Blue Serials & News (July 9th, 2017)

"Coming Down" (Meat Puppets)

I have seen their information on the lighter side of dumbness; I have heard the new statistics, and the stomping on the ground.

Picking slowly up the rockslide, one thing always seems apparent – if the climb becomes too much, I can always turn around…

(Meat Puppets – “Comin' Down”)

Old Blurry B&W Photo Might Be Of Someone

A. Earhart #11FF PlaneThe Big News in History this week was, of course, the discovery of a photo possibly suggesting that Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan survived their (presumed) 1937 crash and may have been alive for months or even years, likely as prisoners of the Japanese. Earhart and Noonan are thought to have run out of gas over the Pacific ocean, but no meaningful remains or wreckage have ever been found – well, until now… sort of. Maybe. Depending on what you make of it.

A. Earhart PhotoSo this is potentially exciting, or at least fodder for a few more breathless documentaries – deep-voiced narrator, camera zooming in and across old b&w photos while strings crescendo before every commercial. That’s fine. I’m just glad the guy with the History Channel Documentary Voice can find work outside of Monster Truck season.

While I have no argument with THC or anyone else grabbing on to these “discoveries” to stir up genuine interest, can we at least talk about phrasing, please?

{N}o trace of the aviator, navigator Fred Noonan or her twin-engine Lockheed Electra airplane were ever found, confounding historians and fueling conspiracy theories ever since.

“Fueling” conspiracy theories? Really? Too soon, friends – too soon.

Monster Jam 2017 - coming to a city near you!

Also Exciting: New Non-Evidence That Someone May Have Once Died Somewhere

The latest Earhart discovery must be true because “forensic dogs” have established that someone at some point in the history died on an island – therefore Amelia Earhart is almost certainly the person in the photo because why else would a dog ever bark or sit down near a tree? 

Within moments of beginning to work the site, Berkeley, a curly red male, lay down at the base of a ren tree, eyes locked on his handler, Lynne Angeloro. The dog was “alerting,” indicating to Angeloro that he had detected the scent of human remains.

Next up was Kayle, a fluffy, eager-to-please female. She also alerted on the same spot. The next day Marcy and Piper, two black-and-white collies, were brought to the site. Both dogs alerted.

The signals were clear: Someone—perhaps Earhart or her navigator, Fred Noonan—had died beneath the ren tree.

I’m not wishing to belittle the efforts of these, um… “forensic dogs,” but this is silly – even for National Geographic. I prefer to stick to professionals with established credentials, like, say… Lassie. Or Balto. Or McGruff.

McGruff & Trump

If you want to know more about the reliability of dogs as sniffer-outers of various things, I highly recommend “The Mind of a Police Dog” from Reason Magazine a few short years ago. Spoiler Alert: it’s not the dog’s fault when what they do is misread or misapplied; like most things, it’s people projecting what they want to be happening onto animals for whom happy masters are more important than accuracy ratings.

Napoleon Had An Ice Machine on St. Helena

Shannon Selin is a novelist who’s particularly fond of featuring Napoleon in her historical fiction (the French military genius, not the guy who drew “Ligers” and tried to get Pedro elected Class President). Her ongoing research into the not-so-tiny general (the idea that he was unusually short is a myth) has spilled over into history bloggery, and it’s far more fascinating than you might think. She is, after all, a writer – keen words in interesting combinations conveying engaging ideas… it’s what she does for a living, kids.

After Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, he was exiled to St. Helena, a remote British island in the South Atlantic. Napoleon had a number of admirers in Britain, including Lord and Lady Holland, who regularly sent books and other gifts to him. In the summer of 1816, they sent Napoleon an ice machine.

Come on, you know you want to hear the rest of that story, right?

It’s just as well such contraptions weren’t more popular, though. Apparently, drinking cold water could kill you in the 19th century.

If these briefer pieces suck you in – and they will – you should totally dive into Selin’s examination of what sorts of things Napoleon liked to read, and the demands he put on his underlings to create a giant portable Amazon Kindle for him to bring along during his various military exploits. It’s golden.

Please Put Stickers On My Face

Not all Frenchies were so academic in their pursuit of sophistication. Hunter Oatman-Stanford of Collector’s Weekly explains “That Time the French Aristocracy Was Obsessed With Sexy Face Stickers.”

The French called them mouches or “flies,” because of the dark spots’ resemblance to small insects alighted on fashionably pale skin… During the late Renaissance, these conspicuous spots spread among the stylish set and tantalized onlookers, to whom they seemed like a secret language: Were hers placed in symbolic locations? Did his cover signs of illness or injury? Were messages encoded in the spots’ distinctive shapes?

Mostly, people just wanted to look good.

Go read it. Seriously. There are pictures and everything. Avoid Oatman-Stanford’s own page, though, unless you’re ready to write off the rest of the day to random bits of odd history and curious insights. I may be in love. Is it possible for me to have another website’s babies?

Serious Grown-Up Education Talk

On “Easy” Books and Better Readers - Pernille Ripp,

Easy books, whether they be graphic novels, books below their actual comprehension skills, free verse, audio books, or even picture books, can get such a bad reputation in our schools.  As if those books are only allowed in the brief moment of time when they fit your exact level, whatever level means.  As if those books are only meant to be discovered when you have nothing else to read, when you actually are allowed to read for fun, rather than for skill. 

Yet these are the books that keep us loving reading.  That keeps us coming back.  Those books that we devour in one sitting because we must find out what happens next, aren’t those “easy” books for all of us?

I do so love me some Pernille.

SC Fails Students Still: More on Grade Retention and Misreading Literacy – P.L. Thomas, Radical Eyes For Equity

To paraphrase Peter Greene (Curmudgucation), when you mix politics and education, you get politics. So we’ll keep saying it until it no longer needs to be said – education policy set by politicians isn’t about education, it’s about politics.

Retention based on reading scores is bad policy. It’s bad pedagogy. It’s stupid and it doesn’t work. We only do it because it helps to maintain the current paradigm in which poverty or less-than-ideal upbringings are character flaws of the child and another excuse to enforce systemic racism. Thomas puts it better than that, of course:

Once again, literacy policy often fails to address valid literacy practices or to acknowledge that literacy proficiency is strongly correlated with systemic conditions beyond the walls of the school or the control of teachers.

Worksheets on literacy skills, test-prep for state assessments of reading and writing, linking teacher evaluations to students’ test scores, and retaining children are simply not only flawed literacy policies, but also negative influences on children’s literacy and academic achievement.

Why do we think poor people are poor because of their own bad choices? – Maia Szalavitz, The Guardian

While we're on the topic, you should really read and share this one as often as possible without alienating all of your friends.

Actually, read it, share it, talk about it, and share it again even if it does alienate some of your friends. You probably just need better friends.

The Last Day of Third Grade – Sherri Spelic, Edified Listener

I thought we should wrap up with something a bit more encouraging, although still edu-legit and kid-focused. I love Spelic’s heart, despite not being much of a caring, thoughtful type myself, probably because of how well it works in conjunction with that beautiful mind of hers.

Report cards are what they are: institutional records of school attendance and academic…achievement? maybe… 

The weight and significance we assign to this tradition and the actual document will vary – among families, between kids, within a school, across school levels and types. My hope is that I can convey to my son that we have choices in deciding how big a deal it is in the grand scheme of things.

If I really want to know about his learning then I have to ask him. And listen to his responses. I need to pay attention to what happens when we read a story together, to the questions that come up for him pretty much any time we are together… If I really want to know how the school year is and was, the most I can do and perhaps also the best, is to be available, open, present.

BCE dot net is still growing – “Have To” History is starting to gain some momentum, and the “Classroom” section is far more complete than it was a few weeks ago. I’m especially excited about the updated “Reading in Social Studies” section and encourage you to peruse it and offer suggestions for additional subjects and titles. Please visit the new site and poke around.

Until then, be strong, my #11FF. You are making more of a difference than you know – if not politically, then personally. And doesn’t that matter far more anyway?


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