Blog posts have been the name of the game in our Election Issues module this week. Students have been conducting research on chosen election topics - looking into the background and contrasting perspectives of two candidates for president - and will be reflecting on their research in their posts.
Because blog writing is new to many of these students, I'm providing a sample blog post on a topic not covered by any of the students: education. So here we go!
Waxing lyrical on my favorite topic: education
Abigail Adams, wife of one of America's early leaders, John Adams, wrote once in a letter to her son, "Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence." Education is a topic that affects every citizen in America, but politicians have differing opinions on how to approach it.
In the 2016 election, politicians are considering how to educate effectively, who should be in control, where the money should come from to fund education, and how that money should be spent. The problem is, there's no easy answer.
Context of the education debate
To understand today's education debate, it's important to know how education has evolved in the US. Fifteen years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Plantation, the first schools were founded in the colonies - a Latin grammar school first, followed by the first free school. The first college, Harvard College, was founded a year later.
Since those early days over 300 years ago, the history of education has been a series of laws, policies, and philosophies. The first law, the Massachusetts Bay School Law of 1642, established that "good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth" and stated that citizens needed to ensure no one "shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families as not to indeavour to teach by themselves or others, their children & apprentices so much learning as may inable them perfectly to read the english tongue, & knowledge of the Capital Lawes." In other words, children should be taught to read and understand laws governing them.
Fast forward to the turn of the 20th Century. As the Industrial Revolution brought cars and cheap clothing to the masses, it also took over our classrooms. Typical public school education for the past 100+ years has followed that same format - the same standards, the same tests, the same expectations for every student across the country.
In the past 20 years, two governmental reforms have dominated education: the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001 and the implementation of Common Core Standards in 2010. And so here we are today, in many ways maintaining standardized education for students who are by no means standardized.
Hillary's K-12 education platform focuses on modernizing the education system. She promises to improve teacher training and pay and wants to re-build and modernize schools. Hillary also plans to increase computer science programs to better prepare students for tech jobs and to overhaul school disciplinary systems - offering schools funding to "implement social and emotional support interventions" instead of leaning on punitive punishment systems.
At the college level, Hillary wants to make college debt-free, offer free community college across the board, and offer extra funding to minority-serving higher ed institutions.
Trump wants to focus on student choice in his education plan: allow students to choose their school, encourage students to participate in magnet or charter schools, and increase choice for students living in poverty.
For college, Trump's plan includes decreasing costs by offering tax breaks to institutions and make it easier for students to attend a college or vocational school.
Christine weighs in
I'm not running for president, and I don't envy either of the candidates for being in the spotlight to "fix" education. Then again, Hillary and Trump chose their path, so power to them. Comparing the two plans I have researched, I find myself aligning more with Hillary's standpoint at the K-12 level but am skeptical about her plans for post-secondary education.
First, K-12 education: we have an incredible resource in our public education system, and I would rather invest time and money in improving those resources instead of advocating to ship students off to private schools. My concern is that, if we focus on expanding student choice, the public schools will be left in the dust because they have limited funds to begin with, whereas private schools are free to solicit funds from alumni and other interested supporters. Schools are also an important link with their communities; an investment in a local public school is an investment in the community itself.
As for the college level... I don't necessarily agree that college should be free to any student who wants it. College is an incredible resource, but it should be an investment of time, effort - and finances. My experience in life has shown me that we most value things we have earned through hard work. So while I appreciate the philosophy behind Hillary's pledge of free college education, I'm not convinced it is the best way to teach the value of education.
I had a feeling a week of experimental poetry with students would be fun - and I wasn't disappointed.
We tried out a new form each day - found poetry, haiku, "abecedarian" poetry, randomized poetry, and a little slam poetry. The students were game to try anything, and I'm really proud of what they came up with!
Here's a small sampling. Many elements of these poems jump out at me as being awesome, but I'll refrain from adding commentary and let the students' words speak for themselves. :)
What to write it’s here Right in front
What is it Another great prompt
What to write I know the prompt know
how to start
Everything has a start no matter how small or large
bugs they are small
planets they are large
in the end they both become one
There is only one space
within space there are billions of galaxies
Within one there’s more than ever imaginable.
Apples are Rotten (An Abecedarian poem)
In the olden days the church bells rang the warning bells.
Jingling sounds of fear.
King Rotten Apple
liked to terrorize the villagers.
noble knights ran in fright
of the apple king.
People of the town, the
Queen fainted at the
United Kingdom, and the people
“What ever shall we do” they cried.
Xylographs show the ancient battle.
You might want to reconsider your life choices because
zillions of apples inhabit the earth.
Contemplation of Existence (Too Haikül for School)
a group poem from the Western State poetry day
One more empty chair
A place for a road weary
traveller to sit
the chair sits alone
better than the floor
the chair stood empty
its pale green color faded
the metal legs bent
the bending, welding
of semi-cushioned tanned seat
hold an empty soul
the chair is empty
like my life
and my soul
Moments come and go
Just like my father
He was never there
Every pinky swear
Disappointment surrounded me
Nothing hurts more than broken promises
The trust was crumpled at our feet
The abandonment hurt
The trust issues are real
His leaving hurt
But it wasn’t my fault
Change the Road I took
There was a time in my life
Where I wanted to change something bad that happened
But I knew I couldn’t change the past
Even when I wanted to
But if I had that one chance
I would change the road I took
Like Robert Frost’s poem
The road less traveled
Only, I did not get the outcome that his story portrayed
I took the road less traveled
And it left me wounded and scarred
I wasn’t dead
I was still alive
And mentally scarred
How is this so
That's the problem
I don’t even know
I only saw the inevitable
A force that couldn’t be dodged
Just the dark
There was no light at the end of this tunnel
Or was there
I do not remember much
But I do know
If I could change one thing
It would be the road I took
Whether it would change the way I live now
Or if it would change anything at all
I do know one thing
I more than likely
Would not feel the pain that I felt
If only I did change the road I took
French Fries in the Fall
(a group poem from the Western State poetry day)
The auburn leaves scream against the skyline,
forcing her to forget to remember his eyes
Turns out when people fall, they don’t make a sound.
It enhances the tingling within the palm of my hands
You are the tingling in my stomach.
You’re easy on the eyes,
This is what I think about,
When I see French fries.
Eyes like the ocean
Pull me in till the tide comes back.
to the bottom of the seas
to the highest pines
eat all those fries
Tomorrow we're jumping into poetry! I designed this module around a field trip to Western State on Tuesday for their annual Slam Poetry day and am using the week as an excuse to introduce students to some non-traditional poetry.
Each day, we'll focus on a different type of poetry. I'll give students the option to try out some structure poetry like sonnets and limericks, but most of the week will explore more modern, free-form poetry: randomized poems, "abcedery" poems, and found poems.
I dabbled with these forms a few years ago through a Coursera class called Modern and Contemporary Poetry. It's a fun class - check it out. It's free. :) The class was a great way to get some exposure to modern poets and play with these non-traditional forms, and I've been looking for an opportunity to design a module around them at CCHS. And voila! the time has come.
We're starting out with found poetry on Monday. This poetry can take an unlimited number of forms, but for our purposes, we'll be working with lines pulled from books or news articles. I love found poems because they can take you in all sorts of directions, and that because you aren't under the pressure of writing from scratch, this form of poetry can feel much more accessible to students.
One of my favorite end-of-year assignments is to have students re-read their notes and freewrites from throughout the year and choose some of their favorite lines to re-construct into a found poem. It's a great way to re-visit earlier writing and to pull fun, random, new meaning out of context.
The example I will share with the students is one I wrote during my ModPo class, where I wrote down and then re-arranged the first lines from some favorite picture books. Here is the finished product:
What’s all this?
There’s a bear
near the top
he hasn’t eaten
Harold decided to
this is Henrietta
Peter woke up
an armored armadillo
Miss Cora Lee
this is Olivia
the time of
swords and periwigs
first trip alone
filled with love
there is no
Windy Edge Farmhouse
for a walk
cat called Mog
great green room
a small world
sunny days in
the Wump World
the best bakeshop
every Who down
what’s all this
Christine Bailey: teacher of English, user of fountain pens, fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and advocate of parallel structure.