Friday, August 20, 2004

Let's Do What Works

Here's a fine example of why so many don't trust government to use our tax dollars wisely:

With help from a $10 million federal grant, the University of Arizona will try to make math instruction culturally and linguistically sensitive to Hispanics, thereby raising math achievement. The Tucson Citizen reports.

The Citizen quotes Ron Marx, an education professor:

Among the goals of the new center are to create teaching materials and ways of teaching that bring in a cultural and linguistic context specific to Latinos, said Ron Marx, dean of the UA College of Education.

"Historically the dominant culture of the country has been western European and English. Curriculum materials reflect (those) cultural patterns, which isn't good or bad, it just means that kids from those kinds of backgrounds tend to have more advantages because the content and the way it is delivered matches the way their culture represents the world and what they learn at home," Marx said.

Educators can take advantage of the way Latinos express concepts of the world and the way they interact with parents and the community to build a better math program for them, Marx said.

"If you build on their home culture, then you are going to have more success," he said.

Joanne Jacobs, whose blog this comes from, writes:

[Some think] this is about teaching math in Spanish. I think it's more devious than that. They're going to come up with a "Hispanic way of knowing" math. None of that Anglocentric 2 + 2 = 4.

Linda Seebach, a former mathematician, describes "ethnomathematics" in this 2000 column. She quotes Ron Eglash of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:

"What goes under the name of multicultural mathematics is too often a cheap shortcut that merely replaces Dick and Jane counting marbles with Tatuk and Esteban counting coconuts," he writes.

At least, 2 coconuts plus 2 coconuts equals 4 coconuts.

Viewpoint notes that some of the best mathematics students in our schools are immigrant or first generation Asians who can barely speak English. Asian children are consistently accomplished in math. I don't recall there ever being any push to spend $10 million on improving their skills.

The way to improve any group's academic performance in math, or anything else, is to find ways to improve their families. The quality of a child's family life is one of the best, if not the best, predictors of academic success.

If families are dysfunctional all the money in the world isn't going to help their children very much, and if families are strong special funding isn't needed. High percentages of Asian (and Hindu) children succeed in school precisely because they come from quality families.

Since we're on the subject, here are eight things parents of any ethnic group can do to increase the chances their child will succeed in school:

1) Get married and stay married.

2) Read to your children and insist that they in turn read quality books.

3) Take them to museums, historical sites, and libraries.

4) Enforce daily homework time and take the time to check it.

5) Curtail internet and other entertainments during the school week.

6) Give school officials the benefit of the doubt when an issue of discipline arises.

7) Insist on high standards of dress and language usage both at school and at home.

8)Encourage your child to learn to play a musical instrument, preferably an orchestral instrument, when young, insist he/she practices diligently, and don't let him/her give it up.

Implementing these eight simple suggestions is far more effective and far cheaper than spending $10 million on programs of dubious value. Just ask the average Asian immigrant.

Hard On Philosophers' Self - Esteem

"In the English-speaking world the great majority of books that have been published in philosophy in the twentieth century are like academic paintings: they show unmistakable talent and are professionally competent, the result of long processes of learning, application and work; everything in them is accurate, in its right place, and as it should be; but it makes not the slightest difference whether they exist or not."

Bryan Magee --Confessions of a Philosopher

There are a lot of people who agree with Magee that the great and influential works in philosophy were all written before 1900.

Here's an assignment for the philosophy majors out there. Name three technical books written in the twentieth century in the discipline of philosophy which, for better or worse, have made a difference in how we look at the world.

Fourteen Questions For Kerry

Hugh Hewitt lists a number of very good questions he would like to see asked of Senator Kerry should the senator ever deign to hold a press conference. His list of questions follows:

"Senator, last week your staff said you hadn't been in Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968, even though you had written and spoken emphatically about having been there on many occasions, including the floor of the Senate. How did you make such a mistake?"

"What persuaded you last week that your memory from all those years was wrong?"

"In June of last year you showed a Washington Post reporter a hat you carry in a compartment of your attache case and told her that a CIA man gave you that hat when you took him on your swift boat across the border into Cambodia. Do you have the hat with you?"

"Could you please tell us everything about that trip, your conversation with CIA man, and whether any members of your crew participated in that conversation?"

"Which day did that occur?"

"Your staff said this week that you made a trip into Cambodia carrying quote commandos close quote. Was that the same trip as this trip with the CIA man?"

"How many commandos were there? What date did this occur on?"

"Historian Douglas Brinkley has said that your journals indicated three or four cross border missions to Cambodia, where you acted as a ferry-man for SEALs, Green Berets and CIA men. Is he right about his number?"

"Can you detail these missions for us?"

"In June of 2000, you told a reporter for U.S.News & World Report that you had run weapons to anticommunist forces in Cambodia. Can you provide us the details of those missions? Which forces were you resupplying? Which weapons did you take? Where did you drop them off?"

"Did you provide reports of all these missions? Did you make entries in your log about the ship's movements? Have you discussed these covert missions with the crew since they occurred?"

"You have not authorized the release of all your military and medical records by signing an SF-180. Why not? Will you do so now?"

"Will you hold another press conference tomorrow so we can follow up on your answers?"

"What do you think about war veterans who exaggerate their accomplishments in order to advance their careers?"

It is highly unlikely that any reporter from the elite media would ask any question of Kerry which would make him uncomfortable which every one of these questions probably would. Instead they'll be complicit, as Chris Matthews is on his Hardball show, in allowing Kerry and his people to slide past all the tough questions while trying to obfuscate the issues by shouting down Kerry's critics with deliberate distortion and misrepresentation. It's as predictable as it is shameful.