Sunday, October 11, 2015

Virtue in team sports?

The comment below is a bit on the frivolous side.  Quite overlooked is that the claim on behalf of success in team sports may be that it is predictive of success in jobs where teamwork is needed.  There are many such jobs -- from McDonalds to the armed forces.  The army has a very long record of personnel selection research -- around 100 years -- and have over that time developed methods that work well.  And, as a former army psychologist, I don't think I am revealing too much when I note that a history of participation in team sports is very favourably viewed when it comes to officer selection

The idea that sports – and team sports in particular – are good for the soul, as well as the body, is deeply ingrained in the British psyche. It is often cited as one of the reasons why our public schools (the only ones left with proper playing fields) churn out such a disproportionate number of high-achievers. Running around in the mud chasing funny-shaped balls is supposed to cultivate “character” – that vaguest and most expensive of virtues.

But an unlikely new Fotherington-Thomas is challenging this orthodoxy. Neil Rollings, chairman of the Professional Association of Directors of Sport in Independent schools, has written a report arguing that the “days of compulsory team games are numbered”.

Forcing children to participate in competitive sports such as rugby or hockey is, he says, an outdated practice based on “an unsubstantiated view that pain and discomfort somehow 'makes a man of you’ through a process unknown to science”.

Instead of inflicting this misery on all pupils, regardless of athletic ability, schools should offer them a range of competitive and non-competitive sports, including zumba classes, cycling and jogging.

While there is something undeniably dispiriting about the words “zumba class”, the man does have facts on his side. The few studies that have been done on the subject (most of them in America) suggest that playing a team sport has no beneficial effect on a child’s moral development. In fact, the opposite may be true: one study found that qualities such as honesty, fairness and civility were more evident among young people who played no team sports at all.

Nor does victory on the playing field necessarily translate into adult life. Nerds and bookworms tend to come into their own once they leave school, storming the higher eschelons of law, medicine, politics, technology, media and the arts. It’s as though they store up all their competitive drive, only unleashing it once there is no danger of mockery or bruised shins.

You could argue, in fact, that compulsory team sports are character-building after all – just not for the people who enjoy them. It’s the rest of us, the wimps and dreamers, who benefit. Always being picked last for the netball team teaches you to handle rejection. Missing every goal builds your immunity to failure, while the fury of your team-mates is a lesson in the ugliness of group-think.

When you’re never really part of the team, you have no choice but to be an individual. You have to work out your own opinions, and find the strength of character to defend them.


Which Interest Group Has Democratic Candidates in their pocket?

The teacher’s unions are one of the biggest supporters of Democrats. They’re also very strongly opposed to education reforms such as school choice and charter schools.

One of the biggest critics of teacher’s unions and particularly of teacher tenure is former CNN host Campbell Brown. She hosted an education forum in New Hampshire featuring six Republican presidential candidates. She was planning on hosting a similar one in Iowa featuring the Democrat presidential candidates.

However, according to Politico, not a single Democrat decided to appear with Brown.

    “What happened here is very clear: The teachers unions have gotten to these candidates,” Brown told POLITICO. “All we asked is that these candidates explain their vision for public education in this country, and how we address the inequality that leaves so many poor children behind. … President [Barack] Obama certainly never cowered to the unions. Even if they disagree with the president’s reforms, you would think these candidates would at least have the courage to make the case.”

    [...]American Federation for Children executive counsel Kevin Chavous, a former Democratic city councilor in Washington, D.C., complained that the unions are trying to turn opposition to school reform into a litmus test for Democrats. He pointed to surveys by Joel Benenson, an Obama pollster who is now helping Clinton, suggesting that many Democratic voters, especially minority voters, support reform.

    “It’s shameful how my party is being held hostage by the unions,” Chavous said. “I see no difference between their strong-arm tactics on the Democrats and the gun lobby’s tactics on Republicans. And for the candidates to refuse even to discuss these issues, I think it’s insulting to the Democratic base of black and brown voters.”

On the other hand, nearly all Republican presidential candidates support school choice and education reform. The country is full of successful charter school and school choice experiments. In New Orleans, nearly all students attend a charter or private school. Republicans would be stupid not to exploit this.

President Obama has been a surprising supporter of many education reforms. His administration has encouraged charter schools and his supported accountability for teachers based on test scores. The unions say those have failed and are calling for a return to traditional public schooling.

Brown still plans on having an education forum in Iowa, but Instead of having Democratic candidates for president, she will try and have other Democrats participate.


Massachusetts governor seeks some expansion of charter schools

Governor Charlie Baker proposed legislation Thursday that would allow more charter schools to open statewide, setting the stage for a Beacon Hill battle on one of the most divisive issues facing lawmakers.

The bill would permit 12 new or expanded charter schools each year but only in districts performing in the bottom 25 percent on standardized tests. Such districts include Boston, Fall River, New Bedford, Randolph and Salem, as well as the state’s two districts placed into receivership: Holyoke and Lawrence.

It would also authorize districts to unify enrollment systems to include both charter and district schools, removing roadblocks to plans like the one unveiled last month by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Baker said expanding access to charter schools, especially in low-performing districts, would provide relief for the families of 37,000 students on waiting lists.

“This is Massachusetts. . . . We’re like the home and the founder of public education. We should be able to make sure that every kid in Massachusetts gets the kind of education that they deserve,” Baker said at a news conference outside the Brooke Charter School in Mattapan.

The bill would also allow charter schools — publicly funded schools that often operate independently of local districts — to give preference in their lotteries to applicants who come from low-income families, live in specific areas, have special needs, or are learning English. Critics have contended that charter schools do not do enough to serve special education students and non-native-English speakers.

Baker’s measure faces an uncertain path in the Legislature, where some members said they had no comment because they had not had a chance to read the bill. Last year, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would have raised the cap limiting such schools to 120 statewide, but a similar measure foundered in the Senate.

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who supported the charter expansion effort in 2014, said he looks forward to hearing testimony on the governor’s submission as well as on a refiled version of the previous bill.

“I’m pleased that Governor Baker is similarly focused on finding ways to ensure at-risk students in our lowest performing districts have access to high-quality learning opportunities,” DeLeo said in a statement.

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg has been tight-lipped publicly about his views on charter schools. In a statement Thursday, he said the Senate “is hearing from all sides of this issue and is taking a deep dive into all legislation dealing with charter schools.”

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, co-chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Education, said in a phone interview that it is hard to predict the fate of the push to allow more charter schools, with Rosenberg likely to encourage lawmakers to vote their consciences, as his predecessor, Therese Murray, did last year.

Chang-Diaz praised Rosenberg for establishing “a very robust process this fall for the Senate to grapple with education reform policy . . . to give a maximum chance for members to really dig into details.”

Opponents of charter school expansion, including teachers’ unions and many parents, argue that such institutions drain funding from school districts and use rigorous discipline policies to drive out low-performing students, assertions that proponents dispute.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance — which represents teachers, parents, students, and community members — voiced opposition to Baker’s bill.

“His plan would accelerate the dangerous direction in which we are already headed: toward being a state with a two-tiered education system, one truly public and the other private, but financed with public dollars,” Barbara Madeloni, president of the MTA, said in a statement.

But Paul S. Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, hailed Baker for showing that charter expansion is not just a priority on his education agenda but a major priority for his administration.

“What he’s doing to elevate this issue is incredibly positive, but it’s also a moderate proposal,” Grogan said. “It doesn’t propose to end the charter cap entirely; it allows for further growth in the inner cities where charters are doing the most good and are the most in-demand.”

Baker’s bill technically would not remove the current cap but would effectively render it moot, allowing the number of charter schools to increase gradually over time.

Such “incremental growth” makes sense, said Christopher Anderson, a past chairman of the state Board of Education and a supporter of a proposed ballot measure that would — like Baker’s bill — authorize the creation or expansion of up to a dozen charter schools per year.

“Rather than having a static cap that ignores the demand for the product,” Anderson said, “the modernization of the state charter school statute would now include . . . what I would term a ‘growth cap,’ which provides for sustained increases in the number of charter schools, but in a way that is eminently manageable.”

If the Legislature approves Baker’s bill or a similar measure, Anderson said, proponents would not pursue the proposed ballot measure.

That measure has helped spur action on Beacon Hill, as has a class-action lawsuit filed separately by three prominent Boston lawyers who argue that the charter cap unfairly denies thousands of students their constitutional right to a quality education.


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