Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Itsy Bitsy Spider

So I'm trying to get Baby A to go to sleep -- not an easy task -- and I'm singing the few songs I can remember lyrics to. Sadly, the Itsy Bitsy Spider is one of them. Besides not having many lyrics, it has hand movements that would traditionally accompany the song, but because I was rocking my son to sleep, the hand movements were absent. As I sang, I realized the story of that sad spider really reminds me of Sisyphus. And, in fact, in a sleep-deprived state, one can substitute the name Sisyphus for spider.

It's a sad state of affairs.

But as one thinks about this more than one should, the question of whether you view the spider as a Sisyphus figure or a "little engine that could" (how's that for elevating the level of discussion), really represents a world view. Which world view do I hold? I guess it depends on the day and how many times I sing Itsy Bitsy Spider in a row at 3 a.m.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Guns Don't Kill People

This morning I took the time to explain to Baby A and Baby B that guns don't shoot people, people shoot people. And that someone in front of the barrel of a gun is not responsible for being shot by the gun. The person with his/her hand on the trigger is responsible.

It's a sad state of affairs to think otherwise, and an embarrassment to not admit a mistake.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A School's Responsibility to its Students

I ran across this article in the LA Times that described a class-action lawsuit brought by students who failed an exit exam from high school. It caught my attention because one of my professional areas of interest is writing assessment, and I have spent ink considering exit exams and their values and drawbacks. I think there may be some value to them (though very little and value that can be achieved through less drastic measures), but I want to focus on one of the drawbacks here.

Certainly I think it is a laudable goal to set standards for student to graduate from high school. As a university teacher, I see students come to college who could have had better preparation. But all students are different, and each student matures intellectually at different times (if they mature). Read William Perry's study of college students and then read Mary Belenky et al.'s Women's Ways of Knowing.

Back to the exit exams. Here is one of my primary beefs with them: I think it is unethical to allow a student to matriculate through four years of school and not prepare them to pass a test designed for that school or district. I believe it is the job of the faculty to prepare all students, and when that doesn't happen (often the student's fault), the faculty must prevent the underachieving students from advancing. Now, I know this is a simplistic analysis. There are social ("social promotion"), cultural, political, religious (ID freaks and abstinence) and learning developmental issues to consider, but society has endowed an authority in teachers (see Foucault's Archeology of Knowledge) to determine what students should know, how they should learn it, and how well they should know it. By instituting an exam, teachers can abdicate that responsibility or they've had it wrenched from them by some of the forces listed above.

The bottom line: allowing a student to pass four years of high school and not prepare them for a test is just wrong. They should be stopped well before they get to that point -- ideally where they fall behind.

p.s. The students will win.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Dining Out

It's been a long time since I've had dinner out. I miss going out and trying new foods, but more than the food, I miss the social aspect of eating out with friends. Though I've enjoyed very brief outings to the UCEN on campus, eating a grilled cheese sandwich from Halo Burger just doesn't cut it.

I hear someone calling.