In his blog, “Oh, and You Have a Degree, Too?” Will Richardson returns to a theme he has expressed on numerous occasions; a concern that schooling wrongfully prepares kids for college. Actually, I’m not sure what his point is except that Will maintains the “radical” notion that his children should learn everywhere and have the freedom to choose their own destinations in life. I honestly don’t understand his arguments and doubt that we disagree much.

In this blog and its previous incarnations, I’ve commented that American higher education represents some of the greatest innovation in education today. Sure, there are crappy colleges and universities, but there are an awful lot of good ones embodying the progressive liberal arts principles I think Will and I share.

However, that is not the purpose of this blog.

In Will Richardson’s recent blog, he cites the views of Charles Murray as supporting evidence for his argument. Neither Will, nor a single one of the 32 blog commenters (as of 3:09 Pacific Time – 12/31/08) question the source used to support Will’s thesis. Not one.

I am not a fan of the 21st Century Skills or Information Literacy movements. I see them as much-a-do about so very little and find that the opportunity costs of focusing on information literacy result in children learning too little with and about computers. However, my understanding of the 21st Century Skill/School 2.0/Information Literacy bluster suggests that a basic skill required to navigate the world of ideas is question the source of what you read.

Questioning the source leads a reader to consider the potential for bias, validity or reliability in a person’s argument. Such a modicum of skepticism allows the reader to better make sense of information and assess its credibility before making decisions or passing the information along to others.

I often stress the importance of being well-grounded in the education literature and understanding learning theory sufficiently to communicate one’s practice articulately. Chris Lehmann also reminds our colleagues in the blogosphere how we stand on the shoulders of giants. A knowledge of education history allows us to better navigate the challenges of today and tomorrow. It also keeps one from being snookered or aligned with noxious views.

This is all a very long-winded way of questioning whether Will Richardson should have quoted Charles Murray as an expert in order to advance his ideas.

At best, Charles Murray is one of the chief ideologues of the right. At worst, some consider him a White supremacist. Charles Murray is most famous for a book he coauthored, Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. In this book, Murray makes the claim that Black people are genetically intellectually inferior to white people.

The Bell Curve is not some obscure publication, but rather a New York Times Bestseller. It was featured in newspapers, television debates and has spawned a cottage industry of books dismantling its pseudo-science, racism and social Darwinism. The eminent evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote extensively about Murray’s work (and not in a good way).

Disturbing as I find the anachronism of The Bell Curve, I am even more distressed by its pervasive disingenuousness. The authors omit facts, misuse statistical methods, and seem unwilling to admit the consequence of their own words. (Stephen Jay Gould, 1994)

Unfortunately, Murray’s assertions were based on a series of internal contradictions, specious arguments and outright phony claims unsupported by his data…

…Murray’s ascendancy would never have been possible without the patient, far-sighted investments in his work by a conservative network of funders and foundations, including the reclusive billionaire, Richard Mellon Scaife. (Eric Altermann, 2007)

Richard Mellon Scaife also funded “The Arkansas Project” the bogus journalistic witch-hunt against Bill and Hillary Clinton accusing them of all sorts of things, including murder.

Even if we grant his hypothesis — that only a relatively few children are capable of high academic achievement — can we identify for a certainty which ones they are, especially among the underprivileged and those who are academically disadvantaged before they set foot in school? And do we want to live in an Aldous Huxley world where our place in the pecking order is more or less predetermined? (New York Times review of Murray’s most recent book, October 29, 2008)

In a September 2008 New York Times interview, Murray says that his latest book, the basis for the article Will cites, is a distillation of things I’ve been thinking since “The Bell Curve.”

In the rest of the rather snarky and anti-intellectual recent New York TImes interview timed to sell his new book, Murray favors think-tanks (that pay his rent) over higher education, defends anti-intellectualism and expresses his love for Sarah Palin. I don’t believe that Will Richardson intended to side with such a fine person as Mr. Murray.

A popular information literacy pundit alarms educator audiences by using the example of martinlutherking.org to demonstrate how dangerous the web can be unless we are critical readers of information. Considering the source of information seems prudent.

I’m confident that my friend Will Richardson does not want to take sides with Charles Murray in the education wars.

As they used to say at the end of roll-call on Hill Street Blues, “Hey, let’s be careful out there!”

Additional resources:
• Here is an online university text challenging Murray’s work – http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/bellcurve.shtml

• Brittanica Blog review of Murray’s latest book – http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/08/there-he-goes-again-charles-murray-that-is-on-real-education/

Dear loyal readers:

I apologize for my blog being down over the past week or so. Blogger has been making it impossible for me to update my blog by generating intermittent errors for which there seem to be no solution (thus far at least).

If necessary, I will shut-down my entire web site at stager.org, move it to a new hosting provider and create a WordPress blog for Stager-to-Go.

Lots of people have been generous with advice to switch to WordPress. I know that WordPress is superior to Blogger. I even know how to create a WordPress blog. Constructing Modern Knowledge is evidence of my prowess.

However, I am trying to reduce my work and would prefer to spend my time writing, reading, preparing for my new class or learning new things than engaging in monkey-work on the web.

If this Web 2.0 stuff has any future, it’s dependent on it working reliably and transparently.

My parents have a TIVO that I bought them three years ago. I pay the monthly subscription costs as well. YESTERDAY, my mother told me that they just discovered that you can pause live TV with a TIVO!

There are millions of people like my mother who lack the technical expertise or desire to make this blog crap work. All I want to do is write and even that distracts me from more pressing work.

Don’t worry. The Stager web presence will be yuge and ginormous in 2009.

Happy New Year! (except for the idiot running Blogger)

My tale is a familiar one not unlike the story of America.

Life was tough and unpredictable for a wee lad growing up in the sleepy hamlet of my boyhood. One day supermarket shelves overflowed with boxes of Sir Grapefellow cereal and the next all that remained was the vastly inferior breakfast nemesis, Baron Von RedBerry. During fourth grade I caused quite a stir at school when I realized that painting everything black would cause the child-study team to visit and evaluate me on a regular basis. This amused me a great deal more than it did the humorless experts with fancy degrees trying to address my condition.

I was what Maury Povich might call a “latch-key” child. My parents sure loved me (as much as could be expected) and worked tirelessly to support me and my imaginary siblings. However, with the 1970s energy crisis, the cost of gas and cereal caused them both to work long hours; my Dad made custom rubber stamps in the garage while my mother sold frozen meat via home “parties” to housewives starved of cheddar burgers and a social life. Classmates teased me for smelling like a combination of burning rubber and melted cheese.

Unable to protect me from wedgies, Rorschach Tests and a teacher who tied me to a chair with a jumprope, my parents did the best they knew how. In desperation they sent me to live with my Grandpappy Max and my common-law grandmother Noonie in Indiana. Grandpappy owned the largest Pachinko factory in all of Terra Haute. Each day I would rush home after detention and across Highway 41 to wait patiently for Max to finish the second shift at the Pachinko plant. I loved it there. The guys who worked for my grandparents were great storytellers. I learned all sorts of life lessons about menthol, dating during the Korean War, stagflation and so much more.

Some days I would just sit in the gap between the ball bearings and nail conveyor belts and imagine life in the 21st Century. What sorts of skills would I need? Rubber stamps, meat and Japanese arcade attractions sustained my family, but would they be sufficient for my children?

One recurring dream I had during the carefree days of my youth was, “Will enough members of the Twitterverse nominate me for a coveted Shorty Award?”

Please help me realize a lifelong dream by casting your vote here

http://shortyawards.com/?username=garystager&category=education


Note: This is not my regular feed or URL for my blog, Stager-to-Go. Blogger has had intermittent failures that are driving me crazy.

My tale is a familiar one not unlike the story of America.

Life was tough and unpredictable for a wee lad growing up in the sleepy hamlet of my boyhood. One day supermarket shelves overflowed with boxes of Sir Grapefellow cereal and the next all that remained was the vastly inferior breakfast nemesis, Baron Von RedBerry. During fourth grade I caused quite a stir at school when I realized that painting everything black would cause the child-study team to visit and evaluate me on a regular basis. This amused me a great deal more than it did the humorless experts with fancy degrees trying to address my condition.

I was what Maury Povich might call a “latch-key” child. My parents sure loved me (as much as could be expected) and worked tirelessly to support me and my imaginary siblings. However, with the 1970s energy crisis, the cost of gas and cereal caused them both to work long hours; my Dad made custom rubber stamps in the garage while my mother sold frozen meat via home “parties” to housewives starved of cheddar burgers and a social life. Classmates teased me for smelling like a combination of burning rubber and melted cheese.

Unable to protect me from wedgies, Rorschach Tests and a teacher who tied me to a chair with a jumprope, my parents did the best they knew how. In desperation they sent me to live with my Grandpappy Max and my common-law grandmother Noonie in Indiana. Grandpappy owned the largest Pachinko factory in all of Terra Haute. Each day I would rush home after detention and across Highway 41 to wait patiently for Max to finish the second shift at the Pachinko plant. I loved it there. The guys who worked for my grandparents were great storytellers. I learned all sorts of life lessons about menthol, dating during the Korean War, stagflation and so much more.

Some days I would just sit in the gap between the ball bearings and nail conveyor belts and imagine life in the 20th Century. What sorts of skills would I need? Rubber stamps, meat and Japanese arcade attractions sustained my family, but would they be sufficient for my children?

One recurring dream I had during the carefree days of my youth was, “Will enough members of the Twitterverse nominate me for a coveted Shorty Award?”

Please help me realize a lifelong dream by casting your vote herehttp://shortyawards.com/?username=garystager&category=education

Spoiler alert: Don’t play the video clips (below) unless you have already enjoyed the annual television extravaganza.

There is a great American holiday tradition that flies under the radar annually. It’s not only funny, but heartwarming and wildly entertaining.

Every December 23rd, or the last weeknight before Christmas Eve, Late Night with David Letterman celebrates the holiday season with a special show that is not advertised or hyped. This show feels like a secret Xmas gift from Dave and the gang to me. I love this show as much as anything I’ve ever watched on TV.

While the longstanding traditions of the show don’t sound like much in isolation, taken together they make one of the most rewarding hours of television each year.

After the monologue and usual opening bits, the festivities begin in earnest when Dave pleads with Paul Shaffer to do his impression of Cher singing, “Oh, Holy Night,” just like she did on a Sonny and Cher Christmas Special, featuring guest star William Conrad, more than thirty years ago.

The impression is as absurd as the hilarious details setting up the historic musical recreation. Dave laughs with the joy known to lifelong buddies who can cause each other to burst into hysterics with the motion an eyebrow or the mention of one word.

Next, actor/comedian/radio host/raconteur, Jay Thomas comes out to fulfill two sacred holiday traditions.

1) He tells the story of being a young long-haired “herbed-up” North Carolina DJ working a promotion at a car dealership and the ensuing car accident involving the Lone Ranger. The story gets better every year with each retelling. Once again you share Dave’s glee.

2) Then Jay joins Dave in a challenge of throwing a football to try and knock the meatball of the top of the Christmas Tree. It doesn’t matter why there is a meatball at the top of the Christmas tree, all you need to know is that in 1998 Dave had NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde as his guest. It was the night before Christmas (Eve) and Dave challenged Vinny to knock the meatball of the tree. After repeated failed attempts by both Dave and Vinny, Jay Thomas, waiting in the green room to come on the show ran out on the stage, grabbed a ball and triumphantly hits the meatball with his first shot. Henceforth, a holiday miracle gets repeated each year.

The telecast ends with Darlene Love and a large ensemble singing Christmas (Baby Won’t You Please Come Home). Love brings down the house with the song from the classic album, A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Specter. Each year, Paul and Dave argue that this is the greatest Xmas song ever. They may just be right.

(2006)

(2005)

(2004)

(2000)

(1995)

My gift to you is a reminder to set your TIVO, DVR or VCR for CBS at 11:35 PM on December 23, 2008.

Have a safe, happy, healthy and musical holiday filled with joy!

A person named, “Orangepetal,” commented on my Huffington Post article. My response follows…

Orangepetal,

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. My first recommendation for the President-elect or anyone else interested in improving education is to appoint competent thoughtful accomplished educators to set policy. America is loaded with them. American learning theorists and brilliant school-level practitioners inspire educators across the globe.

While I am under no obligation to write any more than I have already done on the subject, I will attempt to write some cogent recommendations for school reform over the holidays. Of course, it is impossible to cover such a complex issue in this forum.

In the meantime, there is a large collection of my work and ideas represented at http://www.stager.org/articles.html

Happy holidays,

Gary

About Obama’s Cabinet
Read the Original Article at HuffingtonPost

The CEO of Hooked-on-Phonics(r), obviously a digital native, issued a global press release highly critical of my article in the Huffington Post, Obama Practices Social Promotion. I would have been more grateful if the press release honored traditional netiquette and linked to the article in dispute. I could use the eyeballs.

After all, I was courteous enough to link to their press release endorsing the nomination of Duncan in my article.

The CEO of Smarterville, purveyor of Hooked-on-Phonics(R) even took the time to comment on my personal blog urging all of you in bloggerville to participate in their philanthropic activities.

I would however like to correct the Hooked-on-Phonics press release. They repeatedly refer to me as Mr. Stager, when I am Dr. Stager or Gary Stager, Ph.D. I did spend nearly 40 years practicing with flash cards in order to earn that doctorate. It would be a shame to waste it.

Dear Santa:

All I want for Xmas is comments on my Huffington Post article.

I think I’ve been good, even if the Hooked-on-Phonics(R) folks think I’ve been naughty!

Happy Holidays to All!

Gary

Inspiration
In the past 24-hours alone, I’ve watched Dick VanDyke (on Tavis Smiley) and President Clinton (on Spectacle) each speak at great length about the value of a rich music and arts education for every child. Both men and their hosts lamented the reduction in such opportunities due to misplaced budget priorities and NCLB. (although threats to arts education proceed NCLB and even computers by decades)

A few nights ago I was moved to tears by a sappy “Mr. Holland-style” 20/20 documentary about a high musical production. I could spend my entire life collecting similar testimony.

If everybody knows that art and music education is critical to realizing one’s human potential, why do our actions contradict such self-evident truths?

‘Tis the season for looking in the mirror and taking stock
If you are a school teacher or administrator, you may make compromises occasionally or everyday that violate what you know is in the best interest of learners.

• What are those compromises?
• What are the consequences of those compromises?
• Why don’t you “do the right thing?”

For 2009, make a resolution to do only that which you know is good for children first and foremost. Who knows? You might just change the world!


Today, Mary Shapiro nominated Mary Shapiro to be the Chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shapiro is chief executive of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). “At FINRA, Schapiro leads the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business with the U.S. public. The group conducts examinations of securities firms, sets and enforces rules governing conduct of the industry, and administers a dispute resolution forum for investors.” (CNBC – 12/18/08)

Yup, that’s right, Ms. Shapiro’s agency should have warned investors about Bernie Madoff the alleged $50,000,000,000 scam artist who stole money from Elie Wiesel, among countless others. Now she is in-charge of regulating the nation’s financial industry. Fabulous!

Add Mary Shapiro to other cabinet nominees, Arne Duncan, Robert Gates, Ray LaHood, plus Inaugural bigot, Rick Warren and it’s beginning to look an awful lot like a 3rd term for George W. Bush!


President-elect Obama, don’t forget to get bogged down in Iraq and cut taxes for rich folks too.


I just found this gem on the LEGO web site. The LEGO Company has assembled plans for turning LEGO you may already own into simple-to-build holiday ornaments.

Download the nine holiday design in PDF format.