The Exodus, the Patriarchy & Education

Palestinians aren't the only ones who became exiles after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Almost all the Jews in the Arab world were forced out; they now make up more than half the population of Israel. Others fled to the U.S., Europe and South America. Here's a story about Jewish exiles from Egypt celebrating Passover in the U.S. One woman says, "Every year, I look at it as my life: The Jews left Egypt to go to the land of the free." 

Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and Africa has organized in San Francisco to "call attention to the experiences of Jewish refugees from Arab nations after Israel's foundation in 1948." JIMENA wants to show Palestinians how to "move on," so to speak.

Of course, Jewish refugees fled to countries that allowed them to become citizens; Palestinians have lived for half a century in Arab countries without gaining any rights. Steven Den Beste notes that the Arab League wants to keep it that way. In endorsing the "Saudi peace proposal," Arab leaders called for Israel, and only Israel, to take in Palestinians. The text specifically rejects "all forms of Palestinian 'patriation'"which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries." Den Beste predicts Arafat's imminent death, which he thinks will be good for Israel. I can't see anything good coming of the carnage, nor do I think Arafat's death will make much difference.

Still Barefoot and Pregnant

Patriarchy rules and kitchen-bound women are strictly second class, to read Women's Studies textbooks and syllabi. Christine Stolba did for a Independent Women's Forum study, Lying in a Room of One's Own. The five most popular textbooks used in Women's Studies' intro courses "transform knowledge" to nonsense, Stolba concludes. Facts are male, and therefore unworthy of respect. Heterosexuality is imposed by society. Fathers are the "foreign male element." 

I just finished reading Andrea Dworkin's Heartbreak, billed as a political memoir, and Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century, edited by Wendy McElroy. Dworkin peddles anecdotes, anger and egomania; the Liberty writers espouse a self-confident individualist feminism for women who don't need the patriarchal state — or the matriarchal Dworkin — to protect them. (Remember, Medea was a mother.) 

There's a great chapter in Liberty by Janis Cortese, a "third WWWave feminist," that tells the first and second wavers where to get off. I just don't see this generation of young women buying in to poor-little-me feminism. 

According to Bjorn Staerk, Norway's gender equality czarina wants to ban toy ads that refer to boys as "tough." 

Learning About Teaching

It sounds like an obvious idea: Create a data base of videotaped lessons that teachers can watch and analyze. It's just getting started. In an interview with Educational Leadership, UCLA Professor James Stigler, creator of LessonLab talks about creating a base of knowledge for teachers. 

"Most students are taught by an average teacher, implementing the average method. If we can find a way to make that average method a little bit better, that's going to have a big effect. If you look at medicine over the past 100 years, it's changed greatly; not because smarter people have become doctors, but because we've found a way to accumulate and share knowledge in the profession and to keep updating it over time. The lack of a knowledge base is exactly why teaching has not changed much over the past 100 years...

Is a violinist who's playing a Mozart concerto really tied down by playing the same old piece that everybody else plays? In education, we've expected too much from teachers. We've expected them not only to play the violin but also to write the concerto ..."

Readers Write

Geoff Barto of TurkeyBlog:

In undergrad, I roomed with an education major one year. He was going to be a math teacher, which meant that I spent a good share of the year tutoring him in math.

Unfortunately, this does not mean that I explained enough differential calculus for him to see how to make a meaningful pre-calc lesson. More typical was the night that he was making a chart for a fourth grade class and he couldn't get his long division examples to come out right. Or the night that he wanted to know how to figure a percentage. My roommate learned to make pretty poster boards, learned how to select outfits that were semi-formal but rough and tumble for the playground. Along the way, he did a little math, though never enough statistics to know if he was writing valid tests.

By contrast, my one-semester methodology course to become a graduate instructor in French emphasized the importance of tests as a means of making sure that we were teaching and our students were learning. Approaches to instruction were based explicitly on what research showed to be the most effective ways of explaining concepts — based on testing. At every turn, we found ourselves  looking at another set of tests that showed what worked and what didn't and how to apply the information. But that was the French department. Maybe education departments aren't quite so preoccupied with whether students are learning.

Robert Wright, a middle-school teacher: 

I had a child in my class who had the bad habit of calling girls (obscene names)...and (telling) them how he'd rape them...Because he was labeled Special Ed and this was his disability, I could not remove him from class. I was mandated by law to mainstream him. He'd say these terrible, terrible things to the most innocent girls in class and they looked like they wanted to die and there was nothing I could do about it.

I bounced him out of class the first time but the office bounced right back saying that if I did that again we all could get sued. I had him for three weeks and then his family moved.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer.  Now she blogs for tips at while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school.  She's never gotten a dime from Enron.