Archive for September, 2010

The Education Party of No

Friday, September 24th, 2010

These days a lot of teacher groups (not just unions though they get the attention) are a lot like the Republican party. What am I seriously comparing the teacher unions to Republicans? Well, yes, in a way. They way they are the same is that they are all about saying “no” without offering real competing solutions to real problems. The Republicans are all over the news for obstructing anything the Democrats  and Obama try to do. There is no offering of alternative solutions just a list of why the solutions being offered are wrong/bad/miss the point or what ever. This is of course not helpful but it is working for them because people are angry that Democratic solutions are not working or at least not fast enough. The situation in education is similar and different.

I think there is pretty universal agreement that we have some problems with education in the US. There are groups (Bill Gates and his foundations, the charter school movement, DC school’s chief Michelle Rhee, and others) who are offering their own ideas about fixing things. On the other side are educators who feel that these groups are picking on them, blaming them, and trying to ruin them. So they say “no” to the suggested “solutions.” And they are right in many ways. Standardized tests are a lousy way to judge learning and teacher performance. There really are other problems outside teacher control like poverty, unsupportive parents, kids who are not motivated and more. These problems do have to be addressed for education to be improved. The problem is that they are not offering much in the way of solutions. Just “don’t do what you are suggesting.”

Part of this may be a feeling of powerlessness in the area of they themselves being able to accomplish these changes outside the school building. But teachers could, and I would argue should, be making suggestions as to how to improve the things they can control such as determining who the good and not so good teachers are. Teachers should be working to improve teacher assessment in real and authentic ways. They should be making positive suggests and not just reject other suggestions from outsiders.

And teachers need to make more suggestions about how to asses students. I hear over and over again that teachers do assess students and that they do a good job. The problem is that the end results of our educational system, in some ways, call into question the accuracy of many assessments. We see “honor students” who reach college and can not handle the work there. We see high school graduates who lack basic skills in things like math and English when  they get their first jobs. While we see many graduates with good education we see far too many who seem to have gotten their diplomas without actually learning much. The reason outsiders press for standardized testing is a lack of trust in the assessment job that too many teachers are doing. Fixing that credibility problem is the key to holding back on standardized testing. It has to come by improving assessment, improving teaching and teachers, and helping to clean house of the worst teachers.

There are many huge problems that good teachers can not completely overcome. No doubt about that. But we have to remember that there are few educational problems that a bad teacher can’t make worse.

[Note that these are my opinions and may not be shared by anyone else I know.]

Lone Star TV Show Review

Monday, September 20th, 2010

So last week I received an email from Klout offering me a preview package to watch a pilot of the new show Lone Star on the FOX network. In exchange they included this message.

  • If you accept the offer you are not required to do anything. We do not want to "buy" your tweets. You are receiving the product because you are influential and have authority on topics related to the product. This is a more targeted form of receiving a sample while shopping at the grocery store. You are welcome to tell the world you love the product, you hate the product or say nothing at all.

How could I refuse? Well I guess I could and I guess a lot of people might. The truth is that taking some sort of gift often does make people feel like they owe something. In my case I feel like I owe them actually watching the show and giving a review. I don’t feel I owe them a favorable review. Which is good because I didn’t much like the show. I loved the goodie box though. So a review they get.

I don’t like con artists. Oh sure there are lots of con  game shows on TV I do like. I’ll watch Leverage anytime its own and it is largely a con game show. The difference is that the bad guys get conned in the shows I like and the main character is coning good people. Now this is a story of a man, Bob Allen, changing his heart and mind about his line of work. If it focuses on his trying to go straight in future episodes, and it looks like that is the goal, I might get to like the show. The character of his father though is truly hateful to me and that is a drawback. The man is so sold on conning people as being the right way to live that he insists on his son staying on the broad and crooked.

John Vought is down right scary as the oil magnate father of the main character’s first wife. There is some ambiguity about him. Is he evil or just tough? He’s clearly no nonsense and a bit of tension is always going to be there in this show about what would happen if he learns the truth about his son in law. And of course he has a son who is out to get Bob Allen since his father put him in charge of the oil company. And a second son is likely to have torn loyalties because Bob Allen as the new CEO is running with some of the projects the younger son has been suggesting over the years but getting shot down about. Family drama ala Dallas.

Oh and Bob Allen wants to keep things going with his girl friend who lives in a town where he has been coming lots of people out of their money. Yep, a girl friend and a wife. IS this guy totally crazy? He thinks he is in love with both. Possible? I guess we’ll see.

The women in the show, the wife and girl friend, are the two characters I do like. They are both in love and seem to be supportive of their man. They seem honest and good. Seems a shame they got mixed up with this guy.

I may watch another episode to see where it goes. Pilots can be a hard thing to base a show on because there is so much set up going on. So if you like shows about criminals trying to go straight or con artists give Lone Star a try and maybe a second episode. If there is a limit to how much tension you like in a show (and there is for me) you may want to give this one a pass. Either way it starts tonight on FOX.