I Propose a New Educational Mandate

by Tedra Osell on January 8, 2012

To wit, a mandate that educational mandates be in line with actual current research on education rather than pulled out of someone’s butthole.

So, for instance, some teacher(s) at this school in Georgia thinks that “Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick” and “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week? 2 weeks?” are appropriate interdisciplinary math word problems. For elementary students.

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Even if we agree to completely ignore the fact that these questions are blatantly offensive, have these educators never heard of stereotype threat? (See also.) The research on this has been around for almost twenty years, people.

Research also shows us that equality actually improves everyone’s performance; this nonsense may well be depressing white students’ learning as well as black students’. I can guarantee you that questions like that would make it a lot harder for me to get my kid to finish his math homework.

Speaking of whom, Pseudonymous Kid overheard me ranting talking about this earlier, and asked what stereotype threat was, so I gave him a brief explanation. Then he tells me that apparently the state mandated STAR tests have the students indicate race and gender on them. (And that “on the race question, “white” is separated from all the other categories–it’s right on top, and all the other options are underneath a dividing line.” God only knows what message that sends, but obviously PK finds it offputting.) Because apparently it’s important that we annually remind all students in California which of them belong to groups that stereotypically aren’t good at math/school/science/whatever. Before we have them take a test the results of which determine all sorts of things: what reading level a kid is at, school rankings (hm, maybe stereotype threat has a measurable impact on “failing” majority-minority schools?), whether kids qualify for certain kinds of programs, whether or not kids are “below basic, below basic, basic, proficient,  advanced,” at certain subjects, and god only knows what else.

I’m wondering, now, how many states have students fill in this kind of data on standardized tests. Does the SAT still do it? And for god’s sake, why haven’t we yet put demographic information (which yes, there are good reasons to collect it) at the end of the test or even have teachers fill it out so that we don’t emphasize this nonsense to the students themselves?

Obviously this pissy, difficult parent needs to file a complaint with the state department of education this afternoon.

In My Family, We Always Toast Marshmallows

by Belle Waring on January 8, 2012

Did Ron Paul vote for MLK day, as Andrew Sullivan (quoting Chuck Todd) suggested in his debate live-blogging? “9.40 pm. Chuck Todd notes that Ron Paul voted for the MLK national holiday. Gingrich voted against. I find the notion that Ron Paul is a racist to be preposterous.”

Sadly, No!

Ta-Nehisi Coates thoughtfully quotes some Ron Paul newsletters so you don’t have to read them:

Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.

Hate Whitey Day is actually one of my favorite holidays. It doesn’t have all the pressure to be perfect, like Christmas, or everybody getting along, like Thanksgiving. Just white people cowering in their houses/retreating to their heavily armed compounds in rural Oklahoma while America’s non-white population runs riot, more or less totally burning shit down. And the clean-up and re-building costs always add a bump to the January jobs report, as Matthew Yglesias has noted.

The question of whether Ron Paul’s having voted for MLK day would bring about the state of mind in which one would find the charge of racism against Mr. Paul “preposterous” is left as an exercise for the reader.

P.S. The real Sadly, No!

Ronald Searle Has Died

by Henry Farrell on January 8, 2012

The Financial Times carries his obituary here. He’s most famous for his St. Trinian’s illustrations, but I suspect that many CTers (and almost certainly Harry) will miss him more for his illustrations of Molesworth. I had just purchased a copy of the Compleet Molesworth last week, having lost my last one, and figuring that the six year old will soon be able to enjoy it. I was especially fond of his work on Maurice Richardson’s The Exploits of Engelbrecht, which Savoy books has finally reissued again in a more affordable edition (copies of the last were going for $150 and up on the WWW until recently). The first chapter (PDF), with a couple of Searle’s illustrations, is available online, and an illustration from ‘Ten Rounds With Grandfather Clock’ is below.