Mr. Morton is the subject …

The Tale of Mr. Morton from Schoolhouse Rock.

The lost art of diagramming sentences

The design firm Pop Chart Lab has taken the first lines of famous novels and diagrammed those sentences. This one shows the opening of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis.

Pop Chart Lab has diagrammed the first lines of famous novels, such as Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Diagramming sentences is a lost art, reports NPR.

It’s a “picture of language,” says Kitty Burns Florey, the author of Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences.

The first sentence she recalls diagramming is: “The dog barked.”

“By drawing a line and writing ‘dog’ on the left side of the line and ‘barked’ on the right side of the line and separating them with a little vertical line, we could see that ‘dog’ was the subject of the sentence and ‘barked’ was the predicate or the verb,” she explains. “When you diagram a sentence, those things are always in that relation to each other. It always makes the same kind of picture. And supposedly, it makes it easier for kids who are learning to write, learning to use correct English

In a 1877  book, Higher Lessons in English, Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg argued that students would learn how to structure sentences by drawing them as graphic structures. Diagramming became popular — till the 1960s. (I learned in seventh grade in 1964-5.)

 “Diagramming sentences … teaches nothing beyond the ability to diagram,” declared the 1960 Encyclopedia of Educational Research.

In 1985, the National Council of Teachers of English declared that “repetitive grammar drills and exercises” — like diagramming sentences — are “a deterrent to the improvement of students’ speaking and writing.”

Diagramming isn’t mentioned in the Common Core standards, so it’s probably doomed.

What’s the best college for the country?

Washington Monthly’s 2014 college rankings show the most “public-minded” institutions based on social mobility, research and public service.

We all benefit when colleges produce groundbreaking research that drives economic growth, when they put students from lower-income families on the path to a better life, and when they shape the character of future leaders. And we all pay for it, through hundreds of billions of dollars in government-financed financial aid, tax breaks, and other spending.

. . . Instead of crediting colleges that reject the most applicants, we recognize those that do the best job of enrolling and graduating low-income students. Our rankings measure both pure research spending and success in preparing undergraduates to earn PhDs. And by giving equal weight to public service, we identify colleges that build a sense of obligation to their communities and the nation at large.

Only two of U.S. News‘ top ten schools, Stanford and Harvard, make the Monthly‘s top ten, which is headed by the University of California  at San Diego.

Categories include the best bang-for-the-buck schools, which looks at value for the cost most students will pay, not the sticker price. That’s how Amherst makes the top five.

The Monthly also lists the affordable elites (the University of California campuses do well).

America’s Worst Colleges have high tuition and high dropout and default rates. Of the worst 20, 11 are for-profit colleges and nine are private nonprofits. Art schools and historically black colleges do poorly in the ratings.

The 13 most ridiculous college courses include Skidmore’s Sociology of Miley Cyrus, Tufts’ Demystifying the Hipster and Rutgers’ Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyonce,  according to Thomas K. Lindsay on See Thru Edu.

Occidental has a course titled Stupidity, which teaches that it is “the double of intelligence rather than its opposite.” I don’t follow the math on that. I may not be stupid enough.

Officer Unfriendly

From Anthony Freda Studio:

Photo: Just saw the same idea in Mad....hate when that happens... pretty obvious parody, I guess.

When students default, colleges pay

If too many students default on their loans, colleges risk losing access to federal student aid. That’s motivated community colleges to develop default management plans. But denying federal loans to high-risk students isn’t an option.

School Days

Chuck Berry sings School Days in 1972.

Teacher Wars aren’t new

978-0-385-53695-0Dana Goldstein‘s new book, The Teacher Wars is “meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced,” writes Alexander Nazaryan in the New York Times.

The book starts in the 1820′s with the advent of universal public education. To teach at a “common school” required little education. “Normal” schools didn’t require teachers to be high school graduates.

Low standards have persisted in teacher training, writes Goldstein.

Teaching became the province of “angelic public servants motivated by Christian faith” — that is, women — who would make the schoolhouse “America’s new, more gentle church,” writes Goldstein.

The notion that teaching is “low-paid (or even volunteer) missionary work for women,” Ms. Goldstein persuasively argues, continues to haunt the classroom.

So does the question of how to close the racial achievement gap, another topic of current debate whose historical roots Ms. Goldstein capably excavates.

Almost every education reform has been tried before, and failed to make much difference, writes Claudia Wallis in a second New York Times review of the book. (Two reviews!)

Long before Wendy Kopp dreamed up Teach for America to place Ivy Leaguers in public schools, we had the Teacher Corps. Before that, Catharine Beecher — “America’s first media darling school reformer” — was recruiting proper East Coast spinsters to go west to teach the unlettered children of pioneers. . . .  35 years before the Gates Foundation became the 2,000-pound gorilla in American education, the Ford Foundation was throwing its weight around the classroom chasing a similar goal of closing the achievement gap between rich and poor.

Goldstein includes anecdotes about famous Americans who started as teachers, including Susan B. Anthony, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville and Lyndon B. Johnson.

But she agrees with John Dewey that, “Education is, and forever will be, in the hands of ordinary men and women.”

Stressing accountability, with no ideas for improving teaching, is “like the hope that buying a scale will result in losing weight,” she concludes.

Why teachers hate ‘close reading’

Close reading is being turned into a do-it-or-else teaching fad, writes Coach Brown, who’s being professionally developed yet again.

Close reading is basically hyper-analysis of a small text or a small piece of a larger text.  Kids identify first impressions, vocabulary, main idea, points-of-view, contextualization, and so on.  The goal is to get students to not only have a greater understanding of the literary passage but to also be able to apply it to something else.  It’s actually a very effective method of analyzing text.

But not for all subjects and not all the time, writes Brown. Among other things, “advanced students hate it,” “it’s boring,” and “the skill becomes the important part of the exercise.”

He cites John Spencer’s explanation of why teachers hate close reading.

Often, due to policies that demand “evidence of close reading” during walkthroughs, teachers are using this strategy for everything. Poems should be closely read. Difficulty, but relevant, primary sources need close reading. However, novels don’t need this. Grade level articles don’t, either. And when close reading replaces things like silent reading, kids lose their passion and interest in reading.

The Common Core is very big on close reading.

What are the best ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ songs?


An ABC special on Sept. 7, The ABC’s of Schoolhouse Rock, will rank the series’ all-time best songs, writes Kristen Baldwin on Entertainment Weekly.

The Chandra Wilson-hosted special will feature interviews with the creators and writers of the Emmy-winning series, which ran from 1973 to 1985.

I’m Just a BillConjunction Junction, and maybe even Interplanet Janet are favorites, writes Baldwin, who’s voting for Sufferin’ till Suffrage.

I like No More Kings. What’s your favorite?

California OKs 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

As early as next year, some California community colleges  will start offering four-year degrees in technical and vocational fields, if the governor signs a bill that cleared the state Legislature Thursday.

Some employers now demand four-year degrees even in fields such as dental hygiene and auto mechanics, said the state’s community college chancellor.