I Failed

How will large language models/artificial intelligence change K-12 education? Maybe the better question is will large language modes/artificial intelligence change K-12 education? Through teaching, research, and writing, I spent most of my academic career trying to make high schools more democratic, more international, more personal, and more relevant and purposeful.

I’m sad to report that I failed bigly. The fact of the matter is, except for all the surreptitious texting under desks, the typical high school today functions remarkably similar to the way Cypress (California) High School did when I graduated in 1980. What other institution in American life can you say that about?

Lesson learned. K-12 education is incredibly resistant to change. Like YouTube, surely ChatGPX-like devices will have some effect, but probably not enough to fundamentally alter the teacher-student relationship. One education scholar uses an ocean metaphor to explain the futility of education reform. Schedule tweaks, new curriculum initiatives, education technologies, all create changes on the surface of the ocean just as high winds do. Descend to the ocean floor however, meaning the teacher-student relationship in the classroom, and the water’s darkness, chemistry, and animal life are completely unaffected by the tumult on the surface. The teacher still mostly talks and the students listen.

Despite it being so obvious, it wasn’t easy to admit my my failure, you know, professional identity and ego and all. But the consolation is a quiet confidence that I have made a positive difference in a lot of individual teacher’s lives. Despite not having dented their work environment, I have made meaningful contributions to their professional success. I’ve failed, but I’m not a failure.

And even though I’ve admitted defeat and let go of my teacher education identity, I am still helping individual teachers on occasion, just fewer of them. Yesterday, for example, one of my first year writers from Fall 2021, a prospective teacher, wrote me seeking advice. Here’s how she started her missive:

“I hope all is well! I am reaching out to you because I need some advice. I figured you would be an excellent person to reach out to because you are part of the education faculty and have taught abroad and done things I want to do with my life. I also think you won’t sugarcoat things and you will tell me the truth.” 

I liked that she didn’t think I’d “sugarcoat things”. So, in that spirit of keeping it real, I predict high schools in 43 years, make that 2066, will still look and feel pretty damn similar. Given my protein bar consumption, it’s unlikely I’ll live long enough to see if my prediction comes true. I hope it does not.

Postscript: Not an “institution”, but same idea.

Hold The Protein Bar

I don’t appreciate this New York Times takedown of protein bars.

The lowlights:

“Manufacturers of these products would have you believe that they can improve your health and your workout. The website for Clif Bar shows people hurling kettlebells or racing through the rain; Gatorade describes its protein bar as ‘scientifically designed for athletes.’ Others seem to brand themselves under the squishy umbrella of wellness. Their marketing features photos and videos of serene women writing in journals, with tips for preventing burnout on the side.

Despite the advertising, though, nutrition experts say that protein bars aren’t all that healthy.

‘You can put ‘keto’ or ‘protein’ on a candy bar and sell it, and people don’t even question it,’ said Janet Chrzan, an adjunct assistant professor of nutritional anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Can we trust Chrzan, when she’s missing a vowel or two? Prob not, but she’s not the only one with bad news:

“But many protein bars are also full of sugar. A chocolate chip Clif Bar, for example, contains 16 grams of added sugars, more than what’s in a serving of Thin Mints. A Gatorade protein bar in the flavor chocolate chip contains 28 grams of added sugars, twice the amount in a Dunkin’ Donuts chocolate frosted doughnut with sprinkles.

‘By and large, they’re highly processed, high in sugar and salt — kind of a ‘Frankenfood,’’ Dr. Cutting-Jones said. Dr. Rimm agreed: ‘Many protein bars are really just ‘candy bars with a lot more protein,’ he said.”

Has Cutting-Jones ever seen Thin Mints or a frosted doughnut with sprinkles in the back pocket of a cycling jersey after even a few minutes in the saddle.

Sigh. The one thing nutritionists seemingly agree upon is that we should avoid eating any foods that require removing a wrapper. Guess I’ll wait for some team of scientists to figure out how to grow Snickers in the wild.

Postscript: Is it donut or doughnut?

To Empathize Or Not

There’s an interesting line in Netflix’s new Bernie Madoff docudrama trailer. Something to the effect that, for Madoff, being a serial liar was much easier to accept than ever admitting to being a failure.

Probably holds for George Santos too. But if serial lying is a mental illness of sorts, why isn’t our response more empathetic? Imagine disliking yourself so much that you work nonstop to create a new/imaginary/inflated self. How exhausting. How sad.

Consequently, I could definitely be empathetic towards private people dealing with personal demons of that sort. Making up stuff about your private self, such as I’m a single-digit handicap in golf, is a victimless crime. Everything changes though when serial liars go public and ask people to invest in their Ponzi scheme, say an election was rigged, or con people into voting for them in national elections.

If you’re going to steal people’s money, undermine democracy, or deny constituents competent representation, don’t expect empathy. Expect vitriol.

Santos should be tarred, feathered, and forced to resign.

Where To Begin?

We now know everything is made up, but there’s so much more that offends. Capitalizing “Sales”. Listing “Financial” as a skill as in “I am highly skilled in Financial.”

And you gotta love the 3.89 g.p.a. at the made up school. 3.75 wouldn’t impress enough apparently, but 4.0 might raise suspicion. So split the difference.

I wish my representative was a skilled “Currency and coin counter”.

Why Did Hamline University Tell Erika Lopez Prater Her Services Were No Longer Needed?

According to this book, American higher education is captive of the Radical Left and the “woke mob” to the detriment of students.

This illuminating case study about an adjunct art history professor who showed a painting of the prophet Muhammad and lost her job suggests some colleges are restricting academic freedom to stem the tide of enrollment decline.

“Arguments over academic freedom have been fought on campuses for years, but they can be especially fraught at small private colleges like Hamline, which are facing shrinking enrollment and growing financial pressures. To attract applicants, many of these colleges have diversified their curriculums and tried to be more welcoming to students who have been historically shut out of higher education.”

It suggests this phenomenon is not the result of a vast left wing conspiracy; instead, it’s demographics plain and simple.

Attempting to slow enrollment decline does not justify giving up on academic freedom. It’s a dead-end strategy with negative ripple effects including declining faculty morale, and quite possibly, fewer promising applicants for faculty positions.

Related: Why Some Students Are Skipping College