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Do Not Use the Word "Trash": A Lesson On Water Pollution

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Last night, I happened to browse through my son's study guide in his seventh grade class on Investigations in Environmental Science. The topic was eutrophication and the guide was asking my son to describe in his own words water pollution. The guide specifically stated not to use the word "trash". "Trash" does seem a general word and perhaps, it is time for my son to use specific terms. Not using "trash" may also help my son appreciate the fact that water pollutants responsible for eutrophication are often invisible to the naked eye. Water pollutants in the form of floating objects are of course easy to spot, but invisible ones, like nutrients from fertilizers, may easily be the factor that turns a living lake into a dead one. Years ago, in the town where my mother was born, I helped the local administration initiate a wastewater management project. The project faced strong opposition and perhaps, part of the reason was most people in the town had nev…

What Research in Education Badly Needs

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This semester, with great help from my teaching colleagues, General Chemistry is now taught at Georgetown with an overarching narrative, a story that binds and embraces all the topics covered. Chemistry is all about atoms - this is how we explain matter and all of its properties. Thus, even with a myriad of research publications showing up every year from chemists, some of which may end up gathering dust in libraries or go unbrowsed on the internet, these papers can still serve as foundations for future work for these not only contain descriptive observations and stand-alone guesses, but have gone through the test of either fitting in an established theory, or refining or even changing an existing one based on evidence. Myths have a much smaller chance of survival in the field of chemistry now since both the past and future are considered, and fads are then easily identified for these are simply not sustainable. A chemist cannot really cling on an idea just because it sounds appealing…

Excellence Gap versus Excellence Shortage

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Lack of equity is a problem different from lack of excellence. The National Association of Gifted Children in its position statement on excellence gaps declares, "Closing excellence gaps is both a social-­equity issue and a workforce development issue that carries national competitiveness and security implications." There is nothing inherently wrong in this statement. However, it detracts us from the central issue of equity. The workforce development issue is in fact less clear since it is really difficult to gauge whether the United States is lacking in talent or not. Excellence shortage is a matter of opinion. Lack of equity, on the other hand, is based on evidence.

The graph below provided by an article published in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning shows vividly the excellence gap.


These are the percentages of students by race and year that have received a GPA of 3.0 or better at the University of Virginia. While at least eighty percent of Asian and White Americans…

Born in August - More Likely to Have ADHD

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I was a senior in college when I was 19 years old. I was therefore young compared to most of my peers. Back in first grade when conduct was part of the report card, I should just say that my rating under the subject left a lot to be desired. This continued even in the later years of elementary school where my math grade approached 100% while my conduct grade was stranded at 78%, with 75% as the passing mark. At least, I passed. Imagining myself as a student in an elementary school here in the United States makes me wonder if I would actually be more likely referred to an evaluation for some condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Perhaps, I would. There is a study that just came out in the New England Journal of Medicine that goes through data on children in the US who were born in the period from 2007 through 2009 and were followed through December 2015. The paper's very interesting finding is that "rates of diagnosis and treatment of ADHD are high…

"Treating All High School Students Equally"

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“To be clear, the Court is not saying that petitioners are not gifted, contrary to their claims. The Court is merely saying that the K to 12 Law was not infirm in treating all high school students equally. The Manila Science High School students are, after all, high school students just like all other students who are, and will be, subjected to the revised curriculum,” the Supreme Court of the Philippines stated in its ruling upholding the constitutionality of the country's K-12 curriculum. Equity, however, does not mean equality, and an effective education is one that responds to student's needs. The previous post on this blog, Focusing on What a Child Needs in Basic Education, talks about the problem of labeling children without actually addressing the needs of each child. This statement from the court is a very good example of how we terribly miss the central point of education.

It does catch my attention whenever my alma mater, Manila Science High School, appears on the ne…

Focusing on What a Child Needs in Basic Education

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Although it is obvious that an effective education must be guided by what a child needs, we often spend more time labeling our students as if skills and knowledge are static. In gifted education, for example, we focus more on "bragging rights" thereby reducing classrooms for these exceptional children to mere positions of ascendancy and neglecting the fact that these children have unique needs. Paying more attention to what a child needs is important in education as an article in phys.org reminds all of us. When we think of needs, we have a specific child in mind and there is no need for ranking children in any given classroom. It is only through a recognition of these needs, how special these are, how these can not be possibly met in a general classroom, can we in fact justify a separate program, a separate classroom designed specifically for exceptional students.


Focusing on needs means less attention should be given to what a child's accomplishments are. This involves…

When a Court Decides on Matters Involving Education

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The Supreme Court of the Philippines has ruled that DepEd's K to 12 is consitutional. The court can weigh on content that needs to be taught if these are deemed in line with the interest of the state in the well being of its citizens. DepEd's K to 12 is therefore seen by the Supreme Court justices as a curriculum geared toward the welfare of Filipino citizens. Such ruling, of course, takes into account only matters of constitutional proportion, more specifically, balancing the rights of the citizens against greater state interest. The court cannot really decide whether a curriculum is pedagogically sound as this determination should rest in the hands of educators, not lawyers, not judges. Thus, DepEd's K to 12 is constitutional in so far as its general nature is judged to be for the common good. After all, who can really argue against two additional years of basic education? However, whether the K to 12 curriculum is effective or not is a matter only data and research can …