Cheating is the symptom of educational woes

I’m saddened by the news today that five children paid someone to take the SATs for them and as a result they could face serious time.

“Colleges look for the best and brightest students, yet these six defendants tried to cheat the system and may have kept honest and qualified students from getting into their dream school,” DA Kathleen Rice said. “These arrests should serve as a warning to those taking the SAT this Saturday that if you cheat, you can face serious criminal consequences.

I’ve heard a lot of teachers complain how rampant cheating has gotten, but we need to start asking why. What’s going on that our students have thrown morality out the window? If you look at the very basics of our humanity, you will see that people cheat based upon our survival instinct. Let me explain with a scenario:
A man is caught stealing at a grocery store. He’s guilty of theft and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But, what if, you learn that this man stole a sandwich because he was starving? Or, what if he stole a loaf of bread to feed his children? You would be a monster if you ignored his reasoning and sent him to prison and left the starving family to fend for themselves.
When anything threatens a person’s livelihood, income or social status, they enter survival mode. I believe that the system itself lead the students to their moral breaking point.
During the economic downturn, the biggest losers have been our educators and students. Every time I turn around I read about another cut to funding in education.
Due to the drop in funding, colleges have increase their fees, limited enrollment, and increased their entrance requirements. The result is that students are doing what ever it takes to get what they feel they need to survive.
Children are told from day one, that the only way to make it in this world is to get a good education, to get into the best schools. In California, we took pride in guaranteeing a higher education for all, but now even community colleges are feeling the burn.
I am not condoning cheating. It’s wrong. But, I’m saying cheating is the symptom of a much bigger problem. We’ve got to take a look at what’s really going on. We’ve got to stop our politicians from taking money away from our schools.

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Surfing to Improve Your Brain

brainImage by TZA via Flickr
Ready to exercise your brain cells? If recent news reports are accurate, I’d say the answer is yes. Apparently, millions of people are taking advantage of free classes online.
According to Apple, its online store’s educational section has hit more than 300 million downloads. Currently, more than 800 universities have iTunes U sites, and almost half of those schools, including Harvard University and Oxford University, offer content through the iTunes Store. Apple said that users can now access “over 350,000 audio and video files” through iTunes U. (Read more)
I’ve been enjoying the free online classes in iTunes for quite some time. So far, I’ve taken classes on astrophysics, algebra, calculus, introduction to music, European art, writing, reasoning, and more. It’s FREE folks, and you all know how I love a good freebie.
But if you’re not a fan of iTunes, fear not! There are many other ways to expand your mind with free online classes.

You probably think of Youtube as the place to watch stupid videos of cats playing the piano, but there are actually a lot of opportunities to expand your mind. A lot of professors are recording their lectures and making them available on the site. For instance, Professor Marc Davis, UC Berkley, gives an excellent course on Introduction to Astronomy.
Many of the colleges have sites that let you participate in complete courses by linking the lectures to a choice of mediums. You can select whether you want to subscribe to the broadcast on itunes, youtube, or in some cased just download the entire series. Wanna brag that you took a class at Yale? One really cool one for the geeks out there is Game Theory with Yale professor Ben Polak. This course is an introduction to game theory and strategic thinking. Ideas such as dominance, backward induction, Nash equilibrium, evolutionary stability, commitment, credibility, asymmetric information, adverse selection, and signaling are discussed and applied to games played in class and to examples drawn from economics, politics, the movies, and elsewhere. The course is taught on the Yale campus twice a week, but you don’t have to go there to enjoy it. You don’t even have to download the video to benefit from the class. If you’re taking a long trip, you can just save the audio casts to your cell and learn something on the long drive.
If you have a hobby, a great way to learn more about your subject or hear what others are doing is to subscribe to podcasts. One of my absolute favorites is “The Genealogy Guys” podcast, which covers a vast range of topics of interest to genealogists. However, with the huge number of podcasts, it would be more helpful to send you to their website at, so you can pick among the specific podcast titles by using their handy search tool.
You don’t have to take online courses to expand your mind. Experts say that keeping our minds active can greatly improve the quality of life in later years. You can do that by playing mind games. No, I’m not talking about playing some mean trick on someone. I’m talking about brain teasers, puzzles, quizzes and other online games that exercise your brain muscles. There are tons of brain-expanding sites to help you. A few of my favorites are:

And, believe-it-or-not, you can exercise your brain at Facebook. Challenge your friends to a game of Scrabble with Words with Friends. OK. I know, it know. Its by the dreaded folks at Zynga. But, the great thing about the game is that you can play it anywhere. On FB or on your iphone or Droid. Or, if you prefer Chess, there’s also Chess with Friends. Believe me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how intelligent your Facebook friends really are.
You can also exercise your brain and benefit your overall health by learning a new activity, such as a new dance. My friends over at Thrill Visalia! are planning a group Thriller dance in October. In it, they give free lessons on learning the 3-minute version of Michael Jackson’s famous Thriller video. Their event is part of the world-wide Thrill the World event, so even if you’re not in the area, you can find participating groups near you or just view their videos and learn at home.
I hope that this post gave you some food for thought, but I don’t want to leave you feeling frustrated with brain overload. While it’s important to exercise our brains, it is also very important to learn to relax them. Our world is so full of stress these days so it’s more important than ever to take a little time to relax. There are a number of ways to do this and if you go to mind-energy, you can learn specific techniques to quickly calm over-tired brain muscles.

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Teacher Oz is A Tribute To Educators

Billy Joel performing in Jacksonville, Florida...Image via WikipediaAnyone interested in history or is a student of history will appreciate this fantastic website called Teacher Oz’s Kingdom of History. What drew me in was a link to Billy Joel‘s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” In it, an educator from Texas named Tracey Oz, provides links to sites that explain each of the words in his lyrics. The result is a page that provides detailed information on the major historical events of the 20th Century.
 For instance, the suicide reference links to  Religious Tolerances’ explanation of Jim Jones’s People’s Temple. The links are so in-depth that you can get lost in each one.

I just “wasted” a couple of hours just following the marvelous links on the one page, when I wandered down to the bottom to click on her index. My eyes popped out of my head! The Billy Joel song lyrics page was just the tip of the iceberg. The vast amount of history found in her pages is so comprehensive, so astounding, I’m drooling.
I read somewhere that colleges are having trouble with students using Wikipedia as a resource for their assignments. The problem with Wikipedia is its often incorrect, as the information is entered by volunteers. You don’t have to worry about the validity of Ms. Oz’s research. I also like that she tells students how to reference her website in their papers.
Its easy to see that this educator has such a passion for her calling that it would be so cool to be her student. But don’t take this history lover’s word for it. She has received kudos from The History Channel, librarians, historians, grad students, and most importantly other teachers.
This website not only covers the 20th Century History of the US, but Ancient History, Military History, World History, Religious History, Art History, Biographies, etc. etc.
Educators and parents will especially appreciate that she has dedicated one page just for them encompassing education, lesson plans, study skills, teaching links, and all links relating to education.
If that wasn’t cool enough, she even has some “fun” topics, like the history of food.
Come on already! Go visit her site! Teacher Oz’s Kingdom of History

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