Category Archives: Humor

Testing is So…”20th Century”

No need to torture our students with so many standardized tests.

I know, testing is great for business.  Pearson, the UK giant testing corp, has a 5-year, $32 million contract with the NY State DOE to design tests for grades 4-8.  The privatization of education is, after all, our New Gold Rush.

But this is the Google age.  You need a fact?  Google it.  Easy.  Testing is so obsolete.

But what’s not obsolete is to inspire kids to love learning.  That means…

Creating stuff:  writing, collages, films, music, robots, CAD roller coasters…

And make sure they learn to think for themselves…

And think critically….

And challenge authority with reason, scholarship and respect…

So they can discern whether the facts they find on Google are:

1)from a reliable source or

2) from Fox News.

Remember, “Google” is an action verb…

And testing…? Totally old school.


The State of the Union’s Arts Deficit

Oh Barry.  You know I think you’re a righteous dude.  You really smacked it down on gun control last night.   I’m proud of ya.

But you keep missing this education thing.  You set up a race.  Winners get a pot of gold.  Losers, nothing.
In your words, to win the race, a state must develop “smarter curricula and higher standards.” Let’s look at the reality of what your race has meant:

Smarter curricula = all the arts are out.  No violins, band, singing, painting, sculpture, dancing…

Higher standards = test the life (joy, creativity, love of learning) out of students of all ages.  The latest idea is to start testing in pre-K.  Wha?

Really.  Barry.  It’s true.  Check it out. Visit PS/MS 29 in SoBro.  They have all the instruments for a full orchestra AND for a full band…stored in the basement.  But they can’t allot any time to teach instrumental music during the school day because they have to keep testing the little tykes.  The tubas and violas stay closed in their cases.  They never see the light of day.

As for the “new challenge” you announced  last night:  to “redesign America’s high schools so they better equip grads for the demands of a high-tech economy… focus[ed] on science, technology, engineering and math…to fill jobs that are there right now”…

…Yeah!  Let’s get those tech jobs filled.  That’s a good thing.  But again, you’re missing something:  Guess what helps children learn how to use their brains to embrace science, technology, engineering and math…

Playing the violin:  Practicing an instrument teaches you how to learn.

Band:  Teaches you how to listen, collaborate, follow a conductor and count.

Chorus:  Same thing.  Lights up your brain.  Come on, B… let’s hear ya..1..2..3..4.. “I’m so in love with you….”   ooooh….that was sweeeet:)

Painting:  Proportion.  Color spectrum.  Light.  Chemistry.  It’s all in there, Barry.

Dancing:  I’ve seen you and Michelle on the floor together.  I don’t have to tell you how stim-u-la-ting this is to the brain (both of them, when considering the male anatomy)

BTW – none of these activities involves a race.  Unless, of course you consider how students race to get to these classes because they’re so much fun and so stimulating.

Oh yeah…you didn’t mention sports either.  How ’bout you stop playing b’ball with Arne for a spell?  See how that feels.  It could make y’all all antsy and edgy.  No place to let out that aggressive energy before you have to meet with Republicans.  Maybe it’s not such a big deal.  You can always go up to Camp D and shoot some skeet.  But what about the kids?  It’s kind of edgy in the ‘hood. Fa real.

Barry…as much as I love ya, you’re creating an Arts Deficit.  Especially for our most underserved kids.  Don’t worry about the well heeled.  They can pay for private lessons after school.  Or send their kids to Sidwell which has a rich arts program.  I’m sure your girls are enjoying their arts classes @ El Sid:)

Barry…you have the pulpit.  There’s still time for you to pour resources into our public schools’ arts programs. Think JFK inviting Pablo Casals to play his glorious cello at The White House Dinner.  Think Camelot.

I PROMISE YOU…this will help turn out more highly creative scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians…

…and significantly reduce our arts deficit.

Al Green

Check out “Meet Adelle Cothorne” by John Merrow, Frontline

Adelle C, a remarkable woman, an ex principal and now cup cake baker, is the first administrator to go public about her experiences during Michelle Rhee’s time as chancellor of Washington DC’s Public Schools.

John Merrow, Frontline correspondent, ran a story about Michelle Rhee 2 nights ago about her DC leadership. This story has provoked a great deal of interest and, from Merrow’s blog, it appears he wants to go deeper. It seems there has been a a botched investigation of a cheating scandal during her watch. Please check out today’s post:

The comments from educators are very interesting. It’s always nice to hear from actual educators when you’re making education policy…ya think?

And…the ONLY thing that counts to Ms Rhee et al, are test scores. Period. Exclamation point. There is absolutely no room for creativity and authentic assessment.

FYI, I left him this comment:
John, I hope these comments will inspire Frontline to continue to dig. I’d like to encourage you to follow the money. How much money has Students First been given from Rupert Murdock (rumors are up to $50M)? With Joel Klein, former chancellor of NYC DOE, chief exec of the education division of News Corps, can you make the connections? Doesn’t Pearson, the UK’s testing giant, have a $90M biz creating and implementing testing? With marital connections to the Tennessee and Sacremento school systems, perhaps Rhee’s SF is doling out resources. Is there a possible conflict of interest? If you check out Juan Gonzalez (Daily News/Democracy Now), ask him about the effects of The New Markets Act, signed at the end of Clinton’s admin. It gave substantial tax breaks to corporate entities (hedge funds, et al) to invest in underserved areas. Thus, these areas became a place to launder money. You can check out my blog, “Attention All Bankers” for this story if you like:

Thank you so much for your diligence. Please stay with this story and follow the money. Education: it’s the “New Gold Rush.”

No New Year’s Resolutions For Me…

Why not?

Because: New Year’s Resolutions seem, to me, to be mined out of defects…things that we think need improvement in ourselves.

And I decided, my self doesn’t need any more improving.

So, I made a very short list of what’s already part of the new and improved me:
I’m making music, writing, blogging, spending more time in my country home, enjoying life, cooking, hanging with friends…

What’s not to love? For 2013 — just keep it up. And add one little thing to bolster the comedy muse. I’ll clue you in when the time comes.

Meanwhile, Happy New Already Improved You!

Celebrate! Celebrate! Dance to the Music!


“Master Race To The Top???” – Guest Post by Don Castellow

My first guest blogger is a music educator I admire, Don Castellow. ( Full disclosure: he’s also my husband.)   Originally written in response to my last blog, “End of Term Report Card – Arne Duncan: NOT Promoted.”  I asked him if he’d mind my featuring it as its own post.  He’s cool with this. Herewith, his musings:

From Don Castellow:   I’m looking for education leaders who will give us better education metaphors. Race to the Top… really? Races have winners and losers, actually a race, singular, has a winner, singular, and everyone else? Losers. Is this the best inspiration we can muster? The problem with this metaphor is that it represents vertical thinking. A race is a preconceived finish line at the end of a known course. Jacques Cousteau said all great discoveries as far as he knew, were made through horizontal thinking. In other words, not knowing precisely what you are looking for or exactly where it may be, but being willing to let go of your preconceived ideas in order to recognize a new discovery when it comes into view.

There are plenty of vertical thinkers around. You may see one tonight, on your way home. He may be standing in the middle of it all, in the way or in the road. Be kind, shine your bright lights and slowly drive around him. He will not see you, you are not in his field of view. He is looking straight up, eyes on where the prize should be. When he sees it he may win, achieving the highest status of the status quo, a victory of vertical thinking.

Horizontal thinkers don’t win, they discover. They discover together or alone, and share discoveries. One discovery can lead to another. The horizontal thinker looks forward, around, and behind. The horizontal thinker is aware of his position 360 degrees around and out to the horizon or beyond and sees the things coming at him, he is aware. There can be no standardized test. You can’t measure the horizontal with a vertical ruler.

W.B. Yeats said, “education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” Now there’s an education metaphor! To build a proper fire you need diverse pieces of wood. You need kindling and pieces a little bigger than kindling but not too big, and dry. You need bigger, substantial pieces that, once encouraged to burn by the kindling, will hold the fire and burn for a long time. You need matches, more than one, and keep them dry.

Let’s carry the metaphor a little farther. The big logs of our education fire can be math and science and English language arts. They need the kindling of Music, Art, Dance, Drama, and Phys Ed. To light this educational fire, you need a good match in the form of a teacher.

There should be no Master Race of subjects. No math, English, or science that is so almighty special that it can downgrade, degrade and eliminate other subjects and claim to be the key to education, no, claim to be education itself – the Master Race at the top.

Our Master Race of education fire has a few problems. One, the kindling is in poor shape or missing all together. Two, it is continually being dowsed from the pail of standardized test prep and testing.

An education should be a fine and generous balance. Yes it includes quality math, science, and ELA learning. But these are tools, important tools, but only equally important among all the tools in the big toolbox an education should fill. Everyone does not have to carry around the exact same tool box either, because everyone should not be building the same preconceived prize. As teachers and students, we should each prepare to make our own discoveries and lead the world into the future as a great collective of individuals.

Don Castellow taught band at PS/MS 29 in the South Bronx, NYC, for eleven years until the band program was eliminated from the schedule in September 2012.  During his tenure, this program received numerous grants.  These grants provided instruments, repair,  small group and individual lessons at no charge to students. One of them, a VH-1 “Save The Music” grant brought new band instruments to the school.  In addition, the band program developed a thriving partnership with The Middle School Jazz Academy at Lincoln Center.  He is the director of a new nonprofit, The South Bronx After-School Band Project, which has its home at PS/MS 29, thanks to the support of the school’s administration.  For more information, you may contact Don at

End of Term Report Card… Arne Duncan: NOT Promoted

End of Term Report Card

Name:   Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education

Term:    2009 – 2012

  • Reading:            “Far below standards in reading and analyzing literature”
  • Math:                 “Below standards in probability concepts and rationality”
  • Social Studies:   “Far below standards in understanding historical concepts”
  •  Science:            “Making little or no progress toward completing a full investigation.”
  •  Music:               “Does not show initiative”
  •  Art:                    “Shows little interest and effort”
  •  PE:                     “Shows initiative, but only on basketball court”
  •  Deportment:      “Does not respect feelings, opinions or property of others”

Immediate Improvements Required:

  • “Needs to accept responsibility for learning”
  • “Requires academic intervention” (consult with professional educators, pronto!)

Final Assessment:




“Grading Takes All The Fun From Failing” …Simon Schocken

This Ted Talk by Simon Schocken, made me well up with tears of joy, just when he “solved” the area of a parallelogram with his tablet app for a 6 year old. Please watch it. It’s about the joy of learning through discovery with a soupcon of Genesis in the mix. He is eloquent, brilliant and funny ….and most definitely, a mensch.

Take a break and watch it now. You will emerge refreshed and invigorated. Promise.


Massive shout out to 3Di Associates who hipped me to this jive.  Check ’em out: