Monday, September 27, 2021

A Few New Collages

A few pieces I have been working on across the last month. 

Cliff and Sea 

The First Print 

By the Seashore

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Problem of Market Values


In a newsletter by abstract expressionist painter Louise Fletcher she wrote, “the harder we push, the less the creativity flows.”  Louise was writing about making art and how the push to finish works may be counterproductive to creating well.  

This adage about pushing for an external purpose and creating is likely true across fields were creativity is essential. Its also true outside of work—as just being human is an inherently creative act. 

It’s also a critical piece of advice for all who supervise/teach others. In my field of education I can see how in my 11-year absence, the ‘industry’ of schooling has become more market-driven, less creative. The non-market values Cornel West espoused that once informed how we lived and worked such as love, trust, kindness, belief in others and faith have been eroded by market values such as gains, completion rates, and and the ever narrowing vision of performance. 

Education needs non-market values at its center. Sadly from 1985 on—the rewriting of what matters most in educating children has been increasingly informed by those who don’t do the work and those who perhaps never did it long enough or well enough to learn that our work is largely about love.

Market values are very bad indicators of how to inspire others to want to be a lifelong learners and creators.


Earlier this week I was at my doctor’s office as I had become dizzy on my way to work and when the health director there checked my blood pressure it was elevated. My blood pressure is usually 90/70 or 90/60. I have not had elevated pressure before. 

During the course of the visit with the doctor he talked about the corporate ownership of medicine and how the treatment plan is being influenced by situating services that the client can further buy in order to not necessarily become well, but rather to become dependent on services that were not necessary to begin with. He talked about the dehumanizing of the field by productivity checklists, set diagnosis fields aligned to purchasable services, and the constant check on how much time a dr spends with a patient. Spend less time is the adage.

Market values are very bad indicators of being whole and well. 


All of this reminds me of the consistent erosion of the autonomy and mission of educators across nearly 40 years since A Nation at Risk was published and now a line erosion across medicine. The market is designed to increase the wealth of corporations. It is not designed to increase happiness or to allocate more equitable wages across socioeconomic strata. 

By their very nature market values are aligned to increasing the health of the market which is measured by the accumulation of wealth by a small percentage of folks who own a large percentage of stocks. Imagine those of you old enough (or students of history) to have lived in less volatile times of the this vulgar scene happening just post WWII:

Two mega wealthy men use that wealth so they can each take a brief flight into space during a pandemic that has not abated and where the masses across the globe are dying in record numbers. 

The unseemly nature of that would have stood out as vulgar, wrong. Now? Not so much. 


So here is the question for which I have no answer: Is it possible to reimagine a world that does not place the market as its god for the masses to feed, revere, fear?


The Problem of Non Experts Promulgating Views of Reading

I recently listened to the Education Writers Association webinar, The Science of Reading and School Leadership. Their panel included:
  • Liana Loewus, Assistant Managing Editor, Education Week
  • Anders Rasmussen, Principal, Wood Road Elementary (in Ballston Spa, N.Y.)
  • Katherine Long, Seattle-based freelance reporter (moderator)

Nary an expert among them. And this can be a danger.  For example the team repeatedly states that instruction based on the three cueing systems is wrong. Keep in mind that one of those systems is grapho-phonemic. When cross checking, the child most often is attending first to the sound of the letter(s) and then thinking about meaning and/or structure. 

As I listened I thought about P. David Pearson's six rules when referencing 'research.'  He says: (from IRA:
Rule #1: Policymakers have to read beyond the headline (or have a reader on staff).Pearson stressed that readers looking at the headline but not taking it a step further by reading all the content is problematic. Headlines can leave out a lot of the details, nuances, and truth.
Rule #2: When research is applied, it ought to be applied in an even-handed way.No cherry picking. You must look at all research, not just the bits that fit your biases. This also includes equity among students and teachers, said Pearson.
Rule #3: It’s our moral and ethical obligation to use the best evidence we can muster for making policy decisions of consequence.Pearson explained that if we applied the best available evidence standard we would not have so many phonics programs for older students, would not mandate percentages of decodable text, and would still have bilingual education programs in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts.
Rule #4: When you invoke the mantle of science, you have to accept the full portfolio of methods scientists use.“When you invite the research family to the policy table, you have to invite them all, even the cousins you’d rather not talk to,” said Pearson, who received laughs from the crowd.
Rule #5: Build your case on your evidence, not on the back of a straw person.To this point, Pearson said that often educators try to advance the practice they want to promote by asserting that the problem is that no one is currently doing what they advocate. In reality, there is little evidence to warrant the claim that no one is doing it.
Rule #6: You have to talk to others in the field who you don’t share basic assumptions about how to do research or what the research says.According to Pearson, you must stay at the table and cut through the rhetoric. While individuals tend to stay with people who are like them, this approach is bad for educational policy and a problem for society today.

These six rules make sense.  Research cannot be limited to only those findings that support one’s belief system. 

In the webinar a question was posed by an audience member on whether HMH's Into Reading uses scientific reading. Rather than say they do not know, they refer to an earlier reading series by HMH and conflated the two. Interestingly, I just had a review of the phonological awareness and phonics content from Into Reading completed by an independent expert who avidly supports the simple view of reading. Her findings says that the program provides explicit and systematic approach. One aspect of the program that she recommended (as have teachers in the district) is that more time for student practice is needed.

What it means to read is complicated as within that term we mean many things.  Code-based learning represents an important aspect of reading. But it does not represent the whole of reading. Pearson (2019) states, "Early on, the code-related skills predict achievement well in kindergarten and first grade. But by the time students get to third grade, it’s the early oral language where the emphasis is on meaning that has the better predicting value predicting later reading achievement." 

Saturday, September 18, 2021


Light (Kenai Fjords, Alaska, August, 2021)

These are photographic panoramas I made while traveling in Alaska. They were made by stitching together separate photographs using photoshop. 

Mountain Ridge (Denali, July 2021) 

Mountains  (Denali, July 2021) 

Fog 1  (Denali, July 2021) 

Fog II  (Denali, July 2021) 

Morning  (Denali, July 2021) 

The Alaskan Ridge (Anchorage, July 2021)

Take Off  (Anchorage, August, 2021) 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Alaska Paintings

When I returned from Alaska, I had a keen urge to paint. Last Sunday, I spent part of the day with a fellow artist, Navina Chhabria. While she created pen and ink drawings, I painted and collaged.  Below are eight paintings that have emerged across the last week.  All began during the painting session with Navina. It's easy to get lost while painting; time then is truly relative. 

Approaching Denali (acrylic paint, found papers, newspaper, ink, matte medium)

Early Morning Fog  (acrylic paint, found papers, ink,  graphite, matte medium)

At the Cemetery in Nome (acrylic paint, found papers, graphite, ink, photograph, matte medium)
Looking Out to the Bering Sea (acrylic paint, found papers, graphite,ink,  matte medium)
The Land Bridge Across the Bering Sea (acrylic paint, found papers, graphite, ink, matte medium)

Denali National Park (acrylic paint, found papers, ink,  matte medium)

Mountain Side (acrylic paint, found papers, ink, graphite, matte medium)

The Road through Denali (acrylic paint, found papers, ink,  newspaper, graphite, photograph, matte medium)