Tag Archives | Parents Across America

The Best and Brightest (and whitest?)

We’re just about finished jumping through the hoops for getting into middle school–we’ve toured all the schools, filled out the applications, and Liam just finished a round of tests with perhaps a few more still to come. Keep in mind that we’re talking middle school, people–6th freaking grade. Not high school, not college, not a top-secret government agency.  One particularly high-strung classmate of Liam’s wailed to her mom that if she didn’t get into a good middle school she wouldn’t get into a good high school and then she wouldn’t get into a good college and then she wouldn’t get a good job and she’d end up living in box on the street.

She’s a tad dramatic, that girl, and we’re pretty sure she’s headed to a performing arts school. But despite her anxiety, middle school is a pretty low stakes operation.

When you get to the other end of middle school and start thinking about high schools, however, the stakes start to matter. Being a proactive worrier, I’m already fretting about high school applications: would Liam do better at a small artsy school? a serious academic school? or one of the big elite schools, like Bronx Science or Stuyvesant?

Cathie Black, our sassy Chancellor with the larky sense of humor, just announced that 5984 eighth-graders were offered spots at the city’s nine specialized high schools. “These students have admirably pushed themselves and we look forward to watching them succeed in high school and beyond,” she said in her press release.  200 more students received spots than last year–5400 as opposed to last year’s 5200.

It’s great news, right? All these kids coming to the elite high schools, where they’ll prepare to be the leaders of tomorrow by learning how to negotiate a demanding curriculum and a diverse student body.

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Continue Reading · on February 15, 2011 in Education, NYC, Politics

My Kid Isn’t A Microchip. Is Yours?

Wouldn’t it be cool if kids were like microchips? If we could just program them with a few whisks of copper wire, or a cleverly inserted tweezer?

Just think: No socks on the floor. Homework finished promptly, and before turning on the television, computer, DS, phone.  “Please” and “thank you” would happen automatically. Bickering would be eradicated and family board games would no longer be blood sports.

Bliss, right?

If kids were microchips, they would master new information in sequence and on schedule; struggles over long division or how to use a semi-colon would go the way of vinyl records or typewriters.

If kids were microchips, we could bundle them tightly into big rooms and beam information at them using video, or maybe lasers.  We could remove people (with their pesky needs for a respectable salary, safe working conditions, and reasonable job expectations) from the equation.

If kids were microchips, we would know exactly when information has been mastered and we would know precisely when the process is complete. The finished batches of microchips could be slotted carefully into the machinery of the world, a new generation of microcogs.

A long time ago—1974, to be exact—a college kid with a bad haircut looked at an article about a new thing called a microprocessor, a tiny chip that only cost about $200.  The college kid and his buddy “looked past the limits of that new chip and saw a different kind of computer…our original vision glimpsed what lay beyond that Intel 8080 chip and then [we] acted on it.”

That bad haircut kid was, of course, Bill Gates, who with his friend Paul Allen, were able to see beyond what was in front of them and imagine something that hadn’t ever existed.

And yet, now Bill Gates—our generation’s answer to Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison, and a man whose educational path is not exactly standard, whose very success came from his ability to make intuitive leaps over conventional knowledge—now he’s decided that standardized testing is the cure-all for public education.  The Gates Foundation—which, don’t get me wrong, does many, many good things with its money—has offered millions of dollars in grant money in support of yoking teacher merit pay to student test scores, and using test scores as a measure of teacher “effectiveness.”  Continue Reading →

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Continue Reading · on February 8, 2011 in Children, Education, NYC, Politics

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