[Edu-sig] Business in Education

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Wed Sep 27 21:07:02 CEST 2006

On 9/27/06, kirby urner <kirby.urner at gmail.com> wrote:
> So Arthur, in thinking more about your well-founded suspicion of the
> profit motive, when it comes to curriculum writing and standard
> setting (test making), I'm thinking we should go over in what ways the
> public schools, pre college, are already subject to commercial
> moneymaking.

I said nothing about the test making industry, i.e. ETS.  Obviously
there's a lot more to this picture than just textbooks, plus New York
isn't necessarily a center for K-12.  I hear the McGraw-Hill division
I used to work for moved to Deluth or someplace, maybe Omaha.

> You may suppose I'm about to launch on another anti-TI tirade (but
> you'd be wrong; plus I just bought one for my daughter, the same kind
> "Mr. Bright uses" (an excellent teacher)).  More, I'm drawing from

TI-30x?  Something like that.  A "2 line" display (all Python really
needs, right?).

> It was all about Texas and California, the states with the biggest
> school-aged populations.  Mass publishers had to jump through their
> hoops, our kiss good bye any real chance for profit for hungry

...[or] kiss good bye...

> The story Californians now tell themselves is:  we were going down the
> sewer, mathematically, but now scores are on the rise and all because
> of a new State Standard championed by our Education Pope, one Wayne
> Bishop over at CalState (a competent teacher I'm sure -- I use some of
> his linear algebra thinking in Gnu Math as a matter of fact).

ISBN: 087150300X

> Get the Ed Department to sign off on Everyday Math, and you've got
> your gravy train for the next fifteen years minimum (but good doobie
> bureaucrats need job security too, so stamp it with "more study
> needed").

Everyday Mathematics Gets Qualified Nod From U.S. Ed. Dept.
Posted: Sep 21, 2006 12:11 PM
post by Jerry P. Becker

> Textbook publishing is profitable because at the K-12 level, it's all
> about rehashing.  Colleges pioneer and explore (or used to), but K-12
> never changes, or, if it does, hardly moves at all in Mathematics.

And I'm NOT saying "old is bad" here.  When mathematics gets creative
and imaginative, as in a Renaissance period, it's often "old stuff"
that gets a new lease on life, e.g. Fibonacci's Liber Abaci, in turn
an exhumation of Lost Arts (known within Islamic circles, but
semi-purged from Xtiandom by the Spanish Inquisition and its sorry

> The pictures get more ethnically diverse, the sidebars more
> loquacious, the binders stronger, the books heavier and more
> expensive.  These are the only dimensions we care about.  Math

Big confusion between "ethnicity" and "genetic makeup" by the way.
They could be identical twins, and yet fight on opposite sides in some
civil war.  Memes, way more than genes, carry Kulture.

> Content, meantime, remains Plain Vanilla Pablum, i.e. nothing serious,
> until we weed 'em and feed 'em (Calculus Mountain to weed 'em).

I'm not advocating we give up on Calculus, but I think Computer
Science, with its hunger for discrete mathematicians, is not off base
when it goes in with a less calculus-intensive, yet technologically
sophisticated, alternative track (or set of tracks).  We'll cover
calculus in overview still, but the "weed 'em" feature of
Differentiating By Parts, for example, might be given short shrift.
Mathematica automates this stuff anyway.  We're not trying to compete
with robots when it comes to Factory Algorithms.  Even the TIs do
simple integrals these days.

> So has our Python Nation any hope at all of propagating to more than
> homeschoolers and forlorn little one roomers on Shoshone Rez in
> someplace godforsaken?  We beed to recruit too, after all, if our
> ethnicity is to survive.

...[need] to recruit...

> And smack dab in the middle of the out-of-school Commercial Sector, is
> the breakfast cereal industry.  Cheerios, Cheerios, Cornflakes & Grape
> Nuts, one of the most feared Capitol Hill lobbies in the history of
> our planet.  They own Saturday Morning, a cartoon festival and clown
> show, puppets galore, and long the Fortune 100 focus for discovering
> Emerging Trends.

I left out a key variable in this equation:  commercial jingles.
There's a huge tie-in between the Breakfast Cereal Industy and
Nashville.  Dyxy Chyx on the back of the cereal box kinda thing, but
also what you hear, not just what you see, is important on a
flatscreen (smell is for when you open the box -- usually lots of

> All along, you've been supposing my Fuller School credential meant I
> was duty-bound to try to get passed you and your forces, as I tried
> for the End Zone of Academic Respectability.

Which isn't to say I think Fuller Schoolers can't emerge from the
woodwork within Academia.  I'm just saying we have other routes to
command and control positions, other than through our nation's war
colleges, duh.  Fuller held a professorship at Harvard, had numerous
relevant credentials.  Most faculties considered themselves lucky to
get him, as students tended to go gaga for his geometric geegaws
(raising suspicions of the type you harbor, since he was obviously a
businessman wolf in sheeps clothing).

> You wanted me to check my funny-looking pyrate hat at the door, be a
> good compromiser, give a little, in the interests of mutual
> respectability.  Then we could join forces and champion Python
> together, on the same side of high walls (with Microsoft at bay
> outside).

Regarding Microsoft, it's too big an operation to be all on one side
of anything.  I regard the IronPython krew as seaworthy, given how C#
promises great speed combined with access to multifarious treasures
(even Parrots -- a bird we tend to favor).  Re Disney, why not Kaa?

> You keep Academics respectable (I support you in that), and meanwhile
> I'll do like me Pyrate Captain taught me:  engage in all out
> psychological warfare on the fringe, where few dare venture, and even
> fewer make it back.

Bucky actually called it "psycho-guerilla warfare" more often than
not, and associated it with Cold Warring, ala his 'Critical Path'
magnum opus (a mythopoetical work, but with lots of factual material).

> Python Nation is lucky to have recruited someone like me.  Kids really
> love it when I "Talk Like a Pyrate" [sm].[1]  Yar! [sm] [2]

But I'm overworked and overbooked in a lot of ways, so the focus now
is on swelling our ranks.  I'm happy to keep with the gnu math
teaching, but expect the economies of scale to make that job easier
than it has been.


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