Tag Archives: educational

Equity Is NOT Equality

6 May

You hear the word “equity” a lot. It sounds like “equality” so how could anyone be against it? “Equity” means equality of outcome, versus equality of opportunity. Why is that bad? Because humans don’t work that way.

You’ve seen the cute graphic of three kids trying to look over a fence; how equal opportunity (represented by boxes) still leaves one kid unable to see. But if you give the smaller kid two boxes, and the big kid no boxes, everyone can see just fine. Looks correct, doesn’t it? After all, everyone should be able to see the game, some people just need more help.

One of the books I keep on my bookshelf from my grad school days (and most of them have been exiled) is “Declining by Degrees,” which is the PBS companion book to the documentary they did fifteen years ago. Because it’s been out so long, you can watch it for free. However, what interested me was the book was full of essays from different educational experts and journalists, all asking the same question, “Why are standards declining in our universities? Why are graduates able to do less than those who graduated a generation before?” Many reasons were given, but the solution was always the same: “You need to give more money to schools.”

Hmmm… that did not sound right. After all, LA Unified School District spends $18,788 per student, and as anyone in LA will tell you, never send your kid to a LAUSD school. New York City spends $25,199 per student, as compared to a nationwide average of $12,201. Now that may just be because LA and NYC are simply more expensive. However, that still doesn’t completely explain why there worse test scores in places that the spend the most?

Maybe it’s because money has nothing to do with outcomes.

Another lifetime ago, I taught at a private boarding school overseas. So our student body was a self-selecting sample; parents who wanted to pay a LOT of money to send their kid to an isolated location for an American school in India. They wanted their kids to either a) get into a Western university and/or b) have a unique international experience. As a teacher, I could always tell which students would succeed and which wouldn’t. What was the difference? How often their parents checked in with them.

The best students had their parents calling every night… or every other night, checking on their homework, they showed up at the parent-teacher conferences even though it was a serious pain to get to twice a year. They came to take their kids out on the weekends every so often. The parents made sure they were still in their lives. The worst students had no contact apart from holidays. The saddest example was the student who didn’t want to go home because all they would be doing is sitting in an empty apartment with a maid to take care of them.

No amount of money will turn a failed student into a successful one. The only thing that will is having that student find someone else who gives a damn. It doesn’t have to be a parent; it can be a coach, a teacher, a challenging friend. Putting up more boxes to lift someone up doesn’t convince the kid to actually stand; what it does do is give money to people who make boxes.

But what do you think? Am I just too jaded? Are there worthy charities that really just need more money, but get diverted to less worthy ones. (Of course.) Let me know in the comments below! Then if you need a worthy place to put your money, buy one of my books! However, if $1.99 is if too much to “donate,” go ahead and download one of my stories for free. Thank you for your support.

The Legend of Mike Mannion

22 Apr

While I was to college, once a year, a frat would take out chalk and write fun sayings all over the quad like: “And when I had no legs and could not walk, Mike Mannion carried me.” Who was Mike Mannion? And why were so many good deeds attributed to him?

I can’t find any references to this still happening at my alma mater, Illinois State University (or “I Screwed Up”), which I find sad. This was a great tradition. However, for a place that started out (and is still has a strong concentration in) as a teacher’s college, times change, and traditions get forgotten. The quad where I attended is unrecognizable from the quad today. They rebuilt the buildings, added some statues, and generally made it a much better place. We’ve never had a decent athletics program. Both dorms I lived in are demolished, so apart from my memories, I have little connection with the place any more.

On the ISU quad, facing Schroeder Hall (pronounce it “Shray-der”) and the library.

Everything about the ISU administration in the late 90’s implied “Shut up and give me your money.” This changed in the next decade dramatically to a student-service focus. So for those of us who attended then, those moments of quirkiness were great. The Disco Revolution party, the Armchair Anarchists, Support Your Local Beholder Week… and of course, the legend of Mike Mannion.

Who was Mike Mannion? Well, as you might guess, he was a member of that particular frat. Somewhere along the way, someone thought this would be funny to write “The plane was going down, there was only one parachute, and Mike Mannion said, ‘Take it, my son.'” However, by the time I got to ISU, Mike had already graduated. However, his younger brother was attending… I knew this, because his younger brother had been part of the “frat” party that won the student elections.

What has he done since? It’s not certain–it’s a relatively common name. He either became a lawyer in Chicago, or a military officer, or… whatever. Doesn’t matter. Making a legendary figure that could be remembered even after you left means attributing stuff to them that doesn’t necessarily make sense. In the early 1800’s, when a man decided to write a book about the American Founding Fathers, he made up larger than life stories to make them seem legendary. George Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac… never happened. He also never cut down a cherry tree and said, “Father, I cannot tell a lie.”

Sometimes we need legends to inspire us, or to boost up a particular belief, or whatever bias the creator has. Davy Crockett did not go down shooting at the Alamo; he was sick in bed. In Mike Mannion’s case, it’s fun, it lets students who walk back and forth to classes laugh a little at the ridiculousness. Because at a time when you were just a cog in the college machine, we needed a patron saint, and Mike Mannion was there.

We didn’t have a Touchdown Jesus (Notre Dame) or an Alma Mater (U of Illinois), we had Mike Mannion. But what do you think? Do we need to bring down legends or do they still have purpose? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books, where you can read about future legends. However, if $1.99 is too much for a simple story, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

Refueling your Creative Tank

14 Apr

You knew it had to happen sometime–I’ve run out of gas. Creatively, that is. It happens to everyone; where you hit a limit on how much you can concentrate on. Which is a problem… if that’s your job.

In real life, I’m an instructional designer, which is a nice term for “corporate teacher.” Just like regular teachers, that can still mean a wide variety of jobs; after all, a Spanish teacher and the ROTC instructor have different roles and different schedules. In my case, that means I’m building eLearning modules, the much derided, much confided role of online education.

So my job is to make a lecture exciting; this is a lot easier in person. Your great lecturers can make a story come alive with simple tricks and nonsense. But that’s a lot harder to do when you’re told, “Don’t move around much and please don’t move your hands.” So it’s up to me to make their talk about understanding taxes regarding corporations that fall under a 403(b) rule exciting.

AAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!

BTW, even if the professor moves their hands around and moves around the room, it doesn’t help. All it really does is remove real estate that I get to do my magic. Text and graphics appearing on screen, adding videos, neat images… all of which is designed to keep your attention because the modern mind can’t focus for more than 7 seconds on any given image.

If you’re ever watching a cheaply developed television program, I always play a fun game. Count the number of seconds before the camera has to shift–it’s never more than seven seconds–this is a lesson that many producers have already learned. Better developed programs add more tricks with graphics and having the camera or presenter move… all of which happens in less than 7 seconds. Watching a football game, there is 90 seconds between plays; so they have cameras checking the crowd, checking the sidelines, commentators up in the booth, images of players and stats. All of which is to keep your attention while the quarterback is trying to figure out what to do. Even the cameras during the play have the overhead and side views just to keep things exciting.

So that takes a lot of effort when you’re the only one doing it. But hey, that’s the job I signed up for, and am glad to have it. However, it’s good to have variation. So right now, I’m helping another project that is much easier, because it’s just adapting a PowerPoint to another format. I frequently like to shift between multiple projects, so that when I can’t figure out how to make Mass v. EPA exciting on the third repetition, I can turn to explaining the 13th Amendment,

I’m also taking a vacation next week… which can’t hurt. One of the major obstacles to working from home has been–nothing changes. Sure, you can say that about a commute as well, but I go from my bed to the computer while everyone in the house is still trying to get their day started. When I’m done with work, I shut down the computer and… I’m still here. I’ve tried working from different locations, which helps occasionally, but in the end… you just miss your two screen flexibility and it makes it harder to know what you need to do.

I’m also writing a book, which means that any creative thought I have left over, goes into that. It’s hard to get on with that project when the limited amount of creativity goes into something else. I’m out of blog posts, so it’s gonna be hard the next couple of days to come up with daily posts, but I’ll try.

Have you ever been in this situation? What were your techniques for getting you out of the creative slump? Let me know in the comments below! If you want to inspire me, buy one my books! However, if $1.99 is too much to pay for inspiration, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

Non-Political and Totally Educational

21 Feb

I listen to a lot of commercials, so naturally, I hear a lot of BS. So when I hear a pro-life non-profit suggest that they are “non-political and totally educational,” I have to question that statement. But maybe it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.

This is not a post about abortion; this is about the messaging of abortion. The folks who put out this radio ad are called Pro-Life Across America. Now I don’t like this ad, not because I’m pro-choice, but because it’s so cutesy. You’ve got either a sister or a mom talking to their five year old about how you can hear a heartbeat at 18 days, or moving at 10 weeks, or smiling at 12 weeks. Then Mary Ann Kuharski, the director of PLAA comes on and tells you that they are “non-political and totally educational,” and how you can help.

Now my initial thought was, “the second you promote pro-life, you are political,” but when I thought about it… they’ve got a point. Take the more activist version of the pro-life movement. The old guys who stand outside of abortion clinics with giant signs, usually VERY graphic, and shout at women who try to go into the building. To quote a great song:

Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom that said he was in love
He said, “don’t worry about a thing, baby doll I’m the man you’ve been dreaming of.”
But three months later he say he won’t date her or return her calls
And she swear, “god damn, if I find that man I’m cuttin’ off his balls”
And then she heads for the clinic and she gets some static walking through the door
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner and they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose

Everlast, What It’s Like

PLAA is not marching in front of the Supreme Court building (although some of their members might), their job is reach out to scared, recently pregnant young women, and convince them to keep the baby. They do this through ads and billboards. In my town, there’s a place near Arizona State University called “Crisis Pregnancy Center,” which I know is a pro-life center, but most people don’t. Politics aside, they are totally educational. They’re not going to provide you any drugs, no medical visits, they’re going to point you to folks who will help you through the pregnancy and beyond.

There is a whole network of services out there to support new mothers, shelters to live, day cares to help with the baby, ways to help pay for medical care… but you need a way for these young women to find this information out. So yeah… the more I look into it, the more I respect their approach. I disagree, but it takes away one of my arguments: “You care about having the baby, but don’t give a damn what happens to the baby after that.”

Doesn’t mean I like the cutesy approach any better, but at least, I can see that they’ve thought this through beyond putting up billboards. But what do you think? Is better messaging the key to avoiding political blinders? Is my definition of “political” too broad? Do you get annoyed at cutesy ads too? Let me know in the comments below!

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