Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Climate Change is About Capitalism

Phil McDuff in The Guardian:

"Today’s children, as they become more politically aware, will be much more radical than their parents, simply because there will be no other choice for them. . . . Right now we can, with a massive investment of effort by 2030, just about keep the warming level below 1.5C. This is “bad, but manageable” territory. . . . We need to fundamentally re-evaluate our relationship to ownership, work and capital. The impact of a dramatic reconfiguration of the industrial economy require similarly large changes to the welfare state. Basic incomes, large-scale public works programmes, everything has to be on the table to ensure that the oncoming system shocks do not leave vast swathes of the global population starving and destitute. Perhaps even more fundamentally, we cannot continue to treat the welfare system as a tool for disciplining the supposedly idle underclasses. Our system must be reformed with a more humane view of worklessness, poverty and migration than we have now."

Another Piece of the Puzzle that is our Premier

Nora Loreto on Twitter yesterday:

We already know that part of the increase in anxiety and depression is due to straight up loneliness. Kids are already too isolated from one another in real life. This will only add to that isolation as they struggle, on their own, through a course they've been forced to take. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

More Ford Cuts: Ban Cell Phones, but Mandate Online Courses

From iPolitics:
"On top of the change to class sizes, the government is also mandating that all high school students take four of their 30 credits online. This requirement will take effect in the 2020-21 school year. These e-learning classes will average 35 students per class, according to the government." 
This is huge!! I don't understand why this wasn't part of the original statement in the CBC's articles yesterday or in OSSTF's statement! Online courses have notoriously high failure rates (50% according to one study, but 90% including all the people who drop the course) except for the ones that grossly lower curricular standards by, for instance, having students read just a few pages of a book instead of an entire book in a university-level senior course!!

A New York Times article, from just over a year ago, outlined how online courses harm students:
"In high schools and colleges, there is mounting evidence that the growth of online education is hurting a critical group: the less proficient students who are precisely those most in need of skilled classroom teachers. . . . After all, taking a class without a teacher requires high levels of self-motivation, self-regulation and organization. Yet in high schools across the country, students who are struggling in traditional classrooms are increasingly steered into online courses. . . . In reality, students who complete these courses tend to do quite poorly on subsequent tests of academic knowledge. This suggests that these online recovery courses often give students an easy passing grade without teaching them very much. Consider a study conducted in the Chicago high schools. Students who had failed algebra were randomly assigned either to online or to face-to-face recovery courses. The results were clear: Students in the online algebra courses learned much less than those who worked with a teacher in a classroom. . . . Even though the courses are seemingly identical, the students who enroll online do substantially worse. The effects are lasting, with online students more likely to drop out of college altogether."

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ford's Cuts to Education

As reported in a CBC article, Ford's cuts to education, so far, aren't nearly as bad as anticipated. Could it mean he actually listened to citizens? Or maybe they've been hinting at cuts so horrible that now we're all just relieved and drained of the fight to stop the cuts he did make.

Average class sizes will be bigger in high schools (from 22 to 28). If you just picture a classroom of typical students, you might thing that 28 isn't a big deal, but it doesn't work like that. Right now we typically have 28-32 in an academic class, which is averaged in with classes that might have as few as 3 students in them who are extremely high needs to get that 22 figure. So changing the average to 28 doesn't mean classes will each have 28 kids. It means some will have 3 and others will have 38. OR, worse, some will have 6 and others will have 35. He promises no job cuts as he implements this over a few years, so that means fewer new hires.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Arctic Destruction

I just want to put this document here so I can find it again: Global Linkages: A graphic look at the changing Arctic. It was compiled by the UN Environment and GRID-Arendal. It looks at populations in the Arctic, and how it's being impacted by climate change (permafrost thaw, ocean acidification...), pollution (contaminants, plastic, mercury...), and changes to biodiversity (migratory species, invasive species...). 

Seligman's Hope Circuit

Martin Seligman is famous for a learned helplessness study I wrote about a few years back:
In a famous experiment, dogs were put in a compartment and trained to jump a barrier when given an electric shock. After one or two tries, the dogs jumped the barrier immediately after being put in the compartment even when no shock was given. BUT some dogs were restrained the first time and not able to jump the barrier. They had to tolerate the shock without being able to escape. When they were unharnessed, they still didn't jump the barrier, but just stayed there, tolerating the pain.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Are Grades Harmful to Students?

A bold claim was made to me recently that giving students grades on assignments and tests actually impedes their ability to self-assess their work. It's a big deal when an educator insists that what you've done for years is actually harming the ability for your students to achieve to their potential. The winds have shifted again, and there's another movement coming, this time to restrict grading student work with anything beyond descriptive feedback. I think that number or letter grade is actually important to student success, and that initial claim requires some scrutiny.

Student Self-Assessment

One goal in teaching anything is to get the learner to a point where they can recognize whether or not they are achieving with excellence. Absolutely! In some areas, excellence is easier to see than others. If you're learning to swim, then excellence at a specific level might be measured by the ability to swim one length without touching the bottom of the pool. That's a marker that's easy for the novice to recognize just by the feel of whether or not their feet touched bottom. But other learning is more difficult to assess as clearly. If a student is learning to dance, or learning a new language, or learning to argue a philosophical position, the student can easily feel like they've master the new skill, yet be completely mistaken. This is what makes So You Think You Can Dance so entertaining (or just sad).

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Different Sort of Electoral Reform

What if politicians were no longer allowed to campaign by burning fossil fuels travelling all over the world?? What if there were a very strict and low limit on campaign spending. There could be one election website, and each party would have access to one page on that site where they would have to, clearly and succinctly, explain their platform under specific headings common to all the pages (and they'd be barred from making a separate website). They would have a list of candidates in each riding, and can add only one 5-minute video to their page. There could be a page with a forum for questions that's strictly moderated by an intelligent group of non-partisan do-gooder volunteers, each with a degree in philosophy (and, hence, little else to do). No fallacious reasoning will be allowed! Something similar could happen within each party, as well, as they choose their leader.

No flights, no travel expenses, no signs, no phone calls or knocks on the door. Just a straightforward comparison of the platforms with a clear explanation of the implications.

And imagine if we could actually hold politicians accountable for their promises. If they lied in their platform, then we'd oust them immediately, so their platforms would end up being very carefully worded.

Then wealth and backing wouldn't be factors in running in an election. Anybody with a strong idea and the smarts to understand all the implications of their ideas and explain them well could end up leading even if they grew up in a poor family. 

Then charm and schmoozing wouldn't have an effect on the populace. People would respond to the ideas, not the rhetoric.

While we're fantasizing here, we could also ensure that our MPs and MPPs vote based on polls in their ridings, not based on their party leader's position, you know, like in a democracy!

The only way we'll get a leader who actually stops pipelines and changes the agricultural industry and subsidizes solar, wind, and tidal power, and actually affects our future positively, is if we can stop corporate lobbying. One way we can do that is to stop campaigns from costing a small fortune.

What we're currently doing doesn't work, and it doesn't have to be like this.

Saturday, March 2, 2019


OFSTED recently published a report on what works in schools. Some of the ideas were relevant only to the U.K., but other ideas can be used here. They studied schools in a few different ways, looking at types of teaching that's most effective and what else really matters in a school.

Some obvious findings:
"teachers need solid knowledge and understanding of the subject(s) they teach. . . . where direct measures of teacher subject knowledge are used, the evidence is much more positive. . . . There is also evidence that teachers’ content knowledge affects their teaching practices. Baumert et al (2010) found that teachers with greater content knowledge have higher levels of pedagogical content knowledge, which itself leads to greater attention to cognitive activation (developing pupils’ conceptual knowledge through, for example, summarising and questioning strategies) in their teaching" (9-10).