18 March 2014

Things I'm Cranky About Today

If you're following the news from US media, you might not know that Oscar Pistorius is on trial for shooting his girlfriend, apparently through the bathroom door, thinking she was an intruder. Meanwhile, eighty-five people die from gun violence in the United States every day (more than 30,000 a year), and you could conceivably call this a health emergency, but the Senate is holding up the most recent nominee to the position of US Surgeon General because... he supports gun control.

The smog was so bad in Paris earlier this week that they were only letting people drive every other day. Residents were furious and ignored the ban and it was called off after only a day. Meanwhile, the American Association for the Advancement of Science says we need to cut emissions right now. But the US government isn't going to do a damn thing, and if they did, Americans would be screaming about their rights to keep up the same habits that have gotten us into this mess.

Meanwhile in North Dakota, fracking is bringing up more natural gas than the energy companies can handle, so they're just burning it off. Yes, natural gas burns cleaner than oil, but if you're burning a third of it at the point of extraction, it kind of throws off the emissions calculations. Also meanwhile, scientists have confirmed that fracking is causing earthquakes in Ohio, and are asking questions about the role of fracking in yesterday's 4.4 magnitude quake in Los Angeles, in which fortunately no one was hurt.

A high school English teacher has written a letter to college professors on what's wrong with Common Core. It's a great letter on the problems with the Common Core, but the ire at college professors is misplaced: we're not the ones advocating standardized testing, or making billions of dollars by promoting it -- that would be Pearson Education and a few other megapublishers with well-paid lobbyists in Washington.

Catharine Stimpson, former dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at NYU, spoke out against the Common Core at the Modern Language Association meeting in Chicago alongside Diane Ravitch, at a session that was less well attended than it should have been -- but we do get it. We're also resisting a strong push toward the assessment of learning by standardized measures that seem to take Stanford and Harvard as the norm and can't attend to drastic variations in student preparation at the thousands of colleges and universities across the US.