Re: Jonathan Zimmerman’s “Colleges Should Improve Ways to Evaluate Courses”


Zimmerman’s article struck a nerve I thought long dead. Instead, I found myself both saddened and angered that the method for teacher evaluation has not improved in the years since I left the profession. It’s also disheartening that those evaluations have not moved beyond the often unenlightened, self-serving, single point of evaluation — the students. There should be three or more points of evaluation that include professionally developed student ratings along with peer, administrator, and perhaps outside observations of the students, the teacher, and the class materials.

But even with that, what we really need to know is whether or not the students are learning. As a 15-year university writing instructor, I know that this is not always immediately obvious. Good writing is a skill, a muscle that is built stronger throughout a lifetime with constant exercise; but it’s only demonstrated if the writer chooses to take the time and make the effort. Every teacher (literature, science, math, etc.) who insists upon quality writing from every student helps to build each student’s muscle memory of writing in every discipline and for every need in life.

It’s ridiculous that students continue to rate the easy grader or the best pal as the most qualified, most desirable teacher — and they do. It’s tragic for education that administrators continue to go along with it. And then we gasp in shock when we learn, yet again, that American students aren’t even among the top 20 nations worldwide when measuring proficiency in reading, math, and science, according to the latest Program for International Student Assessment, PISA (\).

As long as education continues to utilize a short-term business model that encourages immediate results and extols classrooms filled with consumers rather than students, the dynamics of learning and teaching will continue to dim — along with our hopes for a long-term future filled with American innovation and creativity.

Pastor Terry Jones didn’t do it. He and his flock didn’t burn the Qur’an.  It looks like he was exploiting the plan in order to bring attention to his church and followers. Probably got lots of money sent to him to support his “Christian” efforts.

I’m just sorry that so much attention was given to him and has been associated with the ridiculous suddenly-this-summer oppositon to Park 51, the cultural center in lower Manhattan announced on the front page of the New York Times in December of 2009 to positive reviews by conservatives–until the 2010 election season bloomed.

It’s all so disgusting and highlights that America is not post-racial just because we have a black president–it was stupid and undeservingly self-congratulatory to even mouth the words after the 2008 election. In fact, I even wonder if these current Islam-focused irrationalities would have be voiced if our new president had been born white and in Kansas–everyone knows Hawai’i is a cool vacation spot, but it isn’t really America (just like New Mexico).

President Bush (the younger) was able to quell his “itchy” minions with a wave of his hand. These same people do not listen to our new, intelligent, sincere, compassionate, hard-working, black president; instead, they pick at his every word and intonation in order to “show” his communist leanings or Islamic (ne “terrorist”) sympathies or “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview.” The Republican politicians in the House and Senate lie about their own motives and say on one day they will support a bill if a certain concession is made; and when done so, they still do not support it and accuse the Democrats of not being inclusive, of abandoning the moderates and becoming a ultra-liberal. This is classic negative associative learning technique and is very destructive to the fabric of our society.

Thomas Jeffereson was adamant about an educated electorate creating the success of this Grand Experiment. Our education systems have failed, our financial systems have failed, our political system is in turmoil, our infrastructure is crumbling, greed is rampant, and our collective heart is turning cold and hard.

It is very frustrating to be a moderate (of any political persuasion) in America right now and downright infuriating to be a liberal.

[* With respect to eden ahbez’s haunting song, Nature Boy, recorded first by Nat King Cole in 1948.]

There was a boy….
He’s seven years old. A tall-for-his-age, blond, blue-eyed boy with a weariness of face. His eyes dart around people, avoiding their faces—especially their eyes. His voice is uncertain, full of question, rising higher at the end, as if uncertain whether to make a statement or ask a question or cry. He instinctively backs away quickly from human touch, visibly forcing himself to let an arm encircle his shoulders or a hand stroke his arm.

“Adam is my wild child,” says his grandmother Katie, a woman not of his blood, but of his soul.

I think of my own youngest “wild child,” the fearless wonder who pushed my limits from his very birth. A boy of good heart and loving nature, but also a boy of challenging wit and ruthless determination to have his own way. But Adam hasn’t even had that opportunity yet. He’s lived more akin to Victor, the 19th century’s Wild Boy of Aveyron, than the son of a truck driver and a woman once given a full-ride university scholarship. And while not the true feral boy that Victor was, Adam is his cousin.

A very strange enchanted boy….
Through the dramas of roughly-blended families, Katie had little exposure to Adam (her husband’s grandson) before his fifth birthday. But once she had spent a little time with him, she recognized the tragedy that was building for his future. He didn’t know how to bathe himself or brush his teeth or wash his hair or use dining utensils. But his father had taught him to how to use an assault weapon.

Adam had developed few communication skills, meaning that when he did speak, he was hard to understand—not from any biological problem, but from a simple lack of parental involvement. They didn’t talk to him or encourage his speech or read to him or have him read to them. In fact, his lack of ordinary, rudimentary training in the development of speech skills and subsequent reading skills were an obvious detriment as he entered kindergarten.

A little shy and sad of eye….
Adam’s story is much deeper than these simple facts. As with any of us, the history that will affect our lives begins before we are even conceived. Our parents’ lives and traumas and their parents’ and their parents’ lives and traumas all have an effect on our lives—for good and bad. Adam got a very raw deal.

On his divorced mother’s side are mental problems (pathological hoarding, depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia) that prevent the recognition of Adam’s basic needs as a child and resulting problems in school and social settings. He was her “baby,” and she kept him as such for as long as she could, at least until the birth of another child last year who now takes up all her time and threatens her fragile mental stability.

On his father’s side is a proud ignorance of basic parenting skills—believing, as if learning to handle a gun isn’t proof enough, that it’s okay for a five-year-old to witness adults having sex or to watch frightening zombie movies before going to bed or decide when he should go to bed or get a haircut or even put a comb through his hair. This man remarried, giving Adam a stepmother who lost custody of all four of her biological children to their stepfather—something nearly impossible in most states. But, nonetheless, this woman has frequent and prolonged access to Adam, whom she berates and belittles to his face constantly.

A magic day he passed her way….
Katie has not let any of this intimidate her. She is determined that Adam will have a chance at a life of his own choosing. But to have that chance, his reading must improve, his speech must improve, his hygiene must improve, and his social skills must improve.

She walks a delicate line when trying to help him, balancing the requirements and desires of his biological parents, his stepparents, all the grandparents, his classroom teacher (where Katie volunteers three days a week), and the social workers that wander in and out of his life.

“I feel I’ve let him down,” she says to me teary-eyed one afternoon after his grandpa takes him to the pool. For a moment, she feels the weight of the loss of the first five years of Adam’s life when his mother kept Katie and her husband at arm’s length. She feels the weight of the damage caused by the first five years of Adam’s life with parents who continue to have no realistic concept of the responsibilities of parenthood. But she refuses to linger on the loss or the damage or any anger she may harbor. It won’t do Adam any good, she says.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn….
All her energy is focused now on providing him with a model—finally—of good parenting. A model that will encourage him, that will help him, that will nurture and guide him along a road of possibilities and not leave him to wander aimlessly.

“I have to teach him to help himself,” she says, “because when he goes home or to his Dad’s, no one there will help him. They think I interfere. They feel I am useful simply as a free babysitter. And that is fine with me. The best I can do for Adam is to show him the tools he’ll need to survive so that maybe he can have a life of his own choosing.” Her eyes look past me out the window to Adam and his grandpa returning from their quick swim at the local pool.

Here he finally has the experience of a home with a room of his own, with rules and expectations, with hugs and kisses, with activities to stimulate his reading and speech and thinking processes, with healthy food, and with the opportunity of a safe childhood. At least for three days a week during the summer and occasional weekends during the school year.

Will that be enough? Katie shakes her head in uncertainty. “I don’t know. But I’m certainly not going to give up. He’s learning that I’m here to stay.”

…is just to love and be loved in return.

Americans are dead last when it comes to environmentally-friendly consumer consumption, according to the 17 country “Greendex 2010: Consumer Choice and the Environment–A Worldwide Tracking Survey.” The National Geographic survey, in partnership with GlobeScan, is in its third year of monitoring and measuring 65 areas of consumer behavior in housing, transportation, food, and consumer goods–ranking countries according to their consumers’ environmental impact.

The top-scoring countries with sustainable-savvy consumers are India, Brazil, and China. Americans remain at the bottom, as they have since the survey began three years ago. We are in familiar company at the bottom, though, with Canada, France, and the U.K. right there with us.

Emerging countries, it seems, may have fewer bad habits than those in the industrialized countries in this survey.

Among the survey’s findings about American consumers:

• 55% reside in homes with seven or more rooms, similar to Australian, British, and Canadian consumers.
• 58% drive alone daily.
• 61% never use local public transportation.
• 26% walk or bike to their destinations regularly.
• 25% eat imported foods; only Chinese consumers eat imported foods less often.

Across all participating countries, it was found that two perceptions helped to suppress sustainable consumption: many were discouraged by “companies that make false claims about environmental impacts of their products” and by the many obstacles set up by governments and companies to prohibit action.

Consumers, says the survey, “want less talk and more action.”

Read more about the Greendex Survey. Post a comment on the Tribe forum.

The octopus can teach us a thing or two about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially about the threat from IEDs, improvised explosive devices.

No, really. It’s all about decentralization in the natural world–the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions and threats. Those in the natural world have learned to quickly change their structures, behaviors, and reactions–like the amazing ability of the octopus to camouflage. It can react to perceived danger and blend in, match the colors of its surrounding area, and vanish right under the eye of its predator.


A group of researchers from the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment is advising security and disaster management officials on how to more successfully and “naturally” react to and deal with threats from our predators–terrorists, hackers, and even mutating pathogens. The key to addressing threats, the researchers say in the May 20 edition of Nature, is to examine the natural world.

By examining the billions of years of evolution and adaptation in nature, researchers have concluded that large centralized bureaucracies do not allow for quick and effective reactions to serious threats. Just as the octopus utilizes its decentralized network of pigment cells to evade predators and conceal itself from its prey, ground troops can act like independent cells, assess the given situation, and act most appropriately and effectively.

“The individual soldiers in the war zone are the most adaptable unit out there,” says Rafe Sagarin, lead author of the Nature article. “They are in a better position to recognize and address an emerging threat in time than a centralized bureaucracy.”

Read more and then post a comment on the Tribe forum.

Two NASA satellites are capturing images of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began April 20, 2010, with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. This series of images reveals a space-based view of the burning oil rig and the ensuing oil spill, through May 24. The imagery comes from the MODIS instruments aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The oil slick appears grayish-beige in these images. The shape of the spill changes due to weather conditions, currents and the use of oil-dispersing chemicals.

Watch the NASA video and then post a comment on the Tribe forum:

Credit: NASA/Goddard/Jen Shoemaker

On May 7, 2010, John Wathen and pilot Tom Hutchins flew out over the Gulf of Mexico and videoed the environmental effects of BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion. From the video:

“At nine miles out, we began to smell the oil. At eleven miles out we saw a visable sheen on top of the water. Heavy streaking was evident at about mile fifteen. Mile twenty-six we began to see solid oil on top of the water with a heavy sheen and numerous streaks at mile thirty-four. Mile eighty-seven, ground zero…nothing but a red mass of floating goo…[so] many boats on the horizon….nobody seemed to be able to do anything about it…I find myself using the word “hopeless”…..There’s no way to prevent this from hitting our shorelines….[preventative] Safety measures were not in place….An environmental disaster…a social disaster, as well. Fishermen out of work; oyster shuckers, no work; people working the docks–all up and down the coast people are cancelling reservations, fishing boats are not going out….this event…will be felt for decades. This cannot happen again. The Gulf appears to be bleeding….Will the Gulf ever heal? As far as you can see on the horizon…mats of this reddish-pink sheen…a perfect line of it leading to the shoreline….On May the 8th they found tar balls.”

Watch the video and then post a comment on the Tribe forum:

Better living through chemistry. That old phrase may have a new meaning for a new time. What if men could use a nasal spray to increase their sense of empathy and gain a better awareness of social cues from others? Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience, a team of German, British, and American researchers examined the female hormone oxytocin’s affect on learning and empathy in men. They concluded that the drug may create better “socially reinforced learning and emotional empathy in men”—bringing them at least to the level of the average woman.
Learn more or Download the study or Post a comment on the Tribe forum.

Highly sensitive people are coming to greater public awareness in France. Le Figaro, the nation’s second largest daily newspaper, and Alliance, the premiere French language Jewish e-zine, recently reported on the strengths and nature of HSPs in the article, “La force des hypersensibles.”

Through the HSP research and personal experiences of Dr. Elaine Aron, the article describes the sensitive’s need for “more time to carefully observe situations and especially to think carefully before acting.” The sensitive’s palme d^or, the article states, is an advanced intuition, an abundance of empathy, and an innate artistic ability. Also mentioned are the growing number of websites, including Tribe, where sensitives can congregate and share their experiences with “others fully like themselves.”

Read Le Figaro article or Post a comment on the Tribe forum.

The latest issue of Tribe is available in PDF and PRINT!

In this issue:

—Best-selling author and groundbreaking HSP researcher Dr. Elaine Aron speaks frankly about being HSP: We’ve always adapted to the other eighty percent….We’ve heard the doubt and felt the icy change in the atmosphere when we bring up our needs….we all need to become more strategic, adapting what we say to the situation.
—Psychic and spiritual life coach Sarah Nash introduces her new column and forum section, The Cosmic Hooker: When a crisis hits, we need clarity and some kind of immediate relief in order to find the strength to breathe through the next moment—so we can find a permanent solution. It is in the moments we are brought to our knees that empathy is a crucial component to healing.
—Jacquelyn Strickland, LPN, shares the origin of the ever-popular HSP Gatherings: As a young girl, I often sought the “numinous.” I found this spiritual, emotional state by climbing high in my mimosa tree. It was there that I experienced…a deep, sweet tranquility, security and knowingness.
—Painter and photographer Dan Bauer provides real-life experience integrating his art into his daily life: After many years of being out in a heavily overcharged work world, it’s such a relief for me to be able to slow down and relax with the things of life that truly interest me.
—Discover why Yellowstone National Park is the best winter playland: With its mudpots, geysers, hotsprings, skiing and snowshoeing and hiking, camping and resort hotels–all amid wildlife aplenty–what’s not to love?
—Enjoy the latest ImagiNation Photo Challenge winners and lots more!

Tribe‘s 48 pages of inspiring narratives and stunning images are available in TWO ways:

·The PDF is available online immediately for only $3.50 – click here

· Order the print issue from MagCloud for only $10.00 – click here

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