GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE YOUNG
Children see more than 20,000 commercials a year on average, and corporations spend more than $12 billion a year to market to children- 20 times the amount spent a decade ago.
At the same time, in the past 10 years childhood obesity has become a major public health problem. The fast food industry is the biggest advertiser on television. McDonald’s alone spends $600 million per year on advertising. (Source: Advertising and Promoting to Kids,Third Annual Conference, Sept. 14 in New York City.)
PEDAGOGY OF THE ABSURD
Ken Goodman of the University of Arizona has begun issuing awards for what he characterizes as The Pedagogy of the Absurd.
Recent winners (or losers, as he also calls them) include:
- The Republican minority of the Fairfax County Virginia Board of Education who, having imposed particular phonics programs as part of several approved for use by schools in the county, petitioned the governor to force all the schools in the county to use only those phonics programs. When they were criticized for being partisan,they said that they had offered to let the Democrats on the board sign the petition.
- The Los Angeles Board of Education for announcing it will hire teachers with only a high school diploma.
- George W. Bush for his presidential campaign slogan, “Phonics Works!” (announced Aug. 30). As part of his pledge to support local control of education, Bush is promising to take federal support from schools that don’t use the right phonics programs and give it to parents as vouchers so they can send their kids to schools that do.
BIRTH OF A MYTH
The following is from a recent e-mail by Gerald Bracey, an educational writer based in Virginia:
“On September 4, an op-ed essay by William J. Bennett claimed that ‘nearly half of all high school graduates have not mastered seventh-grade arithmetic.’ This is a peculiar statement for several reasons. First, we don’t test high school graduates. Second, Bennett provided no definition of ‘mastery.’ Third, there is no common definition of ‘seventh grade arithmetic.”
“Seeking a citation, I contacted Mr. Bennett’s office. His office referred me to The Book on Knowledge, a guide to making money by investing in for-profit education by Michael Moe, Director of Global Growth Research for Merrill Lynch. Moe sent me the book and, indeed, the statistic appears on page four in a list of ‘facts’ (in quotes because most of them are spun to make American schools look bad and are closer to being lies than being facts). There is no citation for where the statistic came from. On to Moe’s office.
“Contacting Moe, I was advised that it is ‘an interpretation of 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.’ Examining the NAEP 1996 Mathematics Report Card, in which the U. S. Department of Education presents the NAEP results, I can find no statistic that is remotely close to the one promulgated by Mssrs. Moe and Bennett. Indeed, Mr. Moe could not have been more fanciful if he had simply drawn the ‘statistic’ from thin air.
“One would hope that a former Secretary of Education would be more careful in choosing the statistics he uses to slander American public schools. The one he cited doesn’t even exist.”
MORE THAN POCKET CHANGE
Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) is a pro-voucher group formed just in time for the November presidential elections.It is headed by Bush education advisor Howard Fuller, former superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools and now with Marquette University.In a promotional article about the campaign, Fuller is quoted as saying the alliance is beginning operations with a budget of nearly $900,000. The money comes primarily from foundations, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, the Joyce Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Milton & Rae D. Friedman Foundation.
One of the campaign’s main activities has been to place newspaper ads in national newspapers and in Black community newspapers.
GOOD AND BAD NEWS
The average SAT mathematics scores this year hit the highest mark in 30 years, the College Board announced in September.
Math scores increased three points to 515. Verbal scores remained stable and averaged 505. The maximum scores is 800 for each section of the test.
On the negative side, the gap remained between white students and students of color. Whites had a combined score of 1158 compared to 860 for African Americans and 928 for Latinos.
TEXAS DROPOUT RATES
Supporters of George W. are fond of citing Texas as an educational success story. One statistic they don’t mention: dropout rates.
More than 40 percent of African-American and Latino students who enter ninth grade do not graduate. The figure is 25 percent for white students (source: Boston College professor Walter Haney,in his essay, “The Myth of the Texas Miracle in Education.”
Thomas Fonfara of the influential Quarles & Brady law firm in Milwaukee was authorized this August to lobby on behalf of the Milwaukee Public Schools. Since January 1999, Fonfara has also been a lobbyist for CTB McGraw-Hill.
In September, the Milwaukee School Board Finance / Personnel Committee was to consider a request from the administration to buy an essay test from CTB McGraw-Hill.
BUMPER STICKER OF THE MONTH
“High Stakes Are for Tomatoes” (made by the anti-standardized testing group FairTest).
“‘Accountability’ usually turns out to be a code for tighter control over what happens in classrooms by people who are not in classrooms- and has approximately the same effect on learning that a noose has on breathing.”
Author and anti-testing activist Alfie Kohn.