Showing posts from June, 2018

"It Is More Important to Be Kind Than to Be Right"

We want our schools to teach our children critical thinking. We also demand that schools promote good manners and right conduct. With all the things we desire, do we clearly understand what we are asking for? Do we simply want critics? Or do we want thinkers? Do we also want blind obedience? One thing I know about learning is that it requires, first of all, an openness. It starts with some degree of trust. And, as with any gift, it is a fruit of kindness. Critical thinking requires if not kindness, at least, respect. In our pursuit for knowledge, our objective is to find the best ideas. It should never be about knocking another person down. Philippines president Duterte recently attached the word "stupid" to Catholic doctrines. Where he comes from actually is logically sound but, unfortunately, the way it has been delivered is a long way from being considerate. The response from the other side is equally laced with abomination.

As discussed in the previous post, character ed…

What Not To Do in Character Education

Back in my grade school years, there was a subject called "Character Education". It was often the subject that had my lowest grade. While my grades in math, language, science and social studies were in the nineties, I usually ended with seventies in "Character Education". Apparently, I did not appear to my teachers as someone who would comply always with rules and demonstrate good manners and right conduct. Perhaps, I was indeed causing trouble. After all, my parents were called once because I exhibited vocal opposition to home economics projects that I thought were simply being used as opportunities to take money from us. I probably did not appreciate the importance of just saying, "I am fine" when asked "How are you?" because I wanted to have a real conversation. While we were being fed with outward signs of politeness, I did not feel acceptance nor even a slight accommodation for being poor and athletically challenged. The current curriculum …

Why Can't We See That Separating Children from Parents Is Simply Wrong

Only 2 out of 3 Americans disapprove of their current administration's policy of separating children from their parents who have crossed the border illegally. What is more appalling to see is that more than half of Republicans are in favor of this policy. Emma Lazarus' sonnet displayed in America's Statue of Liberty has never been so far removed from reality. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Perhaps, we can stand against illegal immigration. However, we do not need a Statue or an old sonnet to remind us that separating children from their parents is wrong. Even research in basic education tells that this is unsound unequivocally.

"Toxic stress damages developing brain architecture, which can lead to life-long problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health." is one …

"Aquino Has No Concern for the Filipino Children and Their Parents"

In the Philippines' Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the Dengvaxia controvery, officials in the previous administration including former president Noynoy Aquino are labeled as “primary conspirators” and must be held criminally liable for “all the tragedy, damage, and possible deaths” resulting from the Dengvaxia mass vaccination program. Scientists from Sanofi Pasteur, the maker of the vaccine, have recently published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirming the higher risk of severe dengue in vaccinated persons who had not been exposed to dengue (seronegative individuals).

The results are summarized in the following figure:

For severe dengue, the risk in vaccinated seronegative individuals is six times higher than those who have not been vaccinated. The Manila Standard reports Aquino's continuing adamancy on this issue:
Former President Benigno Aquino III said Monday the benefits of an anti-dengue vaccine that was administered to 830,000 children under his wa…

"Practice Makes Perfect"

It is an old adage but it is true. There is another saying I got from one of my organic chemistry professors in college, "If you do not understand, memorize". My professor's point is that if one is familiar with something that still needs to be understood, there is a greater likelihood for serendipity. When the time is right, one is simply more prepared. It is therefore reasonable to hypothesize that fact learning is intimately related to higher order learning. A recent study scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychologyattempts to demonstrate that these two are not related, that is, knowledge of facts is not important to develop critical thinking. Here is definitely one instance where one needs to be extra thoughtful with regard to what an experiment is really measuring. Although the title and abstract do suggest that students do not need fact knowledge before higher order learning, examining in detail the experiment and the results does not really …

We Like Marshmallows and We Cannot Wait

Finding relationships between so many factors and a specific outcome is tricky. In the physical sciences, we often have enough control so that we can focus on one element while keeping the other factors constant. In the social sciences, like education, it is generally arduous if not impossible. Thus, we need to be more cautious when presented correlations in this field because more often than not, we can entirely miss the big picture. And with our penchant for silver bullets, we are more than likely to arrive at the wrong conclusion.
A video of physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, interviewed by Tom Bilyeu, has recently gone viral on Facebook. It has been viewed more than 14 million times during the past three weeks. Uploaded by Goalcast, the video comes with this text, "World-renowned physicist Michio Kaku reveals how a simple test using marshmallows can predict how successful you can become." The marshmallow test, first presented by Shoda, Mischel and Peake, measures a young child&#…

What Makes a Good Teacher Happy

More than a decade ago, I met quite a number of elementary school teachers in the Philippines. One of these was a young lady who was also working on her masteral degree. This teacher, Arlene Alegre Inogada, recently posted a photo on Facebook that should be an eye-opener to anyone interested in improving education in the Philippines. The photo, yet so simple, conveyed the happiness felt by a teacher. And to me, the message was clear - if we desire to improve education we must start addressing the needs first. The beginning of this school year was quite special for this teacher because of one simple reason, her students would have textbooks this year.

Focusing on what is important in education is crucial because how we make students learn involves strenuous effort from so many. We require students who are willing to learn, teachers who are committed to their work, parents who are supportive, and a curriculum that makes sense. "But do we really need any more comprehensive, costly …

Are School Vouchers Really Bad?

A study from the United States Department of Education shows that after two years, K-12 students who availed of scholarships under a federal voucher program in the District of Columbia are performing about 10 percentile points lower in a standardized math exam than students who were not in the program. Julian Hellig at Cloaking Inequality uses some humor in relating the above results. He adds famous "fake quotes" inspired by Britney Spears' 'Hit Me Baby One More Time':

“Oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know” Howard Fuller
“I must confess I still believe (still believe)” Betsy DeVos
“The reason I breathe is you” Mike Petrilli
“There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do” Donald Trump
“It’s not the way I planned it” Matt Chingos
“Don’t you know I still believe” Rick Hess

It is true that students under the voucher program are scoring lower than those who are not, but the correlation between vouchers and poor performance is certainly not generalizable, and the reason behi…