Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

November 7 Bucket o' Links: "Exciting things in Education" Edition

Well, missed the Friday deadline, due to poor time management, several psets, and the onset of a cold I'm still working my way through. But, given the choice between writing a linkwrap and doing my Stat pset, which did you think I was going to do?


Harvard is considering moving away from the Common App, along with "[Emory], Princeton, Vanderbilt, and Yale Universities; Carleton, Dartmouth, Pomona, Smith, and Williams Colleges; and the University of Chicago." (Thanks, Chronicle!) According to a staff editorial in the Crimson yesterday, the complaint with the increasingly-popular Common App are more than technological -- the move away from the CA comes after the latter announced that it would no longer require member colleges to conduct "holistic" reviews of applicants, whatever that means.

There are also rumors, in both the Chronicle and the Crimson, that the "Coalition" may limit its ranks to only "institutions that have committed to providing substantial financial aid and to conducting equally substantial outreach to lower-income students" (uncited in the Crimson) -- an interesting political move that, hopefully, will pressure borderline-Tier-1 (whatever that means) schools to expand their aid programs in order to appear on the same application platform as schools they'd prefer to be grouped with.


Along the lines of "this thing sucks; let's roll our own, and do it properly", HGSE announced the "Harvard Teacher Fellows Program" for College undergraduates, beginning with a Fall 2015 application for the class of 2016. It's not officially a replacement for Teach for America, but...

The HTF program begins with eight months of intensive, field-based preparation, starting in January of the senior year through August. Training includes both coursework and mentored teaching. Fellows continue on to one academic year of part-time, field-based training in districts and charter networks across the nation, during which they continue to receive intensive coaching and training from HGSE faculty. Following the training, fellows return to HGSE where the program culminates with an additional summer of coursework, mentored teaching, and the ability to earn initial teacher licensure. Students then enter the teaching profession with the skills and dispositions to become effective and successful teachers while receiving continued coaching and training from HGSE.

...they're certainly driving their car straight through TFA's turf, and doing so with more money, planning, and resolve. I, for one, am excited to see what Kay Merseth does with it. Her explanation of the program, delivered last March:

I've lotteried for the CS50 of teaching, US35: Taking a Stand: Dilemmas fo Equity and Excellence in American K-12 Education twice now, and am 0-2. Maybe next spring? You reading this, Kay? Can I get a spot for having mentioned you on this small blog?


More teaching things coming from Harvard:

Yale faculty voted “overwhelmingly” Thursday to bring Harvard’s most popular undergraduate course, Computer Science 50: “Introduction to Computer Science I,” to New Haven in the fall of 2015, according to Yale Computer Science Department Chair Joan Feigenbaum ’81.

(source: The Crimson, because yes, I read my college newspaper regularly) This pursuant to earlier hints from CS50 prof David J. Malan, of Harvard, that such a collaboration might be in the works. I don't know more than the Crimson and YDN are reporting, though, so I'll hold off on saying more until I do.


More Harvard news, but from undergraduates this time: The 2014 UC presidency candidates debate is this Thursday, at the Institute of Politics. Current president Gus Mayopoulos, via Facebook:

"Regardless of whether or not you actually care about the election, or the UC, I'm pretty sure this is going to be one of the most entertaining events of this semester, so definitely get there early and bring popcorn."

My favored ticket dropped out of the race on Monday, sadly, but I'll be in attendance regardless. Because, y'know, democracy.


Student government, large audiences, lots of talking...and did someone say democracy? Following up to a link in last week's BoL regarding UC Berkeley, over student opposition, refusing to rescind a commencement-speaker invitation to Bill Maher, Michael Moore (yes, that Michael Moore) has penned an open letter in support of Maher, posted on his public Facebook page. Excerpt:

Comedy is and should be a dangerous business. Those comedians who play it safe are far less interesting, less funny and, frankly, are often boring. Those who are willing to take their comedy to the Line That Shall Not Be Crossed -- and maybe step over it from time to time -- are the ones we are drawn to. But in order to encourage them to take those chances, we have to give them some leeway, give them a break when, in our mind, they've crossed that line.

To not do so is to encourage them to go toward the bland, the passe and to the non-offensive. Those comedians like Bill Maher who are willing to take the risk of being the court jester -- saying the things that the rest of us are often thinking (or wish we were thinking) but are afraid to say -- should be supported, not silenced.


Okay, this is the part of the linkwrap where I go off-theme because I've run out of on-theme things, and have some off-theme things I want to say. Sorry, theme purists.

A friend (or at least, someone I met once at a thing and whose blog I now read), has written a book! (Okay, I have two other friends-proper who have written books and are in varying stages of the publication cycle, but this one is remarkable because you can, like, pay money now to get it shipped to you sometime next year.)

She describes it:

Being a convert and learning to pray is a little bit like studying a foreign language.

The trouble is that it’s a lot like studying a foreign language in the new language.

It’s hard to even pose a question, when you’re relying on what feels like a pidgin-level of prayer fluency. So, I wound up cobbling together a creole as best I could, building up my understanding of spiritual life using the tools and analogies that I already had.


In Arriving at Amen, I discuss the seven Catholic spiritual practices that have shaped my prayer life (Petitionary prayer, Confession, the Examen, the Rosary, Divine Office, Lectio divina, and Mass) and the math, musicals, and medical oddities that helped me find my way into these practices.

If you’re not Catholic or not practicing, I hope the analogies and connections that helped me might make Catholicism make a bit more aesthetic and logical sense. (Or at least, make it differently confusing).

And, if you are Catholic, I hope that the beauty that led me “further up and further in” to the church will help to set alight your own prayers and your delight in the way that everything beautiful, good, and true is a signpost on the way to God.

Now, I'm not religious, but have (1) had the experience of talking to Catholic friends of mine and realizing that I have no idea what their faith entails (2) been taking Ethical Reasoning 15: "If There is No God, All is Permitted": Theism in Moral Reasoning this semester, so I'm looking forward to adding Libresco to the likes of Plato, Augustine, Maimonides, Aquinas, Lucretius, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Fuerbach, Nietzsche, Buber, and Dostoyevsky in the list of "authors I've read in the attempt to understand what people use this 'religion' thing for".

And, having read her blog for more than a year now, I do feel confident recommending her book, sight-unseen, to other confused, bemused, or befuddled atheists trying to understand their religious friends.


And, to wrap up a week which included lots and lots of election-related news, I'm going to cover none of it, and instead leave you with this:

George Washington: "Jefferson, Adams, I'm leaving. And while I'm gone...NO PARTIES." Thomas Jefferson, John Adams look at each other and smile mischievously.