August 2011

An imaginary and sad plea for graduate school funding

We all know how expensive graduate school can be. I, and a lot of my friends, are applying to grad school right now. We beg and we plead to be accepted to schools, but more than that, we don’t want to go into anymore debt than we have to. Students apply to grad school with the most desperate and self-congratulatory essays ever written, so I wrote one from an imaginary English major from Wisconsin named Julia (THIS IS NOT ME! I'M NOT QUITE THIS DESPERATE). She really needs the money:

Teachers Pay $1.3 Billion Out of Pocket on Classroom Supplies Yearly


One of my former bosses was a Teach For America alumnus. He'd spent two years teaching remedial reading to inner city kids in Florida, trying to help out those students who had nearly made it to middle school without becoming literate. The program, which sends aspiring teachers to underprivileged schools, does a lot of good work--but even it can't meet all the needs of a classroom in a struggling area. I remember him mentioning that he needed to buy supplies like notebooks and pencils for the kids with his own money. If he didn't buy them, no one would and the kids would just have to go without. Now, statistics show that he was certainly not alone in his predicament. Teachers spend a grand total of $1.3 billion on classroom supplies completely out of pocket. 

Another Business Mogul Thinks He Can Fix Public Education, And Why He's Wrong Too.

Steven Brill, founder of CourtTV and author of "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools", dumbs down school reform.

There's no shortage of people that have theories, solutions, magic bullets and snake oils for fixing America's "broken" public education system. There's no question that students in some other countries seem to be outperforming the U.S., which has thrown the "nation of #1" into a flurry of half-cocked education reforms in the last decade. I'm being a little flippant here, but there is an actual problem in that graduation rates across the nation are dismally low, and that children of minorities and those born into poverty (which have historically gone hand-in-hand in this country) are receiving the business end of that "broken system".

Unfortunately, because nearly everyone in this country was in a classroom at some point in their lives, nearly everyone feels they have some insight or perspective into the problem, and thus some notion of how to fix it. This may piss some people off, but for the vast majority of you, you're wrong. Having been a student in a classroom, or having children that attend, does not qualify you to address public education's systemic issues. I would lump individuals that feel they're qualified because they have an MBA into that category as well. That brings me to our topic today; Steve Brill, founder of CourtTV and American Lawyer has written a book on education reform entitled, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools.

No Friday School for Schools in South Dakota

A South Dakota school district is cutting Friday classes due to budget constraints. On one hand, this is distressing just because the district is so short on funds; it makes you wonder what else could be cut in the community. I really hope the families there have enough to eat, and are making it in this troubling economy. It seems to be difficult everywhere you look, including in my own backyard.

Courage to Teach

Like many of my peers, I live in a constant state of fear about performing well, whether it is in a class, in a musical ensemble or even in a social setting. Because I grew up in this kind of atmosphere, I often fear many of things--like making connections with students and being prepared enough to teach—when thinking about being a teacher in the future. This is probably an unhealthy fear, but I think there is a distinction between a healthy and an unhealthy fear, especially in teaching.

In praise of studying abroad

Studying abroad when I was a junior in college was one of the best decisions I ever made.  I studied in Vienna, Austria for four months during my junior year. I was intrigued by the region’s language and culture, which incorporates more historic and artistic elements in everyday life than American culture does. I wanted to immerse myself in the people, the buildings, the arts, the food and the education systems of Austria so I could be a part of the culture rather than just an observer of it.

Keep Your MBA Out of My School

How "venture philanthropists", businessmen, and politicians are applying misguided "MBA thinking" to public education.


I've written before on the detrimental effect that special interests and their purchased-politicians are having through education reform. The new trending sociopathy, venture philanthropy, is the idea that one applies the venture capitalism principles of efficiency, productivity, and growth to philanthropic endeavors. Inherently, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it. However, when individuals in these foundations start trying to manipulate policy and guide national reforms, you get a very one-sided, one-size-fits-all, and dumbed-down approach to innovation and progress. The Gates Foundation is a super-sized venture philanthropic foundation that has so integrated itself into the Department of Education they've nearly got it bought and paid for, and their reforms are being promoted on a national scale by our own government. Politicians and business-leaders, likewise, have rallied behind the Gates Foundations and others that support taking a private industry approach to educating our children.