On Tue, May 29, 2012 at 7:04 AM, Haim <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
<< snip >>
> Finally, the ed school ayatollahs cannot impose their theories onto the classroom teachers. On the one hand, the ayatollahs must convince the teachers (or their principals or their district superintendents) of the rightness of their theories, and on the other hand teachers (there are heroes among us) will ignore educational fatwas. >
I think your model should be fleshed out with more players.
As someone who worked on the publishing side, I at least know how it used to be: Texas and California had special clout because their populations were so big; these were like entire countries. If you could find one of your product lines, say your flagship math sequence, gaining traction in either of those two states, you had cause for excitement. Their tastes in textbooks were important therefore, set a tone.
I say "used to be" because a lot of innovation is going on around electronic formats, and publishing has collided with various software businesses such as Amazon and Google.
Another thing to keep in mind are the students themselves, who also have a stake in the future, a statistically longer one on a per lifetime basis and discounting any reincarnation models for the sake of brevity and because of (oh well) bias.
So lets look at a case study. Here's a small subculture of parents, futurists, a few nut cases, some scientists, a hodgepodge of engineers, who think X should be a part of the curriculum. Their thinking goes something like: "we pay taxes, we're part of this 'public' and our ideas and concepts are important and significant enough to be reflected in what our students learn in school" -- thoughts along those lines.
Anna knows, as she's looked us up in Portland, that I am a member of one such cult... er group. We have the proverbial think tank with the cliche boat(s) for an inner circle, guests and visitors. There be web sites. Some put on the hats of lobbyists and attend meetings. We mingle, press the flesh.
I've over simplified somewhat, but lets keep zooming in down to the Kirby level. Here's a guy who lived around the planet for awhile then went to an expensive university in New Jersey, taught in a Catholic school, worked in publishing, non-profit sector, still teaches for a living. He is one of those who thinks X should be a part of the curriculum.
What I find out is maybe what Haim finds out, which is that we have lots of partially overlapping lineages and traditions around here and they form multiple and complex alliances.
For awhile, you could see a synergy going on between big mostly east coast based textbook companies, Texas and California, but that's an oversimplification too. How do *those* states come to agree on what's essential?
Behind the scenes, one could develop another story that's more about bio-regions. Oregon, with the state motto "she flies with her own wings" has a lot of eco-conscious parents who want to opt out of getting hard-copy anything when it comes to textbooks. They consider textbooks to be these dino holdover monstrosities from the 1900s that really should be banned but we'll play along and buy a few palettes off a few trucks, while we go quietly behind the water cooler to snicker at the Luddites and plot further escapes from their tyranny.
We're at liberty to work directly with Japan on STEM cartoons (their Java applets are good). We're moving towards classrooms with big LCDs instead of chalk boards, interactive (like giant tablets). Or just project an ordinary tablet or laptop (show it bigger). We do that at Blue House (a campus building in the OPDX / Esozone "radical math" community).
What the students are seeing, on the other hand, are cut after cut after cut to the budget.
They don't see the business growing as it could be, with those large communal rooms full of community access TV equipment, 3D printers, lathes, experts tending the equipment, offering what "vocational schools" used to provide (expertise with tools).
They don't see the proposed "cooking show" approach to home economics, complete with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and a much improved international exchange program (for faculty just as much). In other words, all that innovation they read about in their futuristic science fiction, is not coming to be on the ground, at least not in a form the state government seems able to provide.
So I'd say the parent activists are at this point working directly with companies, captains of industry and so on, to come out with some new designs. Going direct to the public with these proposals is a political act, and companies don't want to make too many missteps. You've got the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation example, other Foundations to consider.
Then you might have a few showcase schools on the ground, elite nonprofits that test the new curriculum ideas (thinking of saturdayacademy.org as one such).
To make a long story short, what I sense happening in our bioregion is an implosion of traditional schooling in terms of infrastructure and budget, with a corresponding explosion, on the part of the students, in the number of ways to get an education. Staying home more is looking attractive. There's lots of great stuff on Youtube. What if we could do more to close those circuits and start advancing kids along their chosen career paths by means of home based workstations, mixed with those communal spaces?
Welcome to my world.
It's all pretty murky, but we see enough signs of things going our way to want to keep working at implementing X, getting it shared. We go back to Dr. Loeb's work, M.C. Escher. Lots of focus on Polyhedrons as you know (that's part of X), and, in my case, Python-the-language as worthy of more air time.
Again, we're thinking more in terms of educational cartoons and classrooms with shared projected tablets or smaller ones. We don't do too much to dictate uniform / equipment. Some course work requires specific gear.
From Haim's accounts, I'm thinking "Education Mafia" is more how they should speak about it in an east coast context where Asia is less of an influence. Over here, I think "Education Yakuza" might be better. There's a specific link to tattoos and Pacific Northwest culture. Japan's gangland culture has since borrowed a lot from the business suit crowd in Chicago, and I think Chicago's influence has drifted west more than east though University of Chicago seems all over.
However, I'm not sure the Yakuza are organized the same way out here either. We have a state employee retirement system, which has many strong critics (including some who've frequented our think tank). Teachers, like other middle class, are looking for sustainable middle class lifestyles, whatever that means. That's why I keep asking Haim about how a disbanding of his east coast Mafia would be reflected elsewhere in the economy. Would the ranks of expats in battle fatigues overseas suddenly escalate? This is how unemployment is currently solved, in cahoots with NATO. Males spontaneously self-organize in weaponized hierarchies that need to camp and fraternize. Some women are trying this lifestyle and to some extent it's working. However, unemployment is also solved by cube farms, many square miles of same. Perhaps if the Ed Mafia were disbanded, it's the cube farms we'd see grow, and not the occupy camps.
Zooming back to Kirby again: our particular think tank is a boyhood home of x2 Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. His former high school was the symbolic educational HQS of OPDX, the Occupy Portland movement , which has roots in the Bonus Army / Hooverville campaign of 1932, Gen. Smedley Butler a hero. The Pauling House (as we call it) was refurbished into a rental property by the estate of Doug Strain, Doug being a philanthropist-tycoon of that all American vintage, co-founder of what we today call the Silicon Forest.
His company also endowed the Quakers / AFSC with their meeting house on Stark Street (since at least twice significantly remodeled).
I'd say Terry, the president of the non-profit that benefited from Doug's largess (isepp.org), is one of the Education Yakuza, as is Lou Frederick, one of our state legislators. As am I. But that doesn't mean we always get our way like maybe the Mafia does. Nor am I suggesting we're dishonorable in our dealings (pirates have their codes of ethics).
Anyway, enough local politics. They wouldn't be as important in the old days, when textbooks were a given and bigger states could dictate "national" tastes. Those days are over and the national consensus is breaking down, when it comes to core standards.
The math standards people are on a collision course with STEM, and STEM is just so much stronger. I'm not sure that "math" (the school subject) will survive. I'm pretty sure it doesn't deserve to, given its brittle fragility and inability to adapt. In any case, I'm letting it fend for itself in this bioregion, as we advance a more STEM-centric agenda.
OK, back to STEM teaching. I've got some monster queues after that 3-day weekend.