Spelling Bee Protest

The Associated Press ran a story with the headline, “In DC, even the Spelling Bee draws protesters.”

The article did mention that there were only four of them and that they were peaceful.

It does seem that today anything can be protested, even the way in which words have been spelled for hundreds of years.

The likely ringleader of the group was a former elementary school principal who feels that enough should be spelled as enuf and fruit as froot and claims that “the current language obstructs 40 percent of the population from learning how to read, write and spell.”

Nowhere in the article is there reference to where the 40 percent figure comes from. Perhaps it is derived from legal and illegal immigrants arriving and trying to master American English. As well, if students were taught phonics in school, they would not have this spelling issue.

A quick read through the over one thousand posts to the article show that the vast majority of Main Street USA does not agree with the four protesters.

Many people wrote about why we should not dumb down education even further than it already has been for decades. One person posted this: “I think this woman personifies everything about what’s wrong w/ our educational system.”

Perhaps the protesters should take a look at Noah Webster’s 1783 “blue back” speller, the actual title of which is A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, to see what our Founding Fathers considered as essential for the education of American society.

Or, maybe they could muster the courage to take the 1895 8th grade final exam from Salina, KS. It is challenging to anyone, even those with a doctorate in education, and puts on display what students were expected to learn by the time they were teenagers. For those who are interested it can be viewed here: 1895 9th Grade Final Exam (Good Luck).

Admittedly, there are a couple of questions applicable to that particular time period and locale, but the majority of questions are for everyone’s general education, including today. And, as is pointed out on the website, the school year was seven months long, leaving five months for planting, farming and harvest.

The above is one of the best arguments against statements that the current school year needs to be lengthened in order to properly educate our students, as proposed by the White House and Department of Education. (It is this bloggers belief that school days are too short and break and vacation time during the academic year is probably excessive.)

However, the point is that back then students had to master the basics in an equivalent period of educational time.

Today, as evidenced by years of various and sundry tests, they do not.

The wheel, so to speak, does not be to reinvented. It needs to be resurrected.

Over For now.

Main Street One

Education Re-reform

At first glance a lot of what is proposed by President Obama in his education reform plans looks promising.

Sure, there were a few questions people would ask, such as, if, in order for a state to qualify for federal funding they would have to adopt and certify that they have “college- and career-ready standards in reading and mathematics,” how is that defined?

What exactly does “college- and career-ready standards” mean?

Would those be nationally set standards to which all states must adhere?

Perhaps those questions are easy enough to answer.

One thing is certain, our educators must get back to the basics – teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. There are far too many middle and high school students these days reading and performing math far below their grade level in school.

Yes, students must be prepared for the 21st Century. Do not the basics above underscore being able to learn these skills?

Thus, while President Obama is seriously increasing funding for pre-school and early year school children, something effective must be done for current students, those graduating high school in 2011, 2012 and so on.

More importantly, in an article by The Associated Press, there was an interesting point brought up:

“Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a nonprofit think tank, said Obama deserves credit for seeking higher academic standards. But she said his proposal would pay states for proposing programs, not showing success.

” ‘The outcome of how well kids do is when we see graduation rates and the careers kids are going into,’ Allen said. ‘It’s not in the input side. It’s on the output’.”

The point Ms. Allen brings up is something that many people would have missed.

She is totally correct. That states merely propose programs should not be a deciding factor for anything, other than, perhaps, initital federal funding. But the results should be evident almost immediately and, thus, results should be the guiding and dominant factor.

One other point to bring up is that, per the AP article, “Obama wants to expand the federal government’s role in education, which traditionally is a state and local responsibility. His approach has been to use the federal purse as leverage to encourage states to adopt his ideas.”

The federal government is using taxpayer dollars to fund education “which traditionally is a state and local responsibility.”

Why cannot the feds simply get agreement on a national standard and let the state and local education agencies perform their job?

We do not need more oversight and regulatory bodies at the federal level, which there would have to be to ensure compliance, especially over the potentially 15,700 school districts that exist in America.

Food for thought.

Over For Now.

Main Street One

And What Else Don’t We Know? Unknown Webcams At Home

This taxpayer is not particularly a subscriber to the conspiracy theories that abound.

However, when one reads a news article such as the below from the Associated Press, it really makes one pause.

“PHILADELPHIA – A federal lawsuit accuses a suburban Philadelphia school district of spying on students at home through school-issued laptop webcams.

“The suit says Lower Merion School District officials can activate the webcams remotely without students’ knowledge. The lawsuit alleges the cameras captured images of Harriton High School students and their families as they undressed and in other compromising situations.

“Families learned of the alleged webcam images when an assistant principal spoke to a student about inappropriate behavior at home.

“The school district says it has deactivated a security feature intended to track lost or stolen laptops.

“The district says the tracking feature would not be reactivated without ‘written notification to all students and families’.”

Wait one minute. No, two minutes.
 
Supposedly there was a security feature in the laptop designed to track it.
 
How is it that this “security feature” was a webcam? It would seem as if a device, more like LoJack (which is made for laptops), would “track” a lost or stolen laptop to a location.
 
Perhaps it was someone’s bright idea that installing the webcam would then also provide the identity of the thief.
 More importantly, why would an assistant principal even be involved with what he/she considered inappropriate behavior by a student – in the student’s home?
 
That certainly oversteps any and all authority that school district personnel have with students. (What does the U.S. Department of Education have to say about this district’s antics?)
 
This action tramples all over our Bill of Rights.
 
Thankfully, for all the families in Lower Merion, the assistant principal acted inappropriately and confronted the student and that the student had the presence of mind to report such a gross invasion of privacy. 
 
Just as astonishing, the school district says that the tracking feature “would not be reactivated without ‘written notification to all students and families’.”
 
Written notification?
 
What gives the school district the right to have a webcam in a taxpayer’s home? There is no issue with something like LoJack, but this citizen has grave concerns about a school district even having the idea that it is okay to place a webcam in someone’s home.
 
From there, the leap begins.
 
Are the urban legends true that the webcam in my laptop is monitored by someone, somewhere without my knowledge, let alone consent? That the reason cable/FIOS boxes are bigger (when almost all electronic equipment has become smaller) is that they are hiding cameras that capture my every move? 
 
When something as atrocious as this story is real, it does make one wonder.
 
Over For Now.
 
Main Street One