Thursday, July 3, 2008

Letter to Barack Obama

Here is an interesting letter and it contains a link to a 75 page report that Barack Obama's Education adviser Jean Century co-authored.
Open letter to Barack Obama from John Dewey

I am very distressed to learn about your selection of Jeanne Century as one of your education advisers. She is director of the science program of University of Chicago's Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE), an organization which has been heavily involved with a horrificly lacking mathematics program called Everyday Mathematics—in fact, one of the co-directors of CEMSE was one of the developers of the program.

You will do what you do, I'm sure, but I truly hope that in formulating your positions on education, you take seriously the recommendations of the Presidentially appointed National Mathematics Advisory Panel. I also hope that you put aside partisan differences in judging such report and read it for what it is: an honest examination of what is the content that students must learn and master in elementary school in order to be prepared for algebra in 8th grade. The report also recommends what should be in such an algebra course.

I would imagine that neither you nor any of your staffers has read my columns at this website about my experiences at a graduate school of education where I take evening classes. I plan to teach middle or high school math when I retire in three years. I wrote the column a few years ago in the hopes of educating the public about what passes for educational theory and amounts to something resembling superstition, old wives' tales and out-and-out lies. Under the guise of what is called inquiry-based learning, education schools—as well as the administrations of an alarming number of public schools—have embraced this educational sham that puts process above product, and equity above content. Equity for minorities is achieved by dumbing down the curricula to such an extent that everyone achieves the same low level of education—which is to say none at all.

My use of a pseudonym to write my columns is for good reason. One does not challenge the status quo in education schools, and certainly not in public schools. To that end, I'd like to make you aware of a report, of which Ms. Century is listed as one of the authors. The report was published online in 1999 and is called "The Principals (sic) of Educational Reform: Supporting Mathematics and Science Teaching in your School. A Handbook for Elementary and Middle School Principals."
(75 page .pdf Report)
I found the following passage in the report particularly disturbing:

"You may have teachers in your school who are not at all interested in exploring ways to change their practice. If you have such resisters, it is important to do everything you can to persuade them to participate. Listen to their concerns, give them the professional development and materials necessary, and provide them with encouragement. There will always be people who are simply shut down to change. But the change can happen without them. Don't focus too much of your energy on these individuals, for you don't want to neglect those who are ready and willing. The reluctant ones will eventually need to come on board but at the beginning it is more important to make sure support is available for those who want it. Still, if you think resistant teachers are going to actively undermine your progress, you may wish to consider exploring ways to remove them from your school. You may find that the teacher is just as happy to leave the school as you may be to see him/her go." (Emphasis added)

I have a degree in mathematics –that's mathematics, not math education—and I take the subject seriously, as well as how it is taught. I have chosen to go into teaching because I see that math education is in a crisis and I would like to do my part to help open doors for students instead of the current practice of slamming them shut forever. That said, I'm afraid that I would qualify as one of the "resisters" mentioned in the above cited paragraph, if the type of teaching being advocated is inquiry based (student centered) and/or the curricula are any of several of those developed under grants from NSF. My daughter had Everyday Math in her elementary school and I worked with her at night to ensure she learned and mastered what was not being taught in her classes. I can assure you that the poor quality of Everyday Math had nothing to do with the quality of her teachers, and everything to do with the curriculum.

I am probably the most unoriginal person who ever lived, and any ideas I've had have probably occurred to hundreds of thousands of others. I mention this to let you know I am not unique. There are others like me who have real world experience and a solid education who would like to teach. There are also others like me who are on the fence regarding for whom they will cast their vote in November. Like me, those making that decision are forced to decide what is best for our children in terms of education. I would hope that you will not advance policies that continue the disservice that has been perpetrated on our children for the better part of two decades. On the other hand, I believe Lisa Keegan, (McCain's advisor) are much more aligned with how teaching should be conducted. Her ideas on education would be a change that I and many others (Democrats included) would welcome--something to which you might want to give some serious thought seeing as how you seem to be quite big on change.

In the spirit of non-partisanship, I remain,

Faithfully yours,

John Dewey

Published July 2, 2008


Anonymous said...

Under the auspices of NAFTA, Century and Keegan represent two sides of the same coin.

Low academic standards via poor textbooks and privatization of school services using fiscal incentives (bribery and extortion by denying services).

Staff development amounts to indoctrination and by nationalizing public education our leaders have essentially created a corporate fascist state that won't be accountable for either civil rights abuses or outright mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

On the board of Aspen Institute is Nina R. Houghton, chairman of the Wye Institute.

On the Aspen History page, Arthur Houghton Jr. [Nina's father?] is mentioned as donating land on Wye River.

Arthur Amory Houghton Jr. shows up on the CFR and Trilateral Commission lists.

[In 1950], [Walter] Paepcke created what is now the Aspen Institute. He was a trustee of the University of Chicago...

In 1979, Corning Glass industrialist and philanthropist Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. donated to the Aspen Institute a thousand-acre parcel on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The location now hosts the Aspen Wye River Conference Center.

Anonymous said...

This is a link to the Aspen Institute

and this is an article from Accuracy in Media (2006) and I was searching for Walter Isaacson, so I'm not far off.

It's not the kind of endorsement that a Republican presidential candidate should welcome. But former Clinton State Department official and alleged Russian dupe Strobe Talbott says that Senator John McCain and Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are all "moderate pragmatists" in foreign policy "with the demonstrated ability to reach across party lines."

This is a better explanation of the relationship between Talbott and Isaacson and it explains why we're hearing all the weirdness from McCain while Obama has managed to stay out of the limelight.

McCain comment: We need to stay in NAFTA to keep the Canadians in Afghanistan. (weird, but not when you're getting advice from the Aspen Institute)

Another of Talbott's close friends, named in the article, is Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute and formerly of Time magazine. It was at Time that Talbott penned a column promoting world government as the solution to mankind's problems. Talbott and his parents were members of the World Federalist Movement. They believe U.S. sovereignty should be submerged into a world federation. It is shocking that someone with these views could become a top State Department official. But Talbott and Bill Clinton were close friends and Rhodes Scholars together. Talbott's main booster in the U.S. Senate was Republican Senator Richard Lugar, another Rhodes Scholar.

So choose your poison!

Anonymous said...

The strange campaign for the Republican presidential nomination took another weird turn this week when every major Republican candidate spoke out against the Law of the Sea Treaty, which was approved by a 17-4 committee vote and may soon come to a vote on the Senate floor.
This lemming-like rush to denounce a 25-year-old treaty that commands support from President Bush, the military and major business interests means that there is not a single Republican — not the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, not the former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, not Senator John McCain, and not the TV actor and Watergate interrogator, Fred Thompson — who is willing to stand up to the party’s right-wing fringe, which is where the opposition to the treaty resides.
The law, approved by the United Nations in 1982, and amended to fix flaws that bothered the United States in 1994, sets rules governing the military and commercial use of the oceans. The military likes it because it would guarantee mobility and latitude, including rights of passage
through key strategic waterways. The oil companies like it because it provides certainty on how the ocean floor will be divvied up and how royalties will be paid. The environmentalists like it because they hope it will provide new leverage over lawless and destructive overfishing by huge industrial fleets on the high seas.
But because the treaty was written (horrors!) under the auspices of the United Nations, and because a lot of important decisions will be made by committees composed of many nations, the right wing has always seen the treaty as a diabolical plan to undermine American sovereignty. Never mind that the United States will need to ratify it to have a seat at the table when the time comes to lay claim to the apparently huge natural resources that lie buried under the Arctic Ocean. The critics would be perfectly happy if we had no seat at all.
Until recently, only Mike Huckabee had taken a stand against the treaty. But in recent days the rest have fallen into line. Mr. Thompson: The treaty “threatens U.S. sovereignty and gives a U.N. affiliated organization far too much authority over U.S. interests.” A spokesman for Mr. Romney: “He believes giving unaccountable international institutions more power is a serious problem.” Mr. McCain: “I do worry about the U.S. sovereignty aspects of it and would probably vote against it in its present form.” Mr. Giuliani (completing the field): “The treaty is fundamentally flawed. I cannot support the creation of yet another unaccountable international bureaucracy.”