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School of Dreams: Misc.
buzzed, B&W
So, Humes touches on a lot of other topics in the amazingly readable book. He talks about grade inflation, with nine out of ten Harvard grads graduating with honors, and 70% getting grades of B-plus or better in all their classes, compared to 15% in 1950. The College Board found that the number of seniors with GPAs in the A range rose from 28 to 41 percent from 1991 to 2001, but that the SAT scores for this group went down.

He touches on tech in education, and Whitney is a testbed for Intel. (The school received 15 SMART Boards, along with tons of other software and hardware). He talks with teachers who realize that for it to succeed it has to be integrated, not gee-whiz, and that it has to be available, that it can't be something that's on a cart, that a teacher has to schedule to use. You have to reduce the barrier to the educator if you expect them to do something new. (Not true solely of educators - most people are like this - why change if it's working?) Tech is also mentioned in that Whitney kids use online term paper databases, while teachers are using TurnItIn, an anti-plagiarism site. (I knew colleges were doing this, the fact that high schools have to is amazing.)

He takes a decidedly anti-Bush position, when describing Neil Bush's (GW's youngest brother I think?) visit. Apparently Neil is working with Ignite Learning, and believes in multiple intelligences, and develops interactive software that teaches students with things that appeal to their type of intelligence. Humes bashes the theory of multiple intelligences, talks about how the students criticize Bush when he says that learning in a textbook style isn't necessary, and he makes Bush seem to be confused when a student talks about a genuine joy of learning, that while some of it is tedious, that it's worth it in the end. The software is attacked since it doesn't work for the first half of the year, and when it does, the students end up playing with it, going through all the intelligence presentation styles, and then the teacher still needed to teach. (He does cut a little bit of slack by pointing out that the teachers seem to believe the software may be helpful for at risk students, but not for the high achievers at Whitney.)

And there's just interesting little bits of information. It seems like the school is basically an open campus, where the students are getting Starbucks in the middle of the day to stay awake (this includes the junior high age kids have espressos and crazy stuff), and the fact that graduation tickets have been eBay-ed in the past. Or he talks about how most of them aren't ready for college socially, that the dorms are almost always a culture shock. (Whitney started a retreat this past year for students, to address the issues of sex, drinking, partying, etc that most of these kids haven't experienced before.)

Overall, I just thought the book was entertaining, and interesting. It also struck a nerve, since it seems that while the kids do so well, that many of them are doing it for their parents. They work so hard to get to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, but it seems very few know what they want. Humes talks about how some see college as an escape, that while they go to prestigious schools, they make sure they're far away, so they can finally start being their own person, not their parent's puppet.


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