Friday, January 28, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Dr. Rachel Maddow had an interesting take on her blog on the State of the Union (SOTU) speech as prepared for delivery. Using a word cloud as suggested by The New York Times, she illustrated the relative ranking of the words used by President Barack Obama and also by the Republican and Tea Party rebuttal speeches.
The word clouds of the two rebuttal speeches can be seen on Rachel's blog. It's worth a look for comparison.
Some U.S. legislators feel that a good way to "reduce the deficit" is to further cut public investment in arts and culture and arts and music education. Not. Education in the creative arts is just as important for excellence in American education as courses in the sciences and humanities.
The several Civic Youth Ensembles (CYE) sponsored by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) show what is possible when young people are encouraged to expand their creative horizons with music. Auditions for the 2011-2012 season will begin in February. Find out more at the DSO website.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
[Here on my progressive/liberal Black Liberal Boomer Blog, I will occasionally publish posts about the state of education in the United States. I am a former teacher/college instructor for grades Pre-K through university level; I have a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education and Psychology and a Master's Degree in English and Education. I also have many years of experience in corporate sales and business management. I am a certified Reading Specialist, and in addition to providing writing and editing services for my local and international business clients, I presently work with graduate and post-graduate students in nine countries through my business Writing It Right For You. Some of these posts may be cross-published on my Detroit-focused blog, The DSpot Redeux and my writing blog at Writing It Right For You.]
Dr. Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy
and Nobel Prize Winner for Physics
I just saw a commercial by Dr. Steven Chu in which Dr. Chu was advocating for people to become caring, engaged teachers like his 12th grade physics teacher, Mr. Miner. Dr. Chu said that Mr. Miner was one of the teachers who changed his life because Mr. Miner didn't just teach the facts, but encouraged his students to think about their studies and about how to come to conclusions and find answers. Dr. Chu then reminded those watching the commercial that the United States needs many more teachers like Mr. Miner if our students are to be able to compete in today's global community.
Unfortunately, much of U.S. education today consists of "teaching to the (standardized) test"--the majority of teaching has one purpose, to make sure that the students pass whatever standardized test is being used to rank schools and school districts. Rarely do children have the time to explore, question, or learn anything besides "the facts" that the local school boards think are relevant.
Today, the creative arts--art and music classes--have all but disappeared, as have many physical education classes except organized sports. The classes are the first to be cut during budget cuts despite numerous studies that show that art, music and "gym" actually help with cognitive skills.
This scenario in our schools has become more common in recent years, especially since the passage of the ironically named "No Child Left Behind" Act (our children are further behind their global counterparts than ever); but the pressures on teachers to get high test scores from the students is nothing new. Many years ago, when I was teaching 4th grade in Ann Arbor Michigan, I wrote the creative writing topic on the board, pulled the window shades down low, and instructed the children to "think" silently about the topic for about five minutes before starting to write. My principal came into my room and demanded to know why the children weren't "working". I answered, "They are working; they're THINKING!" I was told in no uncertain terms that "thinking" was not schoolwork; filling in little circles in their workbooks was.
To give today's students the opportunity to benefit from teachers like Mr. Miner, the answer is not just more teachers. Teachers must be treated like the professionals they are and allowed to teach and engage the students in many different needed skills, not just have the students parrot "facts".
Sidebar: Dr. Chu, in an interview, revealed that he now wished that his parents, immigrants from China, had taught him to become fluent in their native language of Chinese, instead of insisting he just learn English since he was an American. Maybe in the 1950s and 1960s when Dr. Chu was in public school, speaking only English was sufficient. Today, however, being fluent in Chinese as well as other languages in addition to English is almost mandatory for global communication.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
The Healing Ceremony at the University of Arizona was a beautiful and moving event. Some people were expecting a boo-hoo morbid funeral-like affair. No. The purpose of this celebration--which was planned by the victims' families and the University of Arizona President; not by President Obama--was to:
1) Heal the nation and move us past negativity and knee-jerk finger-pointing.
2) Celebrate the lives of those who died.
3) Celebrate the lives of those who survived.
4) Honor those who bravely helped in the midst of chaos.
5) Remind America of her greatness--not of the pettiness and "victimhood" that others tried to portray for themselves.
6) Celebrate the diversity of this nation and focus on our commonalities, not on our differences.
This event was for the families, the people of Tucson and Arizona and America. It was not about or for President Obama. Yes, there was cheering and clapping--even in the sorrow of losing six precious lives, thirteen other lives were saved, and the target of the terrorist attack--Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is stunning her doctors with her recovery. Upon realizing that the President, the First Lady, and several of her Congressional colleagues came to visit her, she opened her eyes for the first time since a bullet went completely through her brain and came out the other side.
President Obama was the invited guest speaker. This event was not supposed to be just about him. People cheered because they were glad to see the Leader of the Free World act like an intelligent, compassionate and charismatic leader, not like a whiny, complaining, incendiary cretin.
It was a beautiful tribute and an uplifting speech for a nation still in shock. It was a healing ceremony, not a funeral or even a memorial service.
(Thank you to my FB Friend: "I Love It When I Wake Up in the Morning and Barack Obama is President" for this beautiful graphic.)
[I am posting this to both of my blogs, so there may be some duplication for some of my readers.]