Posts concerning education

“Protect the Children” Hysteria and Injustice

22:41 18 Apr 2011

This is the summary:

  • Local comic/musician goes to elementary school, plays song for kids.
  • A friend of his videotapes this, both the performance and the kids’ (positive) reactions.
  • Musician and friend later come back to empty classroom and record him performing a song with graphically sexual lyrics.
  • Musician edits two sets of footage together to make it appear as if he sang the sexually-explicit song to the kids.
  • Musician then puts edited version on YouTube and plays it at a local club’s comedy night.

Clearly the title of the post gives it away somewhat, but what do you think happened next?

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You’ll Eat Our Lunch and Like It

21:04 12 Apr 2011

The headline really says it all: “Chicago school bans homemade lunches”.

That’s right. The daytime prisoners at this institution—sorry, the beloved Children Who Are Our Future at this Future-Oriented Center for Learning—are no longer allowed to provide their own alternatives to the midday meal, but must have whatever the school supplies.

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How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate on YouTube

21:03 05 Jul 2010. Updated: 21:39 06 Jul 2010

Some time ago I wrote a feature film with Graham Jones: How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate, a heist movie about the Irish education system. It is now available on YouTube.

I’m leery of YouTube as a venue for feature films, since it’s geared much more towards short clips. On the other hand, if the film is insufficiently gripping, that’s down to mistakes we made.

The film has been in the news again recently, mentioned in stories concerning allegedly widespread cheating.

I’m amused that one of the primary funding sources for the film was the now-nationalized Anglo Irish Bank.

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Arizona and Ethnic Studies

19:57 06 May 2010

In addition to the immigration law that Arizona recently passed, there’s another gem, an apparent attempt to outlaw ethnic studies.

My personal favorite quotation on this subject is from Representative Steve Montenegro: “They shouldn’t be taught they’re oppressed”. He presumably means that nobody in the US should be taught that they’re being oppressed since he’s sure there’s no oppression—rather than being against actually teaching the oppressed about their oppression, but one never knows. He also says “We’re trying to prevent the promotion of victimology”, which might seem reasonable unless you think that exploitation and prejudice based on ethnicity are prevalent, in which case it again sounds more like “we don’t want the exploited to learn that they’re exploited”.

Apart from the specifics, the bill also reflects a struggle over political control of public education; the individual school district presumably has a political makeup that supports the ethnic studies program, while the state as a whole does not, and so the state as a whole is trying to enforce orthodoxy on the topic.

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Against Grad School

15:20 26 Jan 2010

I’ve posted about reasons not to go to grad school before, but I missed a classic post: “Straight Talk about Grad School”.

My own feelings about my postgrad degrees are largely positive, but I think there’s a big difference between shorter postgrad courses (like mine) and doctoral programs.

The MetaFilter discussion about this post includes a comment quoting this classic:

The At-Home PhD Simulator

  1. Give a $30,000 donation to the university of your choice, on your credit card.
  2. Go to the library and write. Write pages and pages. Every time you reach 50 pages, burn all of them. Repeat for several years.
  3. Take out an ad in Craiglist for someone to pretend to be your advisor. Set up periodic meetings with them where they read your drafts and give you the exact opposite of the advice they gave you three months ago.
  4. Adjunct a course at your local college. Give lots of written work. Submit everything you get to one of the online plagiarism detectors. Despair for humanity.
  5. After ten years, throw a dart at a map. Move where ever it lands for the rest of your life.

All that being said, I’m not sure I’d actually argue against doing a PhD.; I know plenty of people who seem relatively happy to have them. (Although most of those people seem to have done them outside the United States, a factor which may or may not be meaningful.)

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Rape and “Compulsive Heterosexuality”

21:26 18 Jan 2010. Updated: 14:14 25 Jan 2010

This post at Yes Means Yes! is an excellent overview of how the profoundly unhealthy culture of American high schools socializes boys to have negative and domineering attitudes towards women. The post is a review of Dude, You’re a Fag, an academic study of student ethnography and behavior at a Northern California high school. While the degree to which the behavior in the school is typical can be debated, it certainly seems to me that it’s certainly not a total aberration. I think a key paragraph is this one:

[Male sexual aggression in this context] has little to do with sexual orientation or desire and everything to do with a gender performance that positions the boys in relation to other boys.

I don’t think this is all that controversial, but I do think it’s important.

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Bullying: Just a Hunch

15:39 03 Dec 2009

I’ve come across what feels like another wave of articles related to bullying recently. I previously wrote about my thoughts on institutional responses, but this time my focus is on some of the causes, as well as how technical rules are unlikely to eliminate the problem.

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Pensecola Christian College Regulations

23:50 27 Apr 2009

Pensecola Christian College, an unaccredited (except for nursing) university, has about 4500 undergrads, and they apparently have to abide by rather stringent regulations. Some excerpts:

Married personnel should refrain from physical display of affection realizing that our college students are not allowed to have physical contact.
—Bruce Gerencser, “Pensacola Christian College Rules and Regulations”, Bruce Droppings, 17 April 2009


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Bullying: Institutional Inevitability?

22:41 21 Apr 2009. Updated: 12:59 03 Dec 2009

Over the last month or so I’ve come across a bunch of articles on school bullying, mostly in the United States. A common thread among them seemed to be the lack of interest of the school authorities in effectively dealing with the bullies. This is always a little surprising (and disheartening) on the individual level, but makes perfect sense to me on the institutional level.

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Less Room in the Ivory Towers

20:26 14 Apr 2009

From one form of labor exploitation to another, different but with some similarities: grad school in the humanities.

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The Wire and Education

23:50 06 Dec 2007. Updated: 00:53 07 Dec 2007

I’ve been watching the fourth season of The Wire, and it’s amazing, just like the previous three seasons. Gritty and depressing in parts, but amazing. This season has a significant focus on the public school system in Baltimore, and stands as a scathing critique of that system.

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What Are Schools For?

23:50 11 Nov 2007. Updated: 02:04 12 Nov 2007

If one is feeling generous, then they might be following two conflicting purposes: actual education (teaching students to think, teaching them techniques and tools such as math, science, and so on) and obedience/conformity. The tension between those two things should be clear, but an awful lot of people are prepared to put up with it. And perhaps that’s not too bad, depending on where the balance is. In this country, the focus has been shifting steadily towards obedience more or less since the start of modern schooling in the US.

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The ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ Decision

23:48 26 Jun 2007. Updated: 09:10 27 Jun 2007

I am completely disgusted by the outcome of the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case. It doesn’t seem that surprising, but the expansion of powers of school administrations is simply awful.

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Political Turmoil in Legotown

21:59 10 Apr 2007. Updated: 12:46 21 May 2009

This article about Lego, power, and property in an elementary school was completely fascinating to me. It recounts the experiences in a clearly “alternative” school when the teachers and children attempted to unravel what was causing conflict over the resources of “Legotown”.

If you have any interest in politics, equality, children, education, or the nature of property, read the article.

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The End of the Points Race?

07:06 21 Aug 2006

The Irish Times today has “‘Points race’ may be over as CAO requirements tumble” as its main headline. In Ireland, entry into university courses is determined by Leaving Certificate results. (The Leaving Certificate is a set of national exams that occurs after your final school year). Grades in the various Leaving Certificate subjects are worth points in this system, hence ‘points race’. Demographic changes have pushed the numbers leaving school (and competing for university places) down from about 70000 to about 50000, meaning a much higher percentage of students will get into their courses.

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Submission to the Points Commission

00:00 31 Jan 1998. Updated: 21:59 19 Mar 2006
Suggests a number of radical solutions to serious problems with the Irish Leaving Certificate / college entry system.
[Read article]
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