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Tag: congress (Page 2 of 3)

Teachable Moment

For those who’ve missed all the shouting in certain circles of the web, today is the day the web goes on strike. At least here in the US, where our congress critters are considering two bills that, quite frankly, should scare everyone who publishes content online.

The proposed laws, as do many these days, have somewhat Orwellian names: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). I mean, who wouldn’t want to join either of those worthy causes?

Well, take a few minutes to watch this video about the many unintended consequences that are likely to come with the vaguely written, open-ended PIPA (SOPA is only slightly different in language but not in the mechanics), primarily written by representatives of the big content producers, the MPAA and RIAA.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

All that, and neither will stop people who really want to illegally distribute copyrighted content.

In addition to violating any number of Constitutional rights, these laws would have an enormous chilling effect on legitimate fair use of copyrighted material as well as the diversity of speech so badly needed in the world today.

Both laws also start with some very false premises (such as piracy is costing the US billions of dollars and millions of jobs), as explained by Tim O’Reilly.

Take a look around the web today and you’ll find many sites have gone dark in opposition to SOPA and PIPA (including Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, and several thousand others). I’m sure many people who have never heard of SOPA or PIPA will notice as they try to go about their normal web surfing.

However, although I thought about doing the same – taking this site dark (despite being a very, very small corner of the web) – I’m an educator and it seems to me that helping anyone who arrives here, by design or accident, understand the issues is a more effective way of making the point. Same idea, different style. Thus this post you are now reading (thank you!).

However, no matter which process makes you aware of the situation, as a web user, and probably a web content creator, it’s important to understand just how dangerous this kind of legislation is and why it’s in your best interest to actively oppose it.

Take a few more minutes today to contact your congress critter. Tell them to throw out this crap (be nice :-) and instead work on rules that support genuine net neutrality and fair use.

Then spend a few dollars and join the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization that has been a leader in the fight against this and other attempts to censor voices and ideas around the world.

Yet Another Useless Sequel

According to the chair of the House Education and the Workforce* Committee, he and his fellow congress critters are “making progress” on revisions to No Child Left Behind.

Here’s what they have so far.

Two bills have already cleared the House committee: one would eliminate some federal programs; another would make it easier for states to create new charter schools. A third, which would give states more flexibility to spend federal funding according to their needs, should clear the committee this summer, he said.

The last two bills will be the most complicated and controversial, and will address the evaluation systems for teachers and the accountability provisions of the law. He predicted a lot of debate on those two, but said there was agreement that the law should not place such high stakes on the results of a single test.

Nice that they no longer believe in the power of a “single test”.

Unfortunately, nothing in this sequel to the original nearly decade-old train wreck of a law will address the real problem. Few people at any level of leadership are discussing the fundamental changes to our largely outmoded educational model that are desperately needed.

Which means NCLB 2 will be exactly like most sequels to second-rate horror movies: more of a waste of time and money, plus an even lamer plot than the original.


*Formerly Labor, which seems to be a dirty word for Republicans. :-)

Uh Oh, Someone May Not Like This!

As the years tick down to 2014, we get closer to the day when No Child Left Behind says that every student in every public school in this country will pass their annual battery of standardized tests. All at the same time. Period. No exceptions.

Which means, as the Post seems to have suddenly discovered, that a growing number of schools previously considered good are now being declared failures under the law, largely due to a few students in “sub-groups” who may not be capable of learning how to pass tests at the same time as their chronological peers.

And we have Congress critters who are equally amazed that such an incredibly misconceived plan, one with absolutely no research to support it, is not working.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re going to have almost every school in the country failing,” said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “We’re going to have to change that.”

Unfortunately, they will work to fix the public relations aspect of NCLB and do nothing to address the fact that all-testing, all-the-time is not a system for improving student learning.

More Crap Public Policy Polling

According to a recent survey, only 21% of those polled supports “net neutrality”, which really doesn’t make much sense until you read past the headline find more than a little crap in this so-called “research”.

The worst part was that the poll really didn’t ask about net neutrality in the first place.  Instead the polling company asked “Should the Federal Communications Commission regulate the Internet like it does radio and television?”

Neutrality is NOT about the government regulating the net in the same way they do with scarce spectrum used in traditional over-the-air communications.

It’s about preventing big media companies from controlling traffic and making sure everyone gets equal access to any and all resources they choose to use.

However, it’s not surprising the survey was phrased in a way that would benefit the corporations that own the wires, not the content producers.

The poll was conducted by Rasmussen, whose work is widely known in the industry as being “biased and inaccurate“, and is a favorite of Republican candidates and their pet cable channel.

Of course, too many of our congress critters (not to mention most of their constituents) are totally clueless when it comes to public polling, and rarely look even this deep into the statistics before accepting the findings and making their policy decisions.

As always, research of any kind should be approached with a large degree of skepticism and some understanding of basic statistics, two skills kids do not learn in most schools.

Heading in the Wrong Direction

States and the federal government have already watered down just about everything when it comes to building a quality education system for this country, so this latest step should surprise no one.

Senators have included in key legislation language that would allow teachers still in training to be considered “highly qualified” so they can meet a standard set in the federal No Child Left Behind law.

In an era when the education mantra is that all kids deserve great teachers, some members of Congress want it to be the law of the land that a neophyte teacher who has demonstrated “satisfactory progress” toward full state certification is “highly qualified.”

Many politicians and other education “experts” have already downgraded the concept of “well educated” to mean “receiving passing scores on a series of multiple choice tests”.

Now some of them want to define-down “highly qualified” as “heading in the right direction”.

I wonder what it takes to be a “highly qualified” congress critter.

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