What would Sharon do?

This is my third and (I hope) last column in a series on education. If things work as planned this is where I’ll make some broad generalizations that piss-off a lot of people, incite a small riot in the comments section, after which we’ll all feel better and switch to discussing the Facebook IPO. So let’s get to it. I believe that education is broken in the U.S. and probably everywhere else, that it is incapable of fixing itself, and our only significant hope is to be found in the wisdom of Sharon Osbourne.

These conclusions are based on my experiences as a teacher, a parent, on the content of those two previous columns, one visit […]

By |February 3rd, 2012|2012|157 Comments

Class Dismissed: Even good students don’t always want to learn

Last week we heard from my new hero Steve, an electrical engineer turned high school math teacher, with his reservations about technology as a motivator for student success. Notice this week I can use Steve’s first name, though not his last name or the name of the school where he teaches. This alone says volumes about the prickly state of teaching today where saying the truth out loud can hurt a career. And I understand why Steve might be concerned, because this time he’s talking not about how technology doesn’t often enable better learning, but how it actually gets in the way.

“Now, consider what happens if you inject into this scenario an iPad into […]

By |January 31st, 2012|2012|75 Comments

Hello, Mr. Chips

I received an e-mail last week from someone who is sure to become one of my heroes — an electrical engineer turned high school math teacher. He was concerned about the proper use of technology, especially iPads, in the classroom, and had quite specific suggestions for what to do. We’ll probably get to that in my next column but here I’d like to consider his more fundamental idea, which is that technology in schools can be, in many ways, more a distraction than a solution.

“The problem is that I’ve found that all these things that are purported to improve student learning ignore the number one factor in student success, which is the student’s […]

By |January 24th, 2012|2012|138 Comments

How to get a job after the Singularity comes

That young man with the waxed mustache and gallic countenance is my son Cole, age seven. We’ve been studying division, going on long walks with Sadie the dog, and thinking about walking together all the way across the USA, which would require by our calculation 138 days of walking with no days off. This has made Cole very sad because he’s done a further calculation and concluded that he is unlikely to have 138 consecutive days available until he’s well into his 20’s and by that time he figures I’ll be dead.

Kids have a thousand ways of breaking your heart.

Sentiment aside, Cole might well be correct. He’s a busy kid and I’m an older father. […]

By |October 30th, 2011|2011|172 Comments

Strangers in our midst

Last week’s murder of six and wounding of 14 in a Safeway parking lot in Tucson has led to a lot of discussion in both the blogoshere and the traditional press. Did heated political rhetoric in the media fuel the confrontation? Why didn’t the clearly erratic behavior of the alleged gunman tip-off authorities? I can speak from some experience in the latter case and feel that — for better or worse — teachers and administrators simply don’t extrapolate beyond their own social groups when assessing possible damaging behavior. I know I didn’t.

Thirty years ago I was teaching at Stanford University. One of my students was in a graduate program in the School of Education. He […]

By |January 16th, 2011|2011|118 Comments