The Not-So-Free Free Textbook


Via the Technology section of The New York Times:

INFURIATING Scott G. McNealy has never been easier. Just bring up math textbooks.

Mr. McNealy, the fiery co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems, shuns basic math textbooks as bloated monstrosities: their price keeps rising while the core information inside of them stays the same.

“Ten plus 10 has been 20 for a long time,” Mr. McNealy says.

Early this year, Oracle, the database software maker, acquired Sun for $7.4 billion, leaving Mr. McNealy without a job. He has since decided to aim his energy and some money at Curriki, an online hub for free textbooks and other course material that he spearheaded six years ago.

There’s more…

Rewriting History, the Lone Star Way


Via Scientific American:

The Texas Board of Education has long promoted the teaching of creationism in schools instead of actual science. Its former chairman and current member Don McLeroy uttered this immortal line when confronted with numerous actual scientists urging that evolution be discussed accurately in the curriculum: “I disagree with these experts. Somebody’s gotta stand up to experts that are just…I think, I don’t know why they’re doing it, they’re wonderful people.”

This stuff is important nationwide. Because Texas buys so many textbooks. So textbook publishers tailor their products so that they’ll be marketable in Texas. And many places around the country get stuck with the same books.

Last week, the Texas Board revised its history standards. And it decreed that a list of people who were influential in fomenting revolutions would no longer include Thomas Jefferson.

There’s more…

Is “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” a Commie?!


Conservatives are banning children’s books in Texas. This from ThinkProgress via The Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

In its haste to sort out the state’s social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children’s author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.”

Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

There’s more…

Maria or Mario?!!


I was sitting across the desk from Mr. Kolich, my High School’s Vice-Principal.  He was doing my intake registration interview. I had just arrived in this small Northeastern city after a three day Greyhound bus trip from  Los Angeles.

Before traveling east, we had lived a couple of months near cousins of ours in Inglewood.  My sister and I had arrived from Spain, sometime in June and had reunited with our parents there.  They had traveled a different route to the U. S.  We had just started our pursuit of the American dream, when a minor earthquake — the precursor to the 1970 earthquake that killed a few Angelenos — hit in the middle of the night.

My mother’s nerves were shot.  No one could convince her to stay in L. A. after that.  We didn’t waste any time.  By the next day at around three in the afternoon, we were sitting on the bus on our way to the home of a very generous cousin that lived in New Jersey and who had agreed to take us in.

You could say that mother nature and the nature of my mother had conspired to chase us from the Golden State.

High School Stories
The author gets ready to enter High School circa 1970

Mr. Kolich and I were having some difficulty communicating.  My English was as limited as his patience.

He was typing my name into the registration form and he asked me what my middle initial, the M, stood for.  He had already typed in my first name in.  He sort of smiled when I had spelled Jesus for him.

“What’s the M for?”

“Maria,” I said.

He turned around and stared at me over his glasses, sitting on the tip of his nose.

“Is that Maria or Mario?

I shifted in the chair.  I swallowed before answering.

“Mario,” I answered, “Mario,” I repeated a little louder, to make sure he heard me.

He went back to typing.

I started attending classes the next day.

I didn’t use my real middle name, the one my Hispanic parents had given me, until I was in my forties.

I did fine in High School after all, as fine as anyone would be expected to do who was extremely shy and had a limited knowledge of the language.  I remember the American girl, I think she was a Senior, who volunteered to teach English to a group of us every day after school.  I remember the kindness of my Algebra teacher and of so many others.  That more than made up for Mr. Kolich ignorance.

But I wanted to tell this story to illustrate a larger point.  I experienced something else at this High School that made a more profound impact in my life than my encounter with an educator who lacked the sensitivity and the multi-cultural awareness to treat my name with the respect it deserved.

At this school I had my first taste of the American democratic process.  This I remember more often than the registration interview.

Boys had to wear a jacket and tie to school.  Girls could not wear slacks, but had to wear a pleaded skirt that was part of the uniform.  Well, some student got tired of the imposed uniformity and started challenging the authority of the School Board. What started as whispers and anonymous notes on the blackboards, turned into a pretty well organized revolt, with placards and marches and class boycotts.

I was afraid to participate, I need to admit here.  I had spent most of my life living under an oppressive regime where protest and free speech was not tolerated.  I feared for my life.  That may sound laughable to anyone who grew up in a democratic society, especially one who witnessed the sixties, but to me this was pretty daring stuff.

The students won the argument. The uniform was vanquished after about a week of picket lines.  The rules didn’t change for the teachers and administrators, though.  They still had to dress up to come to work and jacket and tie was still required for the men running the school.

I’ve never forgotten that persistence, organization and a fair cause justly advocated can transform things, be it at the local or national level.

I’ve never forgotten Mr. Kolich, either, standing by the main door, as we were coming to school during the last few days of that revolutionary session.

We were wearing our very comfortable t-shirts and jeans.  He had his jacket and tie on.

I am almost sure I remember sweat on his forehead.

The Teacher-Parent Dynamic

Most of my grade school teachers grew up with my parents in the same small town where I was born. Their relationship predated — and survived — my school days.

There wasn’t much I could get away with. My parents and teachers not only spoke regularly, they also socialized together. More importantly, looking back at that time, I grew up believing that I mattered to this folks. Even if my young exuberance sometimes clashed against the parameters they had set for me, their communications and allegiance kept me focused and motivated. And safe.

With my young son preparing to enter the school system, the parent-teacher relationship is important again. I found this article from PsychCentral written by MARIE HARTWELL-WALKER, ED.D. very helpful. It’s all about parents and teacher teamwork for the benefit of the children:

When we’re on the same team, our kids usually do better in school. When we know and trust each other, our kids can’t play one against the other when they find work challenging or want to avoid a task. When there’s good communication between us, accomplishments get acknowledged, little problems don’t tend to become big ones, big ones can be better managed.

Continue reading 8 Tips for Building Healthy Parent/Teacher Relationships

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