Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 5, 2005
BLOG: Quick Links 8/5/05
I had a bunch of things on my to-blog list but never got to them, and now I'll be out-of-blog for the next week. In the meantime, a few links:
*Alex Belth has a long excerpt about Barry Bonds from Howard Bryant's new book on steroids. Overlooked here is the extent to which tension has arisen from the fact that baseball writers thought they had come to terms, by 2000, with who Bonds was and his place in the game's history, before he abruptly violated everyone's expectations with his unnatural after-35 surge.
*Eugene Volokh notes that profanity makes him uneasy mainly because of its association with anger. I would add that this is a major reason why the likes of Kos and Atrios so frequently come off as nasty and unhinged: the endless use of foul language on their blogs gives the reader the distinct impression that these are angry, hate-filled guys, and that limits their ability to persuade people who aren't already like-minded. That's a major, major difference between Kos and RedState, where profanity is banned, and it really affects the tone.
I don't actually have anything against foul language, as I probably use too much of it myself in my daily life. And sometimes, it's hard to make quite the point you want to make without it. But there are real costs involved, which is one reason why I don't use that kind of language on the blog.
*Jeff Goldstein has some choice words for the lame excuses being peddled for the New York Times to investigate the adoption of John Roberts' two small children. The upside may be the Clarence Thomas Effect, which is the opposite of the "Greenhouse Effect": the more the Left personally attacks Roberts during his confirmation, the more likely it is that he will dig his heels in and resist drifting leftward on the bench.
*Sports fans, don't try this at home. Um, to put it mildly . . .
*The White House should have tried this earlier.
*Some good stuff from Bob Somerby on George Tenet's possible role in the Plame disclosure and the general incompetence of the CIA spokesman in waving Novak off.
*This executive summary is a good place to start in reviewing a thorough and detailed report on how the bulk of incidents of voter suppression, intimidation and fraud in 2004 were perpetrated by Democrats (link via Dales). The group behind the study is apparently technically nonpartisan, but obviously conservative. Go read the whole thing.
Great article on the failure of education schools - the NYT uncharacteristically relies on a battery of conservative critics, and basically admits that (a) there's something to their critiques and (b) thanks in large part to the No Child Left Behind Act, something is getting done about them.
There's the one-sided, impractical propaganda:
David M. Steiner, co-author of the report, is director of arts education at the National Endowment for the Arts and on leave as department chairman in educational administration, training and policy studies at Boston University. With his associate Susan D. Rozen, he reviewed the curriculums of 16 teachers' colleges, 14 of them among the nation's best, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
Since there is little data on which educational approach translates into effective teaching, they looked for a balance in material. Instead, they found little effort to present opposing schools of thought. The general posture of education schools, they concluded, was countercultural, instilling mistrust of the system that teachers work in. Among the texts most often assigned were Jonathan Kozol's "Savage Inequalities," an indictment of schooling in poor urban neighborhoods, and writings by Paulo Freire, who advocates education to achieve political liberation. Theories of how children learn, like the multiple learning styles advocated by Howard Gardner of Harvard, were more likely to be taught than what children should learn, like the Core Knowledge curriculum advanced by E. D. Hirsch, a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.
There's the focus on the interests of education professors at the expense of training good teachers:
Some analysts are now calling for teachers' colleges to follow the Emporia State model - "to give them a lot of practical experience so they're not shocked when they come into the classroom," says Diane Ravitch, the education historian, who is working on a book entitled "Forgotten Heroes of American Education: The Great Tradition of Teaching Teachers." She adds: "There is a disconnect of professors of education just not being capable of equipping future teachers with the practicalities to be successful. And if teachers are not successful, they will not be retained; they will either move to a different district that is not as difficult or leave teaching altogether." The idea of "preparing excellent teachers who are excellent in their subject," she says, has been overtaken by other concerns - "professors wanting to be respected in the university, and teachers' colleges wanting to become places where research is done and to be agents of transformational change."
Perhaps most damning of all, there's the tendency to attract low-performing people:
For at least a decade, students who intend to major in education have had among the lowest SAT scores of all college-bound seniors - in 2004, they ranked 19th of 22 intended majors, two points in combined verbal and math scores below those who planned to major in agriculture. Even "undecided" ranked higher. And according to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, those who leave the profession during their first few years have higher scores than those who stay. An institute report also shows that the weaker the undergraduate college, the more likely its students will end up teaching as a career.
Ouch. There's a lot of good teachers out there, and there's no magic formula for minting them. But you'd be crazy to deny that we can and should do better, and reforming or getting rid of underperforming ed school programs has to be part of the solution.