Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Case for Chutes and Ladders

Posts are really going to be few and far between for the next few months. As much as there are things I want to write about, I'm already giving up enough sleep. This one should have been done over a week ago. There was this article in Newsweek that I took to school, made copies of and passed out to my principal and a few teachers who asked about it. I asked my principal if I could make copies for the staff and for the district administrators. I asked first because the administrators might not see it in the same light that I do. He hasn't answered me yet.
Considering that there is nothing to the "Mozart effect," in which playing classical music to babies supposedly improves their "spatiotemporal reasoning," it has had amazing staying power. Along with similar cases of a gullible public's going crazy over preliminary findings that ultimately fell apart, it has created a bitter rift among scientists about whether neuroscience can explain how the brain learns and thereby guide teaching. Now some scientists are fuming about "scientifically unsupported" claims, about parents and teachers who are "misinformed" and about "myths of brain-based pedagogy."
That's not the part that might upset the big cheeses.
Critics are certainly right that there's a lot of bath water that should go down the drain, starting with the Mozart Effect itself and moving on to "brain-based" toys whose benefits remain more mythical than real and "brain-based" education consultants who peddle their questionable (and expensive) services to schools. But the critics go further. In a guest editorial in the journal Science last month, two scholars called "brain-based pedagogy" a "myth." They are especially concerned that teachers, who pay $500 to attend "learning and the brain" conferences at places like MIT and Stanford, believe the research is solid enough to use in classrooms today, such as by teaching boys and girls differently. "People have been sold a bill of goods that there is enough here to make curricular decisions," says psychologist Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University, coauthor of the editorial.
That's the part they wouldn't like. Our district combined their resources with two other districts to hire a "brain-based" consultant to entertain us with a half-day workshop. The speaker was very good but we are still making fun of the presentation. We may be public school teachers but we're not total idiots. The dimmest among us could see that there was very little of value there.

This part is important though. It's what I've been teaching and what I've been trying to get reinstated into the district.
Petitto, for instance, led a 2007 study that settled a decades-long debate over how children learn to spell: does the brain uses the same processes for words you can sound out ("blink") as for those you can't ("yacht")? Brain imaging showed that blink-like words use the brain's soundprocessing system, while yacht-like words rely on circuits that encode memory and meaning. That suggests "a dual-route model of spelling," Petitto says. "Knowing this, there's no way I'd teach a child spelling without phonological information. This is finally evidence that the brain needs that and uses it."

The new journal, called Mind, Brain, and Education, is full of other fascinating hints. One study found that when children begin forming mental representations of letters, more than the visual sense comes into play. Crucially, the brain's premotor area, which plans movements, does. That suggests that having children try to write letters at the same time that they're learning to recognize them might produce what Denes Szucs and Usha Goswami of the University of Cambridge call "a multisensory representation" of letters, and "deepen learning."
Yes, multisensory instruction works, but just try to get an educational "expert" to admit it, or a public school administrator to adopt a language arts method that is based on the concept.

That's mostly why I want this article passed around. It's validation. I'm not the only one in the world doing it. We could all be teaching that way and we wouldn't have such an absurdly high illiteracy rate in this country. Fewer people might be fooled by Al Gore's anti-capitalist - destroy industrial society crusade. More people would understand that the Islamists and their totalitarian supporting leftist allies are not working in the interest of freedom and do actually want to do harm to our families. Things could be turned around if enough people fight hard enough.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Priestly Blessing on Temple Mount

It floors me that Israelis do not have the right to pray on the Temple Mount . . . in Israel . . . for fear of offending Muslims. Not everyone is afraid of offending those increasingly delicate and demanding Islamic sensibilities though.
A historic first: Last week, during a special visit to the Temple Mount, the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) was recited there, for arguably the first time since the 1st-century destruction.

The Blessing is recited daily in synagogues in Israel by descendants of Aaron the Priest, and only on festivals in the Diaspora.

The special visit was held to commemorate the 842nd anniversary of Maimonides's famous visit to the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. A group of some 25 Jews, organized by the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, marked the special day with a commemorative visit. Giving extra-special meaning to the occasion was a spontaneous Priestly Blessing delivered to the group by Yehuda Katz, the lead singer of the Reva L'Sheva band, and Eliezer Breuer, originally of the former Soviet Union and now from Kiryat Arba.

Rabbi Chaim Richman, one of the organizers of the trip, said, "This was probably the first time since the destruction of the Temple [1,928 years ago] that the Priestly Blessing was delivered on our holiest site. At times like these, when there is talk of giving away our precious places, and when despair is sometimes in the air, events of this nature serve to remind us that G-d has not forgotten about us, and that He still has big plans for both us and the Holy Temple - and that the Temple will yet become the focal point of the world once again."

Another notable aspect of the visit was the welcoming attitude of the police. "In an unusual departure from standard procedure," one participant said, "we found that the police were particularly sympathetic to our needs. At one point, when the Moslem Wakf guards started yelling that we were praying, one of the policemen took our side and even threatened to remove them if necessary." (bold print added by me - H)

Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, made his historic visit to the Temple Mount on the sixth day of the month of MarCheshvan in the year 1166 (4926 in the Jewish calendar). Unanimously considered one of Judaism's greatest figures, the Rambam wrote that he put himself in danger to make a trip to Jerusalem, where he entered "the Large and Holy House [the Temple Mount] and prayed." Three days later, he also visited the Machpelah Cave in Hevron, and vowed to commemorate the anniversaries of those days as his personal festivals for years to come.

Last week's visit was also led by Rabbis Yisrael Ariel and Yehuda Glick. Rabbi Ariel is a former Yeshiva head, founder of the Temple Institute, and one of the paratroopers who took part in the 1967 liberation of the Temple Mount. Rabbi Glick made news briefly over two years ago when, as Director of the Absorption Ministry's Ashkelon region, he became the first public official to resign in protest over the plans to withdraw from and destroy Gush Katif.

Though the Chief Rabbinate disagrees, the Yesha Rabbis Council has ruled that one who ascends and visits the Temple Mount while adhering to three conditions - prior immersion in a mikveh; keeping the laws of Awe of the Temple (no leather shoes, proper respect, etc.); and knowledge of the precise permitted areas - is fulfilling a "great mitzvah [Torah commandment]."

"The more Jews who visit this holy site," Rabbi Richman told Arutz-7, "the more cooperative the police are with us and the more respectful they are of our needs - as some police officers have indicated to me. And the more we encourage Jews with stories like what happened last week, the more they will come."
Yeah, I copied the whole article. But you should still go and read the captions to the photographs.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Negotiate? How?

Reprinted at Journalista, the news weblog of the Comics Journal, a statement by Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi:
“We say now, to all of you — slaves of the cross and material possessions — that we are a nation blessed by Islam. You will learn how to kneel down in humiliation. You will learn how to officially apologize for your crime against our Prophet Mohammed. We know how best to force you to back down and apologize for your actions. We reserve the right to punish those who committed the crime. If you do not apologize, then your industrial giants will be attacked. Companies such as Ericsson, Scandia, Volvo, Ikea, Electrolux, and others will be legitimate targets. You have been warned… [Additionally], on this day forward, we call for the killing of the cartoon artist Lars who committed these despicable acts against our Prophet Mohammed. We announce a reward of $100,000 for anyone who kills that infidel criminal. The reward shall be $150,000 for anyone who beheads him as well. We also will give $50,000 to anyone who kills the chief editor of that newspaper. O Muslims, you shall seek this reward, ask for forgiveness, and kill these two infidels…”
- from the September 14 statement
by “Abu Omar al-Baghdadi,”
placing a bounty on the head of
Swedish illustrator/cartoonist Lars Vilks
So just how do you negotiate with that? How much of your freedom do want to give up in order to live under the thumb of - excuse me - I mean - in peace with these peaceful, misunderstood Islamofascists? For more, go to Gates of Vienna, the original source of this story.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Terrorists are People Too

It's been a crazy week, busy at home, busy at school; the stuff going on at school is ridiculous, but I don't want to get into that. I had to take a break from blogging for a bit. I hadn't planned on writing anything, but then I read this op-ed piece in the Detroit Free Press. Now, one of the things that bug me about a lot of people is that they take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet to say vile things about people that they would never say face to face. I try not to do that. I don't always succeed. To avoid maligning a person I've never even met, I will let him speak for himself. As he says,
Human beings possess a terrifying capacity for brutality. As an interrogator in Iraq in 2005, I was appalled as an Al Qaeda detainee told me how he had repeatedly electrocuted and beaten a man with a rubber hose until the man confessed to being an informant for the Americans.
OK, he was in Iraq on our side. That's admirable.
It is true that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are wrong. The world cannot be perfected in the name of a political ideology or Islam or any other religion. Even if it can be, I am certain that perfection will not be achieved through violence. Nonetheless, a person's involvement in an organization that practices terrorism does not put him or her beyond our comprehension. They are still people with similar wants and fears
Now here is where I have to disagree with the writer in the same strong muscular language that he uses. I don't have similar wants and needs as the Islamofascist terrorist thugs. I can live with others not belonging to the same religion as me. I'm not raising my children to murder others. They were not promised 72 virgins and young boys for slaughtering other human beings. I don't beat my wife. She is a human being, not an animal that has to walk the streets anonymously trapped in a burkha. I take responsibility for my actions. There is no "other" that I try to pin my failures on.

That's not all.
One morning, while reading the Stars and Stripes, one of the obituaries of those recently killed in Iraq caught my eye. She was Elizabeth Jacobson, a 21-year-old airman with a pretty face. She had been killed near Camp Bucca, where EFP attacks had become increasingly common.

I was furious. In retrospect, I suppose there was a bit of sexism in my response.
Well, there's some powerful feeling (softly muted in order to be politically correct) in that passage.

After reading the entire piece this morning, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or scream. So I went to work, like I do every morning. And now I'll be up past my bedtime again finishing my work, because I simply had to respond to this milquetoast . . . um, I mean . . . this writer. All I can add is Holy Joel Stein, Batman!

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Things That May or May Not be Happening Under the Radar

I began at American Digest. I took the link to House of Eratosthenes. This teaser was intriguing enough to plunge through the next link to American Thinker.
NBC News reports that a large operation is ongoing at the Tora Bora fortress in the mountains along the Afghani-Paki border and we may have just missed Usama bin Laden. I must admit that this caught me off guard. The US media has not been talking about a fight there at all, much less a large scale battle with al Qaeda leadership. So I perused one of my favorite anti-terror blogs The Jawa Report. Jawa has a link to another blog called the Internet Anthropologist which has been tracking what is going on in Tora Bora.
The whole article is worth reading, as are some of the links to Internet Anthropologist.

In addition, Smooth Stone reports,
Hizbullah is rehearsing for something big. A few days ago, between 4,000 and 5,000 Hizbullah gunmen deployed to the Christian areas of Beirut in an unsettling "show of force," positioning themselves at road intersections and other key points throughout the city. The operation served as a probing action to determine local reaction, and as an exercise to gauge the time required (speed, synchronization, etc.) to achieve control of key points. Amazingly, there was no response from the police or the army. Hizbullah is jamming cell-phone signals almost daily. Their lookouts are everywhere, and they are watching the people I'm with and me. Hizbullah is far better armed, equipped, and tactically proficient than most Americans might realize. They are terrorists to be sure, but they are also a very strong Iranian-trained guerrilla force and they seem to be getting a pass from far too many people in high places.
and Smooth Stone also reports from Israel,
U.S. and Israeli defense officials are hammering out details of a potential $1.2 billion arms sale to the Israel Air Force, whose inventory of front-line missiles, munitions and other expendables was depleted in the summer 2006 Lebanon War. The series of U.S. administration-proposed Foreign Military Sales (FMS), presented to Congress in four packages, breezed through the customary 50-day legislative review process that ended in late September.
So big things may be about to happen and may be happening now. There is no doubt in my mind that the United States and Israel can destroy Al-Queda, Hezbollah, etc militarily. But what's the point when we're allowing Islamic culture to trump our own superior (yes, that's right, it is superior) Judeo-Christian culture?

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