Showing posts from January, 2019

Manila Bay: A Lesson Worth Repeating

In a previous post, Do Not Use the Word "Trash": A Lesson On Water Pollution, I wrote, "While it is straightforward to see why floating trash in our rivers is bad, it requires much more to appreciate how nitrates and phosphates from the fertilizers we use can have a significant impact on water quality. It is not as obvious as throwing a plastic bag into a river, but the effects can be as devastating with pollutants that we cannot see." I should add that we also need to worry about bacterial coliform that come from both human and animal waste. Picking up solid waste from a body of water is easy, removing invisible water pollutants which can be more harmful than the visible ones requires much more time and effort.

Social media have been flooded with pictures from Manila Bay showing how people working together have miraculously transformed its trash-filled shore into something less obnoxious to the eye.

Indeed, this is worth celebrating. However, one must be reminded …

No Wonder We Are Discriminatory and Inequitable

All of us do learn first at home, but we get our first glimpse of society when we enter school. No one should therefore underestimate the impact of schools on how we view ourselves as members of a community. What we often learned easily in schools are not the lessons in reading and math, but how we picture ourselves in relation to the teacher and the other pupils inside our classroom. And when that classroom is composed only of children of the same income level or race, we grow up not understanding children who have a background different from ours. In the Philippines, the upper class sends their children to private elite schools while the poor attend poorly equipped public schools. In the United States, there is this fantasy that schools are no longer segregated, but in reality, segregation remains. Oregon's education professor, Jerry Rosiek writes in last week's issue of Phi Delta Kappan, "Like a disease that was never fully cured, school segregation has come out of rem…

If This Is Your Child?

Our response to a question is often shaped by our perspective. Brian Butler shared the following on Facebook:

Point of View -Parents

While addressing parents at a School Coffee to address the issue of bullying and kids being mean to one another at an elementary school,  administrators asked the hundreds of parents gathered two questions.

Question 1:
At this school has your child ever been bullied, had another child say a mean or unkind word to them, and/or been treated as if they were less important by another child (excluded from an activity, looked down upon, gossiped about etc.)? Raise your hand and please look around.

Almost 100% of the parents raised their hands!

Now the school administrators asked the parents this question.

Question 2
At this school has your child ever bullied, said a mean or unkind word, and/or treated another child as if they were less important (excluded from an activity, looked down upon, gossiped about etc.)? Raise your hand and please look around.

Almost no hands …

From 9 to 12: How the Philippines Promote Every Child's Rights and Protect Them from Harm

The actions made by hypocrites disagree with what they say. A hypocrite, for instance, would claim "a commitment to promote every child's rights and protect them from harm" while ignoring children who wander aimlessly on the streets. While I was growing up, the sight of a young child dangerously clinging on the back of a jeepney while vending cigarettes was really nothing to be concerned about. A teacher of mine said once, "Do as I say and not as I do".  Hypocrisy is so prevalent simply because it is easy to do. Doing what is right is more difficult than just saying what is right. We see it everywhere and in the Philippines, the previous Aquino administration is a glaring example. Sadly, the Philippines seems sinking into a greater depth. Words of a hypocrite are now likewise prejudged as wrong. There is a growing infatuation with people who do exactly what they say, and it no longer matters if what they do and say are fundamentally wrong as long as it is since…

Does the Philippines Need a Law Criminalizing 9-year Old Children?

A House Committee of the Philippine Congress recently approved a bill that would lower the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old. Children 9 to 15 years old who have committed crimes punishable by 12 or more years of imprisonment are to be placed not in jails but in an Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center. These crimes include parricide, infanticide, murder, kidnapping, rape, destructive arson and offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act. With this bill, a nine-year old child caught in possession of a dangerous drug will now be labeled as a criminal. Yes, this is how stupid the bill is. Yet, it was approved almost unanimously by the committee.

In an article published by Reuters two years ago, it was already noted that lowering the age of criminal liability when it comes to dangerous drugs is not warranted according to the government's own data:  "Statistics from the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the government’s…

Equity in Education Requires a Change in Mindset

We cannot work toward providing each and every child the opportunity to excel, if we ourselves cling to a sense of hierarchy. When we continue to view people in terms of ranks or even levels of importance, we are not truly promoting a climate where equity can thrive. Mel Ainscow at the Center for Equity in Education at the University of Manchester noted, "it is clear that there is much that individual schools can do to tackle issues within their organizations, and that such actions are likely to have a profound impact on student experiences, and perhaps have some influence on inequities arising elsewhere." Our own actions teach. How we run our schools teaches students. For this reason, equity can only be achieved if we not only teach it, but also live by it. Brian Butler, the former principal at Mason Crest Elementary School, the school that has won recognition as an outstanding model for a professional learning community, illustrates this change in mindset in the way he act…

Advanced Academics for All

I serve in two committees in my county's school district: Advanced Academics and Title One Parent Advisory Committees. And it is interesting that one advocacy may actually fit in both: "Advanced Academics for All", since Title One schools are attended by students who are often underrepresented in advanced academic programs. It may sound unreasonable but latest research actually shows that advanced academics actually help not just in math and reading, but also in developing social-emotional skills, for both low- and high-achieving children.

Vi-Nhuan Le and coworkers examined the ECLS-K:2011 dataset, which contained data for more than 11000 children and 2600 teachers in kindergarten. The advanced academic content of each classroom was measured in terms of how frequent language arts and mathematics skills were taught. These were combined with the social-emotional outcomes as well as two stages of language and math assessments. The results of the study are summarized below:


"Collective Intelligence"

When Jonathan Plucker and coworkers wrote "Talent on the Sidelines: Excellence Gaps and America's Persistent Talent Underclass", they cautioned us, "One reasonable criticism of the 2010 study was our reliance on standardized test data at the national and state levels." Plucker and coworkers recognize that they are reducing the definition of excellence to proficiencies in math and reading. This indeed is a narrow view of education, but even with "a broader range of indicators — for example, 21st century skills or measures of creative productivity" as Plucker and coworkers have suggested, their view remains incomplete because it focuses on human performance at the individual level. This is a major problem because it is no secret that the current frontiers of human knowledge are multidisciplinary thereby requiring a number of viewpoints. Thus, with 21st century challenges, what we also need to look at is "collective intelligence".

We are very f…

Growing Up with Privilege

"Of course, as a parent, you want the best possible future for your child. But the best possible future should include a society that isn't organized around racism. Hagerman's book is a careful, painful and convincing argument that when white people give their children advantages, they are often disadvantaging others. Racism is so hard to overturn, in part, because white people prop it up when they work to make sure their children succeed." These words are from Noah Berlatsky in his recent article in NBCNewsA former principal of the school my children attend brought this article to my attention. The article's title is "White kids, racism and the way privileged parenting props up an unjust system". In this article, Berlatsky discusses a book written by Margaret Hagerman, "White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America (Critical Perspectives on Youth)". The book exposes how "families who do not have racist intentions,…

Salary Raises and Education

Teachers in public schools in the Philippines are scheduled to receive raises this year. Without seeing the actual numbers, this sounds like good news. With the actual numbers, the news is not necessarily good. It is actually bad. Novice teachers are about to see a 3-4 percent increase in their pay while master teachers are set to gain 6-8 percent. Percentages, however, only tell part of the story. Since novice teachers' base salaries are lower than those of master teachers, the absolute amount in pesos for the raise of a master teacher could be as high as seven times that of a novice teacher. Such arrangement is not only unjust, but also detrimental to basic education.

Research shows that providing higher salary raises for teachers early in their career benefits education. Grissom and Strunk write in a study published in the journal Educational Policy, "We find that frontloaded compensation schemes—those that allocate greater salary returns to experience to novice teachers—a…

Good Thing, Basic Education Is Not Under Federal Government in the United States

Schools in my county opened their doors this morning after a two-week long winter break. My son had to wake up early to catch his school bus. Basic education continues even with a federal government shutdown. It is true that some programs in our schools are funded by the federal government but the United States Department of Agriculture says that "the Child Nutrition (CN) Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue operations into February". Still, a federal shutdown affects workers and their families. It affects science and research. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for instance, is not as fortunate. Ninety five percent of its employees are not able to work due to the shutdown. So my children were able to see the shutdown in action as we were in Houston this past Thursday.

The above are photos of the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility where astronauts train. The likelihood …