Elizabeth Stineman's Weblog


Apr 27 2010

Waiting For Superman

Recently, in my Fundamentals of Finance class, we had a guest speaker named Eric Adler come speak to us. Mr. Adler is the co-founder and director of The Seed Foundation – the first urban public charter boarding school. He opened the school thirteen years ago after receiving his MBA at Wharton and teaching previous to that in Baltimore private schools. There are now two Seed Schools – here in DC and one in Baltimore. They are enormously successful in sending students to college. Eric Adler was an amazing speaker and I was so fortunate to hear him speak. He told us about the newest project surrounding his work which is the Seed School being featured in a new documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim of “The Inconvenient Truth” fame. Geoffrey Canada and Harlem Children’s Zone is also featured in the documentary. The film came out at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and won the Viewer’s Choice Award and was picked up by Paramount Pictures and is scheduled to release in theaters in the near future. Here is the best link I could find, but it looks really amazing and will be able to get the general public to understand better the national education crisis America is facing every day. Check it out. Leave your thoughts.



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Mar 30 2010

Jefferson’s Goals and Aims for Education

Since we just began to scratch the surface  regarding what Jefferson believes are the purposes of education in class I thought we could go into more depth here.

Like Emma, after reading Thomas Jefferson’s views on education it occurred to me that much of his writing is extremely relevant to the educational issues we still face today. Of course this documents seeks to set the example for what public education should symbolize and actually represent in our everyday life. The most influential sentence of his Notes is “But of all of the views of this law none is more important, none more legitimate, than the rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty.”

I was particularly drawn to the few sentenced he directs towards the goal of inculcating elements of morality. Are American schools supposed to teach what is right and wrong or is this a conclusion each individual needs to reach on his or her own. I agree with the assertion that public education needs to teach citizens how to make good judgments in order to lead productive and successful lives. More importantly however, this teaching of morality will help to produce active voters within a democratic society. Jefferson constantly refers to the “safety” of the government which I find to be an interesting choice of words.

Jefferson spends a good amount of time discussing the process in which students will be selected to move onto higher education past the elementary level. While I understand some degree of ordering of people according to talent and ability is necessary and inevitable, I do have a bit of a problem with selecting “geniuses” as Jefferson calls them. We have discussed this topic in class when teachers and schools select gifted children – leading us to the question of who has the power and ability to make these decisions and under what criteria are people’s intelligence being judged? This brings us to Kozol’s chapter “Ordering Regime” from “Shame of the Nation.” This shows that 225 years later we are still faced with the same dilemma. The constant ordering of students and people seems to widen the gap between rich and poor and those with opportunities and those without. I am certainly not trying to imply that giving opportunities to intelligent students who otherwise have none is a detrimental thing but do want to draw attention to how it can be very problematic and thus reflect inequality.

In addition I am always a bit apprehensive when the words “free” and “equal” are used so frequently. I understand that in such a document as this it is important because all of the citizens are fervent about their freedom in this new nation, however within a bureaucratic and hierarchal political system free and equal still imply, to a point, dictated and controlled. I don’t mean for most of my opinions here to by overly cynical, however, when looking at the first ideas of what public education means in our country and seeing how they have evolved over the course of history it is inevitable that flaws will be present.

Overall Jefferson’s goal of education for education’s sake is the most profound. He believes that at a young age students cannot be prepared for the workforce but their mind must be developed during the period of life from age eight to fifteen; he goes on to say that if the mind is trained to early it will “fall victim to premature exertion…reducing them to be children when they should be men” (2) He really stresses the importance of the education person, rather than as merely numbers in the workforce to further production.

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Mar 23 2010

Warren Buffett’s Remedy for Public Education (in relation to Private Schools)

Warren Buffett told Rhee, “It’s easy to solve the problems of public education in America. All you have to do is outlaw private schools and assign every child to public school by lottery.” Think about it, if every CEO, diplomat, congressman’s child was randomly assigned to a DCPS – it would change immediately! (Wipe the sweat from your brow, Rhee has no interest in eliminating private schools – she’d prefer to partner with them.)

excerpt from:


Last spring I saw Chancellor Rhee speak at an event and she told this anecdote about meeting Warren Buffett and he offered up some of his own insight into fixing the problems in public education. Clearly, he is not being serious, however I think that large, urban, public school districts need to be run by a combination of CEO’s and business minded executives (who have experience running large corporations and organizations – just what an urban school district is, in reality) as well as experts in the Education field.

The above quote is an excerpt from her speech to the National Association of Independent Schools; however, the entire article is very interesting and talks a great deal about issues DCPS and Rhee face and how independent schools can be partners in trying to overcome these issues. Here is what she says private schools can do for public schools:

  1. Make room for scholarship kids – children in all of our schools will benefit in the long run from the diversity.
  2. Independent and private schools have to exist because they set the bar for excellence.
  3. Partner with public schools. DCPS partners with independent schools like Maret School (DC) to provide after school and summer school programs. DCPS kids get access to a whole different quality of instruction – a whole different world! (they also have an internship program for high school students in DCPS and with Georgetown University).

Please take a look and leave comments you have on Buffett’s idea.

I think it is a crazy idea but makes a lot of sense at the same time – hypothetically, of course. While walking out of class yesterday Emily and I had a conversation about what would happen of private schools did not exist and all of the resources went to public schools, would they all be better, would they all be equal? Buffett talks about a random lottery system, but this also would not work because certain pockets of the country obviously have more wealth than others, so it would not be random. It would also not be democratic if we did not give people the option to choose. The public education system would turn into a horrible hierarchy of schools – similar to what exists now, but they would technically be considered “public.”

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Feb 16 2010

“Precious” and the “Emotional Dynamics of Winning”

After seeing the emotional rollercoaster of a movie, that is Precious, I began thinking about our class discussion today about whether or not the method of teaching and learning really matters as long as results are seen and students are learning basic skills. Obviously, so many different factors go into determining a child’s progress, but what goes on in the classroom each day is the MOST important thing for future success; especially if there is no positive or productive things (example: Precious’s devastatingly horrible obstacles) happening outside of the classroom for the student – in this case Precious. I was trying to find a way to connect some of these ideas from the movie back to a more concrete analysis of what children need in order to experience the productive emotional dynamics of winning. You can see how important writing in the journal everyday in Ms. Rain’s classroom is to all the students, in addition to getting up in front of the class and voicing their emotions and opinions – as Precious puts it  when she says, “she feels like she is here.” This is the most simple and heartbreaking expression of her emotions. This movie puts many things into perspective; I would like to share this article which expands on the emotional dynamics of assessing students and making all learners winners.

Assessment Through the Student’s Eyes by Rick Stiggins

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