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Wednesday: Something old, something new

It looks like I missed the 400th Republican presidential debate again last night.  How did the audience disgrace itself this time?

David Frum and Jonathan Chait wrote separate columns in the New York Magazine criticizing their own side for being unreasonable.  David Frum’s makes more sense with his, “Whoa, when did you Tea Party people get to be so crazy?  That shit is fucked up and bullshit” disbelief at how off the rails his party has slid.  He never criticizes their expectations.  Just their overreach.  To Frum, it would have been easy for them to get everything they wanted out of Obama and the Democrats.  In fact, they pretty much have.  Frum is upset that now there is a universal mandate and other things the insurance companies don’t like written into law for health insurance and that will be hard to walk them back.  But he completely ignores how expensive and unattainable that insurance still is to those of us who no longer have those costs covered by our employers.  He doesn’t even offer any new ideas about how Republicans were supposed to make it more affordable.  He’s just pissed that they pushed so hard back when they didn’t really have to.  He makes a mistake about praising Obama’s eloquence and intelligence that is admired globally.  I think that might have been true at first but the honeymoon has been over for a long time.  Perhaps Frum is projecting his own admiration of Obama since it is precisely the Frums that Obama is trying to appeal to.  But in general, he’s right.  The Republicans have been so obstructive and so whipped up to heights of artificial fury by imaginary injury by the forces of right wing media that they don’t know when to declare victory and call it a day.

Chait?  {{sigh,  shakes heads, sighs again}}  Chait admits up front that he’s an Obama apologist.  Well, you can pretty much figure out what follows from that point onward.  Yes, once again, he chastises the left for actually expecting something.  It’s one big long revision of history of each of the past century’s Democratic presidents and how all of them come up short compared to Obama.  No president is spared.  Even Roosevelt, who Chait forgets to credit with, um, just about anything.  How many people are around to remember what Roosevelt did anyway?  Jeez, I don’t know but my Grandmother would have chewed your ear off if you’d criticized Roosevelt.  Sure, the guy wasn’t perfect.  What person is?  But let’s not pretend that the changes he put in place weren’t radical and transformative.  The Republicans have been fighting his programs since their inception and have been losing.  That’s an amazing accomplishment even if they had a rough start and didn’t cover everyone at first.  Clinton gets the same old, same old that we’ve been hearing from lefties for 4 years now.  What Chait conveniently glosses over is that the tactics the Republicans and the media used to discredit and bedevil Clinton throughout his two terms had never been seen before.  They were so new and notable that we came up with a phrase, the “vast right wing conspiracy”.  The difference between Obama and Clinton is that Clinton seems to have learned how to deal with his Republican opponents and drive them crazy.  Obama has not.  Obama has made it an art to drive his own base crazy.

Then Chait brings up the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and I just had to walk away.  The Fair Pay Act was stalled in committee and never had a chance.  The Lilly Ledbetter act merely extends the period of time that women can sue for pay discrimination.  But first they have to prove that discrimination occurred, which they can now do by asking human resources for salary information of their colleagues.  And do you know what the likelihood of that is, Jonathan?  Somewhere between zero and less than zero.  If Obama had really wanted to score points with women and the world of work, he might have first lead by example and not acted like a patronizing head patter when his female appointees petitioned him for fair treatement.  And secondly, he could have developed a policy to  study, using quantitative analysis methods, workplaces where gender discrimination is alleged to take place.  That would have eliminated the he said/she said problems and smoked out a lot of bad behavior.  But Obama never did develop serious policies about womens’ issues.  He’s going to make his mouth move on the subject during the campaign but he insults our intelligence if he thinks rolling out Lilly Ledbetter is going to work in 2012.

Anyway, go read Chait’s monstrosity if you want to get a clue as to what the Democrats are going to throw at us.  Basically, it’s the same old guilt trip.  It’s YOUR fault if you expected anything from Obama.

***********************

I’m starting to pick up vibrations in my tin-foil antenna that the Democrats are getting impatient with their voters.  For some reason, those damn people aren’t as enthusiastic about who is in power this year.  And more than one reader here has excoriated OWS for not supporting Democrats.  “If OWS doesn’t get behind the Democrats, the Republicans will win and that would negate everything OWS is trying to do.  Don’t you see??  If OWS wants a political solution, it has to work to defeat the Republicans.”  You can almost detect the note of contempt underneath the frustration.  It must be maddening to have to talk down to people who really should be getting it.

Gosh, didn’t we go through this in 2008?  And where did I read that Obama was having problem with less than enthusiastic voters in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio, three states he absolutely must win in 2012?  Wait!  Weren’t those the states he either insulted with his “bitter gun toters” shtick or whose votes he made irrelevant until his backers bought off enough superdelegates for him to score the nomination?  Yes, I think the were.  And then he botched his first term and made all the adult children of those seniors poor when he didn’t address unemployment.  Must suck for Obama and the Democrats to actually have to pander to the base voters since they did so well without us for 4 years.

I don’t know about the rest of OWS but I am unconcerned as to whether Democrats are going to have to work really hard for the next election cycle.  Urgency on their part does not constituted an emergency on mine.  My emergency happened when my company decided to layoff during the worst recession since the 1930s and the party who had all of the power decided not to do anything about it.

*******************************

By the way, did you know that those companies that have been sitting on all of the cash they have been withholding from the economy have been buying back their shares with it so they can give executives fat bonuses and lay off the research staff?  True.  Some of them realize this might not have been the best use of money from a business productivity point of view but oh, well.  Damage done.  Their bad.  This shouldn’t be news to anyone but all that crap about how unemployment reflects structural problems and globalization and too few STEM workers (don’t make me laugh) was just nonsense.  I have become acutely aware of what is at the bottom of the unemployment problem from my own experience and from talking to people in other industries and professions: there is no money.  That is not to say that there isn’t money to pay people.  It’s just that the people who have it are sitting on it.  And they’re going to continue sitting on it until someone makes them get off that damn pile and share it.

*****************************************

Finally, something nice.  The NYTimes did a piece on online high schools including Stanford’s Online High School.  In Stanford Online High School Raises the Bar, the NYTimes profiles one of the most successful online high school programs in the country and points out that this is a growing trend while noting that not all online curriculum may be created equal.  Colleges have to be careful when they sign on to programs with for profit educational companies.  But Stanford’s OHS is different.  It is an offshoot of their original Educational Programs for Gifted Youth (EPGY).  Stanford OHS is the same online high school that the kid has been attending for two years now.  She only takes her English course at Stanford OHS but if I can sell enough blood, I’ll sign her up for her calculus course there as well next year.

I can’t say enough good things about Stanford OHS.  The only thing that would be better would be if these kinds of courses were held in person in the local school.  But even my school district, as good as it is with many AP level courses, can not provide this level of instruction to gifted and talented youth.  In fact, one of the reasons I enrolled the kid in Stanford OHS was because despite her test scores and SATs she took in 8th grade that showed her to be in the top 1% of students nationwide, she wasn’t recommended for advanced courses in English.  Stanford placed her two years ahead based on a placement test and her abilities, not compliance in class to a series of (to her) meaningless tasks.  It challenged her in ways she wasn’t being challenged in school.  Her class schedule is more like a college course. It meets twice a week for 90 minutes each session and has supplemental course lectures as well. This works for her because unlike our regular high school, the OHS teacher doesn’t fill up every night with busy work like annotating texts for no reason or filling out worksheets or requiring 5 different drafts of an essay.  A draft and a final copy seem to be sufficient.  That leaves time to really explore the material in depth.  The level of the material is daunting.  And yet, she keeps up with her assignments, makes sure to never turn in late assignments and her grades are pretty good.  She has an A so far in her AP literature course and she’s only a sophomore.  I don’t feel like they’re cutting her any slack.

Whatever they’re doing for these gifted students is addressing their needs in a way that the public schools can’t.  It’s like they actually got to know what makes gifted students tick and are using that knowledge to correct bad study habits and provoke them to think in complex ways.  They *care* about these kids when the average harried high school teacher either ignores them or, in some cases, deliberately humiliates them.  I’m glad we had Stanford OHS for the two years that she’s been in the program.  What we’re going to do next year is another question.  But if anyone out there has a gifted student who is just sitting out her days in class until graduation, I understand that Stanford OHS is expanding…

Update on Stanford OHS:  I’m really disturbed by the comment thread.  There are a lot of commenters who think of this program as “elite”.  For those of us with kids who are being shortchanged by the educational system, it’s not elite.  It’s a godsend.  We would have nowhere else to go without Stanford.  Unless you have one of these strange creatures in your house, you really can’t imagine what a pain in the ass it is to get them the educational resources they deserve.  You’d think that teachers would be falling all over themselves to teach minds like theirs.  I imagine that mechanics and car afficianados dream of cars with the capacity for speed and performance.  Didn’t you ever know a garage addict who loved to take apart and reassemble an engine to make it go faster or better?  You’d think that teachers would have the same attitude when they met a kid with high capacity neurons but you would be oh so wrong. I have met very few.  Most teachers and administrators make flowery claims about addressing the unique needs of every individual student but when it comes right down to it, they’re more interested in rigid definitions of performance and those definitions usually have something to do with compliance.

The truth is that a lot of gifted kids slip to the bottom of their classes.  I know some of those former kids in my own family and I didn’t want that to happen to my kid.  Paying for Stanford OHS is not trivial and I am not a parent with an elite income.  But for us, it’s not a choice.  Until we start to value these children and provide the resources they need, we parents will continue to cough up the bucks to make sure they graduate from high school and develop good study habits for college.  Right now, Stanford OHS is practically the only resource we have.

I found a comment for that article that says it all:

As a recent graduate of the Stanford Online High School (OHS), I am happy to see the school portrayed in a positive light. For its students, OHS is a God-send. Nearly all of us have a common thread in our journey to OHS. We struggled in traditional schools with lack of academic challenge, inflexible administration, and bullying and unacceptance from our peers. At OHS, we find refreshing challenges that push our minds beyond their limits, teachers and staff that support us above and beyond, and a peer group that is accepting and celebrates our individual achievements and collective endeavors.

OHS is not an isolating experience. Beyond the myriad of clubs in the school, the majority of students have an extremely active life outside OHS – participating in music, acting, dance, sports, volunteer work, scientific research – the list goes on. While being at home on a computer can be isolating, OHS students are high achieving both in and outside the classroom. I have met people in college who went to a brick-and-motor school and lack social skills because they didn’t talk to people in school and stayed at home after school. The experience is what you make it.

I am proud to be a graduate from OHS and will always regard the school as a role-model of secondary education.

34 Responses

  1. I’m glad your daughter can participate in that program. I know GT kids can be hard to “teach” because they question everything and the kids trust their own estimate on how meaningful assignments are.

    I’m pretty sure I won’t like whoever “wins” the political races this time out. I’m not convinced I can tell the difference in the parties by looking only at results or legislation enacted.

    • When it comes to GT kids, the teachers might be well advised to listen when the kid says the assignment is boring. The problem is that many of these kids can speed through the curriculum if the powers that be get go of the reins. Oh, sure, it’s not the right thing for every bright kid. But when you have exceptionally gifted kids and put them in a standard class and tell them to keep with the herd or else, you just end up torturing them to the point where they lose interest.

      • I watched that sad story play out with my son, he is in college now and loving it. I really worried when he was young and there weren’t many options for highly capable who weren’t also highly tolerant of repetitive / boring material and “diligent” in spite of it.

  2. Forgive me RD…I went right to comments this a.m. to wish you a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! I hope it was all you wanted it to be, and you got away from it all . Now i’ll go back and read your blog today.

  3. How helpful to gifted students can public schools be if they are underfunded and understaffed, too many students per teacher, etc?
    And if entire school systems are under the privatisation threat engineered by No Child Left Behind and all the incentives are brute-force engineered to force assignment of lowest-common-denominator busywork and teaching to tests . . . wouldn’t that threat first have to be legislatively lifted before school systems and teachers would be free to reduce their devotion to busywork and teaching to tests, etc.? I’m just wondering . . .

    As to President Roosevelt’s significance, I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee till age 15. All of East Tennessee contains a whole system of TVA power dams which remain the backbone anchor of East Tennessee’s electricity supply system. They are a visible monument to Roosevelt’s New Deal. Same with the trails and facilities developed and/or improved in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    If the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy ever succeeds in getting the face of its beloved Reaganator put on the dimes, I will not use those dimes.

    • I’d buy into that argument except the problem of gifted education preceded the crash of 2008 and is partially rooted in the way we teach teachers. We do not teach them to recognize exceptional ability. And when they do recognize it, they’re more likely to try to stamp it out so that it conforms to classroom norms. I’m not talking about regular gifted kids. The regular classroom generally has a handle on that. I’m talking about kids whose abilities make them exceptional even among the bright. Teachers don’t know what to do with them because they’re intellectually more advanced than their tiny bodies suggest. When they’re told to do something because it’s just easier for classroom control, they tend to challenge the teachers. They learn so rapidly that they usually need to be corrected only once. Repeated exposure to a topic is unnecessary. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect. They make mistakes. But they learn from them much more quickly. And then some of them have brain explosions. I can’t think of a better word for it. My kid has a current fascination with languages. She is learning all of them. At once. In great detail. She speaks French fluently, she skipped two years in Italian and one in German (She could have skipped two years in german but the school has imposed some arbitrary limit on this kind of thing). She has fourth year German students who ask her for help with their grammar. That’s not bragging. That’s just the way she is. What do you do with a kid like that? And once she runs out of language curriculum (probably next year) then what? Probably, her brain will have another explosion in a different direction.
      My point is that teachers and administrators often don’t know how to handle it. They find themselves having to bend the rules all of the time and they don’t like to make exceptions because they incorrectly imagine that everyone will want to do this kind of thing and there aren’t that many kids who can.
      The other thing that I’ve noticed is that the cast majority of teachers incorrectly associate completing all assignments on time and perfectly with being gifted. That simply isn’t true. But this has been going on since before NCLB. Having observed the teacher interactions with gifted kids for 10 years now, I have to say that there are a lot of teachers who don’t understand what it means to be gifted and even a few who are openly hostile to them. My dental hygenist has a kid in the same situation as Brook and every time I see her, she seems more angry, frustrated and disheartened. She was so mad at the middle school REACH teacher I thought she was going to string her up. I hope no one who teaches her kid needs their teeth cleaned.
      It has been a really hard 10 years of tears and Monday morning tummy aches and rage and being bumped back to the regular level classes because the teachers just have had it with the arguments and the power struggles.
      I can’t wait til she graduates.

      • My son was in school before 2008. He was kicked out of the GT program because he wouldn’t do 10 page reports from the SAME BOOK as the rest of the social studies classes where they only had to do 4 pages. He felt it wasn’t fair.

        “It isn’t that we teach any differently, we just set higher standards that allow the students to go deeper.” awesome, I did not protest letting him out of a program that pointless.

        They think parents are stupid and coddle the kids instead of making them buck up and shut up and “just do the damn assignment!”.

        • Yeah, why is it that the REACH classes are always in Social Studies? Last year’s Social Studies class was ridiculous. There was so much work I complained to the guidance counselor. And it wasn’t especially interesting or critical or profound. It was just a lot. There was a major project every other week that required hours of research and essays and slide shows and special art. And that was in addition to homework, every night and extra during holiday breaks. She was doing less in her OHS English course that was much more accelerated in content than her stupid Social studies course with endless hours of extra work. It wasn’t fair. I got sick of the all nighters she had to pull to finish her social studies, as if no other class existed. All the work was sadistic and totally useless.

          • Oh, RD, the sadistic assignments, and other sadism of the system, is not useless if you consider that one of the real purposes of the public schools is, and always has been, to break the spirits of the children so that they’ll grow up to be good little wage slaves for Massa 1%.

            Also, in the case of the boys–and lately, the girls as well–to get them ready for their drill instructors to make them good little killers, so the politicians hired by Massa 1% can send them to foreign countries whose inhabitants have the effrontery to demand fair prices for their labor and resources from Massa 1%. 👿

          • @Monster. I saw an unintetionally sad story in another blog (in an entry that has since been ‘friends-locked’, ie made private). A parent was successfully self-employed in an artistic field, with a healthy and leisurely lifestyle. Zie asked advice about choosing a kindergarten for zir 4 year old — planning zirself to go back to a conventional job to pay for it. Discussion said no academic learning happened in kindergarten, it was all about ‘learning’ to sit at a desk, keep quiet, obey authority, etc etc.

            So this parent who had very successfully escaped the rat race, instead of modelling that success for zir child — planned to go back into the rat race so as to shape the child for rat racing.

      • That’s an interesting problem and a distinction I did not realize between the merely gifted and the severely gifted. Parents of severely gifted children and severely gifted children themselves might
        want to create some kind of nationwide support/lobby group; both to
        lobby for investment in the severely gifted in general; and also to be able to render serious bureaucracy-navigating assistance to the parents of any particular severely gifted child who needs such assistance.

        • There are resources, just not enough. ERIC clearinghouse has some good articles.

          I used to frequent this site hoagie’s gifted just to assure myself that I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t trying to be a helicopter parent.

          I have a close friend with a special needs children with disabilities (cerebral palsy) and she has the same problems getting an appropriate education for her kids.

          Public education is “one size fits most”. The kids getting straight A’s and loving school tend to be slightly gifted so that nothing is too hard but it also isn’t too easy.

  4. The good news is that your daughter will be so much happier in college.

    • If she doesn’t burn out first. Or flunk out freshman year, from never having learned real studying.

      • if you are that gifted you should be able to graduate having never opened a book or even attended class very much. I once knew some one who got a B in a math class she almost never attended except for on test days. She got all A’s on English and History tests never having cracked a book because she could figure out the answers based on how the questions were asked. Essay questions were her favorites.
        If grammar is a drag open a novel inside your english book and read for 40 minutes, skim the days English class reading for 15 minutes at home and you are good to go. What do you need good study habits for when you are that gifted?

        RD, it is not that teachers are not trained to recognize gifted kids, you don’t have to be trained for that. That’s like saying scientists must be trained to recognize beakers. Teachers have half a classroom of kids who need their own curriculum. The rest, the kids in the middle are doing fine, but about fifteen kids need lots of individualized time and attention. It just is not possible. That is what parents are for. Seems to me that you are doing the best you can and have found some great programs for the kiddo. It would be great if you found a full time program for her that you could afford.

        As far as challenging the teachers… it is unacceptable behavior. In my freshman year in HS I was in an honors English class. It was before gifted programs, at least in the suburbs where I grew up. We had some poor little woman not out of her twenties who probably thought she had died and gone to heaven with her class room full of super bright to gifted students. Boy did we disabuse her of that notion real quick. She had a whole room of kids challenging her. We were all “bored”. No matter what she gave us to read, we hated it. It was boring, stupid, etc etc… I don’t know why they didn’t have us all out on the grounds doing manual labor until we cried uncle. We were awful. The funny thing is that outside of that classroom, we were probably the nicest kids in that school. Inside, we were a gang. It was not her fault, it was ours.
        Kids should not be allowed to challenge teachers in the class room or complain about boredom during class. It’s disruptive and there is not enough instructional time in the classroom as it is now.
        But, anyway, you have to stop blaming the teachers. As long as you do you will remain under the mistaken impression that it can somehow be different or should be different in public school. That will keep you from making some other arrangement for your daughter,

  5. As a former bored, not gifted, but above-average, student and a bored public school teacher who left after 2 years, I think about “the kid” often and hope she can endure as I did. Do you expect high school to be an improvement, or more of the same?

    I have a couple of highly intelligent relatives who either burned out after high school graduation, or after 2 years of college. My guess is that you’ve already looked into private, or boarding, schools and found the tuition fees to be exorbitant.

    As a nation, we should nurture this type of student.

    • Even if you’re not interested (laughs), I researched 3 top NJ boarding schools at:
      http://www.boardingschoolreview.com

      I didn’t realize how exorbitant boarding fees were:
      The Lawrenceville School — $48,800
      The Hun School — $44,420
      Peddie School — $45,000. Day Students, where applicable, pay around half these fees. The Peddie School offers Merit Scholarships, but I don’t know if incoming students are included. I read the requirements of some scholarships and their purpose was mainly diversity.

  6. As both a parent and a retired college professor I have a few observations to make about the current state of education, I can certainly agree with the lack of attention paid to gifted and indeed the not so gifted students of today. First, an overarching problen in education is the lack of accountability shared by all three constituencies involved in education. I am always shocked by the fact that parents and teachers continue to blame each other when a child does poorly. While it is true that teachers need to provide the tools necessary for children to learn by creatively assessing individual needs and talents and that it is just as true that parents are engaged in their children’s education in terms of study habits, attendence and communication with teachers, there is one part of the equasion that
    is frequently given a pass, While parents and teachers blame each other, children are frequently held blameless in terms of their own responsibilities. This was not true for former generations. Another problem of course is the absurd testing program that causes cirriculum to be unimaginative and dull. Just as serious is the ridiculous way that teachers are trained today. My own institution had an Education program that focused on methods rather than content. The result was that I had students in my courses (I was in another department) who were training to be Highschool English teachers, who lacked basic grammer skills. As a result I had to spend a good deal of time teaching them that nouns and verbs had to agree in number, etc. Another concern of mine is that as more and more education is turned over to corporations, students are being trained to be non-critical widgets in the corporate world.

    • I wanted to say something, but WordPress and Internet Exploder do not get along, and I lack the authority to upgrade IE or install Firefox or Chrome on the PCs at my workplace. Hence, I don’t have enough room to say what I wanted to say. Maybe I’ll remember to do it when I return home. 😦

      • That’s part of why I want a real computer of my very own at home some day. So I can make all the adjustments needed to make this blog’s blogitecture, for example, work the way it is intended.

        Without Microsoft’s “oregon boot” on it.

      • Home now, but I think that what I was going to say would just be rephrasing what I said at 7:41pm 11-23-11, hence not necessary.

  7. ( The Shame! Shame! Shame! thread is now closed. Or I would have gone there to offer this freshly posted Mark Ames article from Naked Capitalism called: How UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi Brought Oppression Back To Greece’s Universities. Link here:http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/mark-ames-how-uc-davis-chancellor-linda-katehi-brought-oppression-back-to-greece%e2%80%99s-universities.html )

  8. OFF TOPIC: My Avast Free just rejected a trojan. :mrgreen:

    AVOID mysavingsfinder(dot)com. Some MF hacked their site and installed the trojan.

    • Use Durex instead.

      • I was only sent to MSF after entering a PCH contest. I e-mailed PCH and told them about the problem, so they can contact MSF and tell them their site needs cleaning.

  9. Spammy is being a horse’s butt again. 😛

  10. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!! 🙂

  11. I was getting all set to visit Liberty Square’s communal meal today. I went to the supermarket to buy some cans for the food drive and a headline in the NY Post gave me a queasy feeling: plastic turkey time for Obama!
    http://edgeoforever.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/sinking-feeling-obamas-plastic-turkey-to-wall-street/

  12. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
    I’m grateful to you, riverdaughter, for your compelling, incisive writing and this site.

  13. Happy Thanksgiving RD and all!

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