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Tuesday
Sep092008

Motivate or manipulate

A good deal of attention has been given to the opening school address of 10 year old fifth grade student Dalton Sherman to teachers and parents in Dallas last month.  "Do You Believe in Me?"  was well-received by his audience judging by the reaction and by a number of educational bloggers.

But I was unmoved.

Dalton is obviously an extremely talented young man. He has a bright future as a preacher, politician, actor, timeshare salesman or school superintendent. The message itself was one worth hearing - we all need to believe that all children can learn and succeed. (He was delivering a script written by school board members.) So what's the problem?

  • Maybe it was just too smooth.
  • Maybe it was rhetoric without substance.
  • Maybe it was a message we've all heard so many times that it's become meaningless.

I wasn't motivated; I felt manipulated. But then I am a self-admitted cynic that needs a little substance with his speeches.

And I hope Dallas ISD paid the young man well for his work.

Sorry. Just needed to get that out of my system. I feel better now.

Watch the video on YouTube.

Sunday
Sep072008

Cob web pages

My secretary was a little steamed at me last Friday, a situation that in itself is not all that unusual. But the cause of her distress was interesting. She had purchased school supplies for her grandsons only to find that some of them were not actually required. How was this my fault?

Turns out that she was using an old school supply list from our district website. Last year's list, of course, differs from this year's list. And being tech director and all, it was my responsibility for keeping everything on the web up-to-date.

I did immediately send an e-mail out to all staff, asking them to take a look at their school websites to make sure they reflected the 2008-09 school year, not the 2007-08 year.

Or the 1998-99 school year. Sigh...

If anyone knows of a great method for reducing the number of "cobweb" sites a school displays on its website, I'd sure like to know about it.  We have been ambitiously promoting a greater web presence for our schools and every teacher for quite some time. (See Teacher Webpages that Build Parent Partnerships) We've provided resources so that pages are easy for teachers to create and maintain. What we haven't found is way to help remind teachers (and administrators and secretaries and coaches and tech directors and ...) that the information on them needs tending now and then.

I've always thought that if I were a programmer, I would write a little script that would cause a sign to pop up on a person's computer screen at random intervals that reads "YOUR HARD DRIVE JUST CRASHED. WHEN DID YOU LAST CREATE A BACK-UP?" Maybe I could use the same program to also say, "A PARENT JUST ACCESSED YOUR WEBSITE. WHEN DID YOU LAST UPDATE?"

Any programmers out there? I'll split the profits with you.

Sunday
Sep072008

Courage of our convictions


Two library bloggers have recently questioned the wisdom of particular acquisitions they have made for their school libraries. With VP nominee Palin being rumored to have tried to censor library material, I suspect many librarians are a bit sensitive about intellectual freedom right now.


Jeri Hurd has a thoughtful "rant" about how Arabs are treated in the media, whether a book with a great text but an inciteful cover belongs on her shelves, and questions the role of schools and libraries in teaching multi-culturalism and tolerance. READ IT!

And Cathy Nelson wonders if permanently checking out a book on teen-pregnancy to the guidance counselor is a form of censorship.


Members of ALA and AASL on their respective listservs are discussing whether member commentary about Palin places ALA's non-profit status in jeopardy.

Let's review:

We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they need the help of censors to assist them in this task.  American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights
Young people have First Amendment rights. American Library Association

These are deceptively frightening statements for a large percentage of our parents, teachers and administrators. It takes a deceptively large amount of courage to fight censorship, to defend a wide variety of viewpoints - especially in a politically charged climate.

In the late 70s when I was a high school librarian, the superintendent requested that I take the magazine Psychology Today off the shelves. He objected to the ads for condoms in the back, as I remember.  I didn't remove it, but I didn't make an issue of it either. He just never checked to see if I had actually complied or not. Had the issue been pressed, I'd like to think I would have fought for my students' rights to the information in the magazine. I'd like to think so...

Techs, this certainly not an issue the library alone owns. How will you respond when a parent asks you to block Planned Parenthood, PETA or The Flying Spaghetti Monster websites? Do you have a review process in place or will you be blown about with every political wind? Good time to think about it before the gales of campaigning get stronger...