Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams

This is a must-read if you are applying for scholarships and student loans.

Student_Loans

Received the following in my inbox today, and I believe it’s important enough to share with all college-bound students. The link to the blog site labeled “Learn what red flags to watch out for…” in the graphic is:

http://blog.usa.gov/post/89858146982/beware-scholarship-and-financial-aid-scams

The “Find out what it is” link is Find out what it is

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHhm5arq1RY&list=PLrcvzEeHM66sw9_kqYzxIDy_MJ3IprUbI

And the “Order or download…” link is Order or download your own free copy.

http://promotions.usa.gov/my-cah.html 

Hope this helps!

#educ_dr

 

 

 

Posted in College Debt, Financial Aid, Financial Aid Fraud, Fixing Education, Government Reports, Post-Secondary Costs, Post-secondary education, Student Loans | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Special Education: “Disability.gov Update: Education Department Announces Major Change in How State Special Ed Programs Are Evaluated”

Here is the link to the topic that has truly upset me:

Disability.gov Update: Education Department Announces Major Change in How State Special Ed Programs Are Evaluated.

And here’s my commentary.

I have not been a fan of Arne Duncan for years–not since my first year of “neutrality,” a year in which I thought I’d give him a chance… As far as I can determine, the only good thing he has done during his years in office as Secretary of the US Department of Education  (USDOE) is offer a waiver program to states that wanted to serve their children better than No Child Left Behind (NCLB) directed.

The “discovery” that special needs children are not testing at grade level and “announcement” that the USDOE is going to fix this is the most ludicrous announcement out of this department to date. Most kids are in special education because they can’t test at grade level, not because of the teaching or abilities, but because of neurological and/or emotional problems that make this impossible. We’ve known this for over 50 years. This is not news, and both psychologists and educators have been identifying and refining specific learning disabilities and “best practices” ever since. We know that what works for one child may not work for another, and we want teachers–special educators and general educators alike–to have the best available tools to help every child achieve to his/her greatest potential.

Regarding test scores, it’s not that most of the special needs students aren’t smart enough; it’s that they cannot score well on tests–tests that continue to be given the same way regardless of learning problems. You cannot give a child diagnosed with dyslexia a written test and expect good performance, even with adequate time constraints. You cannot ask a child who cannot understand the abstraction of numbers and ask that child to perform well on tests that ask them to solve equations. You cannot ask a child with unmanaged or newly diagnosed ADD/ADHD to concentrate successfully for an hour or longer on any test. You cannot expect a child with emotional involvements to concentrate on a test when things at home are so bad that fear or anger or any random thoughts related to emotional perceptions are uncontrollable during a testing session. (Who among us hasn’t found our minds drifting elsewhere in the middle of a test? For a child with emotional involvement, it is extremely difficult to pull focus back to the task at hand, even after therapy and “training.”) To expect special needs children to meet achievement levels all along the continuum–or even within a year or two of receiving individualized help with a specialist–is unrealistic and indicative of an insensitivity to their disabilities and needs.

That Arne Duncan–with his Harvard degree in sociology–clearly didn’t “get it” during his schooling, and certainly does not “get it” now is a step backward for education in general and special education in particular. Special education is designed to help move children along at their best efforts from continual training and support, not at a “normative rate” that is meant to address skills of students with no disabilities or exceptionalities. Period.

Any person involved in education who does not understand that students with special needs are thoroughly tested before acceptance into a “special” program is not a true educator. In Duncan’s case, his senior thesis on urban schools may not have included thorough research into special education, and he clearly missed the readings and classes specifically related to special needs children. This is not unusual in many Ivy programs of study–or any post-secondary study in education–but it is an important lack when one’s political motivation gets in the way of adequate study of a problem before “administering” it. He doesn’t need to know everything in the world about special education; he needs people on his team who are extremely knowledgeable about the topic. Clearly, Duncan is not even savvy enough to determine which of his own advisers know the subject versus which are simply reading the political “trends.”

This announcement is far too close to the original contention that NCLB was something positive for all children. It was positive in that it stressed the need to equalize normal educational expectations across the country. But that should never have included special education and special education services. That NCLB became law under Tea Party types should not be forgotten. The law was passed with disinformation and general cluelessness in its van. It was reactionary and not well thought out. It was based on uneducated assumptions and general lack of understanding of educational/psychological research. That Duncan was a key player in the information gathering related to NCLB was a real surprise to me when I looked more closely at his biographical information. Either that information is wrong, or Duncan wants to be associated with NCLB for some reason.

In passing NCLB, the Tea Party never bothered to find out what special education is all about. Schools are no longer one-room Little House on the Prairie type school rooms. Parents are no longer satisfied that their children have learned to read and calculate simple arithmetic. Educators are no longer convinced that they can help each and every child in the classroom learn, especially if the child is smart but handicapped by neurological or social/emotionally difficulties. Most children who are identified as special needs do not have parents who can afford to provide private tutors and specialists to help them work with their educational challenges. Thus, the government–this time under the leadership of a president for whom I had tremendous respect–is caving into the demands of the wealthy while children in poorer school districts and middle-city urban neighborhoods suffer the consequences of “normative school achievement.” If these students could be part of the norm, they would be out-testing students in wealthy school districts and private schools. But Arne Duncan should know this, since his Harvard “senior thesis” related to education in an inner-city school. However, that his training was in sociology rather than education is evident from his programs during his cabinet term and his misunderstanding of what special education is all about.

I had more faith in President Obama than perhaps I should have had. I honestly believed that he would be in touch enough with his own cabinet and informed enough about education issues to curb his dog. And that’s all I see Arne Duncan as–an untrained dog who goes after appearance rather than substance, and whose “handler” looks upon with amusement. For years I believed that President Obama knew more about education than he does, too.

The USDOE’s new policy on special education appears to support my impression of Dr. Duncan, although I am going to need to study it more carefully before committing unwaveringly to this opinion.

Or perhaps “un-waiveringly”…

#educ_dr

Posted in Assessment of education, Education, Education News, Education Reports, Fixing Education, Government Reports, Learning Disabilities, Ramblings, Reading, Reading Disabilities, Special Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Purchase the goods after you have refined the gift.

DrEMiller:

At home and in school, clear expectations make the difference.

Originally posted on Transitions and A Medically Complex Child:

Wandering in a sporting goods store, I heard the typical child parent banter. I want, I need, I can’t live without.

As I rounded a corner, I can upon a dad with his daughter. She was in tears because he refused to purchase her a pair of Nike LeBron Basketball Shoes. The Price-$139.99.

As they walked toward the checkout counter, I heard him exclaim, “When you practice, develop the skills, and get on a competitive team, I will then consider the purchase. Until then, this $40 pair will be just fine.”   By the time they walked out of the store, her sobs had softened.  It appeared this was a ritual she expected.  Her posture was tall as she reached out to grab his hand.   The expectations were clear, the relationship had strengthened.  The child may excel at basketball, or she may not.  The lesson was way more important than any score, any game…

View original 175 more words

Posted in Fixing Education | Leave a comment

Technology-Attention Disorder Link?

A St Maarten friend posted the blog link below on Facebook, and that got me thinking…

What is the link between attention disorders and electronic gadgetry such as tablet devices and smart phones?

To quickly summarize, Margaret Rock’s post addresses a “theory” of a correlation between ADD/ADHD and the increased use of tablets/iPads and smart phones by young children. Although the blogger—a computer “generalist”–stresses the “correlation” of the two and makes a rather feeble attempt at cautioning against “causation” of attention disorders by early use of electronic devices, the overall effect of the post leaves the reader with the impression that she leans strongly toward causation.

http://m.2machines.com/articles/181304.html

Interesting read…but as a researcher and educational practitioner, I would put more emphasis on the “correlation” rather than jumping to “causation.” The fact is that children with attention disorders have difficulty focusing. That electronic devices can hold their attention–for a considerable length of time!–should be a focus for helping them to concentrate on academics and social interactions; that is, the devices should be viewed as potential tools to teach focus, not demonized as a causal factor that should be removed because technology encourages focus in one type of activity.

Here in the island country of St Maarten, there are “electronic” means other than tablets and smart phones that are being used to help children–and even adults–learn to focus. One technique (Interactive Metronome) is employed by Ms. Myrna Richardson; a different and more expensive technique is used by Dr. Kurt Vreeman. Both individuals’ programs employ biofeedback via computer, and these programs have been shown to transfer to general life activities.

The key to transfer, however, is self-awareness–if I can focus on this electronic task by doing X, then I can adapt what I learned to do X to help me focus on other tasks. So when we help an individual learn a skill and how to transfer that skill academics or social interactions, we are helping that individual to function more effectively in the world they live in. Well-trained special education teachers, and interested general education teachers, have been using self-awareness techniques for decades, albeit without electronic intervention. However, the power of technology can help.

Strongly supported by research, the truth is that attention problems have many correlates–food additives, environmental factors, brain injury, geometric advances in technology, family, community, poverty–and some of those factors affect people with a genetic predisposition to attention disorders more strongly than those without such predisposition. If several correlates are involved and each exerts a little bit of influence, the collective effect may manifest as attention problems.

Another truth is that, although there may be an actual rise in the incidence of attention disorders because of these factors, part of the increase may be due to greater general awareness–especially on the part of medical and psychological professionals who are now better trained to look for attention problems, especially in children. A paper by Drs. Heidi M. Feldman and Michael I. Reiff, published in the February 27, 2014 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), describes some of the factors:

Family, twin, and adoption studies provide evidence that ADHD has a genetic component. Heritability has been estimated at 76%.  Metaanalyses of candidate-gene association studies have shown strong associations between ADHD and several genes involved in dopamine and serotonin pathways.  Multiple genes, each with a small effect, may together mediate genetic vulnerability.  Nongenetic factors (e.g., maternal smoking during pregnancy or exposure to environmental lead or polychlorinated biphenyls) may also interact with genetic predisposition in the pathogenesis of ADHD. (p. 838)

The authors further indicate the difficulty with attention disorder diagnosis because of symptoms that are also indicative of depression, anxiety, and learning and/or behavior disorders. Their international meta-analytical study shows strong evidence that behavioral therapy or behavioral intervention processes work best to encourage greater focus and countering “non-attention” behaviors–not only within academic programs but also in family therapy approaches.

Behavioral interventions have been recommended for children with behavioral problems for decades, and continues to be the most effective treatment. Among the behaviors that should be addressed, according to the authors, are social interaction and communication topics, as well as encouragement of sustained focus. To sustain focus, the child and adults (parents, teachers, and other significant adults in the child’s life) need to understand how to help the child identify distractors and learn to avoid or ignore them.

As a former teacher of children with behavioral and emotional problems, I can attest to how time-consuming this process of re-teaching behaviors can be. “Re-teaching” because the child has figured out coping behaviors on his/her own and has been using them to avoid or tone down the frustration that accompanies fruitless attempts to “be good” or “pay attention.” Learning theory has been stressing for years how difficult it is to unlearn behaviors, or to replace “old learning” with new information. Thus, the added focus of teaching parents and classroom teachers to identify behaviors and communicate with the child is not for those who want a quick change in children but instead seek positive progress. Children for whom stimulant or non-stimulant pharmaceuticals are prescribed need time and patience to unlearn the coping skills (often manifesting as inappropriate behavior) associated with their disorders.

All of the information contained in the cited blog is neither surprising nor terribly new. The Rock blog post is based on unanalyzed “facts” that have been strung together to “prove” a theory that electronic devices “cause” attention disorders—specifically ADD/ADHD. By way of contrast, the published NEJM meta-analysis also contained little new information, but it used the outcomes of others’ published research on gene expression to systematically and thoroughly determine the factors that have been most strongly associated with ADHD during the past decade; thus forming a composite for identifying and treating individuals with the disorders.

The core problem with attention disorders is the inability to focus. Finding something that a child can focus on is difficult and time-consuming. Yet finding this elusive “something” is important for successful behavioral intervention. The very fact that many children with attention problems are able to concentrate on technology is what is important. Taking what we know about what makes them concentrate on the devices and using what we observe to encourage the same focus ability to daily academic and the living/social situations is the goal.

As a special education educator with a recently-confirmed (about 1.5 years ago) diagnosis of ADHD, I can attest to the fact that my ADHD is probably what made me successful in a classes of 15 children with mild-to-moderate and 8 children with moderate-to-severe learning, behavioral, and emotional issues. Each student in any of my classes was at a different level of reading, math, communication, and behavior. That means that at any one time I had to pay attention to up to 15 different levels of skills in the major academic areas, as well as up to 15 different levels of unique behaviors associated with each child within the distinct academics as well as social interaction and personal behavioral response areas. Even with paraprofessionals in the classroom, this is no easy feat. The most successful regular classroom teachers are also the most observant of behavior changes; yet they would probably have difficulty with an environment that, on paper, looked chaotic but was, in fact, highly orchestrated and constantly monitored.

The need to be aware of everything at the same time focused me. In my personal life, I had to be doing several things at the same time and constantly involved in a variety of social groups to give the semblance of normal behavior. For me, it was computers that helped me learn to focus on a single “task,” especially once all the masters-level courses for my three teacher certifications were completed and I needed something to occupy my attention. The coursework helped me learn about all the latest behavioral learning techniques and teaching methodologies so that I finally learned how to study. But the logic and mathematical simplicity of computer programming allowed me to focus all I had learned about teaching and learning on myself. Had I not learned to focus on computers, I would not have been able to transfer that ability to focus on doctoral study.

Long before I left the classroom teaching, I was already trying to incorporate the use of the nascent personal computer (circa 1980) into my students’ learning. For those students who profited academically from the new technology, behavioral change came faster and stronger. For those who were less fascinated by the budding technology, other ways to focus attention were explored—much like what I had been doing for the previous eight years: find the area of interest or strength and use the skills to support academic progress.

Be observant and find the key.

That the use of technological devices causes the release of endorphins (see Rock blog) is not a bad thing, if it can be used in learning to sustain focus. When we enjoy doing something, those pleasure chemicals are released into our brains and we learn more about that “something” because we can focus. Focus gives us pleasure as we learn, and we learn that learning can be pleasurable because we enjoy what we are doing. This is the outcome educators and psychologists seek when we look for ways to motivate students and clients.

I could go on, but I’ve already allowed my ADHD to lead my thinking into divergent areas… There is so much that we know about learning and motivation and attention and cognition and distractors and behaviors, etc.  Part of the problem is that we often become too focused on a single factor or correlation, then forget about all the other variables that influence attention…

 

#educ_dr

Posted in behavior management, Education, Parental Involvement, Teaching Tolerance, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hurtful Words

Those involved in special education already relate to the hurt caused by name-calling or references to special needs individuals. Here is a blog posting that explains why it is wrong to use the “R word.”

What Really Happens When You Use the R Word

(or copy the link below into your browser’s address bar)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-c-mcginley/what-really-happens-when-you-use-the-r-word_b_4896444.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000010

The same reasoning applies to “idiot” and many other derogatory words and terms. Choose your words carefully.

#educ_dr

Posted in Special Education | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A New MOOC: Digital Learning Transition (Spr. 2014) – Course

I’m back! It has been a while since I posted anything at all, and I felt that the New Year was a good time to start things rolling again. As some of you know, I am currently living on the island of St. Martin, in the Dutch half, a fledgling country called Sint Maarten. I arrived here because of my husband’s job at the American University of the Caribbean Medical School, but I’m finding a lot to learn about education here–especially special education, where my teaching heart has always resided. I’m learning a great deal about how a young country is developing its own educational system, and I will post my observations on St. Maarten’s progress in the months to come. There are many positive things happening here.

But today’s post is not about St. Maarten, the Caribbean, or physical schools. Instead, I wanted to share with you a site that may be of interest to you, especially since it is a MOOC course on digital learning. You can sign up for the course at the organization’s web page. Here is the site:

http://www.mooc-ed.org/

And here is the course information page:

Digital Learning Transition (Spr. 2014) – Course.

Wishing all my readers a happy and prosperous 2014!

#educ_dr

Posted in Conferences and Publications, Digital Education, Education News, Online Education, Professional Development, Teaching | Leave a comment

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

As educators, we have learned to accept more than just words to illustrate students’ understanding. For many students, non-literary art forms are the most effective means of communication. Photography is one of these arts.
This site, the Weekly Photo Challenge at WordPress.com, offers photographers–from beginner to professional–ideas and challenges for expression using the view through a camera lens. It also offers fine examples of interpretation, which can challenge the cognitive development of students as well as adults. Cognitive development is not just about words, but also about ideas and concepts. Photography offers this “mind-expanding tool” for those individuals who have trouble with words. This blog site offers excellent challenges to young through old…

#educ_dr

Posted in Fixing Education, Learning Disabilities, Reading Disabilities | Tagged | Leave a comment

Dangerous Speakers | Teacher Talk (Dyslexia and other Reading Disabilities)

Good educators are always seeking new information–whether that information is to learn better ways of serving their students, learn more about a topic or technique, follow how the latest research-based techniques are working elsewhere, etc. To good educators, an 8-hour workday and a five-day workweek are wistful bucket-list items for some future that never seems to arrive.

A favorite way to learn when conferences are few and far between are one- or two-hour presentations that are presented by experts. The problem, I have found, is that many people claim to be experts in fields in which they have no legitimate claims to back up the expertise. Such people–especially when they can produce no credentials to back up their claims–often lead the audiences astray, mainly because they, as the presenters, know less about a topic than some people attending the presentation who would never dream of calling themselves experts. Presentations–whether to an audience of professional educators, pre-service educators, or (especially) parents–must present accurate information.

The other day, I posted this blog on another site. There are some spelling errors, which I’m never happy about, but my computer and spelling are not the concern of this post. What is of concern to me is perpetuation of misinformation and disinformation related to education in general, but very specifically to special education, which has taken a beating globally because of what I can only call world-wide fiscal difficulties. It is always the neediest children from whom the most promising programs are taken away. And special education–in this case, the very specific topic of dyslexia Wha–has been hijacked and misconstrued by persons who believe that a non-programmatic class or two, or a “swing through the Caribbean” gives them the “expertise” to pass on to others their own confused notions that usually are not based on an historical perspective or serious research on a topic.

[BTW, click over to this little video on what a person with dyslexia might see while reading: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwZLFTW4OGY]

Link over to my other blog, below, in which I describe a seminar on dyslexia presented by a person whom my neighbor labeled a charlatan. We went together–he the parent of a diagnosed dyslexic child and, like his child, afflicted with dyslexia; me, a duly trained reading specialist and learning disabilities specialist, as well as an experienced educator of emotionally disturbed children, a trained educational researcher, and the earner of the title Doctor of Educational Psychology. I have always been reluctant to label myself as an expert in dyslexia and learning disabilities; if anything, I have a tendency to consider myself an expert in the education of moderately to severe emotional disturbed children (which includes expertise in classroom management). Yet I completed in-depth academic study in both reading disabilities in particular and learning disabilities in general that would put many modern programs to shame, and that are the core elements for academic advance for the emotionally disturbed child. Part of my original teacher training–all done at the postbachaloriate level–was the importance of identifying solid researcher, and the greater importance of following the (academically recognized) newest research findings in the field of interest. This is what convinced me to study for my doctorate, where I added intense study of cognition and cognitive theory, cultural bases of education, language disabilities that complement the study of both reading disabilities and specific learning disabilities, self-concept versus self-esteem as elements of both special education and general education, the influence of visual disabilities on children’s learning, and much mush more. Because of the relationships and inter-relationships among all these areas, as well as influences of environment, parental and community support. Still, even after earning my doctorate, I had trouble calling myself an expert. Instead, I continued to see myself as a learner as well as a teacher. I continue to learn from true and recognized experts both directly through classes and conference attendance, and personal communications with academically and professionally recognized experts. It has been my ecological and eclectic view on education that has kept me from calling myself an expert in the education of special needs and culturally diverse children. This one “seminar” aimed at the topic of dyslexia among students of Caribbean countries that has made me realize that I truly am an expert in special education. But read on for what I consider a horror story. Decide for yourselves who is an expert and who is not, even if it is a mere comparison between a speaker’s claims and my publically available academic credntials, as a trainer and consultant, as a graduate education professor, and personal research in fields related to the teaching of unique individuals, whether K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate learners, and non-educational audiences of parentts and student support personnel. If enough of you want to see my credentials, I would be delighted to share my transcripts and my curriculum vitae. Then you can decide if, as this one speaker has helped me define myself, an expert with a capital E.

Dangerous Speakers | Teacher Talk.

http://blog.emillereducation.com/2013/09/26/dangerous-speakers/ , if the link does not work correctly, or your computer would rather have the complete site address)

Respectfully submitted,

Eleanore Miller, Ed.D.

#educ_dr

Posted in Diversity in education, Dyslexia, Education, Fixing Education, Kids Reading, Learning Disabilities, Parental Involvement, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Reading, Reading Disabilities, Special Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Kids are Reading, 2013

We have all heard this: It is less important what a child reads than that the child reads. However, we also want children to read books that carry a message. When a child has trouble choosing a book–especially one for an independent reading assignment for school–we want to offer some guidance toward a book that will be acceptable and worthwhile, as well as enjoyable.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or an individual interested in guiding young people’s reading choices, one thing you cannot ignore is the reasoning kids employ in choosing a particular book to read, especially for independent reading assignments for school. Many kids read books that are recommended by friends, especially when they share an interest in a topic such as sports or hobbies. However, kids often find that they have some interests that differ from those of their friends, especially as they grow older. For example, one friend may have an interest in historical novels while another is interested in futuristic themes such as those found in science fiction. Some friends enjoy mysteries or books classified as horror. Still other friends might enjoy biographies, especially of people in a particular area (science, invention, social causes, etc.). In these cases, friends can be helpful in recommending books they enjoy, but the student may not be interested in the same topics or types of books. Thus, when a student needs to choose a book for a book report, he or she may find that friends’ suggestions are less helpful. 

Renaissance Learning has released a report on the reasons kids give for selecting independent reading materials, including recommendations by family members and librarians. Often, these are individuals who either know the young person’s leanings or are able to ask the questions that can narrow the range of topics or  types of stories that may engage the particular youth.  The Renaissance Learning website can be helpful to anyone who needs ideas for how to recommend independent reading materials by providing information on how many young people choose their books.

http://www.renlearn.com/whatkidsarereading/

The website also addresses some Common Core State Standards related to reading. Especially helpful might be the links to lists of Caldecott and Newbery Award titles. I often use these award lists (as well as others) to help select books for teaching social skills of behaviorally challenged students, as well as for use as exemplars in discussing writing development and how to read a book for analysis (such as a book report). When I am at a loss for an independent reading recommendation, especially  if a school or youth librarian is not available, the awards lists pretty much guarantee that the book is wholesome, well-written, and interesting. What I have found about books that are recognized by Caldecott and Newbery, as well as Coretta Scott King, Geisel, and other awards, is that most winners and honorary mentions can hold the interest of an adult reader as well as that of a child.

A good list of children’s book awards can be found at http://www.readingrockets.org/books/awardwinners/.

#educ_dr

Posted in Kids Reading, Reading, Reading Materials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Would I Have Done?

It has been quite a while since I posted to this site.  Mostly, this is because I was in the process of moving from Los Angeles to the Caribbean island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten.  It has two names because this entire island, which would fit neatly within the borders of Los Angeles with plenty of elbow room, is divided into two countries: the French St. Martin, and the Dutch Sint Maarten.  My husband and I have been here three weeks, leasing a furnished  condo and waiting for our stuff to arrive, including our computers which we packed for shipping so that we could carry on our two cats (the dog had to travel as cargo). Because of uneven electrical current, the charger for my tablet was blown out, despite being plugged into a surge protector.  Thus, my communication with the outside world was limited until I broke down and purchased another laptop late last week.  Thank goodness it is so beautiful and “laid back” here, or I probably would have had a melt-down.

But this post is not about the island or the moving experience.  Instead, I am writing because I am uncomfortable with commentary I observed on Facebook that involves Middle Eastern student behavior and a professor’s response.

The professor indicated that a student suggested that a few Arabic examples be provided.  It was not clear from the post whether this was merely a suggestion or if the exchange took the form of a demand (or something in between).  The professor’s response indicated that she is an American, the class was being taught at an American university, and that all examples would be American.  The flurry of responses to this anecdote ranged from American indignation over the request to a suggestion that foreign students might be supported by American tax dollars.  In between were comments regarding attitudes of Middle Eastern students to support for the professor’s position.

Normally, I would have read the interactions, possibly made an inane comment, and moved on.  However, the subject and tone of the anecdote as well as several of the responses caught me off-guard, mostly because I glimpsed a new side to two people who participated in this exchange, both of whom are university professors who had been either a fellow student or my instructor.  After re-reading the thread several times, I began to question what my response would have been under the same circumstances.

A little personal background first.  My training and mind-set is special needs students.  I taught at the K-12 level for over 13 years, mostly special education classes, and always at what might be included as part of the middle school level.  Most of the classes were culturally and economically diverse, and each student had a unique cluster of academic and social weaknesses and strengths.  Often, the best way to convey a teaching concept was to give an example from the student’s personal experience.

During the 10 years that I spent as a programmer of corporate financial systems and reports in the greater New York City area, I worked with individuals from all corners of the world.  To be honest, in the corporate world, I often “classified” individuals’ behaviors in terms of the cultural group they represented, and only after getting to know the person did I “unclassify” into a unique group of one–the individual.  I never do this with students, so it came as a surprise to me when I discovered I did this with adults.  This led to a conscious modification to the way I deal with adults whose culture significantly differs from mine.  Good thing, because I am once again in an environment in which it is I who is being classified (as I was when starting as an immigrant in an American school system at the age of 5).  These experiences have helped shape my attitudes and opinions.

There is so much that many of us do not know, but as I read the thread of posts I marveled at the singular tone of the respondents.  One response speculated that the student who asked the question was probably male based on his/her military experience in the Middle East.  (As it turns out, the student was female.)  Someone else expressed an opinion about the wealth of the student’s family and a subsequent expectation of faculty accommodation.

Yet another comment indicated that the US is probably footing the bill for foreign university students.  When I first started teaching at the post-secondary level, I had no idea how international students pay for their education.  I was lucky enough to be befriended by the head of international student recruitment, who educated me about this.  International students must pay tuition up front and provide documentation indicating that they can support themselves financially to meet basic needs, such as food and housing.  These students do not qualify for US education loans (neither federally subsidized nor private), and are not allowed to seek employment, except for a very small number of university student positions available solely to international students.  These are very restrictive and, typically, provided for foreign students through endowments by non-university and non-government organizations.  Monies earned from such positions would barely cover non-veterinary expenses for my two cats and small dog.  US tax dollars do not support international students in any way.

Yadda yadda yadda. Lots of pro-America or cautiously anti-foreigner remarks in the thread.

But back to the original question: how would I have reacted within the scenario of a foreign student suggesting (or stating or demanding?) that a few examples be provided that addressed the student’s culture?  The answer: I probably would have asked the student to provide me with an example of what s/he meant, especially since it is not clear whether the student was asking for a language change or a cultural example.  Clearly, I would not be able to provide an example in Farsi without a translation from the student, and I lack enough background in the student’s culture so that I would need help in creating a meaningful example.  Why would I do this? Because I believe in diversity and what all students–regardless of academic level–can learn about other cultures.  Because I personally would learn something new, perhaps about a different world view or a business or cultural activity that is unique to another part of the world.  Because–well, because I am always ready to broaden perspectives of my students and myself.

To me, education should not be restricted to teaching basic skills or strictly controlled (or recommended) class content.  Education encompasses the whole person who must function effectively in an increasingly diverse world.  For me, providing an example outside the norm is wholistically educational.  Perhaps I am old-fashioned about my attitudes toward education… or perhaps my attitudes toward education are too liberal or progressive…

#educ_dr

 

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