Quiet Revolution Promo Video 1

Small Book Image
Click to visit the book’s web site.

I will be producing little 2-minute videos over the next few weeks to promote my new book, The Days and Nights of a Quiet Revolution.  This first one sets some context.  When I was in high school, computers were giant machines that were installed with forklifts.  My father use to take me to his work, a trucking company, to show me their Honeywell computers.

Even after I graduated from college, computers had nothing to do with education.  I had no reason to believe that teaching would be changing in any substantial way over my assumed 30 years as a history teacher.

Video 1

Klaatu Barada Nikto

Novelty UFO at the visitor's center in Moonbeam, Ontario, Canada.

Novelty UFO at the visitor's center in Moonbeam, Ontario, Canada.

When I was out in the world promoting modern ideas about education, I frequently suggest for several reasons that students should be studying science fiction literature in English classes along side Milton, Melville and Faulkner. But This was not one of the reasons:

I had a chat yesterday with my neighbor, Paul Gilster (Centauri Dreams), who is an expert on all things outer space, and especially the latest that is known or suspected about the nature of the universe. He was telling me about ‘Oumuamua, the first interstellar object (not from the Solar System) that we have detected passing through the Solar System. It was discovered with the Pan-STARRS telescope, which is the only instrument on Earth that could have seen it. Pan-STARRS first came online only eight years ago.

Our classification of the object has changed as astronomers have learned more about it, ruling out various theories. One of the few speculations that has not been disproven is that ‘Oumuamua is some sort of autonomous space craft, built by a technologically advanced civilization, and sent out to encounter star systems and gather data about their planets and moons, perhaps to be “phoned home.”

Personally, one of my favorite moments in movies is from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” when Klaatu (played by Michael Rennie, not Keanu Reaves) lands his flying saucer on a baseball field in the middle of Washington, DC. Are we ready to meet our neighbors? What’s the etiquette?

This, and other discoveries, have more and more scientists suggesting that we should be making people, our Earth’s inhabitants, ready for the possibility / probability that we may well discover hard evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations in the near future.

Sources:

Paul’s Centauri Dreams blog article about ‘Oumuamua – https://goo.gl/8RhTBb

Wikipedia article about ‘Oumuamua – https://goo.gl/TqDqEt

Opening scene from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – https://goo.gl/CPXLdh

Gilster, Paul. Personal interview. 9 Jan. 2019.

This is America

The place of the revolutionary 116th Congress

The place of the revolutionary 116th Congress

“..I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I … take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

The 116th U.S. Congress dramatically illustrates something that I believe about America, that it is a work in progress.  It is constantly struggling to be a better place to live for ALL citizens, than it was a decade or a century ago.

The revered authors of our U.S. Constitution masterfully worked together to re-invent government here. I suspect that this feat could not have been accomplished by anyone else, at any time since. But their work was just a start, as evidenced by the fact that 127 members of today’s congress did not even have the right to vote in 1789, because they were women; and 59 because of their African ancestry, and 4 because of their American ancestry. Today they serve in an elected body that wields the balanced power to govern this magnificent country.

The one aspect that seems less evolved to me is the influence of wealth in my country’s governance. Property is no longer a prerequisite to vote, but money is a requirement to become a member of Congress. According to the FEC, candidates had to spend an average of more than a million dollars – winners and losers [calculated from https://goo.gl/pz7nBu]. According to OpenSecrets, 89% (88.8) of races for the House of Representatives and 86% (85.7) for the Senate were won by the candidate who spent the most money [https://goo.gl/SJoqa8].
American government continues to favor the wealthy.

Staff Sergeant Edward Carter Jr.

Posthumous recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor

At the end of the American Civil War, 21 African American soldiers had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  American soldiers with dark skin earned Medals of Honor in every subsequent war until, strangely, World War II.

As a child, Edward Carter Jr, an African American, lived in Shanghai, China with his missionary parents.  At 15, he joined the Chinese Army and rose to the rank of lieutenant before it was discovered that he was a child.  Discharged, he enrolled in a Shanghai military school where he received extensive military training and learned four languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Hindi and German.

During the Spanish Civil War, Carter joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a volunteer unit fighting General Franco’s fascist regime and his NAZI allies.  After that he insisted in the U.S. Army, just months before the Japanese attack on Perl Harbor.  Some time in 1942, a counterintelligence service put him on a watch lists because of his service in Spain.  The Lincoln Brigade’s administration had socialist leanings – and he spoke Chinese.  In 1944, he was shipped to Europe but delegated to supply duties, in-spite of his military experience.  Later that year, General Eisenhower, running short of combat soldiers, instituted the volunteer Ground Force Replacement Command.  Early in 1945, 4,562 darker skinned soldiers, were serving in previously all white units, including Staff Sargent Edward Carter.  He came to the attention of General George Patton who selected him to serve as one of the general’s guards.

Later Carter relinquished his rank so that he could enter combat duty as part of the general’s “Mystery Division” and he was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his superiors.  Instead the Army gave him the second highest honor, The Distinguished Service Cross.  After recovering from wounds and being re-promoted to Staff Sargent, Carter finished the war training troops.  By that time, Staff Sargent Edward Carter had received the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and numerous other citations and honors.

When he tried to re-enlist, the Army barred his enlistment without explanation.  Carter died of Lung Cancer in 1963, a result of shrapnel that was still in his neck.

In 1997, Sergeant Carters body was exhumed and taken to Washington where he was moved in a horse drawn caisson and full military honors to a finally resting place in Arlington National Cemetery and President Clinton posthumously award the Congressional Medal of Honor to Carter’s son, Edward Allen Carter III.

Source: Military Museum – https://goo.gl/dQmefP

While Trump Defends the National Anthem, He Threatens our National Symbol

A Bald Eagle

A bald eagle, our national symbol

A few days ago, while walking around Shelley Lake in Raleigh, I saw a bald eagle flying high over the water. I pointed up, trying to get the attention of a group of teens who were walking toward me. Finally I yelled to them, “There’s a bald eagle!” They turned, looked up then turned back around and continued walking and talking.

This puzzled me, until I realized that they are not aware that several decades ago, the majestic birds were almost extinct. Some of you may remember when you’d never seen a bluebird? So many people simply do not know how badly these birds and other occupants of our planet were driven to the brink in the first half of the 20th century.

What brought eagles, bluebirds and so much else back from the precipice was a government that started to regulate the industries that were polluting the environment of all living inhabitants of the Earth. This is why I want to share that..

while Trump has been focusing the attention of his base on immigration and respect for the national anthem, he and his administration has been dismantling those environmental regulations at the behest of billionaire industrialists who are tired of environmental protection cutting into their profits.

Here is an article from Bloomberg Environment on the Trump’s activities behind the smoke and mirrors – 26 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back in the Trump Era

Who Believes “Fake News”

Reading Fake Newspaper

Fake news and the effects of its wide acceptance has concerned many, including the U.S. Army [https://goo.gl/cx6hAC]. Recent research at Yale University (described in PsyPost) has added to our understanding of why people believe things that are not true. The author of the study, Michael V. Bronstein, says, “Some false beliefs are relatively harmless (e.g., children believing in the tooth fairy), while others might cause significant distress (e.g., incorrectly believing that others are trying to hurt you) or may be potentially harmful to society as a whole (e.g., false beliefs about global warming or vaccines).”

I have long maintained that analytical/critical thinking should be considered a core part of basic literacy and that we should help our students to habitually practice these habits of mind in every subject and throughout their schooling. But Bronstein’s study has found that people who are not actively open minded or dogmatic by nature are more likely to believe fake news than people who are open to alternative explanations and evidence that revises their beliefs.

If true, this speaks poorly for the homogenized curriculum being legislated for our classrooms and regulated with high-stakes standardized tests. There’s not much room for being open minded when each question has only one acceptable answer. Aren’t we teaching students to believe what their told, when they’re only told what is acceptable to the state standards-based tests.

 

A Look at Who Democrats Voted for in the 2018 Primaries

Too many of the blog articles and political ads that we read fail to cite the sources for their information. FiveThirtyEight not only describes their sources, but in this case they have provided a link to the source dataset that they used for the analysis.  They encourage us to look at data that describes the Democratic primaries, and draw our own conclusions.

In a recent FiveThirtyEight podcast, the data journalists looked at data related to 2018 primary elections to determine who Democratic voters are choosing this year. That particular episode segment is written up on their site as “We Researched Hundreds of Races. Here’s Who Democrats are Nominating.”

The researcher, Meredith Conroy, wanted to answer two questions.

  1. Are democrats shifting to the left?
  2. Is a more diverse cohort going to lead to more Democrat winners?

Female CandidateThey only considered new candidates, seeking to avoid the messy influences of incumbency. Among other things, they found that women won 65% of the races that included at least one man and one woman.  Male candidates won only 23% of those races.

In fact, all else being equal, being a woman has been worth an additional 10 percentage points over being a man in the open Democratic primaries (they) looked at.

Women candidates also tended to have more experience as elected officials than their male opponents. Such are the complexities of the political game. Conroy also wrote that said that what was important about the increased number of women running for office, win or lose, it will serve to encourage more women to run in future races.

The candidates’ Ideologies were measured by who endorsed them. Those endorsed by the Democratic party establishment did the best, by far. This contradicts the notion that Democratic voters are shifting far to the left.

That said, it is worth noting that candidates endorsed by more left-leaning organizations did not do poorly. This included “Our Revolution” (associated with Bernie Sanders) and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

In short, Democratic voters seemed to favor

  • Women,
  • Candidates with previous elected experience and
  • Those who worked for the Obama administration.

Less favored were

  • Nonwhites,
  • Veterans,
  • Candidates funding their own campaigns,
  • LGBTQ candidates and,
  • Candidates with STEM backgrounds (surprising me)

Eight Practices for Promoting Media Literacy
or My Challenges for School Year 2018-2019

Media Bias Chart

This Media Bias Chart is maintained by Vanessa Otero at mediabiaschart.com

A friend of mine just questioned me on Facebook, “(With) the increase in access to media/information … are people more adept at separating fact from fiction or are they more willing to let others make that decision for them?”

I quickly made a snide reference to recent elector events as evidence, but continued by blaming education.  There is so much about the ways that teachers must teach that actually discourages students from critically questioning the information that they encounter.  We (educators) teach them to learn and believe what it is that we teach and not to question what they have learned.  Teachers are forced into this mode of instruction because schools have become a one-right-answer world.  It is because of high-stakes testing and teachers are responsible for their students knowing those one-right-answers.

But what if critical evaluation of the information we encounter really was a core part of what we teach.  Here are some ways that teachers might encourage their students to develop critical habits.

  • Research the author(s) of your textbook and start the year introducing students to what you’ve learned.  Explain how the author’s background gives them the authority to write such a textbook.
  • Tell students that not everything in the textbook is true.  Explain that part of their job this year is to find its inaccuracies and support their finds.
  • Use as much content from the Internet as you can.  As you present the content, explain the process you used to finding it and the criteria you used to validate the information.
  • When discussing students’ work or their answers to questions, get in the habit of asking, “How do you know that’s true?”  Encourage students to have supporting evidence for their answers and the ideas that they share.
  • Encourage students to ask you, “How do you know that’s true Mr. ######?”  Be ready to answer with supporting evidence.  If you don’t have the supporting evidence, ask you’re students to give you a day to research it.
  • When you get it wrong, apologize and describe to you students what you learned in the process of getting it wrong.  Make use of all wrong answers.
  • Talk about your own interests and the research that you conduct to learn more about your interest.  Practice contemporary literacy in front of your students
  • When you encounter false information or a manipulative message, bring it into your classroom and provide the evidence that proves that it is incorrect.  Ask students what they think someone might have to gain by spreading false or misleading messages.

Tell your students that the world as we know is,

Is not the same world the we knew.

What more, it’s not the same world that we will know.

They (your students) are going to be the explorers and discoverers of that world.

 

 

Two Hours at ISTE in Chicago

I’m sitting on the shuttle bus now, only a few blocks from the Courtyard where my wife and I are staying. The chatter is wild and expressive as is the buzz of energy that this event sparks. Boarding are educators from across the country and around they world. They’re all here to learn and to be energized. The buzz of anticipated energizing will grow to a roar by the end of the conference on Wednesday. Im only here for a couple of hours, hoping not to be confronted by officials checking for badges. Hopefully my deaf-mute act will release me. My plan is to hang out at the Blogger Cafe, a comfortable corner for bloggers to sit and compose or just geek out with each.

At the Leadership Luncheon
At the Leadership Luncheon

My reason for coming, other than visiting one of my wife’s favorite cities was to attend the ISTE Leadership Luncheon. There, I had the honor and privaledge of sitting with Chris Lehmann. To learn more about this weirdly energetic education innovator, read my upcoming book. The bus is arriving, so I’ll write more later. im in and it’s a sea of people, all educators, moving in currents with no apparent purpose, but certainly directed toward opportunities to learn. They’re educators who are not satisfied with business-as-usual. They are comfortable with discomfort. They see technological, social, economic and cultural chang, not as a challenge to be feared and ignored, but as emerging opportunities to better prepair their students for their future — to own their future. More later…

The Blogger Cafe

It‘s about an hour-and-a-half later. One of my best buddies, Kathy Schrock came over and we shared stories from years past and about our children who are around the same age. If you buy my upcoming book, you’ll learn much about Kathy. Steve Dembo also came over. He was the first educator podcaster that I knew, and a dynamo presenter. Steve is also a drone enthusiast.

Blogger CafeThe flow of educators has not eased, even though presentations have begun. Around me, people are standing and sitting talking and learning. In many ways, the best learning at these conferences happen between sessions, in the hall, in conversations with educators from different states or nations.

Much can be said about education today that is not good. Most of our children are being schooled, but they are not being prepared for a rapidly changing future. It’s the people in this conference center who are trying to change education, and they’re doing it with brilliance, dedication, perseverance, and with enthusiasm. They are my tribe.

 

What’s Wrong

Now that I’m in the quiet of the Chicago airport, on my way back to North Carolina, I want to share my concern for education in the U.S. The people who are attending  ISTE, those I know and most of those I do not know are there for the sake of the future. Their eye is on the future. Part of it is the glamour of education technology — all the shinnies. But most of their presence and energy comes from a mutually held belief that by empowering student learning with information technology we are going to accomplish peaceful and prosperous in our future.  It will happen because we have become more tolerant, more compassionate, more inviting of different cultures for the sake of how they change us, and more willing to adapt our economic system to build a more inclusive society. We will predict and then learn that a country without poor people is a much better place to live.

Its hard to imagine such an America today, because the US is led by a man who continues to run for president, setting policies based on what got the biggest crowds during his campaign rallies. He addresses issues on the most simplistic levels ignoring the nuanced complexities of a country with 326 million people, 263 million of who didn’t vote for him.  He thrives on chaos and shuns the serious informed thoughtfulness that is necessary for leadership in this potentially wondrous time when almost anything is possible. He is a bully and he’s a fake.

..and I hold education responsible. I do not blame individual teachers and principals, except in as much as we have allowed public education to be corrupted into a standardized and mechanized institution for preparing future workers.  Instead, our job is to help our children learn as much as possible about their world and learn to

  • Think logically
  • Recognize the irrational
  • Read habitually
  • Learn as a lifestyle
  • Become information artisans
  • Respect each other, and
  • Find their personal intersect between play, passion and purpose.

 

Another Giant Step Backward

CC BY-SA 2.0

CC BY-SA 2.0

If you think that America’s future energy should be burning coal and other fossil fuels, then you should be happy with Trump. According to a Bloomberg report, the Trump administration plans to use two Federal laws “to order (electrical) grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life…”

Further reversing our country’s progress, Reuters has learned that Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels is forcing renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of $2.5+ billion in large installation projects. According to developers, it also cancels thousands of jobs.

All of this while Britain regularly announces increasing numbers of hours and days that their entire grid is powered without coal. The BBC reported on April 24 that the nation had gone three days without coal – the first time since the 1880s.

Sources:
Bloomberg Article – https://goo.gl/noeSrN
The memo – https://goo.gl/1SqfZx
Reuters Report – https://goo.gl/FveFPd
BBC – https://bbc.in/2HrRyn0