Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Best Way To Teach

A friend recently shared this video of a candidate for state representative in my home state of Kansas discussing Common Core:

Ms Levings rhetorically asks, “What’s the best way to teach kids…?” That is the fallacious assumption behind academic initiatives that attempt to standardize instruction. People are unique, and different instructional approaches will work differently for different people. Let’s be real. What we are really after here is trying to find the most cost effective approach that will work for the most students. While it may not work for your kid or my kid, in theory it should work for most kids.

Thinking there is a “best way” of doing education doesn’t hold up in a messy, real world of individual ideosynchrasies. What if we thought this way about dining? Instead of appreciating Chinese or Mexican cuisine, we would blend it all together in an attempt implement the very best methods of cooking, but we would wind up eating some very nasty smoothies every day.

I’m still waiting for an initiative that recognizes that everyone involved in education, students and teachers alike, is an individual. Where is the initiative that encourages kids to discover their life’s purpose? Where is the program that encourages teachers to teach from their strengths and to tap into their individual creativity so their students will benefit from the very best possible teaching? Because of the assumption that there is a ‘best way’ to teach, we have developed a hostile culture that has zero respect for individual professional educators. Year after year, our young people are subjected to mind-numbing testing in the name of “holding teachers accountable” to the standards that may or may not be relevant.

Standards in themselves are not a bad thing to have. But the real fallout from Common Core has been to suck the joy out of childhood. Kids are fearful and ashamed when they must take tests that make no sense to them. It is the adults who write the awful tests and the adults who subject kids to them who should be ashamed.

Yes, teachers should be accountable. Primarily they should be accountable to the young people whose lives they influence, and to the parents and communities they serve. Let the local school leadership do its job in determining whether or not teachers are doing their job.

I also think that politicians who implement these educational initiatives be held accountable. How many of the many new programs designed to improve education have been successfully implemented over the years? What are the real, measurable results? No one ever seems to hold politicians accountable for their failed policies. Instead, we incessantly move on to the next big thing.




Kansas Farm Draws Unwelcome Attention

Did you see the recent story about the Kansas farm that has been receiving unwelcome attention from around the country? It seems that a company that specializes in geotagging picked an arbitrary point at the center of the USA as a default, and now IP addresses that have no known physical location direct to this single places in Kansas.

For years, the owner of this farm has been receiving harassing letters and phone calls, even actual visits in person, all because thousands of IP addresses default to this one place. If someone gets defrauded or abused in some way and they can trace the IP address of the perpetrator, they use the geolocation service that attempts to connect the IP address to a location. If it isn’t known, the service says by default the location is on a farm in Kansas. Voila, an instant problem for that farm owner.

This is an example of the fallout of living in the Information Age. Sometimes our information is faulty or incomplete, but we rush to act on that information anyway. That is why it is so important that we teach critical thinking and media literacy. It is important to learn to ask good questions, and to gather as much information as you can, because things are not always as they seem.

Presidents and Personnel Reliability

ASROC handling
Sailors working with ASROC missiles

When I was in the service, we had a program called the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP), through which everyone potentially associated with nuclear weapons had to be accepted. I recently reviewed those standards; here is an excerpt:

Only those personnel who have demonstrated the highest degree of individual reliability for allegiance, trustworthiness, conduct, behavior, and responsibility shall be allowed to perform duties associated with nuclear weapons, and they shall be continuously evaluated for adherence to PRP standards.

It seems to me that the commander-in-chief should be able to pass these requirements just like anyone in the military having a connection to weapons of mass destruction. I would sure like to have a candidate to vote for who could pass PRP. Primary voters who haven’t voted yet should seriously consider this factor. Unfortunately, this year I’m doubting that any candidate in the general election will measure up to PRP standards. That is a scary thing for the country and for the world.