I scanned the article with only passing interest until I saw his name1. It was one of those ‘home town boy makes good’ features about a California native son, who had fashioned a brilliant business plan to save an area hospital and whose beneficence had significantly impacted his entire community. When I saw the name Sam Davis attached to this wealthy benefactor, I almost fainted.
Author Archive: Karmi Gross
Socrates was not talking about public school education when he declared, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. However, as we mark National Charter Schools Week, Socrates words become as relevant today as they were more than two thousand years ago.
I think of the above quote as national attention is focused this week on the benefit of charter schools. As is always the case, arguments – good arguments – are heard at either end of the ongoing debate. Are charter schools the answer to what ails the public school system, or a misguided attempt at undermining the foundations of public education in western society?
Unfortunately, the walk from the hospital to the school was a short one. It left me little time to consider what I was going to say to my students. How was I going to tell them that the mother of one of their classmates had just passed away? These sixth graders had shared the pain of their close friend over the months of his mother’s debilitating illness and now were going to have to deal with the terrible and tragic loss.
The nation has been rocked by yet another cheating scandal. Former Atlanta superintendent of schools Beverly Hall, along with 35 teachers, principals and others, were recently indicted for racketeering. The indictment alleges that these teachers, principals and test administrators, either under Hall’s explicit direction, or thanks to a climate that endorsed such behavior, altered the results of hundreds, if not thousands of standardized tests given to Atlanta’s public school children.
Well, if he wanted to make a statement about education standards, he definitely hit the mark. Last month, Dr. Ben Carson, the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, was asked to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. In attendance was President Barak Obama, as well as many senior members of the President’s cabinet.
The title of the short CBS report caught my eye: ‘Faith in Humanity Restored’. As one who is always looking to restore my faith in humanity, I thought it was well worth the few minutes it took to watch. And, at least at first, I was not disappointed.
As a school principal for nearly 20 years I played almost every role, as all administrators do. However, there was one role I relished the most. Surprisingly, it was not my position as head of school, coordinator of curriculum or community leader that was to become my legacy, but rather my talent as a captivating storyteller.
I’m not sure they really needed a study for this, but they did one anyway. That’s what government grants are for. And while the results can be interpreted in various ways – as is almost always the case – they do warrant serious consideration.
The purpose of the study was to examine the growing literature that addresses the issue of the effects of teacher gender roles on student performance. While it would be absurd to argue that either women are naturally better teachers than men, or vice versa, the point of current research is to clarify if students of one gender will achieve more with a male or female instructor.
We are all well aware of the fact that if we want to figure out any new technology we basically have two choices. The first is to spend around a thousand hours either actually reading the manual or fooling around with the particular gadget (Do they even call them gadgets anymore?) until we give up in utter and complete frustration. The second choice (recommended, as they say) is to ask a six year old. The second option, while quite embarrassing, will save you time and add years to your life.
What motivates kids? Boy, if only I knew! How many parent meetings began- and ended – with exasperated parents exclaiming, “She’s so smart, but she’s just not motivated”. This cry is at times a request for help and at times a criticism of the teacher. Either way, the ball falls into the educators lap and most are left clutching at straws. How indeed do we motivate students?
It’s difficult to even imagine the pain and the depth of suffering that the families of the slain children of Sandy Hook Elementary School must now endure. No one should ever have to bury a child; no one should have to live a life whose happiness and serenity have been forever shattered by senseless acts of murder. No one should ever have to send their child off to school and worry that they might never see them again. And yet, in Newtown, as in Virginia Tech or in Columbine before them, the greatest fear of every parent became a tragic reality.
Maybe it’s just the season. With all the ‘joy of giving’ talk going around, I’ve often wondered if the joy is really focused on the giving, or is it the fact that if everyone’s giving then I’m pretty sure that I’m getting as well. In short, while we frequently extol the virtues of sacrifice and beneficence, do they truly play a significant role in our lives? And, if we take as a given that such behavior is to be lauded, what role should educators be playing in the teaching of such values?
A recent article in The Economist began with the following introduction:
When the Sloan Digital Sky Survey started work in 2000, its telescope in New Mexico collected more data in its first few weeks than had been amassed in the entire history of astronomy. Now, a decade later, its archive contains a whopping 140 terabytes of information. A successor, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, due to come on stream in Chile in 2016, will acquire that quantity of data every five days.
Since I was a little boy – and that goes back quite a while –the rapid pace at which technology impacted our lives has raised danger signs. It began with the radio cutting into family time, graduated to television replacing family time, and finally resulted in the computer abolishing it completely. In many different areas of life we began to ask at what point was the human element going to be overtaken by the technological.
I remember it like yesterday. I was a private school principal in Los Angeles and we were a scant ten days into the school year when, early that September morning, we received the devastating news. The day was September 11, 2001. Early that morning we turned on our televisions and watched in horror the images of the terrorists attack on the Twin Towers in New York which killed thousands of Americans. There were unconfirmed reports of another plane headed towards LA and all public areas feared being the next target.