Go, Samaritan

You see someone gasping for air and fear she's dying. You have the medicine that will help her. Should you give her the medicine? Or stand by and let her suffer? What's the right choice?

Do nothing, says the principal of Caney Creek High School in Texas. Brandon Kivi, 15, was  expelled for handing his asthma inhaler to his girlfriend, Andra Ferguson, 15, who'd forgotten to bring hers to school. Both use Albuterol Inhalation Aerosol.

"I was trying to save her life. I didn't want her to die on me right there because the nurse's office (doesn't) have breathing machines," Kivi said.

"It made a big difference. It did save my life. It was a Good Samaritan act," Ferguson said.

The school nurse reported Kivi for violating the district's no-tolerance drug policy. He was arrested and accused of delivering a dangerous drug.

The nurse didn't think the asthma attack was life-threatening. Maybe not. But I wouldn't think much of a kid who'd take that risk when he had the girl's prescribed medicine in his pocket.

A few days later, school officials decided to expel Kivi but not press criminal charges. He can return after Christmas, but doesn’t plan to be back. Both Kivi and Ferguson will be homeschooled from now on.

Due to zero tolerance policies, some schools insist that asthmatic kids keep their emergency inhalers at the nurse's or principal's office, greatly increasing the risk that the child won't get help in time, writes Cathy Seipp on Reason Online. Georgia's Kellen Edwin Bolden Act, which allows children to carry their own asthma inhalers, is named after a 10-year-old boy who died after suffering an asthma attack on the school bus.

At some schools, children with severe allergies are  forbidden from carrying injectable ephedrine, which can save their lives if used in time.

Zero sense.

2 + 2 = ?

As with the reading wars -- "whole language" vs. phonics -- the math wars pit constructivists against traditionalists. This is part one in an excellent series in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The war is nothing new, writes Erica Carle. Forty years ago, she debated drill vs. "conceptual understanding" with a fellow teacher. She saved the memos.

Part two looks at a critical problem:  Math teachers who don't know math.

(Professor Richard) Askey started teaching a course four years ago in Madison for prospective elementary school math teachers. One of the things he did was ask them a question from an eighth-grade math test that was used in an international study several years ago: Divide 25.56 by 0.004. Fewer than half got the right answer (which is 6,390).

Researcher Liping Ma found Chinese elementary teachers, with much less formal education than U.S. teachers, show a much deeper understanding of basic math and how to teach it.

For example, she asked teachers from each country to divide 1 3/4 by 1/2 and explain how they would teach that to students.

Only nine out of 21 U.S. teachers even got the right answer, and just one suggested a method of teaching how to divide a fraction by a fraction that Ma listed as "conceptually correct."

All 72 Chinese teachers gave correct answers, and 65 created more than 80 story problems for illustrating the process that were creative, easy to understand and appropriate.

The answer is 3 1/2. And I got it!

Ma asks: How can U.S. teachers "teach for understanding" if they don't understand what they're teaching?

Majoring in Middle-class Status

The recreational university gives students and parents what they want, writes Michael Lopez of Highered Intelligence: "certificates of suitability for middle class life." It makes sense for universities to boost by putting in a lavish fitness center rather than offering a rigorous curriculum.

It's like Pizza Comedy Traffic School, writ on a multi-million dollar scale.

. . . So do parents and students really balk at the increased cost?

No. They are getting exactly what they paid for: a diploma with a minimally intrusive course schedule and all the amenities money can buy. Parents will do it because to not is to risk that your child will become... gods above... a PLUMBER. How would you ever live with the shame? Students don't care: there is a maximum amount they can receive in federal loans. Their parents are picking up the balance of the tab, and will continue to do so even as it gets larger and larger and houses need to be mortgaged and special education accounts created and vacations cancelled. What is important is not becoming a wise, knowledgeable person. What is required is "getting ahead."

We're using universities to certify entry-level file clerks, writes Stephen Karlson of Cold Springs Shops. He wonders if it's a good deal for parents.

Is it really worth sending them off to Beer and Circus U to hang out with other party animals for five or six years only to get 'em back later?

If college is only a rite of passage, it's awfully pricey.

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 JoanneJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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