Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bullying: Breaking the Cycle

We have posted several items on the problem of bullying and harassment below.   Recently, KIRO TV 7 in Washington showed an interesting program called, "Bullying: Breaking the Cycle," as part of its family and community programs.  We thought our readers would be interested in viewing some successful anti-bullying programs in the schools that are attempting to "break the cycle." 

You can find four segments of the video along with other interesting information at:

Monday, March 28, 2011


One of the great things about living in Washington is that we have license to be incredibly snotty about all things California. Their earthquakes are worse than ours, their vapid Hollywood culture makes Seattle look positively European, everything is more expensive there, and we all know that everyone there secretly wants to move here.
And no matter how bad our state budget gets, theirs is always worse.
So the open letter that University of California President Mark Yudof sent to all Californians in January was enough to knock us right on our smug flannel Starbucks asses. “This is a sad day for California,” President Yudof wrote. “In the budget proposed by Gov. Brown, the collective tuition payments made by University of California students for the first time in history would exceed what the state contributes to the system's general fund.”
Here in Washington, we crossed that line two years ago. Under Governor Gregoire’s proposed budget, student tuition would account for 70% of our budgets and state support would drop to 30%. And under the budgets that the state House of Representatives and Senate will be proposing soon, it will be even worse.
Under Governor Brown’s proposed budget, state funding for universities would fall to 1998 levels. Here in Washington, we are already at 1991 funding levels.
Governor Brown’s proposed budget would reduce UC per student state funding to $7210. Governor Gregoire’s proposed budget would reduce per student state funding at Western Washington University to $2900.
So think twice the next time you want to make fun of California. As bad as things are there, they are still light years ahead of us in understanding the social and economic value of public universities.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

School to Prison Pipeline -- Call for Papers from the Journal of Educational Controversy

The Journal of Educational Controversy announces its call for papers for Volume 7 Number 1.

THEME: The School-to-Prison Pipeline


The School-to-Prison Pipeline refers to a national trend in which school policies and practices are increasingly resulting in criminalizing students rather than educating them. Statistics indicate that the number of suspensions, expulsions, dropouts or “pushouts,” and juvenile justice confinements is growing. Moreover, there is a disproportionate impact on students of color and students with disabilities and emotional problems. In this issue, we invite authors to examine the policy implications, the political ramifications, and the causes and possible solutions to this problem. Moreover, what are these policies teaching our children?


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Drinking From the Public Trough

Along with whatever surprises the latest election may have brought, it did reaffirm the age-old verity that Money Talks. Various corporations spent over $36 million to defeat any measure that would have provided any new revenue to the state, and they hit a home run each time. Not the least among these corporations were the cornerstones of Washington’s economy, Boeing and Microsoft. Whatever their public rhetoric may have been, their money made a clear statement that public investment is not something they support.
This stance may make short-term bottom-line business sense, but it may also betray an alarming historical ignorance. And it may be mortgaging the corporate future of our state.
It’s not a stretch to say that Boeing and Microsoft (and all their billionaires and millionaires) wouldn’t exist as they are today without the massive investment of public funds.
The Grand Coulee Dam, built with federal money from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Public Works Administration, provided the electricity that powered the aluminum smelters in Vancouver and Longview that fed the Boeing factories in Seattle and Vancouver that churned out B-17 and B-29 bombers during World War II and B-47s and B-52s in the 1950s.
The internet, without which Microsoft’s tremendous success and phenomenal profits would never have been possible, grew in part from research done by Leonard Kleinrock, a professor at the publicly funded University of California at Los Angeles who was educated at the publicly funded Bronx High School of Science and the publicly funded City College of New York. The early infrastructure for the internet was created by the publicly funded National Science Foundation and the publicly funded United States Military.
It would be difficult to find any US private company that does not benefit every day from the investment of tax dollars in education, utilities, health care, police departments, fire departments, and social safety nets.
This is especially true for education. A broad and well-funded public education system has been the key to the competitive advantage that the United States has enjoyed in the modern world. In order to continue to grow, capitalism must do one of two things: innovate or exploit. It must either continue to come up with goods and services for which people will pay the premium that supports a decently paid work force or it must produce crap as cheaply as possible by squeezing the maximum blood, sweat, and tears from a captive and exploited work force. A strong public education system (and the political maturity and social mobility that comes with it) is the key to pushing the capitalist needle more toward innovation than exploitation.
This is why the corporate approach to education, with its emphasis on top-down, administratively driven “reform” and its neglect of funding, is so disappointing and short-sighted. When Microsoft wants to develop a new product or improve an existing one, they hire the most talented people they can find, pay them well, and try to eliminate the impediments that stand between them and innovation. They don’t try to save money with inexperienced and underpaid researchers from “Research for America” or adjunct scientists. They don’t burden their R & D people with endless evaluation and accountability exercises and they don’t fail to invest.
Washington is in the bottom five in the nation in per student investment in both K-12 and 4 year higher ed. The infrastructure that we need to produce the next Leonard Kleinrock is crumbling and desperately needs investment. And yet the companies that stand to benefit the most from that investment continue to vote against it with loads of their cash. The long-term consequence of that for Washington state is going to be less innovation and more exploitation.

Blog to Run Regular Column on Washington State Politics and Education

Editor: Because our journal and blog are published out of Washington state, we get a lot of inquiries about the politics of Washington state, legislative initiatives, union and anti-union activities, etc., around educational issues. We do have a special section on our menu called, "Educational  Updates for the State of Washington:  Political, Legal and Social Issues," but it just provides links to one time events or issues.  Our new column will be ongoing and cover issues as they are occurring.  Our blogger will be William Lyne, Professor of English at Western Washington University and also a member of our journal's editorial board.  Bill is also on the board of the Washington Education Association in Washington and is president of the United Faculty of Washington State  that represents the four regional universities in Washington that have recently unionized. 

Because our journal and its blog are international, we would be interested in hearing about issues occurring in other states and around the world on these issues.  Please enter into the conversation with a comment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our Partner School to Provide Leadership to Community in Promoting Childhood Literacy

As many of our readers already know, the Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal at the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University, that houses the Journal of Educational Controversy, also partners with a creative, innovative and progressive school, the Whatcom Day Academy, to promote a democratic vision on what schools can be. Our work together is also associated with the League of Democratic Schools, a project initiated by educator, John Goodlad. On our institute’s page, readers can read about the philosophy of the school and view some of the videos featuring actual practices in the school along with a slide show of student art in which Susan Donnelly, the head of the school, guides the viewer into seeing more deeply into the artistic creations and evolution of young children’s drawings. On that page, the viewer can also view a section of a public forum that the Institute sponsored, in which teacher, Vale Hartley, describes her use of Socratic questioning with her young students along with short video clips that illustrate her technique. Readers can also read Vale’s article in our journal’s issue on Schooling as if Democracy Matters  and Susan’s articles in our issue on Art, Social Imagination and Democratic Education.

One of the goals of both the Institute and the Whatcom Day Academy is to provide leadership to the community. I am so pleased to announce that Susan Donnelly in conjunction with Professor Matthew Miller of Western Washington University has received a $30000 grant that will enable them to both develop new ideas for childhood literacy practices but also to share their ideas with the community.

Congratulations to Susan and Matt. We hope to share more about this in future blogs.

But our readers will not have to wait too long to learn more about Susan’s school. Susan Donnelly is the co-editor for the upcoming summer issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy. In addition to our printed articles, readers can anticipate a lot of video footage highlighting innovative practices in schools. The theme for the issue is, “The Education and Schools Our Children Deserve.” For a look at another school in the League, see our post below on Schools that Make a Difference: A Look at the League of Democratic Schools.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Diane Ravitch Interviewed on the Jon Stewart TV Show

Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System," appeared on the Jon Stewart show on March 3rd.   You can view the clip here:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Look at some Unique Schools around the World

Editor:  I once had a colleague who likened his life as a teacher to a person whom one meets at a fork in the road who provides guidance as we find our own way in the world and choose the direction our life will take.    How little we as teachers really know about the extent of our influence on a life.  Today, we welcome a guest blogger, Nathan Sutton, to share one such experience.  Nathan has worked on our journal’s staff since September and is about to enter his internship this spring to become a high school teacher.   In his post, Nathan describes his decision to teach abroad for his internship and describes a unique kind of school that we thought our readers would find interesting.  Hopefully, when Nate returns from abroad,  he will write a post on this blog or an article for our journal on what he learned from this experience.

Schooling for a United World
Nathan Sutton

My introduction to the mission of United World Colleges happened in Kathmandu in the summer of 2007. There I met a British man who had spent much of his adult life as a Zen Buddhist monk, but was, at the time, on sabbatical from a ‘college’ in Norway. He and his wife were taking time to volunteer in rural Nepalese villages. He had a calm air about him and an amiable personality. We shared a dinner and conversation about the world and our place in it. The man left my presence and I haven’t seen him since; indeed I never discovered his name.

The meeting with the monk-turned-teacher and its remarkable influence has remained with me now for nearly four years and I have been an avid follower of the United World College (UWC) and its mission. Today I find myself at the terminus of the Master in Teaching program at Woodring College, Western Washington University. The more I explore the philosophies, pedagogy and practices of various schools the more I am confident of my alignment with the philosophies of UWC and remain hopeful of my future with the organization.

I grew up on a small hobby farm in southern Minnesota. There was very little in the way of outside culture and no ethnic or racial diversity to speak of in the agricultural region of my upbringing. Yet my father somehow managed to find interesting people to bring to our dinner table – European bicyclists in need of shelter from a storm, a Mongolian Tai Chi instructor, or an actor from San Francisco. I always marveled at their stories and wondered how they made it to our home in our small corner of the world. After a family trip to Sweden to mark my parents’ twentieth wedding anniversary, I had a revelation and decided I liked being abroad. I was a teenager now and could better appreciate the concept of culture. For this trip that meant drinking wine for the first time, riding on the back of a bicycle powered by a beautiful Swedish girl and dancing at a beachside disco until sunrise; it was visiting the country home of my ancestors. Now I was the one inside of a home in someone else’s corner of the world. I was hooked on exploring culture – and I never looked back.

Various travels since then have offered me more in-depth looks at culture – sights I never imagined I would see, tastes I never knew existed, languages I never dreamed my tongue would shape. But the most important aspect of these travels was the people I met along the way. It was the relationships which fostered and (often) fizzled, stories shared and the universal gift of laughter bestowed which made the trips meaningful. People keep me inclined to explore around corners, curious about the vibrancy of humanity, and engaged in living with those around me, regardless of location. I want all of these feelings to continue and see United World College as an ideal occupation for encouraging and cultivating my passions.

The origin of United World College began with Kurt Hahn, an educator and founder of various organizations including the first UWC, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, Outward Bound and more. Mr. Hahn believed in a holistic education of youth, where young people can discover more about themselves, others and the world around them than they ever thought possible. In order to do so, youth should be set with high standards in personal health and fitness, activity and adventure, community commitment and responsibility, and abundant academic exploration. In 1962, in Southern Wales, the first UWC opened.

Now there are 13 schools around the world, on five continents. According to their website, “almost 40,000 students from over 180 countries have studied at UWC schools and colleges and there are over 130 national committees.” The national committees help to recruit youth and process applications for international schools. Students at UWC hail from Afghanistan and Finland, China and South Africa, Palestine and Bosnia, Malaysia and Brazil, Iraq and Canada, along with scores of other countries. There is a constant and concerted effort by UWC to recruit youth from all walks of life and all regions of the world in order to maximize exposure to varying cultures and languages, art and conversation, customs and ideas.

The current thirteen UWC campuses around the world will be joined by other colleges currently in various stages of development. Each has a focus, but is bound to the following UWC values:

 International and intercultural understanding
 Celebration of difference
 Personal responsibility and integrity
 Mutual responsibility and respect
 Compassion and service
 Respect for the environment
 A sense of idealism
 Personal challenge
 Action and personal example
(Obtained from the organization’s website at

With these principles in mind, the UWC students and staff seek to explore the complexities of the world and its inhabitants. They seek to embrace individuality, independence and exploration while learning skills in partnership, conflict resolution, and an utmost respect for diversity. All of these concepts need not be mutually exclusive or conflicting – UWC recognizes this and passes it on to future leaders.

In a world such as ours, with increasing interactions among various peoples, economic and political turmoil, and ever-growing populations, the mission of UWC and its legacy seem all the more salient. I endeavor to be an effective and informed citizen of the world and to work with others with comparable ambitions. The youth served at UWC are from many nations and come from many different backgrounds. I want to meet these students, teach in their classrooms and, above all, learn from them and their colorful experiences.

"I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion."

– Kurt Hahn