It’s all about the Benjamins baby.

Recently I heard a talk from Ron Suskind. In his discussion, he spoke of a conversation he had with a Wall Street executive. He asked this executive, “What’s your problem with Elizabeth Warren? Mostly she just wants to restore Roosevelt to Regan Regulation, pretty much off the shelf stuff, to be head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It’s consumer education. It’s anti-fraud. You guys are not officially in favor of fraud, as far as I know…”

A very basic and straight forward question, regardless if you believe that is all she was going to do at the CFPB. However, the response was much more telling and surprising to me. The executive responded by stating:

Oh no, it’s not that, it’s not that. It’s about a definition of public service. If Elizabeth Warren is permitted to breathe into life the Consumer Financial Products Bureau, breathe it into life from her Harvard Office and then step atop of it, to essentially have a battleship that she runs to face the Wall Street fleet, what it will do is it will change people’s perception of public service. They won’t simply be saying, “Ok, I’ve done my turn and when do I get my lobbying job,” or essentially when do I get paid ten times my salary to unwind the regulations I just put in place. If she gets that job, she will be replicated by 10,000 and there will be people who won’t take the money. They will say my purpose, my notion of worth, is bigger than that. And if that happens, well, the financial crisis he said would have created one true innovation, a rock star regulator, and then we are in big trouble.

Immediately it reminded me of the fight over the Secretary of Education spot in the Obama Administration. Linda Darling-Hammond was thought to be the leading candidate for the position, that was until there was pressure by many educational reform organizations and testing services to block her nomination. The above story sounded too close to home.

Is there a correlation? I don’t know. What I do know is that if she had ascended to the position, the power shift that schools have had out of the classrooms, away from teachers and into the hands of central administrators who are only concerned with data results and standardized tests, would have been slowed or reversed. She would not have handed over the keys to education to private companies to profit from and the savings would have been put back into the education of the students.

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Richard Dreyfuss: Improving Civic Education

Link: Richard Dreyfuss: Improving Civic Education

Actor Richard Dreyfuss at the Big Apple Conven...

Image via Wikipedia

No, I am not on my trip blogging (but don’t put it past me). I just wrote this last night and scheduled it for later as to not send out two posts right after each other.

However, I wanted to share this great talk. It was filmed at the Commonwealth Club in July of last year. (See link above)

Richard Dreyfuss discusses the need and necessity of civic education and how our society is beginning to disregard its importance. He stands up against the push for facts and memorization (standardized tests) that have begun to get in the way of preparing young men and women for a life where critical thinking and reason are a vital requirement. As Robert M. Hutchins said, “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

I believe Mr. Dreyfuss is concerned, just like many of us who teach the social sciences, that society and public schools in particular, are becoming more apathetic and that has begun in the classrooms where history and government teachers are being forced to teach random objectives that can be quantified on a multiple choice test.

So what should we be doing? I believe Stephen Lazar said it best when he said, “the primary job of social studies teachers is to prepare critical citizens.” He explains that to be a critical citizen:

Students need to know that they need to “read” the New York Post differently from the USA Today, the New York Times differently from the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC differently from Fox News.  Moreover, they need to know to critically evaluate what they find through Google or YouTube.

So with this in mind the talk from Mr. Dreyfuss made a big impact. He speaks with reason and logic. He has quietly reflected on this issue for a great deal of time and it shows. He has evaluated and analyzed his words and thoughts meticulously. He demonstrates the very ideal that he is arguing for in a profound way. I highly recommend taking the time to watch this great talk.

Once done, don’t stop there. Go to the Dreyfuss Initiative to see the ideas he expresses in action.

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News I find…

Linda Darling-Hammond

Image by tbfurman via Flickr

In my travels I come across articles that I find interesting. In the past I have just posted them to my Facebook to share with the world. While I will continue to do this, I am going to move the more education focused ones to here. Plus, I have a sister-in-law who demands twitter posts for these articles and WordPress was kind enough to auto post there since I seem to lack the capabilities to understand twitter. (I know, unconscionable for someone as young as I am.)

Well, here is one article I found. At the Washington Post they have two competing education blogs; the Answer Sheet by Valarie Strauss and one by Jay Mathews. I tend to lean towards Strauss and as for Mathews, I disagree with many of his ideals but every now and then will give him a look to see how the other side lives.

Good thing I checked him out recently. He wrote an article which I hope will be the first steps in a reevaluation of his beliefs similar to what Diane Ravitch when through before The Death and Life of the Great American School. Mathews has never been a fan of Linda Darling-Hammond as he will say but he does admit success when he sees it. (Which is why I still read him. He is reasonable and thoughtful, even when I completely disagree with his ideas.)

So I encourage all of you to check out his article: Alma mater’s improvements knock me sideways.

Sir Ken Robinson – Changing Education Paradigms

Well, I stumbled upon Sir Ken Robinson once I discovered Fora has to be one of the greatest websites. I like TED but I have enjoyed Fora much more. Back to the point though. In the above video, a group called RSA Animate, take a ten minute clip of his longer talk (which you can find here) and add an animation to it.

I use this video in my own classroom to spur discussions on history and how we use or don’t use history to learn about our current world. I usually begin by stopping the video immediately to discuss the artist drawing in the clip. I will take a second to see if I have any artists in the room and if I do, I ask them what class they hate the most. This usually makes them uncomfortable but after making sure they know that whatever the answer is, including my own class, I just want honesty, even letting them know that I didn’t particularly care for history when I was their age.

However, what I usually hear is that Art is their least liked class. When I ask them why, a general response is that they don’t get to draw or paint or design what they really want. This is the response I am looking for. I explain to them that in my opinion, Art class in high school has less to do with turning them into artists or refining their skills and more to do with having them learn the skill, beauty, thought and power found in art. It is more about an appreciation for art.

So this leads me back to the video where I ask them how the artist in the video became so good. They usually agree that it takes time, practice, dedication and passion. We will then have a conversation about whether higher education would be the best route this gentleman should have taken in life. We will discuss the financial costs verse the long term benefits of those costs. We will discuss who they would higher if they owned RSA Animate, the artist with a portfolio of work or the artist with a degree. There may also be some other side conversations around this whole discussion but remembering them all would be a nightmare.

Finally I will play the film. However, I will never just let it run, I must stop it occasionally (I developed this horrible habit from my first Master Teacher, Mr. Madnikoff). Even though it is drawn out for them, I want to make sure that they understand what is being discussed so I will stop it occasionally to make sure they are all still on track. By the end I will begin another class discussion and have them talk about the purpose of learning history, the value of a college education, a debate over what students should and should not go to college and what careers are connected to those students and what is the current state of public education.

I’ve enjoyed doing this in my classroom for a couple years now and I am wondering all of your thoughts on Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas. Share them below and continue the conversation. If you enjoyed this video, watch his full talk here.

Well, until next time, if you like the blog, please subscribe on the right and share it with your friends and family. Also, please comment and share your thoughts, questions, ideas and feelings. As always this is Joshua Murphy and I am out.

The Godmother of Education

I linked this video as my first post but I feel it needs to be addressed again. This quick ten minute video is a MUST watch for everyone, no matter their background. It needs to be shared and pushed more by all of us to all of our friends and family. Its TEN (10) minutes. If you can’t spare that much time, you might be putting too much on your plate.

However, after you have watched this quick ten minute video and you feel like you need more, maybe a plan of action, then plan out a couple hours to watch her extended talk at the Chautauqua Institution for In this video she details the current trends in education and solutions we must take to overcome our disparities. I have tried my best to change what I do in my classroom towards these solutions and so far I have found great success and have only seen the results increase.

Linda Darling-Hammond: The Flat World and Education

Linda Darling-Hammond: The Flat World and Education from Chautauqua Institution on

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The State of the Public Schools

Recently I have been trying to piece together my educational ideology. I remember doing a couple of these for education classes. Unfortunately they were all from before I had even set foot into a classroom.

Reflecting back on my education it still astounds me that the most important part of becoming a teacher, the class time, is reserved until the last semesters. Nevertheless, I came across one of my old educational philosophies the other day. Curious, I read the grade I received, a B, then proceeded to see what ideas I had come up with. After getting a third of the way through and reading far too many power words and popular theories that I was sprinkling throughout the paper, I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore and placed the document in the trash can.

My curiosity didn’t subside however. I sat back trying to think of what my educational ideology was and ended up in an argument with myself. What I found was a broad scattering of ideals and theories, but little in the way of a weaving pattern that complimented each other. I realized that I needed to nail down my own belief systems on education into something tangible. I needed to bring together all of the experts, research studies, books and theories that I had been collecting all these years and see what bigger narrative I had.

What I found was that there are four main influences to my educational ideology. These different aspects come from a variety of sources and in the future I hope to share them and their authors with all of you. But to begin with, next post I will mention yet again the greatest influence I have ever come across as a teacher: Linda Darling-Hammond.

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So it begins…


No fireworks, no red ribbon cutting, no parade. Everything needs a first step so here is mine.

I start of with what and who has made the most sense to me. Linda Darling-Hammond may have the most valid resume in the education debate and Edutopia took the time to try and summarize the meat of her extensive ideology into a 10 min clip. For most interested or invested into the success of education, she is a must watch. Find her video @