Here’s the top five articles, books, websites, etc., that we’ve been reading or thinking about the past week. Let us know your thoughts on any/all of them. In addition, if you have items you’d like us to consider for the top five, add them in the comments or send them to Tom or Mike.
1. Duncan Urges ‘Revolutionary Change’ in Nation’s Teacher-Training Programs (Kelly Field, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 21, 2009): Do you agree with the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who recently called attention to the nation’s colleges of education for
doing a “mediocre job” of preparing teachers for “the realities of the 21st-century classroom” and need “revolutionary change—not evolutionary tinkering” … [and being] the “neglected stepchild” of higher education.
2. Beam Me to the Faculty Senate: Videoconferencing proves useful on campuses (Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 18, 2009). So we’re moving in the direction of less and less real presence, not just in the classroom (where increasing numbers of large lectures can be downloaded at some non-virtual campuses) but also among those who lead educational institutions. Tom has observed a lot of road time from campuses in the Penn State University educational system to State College. Yes, he’s wondered about the necessities of these trips. But what happens when people only get to know one-another or receive training/supervision through videoconferencing, even if it is virtual face-to-face? Of course, it’s better than no communication or only older forms of communication such as written or teleconferencing, isn’t it?
3. For Decades, Puzzling People With Mathematics (John Tierney, NY Times, October 19, 2009): How many of you have enjoyed the recreational mathematics of Martin Gardner, who turned 95 on October 21? Did you know that in 1956, when Gardner at the age of 42 started a monthly column on recreational mathematics for Scientific American, he had never taken a math course beyond high school and that he’s made his trade by researching/re-publishing puzzles developed by others?
According to Ronald Graham, a mathematician at the University of California, San Diego,“Many have tried to emulate him; no one has succeeded. … Martin has turned thousands of children into mathematicians, and thousands of mathematicians into children.”
Where does Gardner believe the pleasure of recreational mathematics come from? “Evolution has developed the brain’s ability to solve puzzles, and at the same time has produced in our brain a pleasure of solving problems.”
4. Remember the tossing around of mild dementia in relationship to Francis Collins? For those interested in learning more about dementia, take some to read/consider Treating Dementia, but Overlooking Its Physical Toll (Tara Parker-Pope, NY Times, October 20, 2009). The article begins:
Dementia is often viewed as a disease of the mind, an illness that erases treasured memories but leaves the body intact.
But dementia is a physical illness, too — a progressive, terminal disease that shuts down the body as it attacks the brain. Although the early stages can last for years, the life expectancy of a patient with advanced dementia is similar to that of a patient with advanced cancer. …
5. On Wednesday night, I [Tom] started reading Anne Rice’s Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008). I have desired to learn about Rice’s spiritual journal, so the numerous comments regarding education come as an unexpected bonus feature. Below’s an excerpt of Rice’s reflections on elementary education and learning how to read. More of her comments on education in another post. Anyone have a similar experience or fear of education?
When I went to school and began to read, I lost an immense world of image, color, and intricate connections, but undoubtedly I retained more than I lost.I gained in school a poor understanding of things through written text. School was when excruciating boredom and anger and frustration really began for me. The mystery and calm of the early years were destroyed by school. School was torture. School was like being in jail. It was captivity and torment and failure.
But what remained forever, what continued, was the sense of God and His Presence, of His embracing awareness of all we said and did and wanted and failed to do, and of His love. School couldn’t destroy that faith. And alongside it, I retained the sense that the world was an interesting creative place, especially if one could get out of school (p.30).