Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Daily Dose of Depression --Good News, Bad News, Have It Your Way

EDITORIAL: Jobless rate falling; cross your fingers

   Evansville Courier Journal –  Posted February 8, 2012 at 3 a.m.

The economy added 243,000 new jobs last month. Excluding the 2010 Census hiring bulge and March and April surges, this is the biggest burst of hiring since March 2006. The unemployment rate now has fallen for five straight months, a hopeful sign of recovery. . . .

All economic reports come with "on the other hand" disclaimers, but even here the bad news is not as bad as it was. The economy added 1.82 million jobs last year, twice as many as in 2010. That still leaves 12.8 million Americans unemployed; that's the fewest since the recession ended in June 2009, for what comfort it's worth.

For President Barack Obama to benefit from these numbers, two things have to happen: The economy has to continue improving, and voters have to feel viscerally that the economy is indeed getting better.
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As you might expect,  many online responses turned this lukewarm "good" news into just more political hash and charges of another Obama conspiracy.

Ironically, the Radical Right is correct about these numbers in their usual crooked reasoning kind of way. Gains like this are not going to get us out of the Bush Depression before election day or any day for years to come. In this they are in agreement with that. . . (deep breath here) Commie Keynesian, Paul Krugman!

What's missing from the Rights’ bowel movement thoughts?  These "I got mine, you get yours" boys are without clue or plan.  Their “Do Nothing and Tomorrow, Tomorrow, The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” refrain  leaves us wallowing in unregulated, unproductive, and unfair Market Freedom mire.  Follow their narrow dream thought process and our future days, and their grand kid’s future nightmares, will be filled with the reality of hopping on and off  the merry go round ride of the resume machine to nowhere.

In fairness, the Radical Right and their conservative toadies do suggest one answer to our market mess depression. It goes like this:  "There are employers out there that can't find decent people to hire."

Sure there are.  Corporations sitting on heaped up cash reserves are just panting for good people.  Brilliant, risk-taking entrepreneurs are anxious to put together plans and people for that moon base Gingrich sees as our economic future.  Just don't ask:  Where do the under and the unemployed go to sign up?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Computers March, Reading Retreats

Terre Haute Tribune Star
February 5, 2012
FLASHPOINT: Tech trail leading us into a dense, digital forest


It seems the Southwest Parke schools are the latest to play the laptop lottery game.

The Trib-Star reports (See Sue Loughlin, “Schools transitioning to digital curriculum,” Jan. 29, 2012) that the SW Parke schools are moving toward a digital curriculum. The story concludes with this:

“Use of digital curriculum will be one component, ‘a small part,’ of teacher evaluations, [Kyle] Kersey [Riverton Parke assistant principal] said.”

I looked carefully but full dollar cost estimates of support equipment, service upkeep, specialized tutors and administration, space allotments, workshops, staff time and costs of downtime were not covered in this article.

The price tag on this wild blue yonder shift will certainly be high enough to call into question that last line in the story, the one about, “Use of digital curriculum will be one component, ‘a small part,’ of teacher evaluations.”

Who would doubt in these times of spurious “accountability” in all things educational that someone in a green eye shade hasn’t worked out the metrics (ugly word, that) of the whole shebang. In schools, performance, production and payoffs, the Three P’s, have eclipsed the old-fashioned Three R’s.

My criticisms here are not about the SW Parke initiative alone. They’re just part of the grinding, aimless wagon train heading down the digital ghost road. All agree it’s an “extremely exciting” trail. One student described the road ahead as “awesome,” or as she might put it in a Twitter composition, AWSM.

With this kind of momentum and with big money involved, few want to hear that the reliance on tech leads away from, not toward, student development in terms of comprehension in reading, attention to detail, development of effective memory skills, and the understanding and critical use of information (as opposed to mechanistic data retrieval and manipulation).

However, here is a reason to scream, to march, to move out of the SW Parke district if you have kids: “‘Books won’t completely go away,’ [Rachel] Porter [the district’s digital curriculum integration specialist] said. ‘We don’t feel it’s a best practice to say we’ll never use a book. But, we don’t want to be reliant on a static paper textbook, so we’re trying to get away from that.’”

I take umbrage with any and all who feel/think/state in public that a book (even a textbook) is “static paper.”

It’s true, you might not be able to wave your finger or a mouse across the page in a book and make that page do visual tricks. It’s also true that kids get real good at those tricks, real fast.

But what kids in and out of school need to do more of is to allow the power of reading to wash through their minds. Students of all kinds are best served when their powers of attention and patience are fostered and developed. Curiosity grows when sentences in books on “static paper” challenge young people.

There is a world beyond programmed apps and digitized data, white boards and e(non)Books. It’s a world of miraculous and lasting depth. The tech trail compromises and diminishes this world.

— Gary W. Daily

Terre Haute