Tag Archives: Education

Organizing my Thoughts over the Last Year on Education Reform

Recently I’ve become fascinated by education reform, and in the past year (And especially the last month) I’ve written on different aspects of the subject. I did this in two general periods, a pre-systematic period (actually beginning with the very first post I made, “US Public Schools — Still Terrible” from early December 2004) and continuing thru “How Science Works” (from mid-december 2011). In the comments to that post, Mark Safranski of ZenPundit made this comment on Christmas Eve:

The corporations involved in marketing to public education entities, including testing companies, are not run by scientists and are not doing “science’. That’s not their objective.

There are companies that make (and/or administer) very high quality tests in psychometric terms in which you can have confidence that the results are valid and reliable. And then there are companies that offer testing products that…well….do not meet this standard but have the attraction of being markedly cheaper to purchase and can be administered by anyone off of the street or have students self-administer via computer.

If these much lower quality tests are used as a rough “snapshot” of academic performance as a guide to adjust instruction or direct remediation resources, that’s somewhat useful if re-testing is part of the process. To make any life-altering decisions about students or teachers on the basis of the results of one of these substandard tests is unethical and invalid.

And then at the bottom there are testing products at the level of which the State of Illinois was recently forced to term “catastrophic vendor failure” on forms submitted to the Federal Department of Education. Psychometric quality was not part of test selection criteria under tGov. Blagojevich’s ISBE.

*Who* gets to decides what test is used is a key decision; as is *how* the test results will be used, but low quality tests used for purposes for which they are not designed will discredit the process

which forced me to take the structure of education reform more seriously. ON Christmas Day I wrote “Major Political Actors,” which began my process of seriously thinking about why education reform is so hard. Generally, my thoughts have clusered in several major categories: xGW Theory, Dimensions of Force, Central Actors, Labor Relations, and of course the pre-systematic stuff I wrote in the preceeding seven years.

In the Context of xGW Theory

In the Context of Dimensions of Force

In the Context of Central Actors

In the Context of Labor Relations

In the Context of Education

Pre-Systematic Articles

Classroom Democracy, Part V: Bibliography

I was going through some papers and posts, preparing for the next installment of The Wary Guerrilla, when I realized I had not posted a bibliography for my Classroom Democracy series. Throughout the series I cite chapters and journal articles but never state where I got them from. Thus, without further ado, my long occulted sources:

Bruning, R. (1995). The College Classroom from the Perspective of Cognitive Psychology. Handbook of College Teaching: Theory and Applications.

Dawson, J.D. (1996) Relations of mutual trust and objects of common interest. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 44-53).

Halonen, J.S. (2002). Classroom presence. In S. Davis & W.Buskist (Eds.). The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of William J. McKeachie and Charles Brewer. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (pp. 41-55).

Ley, K. and Young, D. (1998). Self-Regulation Behaviors in Underprepared (Developmental) and Regular Admission College Students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 1998, Vol. 23, 42-64.

Roth, J.K. (1996). What teaching teaches me: How the Holocaust informs my philosophy of education. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 199-210).

Royse, D. (2001). The mental groundwork. In D. Royse (Ed.). Teaching Tips for College and University Instructors: A Practical Guide. Needham Heights, MA.: Allyn & Bacon. (pp. 1-24).

Ruiz, T.F.(1996). Teaching as subversion. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc.(pp. 158-165).

Smith, K. (2006). “Representational Altruism: The Wary Cooperator as Authoritative Decision Maker,” American Journal of Political Science, October 2006, Vol. 50 No. 4, pp 1013-1022.

Smith, K. et al. (2004). Evolutionary Theory and Political Leadership: Why Certain People Do Not Trust Decision-Makers. Presented at the 2004 Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago, 2004, 1-42.


Classroom Democracy, a tdaxp series
1. A Parliament of Scholars
2. A Defense of Republics
3. The Life of Constitutions
4. The Evolution of Learning
5. Bibliography

Student Differences and Deliberative Learning

Because of maddening and inferiority problems with my blog hosting service, a comment I wrote to Mark of ZenPundit did not go through. Mark had a question on deliberative learning over at my series, Classrooms Evolved, and as Mark was kind enough to link to those posts, I do not feel good letting him wait until blogspirit gets its act together. (That could, literally, take forever.)

My reply is below:

I’ve tried classroom democracy on community college students, gene. ed students in a survey course, and political science / international studies students in an introductory course. I think all three of these tries went better than a piagetian attempt or lecture-based attempts.

Students differed on motivation. Community college students and major students tended towards mastery orientation, with the major students taking the democracy itself as a system to master while community college students used it to help them master their technical skill. Thus the major students devised and implemented clever alternatives to the sort of democracy I layed out, while the community college students used it as a way to select tutors who would help other students in exchange for reduced assignments.

Gen. ed. students were generally performance oriented. Several times there were “coups” with a President or Prime Minister declaring his term extended — students were focused mostly on grades and so such coups were popular (as they provided more continuity than elections in course structure).

Thus the directional nature of the classroom I describe in this series. I expect that by embedding the democracy within a curriculum you would have a more durable system for gen. ed. students, while still allowing major students the ability to play with the system if they want to.

I plan on handing out an edited version of this philosophy to students on the first day next semester. This system is designed for practical implementation.

Phil’s question over at “Open Thread” is also still hanging, but Catholicgauze and Sean seem to have that covered. (I don’t have the original text of my comment anymore, so I hope it stops being AWOL soon!)

Learning Evolved, Part IV: Bibliography

The last part of this series is for future reference, and for you to verify the sources I have used. The format is more-or-less APA style, but I make no claims for stylistic competence.

The A’s:

Alford, J. & Hibbing, J. (2004) .The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior. Perspectives on Politics, 2(4), 707-723
Alford, J., Funk, C., & Hibbing, J. (2005) Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? American Political Science Review, 99(2), 154-168.
Alford, J., & Hibbing, J. (2006). The Neural Basis of Representative Democracy. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.

The B’s through Z’s are below the fold:


Barker, L. (2002). Teaching the Learning Course: Philosophy and Methods, in The Teaching of Psychology: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie and Charles L. Brewer, 379-393.
Biggs, John (1999). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Philadelphia, PA; Open University Press.
Bower, B. (2006). The Bias Finders: A Test of Unconscious Attitudes Polarizes Psychologists. Science News, 169(16), 250.
Boyd, R., Gintis, H., Bowles, S., & Richardson, P. (2003) “The Evolution of Altruistic Punishment,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 18 March 2003, 100(4), 3531-3535.
Bruning, R. (1995). The College Classroom from the Perspective of Cognitive Psychology. Handbook of College Teaching: Theory and Applications.
Buller, D.J. (2005). Adapting Minds. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
Camerer, C., Loewenstein, G., and Prelec, D. (2005). Neuroeconomics: How Neuroscience Can Inform Economics. Journal of Economic Literature, 43(1), 9-64.
Carmen, I. (2006). Genetic Configurations of Political Phenomena: New Theories, New Methods. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Capsi, A., et al. (2003). Influence of Life Stress on Depression: Moderation by a Polymorphism in the 5-HTT Gene. Science. Vol. 301 No. 5631 pp. 386-289.
Chemers, M., Hu, L., & Garcia, B. (2001). Academic Self-Efficacy and First-Year College Student Performance and Adjustment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(1), 55-64.
Cooper-Clark, D.(1996). A story waiting to be told: Narratives of teaching, scholarship, and theory. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 166-175).
Crawford, M. (2006). The Schizophrenic Symptom of Flat Affect. kuro5hin, Online: http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2006/8/15/35149/9787.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). The Creative Personality,” Psychology Today, July/August 1996, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-19960701-000033.html.
Dawson, J.D. (1996) Relations of mutual trust and objects of common interest. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 44-53).
De Martino, B., et al. (2006) Frames, Biases, and Rational Decision-Making in the Human Brain. Science, 313, 684-687
Ding, Y., et al. (2002). Evidence of positive selection acting at the human dopamine receptor D4 gene locus. PNAS, 99(1) 309-314.
Entwistle, N., McCune, V., & Walker, P. (2001). Conceptions, Styles, and Approaches Within Higher Education: Analytic Abstractions and Everyday Experience, in Perspectives on Thinking, Learning, and Cognitive Styles, 1 January 2001,
Fehr, E., & Gachter, S. (2000). “Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments,” The American Economic Review, September 2000, Vol 90 No 4, 980-994.
Fowler, J. (2006). Altruism and Turnout, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 68 No. 3, pp 674-683.
Fowler, J., Baker, L., & Dawes, C. (2006). The Genetic Basics of Political Cooperation. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Gardner, H. (1998). Extraordinary Minds. Basic Books: New York, NY.
Gardner, H. (2003). Multiple Intelligences After Twenty Years. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association.
Gilbert, A., Regier, T., Kay, P., & Ivry, R. (2005). Whorf hypothesis is supported in the right visual field but not the left. PNAS, 103(2), 389-494.
Guth, W., & Tietz, R. (1990). Ultimatum Bargaining Behavior: A Survey and Comparison of Experimental Results. Journal of Economic Psychology, 11, 417-449.
Halonen, J.S. (2002). Classroom presence. In S. Davis & W.Buskist (Eds.). The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of William J. McKeachie and Charles Brewer. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (pp. 41-55).
Halpern, D.F. (1994). Rethinking college instruction for a changing world. In D. Halpern (Ed.) Changing College Classrooms. San Francisco, CA.: Jossey-Bass. (pp. 1-10).
Hammond, R., & Axelrod, R. (2006) The Evolution of Ethnocentricism. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50(6).
Harpending, H., & Cochran, G. (2002) In Our Genes. PNAS, 99(1), 10-12.
Hammock, E. A. D., and Young, L. J. (2005). Microsatellite instability generates diversity in brain and sociobehavioral traits. Science 308, 1630-1634.
Jervis, R. (2004). The Implications of Prospect Theory for Human Nature and Values. Political Psychology, 25(2), 163-176.
Jung-Beeman, M., et al. (2004). Neural Activity When People Solve Verbal Problems with Insight. PloS Biology. 2(4).
Kiewra, K., et al. (1994). A Slice of Advice. Educational Researcher, 23(3), 31-33.
Kotulak, R.. (2006). Gender and the Brain. Chicago Tribune (30 April).
Kurzban, R., & DeScioli, P. (2005) “Characterizing reciprocity in groups: Information-seeking in a public goods game,” (Submitted), alternate draft at http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~descioli/kurzban%20descioli%20pgi%207%2012%2006.pdf.
Kurzban, K., DeScioli, P., & O’Brien, E. Audience Effects on Moralistic Punishment.
Larimer, Christopher W., Hannagan, Rebecca, & Smith, Kevin B. (2006) Balancing Ambition and Gender Among Decision Makers. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior
Ley, K. and Young, D. (1998). Self-Regulation Behaviors in Underprepared (Developmental) and Regular Admission College Students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 1998, 23, 42-64.
Lieberman, M., Schreiber, D., & Ochsner, K. (2003). Is Political Cognition Like Riding a Bicycle: How Cognitive Neuroscience Can Inform Research on Political Thinking. Political Psychology, 2003, 24(4), 681-704.
Lodge, M., & Taber, C. “The Automaticity of Affect for Political Candidates, Parties, and Issues: An Experimental Test of the Hot Cognition Hypothesis,” Unpublished Manuscript, http://www.sunysb.edu/polsci/mlodge/taber_lodge_automaticity.pdf.
Lupia, A. (2002). New Ideas in Experimental Political Science. Political Analysis, 10(4), 319-324.
Lupia, A., & Menng, J. (2006). When Can Politicians Scare Citizens Into Supporting Bad Policies? A Theory of Incentives With Fear Based Content. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
McDermott, R. (2004) The Feeling of Rationality, The Meaning of Neuroscientific Advances for Political Science. Perspectives on Politics 2(4), 691-706,
McDermott, R. (2006). Testosterone, Cortisol, and Aggression in a Simulated Crisis Game. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Morris, J., Squires, N., Taber, C., & Lodge, M. (2003). “The Automatic Activation of Political Attitudes: A Psychophysiological Examination of the Hot Cognition Hypothesis,” Political Psychology, 24, 727.
Moshman, David. (2005). Adolescent Psychological Development (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Olson, I., & Mashuetz, C. (2003). Emotion. 5(4), 498-502.
Orbell, J., et al. (2004). ‘Machiavellian’ Intelligence as a Basis for the Evolution of Cooperative Dispositions. American Political Science Review Vol. 98, No. 1, 1-15.
Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Viking Adult: New York, NY.
Pintrich, P., & Garcia, T. (1994). Self-Regulated Learning in College Students: Knowledge, Strategies, and Motivation,” by Paul Pintrich and Teresa Garcia, Student Motivation, Cognition, and Learning: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie, 113-133.
Price, L.F. (2005). The Biology of Risk Taking. Educational Leadership. 62(7), 3-6.
Price, M. E. (2004). Judgments about cooperators and freeriders on a Shuar work team: An evolutionary psychological perspective. Organization Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 101, 20-35.
Pollio, H. P. (2002). Humor and college teaching. In S. Davis & W.Buskist (Eds.). The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of William J. McKeachie and Charles Brewer. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (pp. 69-80).
Reiter, S. (1994). Teaching Dialogically: Its Relationship To Critical Thinking in College Students., in Student Motivation, Cognition, and Learning, 1994.
Ridley, M. (2003). Nature via Nurture. Harper Collins: New York, NY.
Robbins, S., et al. (2005) Do Psychosocial and Study Skill Factors Predict College Outcomes? A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 130(2), 261-268.
Robbins, S., Le, H., & Lauver, K. (2005) .Promoting Successful College Outcomes for All Students: Reply to Weissberg and Owen(2005). Psychological bulletin, 131(3), 410-411.
Ross, P. (2006). The Expert Mind,” by Philip Ross, Scientific American, August 2006 edition.
Roth, J.K. (1996). What teaching teaches me: How the Holocaust informs my philosophy of education. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 199-210).
Royse, D. (2001). The mental groundwork. In D. Royse (Ed.). Teaching Tips for College and University Instructors: A Practical Guide. Needham Heights, MA.: Allyn & Bacon. (pp. 1-24).
Ruiz, T.F.(1996). Teaching as subversion. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc.(pp. 158-165).
Sanfey, A., et al. (2003). The Neural Basis of Economic Decision-Making in the Ultimatum Game, Science, 300(5626), 1755-1758.
Sapolsky, R. (2006) A Natural History of Peace. Foreign Affairs. 85(1).
Schulman, L.S., & Carey, N.B. (1984). Psychology and the Limitations of Individual Rationality: Implications for the Study of Reasoning and Civility. Review of Education Research 54, 501-524.
Schwartz, Daniel L. (1995). The Emergence of Abstract Representations in Dyad Problem Solving. The Journal of the Learning Sciences 4, 321-354.
Singer, T. (2006). Empathetic Neural Responses are Modulated by the Perceived Fairness of Others. Nature, 439(26).
Smirnov, O., Arrow, H., Kennet, D., & Orbell, J. (2006). ‘Heroism’ in Warfare. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Smith, K., et al. (2004). “Evolutionary Theory and Political Leadership: Why Certain People Do Not Trust Decision-Makers,” Presented at the 2004 Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago, 2004, 1-42.
Smith, K. (2006) Representational Altruism: The Wary Cooperator as Authoritative Decision Maker. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 50 No. 4, pp 1013-1022.
Spezio, M., & Adolphs, S. Emotional Processing and Political Judgement: Toward Integrating Political Psychology and Decision Neuroscience. Unpublished Manuscript. Available Online: http://www.uiowa.edu/~c030111/decisionmaking/grad2005/spezio.pdf.
Steinberg, L., & Morris, A. (2001) Adolescent Development. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 83-110..
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992) The Psychological Foundations of Culture. In The Adapted Mind, Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, eds. New York: Oxford University Pres.
von Glasersfeld, E. (1995). A Constructivist Approach to Teaching. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Weissberg, N., & Owen, D. (2005) “Do Psychosocial and Study Skill Factors Predict College Outcomes? Comment on Robbins et al (2004),” Psychological Bulletin, 2005, Vol. 131 No. 3, 407-409.
Wolak, J. & Marcus, G. (2006). Personality and Emotional Response: Strategic and Tactical Response to Changing Political Circumstances. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Wrangham, R. (1999). Evolution of Coalitionary Killing. Yearbook of Anthropology 42 1-30.
Zak, P. (2006). The Neuroeconomics of Trust. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Zimmerman, B. (2000). Self-efficacy: An Essential Motive to Learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology, Vol. 25, No 1, 82-91.


Learning Evolved, a companion series to Classroom Democracy
1. Darwinism-Cognitivism
2. Social Motivation
3. Coalitionary Education
4. Bibliography

Classroom Democracy, Part IV: The Evolution of Learning

We must liberate Political Science from the Barbarians.

Political scientists rarely apply the tools of political science to the problem of teaching political science. Instead, our poor field is oppressed by interlopers from psychology or economics. Students are naturally curious, the psychologists tell us, and so we should merely facilitate their natural desire to learn the materials. Or the Economists trot out their Rational Man, and tell us that our students are his clones: the student’s must be forced to study by altering the utility function by punishing behaviors we dislike and rewarding the behaviors we enjoy. Everywhere these foreigner followers of the SSSM god teach us to ignore our ancient traditions and follow their strange ways.


The Classroom: A People-Powered Polis

No more! It is time for the colonized to become the colonizers! Our hammer and sickles and evolutionary analysis and wary cooperation theory. Let us rise up and seize the commanding heights our own field’s future!
Political science is the study of social conflict and interpersonal interaction. Current research into genetic factors imply that certain traits are in-born, and I propose that these can be exploited for pedagogical ends. Humans are loss-avoiding, in-group-supporting, out-group-competing, cheater-punishing machines, and it is time we apply these facts to education. (I realize that the direction of this paper is separate from the week’s focus on international relations and comparative politics, but I believe it is no less useful.)


Loss avoidance, for instance, can be a powerful tool for an educator. As Jervis (165) notes, “losses inflict psychological harm to a greater degree than gains gratify.” Yet traditional education ignores this, with students beginning with zero points in a class and slowly earning their way to the minimum amount of points needed for a score they desire. This “framing effect” — different response to the same substantive stimuli depending on how it is described — has been shown to me important (Jervis 172) even among highly educated populations, such as surgeons. An evolutionarily-informed classroom would start students with the maximum numbers of points, and be deducted through the assignments to the final grade.

Disengaged students are the fear of every instructor, and from the perspective of an plural classrooms, these could be thought of as outbreaks of peace (a cessation of student competition). Peace between groups “is the normal human condition” (18) but hope can be found in systems. Systems may be the cause of the “intergroup alliances” (24) that prevent group tournaments, and systems can also serve to prolong hostilities (23). Thus the wise instructor will have to devise the classroom such that conditions that further intergroup tournaments — such as power asymmetries as well as not overly “punishing” groups for original solutions to problems (23) — in order to improve education. Likewise, safe predictable levels may , (Jervis 168) along with too much “tension-reducing reconciliation” (Sapolsky) such as “cheating,” arise, and these need to be countered as well. Similarly, the emergence of groups in which all of the work is done either by women in “female farming systems” (Harpending and Cochran 11-12) or entirely by males in raiding parties (Wrangham 22) would be something to watch out for.

By being closer to human nature, a method of political science education focused on coalitionary aggression and loss aversion will be more inclusive. Some mental phenotypes “are adaptive yet… are irritating or undesirable (Harpending and Cochran 10) and can lead to labels such as Hyper-Active (Ding et al 314). However, group tournaments would allow a division of labor that allow different personality types to contribute in different ways. This is superior to the current, atomist, model of education which attempts to use a common delivery to directly teach every student.

Student motivation is always a question, which is not surprising as minimal competition (“peace”) is the normal human condition (Wrangham 18). Fortunately, as educators we can create intergroup competition through manipulating system-level rules (24). Breaking students into groups, say, and not deducting points from the winning group, should be enough to encourage individual competition, especially if we trust in man’s capacity as a wary cooperator and allow further deductions based on negative, if costly, reviews from fellow students (say, a student can deduct one point from himself to deduct a point from a cheater).

This model makes precise predictions. It argues that classes which give the students all of their points immediately but then deduct for wrong answer, rather than classes that begin students with zero points and reward for correct answers, should produce higher-achieving students. Likewise, it argues that classes where group work is done with the purpose of triumphing over another groups should be more effective than either classroom where the purpose is intergroup cooperation, individual cooperation, or individual competition. An experiment to demonstrate this for one-shot classes should be straight-forward to conduct, and a comparative, semester-long study involving recitations is not beyond the realm of possibility.

These experiments would integrate well with existing programs. Games that focus on cheater-detection and cheater-punishment, for example, can easily be applied to seeing if students will detect and punish academic cheaters — especially if those cheaters’ actions cause the victim to lose points.


Classroom Democracy, a tdaxp series
1. A Parliament of Scholars
2. A Defense of Republics
3. The Life of Constitutions
4. The Evolution of Learning
5. Bibliography

Classroom Democracy, Part III: The Life of Constitutions

An agile Constitution can be changed, so that the weaknesses can be fixed and not become avenues for anti-democratic forces. This is as true for the constitutions in Classroom Democracies as the constitutions in Federal Republics. Of my classes last semester, one added a Supreme Court, one established a Lebanon-style division of offices, and one abolished the Assembly.


The Classroom: A People-Powered Polis

1. The Supreme Court

Classroom Democracy builds rational academic behavior by exposing students to multiple perspectives through peer interaction. Different options, such as whether to spend a day watching a movie or studying for an exam, are considered by the students. Regular elections rewards students who have good study skills to share, and allows them to act as mentors for students who are not so knowledgeable. Democracy is very Vygotskian, as it relies on dialog and zones of proximal development.

However, social interaction can be stressful. It requires students to consciously weight alternatives, which is mentally more taxing than trusting an authority figure. When the teacher is dedicated to democracy, the students cannot revert easily to their role of passive receptacles of knowledge. One class, however, succeeded in doing just that…


Under Judges Students Rule?

While maintaining the mechanisms of Assembly, President, and Government, one class changed their constitution to create a Supreme Court of eight Justices. The Justices were appointed for life, and could not easily be impeached (both a 2/3rds majority of the Assembly and a majority of the Supreme Court would be needed to remove a justice). The Supreme Court “oversaw” the actions of the Prime Minister, such that the Prime Minister’s sole responsibility became merely asking the Supreme Court how to decide issues.

The students on the Supreme Court were solid students and achievement-oriented. They ran the class is a solid fashion. However, the lack of democratic dialog was notable. The individual perspectives of the Students no longer mattered, as decisions were decided for them by the Supreme Court.

2. Confessionalism

In one class, a small faction of extroverted and smart students quickly established dominance. They noted that students were more likely to vote for a name proposed than for students not yet nominated. Therefore, they purposefully nominated each one of their Party immediately. They were typically able to acquire a 2/3rds vote in the Assembly just among their faction, which let them run the class as they saw fit.


Apartheid Classroom Democracy?

A month or so into the semester, a student privately informed me that he had formed another faction and they would try to change the direction of the class. The mimicked the tactics of the ruling faction, and were able to achieve slightly more than a 1/3rd vote of the Assembly.

Electing a President requires a 2/3rds majority, and neither faction was going to allow a member for the other to be President. Assembly after Assembly was dissolved, unable to create a government. It was a great teachable moment when I discussed how Iraq suffered similar problems under a similar constitution.

The leaders of the factions approached me after class, asking me what would happen because no time was left for teaching after a day full of parliamentary maneuvers. I mentioned I did not know, because I believed in Classroom Democracy.

Their solution was clever. Their amendment would separate the class into three groups, or “Confessions.” Each of the original factions would form one Confession, and the rest of the students would move to a third Confession. They established that the President would always come from one of the original Confessions, the Prime Minister would always come from the other, and a new ceremonial position, the Speaker of the Assembly, would be reserved for the third Confession.

The Confessionalist government, which was styled after Lebanon’s Constitution, ended the factional strife and allowed governments to be rapidly formed. However, as with the Class that established a Supreme Court, it did diminish meaningful discussion about how classes should be run.

3. The Abolition of the Assembly

The third class went in an opposite direction. While the Jurist and Confessionalist classes decided to reduce the amount of discussion by adding to the Constitution, this Class desired more conversation. After considerable in-class and out-of-class discussion, they amended the Constitution to dramatically restructure the Assembly.


A Democracy of the Academy

According to the Constitution, the Assembly is elected through Proportional Parliamentary Representation. However, this class decided that the Class itself would be the Assembly, creating an “Assembly-of-the-Whole” which was not elected because every student would receive one vote. This had the advantage of giving every student direct say over who would be the President, and direct input on Confidence votes for the Prime Minister. This change was made too late in the semester to observe its long term effects, but I was impressed by the contemplation that went into the alteration.


Classroom Democracy, a tdaxp series
1. A Parliament of Scholars
2. A Defense of Republics
3. The Life of Constitutions
4. The Evolution of Learning
5. Bibliography

Classroom Democracy, Part II: A Defense of Republics

One reason Classroom Democracy succeeds is the powerful human drive for socialization. “Students have a more enjoyable and profitable learning experience when they feel connected to each other,” (Royse 6), and hands-on role-playing (11) such as classroom democracy enable this. Classroom democracy succeeds because it is founded on social interaction, and “the most successful programs for developing critical thought have been those involving social interaction” (Bruning 4).


The Classroom: A People-Powered Polis

The innovative nature of classroom democracy makes this doubly true, as its unusual processes challenge “established orthodoxies” (Ruiz 159) and force students to be aware of how they learn and how they want to learn. Socialization encourages students to develop “self-regulation [to] use personal (self) processes to strategically monitor and control his or her behavior and the environment” (Lee and Young 32). Whatever we would wish, many college students do not develop study skills because they are never given any control of their learning in a classroom environment. Classroom democracy allows students to develop self-regulation in a Vygostkian, zones-of-proximal-development, style by working with more established learners in deciding how to learn.


Further, the benefits of social cognition are intertwined with motivation. The reason that recent pedagogical models “include not only purely cognitive processes but also motivational ones” (Bruning 5) is that students are moved by group processes. It is not correct, for example, to say that students ask themselves “how well can I do by working and learning as little as possible” (Ruiz 160), but it probably is true that students have “a preference for cooperation, a modest level of mistrust, an ability to persuade others of one’s own good faith, and an ability to detect lack of good faith in others” (Smith 1014) and that instead of utility maximization, what drives the behavior of wary cooperators is ‘sucker aversion'” (1015). Students will contribute and try to help until they believe they are being cheated. The ability for even a small amount of students — holding just one-third of the assembly — to prevent the re-election of an Administration they dislike — means that the “type” of student who is most concerned with unfair play (Smith et al 12) will have the power to act on the behalf of the group. Further, the deliberative, inclusive manner of the elections are likely to correlate with student happiness, because folks “do not necessarily need to receive more resources to be happy, but they do need decisions to be made by decision makers who are not selfishly motivated and who are not driven by ambition” (24). I suggest that “apathy and disengagement” are less the result of “dialogical instruction” and debate (Reiter 302) than the process of the debate.

The processes I use also fit the various learning styles of students better than a series of lectures. Classroom democracy allows both dynamic and static matching for personalities. Learners express “appreciation for teachers who make a point to appeal to a broad range of learning styles” (Holonen 49), yet the ratios of students who thrive in discussion sections, or review sections, or other sections changes from class to class. All teachers are familiar with the glazed-over eyes students can quickly acquire during lectures, and the difficulty in reading students minds. Again, the deliberative and minority-sensitive nature of classroom democracy comes through. Because of the two-thirds majority, “all learning” really does become “collaborative learning” (Dawson 47) because students collaborate even in setting the process criteria. “Students need to write” (Roth 207) and study in different ways, and the inherent “community-process criteria” (Bruning 19) allows for that range. Additionally, the pre-defined ministers allow the thriving of personalities who may simply be shy. Information Ministers may be tasked to provide detailed notes, say, and Interior Ministers to think and write critically on the assignment, and this provides social interaction for students who might otherwise keep their heads down and only show their work on predetermined quizzes.


Classroom Democracy, a tdaxp series
1. A Parliament of Scholars
2. A Defense of Republics
3. The Life of Constitutions
4. The Evolution of Learning
5. Bibliography

Truths, Half-Truths, and Extinction: The Hidden Face of The Economist

A Guide to Womenomics,” The Economist, 12 April 2006, pg 73, http://www.economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=6802551 (from Sean Meade at TPMB).

A plan whose success involves your own extermination, whose concept of strategy is limited to high-kinetic conflict, whose description of stability operations is building-guarding, is one doomed to failure.

That’s why the recent Economist article on women and work should be read suspiciously. The piece is a slipshod collection of half-truths and deceptions in support of social experiments that destroy the nations which adopt them.

And you thought The Economist was just a girlie magazine.

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The Economist: More Than Just Booth Babes


I. The Economist on the Value of Education

“WHY can’t a woman be more like a man?” mused Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”. Future generations might ask why a man can’t be more like a woman. In rich countries, girls now do better at school than boys, more women are getting university degrees than men are and females are filling most new jobs. Arguably, women are now the most powerful engine of global growth.

If, however. the editors of The Economist had read tdaxp, they would know that, statistically, white American women do not enter college for higher earning opportunities. Of all ethnic-sex groups, only latin women earn less from higher education than white women.

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Chart of Income Among American College Educated Women by Race

For a substantial fraction of women, the purpose of college appears to be social life or an “Mrs” degree. The Economist might as well be talking about widespread female education, because of the popularity of manner schools. Of course, that context of that fact is inconvenient, so the magazine does not mention it.

II. The Economist and the Value of Work

Later, the article confuses itself in its economics. Discussing female entry into “paid work,” The Economist notes

over the past decade or so, the increased employment of women in developed economies has contributed much more to global growth than China has.

In other words, value unpaid work at $0, value paid work at the going rate, and — unsurprisingly — paid work is valued more. (Not that it’s surprising for some not to value unpaid work.)

III. The Economist and Styles of Work

A more serious criticism is found in the articles myopic materialism:

To some extent, the increase in female paid employment has meant fewer hours of unpaid housework. However, the value of housework has fallen by much less than the time spent on it, because of the increased productivity afforded by dishwashers, washing machines and so forth. Paid nannies and cleaners employed by working women now also do some work that used to belong in the non-market economy.

It boggles the mind how wrong this is. America, and the rest of the Old Core, is a capital-rich, labor-poor society. This style of economy is very sensitive to the quality of the workforce. Yet The Economist dismisses the purpose of “housework” as somehow centering on “dishwashers, washing machines and so forth” instead of standing up the next generation. This would be like the US Military ceasing training of Iraqi Police officers, because their hygienic needs can be easily taken care of by “dishwashers, washing machines and so forth.”

What The Economist calls paid work is a high-kinetics, low-network-density activity. Likewise, what our British publishing pals call “housework” is lower kinetic but higher density work. Trying to find an essentially Phase III (Combat Operations) force to do a Phase IV job (Nation Building) — what The Economist suggested by its quick reference to “paid nannies” — is as insane as having the US Military rebuild the society of a middle eastern nation.

By focusing on monetized gains at the expense of social capital, The Economist is like a general that advocates just blowing things up instead of transitioning to a civilian reconstruction force.

IV. The Economist and Population Implosion

As if that was not bad enough, The Economist wants to lull us into extinction:

It is sometimes argued that it is shortsighted to get more women into paid employment. The more women go out to work, it is said, the fewer children there will be and the lower growth will be in the long run. Yet the facts suggest otherwise. Chart 3 shows that countries with high female labour participation rates, such as Sweden, tend to have higher fertility rates than Germany, Italy and Japan, where fewer women work. Indeed, the decline in fertility has been greatest in several countries where female employment is low.

What the article fails to mention is that Sweden has a death rate higher than the birth rate (0.31 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.) compared to 10.27 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)). America, by contrast and more primitive in the eyes of The Economist, has a birth rate higher than its death rate (8.26 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.) compared to 14.14 births/1,000 population (2006 est.))

Further:

It seems that if higher female labour participation is supported by the right policies, it need not reduce fertility. To make full use of their national pools of female talent, governments need to remove obstacles that make it hard for women to combine work with having children. This may mean offering parental leave and child care, allowing more flexible working hours, and reforming tax and social-security systems that create disincentives for women to work.

That might be comforting, if such policies were correlated to higher fertility. Yet as Old Europe has expanded “maternity” services, actual maternities have fallen. The Economist enjoys mentioning corollaries when it suits it in this “finance & economics” article, but not when it’s an inconvenient fact.

V. The Economist and Politically Motivated “News”

Though The Economist is based in London, it is trying to change into a leading American newsmagazine. Apparently, part of its transition is social agenda fluff pieces disguised as news and analysis.

Pity.

Why Kerry Lost

Average-Wage Earners Fall Behind: New Job Market Makes More Demands but Fewer Promises,” by Jonathan Krim and Griff Witte, Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A37628-2004Dec30?language=printer, 31 December 2004.

A very complex article, tied together by the changing economy and the need to prepare for it. While reading, I was struck by the opportunities Senator John F. Kerry threw away.

In the middle of a story of a retraining worker, a surprising complaint

If she can’t stay on her husband’s health plan, her costs for health insurance offered by the hospital will be $200 a month, more than five times as much as at the airline. There are no pension benefits beyond the option for a 401(k) savings plan and few job protections. She makes $2 an hour less than before; to have a chance at higher pay, she will need to continually train herself in new areas.

Reading this I was less than sympathetic. I have never had a job were I could expect to sit on my knowledge. Paragraphs later the theme repeats..

This new era requires that workers shoulder more responsibility and risk on the way to financial security, economists say. It also demands that they be nimble in an increasingly fluid job market. Those who don’t obtain some combination of specialized skills, higher education and professional status that can be constantly adapted will be in danger of sliding down the economic ladder to low-paying service jobs, usually without benefits.

The article has switched from the specific to the general, but still it reads like a litany. But then the “Ah ha!” moment

In the political world, debate over labor market restructuring has been dominated by finger-pointing about free trade or the ethics of offshoring, rather than by discussion of possible solutions.

Exactly. Kerry bizarrely railed against “Benedict Arnold CEOs,” painting himself as an economic luddite, but then shut up, exposing himself as a flip-flopper. But did he ever focus on a real way to solve the issue? Restricting trade would be more idiotic and more radical than Kerry was capable of, but where were his real answers? If he could have jumped ahead of Bush, proposal globalization-era solutions to globalization-era problems, he could have painted W as the candidate of the pass. Instead JFK v 2.0 became the candidate of JFK 1.0 America, surrounding himself with unions and labor-intensive heavy industry.

But as displaced workers fail to make the transition into new jobs that afford them the same kind of lifestyle as their old ones, economists say that politicians ignore the issue at their own peril.

What might Kerry have done?

Last year, the Labor Department launched a pilot wage insurance program that would provide workers age 50 or older with half the difference between their old salary and their new salary when they’re forced to take lower-paying positions following a layoff. Workers would also get a tax credit for 65 percent of their health insurance premiums. But the eligibility requirements are many — the layoff, for instance, must come because of competition from abroad. As of August, only 715 workers nationwide had enrolled.

Some contend that such ideas only touch the edges of a looming crisis. While they may help individual workers in the short term, they don’t address the larger difficulties faced by the workforce in adapting to the demands of 21st century jobs. For that, these labor market experts say, the educational system will have to continue to raise its quality and reach a broader population.

He should have gotten ahead of Bush. A Republican administration is proposing a backward-looking plan that is immediately out of date and unpopular plan.

Thomas Bradtke, a manager at Boston Consulting Group, said that for the United States to retain its technological leadership and create new job-producing industries, it will have to keep coming up with a large share of the world’s innovative ideas. At a time when other countries’ students are routinely testing higher than American children in science and math, that’s not a given.

What if Kerry would have attacked failing public schools? What if he would have proposed a system to support school choice, economically benefitting the poorest Americans most? This would be big government in the best sense: federal action to protect and defend America’s vital interests.

Carnevale, who was a member of the White House advisory committee on technology and adult education in the Clinton administration, argues that the country needs the equivalent of an industrial policy focused both on getting more people through college and on retraining them for new jobs.

Don’t stop there. We need an “industrial policy” that doesn’t waste the first 18 years of the life of every public-school American. JFK 1.0 had the vision required for pro-American federal efforts, and won an election against an incumbent party. 2.0 was an “upgrade” worthy of Microsoft.

Wisdom from back Home

Home schooling,” by Jerry D. Wilson, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com/editorial/Sundayarticle9.shtml, 2 January 2005.

A great letter to the editor of SFAL by Mr. Wilson, a resident of my ancestoral homeland of Scotland, South Dakota.

I am writing about the home-schooling issue.

I do not understand why the state thinks it can have its cake and eat it, too. For example, the state wants to put many home-schoolers under the microscope under the guise of accountability. However, some officials want to exclude home-schoolers from things like tax-funded scholarships and after-school sports activities.

I think the state needs to worry about problems in its own public schools before it gives home-schoolers who score higher on ACTs (on average) a hard time.

South Dakota is a very home-school friendly state. This brings families to the state of South Dakota.

Why on earth would the state wish to mess that up?

Exactly.