Posted by: dailyheaddesk | May 2, 2009

Hiatus

Seems silly to declare hiatus when I’ve only been at this a month or so, and particularly when there’s all sorts of giddy-making news, like the potential teacher boycotting of Sats, but something has come up. Actually, many things have come up; namely, all of the plants. It’s springtime and I frankly have little interest in politics when I can be shoving my hands into compost and tying stems to canes and whatnot. So, I’ll surely lurk on other blogs, but will save the diatribes of my own for times of less botanical interest.

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | April 2, 2009

Life not imitating art

Yesterday I posted an article in which educators were said to be whinging about the effects of television on children. Today’s article gives an example of how life isn’t resembling television in the slightest, even though it might benefit from doing so. From the Human Rights Watch site:

Los Angeles County officials should move urgently to test a backlog of more than 12,000 rape kits – the physical evidence collected after a sexual assault – to ensure justice for rape victims, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

Women who report being raped are asked to undergo a lengthy, extensive examination to collect DNA and other physical evidence that might identify their attacker, corroborate testimony about the assault, or connect their case to other rape crime scene evidence. The resulting rape kit is then booked into police evidence. However, although rape victims may believe it is automatically tested, that is often not the case in Los Angeles County. Rape treatment providers told Human Rights Watch that victims assumed silence from the officers investigating their case simply meant no evidence was found, or that there was no DNA match.


But Human Rights Watch analyzed data from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and Los Angeles County’s 47 independent police departments, and found that as of March 1, 2009, there were at least 12,669 untested rape kits sitting in storage facilities. In those cases, officers never sent the kits on for forensic testing.

So…it’s not like that CSI show after all? I would agree that perhaps the blue lighting and porno music and sunglasses for the guys in Miami are a bit much, but certainly I would have thought that properly processing evidence central to the investigation of violent crime would have fit into the budget somewhere?

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | April 2, 2009

D’oh

Teachers blame sketch show and ‘Big Brother’ for rudeness and excessive swearing in the classroom.

Television executives are to be urged by schoolteachers to tone down the language and behaviour shown in programmes because pupils are copying what they see and hear in the classroom.

Also to blame, apparently, are The Catherine Tate Show and The Simpsons. To quote another show from the genius-creator of the latter, ‘what a complete load.’ Since when did editing the entertainment industry make up for a lack of mindful parenting? Entreat upon parents to take responsibility for the child culture they have the biggest hand in creating, but accept that not much is to be done if they refuse, short of more nanny state b*ll*cks (which, unsurprisingly, is sort of what they’re after–what else is there when parents and teachers alike are made to feel hand-wringingly inept?). Either lighten up or lay down the law, but leave my trashy TV alone, thanks.

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | March 30, 2009

Public Education

My head gets a bit overloaded when considering the variety ideas for education reform. Back in the States I always had a great deal of suspicion of vouchers as they tended to be called for by Republicans, a group with whom I have very few ideas in common. However, after having had children and having learned about about No Child Left Behind/the National Curriculum, I’m inclined these days to think that education should be as far removed from something so flighty and compulsive (in all senses of the word) as the central government as possible. Charter schools seem to be a bright spot, but they are so beholden to regulation, from what I understand. Of course home education is not for everyone. Indeed, if we had a proper choice of good places to send the kids, I’m not completely convinced it would be our choice. That said, what are the chances of a parent-friendly Summerhill-type place popping up?

I am a huge supporter of a library-style non-compulsive education model, as I’ve said many times. This would require the government to relinquish nearly all resources and funding to communities. If individual families are going to have a say in the provision in their area, doesn’t that sort of imply the necessity of what is in essence a voucher system?

As it turns out, if you ignore the din of the moralistic right-wingers, and seek out the liberty-lovers, the rhetoric sounds a lot more palatable. From the Cato blog (libertarian):

[Some claim] that choice supporters want to “eliminate public education.” On the contrary, choice supporters are fundamentally more committed to public education than anyone who refuses to consider the market alternative.

“Public Education” is a set of ideals. It is not a particular institution. It is the ideal that all children should have access to a good education, regardless of family income; that schools should prepare students not just for success in private life but for participation in public life; and that our schools should foster harmonious relations among the various groups making up our pluralistic society — or at the very least not create unnecessary tensions among them.

School choice advocates are more committed to those ideals than is anyone wedded to the current district-based school system, because that system is inferior in all of the above respects to a universally accessible education marketplace.

So, depending on who you ask, voucher supporters are not necessarily upper middle-class folks who would be content to leave poor kids to the wolves. It is possible to reconcile vouchers with public education provided the term is snatched from the powers-that-be and reworked to mean something more holistic–a definition I’d be happier with, incidentally.

What I’m not sure of is what the Cato Institute’s proposals entail specifically. I hope a long wander through their site will help to clear that up. In the meantime, my sister will surely laugh at me for my increasingly libertarian bent..

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | March 27, 2009

Nobody wants your stinkin’ Sats

The BBC reports that head teachers and teachers in England are threatening to boycott next year’s national Sats tests in primary school.

The National Association of Head Teachers and the NUT teaching union say the tests taken by seven and 11-year-olds damage children and schools.

They want assessments by teachers instead, and an end to league tables based on the 11-year-olds’ results.

I could write a whole lot about this, but I’ve already said most of it in previous posts. Instead I think I’ll just give a big ‘HA HA’ a la Nelson from the Simpsons.

What is the government’s enlightened response?

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “These tests are important as they allow parents to see how their children and local schools are doing.

“Any attempt to boycott them could undermine this, and risk removing a basic right from parents.

Good ol’ DCSF. Glad to see they are now, at this late hour, finally interested in upholding ‘parental rights’. Perhaps all the home educators can stop worrying about the consultation. (HA HA)

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | March 25, 2009

Twitter, 1; teachers, 0

(Yet another) primary curriculum shakeup. The report is due next month, but unsurprisingly, a draft found its way to The Guardian.

Children will no longer have to study the Victorians or the second world war under proposals to overhaul the primary school curriculum, the Guardian has learned.

However, the draft plans will require children to master Twitter and Wikipedia and give teachers far more freedom to decide what youngsters should be concentrating on in classes.

I am all for allowing teachers to, God forbid, use their skills in the classroom and to use experience and intuition to guide the learning process. But Twitter?? Wikipedia, fine, if the curriculum is prefaced with a lesson on the art of taking information with a grain of salt. But Twitter?? The fact that Stephen Fry is transfixed with it does not a worthy area of academic study make!

I mentioned teachers. Here is the response of the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers:

The leak led to a row when it emerged unions had been excluded from the consultation about what should be included, and subject specialists were given only three days to respond. Bousted said: “It’s entirely unacceptable that it hasn’t come to the teaching unions. Our members have to teach this. We’ve responded at all other stages of consultation. I don’t know why we have been missed out now.”

I genuinely feel bad for teachers, though perhaps that feeling is informed by my brief stint in the teacher training program at university. I can’t imagine that many people enter the profession because they have a fetish for forcing squirmy kids to take meaningless tests. If the above is to be believed, they’re being jerked around just as much as parents and pupils are. At least pupils can be withdrawn from school–in this economic climate, teachers have fewer options. The least the government can do is involve teachers fully in matters concerning the work they are responsible for carrying out, if treating them with respect and deference is indeed beyond them.

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | March 24, 2009

Tuesday links..fo’ reals.

My brain has been flat-lining today..so I present the Steele-Colbert rap battle, which surely needs no intro nor any commentary. Enjoy 😉

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Conservative Rap Battle – Michael Steele’s Response
comedycentral.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor NASA Name Contest

Edit: not sure why wordpress has issues with embedding and I’m too tired to check it out, so just click the link ‘conservative rap battle.’

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | March 23, 2009

Conversation

An article on the BBC website describes the frustration parents have in trying to goad their kids into sharing information about school. A few observations:

1. When my kids were enrolled in primary school–a very friendly and open primary school–I was considering enrolling in a teaching assistant course simply to access the curriculum in a meaningful way such that I could be an academically useful parent. I can only imagine how unforthcoming that sort of information would be in a huge and intimidating school. So I would say from Day 1 parents are working at a disadvantage.

2. Further to point 1, as the government actively works to disinvolve parents in the upbringing of their kids, we can all expect more of the same.

3. How much more useful would it be for the government to take all the IT staff plodding away at Contact Point and redistribute them to LEAs to create meaningful databases, calendars, etc. of curriculum and activities for parents, teachers, and students to access. They could even repurpose the name Contact Point to that end, as it would actually mean something.

4. “Only 16% of children volunteered information about their day at school.” This is unsurprising. School is a high-pressure, high-stakes environment, if the reports I hear are to be believed. Kids are bound to need to detox when they get home and certainly aren’t likely to want to rehash the stresses of the day. Also, by this point it’s only natural for kids to withdraw from their parents socially. If a child isn’t inspired by something they are working on or pursuing in their lives, of their own volition, they’re not likely to be bursting forth with chatter unless it’s to ask for pocket money.

My oldest is only 10, but I really hope the above dynamic can be avoided. Our home ed methods are very conversation-centered, so I imagine that’s a start. I’m also intent on helping them to find activities and areas of learning that excite them, and being ‘resource manager’, I’m in a privileged position. That is certainly something I must be mindful of. I know that a lot of who I am and what interests me is a result of the people other than my parents who have influenced me. I think what bothers parents about reticent kids is that the relationship is backwards from very early in life. It’s counter-intuitive to take children away from their most nurturing relationships to be managed by institutions that may be well-intentioned, but ultimately are not invested in children individually or for the long-term. Conversely, it seems intuitive to me as a mother that childhood should be family-centric, with the release of children to other people who can inspire them orchestrated at a pace that will benefit them the most. When children sense that their lives are on a meaningful continuum, I would hope that the conversation between parent and child could go on uninterrupted.

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | March 23, 2009

Friends in strange places

It sorta hacks me off to find myself agreeing with the Tories so much these days:

Conservative justice spokeswoman Eleanor Laing said: “The government must urgently adopt a principled, proportionate, less centralised approach to collecting personal information that takes real account of our privacy and is based on the consent of individuals and families.”

But, then, the Lib Dems too:

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “In their desperation to track our every move, ministers have created a glut of databases, many of which are quite simply illegal.”

It seems a bit strange to have to dive to the left or to the right to avoid what’s coming at you head-on from the center..

Posted by: dailyheaddesk | March 20, 2009

Is there no limit to my cynicism?

US First Lady Michelle Obama is set to break the ground for an organic garden on a patch of the south lawn to grow produce for the White House kitchen.

Local primary school pupils will help her with the planting and harvesting of the vegetables, herbs and salad crops.

This news story is really, really sweet. Still, I can’t rid myself of the mental picture of despicable folks with water balloons and dodgy things to put in them finding a presidential food source within sight of a public road too much to resist.

Older Posts »

Categories