If we want better teachers we need to teach them to be better

Definitely one of the most influential books on my own thinking I have read in recent years is Elizabeth Green’s Building a Better Teacher.  This recent NPR story on teaching nicely encapsulates some of the key points about how we approach teaching wrong and what needs to change:

Deborah Ball realized years ago she had a problem.

It was around 1980. She’d been working as an elementary school teacher in East Lansing, Michigan for about five years. But she felt like she just wasn’t getting any better at it…

Ball is now the dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan, and kind of a rock star in the field of teacher education…

“I’m really trying hard to dispel this idea that teaching is this thing you’re born to do and it’s somehow natural to everyday life,” Ball says. “I don’t think either of those things is true.” [emphases mine]

What Ball is trying to model at U of M is a system where future teachers have to demonstrate they can do some core things — like present a math problem, and lead a discussion about it — before they’re safe to practice.

“Nobody goes out in a pilot school and is told: ‘Go out in the plane today! Try it out. See how it works,'” Ball says.

What Ball is trying to model at U of M is a system where future teachers have to demonstrate they can do some core things – like present a math problem, and lead a discussion about it – before they’re safe to practice.

She says pilots, doctors, plumbers and hairdressers don’t learn on the job. And teachers shouldn’t either.

Yes!  Of course, many countries that out-perform us understand us and approach teacher training in a far smarter way.  There’s plenty of problems in American education and this is no magic bullet.  But suffice it to say, we could dramatically improve teacher quality (which definitely does matter), by thinking and acting a lot smarter about how we train (and continue to train) our teachers.

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Taibbi on Benghazi hearings

I had a recent email conversation on Matt Taibbi.  He’s not always the most analytical or insightful writer, but when it comes to writing about the bad things conservatives, corporations, etc., do, there’s nobody more entertaining to read.  And in his analysis of the Benghazi hearings, I really like the way he gets to the subtext to point out how utterly absurd the Republican case is.  Good stuff:

With Thursday’s interminable, pointless, haranguing, disorganized, utterly amateurish attempt at a smear job, the Republicans and their tenth-rate congressional attack schnauzer, South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy, got people feeling sorry for Hillary Clinton. Over the course of 11 long hours, they made the most eloquent argument for a Hillary Clinton presidency yet offered by anyone, including Clinton herself…

The overriding implication of the Benghazi hearing seemed to be that Hillary Clinton was so crass, unfeeling and politically self-involved as to not care if members of her State Department were massacred. Again, Hillary has a lot of flaws, but we’re supposed to believe that she doesn’t have a problem with dead Americans? Seriously? …

Gowdy went to places like this over and over again Thursday. At one point, he was giving Hillary a hard time for responding too quickly to an email from Huma Abedin pointing out that the Libyan people “needed medicine, gasoline, diesel and milk.”

“Do you know how long it took you to answer that email?” Gowdy ranted.

“Well, I responded very quickly,” Hillary replied.

“Yeah, four minutes,” Gowdy chirped. “My question, and I think it’s a fair one, is the Libyan people had their needs responded to in four minutes. And there’s no record of our security folks ever making it to your inbox.”

The look on Gowdy’s face at this moment was priceless. He was proud, like a 3-year-old who went potty all by himself. But what was he even talking about? That Hillary Clinton cares more about the lives of Libyan strangers than she does her own employees? Was that seriously the idea?

And plenty more good stuff like this on the other questioners.  In conclusion, Taibbi broadens back out:

The Republicans at the Benghazi hearing made Hillary a proxy for an aspect of this phenomenon that virtually every blue-state American has seethed at in the last decade or so: being accused of treason.

We’ve been told that we hate veterans, that we sympathize with terrorists, that we long for a UN takeover or Soviet rule. It’s said all the time that it makes us happy to see cops shot or soldiers killed in battle. Not only do we hear this on right-wing TV, we see the amazing spectacle of millions of conservatives believing it. To believe this stuff, you’d have to believe we aren’t even people.

Hillary was forced into that same narrative Thursday. In this hearing she wasn’t really being accused of mismanaging just the latest of thousands of logistical screw-ups by the U.S. government over the years.

On a deeper level the Republican committee members were accusing her of not caring about martyred American lives, because, well, “liberals” only care about the victims of torture or police brutality or other special interest groups they can exploit for political gain. In conservative legend, they don’t care about “regular” Americans.

Yep.  Good stuff.

Is Jeb toast

It sure seems that way.  NYT:

A beleaguered Jeb Bush slashed his campaign spending. Donald J. Trump lost his lead in Iowa. And a surging Ben Carson galvanized his support among social conservatives…

Mr. Bush cut salaries, fired consultants and laid off or reassigned many campaign workers. It was the latest sign that  contenders vying for support from moderates and the party’s establishment are all but running on fumes — exhausting their cash, or the patience of their supporters, but barely moving in the polls.

I do find it interesting that Jeb is drawing inspiration from McCain 2008.

In New Hampshire, meanwhile, Mr. Bush is drawing inspiration from another candidate who also struggled with money troubles — Senator John McCain of Arizona. Several times in recent weeks, Mr. Bush has recalled an encounter with Mr. McCain at the Atlanta airport during the 2008 presidential primary campaign.

“He’s carrying his bag, he has no aide, he’s running for president, he has no staff,” Mr. Bush said in New Hampshire last month. “The campaign was basically over. Everybody said it. All the pundits said, ‘It’s over; why waste your time?’ ”

But Mr. McCain persisted, Mr. Bush said, implicitly making an analogy-cum-prediction for his own predicament.

I remember thinking McCain was perhaps being written off prematurely in 2007.  That said, I just don’t see Jeb pulling off what McCain did.  Jeb strikes me as a weaker candidate (John Cassidy is all over that) with a stronger field than McCain faced.  Furthermore, I find this analysis in the National Review focusing on Jeb’s lack of grassroots/small donor support to be pretty interesting and compelling:

Candidates who cannot win the support of major donors ultimately lack the qualities to be competitive in a general election. Influential votes and voices matter, and not just for their money. This is why candidates such as Bernie Sanders are extremely unlikely to be president, no matter how much money they raise.

Conversely, candidates whom big donors love but who do not excite the base can sometimes be lifted by the establishment to the nomination but have no hope in the general election. This why candidates such as Rudy Giuliani, despite his enormous major-donor fundraising totals, went absolutely nowhere in the GOP primaries. Ultimately, it is candidates who — e.g., Obama and George W. Bush — excite the grassroots and do well with major donors who win.

That strikes me as about right.  Suffice it to say, that Jeb is not exactly lighting the grassroots on fire:

This perspective is instructive when analyzing the candidates’ latest quarterly financial reports in the 2016 GOP presidential primary. I have compared the cumulative fundraising data from the election to date with the data through the same quarter of the 2012, 2008, 2004, and 2000 election cycles to see what we can learn about which candidates are likely to do well and which candidates are almost certain to fail. From examining the data, several striking patterns emerge, and if fundraising history is any guide to the present, all of the following assertions will prove true.

Jeb Bush has almost no chance of being the GOP nominee, owing to a near-complete lack of support from the GOP’s rank-and-file donors…

Second, Jeb Bush cannot win. I don’t say this because I dislike Jeb. (On the contrary, I think he has virtues as both a candidate and a person.) But the numbers don’t lie. It’s not just that his ratio of big-donor to small-dollar donations is vastly out of sync with the rest of the GOP and Democratic fields today. (Even Romney’s ratio of small-donor to big-donor dollars was more than twice Jeb’s.) Jeb’s big-donor to small-donor ratio is 15:1. No candidate has ever won the nomination with such a heavy reliance on big donors, even at a time when big-donor money made up a much larger percentage of total fundraising. For the rest of the GOP field, the ratio of big-donor to small-donor money is 1:1.6. Furthermore, Jeb ranks just third in total fundraising. For reasons I examine below, that seems unlikely to improve.

We certainly have seen that you cannot win a primary election just based on rich people’s willingness to give your campaign a lot of money.  That’s pretty much all Jeb has going for him.  I strongly suspect that a bunch of these millionaires were wishing they could get their money back about now.

If Republican primary party voters are smart, the establishment support will coalesce behind Rubio (just don’t see Kasich happening, though that would work, too).  That said, I’m increasingly disinclined to believe that Republican primary voters are smart.  Can’t wait for the voting to get going and find out.

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