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Blogging On History, Science, and Education

Good Intentions, Terrible Legacy

Edward Thorndike, who died in 1949 after a long career as chief of Teachers College, Columbia, was in his time one of America's most influential educators. He believed that learning ability is determined by "inborn personal factors." Thorndike asked why we should waste time training Jews and Negroes the same way we do others ..."we cannot expect different races to have the same capabilities." Thorndike was a believer in eugenics.  Read More 
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Page turner, The Boys in the Boat

If we want reading scores to rise, maybe we should let our children read exciting books, not test-oriented commercial textbooks. Here's a book I recommend for L.A. and history classes: "The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics." It's the inspiring true story of young men who worked hard and achieved , it should send students researching those Olympics, WWII, and more.  Read More 
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ReTeach for America

Every year thousands of teachers retire. Among them are some of our most qualified and most successful professionals. Let’s bring them back and use them as swat teams that go into classrooms and share their expertise. I propose a new organization: ReTeach for America.
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Reading Scores? It's Time to Ask the Students

A front page article in today’s Denver Post says that “Colorado students in 2014 took slight steps backward on the small academic gains made on standardized tests in recent years, part of a long-term trend of flat scores. . .” Umm, you bet. We’ve been doing the same thing for a long time. Teaching reading with expensive textbooks that no one would choose to read.  Read More 
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Summer Reading

Mostly I read nonfiction, for two reasons: it's essential for the work I do. And I like reading about the real world. But once in a while I wander. This summer I've dined on a smorgasbord of books. Most recently a terrific novel by Anthony Doerr, "The Light You Cannot See." It's a World War II tale and, no question, novels at their best heighten and help explain the real world. This does both. For those of you teaching WWII, I especially recommend it.  Read More 
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Scandal in LA Schools

See: LAEP NewsBlast 9.3.14, newsblast@laep.org. It' tells the story of what amounts to insider trading in school materials and technology. This, an iceberg's tip, is a story that, with variations is pertinent to schools across the country. School materials are costly, adoptions are ripe for exploitation. The system as we have it doesn't work. Our schools are filled with expensive books and programs that have failed our children. Why? Because of the big money involved. Can the system be fixed? Easily. Just stop the one-publisher-provides all huge adoptions. Why can't each teacher in a school district chose his/her own materials from an approved list?  Read More 
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Genetics and biology for readers like me

As an investigative reporter I usually got to pick my subjects and then it was up to me to do something with them. As an author I've been doing the same thing: writing about subjects that I want to know more about. First it was American history, then physics, now it is biology. Each time, it has seemed as if I'd fallen down Alice's rabbit hole into a world of fascinations. Right now, it's genetics and evolutionary biology that have me in their thrall. I'm convinced that reading (and then writing) about serious subjects is a key to breaking the literacy glitch in some of our schools. Who wants to read easy stuff? Read More 
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