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Archive for April 27th, 2007

Seed Newsvine

Worth watching the leader of the free world inspire his people.

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Seed Newsvine

In the inappropriate action of calling in the “thought police” the Cary-Grove High School began a process that may cause Allen Lee’s life to be adversely impacted, perhaps beyond repair.

When I was teaching in the middle school I had an 8th-grade student who was a brilliant writer. She was also into the entire Goth scene. She wore her hair like Morticia, painted her lips and nails black, wore black clothing from head to toe and I cannot ever recall her smiling or laughing. She wrote stories and poems that made reference to blood in the snow, stabbings, trees that strangled strangers as they passed by, death and dismemberment. I thought her writing was brilliant but it was also quite disturbing. In discussions with my principal at the time we decided the best course of action would be to refer this student to our school counselor for evaluation. The counselor met with this student, discussed her findings with the school psychologist, met with me and the student’s parents and we all came to the conclusion that the student was neither a danger to herself or to others. This was the proper and appropriate course of action. But it was not the course of action taken by the Cary-Grove High School.

What evidence, other than Lee’s freewrite, is there that he is a danger to himself or others? What intermediate steps did the high school take to determine whether Lee is an immediate or future threat to himself or others? It seems that they skipped these steps and went for the immediate kill–call the cops. The best they could do was trump up a disorderly conduct charge. And Lee’s life is forever altered.

Shame on the teacher, the principal, the district superintendent, the police and the charging prosecutor for not taking the time to assess the situation. Shame on all of them for not thinking of alternatives that might actually be more appropriate. But, then, when one has already made up one’s mind why does one have to bother with facts or alternative solutions.

The first major fallout is the Marine Corps withdrawing their commitment to Lee’s joining the service. My goodness, the boy hasn’t yet been convicted of anything. What ever happened to the proposition that one is innocent until proven guilty? What will be next in store for Lee as he spins down this Kafkaesque path.

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
Like many misunderstood writers, a Cary-Grove High School senior arrested for turning in a provocative class essay offered an “author’s note” Friday by way of explanation.
In it, Allen Lee said his reference to “shooting everyone” and “having sex with the dead bodies” was not a personal statement but words a character in a story might say, which explained why the sentence was in quotations.
His references to drugs, he said, were a comment on drug problems at the school.
However, the Marines informed the student Friday that they have discharged him from the enlistment program because of the incident, but that he could reapply if the charges were dropped. Lee said he couldn’t comment, but his lawyer said his client was crushed by the news.
Although students were warned that they couldn’t threaten anyone in their writings, Lee said he assumed those parameters were removed when the teacher told the class to take 30 minutes and write whatever came to mind—without worrying about censorship.

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Seed Newsvine

The most recent Gallup Poll (done before VT) indicates that the majority of Americans favor a combination of new legislation and stricter enforcement of existing gun control laws. The poll also indicates that only a minority of American homes (43%) indicate gun ownership, the majority of those households are in the South or rural areas of the United States. But why should I speak when the clip does a better job…

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Seed Newsvine

The clip below, while a bit old, presents an interesting and very funny take on gun control issues. Rock, for me, has the ability to take difficult issues and squeeze the most from each one. Found this one on You Tube posted about 8 months ago. Laugh with me!

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Seed Newsvine

With the war in Iraq raging on without an end in site, gas prices at over $3.00 per gallon, and scandals plaguing the White House is it any wonder that Bush’s approval rating is falling? This lame duck president acts as if he has no responsibility to the electorate, supports those that benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us, and continues to send Americans to fight and die in the quagmire of Iraq.The only saving grace for Bush is that the Congressional approval rating was a whopping 27% (35% for Democrats and 22% for Republicans.)

What is clear is that no one very much likes our government. What I think is not liked is the partisan politics played out in 30 second sound bites that amount to nothing more than shouting matches. Civility in politics has gone the way of the dodo bird. We are all diminished by that fact.

clipped from online.wsj.com

President Bush’s approval rating slipped to new lows in the most recent Harris Interactive survey, but he’s not alone: For the first time since the series began, all of the political figures and institutions included in the survey have negative performance ratings.

Of the 1,001 American adults polled online April 20-23, only 28% had a positive view of Mr. Bush’s job performance, down from 32% in February and from a high of 88% in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The current rating is his weakest showing since his inauguration.

Those polled gave Congress an approval rating of 27%, with the Democrats as a group pulling in 35% approval, compared with 22% for Republicans.

When asked which two issues the government should address first, 30% of poll respondents said the war and 13% said Iraq. Domestic concerns rounded out the top spots, with 15% of those polled mentioning health care and 10% pointing to the economy.

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Seed Newsvine

I believe schooling must be authentic in order to have any value to the student. By authentic I mean 1) that all work assigned and all assessment tools must have value to the student beyond merely the four walls of the classroom, 2) that all work assigned and all assessment tools must be academically rigorous, and 3) that all work (including assessments) must have an audience beyond the teacher. In other words, all school work must have value, be rigorous and have an broad audience.When students feel the need to cheat it is because one or more elements of authentic schooling has gone missing. Often the only piece present is academic rigor that is attached to some form of high-stakes assessment. When this is the case, students, especially the ‘good’ students, feel the need to enhance their performance–something like athletes and steroids.

If principles of authenticity are followed the need for high-stakes assessment is diminished. Teachers can and do find low-stakes approached to assessing students rather than to brow-beat them into compliance with external demands on their brainpower. If principles of authenticity are followed, even the high-stakes assessments attached to No Child Left Behind will not be problematic and may even provide schools and districts with some really valuable data.

As the system now stands, however, cheating is the norm rather than the exception; a norm created by the interference of misguided legislation and misinformed adults.

Authenticity makes education engaging and fun. It makes education the responsibility of the learner, guided by a competent adult in the classroom. Without authenticity, education is alienating and a cauldron for adolescents to conjure ways to beat the system. Which would you rather have?

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
MERIDIAN, Idaho —
Banning baseball caps during tests was obvious — students were writing the answers under the brim. Then, schools started banning cell phones, realizing students could text message the answers to each other. Now, schools across the country are targeting digital media players as a potential cheating device.
Devices including iPods and Zunes can be hidden under clothing, with just an earbud and a wire snaking behind an ear and into a shirt collar to give them away, school officials say.
“It doesn’t take long to get out of the loop with teenagers,” said Mountain View High School Principal Aaron Maybon. “They come up with new and creative ways to cheat pretty fast.”
Mountain View recently enacted a ban on digital media players after school officials realized some students were downloading formulas and other material onto the players.

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Seed Newsvine

Allen Lee, an 18 year old straight “A” student at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested for thinking violent thoughts and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct. Lee’s senior English teacher, after reading what Lee wrote in response to a “Free Writing” assignment was disturbed enough to report the incident to the school’s principal. The school then notified the Cary police and the decision was made to arrest Lee.In America we do not criminalize thinking. What is criminalized is action. One can think all kinds of evil thoughts so long as one does not act on those thoughts there is no crime. In America we do not arrest authors for writing violent passages, for writing bad poetry, for writing propaganda or any other authorial endeavor. There is no Gestapo, KGB, SS, or Secret Police; no thought police and no book burners.

As a teacher of writing and author of a book on teaching writing, I understand the “Free Writing” assignment and advocate two versions of the practice in my book Teaching Writing in the Inclusive Classroom: Strategies and Skills for All Students, Grades 6 – 12 (Jossey-Bass Teacher). I do not, however, advocate arresting a student for responding to an assignment irregardless of how inappropriate I believe the product of the assignment to be. There are appropriate measures such as referring the offending student to counseling services, psychiatric services or social services, parent, teacher student conferences, and the like. But in America we don’t call the cops for thinking and writing.

While I understand the concern the school had considering the horrendous events at Virginia Tech, there is no justification for over reacting to Lee’s writing. The message sent is irreversible, sending a chilling effect through the entire creative process. I would urge the school to reconsider charging Lee with this crime and pursue appropriate measures to try to understand what is going on here.

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
A Cary-Grove High School student charged with disorderly conduct for writing a violently descriptive class essay had received an assignment that said: “Write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge or censor what you are writing.”
Allen Lee, 18, responded with passages about “shooting everyone” and having “sex with the dead bodies,” according to a disorderly conduct complaint filed Thursday by McHenry County prosecutors, Tom Carroll, the first assistant state’s attorney, said.
Lee’s English teacher, Nora Capron, and school officials found the senior’s stream-of-consciousness writing so alarming that they turned it over to Cary police, who arrested him Tuesday morning while he was walking to school.
Emling provided a reporter with a copy of the class assignment, which was titled “Free Writing.” It advised students to “write non-stop for a set period of time. Do not make corrections as you write. Keep writing, even if you have to write something like, ‘I don’t know what to write.’ “

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