Journal of Educational Controversy

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Presidential Candidate Ben Carsen and Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

I have been thinking lately about the paradoxes that are emerging from the 2016 presidential debate and the implications for us as educators.  Presidential candidate Ben Carson and his political remarks have been receiving much criticism along with some admiration of a certain segment of the public that appears to be mesmerized by his inexplicably na├»ve statements – Obamacare is the moral equivalent of slavery, Jews could have prevented the holocaust if only they had the right to bear arms, etc., etc.  (By the way, we are talking about a public who largely went through our schools on the way to “enlightened adulthood.”)

Despite his much acclaimed (at least from what I read) skills as a neurosurgeon, his political acumen sinks to a rather low level given his offhand and often ill-conceived and ill-formed remarks on political issues.  Perhaps, there are many types of intelligences and proficiency in stem education does not assure wisdom in social, political, personal and historical understanding.  But simply limiting our discussion to departmentalization might actually do us a disservice if it moves us away from a more fundamental question we should be asking about the purposes of public education in a liberal democratic society and the development of "enlightened adulthood.”  Over the last decade, this nation has been consumed in debates on how to achieve better test scores in reading, mathematics, stem education, etc., along with outcomes and standards that can be explicitly formulated.  (Ok, for those who reflexively respond that these are important things to know, let’s just concede that point so it doesn’t distract us.)  What is important, is that it has been a distraction from the kind of conversation we should have been having about the purposes of education.

There is an ancient philosophical, religious and political goal that never enters into these discussions.  How do we help the next generation grow in “wisdom” and enlightened adulthood?  This ancient concept, from both a secular and religious perspective, encapsulates the kind of holistic pursuit that allows us to see the world from a larger, more empathic, vantage point.  It is one that Socrates saw containing a certain humility to exercise.  And Proverbs 4:7 reminds us that “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”  It cannot be easily operationalized and tested on some standardized test. And, as a result, it can be easily dismissed.  And so to our peril, we have a certain blindness when it comes to raising questions about what it means to live a life fully and the knowledge and virtues that such a life entails, and instead continue with the same diatribe that has dominated our national discourse.

I just throw out this idea as a seed to plant and perhaps as a community to reflect upon, explore, and “evolve” in our thinking.  Perhaps, we should have a special issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy on the topic so we can start to probe more deeply on exactly what we mean and whether it is worthy of our attention.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

National Education Policy Center Continues its Critical Look at the Claims of Charter School Research

Editor: In our continuing look at charter schools, we are providing below the National Education Policy Center’s most recent critical look at charter school research focusing on the so-called “No Excuses” schools. Earlier, the Journal of Educational Controversy published a critical examination of the “no excuses” schools in an article by Alice Ginsberg, entitled, “The Dog Ate My Homework”: Embracing Risk in the Chilling Climate of No Excuses Schools.” Readers can find the article in our 2011 Volume6, Number 1 issue. While the National Education Policy Center reports on the inflated research claims made for such schools in the post below, author Alice Ginsberg gives us a vivid look inside.


Charter Researchers Promoting“No Excuses” Schools Republish Inflated Claims


Reference Publication:
Review of No Excuses Charter Schools

Arkansas researchers temper, but don’t correct, errors

Contact:
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058; wmathis@sover.net
Jeanne M. Powers, (805) 893-7770, jeanne.powers@asu.edu
URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/numtqep


BOULDER, CO (October 9, 2015) – In December 2014, the “Department of Education Reform” at the University of Arkansas published a meta-analysis of the effects of so-called No Excuses Charter Schools. The report was subsequently reviewed by Professor Jeanne Powers of Arizona State University, for the National Education Policy Center. Powers raised several serious questions, and she criticized the report for its overstated claims about the potential of these types of schools to close the achievement gap.

A new version of the report was recently released by the National Center for Studies of Privatization in Education (NCSPE), and Professor Powers has now provided a short follow-up review, published along with the initial review on the NEPC website. She finds that the NCSPE version has a revised introduction and conclusion, wherein the authors do note additional limitations to their study. However, the report’s major shortcomings remain. In the follow-up review, Powers explains, point-by-point, her remaining concerns with the study:

1. The primary (and repeated) claim of the report is that “No Excuses” charter schools can close the achievement gap. Powers explains that the underlying research that this report relies upon only supports the more limited and appropriate claim that the subset of No Excuses charter schools have done relatively well in raising the test scores of the students who participate in school lotteries and then attended the schools. The claim that these schools can close the achievement gap is supported by nothing other than an arithmetic extrapolation of evidence that comes with clear limitations.

2. A common and well-recognized problem in charter school research is “selection effects.” That is, parents who choose “No Excuses” schools may be more educated, more engaged in the school-selection process, and differ in other significant ways from those parents who did not choose such a school. This would logically be a major concern for oversubscribed “No Excuses” schools, but the findings cannot be generalized to all parents.

3. Over-subscribed schools that conduct lotteries for student admission are, one would assume, different from less popular schools. Nevertheless, Cheng et al. imply that the findings can be generalized to all No Excuses charter schools.

4. The prominent and oversubscribed “No Excuses” schools are often supported by extensive outside resources. Offering an extended school day, for example, may not be financially feasible for other schools, and the scaling-up costs of doing so are not addressed. A charter that takes the No-Excuses approach yet lacks the additional resources should not be assumed to show the same results.

5. The sample of schools included in the studies Cheng et al. analyzed is largely drawn from major urban areas in the Northeast and is small, particularly at the high school level.
Find Powers’ original review and follow-up review of the “No Excuses” charter report here.
The original Arkansas report is currently available at the following url:
http://www.uaedreform.org/no-excuses-charter-schools-a-meta-analysis-of-the-experimental-evidence-on-student-achievement
The republished version of the Arkansas report is currently available at the following url:
http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP226.pdf

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.

Please forward this to anyone you think might be interested. You can learn more about NEPC and sign up for publication updates by visiting http://nepc.colorado.edu/. To learn more about the Think Twice think tank review project, visit http://thinktankreview.org


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Amidst Accolades for her Life Lies the Realities of her Death – Why the Life and Work of Grace Lee Boggs Remains a Clarion Call


After writing a post below on the passing of Grace Lee Boggs, I started to read the many tributes that were coming in including one from the White House that I added to my post.   What struck me was something else I found on a google search.  In her final year, Grace’s friends were left trying to raise funding for her elder care that came to $8000 a month.  https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/support-grace-lee-boggs

After a lifetime devoted to others and their causes, the last days of her life were perhaps the most poignant reminder of how little public effort we extend for end-of-life support and how distorted our priorities have become in this nation.   Her work and message live on.

The Death of a Human Rights Advocate and Voice for Many Causes: Grace Lee Boggs Dies at 100


I was saddened to read of the death of social activist, human rights advocate, and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs in the newspaper this morning.
In 2011, the Journal of Educational Controversy published several reviews of her book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century, written by her with Scott Kurashige.  We broke with publishing tradition by printing a very personal open letter to her by a colleague whose life had been touched by her example along with a more traditional book review by another colleague.  Grace Lee Boggs graciously wrote a response to the reviews on this blog and allowed us to continue the conversation with her.

Below we reprint Grace Lee Boggs’ blog post along with links to the two reviews to which she is responding.

 
Grace Lee Boggs Responds to her Reviewers from the Journal of Educational Controversy
Written with Scott Kurashige

 
It has been a true joy to see so many diverse peoples turn to this little book for help in understanding how and why another world is necessary, possible, and already in the process of being created. The thoughtful responses by Molly and Victor reveal the huge reserves of humanity that have been repressed by our "civilization" and are being unleashed by the movements of 2011 to heal us.

 Their book reviews further help us to understand that people are finding inspiration from the book because they are connecting with a set of ideas whose time has come:

• Maybe it’s because it is giving Americans in all walks of life a more people-friendly view of revolution as empowerment rather than struggle for political power.

• Maybe it helps us view Revolutionaries as Solutionaries, working together to solve very practical problems of daily life, growing our souls by growing our own food.
 
• Maybe it’s giving us the new, more positive view of ourselves that we’ve been hungry for.

 • Maybe it helps us envision ourselves as Revolutionaries, moving away from the wrong side of the world revolution where we have seemed stuck since the Vietnam War.

• Maybe it also helps us see ourselves as Evolutionaries, making the radical revolution of values that Dr. King called for during that war, transformimg ourselves from materialists, militarists, and individualists into a people who can be proud of how we are advancing humankind to a new stage of consciousness, creativity, and social and political responsibility.

 To link to the original book reviews, go to:

 1. A Book Review by Victor Nolet

2. A Personal Open Letter to Grace Lee Boggs by Molly Ware

 Both reviews appeared in the Journal of Educational Controversy: Vol. 6, No. 1
 

To read today's New York Times article announcing her passing, go to:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/us/grace-lee-boggs-detroit-activist-dies-at-100.html?emc=edit_th_20151006&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=20720790&_r=0



Statement by President Obama on the Passing of
Grace Lee Boggs
Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of author, philosopher, and activist Grace Lee Boggs. Grace dedicated her life to serving and advocating for the rights of others – from her community activism in Detroit, to her leadership in the civil rights movement, to her ideas that challenged us all to lead meaningful lives. As the child of Chinese immigrants and as a woman, Grace learned early on that the world needed changing, and she overcame barriers to do just that. She understood the power of community organizing at its core – the importance of bringing about change and getting people involved to shape their own destiny. Grace’s passion for helping others, and her work to rejuvenate communities that had fallen on hard times spanned her remarkable 100 years of life, and will continue to inspire generations to come.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Grace’s family and friends, and all those who loved her dearly.