Education is not a business

With Republicans taking over state governments all over the place, prepare for more of the silly “education is a business” argument to be popping up like it is here in NC.   Here’s school privitization advocate, Bob Luddy in a story from our local NPR station:

Luddy: A lot of people say you shouldn’t talk of education as a business, but the reality is, it is a business.

Luddy’s business plan for education is the same as it has been for Captive-Aire: keep overhead low and deliver quality to customers. There are very few support and administrative personnel in his schools. There are no sports. Thales doesn’t take children with special needs, as they are too expensive to educate.

Obviously, that last point really stuck with me.  No, public schools are not a damn business.  Rather, they are a public good designed to serve the public, not just the people people rich enough to attend or sufficiently inexpensive to educate.  I’m sure glad Luddy did not win a seat on the school board when he tried (though, it’s hard to believe he’d be any worse than our current morons on the board).  Are there certain principles from business that make sense to apply to schools?  Sure.  But the last thing I want is people who actually think that schools should be treated as businesses having anything to do with my children’s’ education.

And the Tea Party is…

another name for the Republican base.  Here’s a table of Tea Party sympathizers compared to “Republicans” compared to all voters (via Chait):

Heck, you practically don’t even need separate columns for Republicans and Tea party supporters.  This is a pretty neat trick that Republicans have pulled off– convincing most people that their angry base is some grass-roots based new social movement.   Chait’s comments strike me as spot-on:

The Tea Party is essentially a re-branding campaign for the GOP base. It’s a successful effort, and one that springs largely though not entirely from the grassroots itself. Conservatives like to imagine that the Tea Party is some incarnation of the popular will, asleep for many years and finally awakened under Obama, and bristle at any analysis that diminishes the world-historical import of the phenomenon. So let me be clear. The Tea Party represents a significant minority of Americans. It’s influential. (It allowed conservatives to disown the failures of the Bush administration and to lend them a populist imprimatur.) But it’s not anything more than an organizing rubric for the GOP base.


Test yourself

Meant to post this a while ago, as it’s really useful for many of my readers (i.e., college students), but forgot to.  Now that I’m busy with exams to graded, I was reminded to get to it.  Anyway, the Times had a really nice article on the most effective strategies for preparing for tests.   Short version– the best way to learn material is actually to be tested on it!

The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.

In the experiments, the students were asked to predict how much they would remember a week after using one of the methods to learn the material. Those who took the test after reading the passage predicted they would remember less than the other students predicted — but the results were just the opposite…

But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”

It may also be that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce it in our brains.

Maybe that is also why students who took retrieval practice tests were less confident about how they would perform a week later.

“The struggle helps you learn, but it makes you feel like you’re not learning,” said Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College. “You feel like: ‘I don’t know it that well. This is hard and I’m having trouble coming up with this information.’ ”

I don’t know if it truly counts as “testing” but back in my days of taking, rather than grading (as much as I hate grading, I’ll still take this side), I would try and test myself on the material as I went along.  Obviously, I was onto a pretty good strategy.  From reading this, though, it sounds like the more one truly does approach preparation in a test-like manner, the more learning will happen.

Sherlock: right and wrong

Watched last year’s Sherlock Holmes movie over a couple of nights earlier this week.  Easily could’ve been so much better.  I loved Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson.  I could’ve watched those two go at it all day.  What I could’ve lived without was absurd chases, extended fight scenes, and explosions galore.  It was like Sherlock Holmes by Michael Bay.

What makes Holmes such an enjoyable character is his heightened powers of deductive reasoning.   This was used to great effect in the BBC/PBS “Sherlock.”  The television production lacked the star power and high-end production values of the movie, but damn was the writing about 1000 times smarter.  If only you could’ve combined the two, then the film would’ve really been onto something.

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