Borderland (bôr'dər-lănd') n. Located on or near a frontier. An indeterminate area or condition. Sat, 09 Jun 2012 04:46:57 +0000 en hourly 1 Teachers are people, too, my friend. Sat, 09 Jun 2012 04:46:57 +0000 Doug Noon Remember this?

Responding to a question from an audience member as to why Social Security should be included in deficit talks when it doesn’t add to the deficit, Romney drifted into a defense of corporate rights.

“Corporations are people, my friend,” he said. “Of course they are.”

Fast forward to today:

Romney said in Iowa that Obama “wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

The word “people” is problematic, apparently.

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Levon Helm Thu, 19 Apr 2012 06:59:48 +0000 Doug Noon

Charles Pierce:

It was what they were all about, Levon and the rest of The Band, in 1968, when the country was coming apart at the seams. Nothing was holding, least of all Mr. Yeats’s center. There were tanks in Prague and there was blood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. The traditional American values of home and family and neighborhood were being fashioned into cheap weapons to use against the people who saw the death and gore as the deepest kind of betrayal of the ideals that made those values worth a damn in the first place. The music was disparate and fragmented; the Beatles were producing masterpieces that they couldn’t or wouldn’t take on the road. Brian Wilson was long gone, spelunking through the canyons of what was left of his mind. Jim Morrison, that tinpot fraud, was mixing bullshit politics with kindergarten Freudian mumbo-jumbo and his band didn’t even have a damn bass player. Elsewhere, there was torpid, silly psychedelia. The British were sort of holding it together, but, in America, even soul was coming apart. Nothing seemed rooted. Nothing abided. Nothing seemed to come from anything else. The whole country was bleeding from wounds nobody could find.

Pierce’s magnificent tribute to what he calls the “true Voice of America” was inspired by an announcement on Levon Helm’s website that he is in the final stages of his battle with cancer.

A little more from Charles Pierce:

It was a summoning of the idea of the American community, which has never been about conformity, either to fashion or to the politics of the moment. And, if you didn’t get the point, there were some sly hints on the record that pointed you back towards what was important, that made you realize that there was an America worth the effort of finding, that there was a country to which it was worth coming home.

Read more

Thank you, Charles. And thank you, Levon Helm, for your music, your voice. You know it’s never been easy. We’ll do our best.

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Search for Meaning Mon, 09 Apr 2012 01:34:55 +0000 Doug Noon

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more “successful” people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.
- David W. Orr

The main work of the teacher, I believe, is to recognize those peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers, and to assist them in their efforts to attain their most noble ambitions. And this is not necessarily about career or college readiness, or data-driven lesson planning.

Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, and Nazi concentration camp survivor, believed that an individual’s primary motivational drive is the search for meaning.

The clip below is from a lecture Frankl gave in 1972. In it, he expresses what he claims is the “most apt maxim and motto for any psychotherapeutic activity.”

“If we take man as he is, we make him worse. But if we take man as what he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be.”

Common Core, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind – all are standards-based afflictions that are dragging us into the pits.

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Pavement Ends. Travel Strongly Fri, 30 Mar 2012 06:38:43 +0000 Doug Noon Hazardous Conditions

It’s been a while. Very briefly… we’ve got union contract problems this year – and I volunteered to be a building rep. After bargaining for more than a year, we’ve officially come to an impasse. Aggravating. And time-sucking. Additionally, I’ve got a classroom full of 12-year-old attitudes. At night, I flop on the couch and try to hold my eyes open wide enough to read.

An important part of my personal program is that I run or ski every day to keep sane and steady. The weather is getting warmer – up in the 40′s (F) and gloriously sunny the last two days. And there is still a hell of a lot of snow to watch melt. It’s invigorating. My favorite time of year to be outside.

We had our spring break a couple of weeks ago, and my son and I went down to Girdwood with our snowboards. We stayed at the resort, and were lucky enough to be there for a big snowstorm. Two feet of powder fell overnight, the most I’d ever been in. The best thing, for me, was that the falling didn’t hurt. Unfortunately, all I could do was fall. And getting back up in that much snow is murder when you end up with your butt lower than your snowboard-encumbered feet. Stuck. Which is why I quit the slopes early each day, and went running instead of snowboarding. I can stand only so much humiliation.

I ran on the Cat Trail and the Winner Creek Trail with my snowshoes a couple of days. But toward the end of the week I was up for something a little easier, so I ran down along the bike path to Crow Creek Road and turned up there, not sure what I’d find this time of year. At least it was a road! Turns out that it’s not officially plowed past the first half mile, but someone has done a fabulous job of opening a single lane beyond the State Maintenance Ends sign.

It was kinda funny, I saw a Hazardous Road Conditions sign, but the snow blocked my view of the bottom of it, so I only read the Travel Strongly part. I thought, Cool! But a little strange. DOT does not usually encourage aggressive adventure travel. I forged on. After all, I was a runner! And this is Alaska. We travel strongly! It was a beautiful sunny day. The footing was smooth. It was quiet and peaceful. I ran up the road for about 15 minutes before I decided to turn around. Really, really, a nice break from the wacky powder frenzy up on the mountain. I ran back to the hotel and soaked in the hot tub. It was a good hour and a quarter run.

The next day I did the same thing. But I got a better look at that sign, and I realized that with the part I didn’t see the day before, it actually said, Travel Strongly Discouraged. It was a WARNING, not a recommendation to proceed with fortitude. Ah! Figures. Still, I had another good run.

But I started thinking how odd it is that the state puts up these Pavement Ends signs, and No Maintenance Sept-May, and they warn people against going there. But with schools, the state flat-funds the education budget and expects us to Deal With It. We don’t even get a sign. Instead, we just get tests, “tougher” standards, and a bunch of flack. I liked the idea of a sign that says Travel Strongly, even though it’d be better to not have to navigate the piles of obstacles that come with having too few resources and too many useless policy directives. Why do they pretend they can improve schools by allocating fewer resources, but with roads, they warn people off of them when they’re unmaintained?

Other signs I’d like to see:

Attacking Teachers Attacks My Future

Protesting Scott Walker

I may sometimes be absent. But I’m not gone.

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Reframing Ruby Payne Mon, 09 Jan 2012 04:49:47 +0000 Doug Noon i want change

I read Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty before our day-long professional development meeting, and like Anita Bohn, writing for Rethinking Schools, I didn’t know whether to laugh at the stupidity or to rage at the offensive stereotyping of people in poverty. For example, a few of Payne’s 18 “hidden rules” for surviving in poverty (p. 38):

  • I know which grocery stores’ garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food
  • I know how to get someone out of jail.
  • I know how to get a gun, even if I have a police record.
  • I know how to live without electricity and a phone.

Mostly, I was irritated that I would be required to spend a day listening to comic book scenarios, stereotyped bad guys, and make-believe solutions to real problems. In her Rethinking Schools piece, Anita Bohn remarked, “I am still hard pressed to understand why ideas like this have made Payne the hottest speaker/trainer on poverty on the public school circuit today.”

I’d suggest, simply, that Payne’s appeal for teachers and education reformers is the same as Batman’s mythical superhero storybook appeal: A community faces extraordinary challenges which regular institutions fail to address, and a hero steps forward promising to restore order and harmony for the general good. It’s very simple! Find a villain, characterize the threat by deploying stereotypes that ring true for a worried middle-class person’s biases, and suggest a few self-evident solutions. BAM! BANG! A modern myth.

I voiced my frustrations with the book at our meeting before the presenter arrived when we were doing a brief book talk, jigsaw style. My group was chosen to summarize chapter one. All of the people in my particular group had read the book and found it offensive in various ways. We had a pretty animated discussion, and they asked me to be the spokesman. “I’m speaking for the (otherwise all women) group,” I said, because I am a man, and we are better at public speaking than women. Men have more physical resources with our louder voices, and we have more emotional resources due to our assertiveness. We are also more accustomed to being in charge. We have a culture of leadership, you might say.” I had everyone’s attention, mostly smiling.

Payne builds a case for poverty being about more than just economic need, I said, because she wants teachers to take a measure of responsibility for remedying their condition. She presents us with several case studies of supposedly real people in order to exemplify the problems that poor people face, and along the way she tosses out numerous gross generalizations about what she calls a “culture of poverty” and the moral failures inherent in this entire class of people. As in, “The poor simply see jail as a part of life and not necessarily always bad” (p. 22). Or, “And one of the rules for generational poverty for women is this: you may need to use your body for survival” (p. 24).

It disturbed to me that this so-called training was required as part of our professional development. As far as the hidden rules go, I said, what we really need to think about is whether we want to try to fit kids into a sick society or whether we want to work to make the world a better place for them to live.

Ruby Payne on her website and in her workshop handout, describes the research base for her book:

A Framework for Understanding Poverty is a cognitive study that looks at the thinking or mindsets created by environments. It is a naturalistic inquiry based upon a convenience sample. The inquiry occurred from being involved for 32 years with a neighborhood in generational poverty. This neighborhood comprised 50–70 people (counts changed based upon situation, death, and mobility), mostly white. From that, an in‐depth disciplinary analysis of the research was undertaken to explain the behaviors. It does not qualify as “research” against university standards because it does not have a clean

Translation: Ruby Payne made all of this up. It isn’t worth a damn thing, and nobody with any credibility pays any attention to it.

Even with the disclaimer, I cringed when the presenter, who enthusiastically called herself The Billy Graham of Ruby Payne quoted this mind-boggling little hypothetical chain of causality regarding language and cognition as if it was gospel, from Chapter 8, Instruction and Improving Achievement:

If an individual depends upon a random, episodic story structure for memory patterns, lives in an unpredictable environment, and has not developed the ability to plan, then …

If an individual cannot plan, he/she cannot predict:

If an individual cannot predict, he/she cannot identify cause and effect.

If an individual cannot identify cause and effect, he/she cannot identify consequence.

If an individual cannot identify consequence, he/she cannot control impulsivity.

If an individual cannot control impulsivity, he/she has an inclination toward criminal behavior (p.90).

Outrageous! With all of those italicized phrases, I should mention something about what is known as the deficit model. Payne explains (p. 169-176 ) why her approach does not employ a deficit model, even though she says, “When individuals in poverty encounter the middle-class world of work, school, and other institutions, they do not have all the assets necessary to survive in that environment because what is needed there are proactive, abstract, and verbal skills.” She uses the glass half empty/half full metaphor, and calls her “framework for building resources” a way to fill up the glass (p. 173). Even though she calls her approach, The Additive Model, she nonetheless tries to create a rationale for becoming a glass-filler, to implement what Martin Haberman called the Pedagogy of Poverty, which merely preserves the status quo.

Ironic, isn’t it, that “standards-based education reform” applies to curriculum and testing, but not to staff development? “Accountability” is for teachers, I suppose, and not for hired consultants.What we’re seeing is a good example of regulatory capture, in which private interests have hamstrung public institutions with crippling rules, encouraging businesses to contaminate the environment with worthless and even harmful products. Ruby Payne’s framework is a toxic waste.

Many thanks to Paul Gorski for his critical perspective on issues of poverty and social class in education.

Note: this post was slightly edited from an earlier version.

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