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Morning Shots

The View from Behind the Counter (John Dewey)

Regular Edspresso readers know "John Dewey" is working towards certification as a math teacher.  Click for his first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth columns.  As always, he prefers to remain anonymous. -ed

Exalted Readers:

Greetings and thanks to my many fans and well-wishers for their undying support, encouragement, wisdom and guidance.  I am happy to say that my Math Teaching Methods, Part I is at long last over.  For those of you wondering how I’ve done, I’m getting an A in the course.  I have not kept secret from the teacher my opinions of how math should be taught and though we disagree, he has offered me this final email message: “I have very much enjoyed sharing the classroom with you.  Your insights and comments have been extremely valuable, and your willingness to communicate your point of view has served as model behavior for your classmates.  Thank you very much.”

There are some positive aspects to Mr. NCTM I’d like to mention.  He has had 30 years of experience teaching high school math, knows quite a bit of math, has a good sense of humor, and has provided my class excellent advice regarding classroom management issues, and other things such as how much material to cover in one lesson plan, and what concepts students find difficult.  Our difference in opinions has not influenced the grading of any of my work.  (Note: He does not yet know about this column, so if you wish to tell him about it, please wait until after the grade is in the transcript.)

My classmates are quite bright, and if I led you to believe they are all dyed-in-the-wool constructivists, let me set the record straight.  Only one

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“Be Perfect”: Ridgeview’s Second State Championship (Terrence O. Moore)

If you are looking for heart-pounding movies to check out over the break, you might try Friday Night Lights, a good movie chronicling the true story of Odessa Permian’s bid for the football state championship in the late 1980s.  The movie does a great job of capturing the intensity–some would say mania–surrounding Texas high school football.  Everything seems to be riding on the state championship; the local teams are just the warm-up for the Big Game.  As everyone in Texas knew at the time, Permian boys did not just start playing football in high school.  Their fathers and lower schools drilled them for years.  By the time they played varsity, the players for the “MOJO” team were competing on a level equivalent to many small colleges.  The mania for football glory has, admittedly, a less glorious underside.  The players and the school did not spend a great deal of time or energy on academics.  The whole town of Odessa lived and breathed what seventeen-year-old boys did on the football field.  After graduating, those who did not go on to play college ball lived the rest of their lives with their glory behind them. 

At the same time, one would be a spoilsport indeed who did not admire the drive of these young athletes.  The coach of Permian (played by Billy Bob Thornton) constantly challenged his team in pre-game and halftime pep talks to “be perfect.”  Nothing less than perfection would be good enough.  One fumble, one bad pass, one missed tackle or block could lose the game.  Perfection at seventeen: is it too much to ask?  Not according to champions.

Over the past five and a half years, Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, Colorado has been building itself into an academic powerhouse as impressive as any high-school

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Opting Out or Doing Better? Real Reasons to Homeschool (Alice Bachini-Smith)

So, you don’t want to homeschool. Social isolation, no peers to learn with, no specialist teachers and no serious discipline when it comes to studying are not your idea of the best education for your kids. Add to that the weirdos you’ve met who take this route, and the fact you would be losing half your income, and the idea is not just out of the question, it’s insanity.

Fair enough. Some homeschooling advocates like to argue that homeschooling is suitable for everyone, right now (just as some institutionalized schooling advocates would like to see homeschooling banned today), but I’m not one of them. I’ve been a homeschooling parent, a parent with kids in school, a schoolteacher (in the private system, in England), and been through a fair amount of education myself (comprehensive school, boarding school, Cambridge University). Everything has its pluses and minuses, every child has his or her individual needs, and every family has its own constraints–money, location, work, the other kids. Let’s get rid of the myth right now that parents have a duty to sacrifice anything and everything in their lives for the sake of giving their children The Best Education. Kids do want a house to live, in as well as the chance to go to college. They also want a life outside of school, relationships with you and their siblings, time to pursue their interests, an allowance. Yes, kids even want happy parents. Misery is a kind of semi-absence.

Families making choices about education are, whether they think about it consciously or not, making a whole lot of choices about the rest of their lives at the same time. How much money do we need in order to live well, where do we want to live, what work do mom and dad want to

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