Thursday, November 25, 2010

Must apply good sense

Sometimes, it seems, when I am trying to lose weight, that a good rule to follow is: If the food is enjoyable and I like it, then it is bad for me and I should avoid it.  Of course, since food is a major part of life, that rule makes my life darker and darker, less and less fun.  At some point, I usually drop the rule and start wolfing cheese danish and pecan pie and anything else that has been lurking in my subconscious.

I do have to use judgment, I do have to manage myself so that I get some pleasures and some calorie omissions.  Similarly, in reading and weighing arguments and problems, such as climate worries, financial fears, political and social problems, I have to use judgment in deciding what I think, how I will live and how I will vote.  But sometimes, it seems that if an article or argument is stunning, arousing, exciting, deeply moving or something along those lines, it is probably rather slanted.  It may be very slanted, very one-sided while emphasizing the need to do this or avoid that. 

Such is my reaction to the movie "Waiting for Superman" after reading the excellent review by Diane Ravitch, "The Myth of Charter Schools".  I am not surprised that Ravitch makes some impressive points on the omissions and slants of the movie.  Whenever I hear a politician or theorist discuss the state of the nation's educational system, I expect the statement to be either worthless or slanted or both.  The writers for the movie seem to have missed several important points.  Ravitch's main criticism is that it implies that charter schools (schools that don't have to conform to the rules of that state's education department and are often operated by private, for-profit organizations).  Ravitch, a professor and well-qualified and thoughtful education researcher, points out that many charter schools show results poorer than the public schools in the same area.  To my mind, the most important point she makes is that it has been shown that WITHIN SCHOOLS, the most important factor in a child's high performance on standardized tests seems to be the child's teacher, accounting for 7.5 to 10% of the result.  BUT, BUT, BUT overall, the biggest factor anywhere, in or out of the school, is the child's socio-economic level, that is, the wealth and social class of the parents.  That factor accounts for 60% of the result.  As a former education professor myself, I say any child may get a good education in any school IF the child, the parents and the teacher work to achieve that end, regardless of standardized tests.

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