Education Evolutions #105

Close up of smartphone in hand flickr photo by shared under
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Well, I am definitely in the swing of things as the first wave of real assignments started flowing in. With a lot of short practices to start the year, the real work has begun. All of the student emails explaining misunderstandings or missed deadlines offers plenty of evidence.

It is hard to believe that October is already right around the corner. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a school year can ramp up and get running. Even though it has only been a few weeks, things are already starting to move at a clip. I have always felt that fall is the more demanding of the two semesters. Spring involves a lot more breaks and restarts and then the testing season severely truncates any real instructional time. Like a cyclist shifting gears, I feel ready to open things up on the big wheel and start moving.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one, as is so often the case. The title alone should be enough to hook any reader of this newsletter. While the article focuses on writing specifically do not be fooled into thinking that it is only the province of English teachers. It isn’t and that mentality may very well be a symptom of the broader disease, although it is a whole lot more complicated than that. It is short and more than worth the few minutes read. It should linger a lot longer. I hope it does and maybe even inspires some rethinking.

This weekend in New England probably offered the last gasps of summer temperatures before the true turn toward autumn, but it was glorious.

Here are three curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

Silicon Valley is terrified of California’s privacy law. Good. – Tech Crunch – Zack Whittaker (3-minute read)

California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has the potential to be one of the most important pieces of legislation in recent memory. The law may not be perfect but it has changed the conversation. I can only hope that Massachusetts enact a similar law, as well as other states. I have mentioned multiple times how much further along the Europeans are on this front. It is long past due that America catches up.

What this piece does really nicely is shine a light on the new tactic of tech companies appealing for a federal law as a way to weaken the whole effort to protect consumer’s privacy. Often large corporations favor state regulation because states are a lot easier to push around with money than the federal government is. In this case, they see a watered-down federal law, where they can fully exercise their concentrated lobbying efforts and money, especially with an administration that has negative interest in protecting consumers.

Cue all big companies spewing a new version of the old line of rhetoric about how regulation stifles innovation and hurts the economy. As Whittaker suggests any time tech and telcos are in league with one another everyone should be not just suspicious but worried.

Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers – The Atlantic – Joe Pinsker (7-minute read)

As an educator reading is such a major component of what I do and what I demand of students. As a parent, I possessed even more awareness of the benefits for my kids being strong readers. Being an avid reader, reading to my kids was one of the things I looked forward to most as my wife and I began a family. I still read to them, although not with the frequency I once did, where for years I read to them every day. Intuitively I started raising readers but I also made deliberate decisions, like taking them to the library every week, to make reading more like an adventure and less like a chore. Anecdotally, there are a lot of things that ring true to me from this article.

I have to admit that I am not always the biggest fan of Steven Pinker being the go-to source on literacy-related material in the media. I do sometimes take issue with some of his ideas, but mainly I find him significantly played out. Here, however, it bothered me a little less probably because I have less issue with what he has to say and he was sandwiched between some others with interesting contributions too. Still, I absolutely back his second point on background and contextual knowledge.

More than anything, I wish more people would read this article to note that being an avid reader is beneficial but not necessary to raising good readers, as ironic as that might seem. Even writing that sentence proved an ironic experience. Yet, I really kind of love the ending of this piece, which drove most of my efforts with my children. The message I tried to share is that reading is its own reward, enjoyable and fun.

Let’s Stop Killing Students’ Spirits – Inside Higher Education – John Warner (5-minute read)

First, John Warner’s Why They Can’t Write is an excellent book. It reaches far beyond writing pedagogy, an are where it also excels and presents a cogent interrogation of the kind of ill-conceived edreforms that have dominated American schools for more than the past two decades. It is ground he routinely covers in his regular columns as well, like this one. Here a series of student testimonies make a powerful case for just how wrong-headed we can be in education if we just accept the way things are instead of the way they could be.

Of course, the pressure associated with high performance is pervasive, even in places where student performance far excels most. Caustic market-think policies or unquestioned directives continue to feed the myth of competition as a necessary path to learning. Better scores beget more pressure to maintain levels of performance, perpetuating a horse race mentality. All the while, students are whipped along the way to reach a finish line that keeps getting moved. The student voices in this piece reveal the cost.

Warner’s question “When are we going to listen?” carries a resonance that looks as though it will not be receding any time soon. Amazingly, the student that uses the cookie metaphor to describe their gutting experience writes with a level of voice and eloquence that is remarkable in spite of years of being force-fed formulaic approaches. Every educator has a stake in reading and writing, no matter the subject matter or discipline. Fighting the extermination of all joy in those two activities is the responsibility of all educators, on that needs to be taken with far greater urgency and seriousness.

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