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On biometric bracelets, Romney and the anti-bullying guide — and more

Today Learning Curve offers links to interesting items that have made their way across Your Humble Blogger’s browser.

As governor of Massachussets, Mitt Romney worked to block the publication of an anti-bullying guide.

Today Learning Curve offers links to interesting items that have made their way across Your Humble Blogger’s browser. Consider it a compromise. The education geeks among you will have something to read, and I will have time to forage for future reportorial sustenance.

First, from what the august Washington Post describes as the “you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff” category: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest of the big in terms of philanthropic education spending — so big policy needles move when its checkbook comes out — is spending $1.1 million to develop and test “galvanic skin response” bracelets that are supposed to measure student engagement.

It gets so much worse.

“The foundation gave the awards as part of its Measuring Effective Teachers project, which is experimenting with teacher evaluation systems in seven school districts nationwide,” blogger Valerie Strauss noted. “Millions of dollars have gone into these evaluation experiments, which, among other things, have involved the use of standardized test scores to assess teacher effectiveness (a bad idea), as well as the questionable videotaping of teachers. And now, bracelets.”

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Strauss has some good links, including one to a piece on the “emerging field of neuromarketing,” which “relies on biometric technologies to determine a participant’s emotional and cognitive response to certain stimuli.”

The item caused me to flash on a book I read in college, Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” (Yes, I read this kind of egg-headed stuff back then. Not only was this before pastimes like reality TV and apps starring birds, it was back when I thought tossing around the word “pedagogy” was the way to make friends.)

One of the assertions of this Marxist work, if I recall correctly, was the perfectly reasonable notion that dehumanized students will necessarily be poor students. The antidote: to engage them.

And so I commend you to the comment thread: Galvanic skin response bracelets, promise of liberation or shackle of oppression?

Mitt Romney and the anti-bullying guide

Next, from the equally august Boston Globe, I offer you a story about Mitt Romney’s move, in 2006 as Massachusetts governor, to block the publication of a state anti-bullying guide for public schools because it contained the words “bisexual” and “transgender.”

(Hat tip for this item to my college and grad-school running mate Frederick Emrich, who, come to think of it, probably read Freire with me and was too nice to point out that I couldn’t pronounce “pedagogy.”)

Reports the Globe:

“Stifling the guide’s publication was among steps that Romney and his aides took during his last year in office to distance the Republican governor from state programs designed to specifically support gays, lesbians, and bisexual and transgender people. His critics said it was part of an effort to court social conservatives as he prepared for his first campaign for president in 2008.”

And: “The 2006 e-mail objecting to the ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgender’ language offers some of the clearest evidence of how some of Romney’s actions in office aligned with the goals of socially conservative activists, a key constituency in Republican presidential primary elections.”

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And and: “The question of Romney’s sensitivity to antigay bullying was raised anew recently after the Washington Post published an account of Romney’s days in prep school in 1965 when Romney allegedly held a fellow student down against his will and, along with classmates and to the cheers of others, forcibly cut off his long, bleached-blond hair. The student was gay, although not openly, and it was unclear to some whether Romney knew the boy’s sexual orientation at the time. Romney said he could not recall the incident but apologized nonetheless.”

Immigrants’ education

Lastly, this week marks the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe, which is as relevant today as it was then as states have begun to nibble at schools’ efforts to comply with its mandate that undocumented immigrant children are as entitled to an education as anyone. Most notably, last year Alabama passed a law requiring schools to gather information about the students’ immigration status at the time of enrollment.

As recapped by Education Week’s excellent School Law blog:

“In the Plyler decision, issued June 15, 1982, the high court ruled 5-4 that it violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment for the state of Texas to withhold funds from school districts for the education of undocumented immigrant children.

” ‘By denying these children a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our nation,’ Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote for the majority….

“In May 2011, [Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas] Perez and Russlyn Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education, sent a “dear colleague” letter to educators reminding them of the legal mandates of Plyler and federal civil rights laws with respect to enrolling children.”