial role in molding students into a useful entity of society and the massive raise in university teachers' salaries was a testament to the fact."-- Read the Full Article

Mayor Daley Promotes Science and Technology in Chicago Schools

Medill Reports: Chicago — "Speaking to business leaders and others gathered at a Microsoft Corp.-sponsored expo Thursday, Mayor Richard Daley stressed the need for a high-quality public school system focused on math, science and technology ... 'Our children are competing not just with any classmates when they graduate from high school or undergraduate or graduate school,' Daley told more than 30 people gathered at the Microsoft Innovation Exposition, which was part of the Chicagoland Innovation Summit at Navy Pier. 'They’re really competing with people all over the world' ... Education reform is one of Daley’s pet topics. Fifty-five new schools have opened under Daley’s Renaissance 2010 initiative, launched in 2004 to improve the quality of the city’s public education system. The program’s goal is to launch 100 new schools by 2010 ... On Thursday, Daley accented the importance of preparing students for entry-level jobs right out of high school or after their first year of junior college. He said America lacks a qualified workforce to fill the openings of these entry-level positions ... 'A strong public school system also makes Chicago much more attractive a location for existing businesses as well as new ones because they are educating the workforce of tomorrow,' Daley said ... Daley’s message was echoed by at least one Chicago school principal. Joe Tenbusch, of the Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy in West Humbolt Park, said in an interview Thursday that schools such as his are helping kids compete for jobs ... Technology will be the focus at two new Renaissance 2010 high schools approved Wednesday by the Chicago Board of Education ... One is Virtual Opportunities Inside a School Environment, nicknamed VOISE, a high school slated to open in fall 2008 at Austin High School in Oak Park, which will have an online-based curriculum to help eliminate the need for textbooks ...The other is the Air Force Academy, slated to open in fall 2009 at an undetermined site. It will have a science and engineering-based curriculum designed to prepare students for post-secondary education ...Tenbusch said his school’s curriculum teaches critical thinking, a skill that helps students no matter what field they pursue."-- Read the Full Article


Another Tack: Israel's Hazels and Georges

The Jerusulem Post: "It's a safe bet that when Kurt Vonnegut published his 1961 classic short story 'Harrison Bergeron,' he didn't explicitly have Israel's anomaly in mind. Our local aberration hadn't yet burgeoned, and so the author merely engaged in satirical conjecture about how far a society could go to keep its more insightful members from critical thinking ... The fictional pretext for messing about with perceptive minds was ostensibly virtuous - to uphold the principle that all humans are equal. Thus, to ensure absolute egalitarianism, brighter folks were handicapped to reduce them to the lowest common denominator ... Persecuted genius Harrison's parents, Hazel and George, were cases in point. Hazel, Vonnegut explains, 'had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little 'mental handicap radio' in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains' ...  IN TODAY'S Israel we haven't yet physically implanted microchips to shrilly nullify nonconformist notions, but we might as well have. Thinking heretically out-of-the-box is routinely reproved and impeded in the very state founded by supposedly ultra-clever Jews. Vonnegut's inserted brain-buzzer has simply been supplanted by Israel's equally cacophonous mass media, whose uniformly tendentious, all-pervading messages could well have been scripted by Vonnegut's 'Handicapper General.'" -- Read the Full Article

Real Support

Obsidian Wings: "A brief post, as I'm not somewhere with a dedicated internet connection at the moment. But I couldn't read this comment without (after letting my blood pressure abate) making at least a brief response ... I will note that, of course, I do not speak for all soldiers, or even necessarily any subset of soldiers other than the one containing me. But the notion that hilzoy and Katherine 'support the cause of terrorism' rather than supporting the troops is beyond risible. (And yes, I realize Tom doesn't really merit a response, but I'm responding to all those who think that anyone who doesn't line up uncritically behind the war is somehow undermining the troops.) ... I have no use for the support of people who uncritically assume that, since we're at war, it's their duty to support it in order to help the troops. History is replete with examples of troops getting the shaft during wartime, and the only way to protect them against that is through critical thought. You can oppose the war without opposing the troops; people do that every day. I would much prefer the support of people who have examined the war, found it wanting, and seek to bring me home than those who will continue mindlessly beating the war drum regardless of the circumstances on the ground. (Please note that my own position on the war remains one of principled uncertainty.) ... The sooner people realize that critical thinking is an asset rather than a liability, the better off we will all be."-- Read the Full Article

Fair Use? In Schools, Forget It.

P2PNet News (The Original Daily P2P News Site):  "Freedom — Schools in North America, Asia, Europe and everywhere else in the world are being flooded with deceitful, deceiving, delusive, delusory, disingenuous ‘educational’ materials produced by the entertainment cartels, with the software  houses on their heels, to ‘instruct’ our children on intellectual property law ... And even worse, it’s happening with the full support and cooperation of teaching staffs and administrations, backed by their local governments. These are the people who are supposed to be looking after our children and making sure they’re exposed to high standards of honesty and correct values ... But this intensive invasion of schools, and the corporate mind-rape of our kids by self-interested corporate concerns, has been going on for years and no one, least of all parents and teachers, seems overly concerned ... The idea is, get ‘em while they’re young and their minds are easily imprintable and in the process, the concept of fair use is deliberately being trampled underfoot ... George Abell’s high school students analyze persuasion techniques used in advertising. But they don’t analyze real ads—Abell is too afraid he might run afoul of copyright restrictions. Instead, he spends time in the summer creating dummy ads for them to analyze. They’re not as good, as interesting, or as persuasive. But he’s confident he’s within the school’s guidelines ... Cheryl Jenkowski-Knowles’s students create and analyze art by inserting themselves into portraits from European seventeenth- and eighteenth-century painters. The original project, suggested by a student, was to use album-cover art, but Jenkowski-Knowles wants to stay clear of any question of using copyrighted materials ... In Kwame Nelson’s social studies classes, students make mashups that draw from popular music and the latest political news, as audiovisual op-eds about current affairs. But they don’t show them on the school’s closed-circuit TV system. It might be a copyright violation ... These three hypothetical examples appear in a new publication from the Center for Social Media ... Called The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy, it makes the point that concept of fair use is being ignored in US schools ... The fundamental goals of media literacy education —to cultivate critical thinking about media and its role in culture and society and to strengthen creative communication skills—are compromised by unnecessary copyright restrictions and lack of understanding about copyright law, as interviews with dozens of teachers and makers of media literacy curriculum materials showed."--Read the Full Article

Kids and Work Culture: When I Was Your Age, I Worked 9-to-5

IT Business Edge: "Is familiarity with technology creating a lack of interest in IT careers among today’s students? Maybe so, says Kate Kaiser, an associate professor of IT at Marquette University who is quoted in an interesting Computerworld article about the generation that is poised to enter the workforce in a few short years ... Technology is “an expected part of life” for them, rather than a potential vocation, says Kaiser. That disinterest, along with lingering fallout from the dot-com bust and concerns over offshoring, has led to a 70 percent drop in college freshmen selecting computer science as a major since 2000, according to the Computing Research Association ... Part of the answer may lie in academic programs that seek to blend IT with other business disciplines, like the IT Service Management program that IBM helped create at Missouri State University ... The good news is, thanks to their tech-friendly childhoods, up-and-coming employees enjoy collaborating as part of a team, like to search for solutions, and are comfortable communicating with coworkers in far-flung locations ... The not-so-good news: Many of them lack basic written and oral communication skills. A survey by placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found basic tech skills lacking in 5 percent of college grads, vs. a worrisome 27 percent with deficiencies in critical thinking skills and 50 percent whose writing abilities were not up to snuff."-- Read the Full Article

Lessons From Jack Welch

CNN Money (Investor's Business Daily): — "Jack Welch went to the top at General Electric (NYSE:GE) GE by learning and hurdling boundaries. He redefined himself by setting new goals and building strong teams to reach them, Stephen Baum says in the new book 'What Made Jack Welch Jack Welch: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders' ... To morph from ordinary to extraordinary: ... Break from the pack. 'As a young engineer at General Electric -- working on a project to manufacture a new kind of plastic called PPO -- Welch felt underpaid and unappreciated,' Baum said ... Welch refused to stand pat. He was determined to 'get out of the pile,' he wrote in his memoir, 'Jack: Straight From the Gut.' To sell himself to his boss and promote himself as a leader, he prepared a market analysis of all GE plastic products. The strategy worked ... 'He got more money -- double his (previous) increase -- plus the freedom to do his job'  without bureaucratic oversight, Baum said ... When the general manager slot opened up in the PPO plastics division, "he campaigned hard for it," lobbying his boss for more than a week, Baum said ... Welch got the job ... Keep moving. Learn from the Welch playbook. 'In your current job, identify what accomplishment or level of performance would constitute a sea change in the value of the group,' said Baum. Then 'do the critical thinking and lead the charge.' Repeat that process in each new position."-- Read the Full Article

The Peanut Debate Rages On

Orange County Register:  "Q: I was outraged at the insensitive attitude of the parent who cares more for her child eating peanut butter than the lives of children that are deadly allergic. No one chooses that our children are allergic to peanuts, but we adapt. And quickly, when the allergist tells new parents that your child has a 50 percent chance of dying if they ingest anything with peanuts! ... My family grew up eating peanut butter and my parents grew up with peanut butter, but when you know it may kill your child or grandchild you stop using it, period, no question! ... The parent that whined that their child cannot have peanut butter at preschool is insensitive! Peanut allergy is the fastest-growing allergy in the world. If the parent does not like that their preschool does not allow nuts, then change preschools. Parent, remember it is preschool, not Harvard, so you can easily find another preschool ... This parent should be teaching their child that life is not a free-for-all and we must follow some rules and be respectful of others, too ... My three-year-old was taken by ambulance to the hospital in June due to someone not listening about his allergy. Out-of-pocket was thousands of dollars, but the money is not the issue. Seeing my son in the ER with IVs in his arms, oxygen on his face and his red swollen body is something I will never forget ... A. Sometimes, other parents need to hear how this allergy really presents in young children. I thought more people would agree that banning peanuts in a preschool when there are allergies was the logical step, but read on to hear a different reaction to last week's column ... Q. I knew as an educator and a newswriter we could count on you to promote the peanut butter ban. Fewer than .00??% will ever have such a reaction to peanut butter but of course we must have the ban. Why not ban waking up in the morning and walking to school? How about banning dogs and swimming pools? Let's not forget cars and bicycles, too ... People who buy into this grade of crap are the problem, not the solution. Hence the critical-thinking crisis we have on our hands as many graduating in the top fifth of their high school class these days can't even string together a literate grammatically correct sentence ( sic) . And these are the A and B students ... A. We do not have to have the ban. When a child is allergic, some schools opt for the ban. The peanut allergy is more prevalent than you might imagine, but I do not get the impression that you are open to learning about it. When it is present, this allergy is very scary. This is preschool we are talking about, and little three- and four-year-old children are precious and unable to protect themselves and others from an allergic reaction such as this ... For the record, I would ban swimming pools and dogs on a preschool campus as well." -- Read the Full Article

Engineer Encourages Middle School Students to Study Math

Martinsville Bulletin: Martinsville, VA —  "One of the most common questions kids ask when presented with math is, 'When will I use this in real life?'... Mark Love found early in his civil engineering career that he uses math a lot, and he has made it his mission to show students how important math education can be ... This week Love, who is based in New Hampshire, brought his traveling program to Martinsville Middle School thanks to the efforts of the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Participation). The federally funded program focuses on college preparation through classroom activities, school visits and other activities ... In four sessions involving 100 eighth-grade algebra students, Love engaged the students in an exercise he has done in his own career. It uses algebraic equations to set timing for traffic lights based on traffic flow ... Dustin Peters said the lesson was an eye opener for him ... 'I didn’t really think that math could be used in stoplights,' he said ... Love said that in addition to stressing the importance of math, he engages students in critical thinking exercises such as using a calculation to prepare an estimate, then using that calculation to talk about television commercials and how such calculations can be used to determine if the claims made in the commercials are telling the truth ... 'We do these exercises of using our head and thinking for ourselves,' he said ... Love said that as an engineer, he is interested in helping provide the next generation of engineers with what might be their first exposure to engineering." -- Read the Full Article

Leading Scholars at Yale Ask: “What Was Shakespeare Thinking?”

WebWire: "New Haven, CT — "Renowned scholars will attempt to shed light on Shakespeare’s inner thought processes at a panel discussion being held at Yale on October 30 ... Celebrated literary critic Harold Bloom and Connecticut Poet Laureate John Hollander will be among the notable panelists for 'Shakespeare the Thinker,' to be held at 4:30 p.m., in the Yale Center for British Art Lecture Hall, 1080 Chapel Street. The event is hosted by Yale University Press, the Yale Center for British Art and the Whitney Humanities Center ...'Shakespeare the Thinker' was organized in honor of the late A. D. Nuttall and the recent publication of his book of the same title. A revered professor of English at Oxford and influential literary scholar, Nuttall shed light on the complicated critical and creative thought processes evident throughout the great dramatist’s works. 'Shakespeare the Thinker' has been hailed as the best guide to Shakespeare’s plays available in English and as the crowning achievement of Nuttall’s career ... In addition to Hollander, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English, and Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities, the panel participants are David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English, and Nuttall’s former student N. K. Sugimura, lecturer of English at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge ...'Shakespeare the Thinker,' will be followed by a special screening of 'Throne of Blood' (Japan, 1957; 105 min), an adaptation of 'Macbeth' directed by Akira Kurosawa, at the Whitney Auditorium, 53 Wall Street." -- Read the Full Article

Streaming Isn't the Answer

Irish Independent: Dublin — "Streaming doesn't work, according to major new research which shows that putting pupils into mixed ability classes gets better results ... The conclusion has huge implications for schools, many of which still put their 'best' pupils into the top streams and 'weaker' students into the lower streams ... The practice is becoming more common in disadvantaged schools, especially with immigrant children ... But the study of 900 students overturns the widespread view that mixing the students together brings down the standards and leads to poorer exam results ... It confirms that, predictably enough, students in lower streams perform poorly in the Junior Cert exams ... 'A more surprising finding is that students in mixed ability settings outperform higher- stream students in this examination,' says the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which commissioned the work by the Economic and Social Research Institute ... It says that while schools may believe that streaming enables them to better meet the learning needs of particular students, the findings of this study show that students do not benefit from the arrangement ...'Streaming has a polarising effect on students. One group, primarily those in top streams, becomes more engaged with learning and expects success in the exams. It seems that they get a 'better deal' all around ...'The other group, more frequently students in lower stream classes, becomes progressively more negative about school, 'acts up', gets 'given out' to more by teachers and is drifting or disengaged ...'What appears to be happening is that students reach the level of achievement, or rather underachievement that is expected of them,' the council says ...'But teachers need urgent, comprehensive and sustained support on differentiation in teaching and assessment to ensure that more is expected of more students,' adds the NCCA." -- Read the Full Article

From Campus Rape to a Laura Bush Candidacy for President

Dankprofessor's Weblog: "One of the cardinal tenants of the feminist movement to ban student professor relationships is that differential power precludes consent.  So in this framework a charge that a relationship that is power differentiated is a serious one since a relationship based on coercion must represent some form of sexual assault ... Such is why the dankprofessor views the campus changes that have occurred in this area over the last 20 years as transitioning from romance on campus framework to a rape on campus framework.  Such is indicative of the Andrea Dworkin position that heterosexual intercourse is never consensual. However, few feminists completely buy into the Dworkian take while at the same time maintaining that heterosexuality and heterosexual marriage is based on a patriarchal power dynamic.  Age differentiated relationships are seen as a subset of power differentiated relationships and therefore fall into their rape/sexual assault/non-consensual framework ... The attempt to apply this framework beyond campus scenarios has not been all that successful, e.g., the idea that Clinton forced Monica to engage in 'sex'  was not bought by almost all Americans.  Whatever Clinton may have been guilty of,  he was not generally seen as being guilty of rape.  Of course, age differentiated relationships are still stigmatized by many.  Often the young wife of the older powerful man is discarded as a trophy wife or in more traditional terms as a golddigger. It has been noted by some  journalists that an inordinate number of Republican candidates for president have much younger wives, and it is an open question as to how this will effect their campaigns.  For example, is such a pairing acceptable to the the traditional values wing of the Republican party?  Will campus feminists express their ire against such pairings?  Will many Republican women divorce themselves from a Fred Thompson or a Rudy Guliani because they find their wives not to be socially correct and embrace a dual Clinton presidency ... Karen Heller has an interesting column on candidates and their wives in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Excerpts from this column follow." -- Read the Full Article

'Gift' Signals Return of Te Reo "The 2007 Social Report released last week shows Maori adults able to speak te reo Maori 'well' or 'very well' has increased from 9 per cent in 2001 to 14 per cent in 2006. Rebecca Todd reports on initiatives to keep the momentum ... The number of Maori fluent in te reo declined rapidly with the urbanisation of Maori in the 1950s and 1960s ... In 1973, just 18 per cent of the population were fluent speakers ... This rose to 25 per cent in 1996 and stayed steady until 2001 ... In the 2006 census, 24 per cent of Maori said they could hold a conversation in Maori about everyday things. Of the 157,100 people in total who could speak the language, 84 per cent were of Maori descent ... About 1100 more Maori could speak te reo in 2006 than in 2001 and the percentage of adults with some level of proficiency rose from 42 per cent to 51 per cent between 2001 and 2006 ... Soon after Keela Atkinson and her partner learnt they were having a baby, they decided to give him 'a gift' ... They are raising their son as bilingual, with te reo Maori as his first language ... At 2½, Te Kaio speaks only Maori at home and attends a Maori immersion kindergarten ... For Atkinson and partner Iaean Cranwell, te reo is a second language, so the adjustment has been huge ... 'It's not our natural language, so when your son has a tantrum in the supermarket or something you have to dig deep and fight to find the words,' says Atkinson ... Families like the Atkinsons are key to the survival of te reo Maori, says Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu (Tront) project leader for culture and identity Eruera Tarena ... Tront aims to have Maori spoken in 1000 homes within 25 years ...'The language won't be saved by a school. You can't expect to send your kids to kohanga reo and they do it for you. It needs to be carried by families as well,' he says ... The South Island and the Ngai Tahu tribe traditionally have been behind the game in terms of Maori speakers ... Tront aims to improve the status of the language with a critical awareness campaign called Generation Reo ... Employment opportunities, being more open minded, improving critical thinking and the ability to learn a third language are just some of the benefits of bilingualism, Tarena says."-- Read the Full Article

UNI Professor Continues to Question ROTC's Presence on Campus

WCF Courier:  Cedar Falls --- "A University of Northern Iowa professor continued her crusade this week to have the school's Reserve Officer's Training Corps program removed from the campus ... Katherine Van Wormer, a social work professor, brought up her concerns during a Faculty Senate meeting when senators were asked to endorse the Military Science Liaison and Advisory Committee's annual report ... 'I don't want to see any more people die in Iraq,' Van Wormer said. 'This is not a good time for anyone to join the ROTC program or the National Guard' ... Van Wormer, a Quaker and strong advocate for gun control, has always been a vocal critic of the program, which was established in 1981 as a detachment of the University of Iowa unit. The UNI program was designated a host school in 1987, giving the program equal status with those at Iowa and Iowa State University ... She also recounted the story of Iowa Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Brian Gienau of Tripoli, a UNI ROTC graduate and Iowa soldier, killed in Iraq. Gienau died when an improvised explosive device struck his Humvee on Feb. 27, 2005. Van Wormer believes Gienau may not have been in that position if he had not participated in the UNI ROTC program ... 'To hear his personal story ... it is such a loss,' she said ... Another Northeast Iowa soldier, Iowa Army National Guard Spc. Seth Garceau of Oelwein, died March 4, 2005, at a hospital in Germany from injuries suffered in the same explosion ... Van Wormer also believes ROTC programs teach cadets to be obedient thinkers, not the critical thinkers that the rest of the university strives to cultivate. However, program officials said that is not the case ... Kenneth Atkinson, the committee chairman and an associate professor of religion, served in the military for four years. 'It is not just blind obedience. We will ask our cadets to solve a problem and oftentimes there is no answer,' Atkinson said. 'If this was just about going out there and having people killed, I wouldn't be a part of it' ... The committee's report specifically addresses the issue of critical thinking and states that 'all of the instructors in their courses presented cadets with real-life situations they had to solve. The instructors in particular focused on strategies for overcoming problems between people and other cultures and/or religions.'"-- Read the Full Article

T³-Transforming Teaching With Technology Begins Its Third Year

St John's News (St John's University): "The benefits of St. John’s University’s “Title III--Transforming Teaching with Technology” grant program continue to ripple outward among Queens and Staten Island faculty, as more and more are trained to use 21st Century technology in the classroom and beyond ... At an October 11th launch of Year 3 in the program offices in St. Augustine Hall, Project Coordinator Bradley Shope, Ph.D., welcomed the assembled full and part-time faculty invitees and provided some background on the project, stressing its two overarching goals: core curriculum revision and faculty development through technology. He then gave a brief history of Years I and 2 and explained that in the upcoming year they would be branching out beyond the Scientific Inquiry Course to core-curriculum courses, in particular, Discover New York and the Institute for Writing Studies ... 'We’re very excited about the work that Title III faculty have done so far in re-thinking their teaching strategies in the classroom,' Dr. Shope told the group. He then introduced two of his team members, Activity Co-Director Maura Flannery, Ph.D. and Education Technology Specialist Pelham Mead, Ed.D ... Dr. Flannery spoke to the group about what is meant by 'Scientific Inquiry,' 'Information Literacy' and 'Critical Thinking.' She also stressed the importance of faculty input. 'We continue to develop the program as people go through it,' she said, 'and one of your goals will be to provide more content' ... To date, 47 St. John’s faculty members have participated in T³. Faculty are invited to visit the Faculty Learning Lab in St. Augustine Hall, Room 110, for assistance with teaching and technology issues."-- Read the Full Article

Script, Storyboard Contest Announced for State

Valencia County News-Bulletin:  Albuquerque — "The New Mexico Media Literacy Project has announced a call for entries in its second annual Talk Back to Big Tobacco! Script and Storyboard Contest. The contest is seeking scripts written by New Mexico youth for 30-second radio and television commercials aimed at preventing tobacco use by children and teens ... With a chance to win $500 cash, the contest allows middle and high school students to use their creative voices to tell the truth about tobacco. Scripts can focus on the dangers of smoking, the tobacco industry's deceptive marketing tactics or why so many young people choose to live tobacco-free lives ... New Mexico Media Literacy Project is an outreach project of Albuquerque Academy. It is one of the oldest and most successful media literacy organizations in the USA, empowering children, youth and adults to become more critical consumers of media messages. Its mission is to cultivate critical thinking and activism in our media culture to build healthy and just communities."-- Read the Full Article

On the Road: Insights to Lean On

Lawn&Landscape: "Jim Paluch is on the lookout for waste. Paluch, a business consultant and president of JP Horizons, teaches a management style in which wasteful practices and actions are the enemy. He shared his experience of working with companies for a year with his program Wednesday in the Professional Landcare Network’s Green Industry Conference workshop 'A Year’s Worth of Lean Insights,' held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville in conjunction with the Green Industry and Equipment Expo ... Lean, a management philosophy modeled after Toyota’s practices and adopted by companies including Ariens, is based on the notion that companies have waste that can be eliminated, leading to a more efficient company. Paluch shared secrets to making this happen using examples from the nearly 200 landscaping and lawn care companies he’s worked with through his 52 Week Challenge ... Achieving lean status in a company starts with the people and the training they’re given, Paluch says. People can fall into two categories. A destroyer is someone who was ineffectively trained. Symptoms include a negative attitude, inability to listen to new ideas and lack of a vision. This attitude can be turned around by making the person feel better about his or herself. “When’s the last time you paid someone a compliment?” Paluch asks ...Training is another way to change a destroyer’s thinking or prevent the attitude. There are two types of training: waste of time or enhancing critical thinking, Paluch says. The latter includes encouraging analytical thinking and an inquisitive nature. The employee trained effectively to show these characteristics falls into the second category: the builder. The builder smiles, listens to ideas and has a vision."-- Read the Full Article

On the Road for Excellence

Seattle Times: " Well, the Rose Garden introduction by President Bush and first lady Laura Bush in April has to rank near the top. The NASA space camp with the other state teachers of the year was amazing. Then there was the 10,000-strong National Education Association convention in Philadelphia on the Fourth of July with a surprise appearance by a former student ... And next month, Andrea Peterson, the music teacher from Granite Falls who in April was named National Teacher of the Year, travels to Japan for 10 days to talk with the Ministry of Education and visit an all-girls art school, among other sites on her itinerary ... 'They've got quite the tour ready for me,' she said, sounding only a little dazed last week before one of her more low-key stops, a speech to the Washington Alliance for Arts Education in Seattle ... Halfway through her year as the nation's leading ambassador for the teaching profession, Peterson has already visited 30 states. By the end of her tenure in May, she estimates she will have addressed more than 150 audiences, ranging from top CEOs to the national PTA to the Granite Falls/Lake Stevens Rotary ... Peterson also has picked up talking points from her hosts. At a meeting of the Conference Board, a national business-leaders organization, she learned that the qualities employers say are most lacking in high-school graduates are leadership, concentration, teamwork, a strong work ethic and critical-thinking skills." -- Read the Full Article


Terrorism and Pavlov's Dogs

Turkish Daily News: "You must have heard of Russian psychologist Ivan P. Pavlov's famous experiment with dogs, which were given food every time a bell was rung. The main aim of the experiment, known as “classical conditioning,” was to associate some pre-defined stimulus with a desired response. We can see parallels in daily life to Pavlov's dog where people sometimes merely react to a situation rather than use critical thinking. This is how some commentators are characterizing the situation when vividly discussing, or fiercely objecting to, a Turkish military incursion into (northern) Iraq. According to this line of thinking, the recent rise in terrorist attacks is a well-planned attempt by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to incite the Turkish public and eventually pull the country into the so-called 'Middle Eastern swamp' ... The relationship between these two 'stimuli' on the one hand, and the expected 'response' on the other, might indeed be worth drawing attention to. Yet, if the stimuli are not analyzed properly or accepted as they are offered, assumptions based on this relationship might even be detrimental to Turkey. And herein lurks the rapidly growing danger for Ankara." -- Read the Full Article

The Importance of Critical Thinking

The California Aggie: "For those of you inclined to rebel against the notion that 2+2=4 or wonder whether someday you will learn to levitate, you don't need to read this column, as you already question so-called 'common sense' ... For the rest of you, I will now tell you why we should cut apart our self-imposed boxes with scissors forged from the will to know and sharpened by rational thought ... I define critical thinking as the ability of a person to take a given set of claims and to be able to make some judgment of what follows from them ... Before I attempt to explain the basics of critical thinking, I am going to divulge my motivation for this column's topic ... I should also make a disclaimer and tell you that until recently, I thought irrationally. And even now, I am not completely convinced that only one of P or not-P is true in all possible worlds. In other words, I think that an object could both be a red sphere and a green cube at the same time, in the same place in the same world. 'How?' you should ask, and I must reply that I have no good reason to think such a thing - yet ... In my junior year at Davis, I realized that being a biological sciences major (essentially memorization of interesting facts) did nothing for my critical thinking. It was not until I took Philosophy 1 in fall of 2006 that I realized just how unorganized my thought process was ... As future policymakers, scientists, doctors, etc. we should at least be able to put forth a valid argument, or at least to know what a valid argument is. As people, we should be able to distinguish rhetorical devices from good reasoning." -- Read the Full Article

Basic Statistical Methods in Education

Distance Learning Wiscoonsin: "What is Statistics? Basic statistical principles are actually quite simple and can enhance anyone's critical thinking skills ... Without even realizing it, you have probably made statistical statements in your everyday conversation. Statements like "You are more likely to pass the exam if you study" or "I sleep for about 6 hours per night on average". Opinion polls and television ratings systems represent other uses of inferential statistics ... Because of the increasing use of statistics in so many areas of our lives, it is important to understand and practice statistical thinking. This knowledge is valuable even if you do not use statistical methods directly."-- Read the Full Article

Who Controls Tomorrow?

An Internet Globetrotter: "It is strange how times change. A quarter century back when I graduated from Chabot College with an Associate of Arts degree with Honors, I was under the impression that my courseload would fill the requirements for transfer into a state college ... In the next 25 years life happened and I wound up taking a circuitous route to my senior year at Chico State. In preparation for this education, the bureaucrats that determine eligibility qualifications changed tho rules. I wound up studying classes in critical thinking, reasoning, and procedures for verification of facts with the onset of the Internet Age ...That training, combined with a little experience in college journalism, taught me not to trust everything I read but to verify it whenever possible. Which brings me to today's debate in a class at Chico State. As one of the moderators for the issue, I asked both sides to verify their key claims ... The debaters were of the dominate age at Chico State presently. It was assumed they had no debate experience, but when they cited for verification websites, and sites that could not be verified, their arguments became suspect ... The problem with this is these students are not alone. A lot of people assume that everything published in today's library, the Internet, is factual, and they do not question the statements published within. What these students, and many people don't realize is just how easy it is to publish a website, without any way of finding out what group is responsible for and benefits by what argument ... Why is it that critical thinking and analysis seems to be lacking with this Internet and Cell phone generation? They are going to inherit the future?"-- Read the Full Article

Summit Unites Higher Education, Business

University News (The University of North Carolina - Greensboro):  "Universities must do a better job preparing students to lead in the global marketplace, David J. Bronczek, president and CEO of FedEx Express, told more than 200 business and higher education leaders at UNCG Oct. 23 ... Bronczek delivered the keynote address at the second annual UNCG Business Summit, an event formerly known as the Corporate Expo. FedEx Express, the world’s largest express transportation company, will operate the FedEx hub at Piedmont Triad International Airport when it opens in the summer of 2009 ...'This is a great country,' he said, 'but we’ve got to pick up the pace in universities for studies abroad, for our students and for our future employees to take advantage of something we’re falling behind in' ... FedEx Express is based in the United States, but many of the top jobs, in areas including law, finance and engineering, are filled by people from other countries, he said. In other countries, on the other hand, the company’s offices tend to employ more homegrown experts ... In order to move up in the ranks at FedEx, for instance, executives must have lived outside the U.S. Companies also are increasingly looking beyond a narrow skill when they evaluate job candidates, he said ... The summit’s final speaker, Ralph K. Shelton, CEO of Southeast Fuels, reported on the work of the Institute of Emerging Issues’ Business Committee on Higher Education. He and other committee members see a shortage of 'soft skills' in high school and college students – such as leadership, critical thinking, intellectual agility and interpersonal skills. He presented a number of recommendations to ultimately make the state’s workforce more competitive." -- Read the Full Article

Colleges to Let Public Glimpse Insider Data

The Washington Post: "Ten colleges and universities yesterday announced a project that will let the public view data on such matters as who attends and completes their schools, the strengths and weaknesses of their academic programs, how their seniors fare in writing and critical thinking skills and how their graduates do afterward ... It's an intense effort to increase transparency, and some are hoping it will spread ...'I hope and expect it will have an impact on other sectors of higher education,' said Arthur Rothkopf, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and member of the Bush administration's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which recommended more transparency ... 'Transparency by Design' is being run by the Presidents' Forum, a consortium of adult-serving, largely online colleges and universities, including Capella University, Fielding Graduate School, Kaplan University and Regis University. The schools will start collecting data in 2008 and post annual reports in 2009."-- Read the Full Article

RI Colleges Aim to Better Assess Students

Providence Journal:  "For the first time, all academic departments at the state’s three public colleges are developing clear goals and ways to measure how well students are mastering skills, in an effort to improve how the institutions educate students and prepare them for the work world ... Last night at its monthly meeting, the state Board of Governors for Higher Education approved the first group of departments to have developed “system-wide outcomes assessment,” with the understanding that all departments will follow suit by the end of next year ...'The ultimate purpose is to improve the quality of teaching and learning, and to be clearer about the standards and outcomes we expect of our students,' said Jack Warner, Rhode Island’s commissioner of higher education. The assessments will not be used to withhold diplomas from students or punish departments that struggle to meet their goals, Warner said. It is unclear whether the data gathered will be made public ... 'It’s important that this not be seen as an effort to be punitive,' Warner said, 'but rather to improve student learning through collaboration' ... Higher education officials say they are concerned about the high percentage of Rhode Island high school graduates who enter the public colleges with weak reading, writing and math skills and need to take remedial courses, often called development courses. At the Community College of Rhode Island, almost 60 percent of recent high school graduates need such courses, according to an analysis by the Office of Higher Education. Percentages at the University of Rhode Island and RIC are smaller, but significant enough to concern educators, Warner said ... In addition, officials want to ensure that college graduates have mastered essential skills, such as critical thinking, communication, collaborative problem solving, computer fluency and use of technology, as well as subject-matter knowledge specific to a student’s major."-- Read the Full Article

Why Tutu is Coming Should be News, Too

StarTribune (Minneapolis-St Paul): "There has been a lot of confusion and some controversy over where Archbishop Desmond Tutu is going to be speaking when he comes next April. But where Archbishop Tutu is speaking was actually resolved months ago. After being turned down by the University of St. Thomas, youthrive approached Metropolitan State University to serve as the new host university site -- and Metropolitan State University agreed wholeheartedly to become the new site for youthrive's PeaceJam event and ongoing youthrive partner ... While the 'where' has been a source of discussion, we believe the 'why' he is coming to Minnesota deserves equal attention ...Tutu is coming to Minnesota to work with young people on peace-building in their local communities. He is one of 12 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates who are actively involved with the Colorado-based PeaceJam Foundation. We are on the board of directors of youthrive, the Upper Midwest affiliate of PeaceJam ... While he is here, Archbishop Tutu will also address youth attending the National Service-Learning Conference hosted by the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) ... As young people who are striving to learn about critical thinking, ethical leadership, social justice and community issues, watching the controversy unfold over the 'where' of Archbishop Tutu's visit has been disappointing. However, we will be focusing our efforts on why he is coming -- and learning about his life, his values and his messages of reconciliation, justice and peace. We encourage youth and adults to learn more about this at ... As today's young leaders, we know that change starts with us. We are grateful to those who choose to do this important work with us." -- Read the Full Article

A Principal's Immodest Response

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "If students knew enough about Irish-born satirist Jonathan Swift to parody him, it would be cause for celebration in most area high schools. Instead, it led to censorship at East Coweta High ...Senior Justin Jones burlesqued Swift's 18th-century essay 'A Modest Proposal' in the September issue of Smoke Signals, East Coweta High's student newspaper. Lampooning complaints about the drag on the economy by poor Irish families, the great Swift wrote: 'A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled' ... Titling his piece'Another modest proposal,' Justin suggested that the euthanasia of low-IQ students could alleviate the world's woes. His essay and a critique of an East Coweta Princess beauty pageant by the paper's managing editor Caitlyn VanOrden spurred a classic example of administrative overkill ... Principal Derek Pitts impounded 500 undistributed copies of Smoke Signals and told the staff that he wanted more positive and uplifting stories. His overreaction effectively turned Smoke Signals into a free-speech crusade. Resigning her editing position in protest, Caitlyn has created a Facebook site about the saga and is organizing a First Amendment rally. A 'positive' school newspaper devoted to winning football scores is not only boring, but it doesn't teach teenage journalists critical thinking skills. It doesn't take courage to report that the high school band bought new uniforms. It does to challenge the status quo, and that's what good school newspapers should do ...While the U.S. Supreme Court granted school administrators the right to censor some student publications, it stipulated that officials show reasonable educational justification. The justification at East Coweta seems neither reasonable nor educational." -- Read the Full Article

‘God Bless’ the Atheists

The Duquesneduke (Serving Duquesne University Since 1925): "Sneeze here, and no one will 'God bless' you” is the title of an article I recently read in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This past weekend, the Freedom From Religion Foundation gathered together its members, which include atheists and agnostics, for 'a weekend of nonprayer breakfasts and raffles for God-free currency at the group’s 30th annual convention,' says author Ryan J. Foley ... The Foundation 'is a watchdog group that advocates for the separation of church and state and promotes free thought, which it calls science and reason, as opposed to faith in the unknown' ... According to a recent survey by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 'Atheists are viewed far more negatively than any religious group.' John Green, a senior fellow with the forum says that one, 'religious Americans are not comfortable with atheists’ refusal to believe in God and think they must lack morality' and two, “the exact number of atheists in America is unknown because many people are reluctant to identify themselves that way' ... In response to the former, I argue that atheists can be, and most likely are, moral people. I don’t think you have to be religious to be moral. Immanuel Kant, an 18th-century philosopher, argues this in his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals ... He attempts to discover a universal rule for acting, a rule that applies to all people in all situations. Kant argues that this universal rule for acting is self-evident and, consequently, does not arise from influence. He distinguishes between practicality and morality ... A practical rule arises from experience, and so is termed a posteriori ... The Biblical Golden Rule ('Do unto others as you would have done unto you') is an example of a practical rule. We only know how to treat others based on how we want to be treated. A moral law, on the other hand, is independent of all experience, and so is termed a priori ... Regarding this, Kant says that 'the ground of obligation ... must not be sought in the nature of man or in the circumstances in which he is placed but a priori solely in the concepts of pure reason' ... Morality, then, does not result from religion, but rather from reason. It is therefore self-evident ... In response to the latter, I quote Thomas Paine, 18th-century author of The Age of Reason: 'Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what [one] does not believe.' Therefore, if atheists truly do not believe in God, then they should not be afraid to identify themselves as such. Otherwise, they are being unfaithful to themselves."-- Read the Full Article

Into the 21st Century: Technology, Teachers, and Nicky Future Ready

The Leland Tribune: "Over the last three years, Governor Easley and North Carolina’s education establishment have employed the term '21st century' ad nauseam to promote their quixotic education agenda, one in which they promise to keep our kids 'competitive' in the so-called 21st century economy. Yet catch phrases and buzzwords cannot hide the fact that a '21st century education' is simply a more expensive and more bureaucratic version of North Carolina’s current system of public schools ... In order to explain what the State Board of Education means by '21st Century knowledge, skills, performance, and dispositions,' we obviously need a cartoon character. Enter Nicky Future Ready (pdf illustration) ... Nicky Future Ready is the creation of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Elementary Education Division. According to the Department of Public Instruction publication sales Web site ... Nicky Future Ready was 'born' this summer. He represents the elementary children we teach in our classrooms. Nicky is 'labeled,' but not with negative labels and stereotypes ... These are attributes every student will need to be globally competitive in the 21st century ... Nicky 'wears' seventeen attributes: (1) self-directed responsible worker, (2) multi-lingual, (3) critical thinker, (4) effective communicator, (5) relationship builder, (6) health-focused life-long learner, (7) financially literate citizen, (8) creative/innovative thinker, (9) knowledgeable global citizen, (10) strong team contributor, (11) proficient reader, (12) science savvy, (13) literate consumer of media, (14) capable technology user, (15) effective problem solver, (16) curious researcher, and (17) skilled mathematician ... Interestingly, the so-called 21st century economy demands that elementary students master the same communication, computational, and critical thinking skills required for success in the 20th century economy. As such, North Carolina’s children still need competent teachers and capable administrators, not classrooms full of technology or posters of cartoon characters, to be successful in school and beyond ... Interestingly, the so-called 21st century economy demands that elementary students master the same communication, computational, and critical thinking skills required for success in the 20th century economy. As such, North Carolina’s children still need competent teachers and capable administrators, not classrooms full of technology or posters of cartoon characters, to be successful in school and beyond."-- Read the Full Article

Latin America's Downside: Competitiveness

Latin Business Chronicle: "If Latin America is doing so well, why can't it compete? A closer look at the reasons — and solutions ... After 59 months of uninterrupted expansion, investors in Latin America keep pinching themselves and wonder out loud, 'When will it end?'  The recent financial market correction felt around the world on the heels of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis brought many a dooms-dayer to the fore with predictions of currency slippage and spiking interest rates.  But Latin America is far less vulnerable than it used to be to contagion, politically inspired capital flight or drastic currency corrections.  Latin America will not fall from one fatal blow, but it does risk death by a thousand cuts if it fails to reform itself into a more competitive economy ... It is difficult to understate the positive impact that the unusual combination of high commodity prices and low global interest rates have had upon Latin America’s economy since the present boom began in 2003.  China’s ability to sustain demand for raw materials on the one hand and keep global liquidity at record levels on the other has been a dual blessing to Latin America, known equally for its foreign debt crisis and rich natural resources ... But this time around, Latin American macroeconomic structures are far better designed and administered to absorb and leverage the export windfall.  The reforms of the 90’s have proven their worth in this time of plenty.  By shrinking government, professionalizing monetary policy, floating currencies and freeing capital markets, the money entering the region is staying put.  Even in today’s populist social environment, political leaders have made fiscal discipline and conservative monetary policy hallmarks of their economic strategies.  President Evo Morales, hardly a captain of commerce, remarked soon after taking office that 'inflation and corruption hurt the poor the most' ...  The eight of ten unfinished reforms in the original Washington Consensus represent the to-do list for Latin America if it is to raise its competitiveness and long term economic standard of living ... According to the tenets of the Washington Consensus, the nearly $300 billion in state asset privatization revenues generated in the 1990s were supposed to be invested in education, health and infrastructure.  Instead, much of the monies were wasted defending sinking currencies or pocketed by politicians and their cronies.  Curiously, now that the region has a fat wallet again, infrastructure spending has exploded.  The far less exciting realm of education reform still eludes political leaders.  For a developing part of the world, Latin America spends quite lavishly on public education.  Unfortunately, disproportionate spending on outdated universities, intransigent teacher unions and an emphasis on rote learning with little room for critical thinking all makes Latin American public education an underperforming white elephant."-- Read the Full Article

A College Diploma in Every Hand

The San Francisco Chronicle: "As Congress considers an update to the No Child Left Behind Act, here's a piece of advice: Scrap the title ...Designing educational policy to leave no child behind is the equivalent of driving forward by looking in the rear view mirror. If our policymakers want to move America's children along the road to success, they should make earning a college degree a defining goal and remake 'No Child Left Behind' into 'A College Diploma in Every Hand' ... Studies show that the lack of self-management, critical thinking and effective communication skills are major reasons why students drop out of college in their first year. Students also don't get far in college without problem-solving and technology skills, as well as the ability to collaborate and be creative. Meaningful college preparation is less about teaching facts than empowering students to think."-- Read the Full Article

School Upgrades Exams with Innovative Testing Center

The Daily Orange: "Instead of saying 'take out a pen or pencil,' professors at Penn State University will soon be saying 'turn on your monitors' while administering exams. Testing will take on a whole new meaning next semester utilizing brand new technological developments ... Penn State is opening a new testing center in the spring that will focus on innovative testing to better evaluate how students learn. The first of its kind in the nation, the testing center features high technology and special software to create more sophisticated kinds of testing ... Angela Linse, executive director and associate dean at Penn State, said the reason the provost agreed to fund the center is that the university knows a lot more about how to evaluate students' learning abilities than it knew 10 years ago ... 'With technology, we can take advantage of what we know now in a different way than using paper and pencil,' Linse said ... The testing center makes it possible to test much more complex kinds of thinking skills with more complex test questions. Linse said there are multiple ways to answer a test question correctly, but in pen and pencil tests, there is only one answer. The software allows professors to create questions emulating problem solving in the real world, where there can be more than one correct answer ... 'If you want to test somebody's critical thinking skills, you can give an essay, but there are lots of other kinds of critical thinking besides written critical thinking skills,' Linse said."-- Read the Full Article

David Horowitz Can't Handle the Truth ( Information From Occupied Iraq ): David Horowitz has a long and scurrilous track record of blatant racism, politically driven witch-hunts in academia, and constantly spewing out bald-faced lies. All of this is being ratcheted up to new levels in his upcoming "Islamo-Fascism Awareness" (IFAW). To let the lies of "IFAW" stand unexposed and unopposed would be a grave mistake with lasting consequences ... 'IFAW' is both a major heightening of an ongoing assault on critical thinking and dissent in academia -- and a calculated move to disorient students and professors who would expose and act against a potential new war on Iran, to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment, and to isolate and chill women studies."-- Read the Full Article

Forum Could Have Taken Wiser Stance

InForum (Opinion): "A recent Forum editorial page contained an editorial and a letter to the editor bashing Al Gore and the Nobel Prize committee. I’m at a loss as to why so much disdain is directed Gore’s way. In any case, the editorial and letter could have approached the situation quite differently. Perhaps like this ... 'Isn’t it a wonderful thing that an American, Al Gore, has won the Nobel Peace Prize. At a time when the American image seems tarnished around the world, this recognition is welcome. And, let us not forget the United Nations scientific group that shared the Peace Prize. They have brought credit to an organization viewed as corrupt by many. We hope the example of their outstanding contribution to improving our understanding of the world’s environmental problems will be a positive influence throughout the United Nations' ... And, finally, kudos to the British judge who approved the showing of Gore’s documentary, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' to British schoolchildren. In his review of the film, he found only nine instances or illustrations used in the film which he felt were either unduly exaggerated, not directly connected to global warming by scientific evidence, or, in two cases, simply incorrect. He directed that British teachers explain to students why these illustrations may be flawed. Because of the judge’s decision, British children will now have an opportunity to learn something, not only about global warming, but about critical thinking. Perhaps American classroom teachers will follow suit. "-- Read the Full Article

The Advocate of Teaching Over Testing

The Boston Globe: (Jonathan Kozol, who has worked with teachers and children in inner-city schools for more than 40 years, is the author of such books as 'The Shame of the Nation,' 'Savage Inequalities,' and 'Amazing Grace.' His latest work, 'Letters to a Young Teacher' (Crown, $19.95), adopts a gentler tone as it encourages young Francesca and all teachers who defy or confound what Kozol calls the 'drill and kill' policies of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, or NCLB. The book coincides with the formation of Education Action!, a network of teachers, principals, and students created, in part, to oppose school vouchers and to support a constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal education as the right of every child in the nation ... Kozol spoke from his home in Massachusetts) ... Q: Why were you fired from your first teaching job?... A: I was a fourth-grade teacher in a deeply segregated school in Boston where nothing in the curriculum had anything to do with black children. So I picked up a copy of the collected poems of Langston Hughes. I hadn't heard of Langston Hughes at Harvard; I heard about him from the mother of one of my students. I read a few poems in class and later I was charged with "curriculum deviation." I was a white guy with a Harvard degree, so I didn't suffer. I went on to teach in the Newton public schools. But the children suffered. That experience radicalized me ... Q: Before that, you weren't politically aware?... A: No, I was a perfect product of Harvard College in the late 1950s ... Q: How does Francesca, the young teacher in your book, negotiate her very different classroom?... A: She survives because she is very good at what she does. I tell young teachers who are determined to dissent from some of the Draconian aspects of the current orthodoxy that the best form of protection is to be incredibly good at what you do and keep good discipline in class. In schools with a history of chaos, the teacher who can keep the classroom calm becomes virtually indispensable. Francesca was very well-prepared for every lesson and, at the end of the year, most of her children did well. There are hundreds of thousands like her; the problem is not to recruit them to our inner-city schools; the problem is to keep them. About 50 percent quit in three years, citing this testing mania and the distortion of curriculum thanks to No Child Left Behind ... Q: How did Francesca confront that?... A: She refused to drill her kids for tests; she refused to impose the proto-military routine that is prescribed for many minority children today, almost as if they were a different species. That kind of curriculum would never be permitted in a good suburban school. She gave them the same rich course of study she had received as a child - and she won the loyalty of their parents, to whom she gave her cellphone number. She was also fortunate in having a very enlightened principal who supported her."-- Read the Full Article

'Thanks' Isn't Enough

Modesto Bee: How do you thank an educator? What do you say to teachers, principals and education specialists who made a difference in your life? How can you acknowledge the commitment of school staff and administrators who gave somethin ... Last summer, I asked myself those questions during my high school reunion. Thirty-five years had passed since my graduation from Sanger High School. At the gathering, we talked about teachers and school staff we had forgotten, only to be remembered at the reunion. I then thought about the great teachers who never left me ... I never thanked them. Now, decades later, most have moved on, passed away or no longer live in the area. We had lost touch. I regret I never found a way to acknowledge them ... These individuals continually put students ahead of themselves. I don't believe a union contract, bureaucratic paperwork or high-stakes testing ever would stand between these educators and their calling: to educate ... So how do you give thanks? I don't think it's simple. It's beyond the ordinary 'thanks.' You give thanks by your actions ... With a new school year well under way and especially for families with high school seniors, how do you thank those who went beyond their jobs and changed their students' lives? This year may be your one opportunity to do so, a moment to pause and reflect, to acknowledge the past, recognize those who influenced students as they begin their journeys into adulthood ...First, the students need to choose which educators made a difference in their lives. Not an easy task when you narrow it to only the very special. In addition, it will be difficult to recognize and acknowledge those whose impact will not be seen until years from now ... You will disappoint some because not all teachers or coaches belong on this list. Remember, you're looking for individuals who changed a student forever, not those who were nice or gave easy grades ... As our daughter, Nikiko, was starting her senior year, we asked her to make a list of the five teachers and educators who affected her most positively. Her list grew to 15 ... She struggled distinguishing those classes she enjoyed vs. loved, those who were good but not great, the individuals who supported her and others who challenged her to excel. She was forced to recognize classrooms filled with fun memories vs. educators who demanded students achieve and sought to instill critical thinking and work for long-term rewards ... She may have overlooked some individuals whose impact she will recognize only later. But she did the best she could."-- Read the Full Article

Math Adds Up for Goodrich High-Schoolers

The Flint Journal: "Goodrich High School senior Mark Dresselhouse has done the math - and so have a lot of his classmates ...Bucking every national trend, nearly half of the Goodrich Class of 2007 - and more girls than boys - took the maximum number of pre-calculus math courses. The numbers are expected to be similar for this year's class ... As for Dresselhouse's taste of Calculus 2 this semester as a dual-enrollment student at the University of Michigan-Flint: No big deal ... 'I sat through the first two weeks of class and didn't do anything because I had learned it all," the 17-year-old said ... Goodrich's math scores were tops among all area schools in Michigan Educational Assessment Program testing and ranked highest in Genesee County in the Michigan Merit Examination in the most recent results ... 'In our school, the popular kids aren't the ditzy cheerleaders or just the hard-core athletes,' said senior Christina Sweet, who is taking Integrated Math 5/Calculus. 'It's the kids who get good grades and are involved in stuff. To be smart here is a good thing' ... What makes Goodrich teens so big on exponentials and polynomial functions? ... Some say it's integrated math, in which students are taught many branches of mathematics - algebra, geometry, statistics, trigonometry - in the same class. The emphasis is on problem-solving and critical thinking for everyday situations in business, industry and other careers, and lots of writing to explain answers."-- Read the Full Article

Droid Rage

The New York Times: "The Bionic Woman version 2.0 just hit the small screen, rendering obsolete the original robo-mate created from the rib of the Six Million Dollar Man ... Some may remember Jaime Sommers, the beta version of the Bionic Woman played by Lindsay Wagner in the late 1970s, with her fembot fighting arm, Sasquatch-sensitive bionic ear and legs that could run faster than a Plymouth Volare. That prototype, with its wah-wah-pedal slow motion and angora cowl necks, now seems a quaint vision of the future, like a robot that looks like a vacuum cleaner with lobster claws ... The new Bionic Woman (played by Michele Ryan) improves on the original conceits. Besides getting a bionic arm, ear and legs, she gets a bionic eye, “Matrix”-style kung fu skills and a dystopic urban setting. Her campiness has been rewired into a platform for exploring existential meta-questions, like: Is it creepy to be entirely rebuilt by your boyfriend (even if he is a brilliant bioethicist/surgeon)?... Natasha Vita-More, the first female Transhumanist philosopher, has been pondering such questions for some time. 'Transhumanism' (a brave new word) was defined in 1957 by Aldous Huxley’s biologist brother Julian Huxley as 'man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his ‘human nature.’ 'The Transhumanist movement was formalized by a group of futurist artists, scientists and philosophers in the 1980s. Their mission: To support the use of emergent technologies to make humans smarter, faster and stronger ... I ask Vita-More how she might upgrade Jaime Sommers into a Post-Bionic Woman (PBW), and she replies: 'The crucial elements would be flexibility and adaptability. Extreme life extension and self-healing' ... Jaime Sommers 2.0 may have a zoom-lens eye, but a PBW, according to Vita-More, would have an 'infrared/ultraviolet-sensitive, high-acuity, single-photon-detecting and acceleration-resistant eyeball.' Her bionic ear would enable her to receive and send audio messages, reduce extraneous noise and pick out specific voices in a crowd. A PBW could also use her “high-bandwidth awareness' for critical thinking toward a consciousness, Vita-More says, 'that has evolved past the human foibles that keep humans in an emotional state of confused reasoning.'"-- Read the Full Article

His Views are Hateful. So is the Attempt to Deny Him a Voice

Guardian Unlimited: "The repellent views of people such as geneticist James Watson should be countered by argument, not by more repressive laws ... 'Such views are not welcome in a city like London,' said Ken Livingstone of geneticist James Watson as all his speaking engagements in Britain were cancelled and he returned to a suspension from his institute in the United States. Watson is a nut, and a racist nut at that, but when Ken Livingstone is on a bandwagon I figure it's time to get off ... Watson's views about the intelligence of Africans, let slip absentmindedly in an interview, caused deep offence, yet there was also something self-serving about the people screaming 'racist!' at this elderly loon. Compare Livingstone's reaction with his support of extremist clerics from the Middle East and you begin to yearn for some consistency in his outrage ... The other part of my reservation was expressed by Colin Blakemore, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Oxford, who said: 'Jim Watson is well-known for being provocative and politically incorrect. But it would be a sad world if such a distinguished scientist was silenced because of his more unpalatable views' ... Even when a person's views come from the swamps of a slaver's mind, it is wrong for them to be silenced. Far better to have Watson's pseudo-scientific nonsense out in the open and allow its dispatch by cool reason and moral force ... We live in a time of official proscription. Every political second-rater is after votes or validation. Justice Minister Jack Straw proposes to add to the laws against incitement to religious hatred by making it a criminal offence to incite hatred against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. This new offence will be punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail. What next? The disabled? Yes, indeed. Mr Straw hopes to protect the disabled with a similar law. After that, there is no telling what this ambitious and calculating man plans. But the attack on free speech must be clear even to the groups which lobbied for this law. When the bill is passed, we will arrive at the absurd situation in which gays who express strong opinions about religious bigotry risk prosecution under one law while religious bigots who express strong opinions about gays risk prosecution under another ... Free speech is about the communication of the human experience. Without it, we are diminished: we put our minds in neutral and let others think for us."-- Read the Full Article

USD 250 Elementary Schools Visit Theatre

MorningSun.Net:  "If your youngsters start randomly screaming 'off with their head' the next time their sibling has gotten in trouble and is about to be grounded, please don't overreact ... They seriously don't mean it. Odds are they probably saw the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium's production of Lewis Carroll's classic 'Alice in Wonderland' ... More than 1,000 youngsters from area schools packed into Memorial Auditorium Friday afternoon to see PSU Theatre's production of the play. The play will ran Friday and today at 8 p.m ... We think it is so important for them to see live productions,' Cynthia Allen, PSU director of theatre, said ... The students, who came from all four Pittsburg USD 250 elementary schools, St. Mary's Elementary School and Liberal (Mo.) Elementary School, appeared to enjoy the creativity of the play the most, which Allan said is extremely important. 'Really the whole play is the story of a little girl's imagination,' she said. 'She goes to sleep and imagines all these incredible characters and episodes and adventures ... 'Being able to use your imagination is at the core of everything we need adults to be able to do — critical thinking, problem solving, all of those are things that require creative minds. That's what we hope to encourage.' "-- Read the Full Article

There is Such a Thing as Too Much Gadgetry

The Montreal Gazette: "Remember the days when families gathered around the television set and argued over what show to watch? Or when there was one phone in the house, strategically placed in the kitchen so everyone could hear every word? Or even - to move into modern times - when there was a single computer, that no one in the family was allowed to hog?... Maybe these aren't everyone's fondest memories, but there was definitely lots of interaction among family members in those techno-primitive times, when everyone was up to date on the rest of the family's comings, goings, taste in TV and "secret" telephone chats ... But this kind of family bonding is increasingly under pressure from technological gadgetry, according to a recent study by the Ottawa-based Vanier Institute of the Family ...  in the United States almost 70 per cent of children under 2 spend on average two hours a day watching either television shows or videos. Worse, 26 per cent of toddlers - under the age of 2 - had television sets in their bedrooms ... This is, to be perfectly blunt about it, an abdication of parental duty. Little kids should not have television sets in their own rooms. They will not turn them off. They will not get enough sleep ... There also are grounds to worry about the cognitive effects of so much media exposure, among small children and teenagers alike. Some experts fear in-depth abilities such as synthesis, focused attention and critical thinking could be impeded."-- Read the Full Article

Keeping Japanese Historians Honest

GlobalThink.Net: "Every year on the anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, letters to the editor and newspaper columns are filled with recriminations for the United States being the only power to have used a nuclear weapon. Even Osama bin Laden weighs in on how criminal we were, yet makes a Fatwa that it would be perfectly justifiable for al-Qaeda or any other Islamist group to use such a weapon against the United States. We, of short historic memory, do not remember why this weapon was used and what it accomplished. The new Ken Burns documentary, The War (World War II) should be mandatory watching for the critics of President Truman’s decision ... Burns let us listen to the veterans who survived the Pacific war and used voluminous film clips of what they faced. The Japanese fought a desperate war enforced by a military government that was determined to fight to the very last Japanese! They certainly did not care about casualties—unlike American war commanders who agonized over this issue. A cousin of mine told me that her husband, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge (the last horrific stand of the Nazis hoping to reverse the invasion of Europe), expected to be sent to the Pacific front where life expectancy for a soldier was pretty low. How many more would we have lost—and how many Japanese would have died?... We also see exactly how the Japanese planned to protect their homeland. The only Japanese island invaded was Okinawa, once an independent kingdom until conquered by Japan in the 19th century. In Okinawa,  Japanese soldiers were told to fight to the last man. But even that was not enough; they also told civilians that the Americans would rape all the local women and run over the men with their tanks ...To this end, the military government provided each man with two hand grenades, one to use on Americans and the other on themselves—after providing poisoned rice balls to feed their wives and children. Many did just this—as we learn from Okinawans today who are protesting the lies printed in new Japanese textbooks. One old man, the Reverend Shigeaki Kinjo, says that Japanese soldiers filled him with such fears that he killed his mother and two siblings. He is alive only because his grenade was defective—as were many provided at that time. On September 29th of this year, 110,000 people rallied in Ginowan, Japan, to protest against the revised Japanese textbook that has whitewashed this important piece of history (not the only history that has been whitewashed) ...I have seen film clips from the time when the Americans were horrified by watching hordes of Okinawan civilians throwing themselves off cliffs.  An American translator took up a bullhorn to tell them that nobody would be harmed by the Americans. Without this action, there might not have been survivors at all ... Other film clips showed mainland Japanese authorities training women and old men to fight with staffs and pikes—to the last woman. What Burns did not show was fairly recent information revealed by a Japanese physicist teaching for 40 years in an American university, that the Japanese were working on an atom bomb themselves—and had gotten as far as exploding one over the ocean. They were perhaps within six months of having a usable weapon.  Let us also remember that the Nazis were working on one too—but they lost so many of their best scientists due to their Jewish genocide policy that they fell behind in their research ... Truman’s decision was horribly difficult, but in the face of all options, it was the only one he could make.  There was a secondary benefit from using this horrible weapon on targets that even the most unimaginative could understand. The fear of using this weapon again has protected us all—close calls included—from Armageddon. The Soviet Union was not suicidal, unlike our present and much downplayed enemy, Islamists, for whom death is to be sought, not feared. Osama and his ilk would fight to the last Muslim if he could. Thank goodness they are so technologically backward." -- Read the Full Article

World Digital Library to Offer the World’s Cultures Online

ZDNet Government: "Two years ago, James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, proposed a global digital library. The vision may be realized over the coming years, The Washington Post reports. The World Digital Library — comprised of international librarians, computer scientists and U.N. officials — unveiled a prototype for the project in Paris on Wednesday ... 'The capacity to search in the various ways that will be possible in the World Digital Library will promote all kinds of cross-cultural perspectives and understanding,' said James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, who proposed the project two years ago. The ability to cross-reference information pulled from 'the deep memories' of cultures is 'an exciting frontier possibility for the world,' he said in an interview ... According to the group, the website will feature original documents, films, maps, photographs, manuscripts, musical scores, recordings, architectural drawings, and other resources from the world’s cultures ... The site 'has an enormous educational potential,' Billington said, noting that its content is being designed particularly with children in mind. 'It has the capacity both to inspire respect for other cultures and their histories and stories, but at the same time to establish critical thinking.'”-- Read the Full Article

Inspiring a New Generation of Aerospace Engineers

SpaceRef.Com (Challenger Center): "Arlington, VA - On October 18th, the Department of Labor (DOL) invited the Challenger Center for Space Science to participate in a conference with state lieutenant governors, NASA and leaders in aerospace education and industry. Discussions sparked by keynote speaker Dr. Eric Jolly, President of the Science Museum of Minnesota focused on the need for innovative solutions to inspire and motivate today's youth in the core subject areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to meet a critical shortfall of engineers in the workforce as baby boomers begin collecting their Social Security and leaving the workforce in droves ...General consensus of the roundtable participants was that middle school hands-on laboratory experiences were a particularly successful way of impacting the pre-high school students to choose to study STEM-disciplines. Rita Karl, Director of Educational Programs at Challenger Center, highlighted Challenger Centers' unique interactive space simulation experiences as a 'premiere program that continues to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers' ... 50 Challenger Learning Centers across the U.S. engage over 400,000 students each year in positive learning experiences that raise student's expectations of success by fostering a long-term interest in mathematics, science and technology, motivating them to pursue a career in these fields. Challenger Center's train 25,000 teachers annually to incorporate project-based learning and to use the theme of space exploration to deliver educational and science content using critical thinking, decision-making, communication and teamwork. Referring to the recent industry report Rising Above The Gathering Storm, Lockheed-Martin's ex-CEO and Committee Chairman, Norman R. Augustine, has described Challenger Center as "exactly what I concluded was needed" to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers to join the 21st century workforce." -- Read the Full Article

Muslim Women

Edmonton Sun:  "Anyone who's seen Irshad Manji's Gemini-nominated documentary Faith Without Fear might despair of the ability of Muslims to reclaim their religion from violent fanatics ... In the film, which chronicles Manji's quest to reconcile her faith in Allah with her love of freedom, the best-selling author meets a former bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden in Yemen who expresses the hope his young son will be a martyr ... In a store in Yemen, she tries on a burka, complete with full face-covering, and we watch as she cautiously walks into the street in the stifling, all-encompassing garb -- her individuality instantly gone ... Later, the documentary shows furious Muslim fundamentalists in Europe chanting, 'Freedom, go to hell!' as they protest the publication by Danish newspapers of cartoons that many felt insulted the Prophet Muhammad ... The author of The Trouble With Islam Today, still receives death threats, lives in a place with bullet-proof windows and regularly checks her car for bombs. Manji, who is moving to the U.S. later this year to teach at New York University, spoke last night in Edmonton. She leads a life few would envy, unable to go anywhere without taking precautions because Muslim extremists want her dead ... But she is confident that Muslims are gradually rejecting the 'rigid, calcified' version of Islam that she maintains has been choking off legitimate dissent ... In the past year, the Arabic translation of her book has been downloadedmore than 250,000 times by young people in the Middle East ... And Muslim college women in the U.S. have told her they're sick of being discriminated against by Muslim men in campus groups and have asked for advice on setting up reform-minded organizations ... Manji, of course, is just the person to ask because she began Project Ijtihad which promotes the traditional Islamic tradition of critical thought and debate. " -- Read the Full Article

Getting the Government’s Attention (in a Good Way)

Inside Higher Education: College leaders and Education Department officials have spent much of the last two years talking past each other on the subject of measuring student learning. Critics have accused the federal government of pushing an overly simplistic, inflexible approach that emphasizes at all costs the ability to compare one college’s performance. Education Department officials have increasingly insisted that they are not pushing a one-size-fits-all model, but they have also regularly said that they believe too few institutions are aggressively pursuing their desired agenda ... Recent weeks have brought some signs that cooperation may be replacing conflict. Last month, the Education Department awarded a $2.4 million grant to three higher education associations to assess existing, and develop new, tests and other tools to measure student outcomes on a wide range of skills. And today, Under Secretary Sara Martinez Tucker, as part of a national tour on college issues, will watch as faculty members and students at Miami Dade College sign a 'covenant' in which they pledge to embrace the two-year institution’s new “learning outcomes” initiative ... It would be easy to dismiss the Miami Dade event as a public relations gimmick, but several aspects of it are noteworthy. It underscores the fact that as a lot of college officials have been saying all along, many institutions have been wrestling for years with finding thoughtful, creative ways to gauge the success of their own students. It shows that faculty members — who played a central role in developing some of the home-grown tests and tools that Miami Dade is using — are willing to engage in the hard work of holding themselves accountable. And it suggests, too, that Education Department officials are indeed primarily interested, as they have repeatedly avowed, in seeing colleges embrace the accountability movement, even if they don’t use methods that are as transparent and as readily comparable as the agency’s leaders might hope ... It would be easy to dismiss the Miami Dade event as a public relations gimmick, but several aspects of it are noteworthy. It underscores the fact that as a lot of college officials have been saying all along, many institutions have been wrestling for years with finding thoughtful, creative ways to gauge the success of their own students. It shows that faculty members — who played a central role in developing some of the home-grown tests and tools that Miami Dade is using — are willing to engage in the hard work of holding themselves accountable. And it suggests, too, that Education Department officials are indeed primarily interested, as they have repeatedly avowed, in seeing colleges embrace the accountability movement, even if they don’t use methods that are as transparent and as readily comparable as the agency’s leaders might hope ... Miami Dade officials plan to compare students’ results on the assessments from year to year, and because the college is in the process of “mapping” where in the curriculum and in outside activities students are supposed to have picked up the various skills, “if we find that students didn’t do well in a particular outcome, we can look back at the curriculum and co-curricular activities and diagnose where the curriculum needs to be strengthened or reinforced,” said Goonen."-- Read the Full Article

Cambridge Exams at Springbank

Northland Independent Community: New Zealand — "Kerikeri's Springbank School is offering the international Cambridge curriculum and examinations from next year, a first for Northland ... The school is introducing the system because of its academic rigour and acceptance throughout the world by educators and employers, says principal Sophia Warren ... 'This assessment system encourages students to aspire to achieve their best, measured against students globally' ... Mrs Warren says the Cambridge curriculum is clearly defined with specific solid content ... 'Students know exactly what is required of them and parents can measure their progress accordingly. This sits well alongside Springbank's emphasis on critical thinking, creativity, innovation, problem-solving, communication and an enterprising attitude ... 'The school is strengthening its maxim of preparing all its students as best they can for life beyond school,' she says ... Many young adults travel overseas and the Cambridge qualifications satisfy the entry criteria for every university in the world ... More than 150 countries teach CIE and 50 New Zealand schools offer this curriculum. " -- Read the Full Article

Students Challenge Shift at CCU

Rocky Mountain News:  "Former U.S. Sen. William Armstrong came under fire Wednesday from students who say he's adding a political agenda to Colorado Christian University, which he now heads ... About 25 students carried a mock tombstone across the quiet Lakewood campus to protest what they called the death of academic freedom, critical thinking and nonpartisanship since Armstrong became president in 2006 ... CCU officials immediately shut down the demonstration, saying the students did not have permission to hold the event on campus, according to students who attended ... A reporter was asked to leave the campus ... Armstrong could not be reached for comment following the demonstration ... In interviews later, students said Armstrong has added elements to CCU's mission identified with the religious right." -- Read the Full Article

Cannon School Stucents Explore National Security

Cabarrus Business & Lifestyles Magazine:  Washington, D.C. – This week, Charlie Ambrose [Concord] and Emily Schwalbe [Cornelius] from Cannon School, join outstanding high school students from across the United States taking part in a unique career development program in our nation’s capital. During the six-day program, the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security (NYLF/NS): Exploring American Diplomacy, Intelligence and Defense will introduce students to the challenging careers in national security, intelligence, the diplomatic corps and more ... Imagine being sixteen or seventeen years old and the responsibility of securing the United States at home and abroad rests on your shoulders ... The curriculum for the Forum on National Security is based on actual world events. Throughout the program, students use critical thinking, leadership and public speaking skills to tackle the complexity of national decision-making as they examine how the U.S. plans for peace and prepares for crisis. They employ a crisis decision-making process similar to that employed by the nation's top policy makers. Students also participate in thought-provoking question and answer sessions with highly respected, internationally recognized civilian policy makers and senior military. In addition, leading institutions open their doors to NYLF/NS students, where they are educated in diplomacy, international affairs and military strategy. Past programs have included visits to several government institutions and military installations, such as the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Naval Academy, a variety of embassies and many others." -- Read the Full Article

Wandering Thoughts on Teaching

Squadratomagico:  "So far, my teaching this quarter has been going really, really well. Like, the kind of well that gives me a sense of well-being every time I see their freshly-scrubbed faces. Ahhh ... I am teaching two classes. The first one has about 65 students, and it used to be purely a lecture format. In the past I always taught it on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with two 90-minute lectures per week. This year, I decided to try an experimental format I once saw on a colleague's syllabus. A few years ago, I held a committee assignment in my department that involved deciding which classes from other departments we would accept for credit towards our major. Undergraduates are allowed to count three classes from outside our department towards their major requirements, with each class individually approved. So I got to look at a lot of syllabi, and was interested to see the strategies other faculty used to encourage student engagement at our predominantly lecture-based Office Park University. This quarter's experiment is based upon what I believe is one of the best ideas I saw on other syllabi that year ... In brief, I have moved the class to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. I still give two lectures a week: it is relatively easy to cut some fat from the lectures I already have on my computer. Moreover, I think students are better able to listen closely and carefully for an hour than for 90 minutes. (That's a long time to focus one's attention in a purely passive manner -- I'm a pro and I have trouble doing it myself, at job talks and conferences, unless I'm pretty interested in the topic.) ... And the benefits of having the students engage closely with the texts, offer feedback, and think through problems in a multilateral way, are well worth it. The most wonderful thing of all is that the students seem to love it! They are filled with ideas, build on one another's insights nicely, and seem anxious to discuss the material with one another. I can honestly state that these discussion classes have been among the most rewarding teaching experiences I've had in the 11 years I've been here at Office Park ... For when it comes down to it, I don't want to teach them medieval history per se. I want to teach them critical thinking and analysis, with medieval history being the reading and evidence base through which those skills are cultivated. A year after they finish my class, I wouldn't mind if they didn't know Gregory the Great from Gregory of Tours or Gregory VII, if only they could take a piece of writing and immediately begin thinking about context and positioning, or the assumptions and rhetorical devices of the author. You know the old saying: Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he'll eat forever?... I feel that way about teaching critical skills: Give a student a fact, and she'll learn it for the test; give a student critical skills, and she'll learn forever." -- Read the Full Article


MCATs Now Shorter, Still Difficult

The Daily Campus (UConn):  "As if pre-medical students don't already have enough on their academic plates, a survey recently conducted by Kaplan among top U.S. medical schools concluded that the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and GPA are equally weighted when applying to medical school ... The MCAT is a critical-thinking exam that is an integration of core undergraduate classes and applying this knowledge, said Matt Fidler, the MCAT Program Manager for Kaplan ... 'It's getting more difficult to get into med school,' Fidler said. 'Over the last five years over 60 percent of medical schools that we surveyed said that it was more difficult to be accepted than five years ago, and over 24 percent of schools said it is much more difficult' ... This year the MCAT underwent changes made by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). This included transforming the test from an eight-and-a-half hour pencil and paper test to a computer-based test, which eliminated one-third of the questions, but not the content, Fidler said." -- Read the Full Article

Flip-Flopped Recently? Don't Forget to Snap Back

Oregon Daily Emerald:  "Dear reader, what would you think if I said my last columns were a farce, that they were wrong, that they did not represent the real me, and that you should pay all the more attention to what I say now?... I hope you think that I would be completely off my rocker, and I do not blame you in the slightest. Saying that I have been wrong is not exactly the best interlude to saying that now I am right ... And yet, I find a surprising number of people who believe otherwise, and, of course, they themselves have gone through such an experience (so they know how wrong I must be). I call these people snapbacks - for lack of a better term. Snapbacks spend years, sometimes decades, holding to a particular worldview or set of beliefs and overnight undergo some extraordinary conversion experience. Changes in opinion are nothing special, though; they happen all the time. What sets snapbacks apart is that they use this change as a reason why they must be right and why you must listen to them ... Of course, their most common tactic is the appeal to authority, and I really hate appeals to authority ... Truth be told, these snapbacks are created more from escaping the bad in one side than finding the good present in another. When an authority figure (a parent, a teacher, a personal hero or idol) espouses a certain point of view in a horribly bad way, one tends towards the opposite belief. Listen to one of the snapbacks created in such a manner and you will not hear admiration for their new opinions, only ire at their authority figure. They believe what they believe simply out of spite ... Snapbacks just cheapen the true changes. They turn critical thinking and the questioning of one's own beliefs into prime-time specials and book bylines, surrounded by bright smiling faces and lots of exclamation marks. Bah! It is only zealotry." -- Read the Full Article

Commentary: A Game Plan for Survival

Law.Com: "How can it be that I have been out of law school for more than 20 years? I feel like it was just last week that I was starting my position as a first-year associate at a major Chicago law firm ... In those days, most associates began their legal careers immediately after law school graduation and before they took the bar. So, from the inception of our legal careers, we were twisted with "pre-bar" stress... On my very first day (and within the very first few hours) at the law firm, all of the new first-year associates were herded into a conference room. The stated purpose of the meeting was to provide us with some "tips for success" from one of the superstar lawyers that the law firm had designated to serve as our mentor ... 'Rule No. 1: You have one job and only one job right now at this firm. You MUST pass the bar.' 'Rule No. 2: Bill A LOT of time. Bill every minute of every waking hour of every day -- even while you are taking a bathroom break or are in the shower and simply thinking about a client or matter -- BILL, BILL, BILL.' His list continued on in a similar tone and with similar substance (or lack thereof) ... In retrospect, I think the most valuable things he imparted to us were his passing words of good luck ... I am one of those lawyers who does not subscribe to the fraternity "pledge" mentality. I do not approach things from the perspective of, "I went through it, and, therefore, so should you." Rather, I view my role as one of helping my associates ... In that vein, I share with you my top five rules (aka suggestions) about how to excel or, at the very least, survive your first year as an associate at a private firm ... Rule 1: ALWAYS do good work. Your work is the initial thing that everyone will see about you when you start out as a new associate. Your work is most certainly one of the only things everyone will remember about you as a new associate. Take painstaking efforts to produce your absolute best work product on every matter and for every assignment ... Rule 2: Be a problem solver, not just a problem spotter. The transition from being a student in law school into an associate at a law firm presents numerous trials and tribulations. One of the less obvious relates to the fact that in law school, your brain is trained to be an "issue spotter," while at a law firm, to be most effective, you need to morph into a lawyer who resolves the issues you only recently learned to spot ... Whenever you stumble into a legal problem that seems insoluble, DO NOT go to your supervising partner or senior associate and tell them you have hit a roadblock UNLESS you are also prepared to provide some suggestions about how you might overcome the problem. Even if your suggestions are not used, you will stand out as a shining star who intuitively applies critical thinking to the practice of law ... Rule 3: Take the initiative. Be the leader that you are (remember your stellar résumé that got you this job in the first place?) and take control of your situation ... Law firms need strategic thinkers. Give thought early in your career about how to set yourself apart by providing this value ... Rule 4: Build meaningful relationships. Be positive. Reach out. Try to connect ... Rule 5: Chin up. NEVER let the bad apples get you down. If you are facing a difficult situation, such as working with a nonsupportive lawyer (or one who DOES subscribe to the frat pledge mentality), just grit your teeth, do your best and build bridges around him or her. No one says or believes that working at a law firm is easy. It is not. That's why they call it work." -- Read the Full Article

Conquering Coercion

The Post: — "Paul Martin was a doctoral student in the ’70s when a traveling 'rock band' in a Volkswagen took control of his life ... Dropping out of school, Martin spent more than seven years in what he called a 'Jesus freak hippie commune.' Only later did he realize it was a cult ... 'I never thought I was in a cult,' he said. 'I thought I was in a bad group. Other people got involved with cults, but not me' ... Martin finally left after becoming critical of the practices and enduring psychological abuse from the leader. Years later, research about thought reform and brainwashing by Robert Lifton helped him to realize the nature of the group ... In 1986, after earning a Ph.D. in counseling, Martin founded the Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, a nonprofit organization in the hills of Albany, Ohio. Wellspring is the only residential facility in the world that treats people who have been in cults or abusive relationships, said Donna Adams, Wellspring’s clinical director ... One concept introduced to clients is the law of reciprocity. This occurs when a person is drawn into a group through a series of favors and then feels indebted to it, Martin said ... Also included in the model is the idea that cults present a sacred science, claiming ‘we have the truth, no one else has the truth,’ which almost defines a cult in and of itself,' he said ... Another cult technique described by Adams is the use of loaded language, phrases that are easily memorized to keep members brainwashed ... 'Anytime somebody has any kind of critical thought or criticism of the group, these little phrases serve as a means of shutting down your critical thinking,' she said ... Each year, Wellspring treats clients from all over the world, including the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia, according to, a database that provides information about nonprofit organizations ...'We see just about everything — New Age, Eastern, Western, eclectic, Bible-oriented, business cults, political cults and one-on-one, domestic violence situations,' Martin said. Women who have been abused see the facility’s Web site feel that their situation is very much like cult coercion and come for treatment, he added ... Martin believes that a lack of freedom is the defining characteristic of a cult ... 'When you think that something is controlling most of your life, it’s not a religion, it’s not a belief system anymore — it’s tyranny,' he said ... Wellspring staff does not perform cult interventions. Instead, clients come to the center only after leaving their group, often waiting 3 to 5 years, Adams said. She added that many have tried some sort of counseling before coming to Wellspring." -- Read the Full Article

What Turns Ordinary People Into Oppressors?

Times Online: A review of Philip Zimbardo: The Lucifer Effect - How Good People Turn Evil: -- 

District 50 Wants Critical Thinkers

Daily Herald (Suburban Chicago):  "Preparing children on how to compete globally and raising reading achievement were among the elements Woodland Elementary District 50's strategic plan presented at a special forum Tuesday night ... Bruce Bohren, president of Gurnee-based District 50, said work on the strategic plan started in fall 2006, with official adoption occurring in March. The document primarily covers student learning, finance, the school community and residents living with Woodland's boundaries ... Bohren said one area Woodland will concentrate on is prepare children on how to compete, not just locally or in the United States, but globally. Part of the strategic plan calls for District 50 to create an environment to develop students' critical-thinking skills." -- Read the Full Article

The Making of the Muslim Left

Harvard Business Review: "Muslim leftism is the only way to ensure that Islam's individualist revolution doesn't take a darker turn than it already has ... I went to a government school in the American south where I had constant interaction with religious supremacists. Such people believe that their moral mandate must be given preference, if not outright dominance. In the south, these people were Christian. Their imperative was to acquire converts who would eventually help make their political programme the law of the land ... Many times I put up with the noise of evangelical youth preaching on the steps with a megaphone. I was condemned to hell in class discussions. English teachers had to tread carefully through 19th century literature so as not to offend. I had to politely reject, and then oppose, Bible study groups ... My brother and I were the only Muslims in the school. We lamented the ceaseless invasion of our personal conscience by 'these fundos' ... After a couple of years, a number of Muslim students enrolled at the school. They were also upset with the endless Christian proselytising. Since many of them were family friends, they took me aside and urged me to help them set up an Islamic society. Its primary purpose would be to hold Quran study circles, correct anti-Muslim propaganda in textbooks, and - 'just like the Christians do' - invite students to learn about their religion. All on school property. Their goal, just like the Christians, was evangelism (the Arabic term is da'wa). They presented two white boys with new Muslim names as proof of their success. As I left, my acquaintances couldn't understand why I wouldn't help them. 'It's just da'wa!' they said. 'It's a free country!' ... There it was, in the microcosmic world of high school, staring at me in the face: the Muslim right. Or, as my brother pejoratively called them: 'Falwell Muslims' ... Today, it is undeniable that traditionalist clerical Islam - which is quietist, meek, and oriented towards the status quo - has lost its monopoly over Muslims. This is the result of multiple instances of internal dissent over a millenia (as well as colonialism). Led by a mixture of cleric-minded Muslims in the US, UK, and Jordan, traditionalist clerical Islam is trying to make a comeback and become more relevant - like by writing a letter of peace to the Pope. Though such efforts are good, it is a case of too little too late ... Instead, Islam is well on its way towards an individualist revolution; one that no amount of clerical effort can contain ... The most attention-grabbing child of this revolution has been jihadism. However, it is not the most successful. That (dis)honour lies, in my mind, with the Muslim evangelicals - also known as Islamism, the Muslim right, or political Islam. It is a great fallacy to think that jihadists and Islamists are one and the same ... The Muslim right is an ideological movement. Why not? When rationalism is rampant and clerics can't bind Muslims together, ideology is the best thing to obtain mass obedience ... Islamism's ideological aim is secular, ie political power. Yet, despite its secular ends, it makes its political base among a large swath of religious Muslims. With their religious supremacism - which convinces them that everyone else's life would be better off if they adopted the same values as them - these Muslims leave themselves wide open to be preyed upon by savvy propagandists. Thus, hateful tricks like invoking the dangers of homosexuality, attacking sexual liberation, demonising religious minorities and foreign cultures, and censoring anything that smacks of critical thinking, are all used to keep the ideological base stirring." -- Read the Full Article

Plagiarism 'Growing Problem' in Kuwait

Kuwait Times (The First Daily in the Arabian Gulf): KUWAIT — "The recognized logo of an international food chain has been slightly altered and used by another local restaurant around Kuwait. A laundry shop in Fahaheel carries the same name and trademark of a well-known luxury car brand. Bloggers accuse local newspapers of using their photos without their permission or crediting them. Furthermore, distinguished publications copy and paste stories from the Internet without sourcing them and sometimes they just add the word 'Prepared by' before the name of a staff writer. These are some examples of frequent plagiarism attempts made by businesses and publications in Kuwait ... Plagiarism is a widespread problem in every society. It could be found in academic research papers, well-known newspaper articles, best seller books, and high-school essays. It can also refer to stealing one's invention, music, illustration, product, business or mechanical ideas. In Kuwait, plagiarism is a growing problem. In the age of the Internet, with the huge amount of free information available on the net in every language possible, there is no way to actually control one's original work from being copied or translated into other languages ... Though some may argue that 'borrowing' others' ideas and rewording them for a different audience would pass as an appropriate usage of copyrighted material, borrowing becomes stealing if no proper credit was given to the original text or author ... You cannot 'borrow' other people's ideas, you can however build upon them. Academic research is about original extensions of existing discovery. Academic researchers identify the state of research on a subject and then contribute their own ideas to potentially expand knowledge in the subject,' said Professor Jeremy Cripps, Head of Business and Economics Division in the American University of Kuwait (AUK) ... 'Professors are responsible for leading students to the purpose of their learning, initially to capture knowledge for themselves and then to develop critical thinking skills to go beyond the thoughts of others and to develop thoughts of their own. From the thoughts of many students will come the best ideas of the community and eventually improvements in the conditions of community life," he added." -- Read the Full Article

Can Arab Preppies Save the Middle East?

Time Magazine: "In the popular imagination, New England boarding schools are a cloistered world where the blond-haired children of America's blue bloods pick up the arch manners and the strange affinity for boat shoes that will mark them forever as a class apart. But not if you are a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad and scion of the Hashemite dynasty, the erstwhile princes of Mecca who rule the Kingdom of Jordan. For Abdullah Ibn Hussein, now known as His Majesty King Abdullah II, the carefree years he spent at Deerfield Academy in western Massachusetts (class of 1980) were formative. Deerfield introduced Abdullah to a much broader range of friends than is normally available to young Arab princes; and the character-building crucible of dormitory life taught him Yankee egalitarianism, self-reliance and how to clear dishes from the dinner table ... So, after he ascended to the throne in 1999, the king began to replicate the experience for some of his own subjects, planning an elite boarding school for Jordan. In 2006, he lured Deerfield's then headmaster Eric Widmer and several other Deerfield teachers from the green hills of New England to his semi-desert realm with a heady challenge: Create a new generation of Middle Eastern leaders from all backgrounds and faiths whose commitment to global citizenship would help transform the region. King's Academy opened this fall with about 100 students — the first co-educational boarding school in the Middle East. (Victoria College, a boys boarding school founded by the British in Alexandra in 1902, was nationalized and effectively gutted by the Egyptian government in 1956.) Though the students now hail mainly from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine and elsewhere in the Arab Middle East, King's hopes to eventually attract students from Israel and the West as well ... A complete campus designed for an eventual enrollment of around 600 students has sprouted, as if from dragon teeth, on the edge of Madaba, a farming town about 30 miles south of Amman, Jordan's capital. King's copied many ingredients of the New England boarding school recipe: family-style meals at round tables, school-wide assemblies, blue blazers and khaki pants. More importantly, it has adopted the belief shared by Deerfield and others that the classroom should be an intimate place that fosters discussion and critical thinking rather than rote memorization, which is the default teaching method in much of the region. But most importantly, the environment created by Widmer and his colleagues emphasizes learning and leadership outside of the classroom, through athletics, community service and honor codes." -- Read the Full Article

Critical Thinking 'Crucial' If Arab Media is to Progress

Gulf News (30 Years): Dubai — "Arabs must encourage debate in all sectors of society in order to improve the status of the media in their countries, according to scholars and experts from both the Levant and the West ... Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of a conference held in London to discuss the challenges facing the development of Arab media and cultural studies in Arab universities, experts from the West as well as many Arab countries agreed on the importance of critical thinking." -- Read the Full Article

Voters Urge Teaching of 21st-Century Skills

eSchool News: "Results of a new poll commissioned by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills shows the vast majority of U.S. voters believe students are ill-equipped to compete in the global learning environment, and that schools must incorporate 21st-century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication and self-direction, and computer and technology skills into the curriculum. But the upcoming presidential election, researchers say, presents a perfect opportunity to charter a new path to success for America's students ... In yet another sign that momentum is building for the teaching of so-called "21st-century skills" in the nation's classrooms, results of a new poll indicate that voters overwhelmingly agree: The skills students need to succeed in the workplace of today are notably different from what they needed 20 years ago ... Americans are deeply concerned that the United States is not preparing students with the skills they need to compete in the new global economy, according to the poll. Eighty-eight percent of voters say they believe schools can, and should, incorporate 21st-century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication and self-direction, and computer and technology skills into the curriculum. What's more, 66 percent of voters say they believe students need more than just the basics of reading, writing, and math; schools also need to incorporate a broader range of skills, Americans say ... The findings come as candidates for public office are ratcheting up their campaigns for the 2008 elections. Advocates of educational technology hope the poll results will mobilize candidates to talk more about the need for 21st-century instruction ... The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), which commissioned the survey, released its findings at a National Press Club event Oct. 10."-- Read the Full Article

Tough New Tests for Oxbridge Entrants -- October 15, 2007
by Victoria Neumark and Graeme Paton

"Pupils trying to get into Oxford and Cambridge will face a battery of entrance tests amid persistent fears that A-levels are failing to identify the brightest candidates ... For the first time, students applying to study English and philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Oxford will sit an entrance exam. It recently introduced aptitude tests in physics, history, mathematics and computer science ... Oxbridge Aptitude Questions ... and their answers ... At Cambridge, the number of prospective students taking the 'thinking skills' test in a range of subjects including economics, engineering and natural sciences has risen to more than 3,000 ... It comes as the Institute for Public Policy Research today launches a renewed attack on the institutions, saying admissions policies favour pupils from elite independent schools ... However, with record numbers now leaving school with top grades, universities insist A-levels are no longer an accurate barometer of ability ... In the mid-80s, fewer than half of students applying to Oxford and Cambridge gained straight As, but this year almost every candidate is expected to achieve the feat ... Geoff Parks, the director of admissions at Cambridge, said: 'About a fifth of students doing A levels get three As. Cambridge is interested in the top five per cent. The A grade at A-level is no longer a good means of identifying a field of competitive applicants' ... Oxford's entrance exam for PPE, which gets 1,300 applicants for 250 places each year, is designed to assess 'the ability to think critically, reason analytically, and use language accurately and effectively without having to rely on any particular subject knowledge', said the university ... At Cambridge, admissions to the similar social and political sciences course (SPS) suggest that candidates take Advanced Extension Awards (AEAs), or super-A levels, which ask for 'logical and critical thinking skills and a greater depth of understanding than required at A-level'. " -- Read the Full Article

What is Truth

Necessary Skills -- October 14, 2007

"We have seemed to have lost the ability to take personal responsibility for critical thinking. We allow the experts to report on events and draw conclusions which may be inaccurate, misleading, slanted for sensationalism, or out of context but still accepted because they are 'experts' ...   When did we stop doing our own critical thinking? When did we give up our own personal power of thinking for the opinion of some so called expert. Why do we not challenge anymore outlandish claims?... We have become in a lot of ways entertainment junkies which includes the news. We have become desensitized to individual pain and suffering as we listen to nightly statistics of murder, violence, famine, genocide, and other atrocities. We only want to see and hear the sensational. We only want to see and hear the experts to tell us what we think about things ... We have taken authority as truth rather than truth as authority. We have become the mass and so strive to blend in rather than be individualistic as it is too much effort. We have given up our basic rights and given it over to others to do with them as they please ... Should we worry about our future?... Your thoughts?"-- Read the Full Article

Author Finds Fault with Federal Testing

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- October 14, 2007
An Edited Interview of Linda Perlstein, Author of Not Much Just Chillin
by Alan J Borsuk, Journal Sentinel

"Q.You were obviously unhappy in the book at times about what kids (at Tyler Heights) weren't doing - social studies, geography, just orientation to the world, opening their minds in a broader sense. . . . What were kids missing by having this kind of testing and drill-oriented curriculum?... A. I think critical thinking. Skills that they really needed to be starting to build at that age that they weren't necessarily developing outside of school, as you would have liked. Also, engagement in what this all is about. . . . I think a lot of teachers felt sort of constrained by the sort of structure they were in and couldn't take the tangents they wanted to take to help the kids understand, and sometimes couldn't take the time they wanted when the kids needed to back up and learn some basic skills but the pacing guide insisted you need to move along. . . . It was just a very sort of structured and sometimes even Spartan day.'"-- Read the Full Article

Apologizing for Something for Which You Are Not Responsible?

Casey's Critical Thinking -- October 14, 2007
by Casey


"Last night the associate pastor (let’s call him Y) at church mentioned that when he was in mission school in Australia (he wanted to become a missionary) there was a Korean and a Filipino attending at the same time. When it came time for him to return to Japan (he’s Japanese) he was asked to give a short presentation on Japan so that the group could pray for him. In his presentation, he talked about some of the horrendous things that the Japanese soldiers did in World War II. And then, he apologized for them. Later, the Korean came up to him and asked forgiveness himself, saying that up until that point he was unable to pray for Japan because of the deep resentment he had in his heart passed on to him from his parents. After hearing Y’s apology, however, he was able to let go of those hard feelings and finally felt compassion for the people of Japan. The Filipino also said that she had heard so many negative things about the Japanese from her grandmother but she was also now able to feel compassion for the Japanese people ... It’s a nice story of forgiveness and healing, but I disagree with Y and think it was fundamentally wrong for him to apologize. Y is only in his 30’s. He had nothing to do with WWII, and neither did his parents or grandparents. WWII was more than 60 years ago. How can he apologize for something which was completely out of his control? And, if an apology is sincere, does that not entail doing something about it or at least having the desire to? I am fairly certain that Y has not made trips around South East Asia or done anything else to make penance for the actions of his ancestors’ contemporaries. I just don’t think that it is possible to apologize for actions that you have not committed yourself, much less actions that have been committed by people you are not even related to ... Some might say that some good came out of his apology, so what’s the harm, but if the Korean and the Filipino were harboring hard feelings toward the Japanese people for crimes of which they were not the victims, I think they were the ones with the problem, and they were the only ones that should have apologized. For Y to apologize almost seems to me to give legitimacy to the racist philosophies of those two individuals ... Am I wrong? Is it acceptable or even commendable to apologize for the actions of others?" -- Read the Full Article

Teacher Provides Real-Life Lessons

Courier Post Online -- October 14, 2007
by Michelle Moltz

Moorestown, NJ — "Barbara Quinn Kreider has chops in science, but she also has a great sense of humor ...That's what sets her apart, her students say ... 'She understands the mind of a teenager and that you can't keep our attention for a whole hour and 30 minutes, so she'll throw a Beanie Baby at us," laughed Tiphinnie Brown, 17, of Camden, a senior at Moorestown Friends School. "She plays loud noises like at sports games, and brings us food. She's an awesome person and she's a great teacher' ... Kreider, 53, of Moorestown, was named the New Jersey Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year in a competition sponsored by the New Jersey Council for American Private Education. She was honored at a luncheon last week in Trenton ... Today's students require multiple sensory stimuli to keep them on task, said Kreider, who uses an interactive white board, podcasts and a homework Web page as tools of her trade ...'The Internet and computers have changed the kind of student that walks into your classroom today,' Kreider said. 'They expect to learn in a multimedia way, not a lecture style. They expect information to come to them in ways beyond mere words. They have a wider range of knowledge, and they have a different expectation that they will be learning critical thinking skills, not just information.' -- Read the Full Article

Quality Standards Based on Critical Thinking Can Enlighten Our Students

San Francisco Chronicle -- October 14, 2007
by Linda Hammond-Darling

"One of the central lessons of No Child Left Behind is that if school sanctions are tied to test scores, the testing tail can wag the schooling dog. And a key problem for the United States is that most of our tests aren't measuring the kinds of 21st century skills we need students to acquire and that are at the core of curriculum and assessment in high-achieving countries ... While a debate rages about whether our tests should be created at the national or state level, this argument is focused on the wrong issue ... We need to focus on the quality of our standards and assessments rather than fighting over who administers them. Unless we change the way we think about learning and testing, it won't matter who makes the tests. They will still be a major part of the problem of American education, rather than the solution ... The plain truth is that the United States is falling far behind other nations on every measure of educational achievement. In the latest international assessments, the United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in math - on par with Latvia - 20th in science, and 19th in reading, even further behind than a few years ago. In addition, these other countries surpass us in graduation rates and, over the last decade, in higher education participation as well ... Although 60 percent of our high school graduates go off to college, only half of these are well-enough prepared to graduate with a degree - far too few for the knowledge economy we now operate. So, while our own youth are often unprepared for modern employment, Silicon Valley lobbies for more H-1B visas to bring in skilled workers to fill high-tech jobs ... Among the highest-achieving countries, some - including Japan and Singapore - have national standards and tests. Others - such as China (where Hong Kong and Macao score well), Australia and Canada - have state-level standards and tests. Top-scoring Finland focuses primarily on local assessment. While these countries manage their systems differently, they have in common a curriculum focused on critical thinking, problem solving and examinations that require students to solve complex real-world problems and defend their ideas orally and in writing ... In most cases, their assessment systems combine centralized (state or national) assessments that use mostly open-ended and essay questions with local assessments given by teachers, which are factored into the final examination scores. These local assessments - which include research projects, science investigations, mathematical and computer models and other products - are mapped to the syllabus and the standards for the subject and are selected because they represent critical skills, topics and concepts. They are generally designed, administered and scored locally ... By contrast, our multiple-choice tests - which focus the curriculum on low-level skills - are helping us to fall further and further behind. Another part of the problem is that the standards used to guide teaching in many states are a mile wide and an inch deep: Most high-achieving countries teach (and test) fewer topics each year and teach them more thoroughly so students build a stronger foundation for their learning ... A growing body of research has shown that as more stakes become attached to such tests, teachers feel pressured to teach a multiple-choice curriculum that does not produce skills as they are used in the real world. Fully 85 percent of teachers in a recent poll said they feel the tests encourage them to teach in ways that are counterproductive ... As one teacher put it: 'I have seen more students who can pass the (state test) but cannot apply those skills to anything if it's not in the test format.'" -- Read the Full Article

Tripping Ourselves Up with Blind Spots

TDR Update (Talent Development Resources) -- October 13, 2007

"The idea of a mental 'blind spot' may imply some kind of deficiency of cognitive ability, but psychologist Madeleine L. Van Hecke argues in her book Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things that even people who are very astute and intellectually capable can suffer lapses in reasonable behavior based on awareness ... She argues that 'much of what we label stupidity can better be explained as blind spots' (according to a summary by the publisher) ... 'Just as the blind spot in the driver's side mirror can swallow up a passing car, patterns in the way we think can likewise become blind spots, sifting out information and observations that to other people seem obvious ... 'Drawing on research in creativity, cognitive psychology, critical thinking, child development, education, and philosophy, Dr. Van Hecke shows how our assets as thinkers create the very blind spots that become our worst liabilities' ...In his book Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement, psychologist Kenneth W. Christian, PhD describes patterns of thinking and behaving that are also kinds of self-limiting 'blind spots' ... He writes about 'Self Limiting High Potential Persons' who "etch enduring pathways over time by repeating their characteristic self-defeating methods... this tendency can evolve into a general self-limiting style' ... One style is 'Self-Doubters / Self-Attackers' - people who 'block their success by holding high standards they feel they can never possibly meet and for which they therefore seldom strive. ... Paradoxically, they use self-criticism to defend themselves. By attacking themselves, they say, Though I did not achieve all I could, at least I do not accept myself'.'" -- Read the Full Article

16 Techniques of Critical Thinking -- October 13, 2007
by Luke Muehlhauser

5% think, 10% think they think, 85% would rather die than think.” — Anonymous ... In school, we learn what to think but not how to think. Here’s a crash course in how to think clearly, accurately, and fairly. Critical thinking is one of the most important skills you could ever learn ... We have too much information. Critical thinking helps you focus on what matters ... We have too many options. Critical thinking helps you do what matters ... Millions of scam artists want to steal your time and money. You can use critical thinking to defeat them ... Critical thinking helps you avoid false beliefs. Do you believe something because you read it somewhere? Because your family or government or culture told you so? Because it makes you feel good? Because you “just believe” it? ... If so, you probably have many false beliefs. Critical thinking can help you avoid those. Who knows? It might even help you form some true beliefs ... Anyway, we probably already agree that critical thinking is good. How do we do it?"-- Read the Full Article

Baptism in the Religion of Science

Rank Amateur -- October 13, 2007
by Miss Bitty

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in our philosophy -- Shakespear, Hamlet ... When we think of politics, science isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. And really, it shouldn’t, generally speaking. After all, science is a discipline ruled by logic and systematic testing of ideas and theories, not the sometimes erratic-seeming dance of compromise and diplomacy and arcane rhetorical maneuvers. While politics could certainly benefit from the injection of science – real science – science should never be held hostage by the fickle tendencies of politics ...  But in the last decade – and most especially since the election of the Bush Administration – the sciences have been under a sustained and not-so-covert assault by the world of politics. We see it in the debate over stem cell research, over the question of whether to teach creationism as a science, the insistence that abstinence from is the only education that prevents teenage pregnancy, the regulation of mercury emissions, the unavailability of emergency contraception, the argument for clearcutting in the interest of 'healthy' forests, the skepticism about whether global warming is really happening, and on and on ...   The damage done to science and scientific advancement by this Administration cannot be overstated. As Chris Mooney, a leading journalist on science and intersecting politics, makes clear ...'The broadest way of stating the problem is that throughout his presidency, Mr .Bush has let politics rule everything and left virtually nothing to dispassionate analysis. Preconceptions, rather than critical thinking, have driven policy. Indeed, the US federal government is staffed with legions of political appointees who think in raw political terms, often with a disregard for the long-standing professionalism of the agencies they find themselves lording it over. As a consequence, the US government has become a place where loyalty and the rewarding of prior supporters wins out again and again over careful analysis and expert judgment – Chris Mooney, 'Out of the bushes' ... One of the many unfortunate side effects of this trumping of politics over all else is that as a
nation, our fellow citizens are themselves succumbing to the rising tide of ignorance and superstitious regression. In a country of critical thinkers, whose minds are disciplined by logic, the suggestion that our planet is only 6000 years old, that we all descended from a single man and a single woman, and that dinosaur bones were embedded in layers of rock by the devil would be – and should be – soundly ridiculed and laughed into oblivion. Nonetheless, in the year 2007, we are having serious discussions about whether to teach this mythology as science." -- Read the Full Article

Educators Say Needs of Non-Native Speakers Not Being Met

Lower Hudson Online -- October 13, 2007
by Cara Matthews

ALBANY - "Educators from Rochester and Utica told an Assembly committee yesterday that the pressures and requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act are hurting students who are not native English speakers ...The achievement and accountability law's 'high-stakes testing, unrealistic achievement targets and punitive sanctions' are "pushing left-behind groups even further behind,' said Diana Hernandez, supervising director of bilingual, English for speakers of other languages and Hispanic services for the Rochester city school district. About 8 percent of the district's 35,458 students in 2006-07 had limited English proficiency ...'The law's perverse harmful effects on minority students generally and ELLs (English-language learners) in particular include: excessive class time devoted to test preparation, a curriculum narrowed to the two tested subjects, neglect of critical thinking in favor of basic skills, pressure to reduce or eliminate native-language instruction, demoralization of teachers whose students fall short of unrealistic cut scores, demoralization of children who are forced to take tests they cannot understand,' she said, 'and, perhaps worst of all, practices that encourage low-scoring students to drop out before test day' ... Last year was the first in which New York gave the standard English/language arts assessment test to all non-native English-speaking students who had been in the United States for more than a year. Students performed better than anticipated. Previously, New York administered an exam that measured the annual growth in English-language acquisition for pupils in this country fewer than three years ... State Education Commissioner Richard Mills told the Assembly Education Committee yesterday that the state argued against requiring the newly arrived students to take the test, but the federal government did not change its policy." -- Read the Full Article

Sharia and Human Rights in Nigeria

Political Cortex (Brain Food For The Body Politic) -- October 13, 2007
by Leo Igwe

"The case brought against Shehu Sani by Islamic jihadists over his book, Phantom Crescent, has a lot of implications for human rights, democracy and civilization in Nigeria ... On October 9 (yesterday) a court in Kaduna-Northern Nigeria heard a case brought against Shehu Sani- a well-known human rights activist, social critic and author ... Mr. Sani-a practicing Muslim- was sued by a group called Concerned Sharia Forum over a play- Phantom Crescent- he wrote exposing the abuses and double standards by those implementing Sharia law in 12 states in Northern Nigeria ... Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim but has a sizeable Christian population including those from the South who reside there. The court has ordered Mr. Sani to cancel a planned performance of the play and to stop printing and distributing copies of the play. This court case has a lot of implications for human rights, democracy and civilization in Nigeria. It is the first time such a case is brought against a Muslim who is critical of this anachronistic legal system since sharia was imposed on Islamic majority States some years ago. This court case is coming up at a time Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in Nigeria-and around the world -with Sharia as one of its most deadly and oppressive weapons ... Shehu Sani said he wants to use the play to enlighten the local population on how Sharia is being used to oppress them. And practically speaking, this is a tall order, which is likely get him into trouble with the Islamic theocrats and jihadists who do not tolerate any form of 'enlightenment' that is critical of Islam. Again educationally, the Islamic majority States are the most backward in Nigeria. This is because the only form of education most people are expose to is Quranic recitation and indoctrination, which numbs and dumbs their minds making them impervious to critical thinking especially in matters concerning Islamic creeds and traditions. Quranic indoctrination has imprisoned and corrupted the minds and conscience of the local islamic population, making them easy tools for manipulation and exploitation by Islamic Jihadists and theocrats. Unfortunately most Muslims in Northern Nigeria are in the dark as to how Islam has been used to oppress, exploit and tyrannize over their lives. And a few of them who have realized the unjust nature of the system are too afraid to speak out against it." -- Read the Full Article

There's More to Academic Research Than Hitting the Search Button

The Sydney Morning Herald -- October 13, 2007
Edited from a speach, seminar -- Melbourne.
by Howard Rheingold

Melbourne, AU —"My daughter started writing research papers at the same time the search engine AltaVista became available in the mid-1990s. When she started using search engines for research, I talked to her about the way the internet had changed certainty about authority ... Unlike with the majority of library books, when you enter a term into a search engine there is no guarantee that what you will find is authoritative, accurate or even vaguely true ...The locus of responsibility for determining the accuracy of texts shifted from the publisher to the reader when one of the functions of libraries shifted to search engines. That meant my daughter had to learn to ask questions about everything she finds in one of those searches ... Who is the author? What do others say about the author? What are the author's sources? Can any truth claims be tested independently? What sources does the author cite, and what do others say about those sources?... Talking to my daughter about search engines and the necessity for a 10-year-old to question texts online led me to think that computer literacy programs that left out critical thinking were missing an important point. But I discovered when I talked to teachers in my local schools that 'critical thinking' is regarded by some as a plot to incite children to question authority. At that point, I saw education - the means by which young people learn the skills necessary to succeed in their place and time - as diverging from schooling ... Constructivist theories of education that exhort teachers to guide active learning through hands-on experimentation are not new ideas, and neither is the notion that digital media can be used to encourage this kind of learning. What is new is a population of 'digital natives' who learnt how to learn new kinds of software before they started high school, who carry mobile phones, media players, game devices and laptop computers and know how to use them, and for whom the internet is not a transformative new technology but a feature of their lives that has always been there, like water and electricity ... This population is both self-guided and in need of guidance: although a willingness to learn new media by point-and-click exploration might come naturally to today's student, there is nothing innate about knowing how to apply their skills to the processes of democracy ... I don't propose internet media as the solution to young people's disengagement from political life, or claim to know whether or not youth really are disengaged, but I do want to look at a participative media as a possibly powerful tool to be deployed towards helping them engage in their own voices about the issues they care about ... For the past several years, I've experimented with teaching students a blogging rhetoric that leads them to exercise their public voice. For example, the first post is to be aimed at a clearly imagined public who could, potentially, join the blogger in some kind of collective action ... First, I asked students to provide links that would educate, inform, persuade or motivate that public, and to write a post that gives enough context to the link to enable readers to decide whether or not to click it ... Then I asked them to experiment with connective writing by offering two links and their contexts, as well as an overarching description of what connects the links. Analytic and critical posts follow, taking issue with, contesting, debating posts made by others on their blogs. Finally, student bloggers were asked to make posts that advocate a position and provide links to support their assertions ... If print culture shaped the environment in which the Reformation exploded and the Enlightenment blossomed, participatory media might similarly shape the cognitive and social environments in which 21st-century life will take place ... Assuming a world in which the welfare of young people and the health of democracy are the true goals of education, I believe modern societies around the world need to assess and evaluate what works and what doesn't in terms of engaging students in learning, to look empirically and in a more nuanced way at what civic engagement means today, to better understand what young people are really doing with digital media, and to find ways to help them use their literacies as citizenship skills as well as avenues to entertainment." -- Read the Full Article

JUNTOS: Understanding an Often Invisible Issue

Lamonitor.Com (The Online News Source for Los Alamos) -- October 12, 2007
by Carol A Clark

"Access denied and access granted are truths brought to the surface during a recent workshop that delves into the deceptively subtle side of racism and privilege ... 'I've had people of color say to me, 'When I leave my house at the beginning of the day, I don't get to be myself until I return home at the end of the day,' ' said facilitator Johanna Eager during her workshop, 'Race, Racism, & Privilege: Entering the Dialogue Without Blame, Shame or Guilt. 'I just had no awareness that not everyone was experiencing the world the same way as I was - in particular, people of color' ... Eager is a social justice consultant from the Office of Equity and Integration in Minnesota and she is Caucasian ... Her six-hour workshop was sponsored by the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and hosted by JUNTOS, (Joining & Uniting Now, Teens Overcome Separation). The program has held meetings since April to identify and overcome issues that keep youth from Espanola and Los Alamos separate ... 'I worked with youth from both communities and I fell in love with the youth of both,' said JUNTOS-concept creator Lori Heimdahl-Gibson. 'But I saw a great divide and I know there is a way to bring youth together. It's taken us a long time to get ourselves into this separation and it's going to take some time to erase it. We won't be impatient' ... Reading a quote from 'A Course in Miracles,' Heimdahl-Gibson said, 'The most sacred place on Earth is where an ancient hatred becomes a present love.' That seems to resonate with the JUNTOS mission. Making changes is not easy, raising consciousness is not easy' ... During her Sept. 30 workshop at the White Rock Baptist Church, Eager told participants she is part of the 'dominant culture' and hadn't had to think about race. She spoke to the importance of critical thinking in raising one's consciousness ... Through material attributed to Heather Hartman Consulting, Eager explained that critical thinking involves rigorous self-reflection. 'How do I actually know what I think is true?' she asked. 'Or have I just thought this for so long that I am mistaking it for fact?' ... Critical thinking involves examining issues from multiple, non-dominant perspectives and sources of information, she said, including being aware of who is not at the table, whose perspective is not being represented and how one would think or understand an issue if looked at from other people's perspectives ... 'Critical thinking always considers issues of power and privilege at the smallest to the most significant levels and understands that power is always a part of the discussion,' Eager said. 'Ask yourself who benefits from this, who is not served and who is disadvantaged ... The roots of racism were examined during Eager's talk using the Cycle of Socialization exercise adapted by Natalie J. Thoreson and T. Aaron Hans ... At the cycle's core are ignorance, confusion, insecurity and fear, Eager said ... People are born into the world without stereotypes, prejudices or biases, forming the lens of identity. Children are taught by those closest to them, including family and teachers - the shapers of expectations, norms and values ... The cycle's middle stage is the lens of socialization and teaching. Children are bombarded with messages from institutions and culture on both a conscious and unconscious level. These messages are enforced through systemic rewards and punishments, privilege granting and persecution, discrimination and empowerment ... In the cycle's final stage, the lens of experience, results in dissonance, silence, anger, dehumanization, collusion, guilt, self-hatred, violence and internalization of patterns of power. Eager explained it's at this stage people can decide to do nothing and maintain the status quo, or make a change.'" -- Read the Full Article

Education Key to Democracy

The Standard -- Ocxtober 11, 2007
by Michael DeGolyer

Hong Kong — "In essence, both the educational reforms dominating the news and the consultation on constitutional reform ending yesterday boil down to trusting people to do the right thing when allowed freedom to choose. Most pick what they hope will do them and their families the most good ... We tend to label parents good or bad depending on whether they exploit or educate their children. Good parents seek the best education they can for their children. Bad parents put their children to work in brick kilns or sell them off as sex slaves ... Good parents know education is crucial to the better life they hope their offspring will experience. Educational opportunity provides hope ... Few argue ignorance is good. Troubles dominate in societies where ignorance abounds. People kill each other over beliefs resting on nothing but uncritically accepted tradition. Women live in abject misery while men fight over scraps. Children die in droves from diseases prevented or cured by the knowledge modern medicine has discovered ... Consider Taleban-controlled Afghanistan to find these fruits of profound, deliberate ignorance. About one in four babies there die before age five. Educated societies, even poor ones like Cuba, reduce that toll to under 10 in a thousand ... Literally, ignorance kills ... Education is a universal need and, hence, a universal right to be protected and promoted by government in its own as well as all its citizens' interest. ... Any government that thinks it wants uncritical acclaim from its citizenry actually wants to destroy the very core of education. Law itself holds little sway unless people are taught to respect it, and it lasts not at all unless people learn to inspect it and those who make it. Thus a lawful society requires people be taught to think critically. And critical thinking rests upon allowing people full freedom to dissent, discuss, dispute, and then settle their differences in a manner agreeable to all ... All this is why Hong Kong Baptist University, the university-supported Hong Kong-America Center, and the democracy educator National Democratic Institute for International Affairs cooperated over a weekend recently to bring together students from all local universities to deliberate on a student response to the consultation on constitutional reform. Students listened to panelists debate various constitutional alternatives and discussed these issues among themselves ... After two days and a night of debate, 60 percent of students voted to abolish functional constituencies and implement full universal suffrage elections for chief executive and Legco in 2012. It was an impressive demonstration of educated civility and democracy ... While our government supports demands for better education, will it also support citizens' demands to participate in the lawmaking that directly affects them and their children? Both education and democracy are, essentially, the same demand ... As with education, everyone benefits from democracy. It takes both to create and sustain good governance and a civilized life." -- Read the Full Article

How to Deal ... With Life

Inside Higher Education -- October 11, 2007
by Andy Guess

"It should come as no surprise that a new group of poker enthusiasts is quickly gaining popularity at Harvard Law School and elsewhere. Playing cards online — a campus staple for years — has attracted Congressional attention to online gambling and concerns about the game’s addictive qualities. But a growing coalition of law professors, students and aspiring poker champs isn’t looking to blow off finals for a quick buck. Instead, they hope to turn the game’s intricacies into a learning tool ... That’s clear from the outset with a quick glance at the club’s name: the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Societies. Part training camp for card sharks, part educational outreach project, the venture was spearheaded by the Harvard law professor Charles Nesson, founder of the school’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society ... 'I don’t play poker online anymore. I did for quite a while,” said Andrew Woods, a law student who is executive director and one of the founders of the group. 'I stopped playing online poker before I came to law school so that I could graduate from law school' ... The group — which has already seen chapters sprout up at Yale, Brown, Stanford and the University of California at Los Angeles, among other universities, law schools and business schools — hopes to turn students’ enthusiasm for a popular card game into an opportunity to teach cognitive skills, probability and risk assessment. The idea would be to set up after-school programs at high schools, for example, and tie some of the club’s lessons into the curriculum of existing courses, such as statistics ... Transforming what is often seen as a vice into a classroom learning tool probably won’t be a cakewalk, but there is already plenty of interest — not least among academics, for whom even a field known as game theory is a topic of utmost seriousness. The University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, the author of Freakonomics, has already embarked on a project to track the hands, play by play, of thousands of online games in an attempt to formulate a definitive analysis ... 'I fundamentally believe that right now our education system is serving a portion of our population incredibly well, and I think that it’s losing a large portion of our population,' said Woods, who is also active in human rights and other social causes. That’s all the more reason to emphasize critical thinking and thinking outside the box, skills which he said are too often abandoned by teachers in favor of 'regurgitating information for tests' ... Woods said he feels strongly about the cognitive and practical benefits of playing the game regularly. 'Poker offers an immediate positive reinforcement for making good decisions,' he said. Good players have to integrate divergent cognitive stimuli and make quick decisions based on limited information ...'That’s very analogous to life,' he said. 'You never know what somebody’s actually thinking ... until they show you.'"-- Read the Full Article

Athiests Put Less Value on Love Than Believers: Study

National Post -- October 10, 2007
by Charles Lewis

Don Mills, ON — "A new Canadian survey has found that believers are more likely than atheists to place a higher value on love, patience and friendship, in findings the researcher says could be a warning that Canadians need a religious basis to retain civility in society ... The survey of 1,600 Canadian adults, led by University of Lethbridge professor Reginald Bibby, gave a list of 12 values - from honesty to family life to politeness to generosity - and asked the participants if they found each 'very important.' In each case, theists ranked the values as more important than atheists ... The reason for this, suggests Prof. Bibby, a prominent sociologist, is that those who are involved with religious groups are being exposed to a whole range of values that are not being propagated well by any other major source. 'To the extent that people are not involved in religious groups ... they're not being exposed to those interpersonal values and they're simply not holding them as strongly,' Prof. Bibby said in an interview ... Justin Trottier, executive director of the Centre for Inquiry Ontario, a Toronto-based atheist group, thinks the problem with Prof. Bibby's survey is with the definition of values. He said the categories in the survey fit in the mould of the Ten Commandments, so a religious person's enthusiastic response to them is not surprising ...'To me, scientific thinking is a value. Critical thinking is a value. Open inquiry is my biggest value,' said Mr. Trottier. 'If he made those values - the way atheists would - he would have gotten different responses' ... He said that people should be judged by their actions, not by how they respond to survey questions. A person can claim to be any number of things but the proof is in the pudding. He said his own group, for example, has a sobriety support group, and that many nations that are highly secular do a better job of taking care of their poor than religious ones." -- Read the Full Article

The language and concepts we use to communicate are significantly skewed and, thus, defined by our cultural and contextual surroundings. So, when ambiguous, unclear, "fuzzy" or vague language and concepts are used in research, they can, and generally do, skew or cloud the clarity. accuracy, precision, relevance, and significance of the data collected. For example, words like religion, honesty, patience, politeness, friendship and god each have several very abstract definitions  "Love" is a singular universal term with many discretely different definitions and nuances based upon a number of discretely different historical and philosophical concepts. Even the word, "atheist," has a number of meanings, which frequently appear to contradict each other.  Is an atheist someone who doesn't believe in god, or someone who does believe there is no "god," or someone who can't understand, much less believe or love, a concept too fuzzy to get a good grip on unless and until there's "living, breathing proof?" Conversely, is a believer someone who totally accepts a concept of a specific kind of deity — absolutely, unconditionally, without any reservations or conclusive evidence — yet with one huge drop-dead leap of faith, or is a believer someone who tenaciously embraces a working concept of god tentatively if and until the proof of concept is later revealed? Or, is a believer someone who studies, follows, and practices the teachings of a religious tradition with fundamental doubts (God bless Mother Teresa for courageously sharing with us her doubts!)?  And, whatever happened to agnostic skepticism, the concept of withholding judgment on essential questions until conclusive answers can be found? Aren't our attempts to prove non-existence identical to those which attempt to prove the existence of god? Critical thinkers are likely to recognize the answer lies somewhere in our own egocentricities, sociocentricities, and intellectual arrogance; that the essential questions which most need to be asked before they can ever get answered require more information and knowledge of us than anyone can begin to comprehend.  Professor Bibby argues "religious groups are being exposed to a whole range of values that are not being propagated well by any other major source." There is, perhaps, an unintended truth in this statement, because unexamined social values, like those propagated in some religious as well as secular social dogma, all need continual integration and reconciliation with our evolving knowledge to remain valuable. It isn't that we don't all have beliefs and values, it's the critical process of why, how and what we arrive at believing and valuing that is most relevant. To the extent social research furthers understanding, an ongoing critical analysis of our social values and the way we communicate them can only make them more significant and, thus, more valuable.

Are Private Schools Really Better?

TIME -- October 10, 2007
by John Cloud

"Harvard professor Martin Feldstein used to tell students in his introductory economics class that economists agree on 99% of the issues in the field. From the nature of monopolies to the basic laws of inflation, Feldstein asserted, economists of all political stripes are in accord on the same principles. He claimed that what we read about in the popular press are the 1% of economic issues where the data support no clear-cut conclusion ... I'm pretty sure Feldstein was exaggerating the 99-1 split in economics, but I have often thought that education research shows precisely the opposite ratio of agreement to disagreement. Education experts seem to concur on almost nothing. Research in the field is so politicized and contradictory that you can find almost any study to support your view. If economics is a 99-1 science, education is a 1-99 circus ... Still, I was intrigued to read of a well-designed study released today by the Center on Education Policy that challenges decades of research on the advantages of private schools. 'Contrary to popular belief, we can find no evidence that private schools actually increase student performance,' said Jack Jennings, the center's president and a former staffer in the Democratic-controlled House, in a press release. "Instead, it appears that private schools simply have higher percentages of students who would perform well in any environment based on their previous performance and background' ... The study suggests vouchers for private schools are unnecessary because — once you control for socioeconomic status — students at private schools aren't performing any better than those at public schools. The study says that it is 'the kinds of economic and resource advantages their parents can give [students]' — as well as the level of parental involvement in their kids' education —that determines success or failure in high school. That's a message the teachers? unions and Democrats in general love: The problem isn't in the schools; it's with social inequality ... Except that's not exactly what the data shows. It's true that controlling for socioeconomic status (SES) eliminates most of the public-school/private-school differences in achievement-test scores in math, reading, science and history. But even after you control for SES, Catholic schools run by holy orders (not those overseen by the local bishop) turned out to perform better than other schools studied. True, as the study says, there are only a small number of religious-order schools. But the data suggests that the type of school a kid attends does affect how well he will do — and that we could learn something from how holy orders run their schools. The Center on Education Policy, however, is an advocacy group for public schools, so it didn't look into why holy-order schools are succeeding where others fail ... The center also downplays another finding: While controlling for SES eliminated most public school/private-school differences in achievement test scores, it did not eliminate differences in the most widely used test of developed abilities, the SAT. (As I explained more fully here, developed abilities are those nurtured through schoolwork, reading, engaging a piece of art, and any other activities that spark critical thinking. Developed abilities aren't inborn traits but honed competencies, more akin to athletic skill gained through practice rather than raw IQ. By contrast, achievement tests measure the amount of material students have committed to memory in any particular field.) Combined with high-school grades, SAT scores are the best predictor of how kids will do in their freshman year of college. And the data in the new study shows that private-school students outperform public-school students on the SAT ... Isn't that just because richer private-school kids can afford to be coached more before the SAT? No — remember that this study carefully controlled for socioeconomic status. Rather, it appears private schools do more to develop students' critical-thinking abilities — not just the rote memorization required to do well on achievement tests."-- Read the Full Article

Rutgers Courses a Departure From the Norm

Home News Tribune (News the Hits Home in Central Jersey) -- October 10, 2007
by Christine Sparta

"Rutgers — "Ken Miller, Ph.D., the chairman of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, is teaching 'Should I Sell My Shore House?: Global Warming and Sea-Level Rise' ... Despite the catchy title, the course pertains to global warming and the climate changes happening on the earth today ... This is an ice breaker course, a chance to expose students to research being done by a wide variety of faculty members who are passionate about their professions ... 'The idea is to make science fun. It's not just facts and figures. It's a form of critical thinking and evaluating ideas,' he said. 'I look at climate through sea level colored glasses,' he is known to joke to his class ... Miller draws from Al Gore's movie 'An Inconvenient Truth' to illustrate points and will even have the students read Michael Crichton's novel 'State of Fear,' a techno-thriller that melds scientific fact and fiction, to help them to evaluate controversy and discern what is real and what is contrived ... 'I don't go in to lecture for an hour,' Miller said. In fact, he will escort the kids on a one-hour flight in a small plane charting the area from Sandy Hook to Brigantine ...The outing will illustrate the erosion on the sea wall and the beach replenishment that has taken place on various points throughout the area ... There are three science majors among his 11 students ... This class operates on a pass/fail format as do other one-credit classes. There are no exams in Miller's class. Attendance is taken and students must complete a short paper." -- Read the Full Article

Fairness Doctrine, or is it Just Foul Play?

The Washington Times -- October 09, 2007
by Andrew Richards

"The Fairness Doctrine is 'the biggest misnomer since jumbo shrimp,' but it could be reinstituted because of the efforts of some Democrats, says Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican ... 'The Fairness Doctrine flies in the face of the First Amendment,' Mr. Coleman told a gathering at the Heritage Foundation. 'The idea of bringing it back is not just a bad idea, it is a dangerous idea' ...The Federal Communications Commission established the doctrine in 1949, 'requiring broadcasters to provide fair and balanced public affairs related programming' ...The FCC abolished the doctrine in 1987, allowing unrestricted political discussion in broadcasting and giving rise to the talk-radio boom ... Democrats tend to favor a revival of the doctrine, but Republicans oppose the return of such regulations. In a recent Senate exchange with Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, Mr. Coleman said, 'We should not license and measure when it comes to free speech' ... Mr. Coleman said the world has changed since 1949. The Fairness Doctrine may appear 'on the surface as harmless,' he said, but it 'serves to chill the freedom of speech' ... In recent weeks, controversies surrounding radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage have given more impetus to reviving the doctrine ... Mr. Coleman said a return to federal regulation would force the use of 'doublespeak.' " -- Read the Full Article

On Politics, Television and Critical Thinking.

This is the Life (Blog)  -- October 9, 2007
Al Gore: The Assault on Reason
Review by Kristin

"In some ways the premise of The Assault on Reason by Al Gore is very similar to the last book I read, Why We Read What We Read. Both books argue that Americans have lost their ability to think critically and that is partly because we don't really know how to read anymore. The authors of WWRWWR lay the blame for this problem at the feet of the educational system. Al Gore argues that this is partly the result of our society's increasing reliance on television and other non-print media for all our news and information. He points out that our lack of critical thinking skills and willingness to accept whatever we are told has led to this administration's ability to stretch the truth (or lie, depending on how nefarious you think this administration is), expand executive privilege at an alarming rate, and irreparably damage our country's reputation and position in the world. Yes, the words seem strong but in Gore's view, and in the view of many other citizens, things are just that dire ... I am no fan of the Bush administration but for me the most compelling parts of this book were not the parts outlining the administration's faults. Rather, I found the parts examining the actions, or inactions, of society as a whole to be more interesting. The beginning section of the book talks about the 'vicarious traumatization' that television can produce. Research indicates that the physical effects of watching trauma on television are the same as if an individual has actually experienced the traumatic events directly. I know, read it again...I had to." -- Read the Full Article

All of the Above

The Journal - October 9, 2007
by Geoffrey H. Fletcher

"Maryland's new multiple-choice-only state exam a) will leave key skills untested; b) is a step backward to the 20th century; c) rejects technology; or d) is a poor gauge of learning? ... I'm stepping out on a limb here, but either we have some very bizarre decision making going on in Maryland, or some very poor reporting from The Washington Post. In light of the Post's article on the supposed ineffectiveness of educational software (see Policy & Advocacy, June), I would've banked on poor reporting. It turns out the Post is just the messenger this time ... In a story published Sept. 13, the paper reported that 'Maryland plans to eliminate written-response questions from its high school exit exams to address long-standing complaints about how slowly test results are processed.' Currently, Maryland's state test includes both "brief constructed responses" and 'extended constructed responses.' Constructed response questions, whether brief or extended, require students to construct— write—responses rather than just choose from answers arranged for them by the test makers ... The reason cited for the change was speed. By eliminating written-response questions, the state can cut the time it takes to get results back to districts from nine weeks down to three weeks. Stephen Bedford, the chief school performance officer in Montgomery County, MD, believes the nine-week turnaround time is 'too long, making it difficult to enroll students in appropriate courses or plan for interventions' for students who fail ... Ronald A. Peiffer, Maryland's deputy superintendent for academic policy, says, 'The kinds of things we could only test with constructed-response items before now can be done…with selected-response items in a way that's just as good or better' ... I have a hard time understanding that one. How can choosing a correct answer from a list be a better way to gauge learning than having the student create an original answer? On top of that, two key skills that higher education and employers consistently tell us are lacking in our high school graduates are critical thinking and problem solving. And those skills are much better judged by a student's written response than by what might be a lucky stab at a multiple-choice answer ,,, we cannot afford to keep using 20th-century methods to test for a 21st-century set of skills. When we are in desperate need of forward thinking, the Maryland decision is a significant step back." -- Read the Full Article

College in National Spotlight for Testing Initiative

Charleston Daily Mail -- October 9, 2007
by Kelly L Holleran

"Not many sudents at the University of Charleston graduate from the school without a sound college education, if you trust test scores ... UC was one of the first colleges in the nation to implement an initiative known as outcome-based learning about eight years ago. Now the university is getting national attention for it ... The plan calls for students to learn a set of values -- creativity, science, communication, citizenship, ethical practice and critical thinking -- that are embedded into courses." Read the Full Article

In Ess Eff, Some Facts Get in the Way

The San Francisco Chronicle -- October 9, 2007
by Debra J Saunders

"Is San Francisco anti-military? Mayor Gavin Newsom said Saturday, 'I am sick and tired of this city being depicted as anti-military. The extreme right exploits the exception, when I believe there is a predominant respect in this city for the military, vets and those serving today' ... Newsom had a point when he said that critics of The Special City will not 'allow the facts get in the way.' Stories about Ess Eff turning away a crew filming a Marine recruitment ad apparently were much ado about nothing. The city did issue a permit - if not for the day the Marines wanted - with the result that the production company shot the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin County side. As locals well know, TV and film crews frequently make that call ... All true. And still, I'd say San Francisco is anti-military - or at best, pro-military and anti-military ...The city has its share of solons who respect U.S. troops and the sacrifices they have made. Newsom is one. Former mayor and now Sen. Dianne Feinstein is another. Even the Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 against a resolution to ban the Blue Angels during Fleet Week ... Here's an impressive statistic: In city public schools, some 1,500 students are enrolled in Junior ROTC ... But those kids are bucking the establishment. Last year, the San Francisco Board of Education voted 4-2 to end JROTC. While the program continues because the board has not come up with a replacement, the school board made it clear that San Franciscans do not want their students to enlist. Board members Dan Kelly and Mark Sanchez explained in The Chronicle that they eliminated the program because they opposed the 'militarization' of schools, 'the prominent presence of uniformed cadet units,' homophobic comments made by cadets as well as a curriculum that relies 'upon memorization and rote repetition rather than critical thinking' ... Two years ago, the San Francisco supervisors voted 8-3 for a measure that rejected berthing the mothballed World War II battleship Iowa in San Francisco, where it would house a museum. They didn't want to memorialize WWII during the Iraq war ... Last year, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval made national news when he appeared on Fox News "Hannity & Colmes" and suggested the country would be better off without an active military ... I'll stipulate that today's military haters are more sophisticated than the spit-on-combat-vets peaceniks of the Vietnam era. They know they are supposed to say they oppose the Iraq war, but also respect the troops ... Yes, many war critics really do support the troops. But some, who say they do, clearly hold a low opinion of those who risk their lives in service to this country ...It's one thing for city liberals to dissent on policies enacted by a Republican president. It is another for the city to announce that rules do not apply here. City leaders can't pass resolutions to deter teens from joining the U.S. military, or to direct city employees not to help federal immigration agents or to violate on-the-books marriage laws, then complain if others see San Francisco as - I'll use it for lack of a better word- anti-American." -- Read the Full Article

Liberal Arts Education Readies Students for High-Speed World

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle -- October 9, 2007
by Shirley Mullen, President -- Houghton College

"A classic is always in style. This applies to Thunderbird convertibles, Beethoven — and a liberal arts education. The liberal arts tradition is often criticized for being elitist, impractical and old-fashioned. In fact, it is arguably the most universal, practical and up-to-date educational preparation for the 21st century ... The liberal arts tradition has roots in ancient Greece where it was associated with 'those who were free'— hence the use of the word liberal. It was a way of learning for people who, unlike slaves and women, did not earn a living through physical labor ... The liberal arts were dedicated to developing those capacities associated with being human — critical thinking; the use of language; the formation of civil societies; and the capacities for moral and spiritual choice, for creativity, curiosity and humor. Over the centuries, a liberal education became associated with a wide range of disciplines. But it was always dedicated to the disciplining and enlarging of our critical, social, imaginative, moral capacities ... How does this make a liberal education critical for life in the 21st century?... First, a liberal arts education matches the needs of a world committed to the democratic ideal of making all people citizens rather than subjects. True citizenship is a matter of caring about what makes good leaders, what makes it possible for people to flourish within their communities, and what kinds of tradeoffs are worth making as a society. Elections without a liberally educated citizenry produce, at best, shallow public discourse, unrealizable campaign promises, an apathetic public. At worst, they yield a society of political "spin," narrow self-interest, economic corruption and moral compromise. If we want real liberal democracy, we must promote a liberally educated citizenry. It is not just for the elite. It is for all citizens ... Such education is also the most practical for a world that is increasingly fragmented by academic discipline, religion, ethnicity and class — but, at the same time, increasingly unified by communication, technology, environmentalism and market forces. Whether someone becomes a doctor, teacher, CEO, plumber or media personality, he or she will be making value decisions (think of Enron) where there is no rule book. And, there will be interpersonal interactions that need to be gracious, respectful and clear ... An education that trains people to communicate clearly, to think well, to deal with people of other cultures, to care about community, to value moral and spiritual maturity — while training them for careers — is the only truly practical education for the complicated cultural and technological realities ahead ... Finally, the only hedge against the fast pace of change is an education that has taught us how to learn, to evaluate information, to make judgments and where to look for wisdom about aspects of humanness that persist over time. Whatever changes lie ahead, humans will need to know how to build lasting relationships, strong communities and a sense of responsibility ... A classic liberal arts education that prepares us to be wise, to be discerning, to be good listeners and good communicators, to pursue justice, to recognize and value goodness and beauty is truly the most universal, practical and up-to-date education. It is an investment worth making for any individual, for our society, for our world."-- Read the Full Article

Science Education’s ‘Overlooked Ingredient’

Education Week -- October 9, 2007
by Harold Pratt

"Why the Path to Global Competitiveness Begins in Elementary School ... In the emerging national dialogue about threats to American leadership in the global technological marketplace, concern over the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to technologically skilled workers in India and Asia runs deep. But our educational responses to such competition have so far failed to match the level of concern. The testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act actually have led to a diminishing amount of class time devoted to science, as teachers focus sharply on reading and math, the first subjects tested under the federal law. Now, this new urgency about our technological progress appears to be changing the political calculus, pushing lawmakers as well as educators to give science education the attention it deserves ... But a key ingredient—arguably the most important ingredient in effective science education—is being undervalued and overlooked: creative, engaging, and demanding elementary science ... The problem may be more acute than generally perceived. As a recent report in the journal Science examining opportunities to learn in America’s elementary classrooms noted: 'Few opportunities were provided to learn in small groups, to improve analytical skills, or to interact extensively with teachers. This pattern of instruction appears inconsistent with aims to add depth to students’ understanding, particularly in mathematics and science' ... We must support our teachers, so that science comes to life for children in the classroom and in their communities. We should be advocating for legislative support of science teachers at the elementary level. We should be investing in rich preparation and professional development for science teachers, expanding their fluency and confidence in both methodology and content. We should be heeding the latest reports that have come from the National Research Council and the National Science Teachers Association about the importance of lab experiences as an integral part of learning science, and seeking funding to keep those experiences in scientific investigation working well, with appropriate resources ... Develop critical and innovative thinkers. Science education is an important tool for teaching analytical-thinking skills. According to an Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development survey, 58 percent of employers identify problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as important for new workers, with 70 percent saying that current high school graduates are deficient in the latter ...Turning this around will require a brand of education that expects students to inquire, to ask their own questions as well as answer those from teachers, as they develop an understanding of the kinds of knowledge needed in this new century." -- Read the Full Article

Shrugged Off

The New Skeptic -- October 8, 2007
On the 50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged
by Freiheit

"Like Vernunft, my exposure to Rand has been less than satisfactory. Unlike him, though, I managed to avoid her until I was in college. I don't recall hearing of her or her philosophy while young, and none of my high school courses involved one of her books (from what I understand, many people read The Fountainhead in a high school course). I remember hearing about Atlas Shrugged in high school, but only to the extent of admiring the title ...  My first major exposure occurred during my junior year of undergrad. I had finally begun to self-identify as a libertarian (which, in retrospect, was a place I had been headed towards for some time), and I kept hearing about Rand from other libertarians. The majority of them disliked her and her books, but claimed her books were important anyway. The Objectivists in the libertarian groups asserted that Atlas Shrugged was her greatest work, so I decided to see what the fuss was about ...  As it turned out, the fuss was about an overly long book filled with unsympathetic characters, wooden dialogue, gold fetishism, and ridiculous happenings in settings where characters proclaimed the existence of an objective reality. Every character was identifiable as either Good or Bad, and any character that wasn't pure Good was a moocher and anti-life. To top it off is the infamous John Galt speech that if actually given would take three hours. In short, not a good book by any account ... However, I could see the value of some of her ideas. At that point, I had not encountered anyone who claimed selfishness was morally good, and her belief that capitalism was the only economic system compatible with human freedom was refreshing (especially when surrounded by college-age lefties). I decided to read some of her philosophy in the hope she was a better philosopher than novelist ... I read a number of her philosophical tracts available on the internet, and I reached several conclusions. First, she never actually read anything written by Kant. Her attacks on him were nonsensical, either because she was attacking something that actually supported her position or because she was attacking something he never claimed (many of her critiques seemed to address points made by Hume, not Kant). Second, she borrowed heavily from Nietzsche. While understandable to the extent they were both egoists, there's something very amusing about a person incorporating Nietszche's work when trying to prove the existence of objective morality. Finally, the reason most philosophers ignore her work is because it's contradictory and incoherent ... On that last point, I decided to make one more attempt to understand her philosophy by attending some Objectivist meetings. I hoped that adherents to her philosophy could clarify her beliefs. Instead, I found people who refused to acknowledge any shortcomings in her work, claimed there was a massive philosophical conspiracy against her by people afraid of the truth, and who doubted quantum mechanics because it conflicted with the notion of an objective reality. They even believed Rand was correct in proclaiming the existence of objective aesthetics. I attended several meetings, but it was no use. They were devoted to Rand, and any questioning of her works meant I was too dim to truly grasp the material ...  From talking to other libertarians, apparently my experience is fairly common. In some ways, it's a shame. Libertarianism does owe Rand a debt for attempting to create a moral underpinning for minarchism, but it's hard to rationally explain that to the average individual whose only exposure to Rand usually involves an asshole Objectivist (which is a somewhat redundant description). Like many true believers, the Objectivists have managed to drive away those interested in rationally discussing ideas and thereby marginalize the object of their worship ... I do disagree with Vernunft on the marginalization of Rand by university professors, though. First, it gives the Objectivists material for their claims of an anti-Rand conspiracy. Second, I think her work would be ideal material for critique by philosophy classes. Evaluating a flawed philosophy seems like it would help develop the critical thinking skills that higher education is supposed to instill in students ... Then again, when I consider the critical thinking I encounter in many educated people, assigning Rand to undergrads would probably convert them to Objectivism. Maybe ignoring her is for the best." -- Read the Full Article

Holguin to Host Ibero-American Conference on Critical Thinking

Ahora Cuba -- October 8, 2007
by Leandro Estupinan

Holguin, Cuba — "As part of the Ibero-American Culture Festival that takes place each year in the eastern province of Holguin of , the Fourth Ibero-American Conference on Critical Thinking, to be held October 25 and 27, is dedicated to the analysis of thought within regional culture ... Scholars and experts from Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, United States and Cuba have confirmed their participation at the event which will debate some137 research papers in 4 different forums ... Scholars Jesus Guanche, Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera, Desiderio Navarro and Eduardo Torres Cuevas as president of honor will attend this event sponsored by the Iberoamerican Center in Holguin, the Don Fernando Ortiz Research Center, the Provincial Culture Studies Center and the Martiano Program Center ... The Ibero-American culture festival has taken place in Cuba since 1992." -- Read the Full Article

MCAT Score Remains Major Factor in Applications

DailyIllini.Com -- October 8, 2007
by Megan Kelly

"While other University students celebrated the end of the spring semester, Gil Harmon spent all of his free time studying for the Medical College Admission Test, commonly referred to as the MCAT, in a library. Harmon said he studied extensively for the exam because he believes a student's score is an important component of a student's medical school application ... 'Pre-med students know they need to take the exam, and they have more than ample time to prepare for it," said Harmon, a senior in LAS who plans to be either an international or emergency doctor. "How students score on the test depends on their willingness to prepare and understand the material' ... A recent survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions concurred with Harmon's belief. The survey found receiving a good MCAT score and having a strong GPA are the top two factors medical school admissions workers look for in applicants ... Kaplan surveyed 83 medical schools, which provided it with insights regarding critical application factors, future admittance plans and a timetable of when students should take the MCAT ... 'Having a strong GPA is important because it reveals that a student can show progress through rigorous course work,' said Matt Fidler, MCAT program manager for Kaplan. 'The MCAT is a leading factor because it demonstrates a student's critical thinking ability, which is a necessary skill for doctors to have.'"-- Read the Full Article

Film Exposes Apparent Lack of Academic Freedom in US -- October 8, 2007
by Kevin Mooney

"Critics who question the need for race-based affirmative action programs, among other politically controversial issues, are prominently featured in a new documentary that looks at academia's treatment of dissenting views ... Although most of America's institutions of higher learning were designed to foster debate and mold students into critical thinkers, a two-and-a-half-year investigation shows that a repressive political climate has taken hold in recent years - a climate where dissent is silenced and free speech is jeopardized, according to Evan Coyne Maloney, who made the documentary 'Indoctrinate U' ... The film was screened last week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and audience members, many of them students, expressed empathy for the people in the film who were often on the receiving end of politically correct harassment ... 'The very people who invoke the name of tolerance are shown to be quite intolerant themselves,' Josiah Ryan, a graduate of Hillsdale College, told Cybercast News Service. 'Free speech is about a rich exchange of ideas. It's not about having everyone in agreement. The very notion of tolerance has been turned upside down' ... While the documentary focuses on individuals who successfully pushed back against harassment and censorship, it is important to note that there are many students and professors who have had their academic careers damaged and even ruined, Maloney told the audience after the screening ... The film also touches on the dramatic ideological imbalance that currently exists among college professors and administrators ... Studies show conservative-minded academics to be vastly outnumbered in comparison to their liberal counterparts. But Maloney cautions against assuming that people on the right would not succumb to some of the same practices highlighted in the film, if the situation were reversed ... One main objective of the documentary is to focus attention on the 'group-think' that takes hold when people operate in a closed community that has little interaction with outside views and alternative opinions, Maloney said ... This closed mentality, reflexively hostile to viewpoints not widely held on college campuses, is front and center as the documentary opens with an appearance by a civil rights activist at the University of Michigan ... The 'sunlight of public exposure' that the film conveys should raise awareness among parents, students, trustees, alumni and other concerned citizens who have a stake in the health of America's colleges, Thor Halvorssen, founder of the Moving Picture Institute (MPI), said while fielding questions from audience members ... The film should not be viewed as being ideologically tilted toward either a conservative or liberal view, he said, but should instead be seen as an important vehicle for raising awareness about academia's often repressive political environment ... 'We hope this mainstreams the discussion about the assault on the First Amendment on college campuses,' Halvorssen told Cybercast News Service. 'The tragedy here is that the American university, the one place that should be open to all sorts of ideas, and tolerant of all sorts of perspectives, has become very narrow-minded' ... The documentary was produced by On the Fence Films with support from MPI. Halvorssen founded MPI in 2005. The organization seeks to promote the principles of American liberty through film. Its stated goal is to "guarantee that film's unique capacity to give shape to abstract principles - to make them move and breathe - is used to support liberty' ... Halvorssen, who served as the first executive director and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has been praised for his contributions to civil rights by people from across the political spectrum, including former Attorney General Edwin Meese and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz."--Read the Full Article

Eye On the Future

The San Diego Union-Tribune -- October 7, 2007
by Robert L Pincus

"Derrick Cartwright is the sort of museum director who doesn't just reflect on the big picture. He embraces it ... 'I think about what kind of museum San Diego needs, not just for the next five years, but the next 50, so we can get the museum that we deserve.'  And the sort of museum he thinks San Diego deserves, as a major American city, is a first-rate, encyclopedic one ... He has been able to further a culture of scholarship at the museum, which he believes is vital to raising its reputation ... 'We haven't been that big on publications,' Cartwright says. 'They are expensive. It takes twice as long to produce a show that way. But I'm really proud of what has happened in the last three years. We've published three new books' ... All of them have accompanied major exhibitions. The latest is the catalog for 'Animated Painting,' a show organized by its curator of modern and contemporary art, Betti-Sue Hertz, that opens Saturday. She looks at how leading visual artists across the globe, including South African William Kentridge and Julian Opie from England, are turning their images into films ... Cartwright, who was raised in San Francisco and Marin County, grew up around art. Both his parents were artists, though in their professional lives they were psychoanalysts. They also collected art and took him to museums ...'If I hadn't gone to the De Young and the Asian Art Museum as a child, I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today,' he says ... 'I thought I would be an artist too, when I went to (UC) Berkeley. It was a great place for artists, with teachers like Chris Brown and Elmer Bischoff. But I realized I like art history just as much and it might be more practical. It brought together the things I was interested in: critical thinking and looking at works of enduring beauty.' " -- Read the Full Article

All Geared Up

The Star Online -- October 7, 2007
by Sarah Chew

Stamford, Malaysia — "Versatile and ever ready to embrace change and challenges, Stamford College is quick to assess student needs and customise programmes to meet these needs ... Stamford College (Stamford) has been around for more than half a century; in fact, it is even older than Malaysia ... The college academic director U. K. Menon recalls the days when Stamford used to train systems analysts and punch card operators – computers, then, were huge machines occupying a whole room and had to be operated by punch cards ... Even then, Stamford was at the forefront of education. However, the college has come a long way since ... 'Stamford has been around for 57 years,' says Menon. 'As an institution, it has morphed and changed with the times to accommodate the needs of the population by providing the right courses' ... Now, after a 10-year hiatus, Stamford is reviving the correspondence concept again, albeit via modern technology this time, by introducing its online portal called StamfordOnline ... Incorporating intellectual and soft skills in tertiary education is important to Menon, who believes such competencies are better taught within courses rather than separately ...'Most of our programmes emphasise transferable skills such as research and critical thinking,' he says." -- Read the Full Article

Cyber Academy Helps Students Meet New Needs

The Rio Rancho Observer -- October 7, 2007
by Gary Herron

"Distance learning isn't for everyone, but for those who find it an effective way to get their schoolwork done and preparing to earn a diploma, it seems to be a fine alternative to traditional, in-person schooling ... And, don't let anyone get the impression that distance learning, a term used to describe what's in place at the Rio Rancho Cyber Academy, means a computer geek at home alone, poring over a keyboard and never interacting with anyone in person ... Cyber Academy students - there are 143 full-time and 30 blended students there this fall -- often visit the school in north-central Rio Rancho, where about five-dozen computer are available for them to use ... Their accredited lessons are monitored, too. Director Elaine Manicke spends a lot of time looking into each student's progress on her computer, seeing when they're logged in and out, how far they are, percentage-wise, when it comes to completing course work, and even communicating with the students via e-mail when they have a question - or she'll send a short note of encouragement when she feels the time is right ... Last month, a few dozen state legislators visited the campus. Gov. Bill Richardson is using Cyber Academy as a pilot program for the state, and the state's own cyber academy will be housed within the building for a while ... 'I thought (the legislators) got a lot out of it,' Manicke said of the Sept. 13 visit. They got information first, and then were allowed to go right into the labs and look at the kids' screens ... 'They have something to look for and information on the programs we're using, the specifics of the curriculum and how we monitor student progress' ... Manicke can easily recite the nine "21st century skills" the Cyber Academy wants to instill in its students: accountability and adaptability; communication skills; creativity and intellectual curiosity; critical thinking and systems thinking; information and literacy skills; interpersonal and collaborative skills; problem identification, formulation and solution; self-direction; and social responsibility ... No, you can't act like a child, confident in your computer skills and get away with taking courses at Cyber Academy. The school even has a motto: 'Education: anytime, any place, any pace' ... The state is going to create a cyber academy of its own,' Manicke said." -- Read the Full Article

Schools Hail Gains in MCAS Scores

The Boston Globe -- October 7, 2007
by James Vaznis

"School districts south of Boston, like those around the state, are cheering the best overall increases in MCAS scores in three years ... The biggest gains on the spring's Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests are largely at elementary and middle schools, helping reverse two years of stagnant or declining performance statewide in grades 3 through 8 ... In that category, this region boasts some impressive results. More students in the spring scored in the top two categories - advanced and proficient - than last year, according to a Globe analysis of data released Thursday by the state Department of Education ...  At the heart of the improvement, say educators, is simply old-fashioned hard work. Teachers regularly get together to analyze MCAS results to see where students faltered. They also discuss which students are having difficulty in class. In the end, they often come up with an array of remedies ... One of the more striking examples of hard work is Milton's Tucker School, where 62 percent of the 350 students are African-American, Asian, or Latino. Roughly 70 students in grades 3 through 5 gave up their Saturday mornings last year for about six months to master the more sophisticated skills of problem solving and critical thinking, which are necessary to do well on MCAS." -- Read the Full Article

Study for First Quarter Exams

Pacific Daily News (Guam's Complete Source) -- October 7, 2007
by  Lacee A C Martinez

Hagåtña, GU — "The end of the first quarter for most public school students is right around the corner. For most, it means students will be stressed with exams ... It's important for both parents and students to pay attention to those first-quarter marks because it could lay the groundwork for a solid school year, Untalan Middle School teacher Josh Blas said ... Keeping an eye out on those test results is even more important for those students who are in, or looking to join extracurricular activities such as sports and school organizations, he said. Parents should note that some teachers distribute a study guide for the class before a test, and they should ensure their students review the material before the test, Blas said ... 'I encourage my students to ask questions and tell them that there really isn't a wrong question,' Blas said. 'Sometimes it's something that helps all of us and sometimes it could be something that I might have missed or didn't explain right' ... Students should avoid rote memorization of the material just to pass their tests, he said ... 'We have to encourage critical thinking and that often goes beyond the books,' Blas said ... That means taking time out to research the subjects by reading other books or looking it up on the Internet ... 'A lot of the questions I ask on my tests are for critical thinking,' he said. 'Students tend to hate that but you want to get them into the mindset where they begin to analyze the subjects.'" -- Read the Full Article

Islam, the Greeks and the Scientific Revolution, part 2

Global Politician -- October 7, 2007
by Fjordman

"According to scholar Lynda Shaffer, "Francis Bacon (1561-1626), an early advocate of the empirical method, upon which the scientific revolution was based, attributed Western Europe's early modern take-off to three things in particular: printing, the compass, and gunpowder. Bacon had no idea where these things had come from, but historians now know that all three were invented in China. Since, unlike Europe, China did not take off onto a path leading from the scientific to the Industrial Revolution, some historians are now asking why these inventions were so revolutionary in Western Europe and, apparently, so unrevolutionary in China' ... The Song dynasty, from the tenth to the thirteenth century, was arguably the most dynamic period in Chinese history. Although printing "was invented by Buddhist monks in China, and at first benefited Buddhism, by the middle of the tenth century printers were turning out innumerable copies of the classical Confucian corpus' ... According to Shaffer, "The origin of the civil service examination system in China can be traced back to the Han dynasty, but in the Song dynasty government-administered examinations became the most important route to political power in China ... As she explains, "China developed the world's largest and most technologically sophisticated merchant marine and navy." The Chinese "could have made the arduous journey around the tip of Africa and sail into Portuguese ports; however, they had no reason to do so. Although the Western European economy was prospering, it offered nothing that China could not acquire much closer to home at much less cost' ... In contrast, the Portuguese, the Spanish and other Europeans were trying to reach the Spice Islands, what is now Indonesia. "It was this spice market that lured Columbus westward from Spain and drew Vasco da Gama around Africa and across the Indian Ocean." In Shaffer's view, technologies such as gunpowder and the compass had a different impact in China than they had in Europe, and it is "unfair to ask why the Chinese did not accidentally bump into the Western Hemisphere while sailing east across the Pacific to find the wool markets of Spain' ... Yes, Asia was the most prosperous region on the planet at this time. Europeans embarked on their Age of Exploration of the seas precisely out of a desire to reach the wealthy Asian lands (and bypass Muslim middlemen), which is why Christopher Columbus and his men mistakenly believed they had arrived in India when they reached the Americas. Asians did not possess a similar desire to reach Europe. But this still doesn't explain why the Chinese didn't embark on the final and most crucial stage of the Industrial Revolution in the West: Harnessing the force of steam and the use of fossil fuels to build stronger, more efficient machinery, faster ships and eventually railways, cars and airplanes ... Printing and literacy greatly expanded during Song times; the world's first printed paper money (bank notes) was introduced and a system of canals and roads was built, all facilitating an unprecedented population growth. Iron smelting and the use of coal multiplied several times over as China reached a stage sometimes called "proto-industrial." And yet China produced no Thomas Savery, Thomas Newcomen or James Watt to develop successful steam engines, nor a George Stephenson to build railway lines or a Karl Benz to make the first gasoline-powered automobile. Although experiments with flying had been undertaken in many nations around the world, the airplane was made possible only with the invention of modern engines, which is why China didn't produce the Wright brothers ... For thousands of years, human beings were limited by their ability to harness muscle power, of men and animals. This was later supplemented with windmills, watermills and similar inventions, which could be important, but in a limited fashion. The harnessing of steam power for engines and machinery was a revolution which provided the basis for enormous improvements in output and efficiency. For some reason, China never did take this final step, and although the country remained prosperous for centuries, later dynasties never quite matched the dynamism under Song times. Emphasis was on cultural continuity, and China experienced no great cultural flowing or event similar to the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment in Europe. China was in its own eyes the Middle Kingdom. It had some annoying barbarians at its frontiers, but no immediate neighbors to rival its size and power, and thus little incentive for improvement. The result was relative (though not necessarily absolute) scientific stagnation. China could afford to grow self-satisfied, and she did. In contrast, Europeans, who were divided into numerous smaller states in a constant state of rivalry instead of one, large unified state, had stronger incentives for innovation, including in weapons technology ... The Mongol invasion, which ended the Song dynasty, is sometimes blamed for this loss of impetus."-- Read the Full Article

OLPC's Potential for Revolution

Education Futures -- October 6, 2007
by John Moravec

"An element missing from media coverage of the One Laptop per Child XO is the ramifications of using mesh networking. This scheme allows for data to be passed through individual machines acting as nodes, where data hops from machine-to-machine until its destination on the network —  or on a foreign network is reached. This allows for instantly reconfigurable and self-healing networks that can self-adapt to a variety of network accessibility environments ... This networking model has also been recontextualized into the interface and software design of the device which encourages as much co-teaching and co-learning as possible.  Working with teams from Petagram Design and Red Hat, OLPC created SUGAR, a graphic user interface that captures the students' world of fellow learners and teachers as collaborators, emphasiaing connectivity between people and activities. From OLPC ... Everyone has the potential for being both a learner and a teacher. We have chosen to put collabroation at the core of the user experience in order to realize this potential. The presence of other members of the learning community will encourage children to take responsibility for others' learning as well as their own. The exchange of ideas amongst peers can both make the learning process more engaging and stiumlate critical thinking skills.  We hope to encourage these types of social interaction with the laptops ... As most software developers would agree, the best way to learn how to write a program is to write one, or perhaps teach someone else how to do so; studying the syntax of the lanuguage might be useful, but it doesn't teach one how to code.  We hope to apply this principle of "learn through doing" to all types of creation, e.g., we emphasize composing music orver downloading music. We also encourage the children to engage in the process of collaborative critique of their expressions and to iterate upon this expression as well ... While the developed world is using new technologies to teach the same old stuff it's been pushing since the 19th century, the co-constructivism allowed by OLPC could allow children in less developed countries to leapfrog their peers in new knowledge production. Is this purposeful orientation toward the use of technologies the start of a new revolution in education?" -- Read the Full Article

Eavesdropping on discussions in the evolving development of software and hardware for future online pedagogical media sometimes provides unique insights into the status of where critical teaching, learning, and application strategies are currently headed, as well as how those strategies and applications are being used within the new product development process itself. This article showcases how impending technologies and products may enable new beneficial dimensions to interactive and cooperative learning strategies.

The Kid Who Grew Up to Run the Fed

Globeandmail.Com -- October 6, 2007
Alan Greenspan: The Age of Turbulance
Reviewed by William Robson, President/CEO of the C D Howe Institute

"Alan Greenspan is formidably accomplished: adviser to many U.S. presidents, head of a pivotal panel on social security reform and, most famously, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006. The remarkable stability and prosperity during his tenure at the Fed guarantee his book wide readership. And deservedly, for Greenspan is also formidably smart. But his book is a challenge; business-oriented seekers of insights on U.S. monetary policy and the economic outlook will get fewer lessons than they expect, and different ones ... 'The Age of Turbulence' is really two volumes. Chapters 1-11 are memoirs, mixed autobiography and narrative of U.S. economic and policy developments since the 1950s. Chapters 12-25 are an eclectic series of essays on current issues. The title and opening passages on the impact of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, moreover, mislead. For the book's unifying theme is Greenspan's appreciation of the variety and energy of human endeavour, and the conviction that no one, himself included, can fruitfully control it ... As autobiography, the opening chapters provide vivid images of his early life: only child of divorced parents in the Jewish community of Manhattan's Washington Heights, would-be inductee rejected by a draft board for a tubercular-looking lung, professional jazz musician doing his bandmates' taxes and reading business books while they smoked pot. Arguably, though, the most telling vignettes are of a boy fascinated by math and Morse code, calculating baseball statistics and memorizing railway timetables ... Those vignettes segue to a young man parlaying intense study of steel production, trade, consumption and inventories into success as a business economist. As Greenspan emphasizes, he was a details man. But this focus on inputs and outputs fed no fantasies of planning. For Greenspan, who credits meeting and debating Ayn Rand for the inspiration to tackle bigger questions, it bolstered appreciation of Joseph Schumpeter's "perennial gale of creative destruction" - its power to drive progress, and to thwart would-be economic managers ... For business readers and policy wonks, Greenspan's account of his Fed chairmanship is compelling reading. He thoroughly illuminates the mechanics of modern central banking and financial markets. Controversies such as the prolonged spells of easy money that many blame for the 2000 tech-wreck and the recent housing collapse get thorough airing, both fundamental (the uncertain size and persistence of faster U.S. productivity growth) and practical (whether, and how, to prick a bubble) ... Significantly, though, Greenspan advances no coherent theory of monetary policy ... Over and over, these pages show Greenspan the libertarian, fascinated by spontaneous interaction, hostile to state control: his astonishment when the Iron Curtain's fall revealed societies lacking the institutions and trust that support beneficial exchange; his endorsement of Hernando de Soto's insistence that property rights are essential for economic development; his delight when a former allocator of farm products in Shanghai remarked, "Now I don't have to get up at four a.m. I can sleep in and let the market do my job for me' ... He concludes: 'The Enlightenment's legacy of individual rights and economic freedom has unleashed billions of people to pursue the imperatives of their nature - to work toward better lives for themselves and their families. ... [T]he frontier of hope that we all innately pursue will never close.' Thus Greenspan finishes his story as he began it: the kid spellbound by Morse code and railway timetables, at 81 years of age, still awestruck by the diversity and dynamism of life."-- Read the Full Article

Speech Puts Bollinger Back in the Eye of a Storm

The Chronicle of Higher Education -- October 5, 2007
by Robin Wilson

"Columbia's president wants to be seen as a defender of free speach, but past disputes left critics with another view ...Lee C. Bollinger had the kind of week few university presidents everf do. By inviting the president of Iran to speak at Columbia University, and then delivering a blistering critique of the leader's record as he sat just 30 feet away, Mr. Bollinger brought attention to the bully pulpit of the univerfsity presidency like nothing else has in recent years ... But for many professors at Columbia, the event also revived their impression that Mr. Bollinger had bungled earlier free-speech controversies on the campus and fallen short of his own billing as a staunch advocate of the First Amendment." -- Read the Full Article

Everybody's Yelling at Me: The Challenge of Information Overload

Poynter Online (Everything You Need to be a Good Journalist) -- October 5, 2007
by Greg Bowers

"My first sports editor, a world-weary man, once told me a story about how sports reporters used to hang inning cards out of the second-floor window of the newspaper building ... Interested men would gather on the street below, their jackets pulled tight against the cool fall evenings, to see how the World Series was going. That's how scarce news was. That's how eager people were to get it ... A career later, I sat on a porch on a warm summer evening at the Missouri School of Journalism, listening while a student told me she doesn't read the news ... 'I know I should,' she said, sheepishly. 'I know I should' ... She is a good student who enjoys journalism and is pretty good at it. She just doesn't read it ... 'It's just that it's boring,' she said, underlining the last word with her tone ... Sometimes you learn more from your students than you teach them ... What happened? In short, we went from information infatuation to information love to information overload ... The good news: Journalists are particularly well-suited for this. Journalists, if nothing else, should be good at critical thinking -- a talent that most folks have lost in this age of information overload and 'fair and balanced' reporting. Separate the gold from the garbage. Don't tell us everything. Sort it out. Tell us what's true." -- Read the Full Article

What Mexico Must Do

TPM Cafe (Politics, Ideas and Lots of Caffeine) -- October 5, 2007
by Sam Quiones

"I’d like to talk about a few things that Mexico needs to do to begin to become a country that poor people no longer feel they have to leave ... What follows is, of course, a partial list. You’ll note that none of it involves reforming the notorious criminal justice/police problem. That’s not because that’s not necessary, but rather because if these things are done first, it’ll make that job a little easier, I think ... Also, I’m focusing on things that can be done legislatively, which is a lot ... The country’s problem is that it remains the captive of Mexico City – or, better put, Congress and the harmful insular political culture of Mexico City ...Congress can act on all of these and has not. It hasn’t even debated a lot of this ... Mexico’s public-education system is the only one the poor and working classes can access. Yet it is poorly funded. Its teachers are poorly paid and poorly trained. Too much of what kids learn involves rote repetition and memorization and not enough critical thinking. Most school days last only five hours and too much of that is taken up with patriotic exercises." -- Read the Full Article

$100,000 NSF Grant to Expand Psychology Studies

Illinois Wesleyan University -- October 5, 2007
by Rachel Hatch

Bloomington, IL —"The National Science Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to Joseph Williams, associate professor of psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University, which will go toward purchasing an EEG acquisition machine, or electroencephalography machine, to expand research within the Psychology Department ... 'EEG technology can help us understand how the brain processes information, and why problems might arise in memory or critical thinking,' said Williams, who teaches courses in behavioral neuroscience. 'For instance, we can map out how changes in brain activity allow us to better encode and recall visual information or how changes in brain activity relate to mistakes in remembering information. The new EEG recording system will allow IWU students more in-depth exploration of the complex interaction between brain and behavior.'" -- Read the Full Article

Nussbaum Warns of Fundamentalist Threat

Chicago Maroon (The Independent Newspaper of the University of Chicago) -- October 5, 2007
by David Golubock

"Professor Martha Nussbaum sought to raise awareness of religious strife in India and the threat of religious fundamentalism to Indian democracy in a lecture Thursday at Brent House ... Nussbaum, who has traveled widely throughout India and recently published a book on her research, focused particularly on the ethnic violence that afflicted the state of Gujarat in 2002 and its aftermath. Using this example, Nussbaum illuminated trends in contemporary Indian society, such as the growing influence of Hindu radicals in the government ... According to Nussbaum, fundamentalists have 'hijacked Hinduism for their own purposes,' and twisted it to create a new ideology based more in fascist European philosophies than in religious tradition. Nussbaum described the hold of fundamentalism over many regional governments and spoke of the local authorities’ support for the strife in Gujarat, describing how the police were given orders not to quell the violence ... Nussbaum also spoke of the dangers of the moribund Indian educational system. The poor public schools cause many to send their children to private schools where students are frequently segregated along ethnic and religious lines, encouraging violent division. Nussbaum further derided the rise of technical, career-based education, whose focus on useful skills, she believes, results in a lack of instruction in critical thinking, which encourages close-mindedness and strife." -- Read the Full Article

From the Desk of Mineola High School Principal Ed Escobar

Mineola American -- October 5, 2007
by Ed Escobar

"Now that the school year is in full swing I would like to highlight our special achievements and opportunities that the Mineola High School provides the students for academic and social growth. Our small school size - 775 students in grades 9-12 - allows for a high level of personalization and interaction among the students and staff. All students are enrolled in Regents level courses and must pass the "Big Five" in order to graduate high school with a Regents diploma, including Math A, Living Environment, Global History and Geography, English and United States History. These courses focus on both content and the development of critical thinking, reading and writing skills ... This past year our students achieved much success on Regents exams. The passing rates for Regents exams increased in the 2006-2007 school year. Some of the highlights included an increase from an 86 percent passing rate to 90 percent for the Math A Regents; an increase from 94 percent to 96 percent for the United States History and Government Regents, and an increase from 82 percent to 86 percent for the Living Environment Regents." -- Read the Full Article

The Looming Tower: The Road to 9/11

GlobalThink.Net -- October 5, 2007
The Looming Tower—Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright
Reviewer:  Laina Farhat-Holzman

"Summary ... This book charts the tragic course of the 9/11 attack on the United States from its beginnings in the Muslim world early in the 20th century and provides the chronology on both the Islamist and American sides.  I recognized many of the events that Wright follows, but there was much more that I had not known about—particularly the results of five years of interviews that the author lists in the index, many of which were with Islamists and their families.  If there is one book to have on this subject, this is it ... Founders. One of the more influential founders of the Islamist movement was an Egyptian writer and educator, Sayyid Qutb, who went through a crisis of faith at the same time that he was given a scholarship to study the educational system of the US, receiving a master’s degree from the Colorado State College. Qutb was shocked by what he perceived as sexual freedom between young men and women (church dances horrified him) and American racism, when Egyptians were mistaken for Blacks. He determined that “The white man in Europe or America is our number one enemy.  The white man crushes us underfoot while we teach our children about his civilization, his universal principles and noble objectives….We are endowing our children with amazement and respect for the master who tramples our honor and enslaves us. Let us instead plant the seeds of hatred, disgust, and revenge in the souls of these children.  Let us teach these children from the time their nails are soft that the white man is the enemy of humanity, and that they should destroy him at the first opportunity.”  He returned home and joined the Muslim Brotherhood ... These fiery words inspired much of the rhetoric we later hear from Osama bin Laden and other Islamists. The key issues are sexual equality, which violates their traditional standards, and the loss of Muslim “honor” and “enslavement.”  The idea of teaching their children hate is the active principle of schooling in Madrassas and certainly in Palestinian schools today ... Hasan al-Banna, the actual founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, from which all Islamism derives, wanted his movement to be more than  anti- government, but to be a counter society altogether.  Banna refused to think of his organization as a mere political party; it was meant to be a challenge to the entire idea of politics. He rejected the Western model of secular, democratic government, and instead said 'It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations, and to extend its power to the entire planet.'  All Islamist organizations that followed believed in the same mission ... Recruiting in the Universities. We hear so much about how 'well educated' Islamists are.  One of the more notorious Islamists is Ayman al-Zawahiri (Osama’s Number two), as an Egyptian university student showing an American convert around, noted that the Islamist movement had found its greatest recruiting success in the university’s two most elite faculties—the medical and engineering schools. Other informants about fanatical cults (such as Om Shinryko in Japan-- who let loose sarin nerve gas in a subway) also note that their most devoted followers have medical or engineering degrees. This may indicate that such disciplines fail to teach history, political science, or critical thinking ... The details in this book, the voluminous notes at the end, and the overwhelming feeling of a great drama unfolding makes this the one book on 9/11 that deserves to be on every shelf."-- Read the Full Article

Jordan Kerner: One on One

The Kudzu Gazette (Student Newspaper of North Carolina School of the Arts) -- October 4, 2007
An interview of Jordan Kerner, Dean of the School of Filmaking
by Ben Wolf, Staff Writer

"There are going to be some changes around here ... At least, there will be if Jordan Kerner, the new dean of the School of Filmmaking, has his way. With sweeping changes planned for the film school’s curriculum, identity, funding and even the state’s film incentives package Dean Kerner will definitely be leaving his stamp on the campus community ... Kudzu Gazette: What brings you to NCSA? ... Jordan Kerner: As a sophomore at Stanford in my spring quarter I was pre-med and I took an elective course from a man named Jules Dundees. Jules was the communications films professor and he taught a course on mass communications in society. He was played by Robert Downey Jr. in “Good Night and Good Luck” and as an executive vice president of CBS News he and Fred Friendly and Edward R. Murrow brought down Joe McCarthy by doing a series of four broadcasts. In class we watched those four broadcasts and previous to that I thought I was going to become a doctor and then run for senate and then the presidency and then fix health care because politics has always motivated me. Professor Dundees was someone who really changed my life that way. Much to my parents’ chagrin I left medicine and became a political science and film major ... KG: The school has a name for itself as a production heavy, hands-on school that focuses on independent production. The changes you’ve mentioned seem to suggest that won’t be the case for long. What will NCSA’s film school be known for in the future? ... JK: What I hope it’s known for is that great storytellers come from NCSA whether they’re in the independent world, or the studio world, whether they’re on HBO, doing music videos or Google or Apple ads, that stories are being told. When you say it’s known for production heavy graduates and independent orientation what you essentially just described is the New York Film Academy, which is a trade school, because they’re known to do independent film and are production heavy. My worry was that the school was becoming a trade school and that’s not the job of a university in my mind. The job of a university is to train minds to think and to be critical thinkers. So from my standpoint if I can take the first two years, keeping a film production course, and a critical studies course, same in the second year and then the possible addition of a specializing course in the winter trimester and another in the spring. So, one whole year of survey and then the first trimester of your second year. Your winter and spring trimesters you might decide to take directing and cinematography, or editing and producing, so very much like what we have now just not so much."-- Read the Full Article

The People Speak Launches Global Debate Series

United Nations Foundation -- October 4, 2007
Press Release

Washington, DC — "The People Speak (TPS) -- an educational campaign to engage the world’s youth on global issues -- announced today the launch of its Global Debate Series. The series will challenge U.S. and international high school students to debate two controversial issues: climate change and water. To date, events will be held in over 400 schools, representing 52 countries and 45 U.S. states. The first debates will take place from October 12-22, 2007 and will focus on issues related to the reduction of global carbon emissions ... 'We are excited to launch the Global Debate Series to engage young people in a discussion about global affairs,' said Victoria Baxter, Executive Director of The People Speak. 'This initiative provides students with a unique opportunity to connect with their peers worldwide to share different perspectives and creative arguments about current hot topics' ... The Global Debates Series launches on October 8th, 2007 with a debate at Randolph-Macon Academy, in Front Royal, Virginia. Moderated by President of Randolph-Macon Academy, Major General Henry M. Hobgood, USAF Ret., the debate will be followed by a video Q&A session that will be posted at The event starts at 7:00 pm EST, is open to the public, and is expected to draw a crowd of over 150 people, including community leaders and the Randolph-Macon Academy Honor Society ... 'We are pleased to have our students involved in debates which will not only be taking place in our classrooms, but also between Presidential candidates, in the halls of Congress, and at international organizations like the United Nations. The Global Debate series helps cultivate critical thinking on real world subjects, and provides our students with an extraordinary learning experience in global affairs,' said Major General Hobgood of Randolph-Macon Academy ... Round two of the Global Debate Series, from March 14-24, 2008, will focus on the question of whether water should be considered national property ... All participating schools are eligible to compete to win an all expenses paid trip to the UN Foundation Youth Leadership Summit. The Summit will be held at the United Nations in New York in July 2008. It will bring together student activists to learn more about the issues, tour the United Nations headquarters, and meet with UN officials." -- Read the Full Article

Experts See trouble Ahead for Teens Entering Work World

Modesto Bee -- October 4, 2007
by Margaret Ann Mille

Las Vegas, NV — "Kylie Sandberg spent many days last summer sleeping until 10 a.m., heading off to the gym and hanging with friends ... Her friend, Tina Taylor, had a similar routine after running early in the morning with her cross country teammates ... Both 16-year-olds wound up taking the summer off despite parental pressure. They applied for jobs, they said, but employers never called them ... Summer used to be the best time for teens to snag that first job. But Sandberg and Taylor are among growing numbers of 16- to 19-year-olds nationwide opting not to take work behind counters of fast-food restaurants or as community pool lifeguards ... Some employers already take a dim view of newcomers to the labor market ... A report released last fall titled 'Are They Really Ready to Work?' concludes that the future U.S. work force is 'woefully' ill-prepared for the demands of the current and future workplace ... The report, conducted by four major groups, was based on a survey of 431 companies that collectively employ more than ... 2 million Americans ... A majority of employers deemed high school graduates deficient in basics such as written English and math, and in applied skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, professionalism and work ethic." -- Read the Full Article

Most County Schools Fully Accredited

Stafford County Sun -- October 4, 2007
by Tracy Bell

Culpepper, VA — "Stafford County's 29 public schools have earned full accreditation, with the exception of Dixon-Smith Middle School, which was 'accredited with warning' in the subject of mathematics, according to the Virginia Department of Education ...The department released its preliminary accreditation results Sept. 27, reporting that 91 percent of Virginia's public schools have earned full accreditation ...The results in Stafford County mean that 96 percent of its public schools earned full state accreditation for 2007-08 based on Standards of Learning test scores. The results are based on SOL test results in the academic areas of English, history, mathematics and science ... Sixty-nine percent, or 218, of Virginia's 314 middle schools are fully accredited. The figure includes 19 middle schools now fully accredited that last year were warned solely in mathematics ... Mathematics achievement increased in 275 middle schools during 2006-2007, according to the Virginia Department of Education ... But, of those schools not reaching full accreditation in the area, most are middle schools ... 'Virginia's expectations for achievement in mathematics are challenging - especially in the middle grades as students prepare for algebra and geometry,' said Superintendent of Public Instruction Billy Cannaday Jr., in a released statement. 'Teachers are working hard to help students master the knowledge and critical-thinking skills that are assessed on the grade-level mathematics tests introduced two years ago, and I am confident that their efforts will result in more middle schools earning full accreditation.'"-- Read the Full Article


There is a Lack of Thought in American Politics

The Daily O’Collegian (Oklahoma State University) --October 4, 2007
by Garrett Willis

Stillwater, OK — "America is not divided into good and evil.  America is divided between the discriminate thinker and the indiscriminate thinker ... The discriminate thinker  looks at an issue and think of it in terms of rational thought.  'Gee, perhaps securing our borders will be a good thing.  Perhaps the overall security and safety of our nation will be increased if we were to make it as difficult as possible to enter our country without our knowledge' ... The indiscriminate thinker will look at that very same issue and think, 'Hmm, who are we, as a nation, to say who has the right to have a job in our country?  Any effort to prevent illegal immigration is really just a form of racism. It’s a form of discrimination. It does not matter what the perceived good is if your thoughts were brought about by any form of discriminate thought' ... Well, it is discrimination.  I am able to discriminate between two options. One is harmful. The other makes that which is harmful less prevalent ... A rational person would choose the option that takes away the harmful action.  Securing our borders will offer a plethora of good outcomes ... Mexico urges our country to allow and promote illegal immigration while at the same time strengthening their own southern border against Central American immigrants.  To the rational thinker this might suggest that Mexico’s pleas for open borders are more rhetoric than real.  To the indiscriminate thinker this would have no bearing on their reality ... People oppose illegal immigration because they are racist. It’s a simple as that.  Really it comes down to an even simpler rationale for some ... Whatever President Bush supports is inherently evil, racist, and discriminatory.  Bush supports an optional privatizing of Social Security, so then that must be evil and be the result of discrimination ... But here again, discrimination is actually discriminate thought.  Some people were able to see that allowing people to put the money the government takes out for social security and put it in their own name and account might actually be a good thing ... What’s more, this option would be entirely optional.  Why oppose it?... Well, the indiscriminate thinker will look at that issue and think, “I don’t really understand the issue, but I know Bush supports it. Bush is evil so whatever he supports must be evil too.”  I know that seems like an exaggeration but sadly, it is not."-- Read the Full Article

More Than Just a Number

The Santa Barbara Independent -- October 4, 2007
by Amy Chong

"This weekend I'm waking up at the crack of dawn to do something I'd really rather not be doing. My fellow students and I will be drawn into the depths of my high school to fill classrooms on a Saturday morning, no less. What could possibly explain such a phenomenon? Perhaps the threat of college?... For entrance to most public and private colleges in the United States, a number of standardized tests are required. These tests calls for weeks of preparation on top of the average high school workload, with an entire market devoted to increasing test scores. Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Barron's are popular test prep books and agencies offering study skills and even guaranteed score improvement. What better way to make a profit than to stuff knowledge into the minds of the next generation?... Most commonly known on the West Coast is the SAT, consisting of three subjects: critical reading, math, and writing, with a required essay. Revamped in 2005, each section is graded on a scale from 200 to 800, with sub-scores on multiple-choice writing questions and on the essay. The four-hour test is designed to test critical thinking skills acquired throughout high school and is known for being geared toward math-inclined students ... Meanwhile, more common in the Mid-East and on the East Coast is the the ACT, an approximately three-hour-long test covering four subjects: English, math, reading, and science, with an optional essay portion. The ACT is graded on a scale of 1-36 and is known for those more verbally inclined. It's also referred to as “friendly,” presenting a format familiar to those seen on most high school tests ... Next are the SAT Subject Tests, two of which are required by public universities. These hour-long tests cover specific subjects, ranging from languages and world history to literature and chemistry. The particular topics are designed to showcase a student's abilities in a certain subject, and are graded on a scale from 200-600 ... This fails to mention the "optional but highly recommended" tests that impress admissions officers, like Advanced Placement (AP) exams that show a student's ability to handle a college-level curriculum ... (And let’s not forget the PSAT, the preliminary test to the SAT taken usually in a student’s junior year, opening up scholarship opportunities for brilliant students.)... Brilliance is, of course, an opinion. Using standardized testing to determine intelligence goes back to the days of IQ tests, which were originally designed to show the superiority of one race over another. It's easy to say that such tests shouldn't matter, but in reality, they kind of do ... I'd love to say that I don’t care, throwing my books, score reports, and receipts out the window. Unfortunately, the truth hurts, finding me hoarding my numbers in a precious folder in my room instead. The ACT gave me a headache. SAT Subject Tests are a pain. AP tests shot my social life. Sure, there are a select few who enjoy taking standardized tests, but I'm not one of them ... If schools press that test scores are only a portion of the admissions process, why are statistics still reported, and taken so seriously? Why are students still comparing their numbers? Most importantly, why have I wasted the last month studying a subject I don't even like?... I hope the desire for standardized intelligence will one day amount to something more — something more than a bunch of numbers." -- Read the Full Article

Every individual is different and everyone learns next what they want or need to learn best when they are intellectually and foundationally ready to learn it, using their own mental maps, compasses and clocks. Because we each come from different places, each of us directs our own interests of inquiry, discovery, understanding and learning differently. What we do have in common when we are learning, is thought. This article reflects well the frustration and inherent disconnect between learning and assessment that students and teachers share when testing has become irrelevant to us. There is mounting skepticism for testing whose function has little to do with one's intellectual engagement in a subject or on one's progress in learning it. Given the pivotal function of independent minds in use, our concept of "What is education?" needs to include our varying progressive levels of critical engagement. Our future concepts and strategies for assessment need to drive our future concepts and strategies for instruction in a way that causes every student, in every classroom, at every moment to look forward to the experience with a fully engaged mind. The 2007 National Academy on Critical Thinking Testing and Assessment recently compared assessment instruments in use today. Its report with recommendation can be found in a White Paper on Consequential Validity

Teachers Rally, Want to Feel Valued

The Daily Times Call -- October 4, 2007
by Melanie M Sidwell

Longmont, CO — "Arts and athletics educators in the St. Vrain Valley School District gathered at Silver Creek High School on Wednesday morning to highlight the value of their programs and the need for more integration in core subject areas ... 'We’ve not had all the arts, music and P.E. teachers together as a group to think together as a group about what we do,' said coordinator Peg Hilliard, an art teacher at Legacy Elementary and a member of the St. Vrain Summit Team ... The team, consisting of five St. Vrain teachers who won a grant to attend a conference on this topic last summer, coordinated Wednesday’s 'The Time is Now!' rally ... Speakers at the rally included district superintendent Dr. Randy Zila, school reform advocate Jared Polis and arts integration specialist Susan Keene ... Polis warned that the United States was losing 'creative capital' when arts and athletic programs are cut or reduced and would not stay competitive in global markets ... State and national policymakers need to re-examine the 'narrow set of criteria' forced on schools by standardized testing and instead switch to a 'holistic education' of a broader, more integrated curriculum, he said ...Keene, the keynote speaker, is a coordinator for a federally funded program in the Englewood Public Schools that measured the impact of the arts and athletics on academic achievement ... Keene shared examples, like using music and movement in reading and writing assignments, and cited research showing that students in arts-integrated programs improved more in areas such as critical thinking, memory, problem solving and collaboration." Read the Full Article

The Gentrification of Geek-ville

Darlox's Journal -- October 3, 2007

"Geeks have always been among us. From the time when man first crawled from the cave, there was 'that guy' who could make fire for the tribe. Valued by the group but somehow never allowed to breed... In Ancient Egypt, there was the guy who worked out the tricky bits of math to build pyramids that could sharpen razors and usher kings into the afterlife. Sure he was a slave, but hey -- no manual labor involved. Geek. One who displays an unnatural and innate affinity for complex and technical tasks in exchange for losing the ability to engage in normal relations with non-geeks ... Sometime in the early 80's, the new breed of geek emerged with a computer under his arm. This set the benchmark for what we, today, recognize as 'Geek'. Yes, I am one too... But for a series of lucky encounters with women of loose pants and low self esteem in my early college days, I'd probably be as socially non-functioning as any. Still, I've always had the core qualifications. I took apart my parents' dishwasher at the age of 13 to try and fix it, and built Rube Goldberg devices that spanned half the house for years ... As this caste of New Geeks expanded, they began insinuating themselves into the job market and the traditional strongholds of the brainy. Suddenly two years of ITT and enough money to buy a gaming PC was everything you needed, on paper, to leap from the football team or metal shop and snatch a job from some kid who was building model helicopters out of vacuum cleaner parts in his back yard at the age of 13 ... And unfortunately, because most of their bosses didn't know what differentiated a 'good Geek' from an 'incompetent New Geek', the transposition stuck ... In my line of work, I now believe this infiltration of geekdom threatens major portions of the world's economy. The lack of critical thinking skills, and inability to extrapolate beyond anything they've been explicitly taught, is leading to massive stagnation, and an increasing distrust of the geek caste by non geeks, who are generally concerned in business about things like cost and usefulness." -- Read the Full Article

Exploring Ways to Shorten the Ascent to a Ph.D.

The New York Times --October 3, 2007
by Joseph Berger

Princeton, NJ — Many of us have known this scholar: The hair is well-streaked with gray, the chin has begun to sag, but still our tortured friend slaves away at a masterwork intended to change the course of civilization that everyone else just hopes will finally get a career under way ... We even have a name for this sometimes pitied species — the A.B.D. — All But Dissertation. But in academia these days, that person is less a subject of ridicule than of soul-searching about what can done to shorten the time, sometimes much of a lifetime, it takes for so many graduate students to, well, graduate. The Council of Graduate Schools, representing 480 universities in the United States and Canada, is halfway through a seven-year project to explore ways of speeding up the ordeal ... For those who attempt it, the doctoral dissertation can loom on the horizon like Everest, gleaming invitingly as a challenge but often turning into a masochistic exercise once the ascent is begun. The average student takes 8.2 years to get a Ph.D.; in education, that figure surpasses 13 years. Fifty percent of students drop out along the way, with dissertations the major stumbling block. At commencement, the typical doctoral holder is 33, an age when peers are well along in their professions, and 12 percent of graduates are saddled with more than $50,000 in debt ...These statistics, compiled by the National Science Foundation and other government agencies by studying the 43,354 doctoral recipients of 2005, were even worse a few years ago. Now, universities are setting stricter timelines and demanding that faculty advisers meet regularly with protégés. Most science programs allow students to submit three research papers rather than a single grand work. More universities find ways to ease financial burdens, providing better paid teaching assistantships as well as tuition waivers. And more universities are setting up writing groups so that students feel less alone cobbling together a thesis ... There are probably few universities that nudge students out the door as rapidly as Princeton, where a humanities student now averages 6.4 years compared with 7.5 in 2003. That is largely because Princeton guarantees financial support for its 330 scholars for five years, including free tuition and stipends that range up to $30,000 a year. That means students need teach no more than two courses during their schooling and can focus on research ... 'Princeton since the 1930s has felt that a Ph.D. should be an education, not a career, and has valued a tight program,' said William B. Russel, dean of the graduate school ... But money is not the only reason Princeton does well. It has developed a culture where professors keep after students. Students talk of frequent meetings with advisers, not a semiannual review. For example, Ning Wu, 30, a father of two, works in Dr. Russel’s chemical engineering lab and said Dr. Russel comes by every Friday to discuss Mr. Wu’s work on polymer films used in computer chips. He aims to get his Ph.D. next year, his fifth ... While Dr. Russel values “the critical thinking and independent digging students have to do, either in their mind for an original concept or in the archives,” others question the necessity of book-length works. Some universities have established what they call professional doctorates for students who plan careers more as practitioners than scholars." -- Read the Full Article

Despots Move to Crush Private Education

Hernando Today -- October 2, 2007
by Dr Domenick Maglio

"Dictators know the importance of controlling private education. Hugo Chavez, after nationalizing oil and stifling free speech in the media, has threatened the existence of private education. Any private school in Venezuela that fails to teach a socialist/ communist agenda will be taken over by the state ... Like many despots. Hugo Chavez has chosen his brother, Aden Chavez, to be a loyal minister -- in this case, of education. Aden has used his office to do his brother's dirty work to confuse and placate the opposition. He noted the goal of Venezuelan education is developing 'critical thinking.' It is a blatant lie."-- Read the Full Article

Sowing the Seeds of Literacy for the New Millennium

The Natural Patriot -- October 2, 2007
by Emmett Duffy

"The latest issue of Seed magazine is a must read, announcing the winners of the 2nd Annual Seed Science Writing Contest, which addresses the question: 'What does it mean to be scientifically literate in the 21st Century?'  Lest you think that this is a fringe geekosphere question, both the 1st and 2nd place winners, as well as the cover article by Chris Mooney (alas, not available free online, although you can hear an interview with him on NPR here) make compelling cases that scientific literacy is the critical issue of the coming century. As Mooney puts it in his essay, 'Dr. President' ... 'Under George W. Bush–the man who pronounced climate science ‘incomplete’, who misled the nation in his first major address about the availability of embryonic stem cells for research, who claimed that Iraq was collaborating with Al Qaeda–America’s relationship with reality itself reached a nadir.  At the same time–and perhaps not coincidentally–the fortunes of the nation have suffered and the prospects of many Americans, of the American dream itself, have diminished . . . Along with the neglect of science has come a broader neglect of expertise, competence, and even functional government . . . Americans desperately need to be encouraged once again, as they were at other times in the nation’s history, to take an interest in the vital, exploratory world of science.  The next president must foster that interest . . . Reason, logic, a consideration of fact, and healthy skepticism–all of which are tenets of the scientific approach–are critical to a successful democratic government' ...  In the same vein, here is 1st place winner Thomas W. Martin’s essay 'Scientific Literacy and the Habit of Discourse'.  Some excerpts: ...  ‘Each of us is trapped in a place, a time, and a circumstance, and our attempts to use our minds to transcend those boundaries are, more often than not, ineffective.’ The reason science does manage to be astonishingly effective is not because large groups are automatically wiser or less prone to self-deception than individuals. History adequately demonstrates that, if anything, the opposite is more nearly the case. Science works because its core dynamics—not its methods or techniques per se—are rooted in pitting intellects against one another. Science eventually yields impressive answers because it compels smart people to incessantly try to disprove the ideas generated by other smart people.  The goal of science is to find those ideas that can withstand the long and hard barrage of evidence-based argument . . . Several current presidential candidates have insisted that they oppose the scientific account of earth’s natural history as a matter of principle. In the present cultural climate, altering one’s beliefs in response to anything (facts included) is considered a sign of weakness. Students must be convinced that changing one’s mind in light of the evidence is not weakness: Changing one’s mind is the essence of intellectual growth. By forcing students into evidence-based debates with one another, this mode of interaction, like any other, can become habitual. After being consistently challenged by their peers, most students eventually see that attempts to free themselves from facts are a hollow, and fundamentally precarious, form of “freedom.”  In an era in which we tremble at offending the sensibilities of our neighbors, students must comprehend that it is not only possible but absolutely vital that we criticize each other’s ideas firmly yet civilly . . . We do our children no favors by going easy on them—or, more to the point—allowing them to go easy on each other. Nature has a way of being far tougher' ...  And finally, an excerpt from Steven Saus, 2nd place winner with 'Camelot is Only a Model: Scientific Literacy in the 21st Century' ...  A literate person is not a walking dictionary, but someone who has enough knowledge about the language to be able to read. Being able to examine our models, critically evaluate them, and even discard them is far more scientifically literate than being able to regurgitate facts for a standardized test . . . Ultimately, our models and descriptions of reality must be subject to two overriding criteria: How useful is this model, and how much does this model resemble our observations?  Scientific literacy requires an understanding that science is only a model. We have to be able to jettison our models when our critical thinking leads us to that conclusion.  Our society has largely lost that understanding. We desire immutable facts and constant certainties. We want clean, hard edges to our world and our knowledge about that world. Politicians, educators, and business leaders crave quantitative metrics that can be compared, compiled, and correlated. As agenda-driven pundits have attacked scientific thought, we have countered their extremism with our own. Both attackers and defenders blur the distinctions between theories, facts, and hypotheses. A scientifically literate society knows none of that is necessary. The edifice of science is not in danger of crumbling; it is under constant renewal. Each generation’s orthodoxy was the prior’s heresy' ... Noble thoughts all. Maybe it’s just me–it’s hard to imagine such an obviously sensible approach to the world taking root in the dank cesspool of superstition, paranoia, partisan thuggery, and general venality of modern American politics.  But hope springs eternal.  Maybe this time Americans really will get sick of it all. And why not?  They seem to have figured this out in other civilized countries ... 'Wake up America! ' -- Read the Full Article

Education Reform Is the Pathway to the Future

Arab News -- October 2, 2007
by Samar Fatany

"Reforming the educational system and raising the standard of our schools and universities remain the biggest challenges Saudi Arabia faces today ... Significant government efforts and private initiatives support the national objective of achieving academic excellence and improving Saudi universities, which fared poorly in recent rankings. Educational programs and well-endowed funds have been allocated for research projects at universities and teachers training centers to improve education. This year, we have seen several advances that provide great hope for a better educational system that will equip students with the necessary skills needed to power nation’s development ... One novel project is King Faisal University’s Preparatory Program (UPP), designed to stimulate critical thinking, change attitudes about learning and prepare students for success in their university studies. Program faculty comes from the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and South Africa. It is a Western educational program tailored to fit Saudi student needs ... The program marks a radical departure from the nation’s traditional teaching methods that employ rote memorization. Developing student communication skills and problem-solving abilities will motivate young Saudis to learn more and foster the curiosity that is at the heart of research — and progress." -- Read the Full Article

The Internet: Our Last Hope for a Free Press

The Huffington Post -- October 1, 2007
by Mark Klempner

I consider the Internet to be one of the world's great wonders. And also America's last hope for a free press ... When I was growing up in the 1970s, there were many people with a lot of things to say, but they generally had no platform. That's why we needed figures like Bob Dylan to be 'the voice of a generation' ... The present generation has YouTube, whose motto -- irresistible to young people -- is "Broadcast Yourself." So now, for example, a pert 18-year-old known as 'AngryLittleGirl' can challenge her peers regarding their lack of critical thinking, especially when it comes to religion, by uploading a video op-ed. As of this moment, her piece has been viewed by more than two million people."-- Read the Full Article

Schools Push Engineering Programs

HeraldTribune.Com (Southwest Florida's Information Leader) -- October 1, 2007
by Patrina A Bostic

"They are only in elementary school, but already they are engineers at work ... Take a peek inside grade schools across Southwest Florida and you will see students as young as 6 or 7 working on engineering assignments as a team, with students assuming the role of project engineer, builder or inventory specialist ... In Charlotte schools, teams of students use plastic materials of different sizes and shapes to create buildings, bridges and other industrial projects ... Manatee grade-schoolers are using Lego parts to design and construct projects such as pulleys, vehicles, bridges and domes ...For decades, American students have lagged behind other nations in math and science ... 'Everything that we are trying to do is to fix that,' said Susan Puchalla, science and health curriculum specialist for Sarasota County's public schools. 'And the best way to do that with the kids is through hands-on learning activities ... The key is to get the kids started when they are very young,' Puchalla said. 'You nurture them. You then will have some great thinkers among us' ... In order to remain innovative and competitive, students across the country are starting ever earlier to learn real-world ways to apply math and science concepts ... These projects encourage problem solving and critical thinking, educators say." -- Read the Full Article

Assessing Assessment

The International News -- October 1, 2007
by Dr. Shahid Siddiqui

"In Pakistan education has a history of abortive initiatives. Plans and policies are prepared with a lot of apparent enthusiasm and with fanfare. Tall claims are made and ambitious deadlines set. But when it comes to actual execution something goes wrong, and we do not get the desired results. The recommendations of the Sharif Commission Report which was prepared almost fifty years are still asking for implantation. A number of educational problems could have been resolved had we implemented the report in letter and spirit. Lack of political will at the highest level could have been one factor, but other important reasons for inaction (or ill action) are lack of preparation and poor governance ... A number of good initiatives went astray during the execution phase. For instance, Nai Roshni schools and the Iqra surcharge for education which were respectively initiated during the Junejo and Nawaz Sharif governments met a tragic end. The really sad aspect was that nobody accepted the responsibility and nobody was held responsible, and the lack of accountability allowed the responsible persons to get away. Lack of preparation, non-existence of continuous monitoring and a poor system of reward and punishment are hallmarks of most of the country's educational initiatives ... In the past, initiatives aimed at bringing change in different aspects of education -- e.g., curriculum, teacher's training, textbooks -- were focused. But a very important domain of education, assessment, was not dealt with in an upfront manner. Assessment occupies a central position in any educational system as the teaching and learning processes are directly impacted by the assessment system. Unfortunately, the assessment system in most mainstream educational institutions in Pakistan is memory based. Students are tested for their memory skills. The current assessment system is geared to testing only lower-order thinking rather than tapping higher-order thinking. With such an assessment system the students are not required to engage in critical thinking. The teachers, as well, instead of developing critical thinking among their students, concede to the negative wash-back effect of assessment, and target their teaching only to help their students get better grades." -- Read the Full Article