19 May 2008

Quotes from Alfie Kohn and Virginia Woolf

There are many reasons policymakers seek to impose detailed curriculum mandates. They may fundamentally distrust educators: Much of the current standards movement is just the latest episdoe in a long, sorry history of trying to create a teacher-proof curriculum.
...
These days almost anything can be done to students and to schools, no matter how ill-considered, as long as it is done in the name of raising standards.
...
It's convenient for us to assume that kids who cut corners are just being lazy, because then it's the kids who have to be fixed. But perhaps they're just being rational. They have adapted to an environment where results, not intellectual exploration, are what count.
...
Assessment is used less to support learning than to evaluate and compare people. ...(Standardized testing) screens and sorts students for the convenience of industry (and higher education).
...
What happens to schools when they are plunged into the marketplace? To begin with, they must shift much of their time and resources to, well, marketing. (It is those who sell themselves skillfully, not those who are especially good at what they do, who tend to succeed in a competitive market.) Moreover, the pressure to make themselves look better presents a temptation to screen out less desirable students, those whose education takes more effort or expense. "The problem with public schools," remarked author John Chubb, "is that they must take whoever walks in the door." The philosophical core of the privatization movement for which Chubb speaks is neatly revealed in the use of the word problem in that sentence. [Note: I disagree with this statement, but it is the among the best anti-voucher arguments I've seen.]

Alfie Kohn
--What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated? (Highly recommended.)

And, thanking Mr. Ramsay for it and Mrs. Ramsay for it and the hour and the place, crediting the world with a power which she had not suspected - that one could walk away down that long gallery not alone any more but arm in arm with somebody - the strangest feeling in the world, and the most exhilarating....
...
Here she saddened, darkened, and came back to her chair, there could be no disputing this: an unmarried woman (she lightly took her hand for a moment), an unmarried woman has missed the best of life. The house seemed full of children sleeping and Mrs. Ramsay listening; shaded lights and regular breathing.
...
How strangely he was venerable and laughable at one and the same time.
...
She bore about with her, she could not help knowing it, the torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room that she entered; and after all, veil it as she might, and shrink from the monotony of bearing that it imposed on her, her beauty was apparent.
...
The very stone one kicks with one's boot will outlast Shakespeare. His own little light would shine, not very brightly, for a year or two, and would then be merged in some bigger light, and that in a bigger still.
...
All at once he realised that it was this: it was this: - she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen. ...For the first time in his life Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride; a man digging in a drain stopped digging and looked at her, let his arm fall down and looked at her; for the first time in his life Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride; felt the wind and the cyclamen and the violets for he was walking with a beautiful woman. He had hold of her bag.

Virginia Woolf
--To the Lighthouse

08 May 2008

The Nuclear Peace and its Consequences for China's Rise

I just put the finishing touches on my M.A. thesis, bringing one of the most stressful months of my life to a satisfying close. 10,181 words, 45 pages, three entirely different drafts, and an ungodly amount of writing and revision. I am happy with the finished product and will turn it in tomorrow morning, then post a link to it online. My faculty advisor was John Mearsheimer, the best professor I've had at the U of C and one of the most influential international relations scholars in America.

The thesis:

I argue that security conflict between the U.S. and China can be managed short of war, regardless of how strong China becomes. This is the case because of the phenomenon known as the “nuclear peace”; because every great power in the contemporary international system possesses a secure, second-strike nuclear capability, the best prediction we can make is that every possible conflict between the U.S. and China - or any pair of contemporary great powers - will be stopped short of war because of nuclear deterrence, which raises the costs of war to unacceptably high levels, outweighing all potential political gains to be had by conquest.

With this behind me, I'm turning my mind away from school and on to other things, with the exception of my Japanese and Norwegian coursework. I still need to finish Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, and I'm currently reading several books on education: Alfie Kohn's What Does It Mean to Be Well Educated?, Nel Nodding's Philosophy of Education, and Myron Lieberman's The Educational Morass, among others. I am extremely excited for this weekend, as I am going home to Muskegon, MI to hang out with my wonderful family for the first time since March.

I feel as though an enormous burden has been lifted from me.