I am moving future blog posts to DaveAtkins.org - read the first post here:
I am moving future blog posts to DaveAtkins.org - read the first post here:
Our country might not exist if British soldiers had succeeded in confiscating the firearms of patriots in Lexington and Concord in 1775. But today, guns threaten our freedom and our future.
Of course, I am thinking about the killings at Newtown, CT. My son is in first grade. None of us can get the image of a first grade classroom shot up by a madman out of our minds. It makes us sick and sad and ultimately, angry.
We do not need to make our school fortresses. I do not accept that we live in such an inherently dangerous world that we must assume there are threats all around us we are powerless to counter–except by locking our children up in a place where no one can get to them. That is a sick, negative, freedom-less future that should be anathema to what true patriots in 2012 believe. At Sandy Hook, they had the school locked and the protocols in place. They did EVERYTHING right. Teachers laid down their lives to shield their students. We can ask no more.
What we can ask is, why did that kid have an AR-15? It was his mother’s. So why did she have it? Self-defense? That didn’t work out so well, now did it?
The second amendment says:
A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The Second Amendment has come to mean, and is widely understood to support the idea that every citizen has the right to arm and defend himself by deadly force against a threat to his life. Without the right to bear arms, the common law right to self-defense is severely compromised in a world where criminals will have guns.
Some people still believe we need the guns to resist an oppressive government. For those who still believe that argument, I suggest you do a little research into what our government has in the way of technology and firepower and how effectively it was used against small-arms-bearing people in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The crux of any debate about the second Amendment is really about self-defense. I grew up in gun culture and as I reflect upon these ideas now…they just do not fit the reality of 2012.
I do not want my fellow citizens to be “packing heat.” I now live in a city where there is at least a weekly shooting within a few miles of my house. I ride a city bus–and just week, someone was stabbed in the middle of the day on a nearby bus route. However, I feel safe. Neighbors watch each other and if there is a problem, a call to 911 brings police cars in 3 minutes. I would never feel a need to own a gun for self-defense. If I felt that my family or I were in actual danger, I would move or I would take a self-defense course from an expert I know who has trained commandos. I am more confident in my ability to learn how to disarm some idiot with a gun than I would be to rely on some other idiot or myself to pull out a gun and “equalize” the situation.
When I hear people suggesting that teachers have conceal weapons permits…it just boggles my mind that anyone could be that idiotic. These people have seen too many violence-fantasy movies to think that the solution to gun violence is to arm everyone so that the criminals will be afraid to draw first.
That’s my favorite NRA cliché. Guess what? I say “great,” that is a good start. Then we know if you have a gun, you are probably up to no good.
My father had plenty of guns and told me stories of how he was afraid that some person high on crack would show up at his house in the middle of the night. That was in the apparent crime-war zone town of Hopewell, Virginia. After he passed, we went through the cereal boxes, checked under the pillows, and unloaded all the weapons. (“An unloaded gun is useless when you need it.”) I don’t know, perhaps the loaded 12-gauge sawed off pump gun next to him or the .44 Magnum Desert Eagle on the night stand helped him sleep easier but today, I wonder how upset we’d all if one of his less stable friends had walked in and borrowed those weapons.
My Dad did not need those guns. But it was a “harmless hobby,” right? Or we were lucky.
I was disappointed to se a few editorials already conceding the “rights of responsible gun owners.” To be clear, I am talking about changing the rules today. I am not saying that anyone who currently owns a gun is wrong to do so. But the logic behind “responsible gun ownership” is increasingly tortured. Just because a person can act responsibly with a deadly weapon does not mean they are entitled to own and use it. If I take a class in raising tigers, does that mean I can have a house full of tiger cubs?
I am not saying that repealing the Second Amendment would have prevented Newtown. Clearly there are some sick people in our society and maybe they will always find a way to do something. But our culture reinforces the idea that guns are a solution to problems. The very defense of the Second Amendment amplifies the importance of guns and adds to their mystical charm which makes them attractive to deranged people.
We do not have a choice of inaction here. The slaughter of 20 first graders is a gaping wound on our culture and an act that demands action. We can continue to fortify our schools and attempt to protect our children from crazy people with guns or we can ask ourselves whether this is the vision of freedom we want for our future.
Patrick Henry spoke long ago about freedom with his classic “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death” speech, asking
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Of course his was a call to arms, to violence, to get your gun and fight to the death. But over 200 years later, we should recognize the same imperative and passion must be served in a different manner. Our future is being consumed by violence, and rather than cower in the false security of more police presence, greater reliance on government, and more restriction on what we feel safe to do, we should recognize our right to keep and bear arms has become an albatross that enslaves us to inaction and leaves our children vulnerable to slaughter.
As an early adopter of the iPhone (I remember when there was no such thing as “copy” and “paste.”), I kind of became used to some limitations and never bothered to find out if they had ever been addressed. Many have–years ago, apparantly–including the ability to manage your photos in batches.
Here’s how it works:
Open the photos app and go to your camera roll:
Tap the share button in the top right corner:
Now you select multiple photos and scroll through your entire photo library:
Just tap the photos you want and a checkbox will appear next to them.
The actions across the bottom of the screen will now apply to all the photos you have selected. This is also a much easier method of deleting photos than going through them one-by-one. When you have selected the photos you want, tap the icon at the bottom of the screen to “Share.”
When you tap “Email,” this will open your email with the photos inserted into the body of the email.
That was easy!
As the school year rapidly approaches, we are excited to have all three of our children at the same school in Boston. Marshall, who is 4 1/2 years old, will be starting K1, the first year of kindergarten. All the kids are excited.
I need to update this blog because the last post was so long ago and looks pretty negative by the title. The content here has pretty much dried up despite sort of a plan to blog about improving the Boston Public Schools. But I’ve concluded it’s a waste of breath to opine about the lottery or propose complicated solutions to problems that many other people are busy spinning their wheels about. What has caught my attention lately is what exactly we need to do to help our kids learn.
Almost everyone who talks about education today agrees the industrial model is broken. It makes absolutely no sense to have kids sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture and yet we struggle for years to get the kids to a point where they will do that without acting up.
I was excited to read this article about how Simmons College is “flipping” the classroom by having students watch videos of lectures and then using lecture time to engage in facilitated small group problem-solving. It is far from a radical idea but a recent article in the New York times describes how the concept is taking hold in high school and other classrooms across the country. In addition to video lectures, students are using websites like the Khan Academy to learn about hundred of topics by watching compelling videos where the instructor walks through a topic in an engaging manner that is unlike most lectures I recall.
MIT launched Open Courseware earlier this year, and honestly, I was not impressed. Why would anyone want, and what possible value could someone obtain from being able to download the lecture notes for 6.001? I did not learn anything from attending lectures or reading textbooks. The learning happens in working through problem sets which are impossibly difficult. Students get together in groups to work on them and “tool” for hours into the wee hours of the morning.
But when I looked at the new edX initiative, the light bulb started to flicker on. It’s not just a bunch of materials you can download. The online learning environment is like a regular class where you can work on your own schedule, but there are requirements and online discussions that anchor and stimulate the learning. I was so intrigued I signed up for Berkeley CS course on Software as a Service (SaaS). And then, last night, I found myself playing around with TryRuby.org, a site that tutors you in learning the Ruby programming language.
I have been hearing about the value of group projects for 25 years and how some people prefer video tutorials to learn (e.g. lynda.com for Photoshop, Graphic Design, and many more things now), but when I imagined the “flipped classroom” it started to actually make sense because I began to see how the right structure and tools could support a student’s native love of learning and allow a teacher to be more of a coach.
What if, instead of requiring students to attend lectures where nearly everyone fell asleep and half the students just didn’t bother attending, you told them to watch the lecture in advance and then do the problem sites in class? What if, instead of leaving students to form their own study groups and then struggle through on their own at 4am, you said, “this is what the classroom is for!” Imagine a teaching experience where the teacher is responsible for facilitating learning instead of delivering education? Imagine where tutorials are not just something you go to when you can’t keep up…but they are the real education experience. I think I would have learned much more–and perhaps I’d have even discovered and sustained more enthusiasm for advanced math and hard science if I had an experience like that.
What does any of this mean for little Marshall in K2? I don’t think we are ready to enroll him in 6.001 quite yet, but I think all our kids will face a different kind of education than I did. Marshall will be in an integrated classroom–which means there will be special needs kids along with everyone else. Throughout the school, we have widely varying levels of preparation and at least 1/4 to 1/2 of my other son’s class were English Language Learners (for whom English is not their primary language.) The population is decidedly not “one size fits all.” This requires a more individualized approach.
I do not expect kindergarten children to be getting lectures of any kind and I hope the emphasis will be on play, not preparation for future standardized testing. But I think technology could help teachers deliver a more individualized experience. That could take the form of iPad apps that small groups play together and simple games kids take home. Or it might just be that much learning happens independently. A friend of mine has a startup company that is working to develop true learning apps for the iPad based on guiding principles of individualized learning; I’m looking forward to seeing their beta and how it might work for my kids.
All of this makes me think I should shift the focus of this blog…as my rambling post illustrates, the topic of 21st century learning is full of things to write about and the stakes are high and personal.
At our parents meeting on Monday night, we heard from one parent who must have drawn the worst lottery number–both this year and last. His child got nothing for K1 last year after ranking 14 schools, then after ranking 16 elementary schools this year, remains unassigned. They are wait listed at 3 schools, but at least 50 families are ahead. There is no requirement that Boston Public Schools enroll his child until January. And there just are not a lot of options for a child who is too old for preschool. Even if money were no object, the private schools fill up, have early deadlines, and require hefty application fees and deposits.
But there’s always the Trotter. Trotter Elementary is in Roxbury, on the northeast edge of the West Zone. It’s one of the few West Zone schools that still has vacant seats. City Councillor John Connolly led a group of unassigned parents on a tour there last month and is excited about it as an option for his kids now because the historical poor performance and reputation has resulted in more resources being poured into this historic school As a “turnaround school,” they have been able to hire the teachers they want and improve the facility dramatically. A growing number of parents are taking another look and thinking perhaps there is an opportunity to be a part of a school community on the rise.
I do not have firsthand knowledge of the Trotter and I do not know if the parent who failed to get any of his top 16 choices considered it, so I do not want to make any assumptions there. What I can observe is the effect our system of choice and crisis reform has on systemically dooming Boston schools and disadvantaged families to a never-ending cycle of halfway improvement. Because the Trotter has been judged by parents, through their lottery “votes,” to be one of the worst schools in Boston, it became a “dumping ground” for lottery losers and parents who don’t have time to figure out how to play the school assignment game. Test scores there track income and demographics–and every time there’s a crime nearby, it’s added to the list of fears parents think about when they size up the school. When you see the demand report…and you see some schools massively oversubscribed and others with vacancies, it’s only natural to ask, “What’s wrong with this school?”
The Curley in JP used to have a bad rep too. Then the school was marked for improvement, being designated a “superintendent’s school” in the parlance of the day. It became a K-8 school with advanced work and expanded its “specials” (art, science, music, etc.). Now it’s a top choice and JP parents agonize that they can’t get in and might get stuck at the Mendel…but that one is actually improving too! Meanwhile, as the focus of reform efforts shifts to the new “worst schools,” parents at the Curley scramble to raise money to keep programs intact while they absorb kids from schools closed last year before the district knew there would be hundreds of kindergarteners looking for space this year…is your head spinning yet?
I want to back off a bit from my earlier blog post where I argued to just eliminate choice altogether, but the current regime of illusory choice and procedural insanity is not just an annoyance for parents who want neighborhood schools, but a systemic disservice to the majority of kids in the system. Something I hear again and again is how parents just want some predictability. We want relief from knowing we don’t have to do another lottery and rejuggle our lives every year. In my case, I feel fortunate to have achieved that for our kids at the Bates–and to feel that the Bates is definitely on the leading edge of the improvement curve, but I think this process and cycle is destined to repeat until we acknowledge the role the system itself plays in suppressing performance and undermining improvements that are happening.