Divorce Surprises Tiger?

Tiger last week. “I don’t think you ever — you don’t ever go into a marriage looking to get divorced. That’s the thing. That’s why it is sad.” Maybe statements like that have prevented me from ever being a Tiger guy even though we grew up playing golf in the same home town. On the surface it’s impossible to disagree with his statement, but let’s dig a little deeper shall we. It’s been reported Tiger had a prenup. Why have a prenup if the possibility of divorce hasn’t at least crossed your mind?

And then here’s what appears to have happened. He married a progressive, zero-tolerance, self-confident, shall we say modern woman. Next he had an affair, then another, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another (alright I’m just going to copy and paste) and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another,and then another, and then another, and then he got caught and his goal of having more affairs than Nicklaus has majors was down the drain.

Here’s what I would have asked Tiger had I been working at the divorce press conference. “So after affair seven, nine, thirteen, you never thought ‘If Elin ever finds out what I’ve been up to, this marriage may be in trouble.’?”

In related news (another golfer with Stanford ties), I saw a Michelle Wie “interview” after the second round of the Canadian Open which she was leading. All I could think was how on earth did she get into Punahou and Stanford? Top ten most vapid and vacuous sports interview of all time. And it’s not easy getting on that list. Stanford degrees plummeted in value over the excruciating 90 seconds. Mamas, don’t let your children become Stanford. . . golfers.

Rethinking Report Cards-Conclusion

What forms will the pushback against alternative report cards likely take? Several. First, many middle aged and older people will argue “Traditional report cards worked just fine for us back in the day. My friends and I turned out okay.” Change is threatening. “Was my education incomplete/imperfect?”

Schools should be continually reinventing themselves to better meet the needs of students who must adapt to a rapidly changing world. Reformers should be mindful that propositions like mine will make many older people defensive, but they should not let that dynamic thwart them from making the necessary changes.

Second, the families of students who have been most successful within the traditional reporting system will protest. Good grades are way of maintaining one’s privilege in an intensely stratified society. Alternative report cards should be designed so that they can’t be easily co-opted by the academically privileged. Probably easier said than done.

Third, teachers will most likely protest the additional time that will be required to write individual report cards. Calculating grades take secondary teachers a long time, but these narrative report cards, if done thoroughly and thoughtfully, will take even longer. We need to attract teachers who embrace the additional time as a worthwhile trade-off for providing substantive information that makes teaching and learning much more meaningful. How to do that probably requires another series at another time.


Rethinking Report Cards 3

How might this type of alternative report card revitalize teaching and learning? For starters, it would require teachers to clearly distinguish in writing between undeveloped and highly developed skills, sensibilities, and personal attributes and also to thoroughly and thoughtfully place students on related continua.

The skills I’ve highlighted would also promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

It would benefit traditional “A” students by clearly communicating that everyone has room for improvement, that in fact, we never arrive at total mastery of any content, set of skills, or sensibilities.

It would also benefit students whose natural strengths don’t align well with schools’ traditional emphasis on math and English/Language Arts. The report cards would better communicate that academic excellence is a life-long endeavor that takes many forms.

What form will the pushback against report cards like this likely take? Tomorrow’s conclusion.

Rethinking Report Cards 2

Why have grade-based report cards stood the test of time with hardly any variation despite radical changes in the world more generally? What purposes do grade-based report cards serve?

Grade-based reports cards have proven so resilient because they are a sorting mechanism. They enable teachers, counselors, and coaches to quickly and simply categorize very large numbers of students and slice and dice in terms of extracurricular and graduation eligibility. Similarly, they enable college admission officials to quickly and simply categorize large numbers of students and slice and dice in terms of their relative value especially when compared to something like narrative summaries of each individual’s strengths and next steps.

But as a result of endemic cheating that takes place in secondary schools grades are not nearly as indicative of meaningful academic achievement as nearly everyone thinks.

Listen to secondary students who have been labelled successful as a result of receiving good grades. If honest, many of them will tell you that they didn’t earn them. Instead, they learned to “do school” by cutting corners whether copying one another’s homework, manipulating teachers to lower their expectations and/or routinely extend deadlines, and cheating on exams. In hindsight they often express regret and confess to remembering little from their coursework. They regret that their writing, thinking, and oral communication skills aren’t more fully developed.

If grade-based report cards were to be radically redesigned, how might teaching and learning be revitalized? Answering this question actually first requires asking what might an updated, new and improved report card look like?

It would prioritize skill development, it might incorporate on and off-campus extracurricular activities, it would rest on narrative statements of each student’s distinctive strengths and most important next steps, and it would incorporate some degree of self-assessment. What skills? Here’s five: 1) the ability to process large amounts of information and distinguish between what’s most important and what’s least important; 2) the ability to synthesize seemingly disparate information; 3) the ability to evaluate the relative accuracy and objectivity of television programming, internet websites, digital images, and other multimedia content; 4) the ability to write and speak clearly, insightfully, and persuasively; and 5) the ability to understand a topic or issue from another person or group’s point of view. It would also incorporate important sensibilities and personal attributes including small group smarts, cross-cultural understanding, resilience, and personal integrity.

Tomorrow’s starting point. How might this change revitalize teaching and learning?

Rethinking Report Cards 1

Grade-based report cards are a “regularity of schooling”. Regularities of schooling are those features of school life whose utility we rarely question, such as age-based grade levels, starting school in September and ending in June, and assigning students grades based upon the quality of their work (Sarason). Regularities of schooling result from teachers being far too busy to stop and reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of the daily practices they inherit from the veteran teachers they replace and way too busy to envision promising alternatives.

The question, “Why are we doing this, this way?” is rarely asked, nor the natural follow up, “Is there a better way?” The unspoken answer, “Because it’s always been done this way.”

Similar limits of time result in parallel regularities of consumerism, church life, health care, marriage, and, I suspect, every sector of life and the economy. On those rare occasions when we have spare time to thoughtfully evaluate the usefulness of our personal and work life activities, we tend to fill the quiet empty spaces with television, internet surfing, and related noise/activity.

We aren’t disciplined enough to stop, reflect, envision, and thoughtfully implement promising alternatives to the regularities of our personal and work lives.

Why have grade-based report cards stood the test of time with hardly any variation despite radical changes in the world in which we live? What purposes do grade-based report cards serve? If they were to be radically redesigned, how might teaching and learning be revitalized? What form will the pushback against updated alternative report cards likely take? I begin answering these questions tomorrow.

The Panacea for What Ails our Schools

A five-day in a row “Back to School” series.

The panacea for what ails our schools. Depending upon who you read/talk to:

1) more rigorous course requirements (especially in math) coupled with high stakes standardized exams like in Japan;

2) firing incompetent teachers determined largely by students’ scores on standardized exams;

3) wireless laptops, smartboards, smartpens, and related personal technology;

4) small schools.

File these ideas under “one good idea quickly implemented will fix things”. In actuality, reinventing schooling will require decades of intelligent, caring, hard working people piecing together good ideas and adapting them to differing contexts.

But I’ll play along with the conventional way of thinking. The “big idea” that I believe has more potential than the four listed above to serve as a catalyst for medium and long-term positive change? Radically redesigned report cards. More on that tomorrow.

Private K-12 Tutoring Trends

From an 8/21/10 New York Times article. Maybe I should have titled this post “The Globalization of Tutoring”. And maybe I should put out a shingle in Manhattan.

“People have been pulling back for tutors charging $250 to $400 an hour,” said Sandy Bass, editor and publisher of Private School Insider, an online newsletter. “They’re still using tutors, but they’re searching around for more reasonably priced help. In Manhattan, $85 to $150 is the acceptable range for reasonably priced.”

Mr. Pines of the Education Industry Association said he had seen the same reassessment in the rest of the country, where the average rate was $45 to $65 an hour. Parents who once would have had in-home tutors are going to tutoring centers, while some using the centers have cut back on hours or moved to online-only platforms. He said a rising player in this field is TutorVista, an online education company based in Bangalore, India, that charges $99.99 a month for help on an Internet platform.

21st Century Reading

When flying, I’m often impressed by the percentage of people reading. Mid-flight, on the return from FL, I walked up and down the center aisle. Interesting to survey people’s reading formats of choice. Like fish that don’t notice the water (Margaret Mead), it’s easy to forget we’re living in the midst of an Information Revolution that will alter nearly every aspect of our lives.

Among the readers, old school hard copy books held a slight advantage over Kindle and Nook-based electronic books. I only saw one other iPadder.

The transformation to reading electronic books will probably take a decade. Sometime relatively soon I’ll tell young people, “When I used to fly, the airlines provided every passenger warm meals on trays.” And “Before and after those meals, we read hard copy books, some that weighed a couple of pounds each.”

I’m a periodical junkie, so to this point, I’ve been using the Pad to read newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Yesterday, I purchased and began reading my first electronic book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, by Francine Jay.

Today, while reading The Joy of Less through the Kindle app, I came upon an underlined sentence which I of course tapped. Up popped this message, “Five readers highlighted this passage.” Had you been in the Toyota dealership at the time, you would have seen a look on my face that was equal parts shock and horror.

Stunned and creeped out by biblio big brother.

I could not care less about the passages other readers highlighted. A cardiac arrest was averted by the remainder of the message which said I could adjust the settings so that I couldn’t see others’ recommended highlights and also so that my own annotations would not be factored into the recommendations.

Done and done.

I suppose I should go along to get along with respect to the increasing popularity of social networking technologies, but for me, reading is intensely personal. My choice of material, my pace, my interpretations and internal dialogue. Don’t tell, but I sometimes get irked when the galpal reads outloud from the paper.

Are there really readers who want help figuring out what parts of a book are most noteworthy? Or is this feature a technological point of diminishing returns? Just because we have the technology to do something doesn’t mean it adds value. But again, since readers are free to decide whether to opt in, (awful cliche alert) it’s all good.

A lot has been written lately about the impact of electronic readers and the changing nature of book publishing. Traditional book publishers are understandably nervous. The digitization of music provides some clues as to what is likely to happen, like ever shrinking profit margins and the option of purchasing portions of books, but it’s still challenging to accurately extrapolate and identify clear winners and losers.

I’m optimistic that distinctive, clear, creative, insightful, engaging writing will still be rewarded with large, appreciative audiences.

Class Differences in Tampa

The scene. Having coffee and toast at a Cuban diner in the Ybor City section of Tampa Florida Saturday with my mom and three of her friends. Wonderful Saturday ritual. The topic, class differences in Tampa. One friend, a former nun for 11 years, and now a kindergarten teacher smiles and says to me, “Since you’re staying in South Tampa, you may have noticed your shit doesn’t stink.”

At least on the surface, there’s lots of well-to-do people in South Tampa, Derek Jeter among them. I work out at a swanky athletic club with unlimited shaving cream, razors, shampoo, towels, mouthwash, and q-tips. The car of choice appears to be a Lexus, Porsche, or BMW.

Walking into the club Monday morning I overheard (remember I’m eavesdropping on you) a woman in tennis whites tell her friends, “I don’t get down here (Tampa) very often, but for tax purposes it’s where they think I live. It’s the only address I have.”

No one chats me up (maybe because I look like death warmed over having just run in the Dante’s Inferno that is Tampa’s August weather). Are wealthy people less friendly?

In the four lane pool, one is marked “open swim” and three “lap swimming”. I’m the only one lap swimming, but that doesn’t keep a few of the four kids playing in the pool from jumping into my lane two and a half times while their parents silently watch. What the hell? They leave with their noodles all over the place, but why should that be a surprise when adults walk away from their ellipticals without wiping them down and the showers are strewn with wet towels. Guess that’s what the workers are for.

I confess, I’m a bit conflicted. I like the plushness, the outdoor 25m pool, the carpeted locker room, the showers that stay on all by themselves (at my “Y” you have to punch a knob every minute), and of course the q-tips, but really dislike the general unfriendly/entitled/disconnected vibe.

Yet, I have to guard against painting with too broad a brush. My mom is a member and she is extremely friendly, appreciative of everything she has, and socially aware. I’m sure there’s at least one other member like her.