Saturday, May 29, 2010

progress without progressivism

Scripted lessons start a classroom revival

Radical learning program changing Aboriginal kids' lives

Australians are aware that Aurukun in far north Queensland is a social and educational disaster zone. Nearly everyone puts it into the too hard basket.

The articles above provide some hopeful evidence that the method of Direct Instruction designed by American Zig Engelmann and introduced into Aurukun by Noel Pearson is proving to be effective. Aboriginal students are learning to read. This may not sound remarkable for anyone ignorant of the realities of remote aboriginal communities. But it is remarkable.

To establish this progress Pearson has had to break all the rules of what is regarded as being progressive.
- imported a program from the USA
- plans to extend the working and teaching day
- carefully scripted instruction rather than freedom to explore
- classes organised by ability and not by age

The second article points out some of the teething problems:
the workbooks have come under fire for containing American references, while the direct instruction method was cited by five teachers as their reasons for leaving Aurukun earlier this year
If we achieve progress by methods that are not regarded as progressive then it is time to rethink what progressive is.

Further reading:
It's beyond bad in Aurukun
radical hope: education and equality in australia
Some magic bullets for education
Teachers vote with their feet on Cape York curriculum
Bureaucrats take over Pearson's school plan
Jump-start for Aboriginal education at 'tough-love' school

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

scientists: neither angels or devils

Roger Pielke jnr runs a great blog on the connection between the science, politics and policy making of the global warming issue.

If our future ex politicians Kevin Rudd and Malcom Turnbull had been aware of him then they would not have so much egg on their faces now

Some say that AGW demands immediate policy action. eg. James Hansen has participated in demonstrations against the opening of new coal plants. Others say that the science has now been exposed as a fraud, following the climategate emails. Pielke's position is that the science and the policy can be detached, that good future energy policy can be developed despite the unavoidable uncertainties that accompany the science. The scientists are neither angels or devils. Like everyone else they are caught up in the machinations of our capitalist society. (the last sentence is mine, not Pielke's, who is a blue dog Democrat)

I left this comment on Roger's blog:
Just a thank you for your great blog

thanks for link to pdf (The Development of the U.S. Global Change Research Program: 1987 to 1994), your early detection and analysis of the issues of the connection b/w science and policy is noteworthy

great doghouse cartoon too - I admire the way you combat the slings and arrows of your critics with calm detachment and humour

your blog is a great model of those who advocate (1) transparency (2) open engagement, including engagement with critics (the judith curry principles)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

roots of oppression

roots of oppression

in case you haven't seen this, it's an amazing and very comprehensive photo gallery with commentary by a Dane, Jacob Holdt, hitchhiking around USA, some years ago.

Extract from Chapter 1:
Traveling in such a deeply divided society inevitably was a violent experience:

4 times I was attacked by robbers with pistols,
2 times I managed to avoid cuts from men with knives,
2 times frightened police drew guns on me,
1 time I was surrounded by 10-15 blacks in a dark alley and almost killed.
1 time I was ambushed by the Ku Klux Klan,
several times I had bullets flying around me in shootouts,
2 times I was arrested by the FBI, and 4 times by the Secret Service.
I lived with 3 murderers and countless criminals.....
...but I have never met a bad American!

That I survived I owe to my stubborn belief in these words by Jose Marti:
You must have faith in the best in people and distrust the worst.
If not, the worst will prevail.