Thursday, October 29, 2015

Some Common Core nonsense

You must not know too much or think for yourself.  Rigid adherence to a formula is required:  Very Leftist, very Fascist

AN ONLINE post of a third grade maths quiz has caused a firestorm after it showed a student was marked down even though they gave the correct answer.  The quiz, posted to Reddit, has caused outrage because the student was marked down purely for the way they calculated the right answer.

Focusing on basic whole number multiplication, the first question asked the student to calculate 5 x 3 using repeated addition.

The student answered 5+5+5 = 15, but this was marked incorrect by the teacher who advised the accurate answer was 3+3+3+3+3=15.

Question two was equally as contentious with the student being asked to draw an array to solve 4x6.

For their answer, the student drew six rows of four dashes, but this was marked incorrect by the teacher who advised the correct answer was four rows of six dashes.

New York high school math and physics teacher Frank Noschese said the questions were part of the Common Core standards — an educational initiative in the US detailing what students should know in English and maths at the end of each grade. “The standards just lay out what kids should know and be able to do, not actual lessons,” he told Tech Insider.

Mr Noschese said while Common Core stipulates goals for knowledge in each grade, the specific interpretation of these standards is up to the discretion of individual states, districts and teachers.

“If the teacher specifically said ‘5x3 means five groups of three and 4x6 means four groups of six’ these answers are wrong because of the teacher’s forced interpretation,” he said.

“But mathematically, what the kid did is also valid. Kids likely know that five groups of three is equal to three groups of five.”



American History Must Be a Priority in Schools

We frequently hear about American students’ low-test scores in science and math, and everyone from the PTA to candidates for the White House is rightly concerned with how to improve them. Indeed, this concern is a major part of our national conversation. And those who worry about our educational system often suggest that better instruction in these areas could help solve America’s economic, fiscal, and social problems, too.

Certainly, there are plenty of good reasons to boost our efforts in science and math. But we should not lose sight of the fact that there are other subjects in which we face a similar challenge. Regrettably, American students perform even worse when the topic is American history.

At first, this might seem somewhat less worrisome. But in fact, if our students are failing to learn the very basics about what it means to be American -- which is a condition for good citizenship -- this is at least as fundamental a challenge for our country as our students’ technical skills.

It’s easy to forget that, since our nation is based not on a shared ethnic background or cultural heritage but instead on shared ideas, being American actually requires us to know something. It requires us to learn about our country’s founding principles and our Founding Fathers. And it requires us to appreciate how these principles and the Founders’ ideas have contributed to keeping Americans free.

Our Declaration of Independence states, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” To be American is to affirm these fundamental ideals. We need our students to learn, understand, and develop an appreciation for them.

Historically, America did a remarkable job of ensuring that new generations as well as new immigrants to the United States learned about American history and as a result, learned how to be American. But in recent decades, the collapse in American history education has caused our national memory to begin to slip away.

The lack of knowledge about our country’s past is at least as great a challenge as we face with science and math education, and recent results of a Department of Education National Assessment of Educational Progress survey suggest how significant that challenge is: Just 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders and 12 percent of twelfth-graders are at grade-level proficiency in American history. (These numbers are even lower than the percentage of students who are proficient in math nationwide.)

What does this mean? Only one in three fourth-graders can identify the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Less than half understand why George Washington was an important leader in American history. And most fourth-graders don’t know why the Pilgrims left England.

These are alarming findings. They suggest that we’re letting our shared understanding of what it means to be American disappear. And they imply that part of fixing our educational system -- part of properly preparing our young people for adult life -- must include making students familiar with American history.

It is in this spirit that I have written a series of bestselling children’s books to help young people learn American history with Ellis the Elephant. In this series Ellis learns about American Exceptionalism, Colonial America, the American Revolution, westward expansion, and much more. In my latest book, Christmas in America, Ellis discovers the joy of Christmas and how this special holiday has been celebrated throughout our nation’s history.

Visits to historic sites like George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon or Independence Hall in Philadelphia are also wonderful ways to inspire a love for American history. And of course, interactive online courses, television programs like Liberty’s Kids, and educational games like Oregon Trail can teach important history lessons, too.

There are many things young people need to learn before they’re ready to accept the full responsibilities and privileges of life as an adult citizen, but surely what it means to be American is among the most important. To help pass on this history to the next generation of Americans is one of our schools’ most important tasks--and an obligation for each of us, as well.


Freedom of speech and rigorous debate no longer accepted in practice at Australian universities

OUR universities do not sit in some sort of moral or ethical vacuum and so changes at these institutions have ripple effects into broader society. One only needs to look at the sexual revolution or the anti-Vietnam War movement to see the influence that universities have over the wider world.

This is why change away from an acceptance of freedom of speech at our universities is so concerning.

My experience as a student magazine editor for the past year has shown me that freedom of speech no longer has de facto acceptance on campus. Universities are no longer a place of inquiry or rigorous debate. Academic censorship is rife.

Take Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish environmentalist who sought to establish a research centre at the University of Western Australia and Flinders University. At both institutions he has faced resistance form students who staged protests and leveraged their student bodies to prevent such a centre from being established.

Their rationale? They do not agree with his findings and they’re not prepared to engage in debate.

Lomborg’s situation is strikingly similar to that of Galileo when he posited that Earth revolves around the sun, and not vice-versa. The church was not willing to hear out the argument and simply cast Galileo out.

If anything exemplifies the dangers of academic censorship it is the case of Galileo. How do we expect our society to advance when new ideas cannot be discussed because of an unwillingness by some precious, self-centred students?

These same students also want to limit free expression by mandating the use of “trigger warnings”, as well as censoring books they find uncomfortable or challenging. A “trigger warning” is a device that has emerged in the past two decades that seeks to warn a reader where a post traumatic reaction may be induced based on the content.

This has gone from warning of a discussion about rape to now including things such as ‘‘how many calories are in a food item’’ and “drunk driving’’. The discussion of these things doesn’t actually harm anyone, it’s just that students now demand to live in a cotton-wrapped world.

Great works such as The Great Gatsby, Metamorphoses and Mrs Dalloway have been banned from university reading lists simply because some self-absorbed students find the content emotionally challenging and upsetting.

Seemingly anything that infringes on a student’s apparent “right” to feel comfortable is cast out and banned from campus (including Mexican themed parties).

Further, the attitudes of the ever-increasing number of “social justice warriors” towards those who they disagree with is creating an environment that is not conducive to the exercise of speech, of free thought, and of debate.

You risk being labelled “fascist scum” if you happen to be of conservative ilk or simply opposed to communism or radical feminism. If you seek to express a view that doesn’t conform to that espoused by the revolutionary socialist groups on campus, then you are “racist”.

Don’t support gay marriage? You’re “homophobic”. Not a fan of unisex toilets? “Transphobic”. Radical, self-obsessed students have initiated this massive smear campaign against any opponents and in doing so they have significantly shifted the threshold, at least on campus, of these terms.

Naturally, people don’t like to be labelled as “racist” or “homophobic” and so the liberal use of these terms by these radicals is only shutting down speech and debate.

I simply ask: How would Galileo get on in today’s university?

My bet is that he would be driven out by an angry horde, upset that a “cis gendered”, heterosexual white male had dared to challenge the view of an oppressed, incredulous minority without even so much as including a trigger warning.

Who cares about deregulation? The real issue at our universities is the erosion of freedom of speech.


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