Harold Hill Has Nothing On This Guy

I hate salespeople! Nothing against them personally; I don’t like to be sold anything. Let me take the test drive, play with the dials, try the clothes on – just give me the information (the truth would be nice) and let me make up my own mind. So why did I spend more than two hours yesterday standing in a store at the mall listening to a guy in jeans and a black shirt try to sell me a computer?

Yep, I went down to the Apple Store to watch Steve spin his Reality Distortion Field around the introduction of the new Macintosh G5 pro models. I wasn’t alone either. By the time the keynote (ie: sales talk) began there were more than a hundred other Mac fans in the store waiting to be sold. But I think everyone around me would agree that Steve didn’t need to warp reality much if at all this time. Finally, Apple is getting serious again.

Apple’s software has always been great. Even the Big Monopoly agrees with that, considering how much they’ve stolen over the decades. The quick look we got at the new stuff yesterday – Panther, iChat AV, even the developer’s tools – shows that Apple is going to provide the BM with lots more to copy. But the really big deal in Steve’s keynote is that Apple is serious about hardware again (they do that every so often) and has finally hooked up with a real chip maker in IBM and adopted a processor with a real future.

But I’m still not going to be sold by some slick salesman with a great slide show. I’m not buying what Steve was selling yesterday. I’m waiting for that G5 17" PowerBook. Come on, Steve, sell me one of those real soon!

Truth or Not? Part 2

A woman throws a soft drink at her boyfriend at a restaurant, then slips on the floor she wet and breaks her tailbone. She sues. Bingo — a jury says the restaurant owes her $100,000!

A woman tries to sneak through a restroom window at a nightclub to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She falls, knocks out two front teeth, and sues. A jury awards her $12,000 for dental expenses.

Which one of these events actually happened? Considering the number of stupid law suits that have been inflicted in the US, you’d be forgiven if you said both (both are hoaxes). However, US News and World Report and several reputable newspapers cannot be forgiven for reporting them as news (via: Washington Post – free registration required). If these editors are not going to so some basic fact checking before they publish, the rest of us need to be very skeptical about anything they publish.

Getting a Different Head Start

Congress is working on improving education in America again. Beware!

A House committee just approved a bill to modify the Head Start program (via: Christian Science Monitor) by turning management of the program over to the states (starting with 8 "pilots"). The Head Start program was created as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the 1960’s to help almost one million kids from high poverty areas get ready to attend kindergarten. As with many educational programs, you can find studies that support both advocates and opponents.

I don’t know enough about the Head Start program and this bill to create an informed opinion about whether the proposed changes are good or bad. However, there was one thing in this article that makes me suspicious:

Further adding to the furor over the Bush administration’s recommendations on Head Start was a May 8 letter from a Health and Human Services official to all Head Start centers warning the centers against attempting to stir up resistance to the proposed changes. The letter suggests possible criminal or civil penalties if those involved tried to lobby against the bill. [Evidently, the gag order applies to Head Start volunteers as well.]

The New York Times coverage of the bill (free registration required) has a couple of other notes that also bother me:

Democratic committee members said they were not given copies of the legislation until just before a meeting began on Wednesday morning. A note at the bottom of each page showed that the final version had been printed at 3 that morning.

But while Ms. Wilkins praised some elements of the bill, including a provision requiring half of all Head Start teachers to have four-year college degrees by 2008, she criticized committee members for voting down an amendment to pay teachers competitive salaries.

So, the President is trying to stifle debate on his proposals, the House "leadership" is pushing through legislation so that opponents (and even their own members) don’t have time to understand the provisions, and Congress doesn’t want to pay for the laws they pass. Some things haven’t changed in 40 years.

Imagination in Schools – But Not For Teachers

MiddleWeb, an excellent site that deals with reform in middle schools, has published a great essay on imagination (or more the lack of it) in schools. The writer is Hayes Mizell, an activist for changing middle schools, which are still seen by too many as "junior" high schools rather than as the bridge between the elementary grades and high school.

The essay is rather long but here are a couple of selections I especially like.

But if we are honest about the cultures of most schools and most school systems, they downplay imagination, particularly among adults. Schools and school systems do not encourage teachers and administrators to form, as the dictionary definition states, "a mental image of something..never before wholly perceived in reality." If anything, schools are mired in reality.

Teachers and administrators will never unleash their imaginations unless it is safe for them to do so. Schools may delight in students’ poems, science projects, essays, and art that are the products of youthful imaginations. Schools may even relish the imaginative pedagogy of a few highly effective teachers, even though most schools do nothing to help other teachers become more effective by making greater use of their imaginations. But when it comes to the schools’ governance, management, structure, curricula, assessment and professional development, there is less enthusiasm for imagination. Perhaps this is because schools fear there will be imagination run amok, with so many competing ideas for reform that it will breed conflict. However, most schools are far from becoming cauldrons of bubbling imagination.

I dare say that the administration – and faculty – in most schools I’ve worked with would only tolerate a few teachers with "imaginative pedagogy".