Monday, March 30, 2009

Tai Chi to Win

International Press •
Interview with
Win Straube ••
Managing Member, The Straube Foundation, Inc.

What is Tai Chi?

Translated from the Chinese, "Tai Chi Chuan" literally translates as "Supreme Ultimate Fist " or "Boundless Fist," but can also be read as "Great Extreme Boxing," or “Yin/Yang Boxing” or “Supreme Ultimate Boxing.” Over 5000 years old, Tai Chi is considered by many the physical application of Taoist philosophy, which stresses that all good comes from the fundamental harmony between man and natural forces. Legend has it that an early Taoist witnessed a snake fighting a crane. From that observation allegedly, tai chi was developed, in essence a self-defense routine that encourages correct posture and body mechanics in order to use an opponent’s force against himself, and at the same time exert maximum force and pressure on him.

Is Tai Chi the only martial art which is purely defensive?

In this respect, the philosophy of Tai Chi resembles that of Judo, which means “The Gentle Way,” and is a Japanese martial art based on the ancient techniques of Jiu-Jitsu, which was developed as a weaponless system of self-defense by Buddhist monks over several thousand years. Or also as the “Way of the Intercepting Fist,” the basic mental and physical concepts, combat maneuvers, and attitudes expressed by the late Bruce Lee.

Have these practices been the same throughout history?

They’ve been around for a long period of time and finely honed by many people, adapting to particular needs of the epochs. Just to relate to the length of time involved, consider that the Hebrew calendar presently counts the year 5770, and the Chinese calendar 4707. Only fairly recently, within the last 200 years or so, these practices have been written down and defined in various forms. For example, the Yang style of Tai Chi is probably the most commonly practiced form around the world today. Wu style is also popular, particularly in some Asian countries. There is substantial literature available on all the traditional Tai Chi styles, their practice and applications, including on the World Wide Web.

Why are people still practicing physical self-defense of this type? In these days it may not be appropriate nor effective?

Many people nowadays practice Tai Chi for the purpose of building and maintaining good health, although the underlying philosophy and strength is that of self-defense.




Well, the first objective of an opponent was (and maybe still is) to throw you off balance. The main aim of Tai Chi is to retain your balance, and let him lose his. Since Tai Chi is a practice of body and mind inseparably combined, this also applies to keeping your senses and intellect in balance and not go off-balance, regardless how much others might try.


Tai Chi practice improves your flexibility, again both in body and mind.


It teaches you swiftness, moving at the right moment, in the right places, as well as your logic computing super-fast in precise anticipation.


Proficiency in Tai Chi results in deliberate, strong movements, including being able to grasp and hold on to things and thoughts.


It teaches focus, improves your intuition as well as non-verbal communication skills, exuding strength and confidence on your part, especially when facing an opponent. More than that for the experienced practitioner: it exerts one’s focus on others, gives non-verbal commands with nothing but the mind.


As a major benefit for living in stressful times, the practice of Tai Chi counter-acts the onslaught of outside forces and influences, tunes your body and mind for deliberate moves and action, more control, more attention to detail, enables better learning, leading to better performance.

It sounds like sharp concentration is necessary, careful attention to detail and a lot of hard work.

One of the major factors in bringing the desired results about, Tai Chi needs to be practiced very slowly. The slower it can be done, the better, and the harder it is. It teaches discipline, for body and mind, concentration, motivation to learn and practice for kids and grownups alike. Once mastered, Tai Chi moves can be executed very fast when necessary, very effectively, including in the thinking process.

Apparently many people practice Tai Chi purely for its health benefits?

Yes, Tai Chi can function as a non-pharmaceutical medicine. The practice of Tai Chi provides many health benefits. It improves breathing, posture, endurance, concentration, lowers blood pressure, gives relaxation, and more.

Do I have to join a group to practice Tai Chi? Are there any other requirements for me to take part in the exercise?

One of the many advantages of practicing Tai Chi for a modern, mobile person is that it can be done anywhere, any time. No gym needs to be visited. No equipment is required. No uniform. No partner. It can be done any time one feels like it or the opportunity presents itself, regardless where, with the rest of the world tuned out, in “the space it takes for a cow to lay down” (that’s how it is described in old South Asian writings.)

It sounds like it is as much a mental exercise as physical?

Actually, you can practice Tai Chi merely in your mind, going through the entire form, with your eyes closed, while sitting in a crowded hall waiting for your airplane to arrive or leave, for example. And yes, even just the mental exercise, picturing and feeling yourself going through the motions, will provide benefits to your system. So does, by the way, merely watching when others practice Tai Chi, even if seen just on a screen. As long as you turn out everything else and concentrate on nothing but the Tai Chi movements being performed, and stay the course, the entire form from start to finish, it will do you some good.

Why is the way you teach Tai Chi referred to as “Tai Chi to Win”?

The Tai Chi form I teach is geared to the needs of the 21st century modern human being. It is the ancient Chinese discipline of meditative movements practiced as a system of exercises. Gentle deliberate movements refreshing the body, revitalizing the spirit and clearing the mind. “Tai-Chi to Win” improves blood circulation, strengthens the cardiovascular system, massages the internal organs and supplies the entire organism with life energy. For the mind, it teaches concentration and visualization techniques. It is both a self-defense system and a moving meditation, it develops peace and harmony in its practitioners. The classical form I teach has 150 movements or positions, including Yoga posture adaptations in the ancient Chinese way for the benefit of health and longevity.

So how can one end up learning better and win?

“Tai Chi to Win” means making you more resilient, tougher to compete with, and solidly healthy overall.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Some Rich Districts Get Richer as Aid Is Rushed to Schools

by Sam Dillon
The New York Times
March 21, 2009
RANDOLPH, Utah — Dale Lamborn, the superintendent of a somewhat threadbare rural school district, feels the pain of Utah’s economic crisis every day as he tinkers with his shrinking budget, struggling to avoid laying off teachers or cutting classes like welding or calculus.
Students in Evanston, Wyo.,
part of a district where federal
money is viewed as a windfall.
Just across the border in Wyoming,astate awash in oil and gas money, James Bailey runs a wealthier district. It has a new elementary school and gives every child an Apple laptop.
But under the Obama administration’s education stimulus package, Mr. Lamborn, who needs every penny he can get, will receive hundreds of dollars less per student than will Dr. Bailey, who says he does not need the extra money.

“For us, this is just a windfall,” Dr. Bailey said.
In pouring rivers of cash into states and school districts, Washington is using a tangle of well-worn federal formulas, some of which benefit states that spend more per pupil, while others help states with large concentrations of poor students or simply channel money based on population. Combined, the formulas seem to take little account of who needs the money most.

As a result, some districts that are well off will find themselves swimming in cash, while some that are struggling may get too little to avoid cutbacks.

Still, educators are accepting the disparities without challenge. Utah, which stands to get about $400 less per student than Wyoming, says it is grateful for the money and has no complaint. There is widespread recognition that the federal money is helping to avert what could have been an educational disaster in some places.

Democrats in Congress decided to use the formulas to save time, knowing that devising new ones tailored to current conditions could require months of negotiations.

“These formulas were the best vehicle for getting these emergency economic recovery funds out to school districts as quickly as possible, to help them immediately stave off layoffs,” said Rachel Racusen, a spokeswoman for Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, who is chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

The education secretary, Arne Duncan, said that he, too, was aware of the disparities but that no formula was perfect. “In this case, people are just extraordinarily thankful for these unprecedented resources,” Mr. Duncan said in an interview. “So I’m aware of these disparities, but we’ve received zero complaints.”

Still, the occasional mismatch between educational needs and emergency financing can be striking.
Utah, where a $1.3 billion budget deficit has threatened deep school cuts, will get about $655 million in education stimulus money, or about $1,250 per student, according to the federal Department of Education. Wyoming, which has no deficit and has not cut school budgets in many years, will get about $1,684 per student.

North Dakota, which also has no budget problems, will receive $1,734 per student. California, which recently closed a $42 billion budget gap through July 2010 partly through deep spending cuts, will get $1,336 per student.

New York is a huge winner. With the nation’s second-largest budget deficit, the state benefits from a formula that sends extra money to concentrations of poor students, as well as one that rewards states for their own school spending. New York will receive about $1,724 per student, the most of any large state and roughly $400 more per pupil that than Connecticut and New Jersey.

The money in question is part of $97 billion to be administered by the Education Department under the stimulus law.
Within weeks, states will begin receiving a large part of the roughly $80 billion to be distributed over two years. Most of the rest of the $97 billion will go toward college grants to low-income students.

About $50 billion, which Congress labeled a fiscal stabilization fund, will flow to states based on a formula that takes into account population, as well as the number of 5- to 24-year-olds. The states have some discretion, but part of the money must go toward avoiding or reversing cuts.
About $25 billion will be sent to the nation’s 14,000 school districts for spending on poor and disabled students according to long-standing formulas. And Mr. Duncan will use $5 billion to reward states for exemplary systems.

In Wyoming, where fourth graders
in Uinta County District 1 have
laptops, times are not so tough.

Last month Mr. Duncan released state-by-state allocations of the education stimulus money. They were divided by Department of
Education enrollment numbers to calculate the money on a per-student basis.
Washington, which is treated as a state under the stimulus, will get the highest allocation, $2,112 per student. Michelle Rhee, the schools chancellor there, said spending could be tricky.

“We don’t want to be in a position of bringing in this huge amount of money and then having to lay people off in two years after the money runs out,” Ms. Rhee said.

In Maryland, Prince George’s County, which borders Washington, appears likely to receive less than $1,500 per student. “I can tell you we’re not complaining,” said John White, a spokesman for the county schools. His district had been planning to cut 1,000 of its 17,000 employees and to furlough others to save money, he said, but the federal money will reduce the layoffs and make the furlough unnecessary.

Things are also working out better for Mr. Lamborn, whose district is in Rich County in northeastern Utah, where 450 children of coal miners and ranchers attend four austere rural schools. The Utah Legislature, facing a deficit of more than $1 billion, was preparing to cut school spending statewide by 17 percent. Last week, it reduced that cut to 5 percent.

Mr. Lamborn said a 17 percent cut in his district, where the starting pay for a teacher is $32,000, would have been devastating. “I didn’t even want to think about it,” he said.
Even a cut of 5 percent may result in the elimination of a teacher or two, Mr. Lamborn said. He snorted last week when he read a federal guidance letter that said, “Spend funds quickly to create and save jobs.”

“We won’t be creating any,” he said. “We hope to save some.”

Across the state line in Evanston, Wyo., where Dr. Bailey is superintendent, the Uinta County District 1 has enjoyed years of growing budgets. Students attend new or updated schools with plenty of computers; high-tech smart boards have replaced blackboards. The starting pay for a teacher is $41,500. Achievement is improving, especially in math, and a teacher training program is enriched by outside consultants.

In a meeting last week, some educators questioned whether the district could spend the $1.5 million in new federal money wisely, without losing focus on its goals, which include improving adolescent literacy skills.

“Out of the blue this money has dropped in, and it’s kind of a distraction,” Dr. Bailey said.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Education Spin

By Lori Robertson, Jess Henig, Joe Miller and Viveca Novak
Mar 18, 2009

Last year, we were getting smarter. This year, not so much.

Last year, the president touted U.S. gains in education, saying that our "fourth- and eighth-graders achieved the highest math scores on record." He bragged that "African-American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs." Last week, the president said those eighth-graders weren't so great at math after all. He claimed they had "fallen to ninth place" in the world, and he bemoaned a high school dropout rate that had "tripled" over three decades.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year President Bush was talking up improvements that had occurred since his No Child Left Behind Act was implemented. This year President Obama is making a case for spending more on teachers' salaries, early education and more as part of his new agenda. We certainly wouldn't argue that education can't be improved, but some of the figures Obama used painted a bleaker picture than actually exists:

The high school dropout rate hasn't "tripled in the past 30 years," as Obama claimed. According to the Department of Education, it has actually declined by a third.

Eighth-grade math scores haven't "fallen" to ninth place compared with other countries. U.S. scores have climbed to that ranking from as low as 28th place in 1995.

Obama also set a goal "of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world" by 2020. But in terms of bachelor's degrees, we're nearly there. The U.S. is already second only to Norway in the percentage of adults age 25 to 64 with a four-year degree, and trails by just 1 percentage point.

Whether the education system in the U.S. has improved greatly or needs great improvement may depend on whether a president is nearing the end or just beginning his time in office.

In his final State of the Union address, President George W. Bush claimed student test scores had gone up after enactment of his education legislation. As we said at the time, he was mostly correct. Bush said for example that in 2007, fourth- and eighth-graders "achieved the highest math scores on record." We noted that the "record" of scores dates back only to 1990, and also that Bush failed to note a decline in reading scores for eighth-graders, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But, in general, test scores have risen since enactment of the No Child Left Behind law.

Touting those cheery stats, however, wasn't exactly on President Barack Obama's agenda last week when he spoke about education to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Just as Bush left out any mention of less-than-rosy assessments of the nation's education system, Obama didn't say too much about how smart our kids are. And some of his gloomy claims were just plain wrong, or misleading.

High School Dropout
One line left us wondering whether Obama needed to brush up his high school math:

Obama: Not when our high school dropout rate has tripled in the past thirty years. Not when high school dropouts earn about half as much as college graduates. And not when Latino students are dropping out faster than just about anyone else.Let's start with what he got right: He's correct that the dropout rate for Hispanic students is much higher than for any other group. And according to a report by the Census Bureau, full-time, year-round workers over age 25 who have earned a bachelor's degree make more than twice as much, on average, as those who did not complete high school.

But the claim that "our high school dropout rate has tripled in the past thirty years"? That's not even in the ballpark. According to the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, the "status dropout rate" – defined as the percentage of people between ages 16 and 24 who are not in school and do not have high school diplomas or GEDs – was 9.3 percent in 2006. In 1976, 30 years before that, it was 14.1. That's actually a 34 percent decrease in the high school dropout rate.

Of course, dropout rates are notoriously hard to measure and compare. For instance, while NCES shows a status dropout rate of 9.3 in 2006, the high school completion rate for that year was only 74.8 percent. Why the discrepancy? Instead of counting people of a certain age with a diploma or equivalency certificate, this figure compares the number of high school freshman in a certain year to the number receiving a high school diploma four years later. Those who take more than four years to finish aren't counted, nor are students who get GEDs instead of diplomas. But using this calculation still doesn't back up Obama's claim. The dropout rate – that is, the discrepancy between incoming freshmen and graduates – would have been 25.2 percent in the 2006-2007 school year. The rate in 1976-1977 was 25.6 percent.

Even pessimistic accounts don't show a tripled dropout rate. According to a report by the Educational Testing Service, titled "One Third of a Nation" after the number of students they say are high school dropouts, high school completion rates peaked at 77.1 percent in 1969 and dropped to 69.9 percent in 2000. (NCES shows higher numbers in both years.) That would put dropout rates at 22.9 and 30.1 percent respectively – a 30 percent increase over 31 years. As many sixth-graders could tell you, tripling would mean a 200 percent increase.

So where did Obama's figure come from? A White House spokesman pointed us to a report by the College Board, which says: "The rate at which American students disappear from school between grades nine and 12 has tripled in the last 30 years." That report in turn cites a 2004 study by the National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy, which actually shows a tripling of the attrition rate between grades nine and 10, not the dropout rate. In other words, the difference between the number of students enrolled in grade nine in one year and the number enrolled in grade 10 the next year has increased threefold. At the same time, there has been a corresponding threefold increase in grade nine enrollments relative to grade eight. The report shows more ninth-graders failing that grade, not dropping out.

NBETPP reports: This combination, of increasing attrition of students between grades 9 and 10, and increasingly more students enrolled in grade 9 relative to grade 8, is surely a reflection of the fact that more students nationally were being flunked to repeat grade 9.

A threefold increase in students being held back could certainly be considered a matter of concern. But it is not by any stretch of the imagination a tripling of the dropout rate.

Better, Not Worse at Math
While Bush boasted last year that "eighth-graders achieved the highest math scores on record," Obama said their math scores had "fallen to ninth place" in the world. Which is it?

Well, Bush was basing his claim on tests of only U.S. students by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation's Report Card, which started testing math skills in 1990. And he's correct. Obama's stat is an international measurement by the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) from the U.S. Department of Education, which does show U.S. eighth-graders in ninth place, behind places including Chinese Taipei, Korea, Singapore and Hungary. But the president was misleading when he said our eighth-graders had "fallen" to that ranking. As our colleagues at PolitiFact pointed out, in 1995, U.S. eighth-graders were in 28th place and in 2003, they had jumped to 15th place. Now, they're even smarter, comparatively speaking.

Big Country on Campus?
Obama misleadingly implied that American college graduation rates are falling behind:

Obama: In just a single generation, America has fallen from second place to eleventh place in the portion of students completing college. ... That is why, in my address to the nation the other week, I called on Americans to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training, with the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020.

It's true that, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as recently as 1995, the U.S. and New Zealand led the way in percentage of college degree holders. But by 2006 (the last year for which OECD has data), 11 countries had a higher percentage of either two- or four-year college graduates among their 25- to 34-year-old populations.

As for "having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world" by 2020, well, that might not be so difficult, depending on what measure one uses. Among adults age 25 to 64, the U.S. already has the second highest percentage of college graduates with a four-year degree in the world (30 percent), trailing Norway by a single percentage point. Using the 25-to-34 bracket and including both two- and four-year degrees, however, the U.S. lags 16 percentage points behind Canada. It is unlikely that the U.S. could make up that much ground in 11 years.

But however one slices up the numbers, the fact is that U.S. graduation rates have actually been extremely consistent for the past decade. Americans are graduating from college at about the same pace as usual; other countries have simply caught up and, in some cases, moved ahead.

It's worth noting, too, that comparing college graduation rates across countries is a bit like comparing apples with lots of non-appley things. For starters, tertiary education varies significantly by country. In the U.S., a bachelor's degree requires approximately four years of study. In the U.K., however, programs are more typically three years, whereas in Germany, programs often last five or more years and result in a degree that is comparable to a master's degree in the U.S.

Perhaps even more significant, the OECD report compares countries that are vastly different. Norway, for example, has roughly the population and per capita wealth of Massachusetts, and according to the Census Bureau, Norway trails the Bay State's college graduation rate by about 6 percentage points. The U.S. bests the college graduation rates of the similar-size and prosperous European Union in every category but one, and that one is a tie.

U.S. vs. Singapore
Another line in the same speech also took us aback: "Singapore's middle-schoolers outperform ours three-to-one." Wow.

We asked the White House where that figure came from; a spokesman pointed us to the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). And it's true that the study contains two tables showing U.S. eighth-graders stacking up at least that poorly against those from Singapore: The percentage of U.S. eighth-graders who reached the TIMMS advanced international benchmark (the highest level) in science in 2007 was 10, while 32 percent of Singapore's scored at that level. In math, our students look even worse: Six percent of U.S. eighth-graders hit the advanced benchmark, while 40 percent of Singapore's did.

But Obama did a bit of cherry-picking to make the U.S. look that bad (although we suppose that it's more lumps of coal than cherries). In a study full of tables, he found the ones where U.S. students had their worst showing. Instead, he could have used the most frequently cited statistics from the TIMMS study, the average mathematics and science scores by country. Singapore's kids still do better than American ones, but not by nearly so much. Math scores for eighth-graders in 2007 were 593 for Singapore and 508 for the U.S. In science the gap was a bit narrower: Singapore 567, U.S. 520.

And had Obama taken the glass-half-full approach, he could have looked at trend lines. Between 1995 and 2007, average math scores of U.S. eighth-graders have gone up 16 points, while those of Singapore's eighth-graders have gone down by that same amount. In science, U.S. eighth-graders have gained 7 points during that period, while Singapore's have lost 13 points.

Some Education Stats Are Gloomy
To be sure, it's not that difficult to find figures that show our kids could do better or our academic standards could be more rigorous. Other claims in Obama's speech checked out, such as:

He said "our curriculum for eighth-graders is two full years behind top performing countries." That's based on a 2005 report specifically on math curricula by the then-director of the National Research Center for TIMSS. The report "estimated that at the end of eighth grade U.S. students are some two or more years behind." It's worth noting that not all states are at the same level. Minnesota, for one, worked with the author of that 2005 study, William Schmidt, to establish new math standards for fourth grade and saw its scores shoot up, surpassing the U.S. as a whole. The state would rank fifth in the world.

Obama criticized the wide variation in state proficiency test standards, saying: "Today's system of fifty different sets of benchmarks for academic success means 4th grade readers in Mississippi are scoring nearly 70 points lower than students in Wyoming – and getting the same grade." A study released by the Department of Education in 2007 did find such a wide gap between the proficiency standards for fourth-grade reading set by Wyoming and Mississippi. A look at the PowerPoint presentation on the results by the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics shows Mississippi trails all states in this regard.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why Send Your Kids to School?

To get murdered? The Columbine High School massacre of April 20, 1999 was the first major outbreak of school shootings, apparently a social epidemic of our time, evidenced once again on March 11, 2009 in Winnenden outside of Stuttgart, Germany.

Classroom schools with congregations of vulnerable youth in it are the exposure point not only for all kinds of good and bad influences, but also the target for individuals gone mad in one form or another to make a point or make no point at all.

But why stay with that by-default arrived-at, cumbersome learning system? Why not teach students one-to-one the way olympians are being trained, or those preparing for tests are tutored? In today’s world, this is not only possible, but desirable, because one can connect to the world’s best teachers that way.

Which brings to mind the book, QGE=A, Quality Generic Education is the Answer. In it the author lays out how technology, and adjusting the prevailing teaching mode of operation, enables the learner to enjoy the best education at the least expense. As a side benefit, it keeps the student out of those dangerous places, and rather unaffected by other distractions and time wasters which are unavoidable in customary schools.

QGE=A, Quality Generic Education is the Answer by Win Straube. University Press of America.

Also available from Amazon

and other book sellers.

What's in the New Student Loan Proposal

By Jonathan D. Glater
The New York Times
March 11, 2009

Higher-education experts say the Obama administration has proposed the broadest overhaul of federal college aid programs in decades. But for all the focus on the size of the budget, it has been hard to tell just what this means for students and their families.

One problem is that whatever the president proposes, Congress actually holds the purse strings. So there is no way to know just what aid will really be available down the road. But based on what administration officials have said, here is a summary of how the budget as proposed would affect funds available to help pay for college.

The first important thing to understand is that the proposed benefits will not be available until July 1, 2010 — more than a year from now.

Here are the major administration proposals:

PELL GRANTS In years past, the size of Pell grants, which go to the neediest students, depended on the budget in a particular year. The administration’s proposal would end that.

Also, beginning in the 2010-11 academic year, the maximum Pell grant would rise with inflation; the grant would be indexed to the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent. Over all, the maximum Pell grant in 2010-11 would be $5,550, up from $4,731 in the current year (note that the size of the grant awarded to an individual student depends on that student’s financial circumstances).
More information about Pell grants is available on the Education Department’s Web site.

LENDERS Probably the most controversial part of the proposed budget involves an issue that most students do not care about: where their loans come from. The administration wants to get rid of the federally guaranteed student loan program, called the Federal Family Education Loan Program. Under that program, banks and other companies (like Sallie Mae) have provided loans to students for years at rates set by Congress. The loans are guaranteed by the government. (A list of the rates for the popular Stafford loans in the coming years is here.)

Under the Obama proposal, students would borrow directly from the government. Students could still borrow from banks, but the loans would not be guaranteed and the interest rate would not be set by the government.

LOAN AMOUNTS This is actually the more important question for students and families. The administration aims to provide borrowing options for students to make it easier to pay for college without turning to private lenders, primarily by expanding the Perkins loan program.

The administration wants to make the loans available at all colleges and universities in the country — more than 4,000 institutions, up from just 1,800 now. It also wants to sharply raise the total amount of money available, to $6 billion, from $1 billion a year.

In addition, the administration wants to increase the amount individual students can borrow through the Perkins program to match what is available through the Stafford loan program. The Stafford program provides up to a total of $31,000 ($5,500 a year in loans to first-year students, $6,500 to second-year students and $7,500 to upperclassmen).

Currently, undergraduate students can borrow up to $4,000 a year and up to $20,000 over all through Perkins. The bad news is that interest on Perkins loans would accrue while a student was in college. That is one of the ways that the government envisions paying for those Pell grant increases.

Perkins loans are available based on financial need, so you have to fill out the federal financial aid form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, to get one.

Over all, although the changes that the administration wants are broad, the impact on individual students may be modest — a few hundred dollars more in grants, a few thousand dollars more in loans. But, as any indebted college student knows, every little bit helps.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Saving Society From Education's Perfect Storm

An Excerpt from an article by Michele Alperin in
the February 25, 2009 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper

‘America’s Perfect Storm,” a January, 2007, report by the Educational Testing Service, details three concurrent forces in American society that, if not deflected by policy changes, will have far reaching implications for the nature of our society: The disparity in literacy and number skills among different segments of the population; economic changes driven by technological innovations and globalization; and demographic changes, fueled largely by immigration.The report’s goal is to raise the attention of American educators, businesses, and policy makers to the factors that will create tumult: divergent skill distributions; economic changes; demographic changes; the business sector; business leaders; legislators and most importantly

Technology. In some parts of the country, says Cascio, vice president of interactive learning, foundations are providing schools with new technology and training teachers to engage students and help them learn in different ways. “Technology, if used properly, can give students access to education in ways different than ever. With computers, cell phones, or mobile technologies, for example, students can learn in nontraditional settings — even from playing games.

New Jersey is looking at the America Diploma Project curriculum standards, he says, which require greater rigor as well as increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics — subjects seen as vital to better preparing students to compete globally."

Cascio heads the interactive learning strategic business unit, launched in January, 2007, which is creating products to deliver learning through the Internet, hand-held devices, multimedia technologies, and other distribution channels.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Forbes: On computer-based instruction

I just found this Forbes Magazine article, dated August 11, 2008,
"Creative Disruption: How to Change the Way Kids Learn" by
Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn and Curtis Johnson

An excerpt:

"In the 1800s teachers in a one-room schoolhouse would have no problem customizing their approach to each student. But at the turn of the 19th century, as schools filled up with 30 or 40 kids in a room, standardization became the norm. Schools turned into factories and ever since have resisted all efforts to break from a monolithic batch-process approach. Students who succeed today do so because their intelligence happens to match the dominant paradigm in use in a particular classroom, or they've somehow found a way to adapt to it.

"If the goal is to educate all students so they have an all-American shot at realizing their dreams, we must find a way to disrupt the monolithic classroom and move toward a student-centric model. The way to get there is with computer-based learning. Technology offers students the ability to learn in ways that match their intelligence types in the places and at the pace they prefer. The hardware exists. The software is emerging. Now all that has to change is the system around it. Change will face mighty resistance, but we predict it will happen in the next ten years."

Click here for the complete article.

Clayton M. Christensen is professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School. Michael B. Horn is executive director of education at Innosight Institute. Curtis W. Johnson is the president of Citistates Group. They are coauthors of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (McGraw-Hill, 2008).