The Fitzgerald Factor

Matthew Yglesias has a great article up about how the scandal brewing in Illinois regarding its Senate seat is quite the confluence of coincidences. It all relates to former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald breaking with the norms of how US Attorneys are usually appointed. From the article:

A ton of consequential things have sprung out from Fitzgerald’s decision to bring in Fitzgerald for basically quirky reasons. But it’s a reminder, I think, that the usual way of doing these appointments is pretty inadequate. Much better to look for serious professionals and see what kinds of corruption turn up elsewhere.

Link to article: Matthew Yglesias » The Fitzgerald Factor .

Education and No Child Left Behind

Here’s an excerpt from a paper I just finished for a School and Society course.

If schools are to serve the public as a means toward social mobility then they must create a situation in which students learn skills that are more developed than simple test taking can judge. There must be a critical element in schools that not only educates students, but provides them with the necessary creative skills to adapt to different situations and modes of knowledge.

It is this educating of students as critical thinkers that schools ought to be held accountable for. Put simply critical thinking inherently cannot be measure by multiple choice tests. Assessment is perfectly acceptable and accountability for schools is also necessary; however, it should not be undertaken through these mass tests of basic abilities. If school’s are to be held accountable and have the consequences that those in Chubb’s book (Within Our Reach: How America Can Educate Every Child) call for then it ought to be for something higher than basic skills. Ultimately schools serve to educate all children and provide for the opportunity for all children to participate in and perhaps even change their worlds and it is this that schools ought to be held accountable for doing. NCLB just does not work toward these higher goals. It just work toward imparting the basics upon students in the most efficient and cost-effective manner which does nothing to address the greater needs of society.

Time Machine

The recent update to OS X (10.5.6) crashed my MacBook so severely that I had to do a complete system restore from my Leopard install DVD. Thankfully I had a Time Machine backup of everything that was important, which was handy considering that it’s finals week. Anyway, after getting my laptop back up to speed with all my apps, files, and updates I needed to get rid of all the Time Machine backups from my previous account. I selected everything from before yesterday and deleted it. After emptying the trash Finder proceeded to prepare a ridiculous number of files for deletion. Currently it’s up to a little over a million (I’ll try and keep track of how high it gets). Seems to be slightly absurd to have to delete this many files just to get a clean hard drive to back up to.

 

50 pm. Who knows where it'll stop?
My Time Machine deletion as of 4:50 pm. Who knows where it'll stop?

Update: It eventually got up to 1.2 million shortly after originally posting this.

Winter is here

In the spirit of the weather here in Walla Walla, which right now is snowy and 10 degrees, here’s a photo from Flickr to put you in the winter spirit. While this photo is definitely not from Walla Walla (it’s actually taken in Germany) it’s very close to how the scenery around here looks. It started snowing on Friday night and hasn’t let up until this morning. It’s sunny today, but the temperatures are certainly not going to be melting any snow soon.

Suggestions

Since this blog is still very much in its early stages I was just wondering if anybody out there had suggestions for how to improve it. If you have any comments on the content or anything that you’d like to see the blog expanded to include leave a comment or send me a message. Thanks for reading.

Guide to Rome

I woke up this morning to an email telling me that my photo of St. Peter’s Sqaure (Flickr link) has been short-listed for the upcoming revision to the Schmap Guide to Rome. Schmap Guides are relatively basic travel guides, but the advantage is that they’re entirely free and electronic. You can download them to your computer and take them with you. Seems like a pretty interesting idea and I’m stoked that my photo got chosen; any exposure is good exposure.

China and lending to America

There’s a fascinating article on The Atlantic right now (link) about how much the United States owes to China. It’s all from an interview that the author conducted with Gao Xiqing, a man responsible for overseeing $200 billion of China’s foreign investments, two weeks before the presidential election.

Finals

It’s that time of year and I can’t help but wonder why I do some of the work that I have to for college. So much of it seems to be simply proving my knowledge and regurgitating information. Even the long papers for classes rarely teach me anything (that is, anything other than how to write paper efficiently). One would think that if the purpose of a class were to stimulate learning then the assignments that make up that class would be inherently linked to its purpose: one would think they would teach you something.

Maybe I’m simply not recognizing the learning that is occurring below my cognizant level. Or, maybe the purposes of finals is not to further learning, but to judge the learning that has occurred in the last 16 weeks. Either way when I find myself halfway through a final exam in Greek and Roman Art and all I can think of is how I just need to linguistically vomit up my knowledge onto the page so that I can prove that I know the material something is wrong. So long as schools and classes are truly about learning finals should partake in that too.

Final exams, papers, presentations, any form of assessment I can think of, they all should force you to push the boundaries of your knowledge. They ought to allow you to critically examine that which you learned during the semester. They should provide for reflection on where you came from and where you are in the present. If a final is simply a reiteration of knowledge then its not doing its job.

Now I will go back to slaving away and work toward finishing the 22 pages of paper writing that I have to do between now and next week.

Quote of the week

I’m reading Jodi Dean’s “Publicity’s Secret” (great book by the way) for my Politics class. In a discussion of the obsession with information that pervades contemporary society she writes:

Something or someone stands right outside us, our knowledge and our visibility, withholding our legitimacy from us, preventing us from realizing the rightness we claim, that should be ours. Include just a few more people, a few more facts; uncover those denied details, those repressed desires; do this and there will be justice.

I just found this interesting because recently I’ve been thinking about (and wondering why it is like this) how contemporary society holds those with more knowledge up as the “experts.” It seems to me that there has been a shift from the quality of knowledge of a subject to the quantity. Those who read more newspapers, blogs, writings, anything are more qualified to speak on something; they are the ones who are informed. It has begun to appear to me that America (maybe other places too) has become obsessed with acquiring more and more information and using that as a basis for expertise. What seems to get lost is any consideration or critical analysis of where the information comes from. It has become about digesting and regurgitating the most information and not about looking closely at quality information and truly understanding that in order to synthesize a personal opinion or judgement.