Monday, November 19, 2007

Option II at NJ High Schools

One of the other changes proposed by the state for HS re-design is "Option II".

Read about one district's approach to it here.

Also, for those of you who want to read about New Jersey's plans for High School Redesign, you can read more and get the powerpoint here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

This video was made by undergraduates from Kansas State University. Though this issue is primarily college,it does resonate with our college-prep high school as well.

The problem is identified. What is the solution?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Elementary Curriculum

For those of you who wanted to see the results from the "Elementary Curriculum Slam" with a little more detail, here are the survey results. (Note this survey was done using the montclair surveys system. As students, you have FREE access to it to use at All you need is your NET ID. It is great for ongoing assessment and class feedback. All you need is an internet connection.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Does it impel some action?"

I am fortunate to work with some very talented people. One of them is C.R. Williams, the principal of Lincoln School. Besides being one of the best "data hounds", he knows more about art history than anyone I've met. What I like best about C.R. is his writing. He has a narrative style that engages the audience and tells a story to make a strong point without seeming preachy. Each month he publishes his school newsletter. This month's column in below. It is certainly worth a read.

Along with other members of the district faculty, I am taking a graduate course, “Teaching the Holocaust” offered for free by Kean University at JCHS.

While I’m gaining a better understanding of the chronology of the 1930’s and 40’s in Europe, what I’m really trying hard to wrap my mind around is “How?” How could a well educated population not stand up to bigots? How could the nation that produced the most famous philosophers of the early twentieth century not defend their neighbors, the people who they have known their entire lives, the very people who lived next door? How could a technologically advanced nation become an abomination?

One quote that has particularly seized my mind is from Hiam Ginott, the teacher, child psychiatrist and psychologist, who wrote in Teacher and Child: “I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians…So I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters…Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.”

I hope we teach reading so that our children can do more than read a technical manual. I hope that our aim is to have them scrutinize fiction and non-fiction seeking the truths that a works contains. I hope that reading becomes a way to expand the world and to fully embrace the people in it. It seems pointless to me to teach mathematics only to count populations or track money. I want every child to grow into a citizen who can understand statistics enough to analyze what numbers indicate; to understand that social policy decisions made from numbers have moral implications.

Social studies and science are disciplines to frame the world. Our children need to approach them with both knowledge and a critical framework. We who teach need to encourage our students to ask questions. They need to discuss implication, point-of-view and frame-of-reference. One wonderful teacher of mine at Penn State used to ask me, “So what?” What she was implying was: So now you know all of this. What does it mean? Does it impel some action?

Knowledge is neutral. This year I hope to help children to ask questions about what they know and what should be done with this knowledge. We probably all know the American philosopher, George Santayana’s words, but they bear repeating: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There are some pasts too horrible to repeat and only education that encourages questioning will prevent that repetition.

Photo Credit:
Also posted on

Class Location Reminder

Reminder that Class on Thursday October 25 will be in Room 1120 of the ADP Center on the 1st Floor of University Hall, closest to the Parking Deck.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Nation of Wimps

A great article from Psychology Today that was sent to me called A Nation of Wimps.

After reading it, what ramifications do you think this may have, if any, for curriculum?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Article: Generation Q

For those who think that Friedman only supports Technology in schools, give this a read ofr a divergent view. Reactions are encouraged.

October 10, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

Generation Q

I just spent the past week visiting several colleges — Auburn, the University of Mississippi, Lake Forest and Williams — and I can report that the more I am around this generation of college students, the more I am both baffled and impressed.

I am impressed because they are so much more optimistic and idealistic than they should be. I am baffled because they are so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be.

One of the things I feared most after 9/11 — that my daughters would not be able to travel the world with the same carefree attitude my wife and I did at their age — has not come to pass.

Whether it was at Ole Miss or Williams or my alma mater, Brandeis, college students today are not only going abroad to study in record numbers, but they are also going abroad to build homes for the poor in El Salvador in record numbers or volunteering at AIDS clinics in record numbers. Not only has terrorism not deterred them from traveling, they are rolling up their sleeves and diving in deeper than ever.

The Iraq war may be a mess, but I noticed at Auburn and Ole Miss more than a few young men and women proudly wearing their R.O.T.C. uniforms. Many of those not going abroad have channeled their national service impulses into increasingly popular programs at home like “Teach for America,” which has become to this generation what the Peace Corps was to mine.

It’s for all these reasons that I’ve been calling them “Generation Q” — the Quiet Americans, in the best sense of that term, quietly pursuing their idealism, at home and abroad.

But Generation Q may be too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country’s own good. When I think of the huge budget deficit, Social Security deficit and ecological deficit that our generation is leaving this generation, if they are not spitting mad, well, then they’re just not paying attention. And we’ll just keep piling it on them.

There is a good chance that members of Generation Q will spend their entire adult lives digging out from the deficits that we — the “Greediest Generation,” epitomized by George W. Bush — are leaving them.

When I was visiting my daughter at her college, she asked me about a terrifying story that ran in this newspaper on Oct. 2, reporting that the Arctic ice cap was melting “to an extent unparalleled in a century or more” — and that the entire Arctic system appears to be “heading toward a new, more watery state” likely triggered by “human-caused global warming.”

“What happened to that Arctic story, Dad?” my daughter asked me. How could the news media just report one day that the Arctic ice was melting far faster than any models predicted “and then the story just disappeared?” Why weren’t any of the candidates talking about it? Didn’t they understand: this has become the big issue on campuses?

No, they don’t seem to understand. They seem to be too busy raising money or buying votes with subsidies for ethanol farmers in Iowa. The candidates could actually use a good kick in the pants on this point. But where is it going to come from?

Generation Q would be doing itself a favor, and America a favor, if it demanded from every candidate who comes on campus answers to three questions: What is your plan for mitigating climate change? What is your plan for reforming Social Security? What is your plan for dealing with the deficit — so we all won’t be working for China in 20 years?

America needs a jolt of the idealism, activism and outrage (it must be in there) of Generation Q. That’s what twentysomethings are for — to light a fire under the country. But they can’t e-mail it in, and an online petition or a mouse click for carbon neutrality won’t cut it. They have to get organized in a way that will force politicians to pay attention rather than just patronize them.

Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall. Virtual politics is just that — virtual.

Maybe that’s why what impressed me most on my brief college swing was actually a statue — the life-size statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. Meredith was the first African-American to be admitted to Ole Miss in 1962. The Meredith bronze is posed as if he is striding toward a tall limestone archway, re-enacting his fateful step onto the then-segregated campus — defying a violent, angry mob and protected by the National Guard.

Above the archway, carved into the stone, is the word “Courage.” That is what real activism looks like. There is no substitute.