The Critical Friend is a new online newsletter for 21st
Century educators published free-of-charge by Gary Stager.
It offers unique perspectives on important educational issues,
debunks hype and confronts special interests all with a sense
of humor. This newsletter analyzes trends and challenges the
status quo. Thoughtful educators, parents and decision-
makers will be inspired to rethink their educational beliefs
and practices. The Critical Friend will blow the whistle on
superficial education journalism and attempts to put the
latest “crisis du jour” into perspective.
|Kozol's New Book is a Must Read!
The only thing that brings me more joy than reading Jonathan
Kozol's powerful writing is having the privilege of knowing
him. For the past few months I have checked Google and
Amazon to find out when his next book would be out. Well, I
don't have to wait any longer. The book was released
September 13th and it is a must read for any American
concerned about children in our nation's public schools. Kozol
gives voice to the most vulnerable in our society and is a
|A Somber Back-to-School
This year's Back-to-School excitement is tempered by the
horrible tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina. While there is
hardly any good to be found amidst the death and
destruction, the aftermath could create opportunities for the
children of the Gulf region.
Rushing to merely rebuild the schools lost to Katrina would
compound the tragedy. This bandaid approach will do little to
help children in the long-run because it reinforces the
poverty of their lives. The three hardest hit states have had
failing schools long before the Federal government made
failing schools "cool."
|What I'm Reading
MIT Professor Neil Gershenfeld follows his terrific book
Things Start to Think with Fab: The Coming
Revolution on Your Desktop - From Personal Computers to
Personal Fabrication. Fab imagines a future in
which you will be able to email a bicycle, but supports what
sound like wacky predictions with stories from Gershenfeld's
course, "How to Make (almost) Anything," and
Fablabs around the world that use personal fabrication
technology to create the technologies that improve lives in
I recently re-read Seymour Papert's seminal book, Mindstorms:
Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, and was blown
away by the profound ideas within. If you never read Mindstorms, or haven't read it in a while, you should so immediately.
The fearless Alfie Kohn has published three stunning new
articles worthy of your attention. Fortunately they are all
available on the web.
Alfie Kohn's new book, Unconditional Parenting:
Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and
Reason, offers terrific advice!
|You Can't Make This Stuff Up!
It's good to know that FEMA prepared for Katrina and Rita by
creating a web site complete with idiotic pictures to color,
disaster trivia quizzes and a FEMA rap you must hear to believe.
PBS airs a new Hedrick Smith documentary, Making Schools
Work, this October. However, the
schools featured are joyless test preparation
factories where poor children are drilled, threatened and led
in chants of meaningless slogans. Work (the verb) is apparently defined as
temporary increases in standardized test scores. The
"experts" featured in the program are the usual
suspects who prescribe schools for poor children that they
would not impose on their own children. Shame on PBS!
At the intersection of public relations and compassion,
a New Orleans private school tells parents that
they must continue to pay tuition after Hurricane Katrina
even if they are homeless and the school remains closed.
Read the article.
How do you follow-up your refusal to repay $2 billion
"borrowed" from the public schools of your state?
Governor Schwarzenegger is attacking tenure in a
futile & expensive ballot initiative and launched a web site where the public was
encouraged to bash teachers. Read more here & here.
|Gary's Upcoming Workshops and Conference Presentations
It's another busy fall on the road. I hope to see some of
you at the following events.
I'm a guest speaker and closing keynote at the 2005
eLearning Symposium in Rochester, NY on October
13-14. I will be making the following presentations:
- Can I See Your Class? An Alternative View of
- Podcasting for Educators: A Mobile Audience for Your
The National School Board Association runs my favorite
conference, in Denver, October 26-28. I will be making
the following presentations in the Thornburg Center's
dedicated room, plus participate in a special panel
discussion. Neil Gershenfeld, author of Fab, is one of
the keynote speakers. Hope to see you in Denver!
- Beyond 1:1 Computing – An Expert Perspective
on What Students Might Do
- A Joyful Noise – Digital Audio Across the
- The Thornburg Center Mathematics Project – The
Need to Reinvent School Math (new session)
I'm a featured
speaker in Kentucky at the Independent Schools
Association of the Central States Annual Conference in Louisville, KY,
November 3 & 4.
- Nurturing Munchkin Mozarts, Monets and
- Digital Reggio: Reinventing Elementary Education for
the 21st Century
- Making Mathematics with Computers
- The Case for Computing
I will also be speaking at the Second
Annual 1:1 for All Symposium in Irving, Texas,
November 11 & 12.
I will be working with schools in the Victoria, Australia
Department of Education in late November/early
Around the World Once or Twice
Wow! What a summer!
My summer began with an Improvisational Robotics
Workshop, followed by a paper session and town-hall
discussion with ISTE CEO, Don Knezek at the National Educational
Computing Conference in Philadelphia.
I flew to South Africa to present two papers and a workshop
at the World Conference on Computers in
Education. I've been privileged to present at the
last four of these conferences held every five years. We
visited Soweto, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Robben Island
(where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years) before heading
to Botswana for two amazing safaris in the Okavango Delta
and along the Chobe River. From there we went to Victoria
Falls in Zambia before heading to Paris, Cairo, Seoul and
Japan - all in one action packed month. Read the article I
wrote for District Administration Magazine sharing
the lessons of such a trip for education here.
The next morning I traveled to the Stanford Jazz
Residency to learn about learning, immerse myself in
beautiful music and tackle the trumpet after a twenty-year
hiatus. Read an article about last year's experience here.
The day after
Stanford I flew cross-country to be a leader at a fabulous
week-long curriculum camp run by the Cattaraugus/Allegany
upstate NY. Later in August I led a two-day staff retreat,
featuring LEGO problem solving for the Willows School of Los
I then flew to Warsaw to be a plennary speaker at
EuroLogo 2005 and share ideas with old and new friends.
Poland was followed by a quick trip to Vilnius, Lithuania to
take a look at the land of some of my ancestors and a even
quicker visit to Kracow and Auschwitz.
Amidst all of this I resumed teaching Learning and
continued writing and worked with We Learn at
Global thoughts (article)....