Sunday, December 20, 2009

RIP Brittany Murphy

Newspapers across the English speaking world are reporting on Brittany Murphy's death. The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "Hospital: Actress Brittany Murphy Dead at Age 32." The article begins, "Brittany Murphy, the actress who got her start in the sleeper hit "Clueless" and rose to stardom in "8 Mile," has died in Los Angeles. She was 32." According to the Washington Post, "She is best known for parts in 'Girl, Interrupted,' 'Clueless' and '8 Mile.'"

At this holiday season, what can we learn from the death of a young woman of only 32 years old?

Ashton Kutcher tweeted, "2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine..." What does it mean to be "a little piece of sunshine?" What does it take to be "a little piece of sunshine?"

Brittany Murphy had a dream to become an actress. She achieved it. What is your goal? Is it OK for adults to have dreams similar to a child's dream of entering a specific profession? Why or why not?

Brittany Murphy's mother sold her home in New Jersey so that she could move with Brittany to L.A. Do you think that parents should make major changes in their own lives if it benefits their children? What changes should parents make? What changes should parents not make? Why?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

60 Votes

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Democrats Clinch a Deal on Health Bill." The article states, "The legislation, the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system in more than a generation, seeks to extend health benefits to more than 30 million uninsured Americans by expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies to help moderate-income people purchase private insurance." It continues, "The bill also imposes tight new regulations of the health insurance industry, barring insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions and limiting how much extra they can charge for people based on their age."

Do you think that states should have the power to prohibit government funded health insurance from paying for abortions? Why or why not?

Do you think that Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, two strong proponents for abortion rights, are betraying abortion rights advocates by supporting legislation that allows states to prohibit the funding of abortions? Why or why not?

Imagine that the year is 2060. Do you think that there will still be U.S. citizens who do not have insurance? Why or why not? Do you think that there will still be private insurance companies that are not incorporated into a government program? Why or why not?

Winston Churchill reportedly said, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." When it comes to information discussed in this article, do you think that this statement is true? Why or why not?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


The New York Times is running an article entitled, "U.S. Offer of Long Term Aid Pushes Climate Talks Forward." The article begins, "With time running out on the stalled Copenhagen climate negotiations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave new hope that an agreement might still be reached when she announced Thursday that the United States would help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to enable poor nations to combat climate change."

The United States has long led the world as the leading emitter of carbon dioxide. However, China has not caught up. Though the United States continues to have the world's largest economy, China's economy continues to grow. Do you think that that the United States has a greater responsibility to ensure that the levels carbon dioxide emissions lowers in the coming year? Why or why not?

Do you think that wealthier nations should pay less developed nations in exchange for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and maintaining the sustenance of trees? Why or why not?

Do you think that the leaders of the world will actually be able to slow pollution? Why or why not? Do you think that world leaders believe that they can accomplish this feat? Explain!

What one question would you like to answer about the Copenhagen Conference? Why would you like to answer this question?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time Magazine Names Ben Bernanke Person of the Year

Time Magazine has chosen Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, its "
Person of the Year 2009." The article explains, "Bernanke is the 56-year-old chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the U.S., the most important and least understood force shaping the American — and global — economy. Those green bills featuring dead Presidents are labeled "Federal Reserve Note" for a reason: the Fed controls the money supply. It is an independent government agency that conducts monetary policy, which means it sets short-term interest rates — which means it has immense influence over inflation, unemployment, the strength of the dollar and the strength of your wallet. And ever since global credit markets began imploding, its mild-mannered chairman has dramatically expanded those powers and reinvented the Fed."

Does Ben Bernanke sound like somebody with whom you would enjoy chatting? Why or why not?

Do you think that such an important position as Chair of the Federal Reserve Board should remain unelected? Why or why not? What are some advantages to having this position filled by appointment instead of election? What are some disadvantages?

Somebody once said that the most important factor of a healthy economy is consumer confidence? What does the term "consumer confidence" mean? Do you think that this understanding of the economy is correct? Why or why not?

What three questions would you most like to answer about the United States economy? Do you think that there are some questions about the economy that even Ben Bernanke cannot answer? Why or why not?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Moving Detainees to Illinois

The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "U.S. to Announce Transfer of Detainees to Ill. Prison." The article begins, "Dozens of terrorism suspects being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be moved to a little-used Illinois state prison that will be acquired and upgraded by the federal government, an Obama administration official said."

1. Challenge students to find ten interesting bits of information about the Guantanamo detention center. After students find this information, make a lit of interesting bits of information, on the board.

2. Do students think that the United States of America should arrest individuals who have the potential to commit terrorist acts against the United States, if they have not yet committed these acts? Why or why not?

3. Should non-citizens of the United States who have allegedly committed acts of terrorism against the United States be entitled to the same Constitutional protections as citizens of the United States who have broken the law? Why or why not? (Do non-citizens deserve the same rights as citizens? Why or why not?)

4. Do students think that detainees should be moved to United States soil? Why or why not? Consider the fact that this relocation will create approximately 3,000 jobs in the State of Illinois. Is it worth it? Why or why not?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Obama Urges Banks to Lend

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Obama Tells Bankers that Lending Can Spur Economy." The article begins, "President Obama on Monday called on the chiefs of the nation’s biggest banks to take “extraordinary” steps to revive lending for small businesses and homeowners, making the case that the fate of banks was inextricably linked to the health of the overall economy."

1. Challenge your students to explain why banks could speed the growth of the economy by lending money to small business owners and home buyers.

2. Last year, many banks got themselves into trouble by lending money that borrowers were unable to repay. Ask students to imagine that they are bankers. How would they respond to the President's request, given the recent history of the banking industry? Challenge them to explain their opinions, thoughtfully.

3. Ask students to imagine that they are members of Congress. Should they develop laws to protect banks in the case of bad loans? Why or why not?

In other economic news, today: Citigroup to Repay $20B in Tarp Funds.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

President Obama in China

The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "Obama Pushes China on Currency, Human Rights." The article begins, "Describing ties with China as 'never more important to our collective future,' President Obama on Tuesday mixed praise for Chinese economic triumphs with gentle prodding on its currency, human rights and Tibet."

Consider the number of ways in which the President's foreign trip can be tied into teaching and learning within the classroom.

Challenge students to consider what it means to gently prod. Too often students, like adults, believe that it's important to emphatically support their opinions and discount the importance of listening to the opinions of others. What do students think is more important to high quality diplomacy, talking or listening? Why?

The article explains that Presidents Obama and Hu agreed on the establishment of a Clean Energy Research Center. What is the difference between clean energy and dirty energy? In comparison to China it's probably safe to say that the United States had had a thriving economy for decades. China's economy, on the other hand, is developing, albeit quickly. Does either nation have a greater responsibility towards protecting the environment? Why/why not? What's more important, the development of the largest possible economy at the present time or the safe-guarding of the environment? What are the complexities, if any, of building the strongest economy while protecting the environment to the maximum extent? (Consider the integration that could occur within this conversation between science, social studies, and perhaps other subject areas.)

Consider: The United States of America espouses the greatest commitment to human rights. We also support open communication. President Obama expressed commitment to these ideals while in China. The Chinese also have important values. Do students think that the Chinese would agree that their values demand hurting other people and neglecting the rights of individuals? (I hope not.) What meaningful value system would allow the violation of human rights? Challenge students to compare the values of the Chinese to the values of the West. Is it fair to state that while the Chinese support the peace and security of an entire people over that of single individuals the West possesses the opposite perspective?

This article contains a link to an "interactive" timeline describing pivotal moments in the recent relationship between the United States and China.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Physics and the Space Shuttle in a Day

What an amazing picture that was found on the front page of today's New York Times!! Today I happened to be substitute teaching in a physics class and I told the students that I had not studied physics since I was in high school. One of the students exclaimed, "That proves my point. You don't use physics as an adult!" I wish that I had thought of this comment then, but while one individual may not use physics very much as an adult, it's a very good thing that humankind has developed the scientific discipline of physics. Consider the many different benefits that have accrued to humankind because of space exploration. Consider the many different ways in which products once developed for the use of astronauts are now in use by common people. (If you doubt this, just do a bit of research!!)

By the way, if I was going to use this picture in a classroom, I might simply ask students to describe what they see. Challenge them to develop their descriptions as deeply as possible. In a physics class, such a discussion could prompt a consideration of the ways in which an understanding of physics has made this situation possible. In an English/language arts class, students could be asked to write their descriptions in essay format.

Rather than pointing students to this blog post, you could point them to the New York Times page, here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Olympics 2016

Today is a big day for the entire sports world and the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee is selecting/has selected the host city of the 2016 Summer Games. Newspapers around the world are reporting on this event.

Questions for Younger Children

1. What is your favorite game? Why do you like to play this game?

2. If you had a choice between going into outer space or going to the bottom of the ocean where would you prefer to go? Why? (Adults, consider how this question connects to the news story in my mind.)

3. Have you ever been in a contest? What kind of a contest was it? Did you have fun? Why or why not?

4. If your mother was in a contest against another child's mother do you think that the other child should be allowed to decide the winner? Why or why not? Should you be allowed to decide the winner? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions for Older Students

1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Bid; I.O.C.; Decathlete; and, Encompasses.

2. If you could visit any one of the four cities that bid on the Olympics in the final round what city would you visit? Why!

3. If you were a part of the I.O.C. Voting on the location of the 2016 Olympics what three issues would you keep in mind as you voted?

4. If somebody from the Nineteenth Century came back alive today and saw how fast information travels around the globe what do you think that they would say if they had to talk for five minutes?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Iran enters Negotiations

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Iran Meets U.S. and Allies for Nuclear Talks in Geneva." The article begins, Critical talks over Iran’s nuclear ambitions began Thursday morning in the Geneva countryside, with Washington and its allies hoping to draw Iran into a serious negotiation that will open up the country to serious nuclear inspections, suspend Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and reassure its neighbors that its intentions are peaceful." But according to the article, Iran's atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said "We will not discuss about our rights (to enrich uranium)...But we are ready to discuss about nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.”

Discussion Questions for Younger Children
1. Have you ever disagreed with somebody else who lives in your house? What was the disagreement about? What did you do to end the disagreement?
2. In your home, is there anything that you are allowed to do now that you would not have been allowed to do a year ago? What? Why do you think that you are allowed to do this now?
3. After you get into a fight with somebody do you think it's important to talk to them? Why or why not? What kinds of things should you say to one another? What do the words, "I'm sorry" mean?
4. Do you think that your mom or dad ever have disagreements with people? How do they work out their disagreements with other people? Is there anything that you can learn from this? If so, what?

Discussion Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Bilateral; Unfettered; Ensuing; and, Derision.
2. What does it mean to enrich uranium? How does one go about doing this? To what kinds of purposes can enriched uranium be put? Where might you find answers to these questions?
3. Do you think that Iran should be allowed to enrich its own uranium and use it? Imagine that you were an advisor to the president of Iran, how would you respond to this question? How would you recommend resolving the tension between the two sides of this question?
4. According to this article, Iran will likely show up to the negotiations with a host of issues to discuss: "overhauling the United Nations; giving greater voice to non-Western countries; and universal nuclear disarmament." Why do you think that Iran will raise these other issues at the negotiations? Do you think that Iran is correctly concerned with these issues? Why or why not? How might these issues play into the over-all negotiations?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Ref.

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Earning Her Stripes in College Football." The article states, "Thomas, 35, is big-time college football’s only female referee. She has grown accustomed to startling players and coaches on Saturdays but says it does not occur as often as one might think."

It continues, "Neither Thomas nor those who work with and supervise her believe it is odd that she has found her avocation amid big games and marching bands. She always loved sports and became the first athlete ever at Pascagoula High School to earn a letter five times in a sport, softball. She received a basketball scholarship to the University of Mobile, helped the team make the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament and earned academic All-American honors."

Questions for Younger Children
1. Do you think that there is anything that a boy can do that a girl should not do? Is there anything that a girl can do that a boy should not do? Explain!

2. Do you think it would be fun to be the only boy in a room full of girls or the only girl in a room full of boys? Why or why not? (Note: It's funny that you can ask young children some questions that you might not want to ask older students.)

3. What is your favorite sport? What do you like about this sport? Do you think that this is a hard sport to play? Why or why not?

4. Do you think that it might be fun to watch people playing a sport to make sure that they play by the rules? Why or why not?

Questions for Older Students

1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Lilting; Avocation; Intrigued; and, "In Concert".

2. What do you think would be the hardest part about being a woman referee in college football? Why?

3. If you could ask Sarah Thomas one question, what would you ask her? How do you think that she might respond?

4. Why do you think that the New York Times would run an article about Sarah Thomas on the home page of its website? What does this say about the way that the New York Times thinks about news? What can we learn about the N.Y. Times' readership from the placement of this article? Explain!

Cuban Missile Crisis

As you might know, I develop core curriculum resources using Web 2.0 technology. This is a picture of a unit that I have developed on The Cuban Missile Crisis. Students use a Google Earth layer to investigate the crisis. This particular picture explains the Berlin Blockade. Students develop an understanding of the difference between the embargo of Cuba and the blockade of West Berlin. There are many things that they have to do throughout the unit, using technology. For example, they use the tools of Google Earth to draw a barrier around West Berlin. This hopefully helps them conceputalize the isolation that occurred. The large project for the unit asks students to imagine that they are the only person in the world who is friends with both Khrushchev and Kennedy. Using the information that they learn in the unit, they must develop a proposal for world peace. Students use the Google Earth ruler to compare the distances between the Soviet Union and Turkey and the United States and Cuba.

I'm certainly not planning on giving up on the current events questions that I've been writing on this blog. However, I'm also trying to find a way to let people know about the units that I'm developing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama's Color

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "As Race Debate Grows, Obama Steers Clear of It." The article begins, "President Obama has long suggested that he would like to move beyond race. The question now is whether the country will let him." The article reports that "His goal, Mr. Obama has told both camps, is to be seen as a president who happens to be black rather than the nation’s first black president."

Questions for Younger Children

1. Think of five ways in which people can be different from one another.

2. Why do you think that black people and white people are sometimes treated differently? Other than their color, do you think that they are different? Why or why not?

3. Have you ever been afraid of anything? If so, what? Why do you think that you were afraid of this? Was there any real reason to be afraid? Explain!

4. Some people dislike others simply because of the color of their skin. If you could say one thing to these people who dislike others, what would you say? Why?

Questions for Older Students

1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Civility; Disavowed; Tenuous; and, Tinged.

2. Do you think that a large number of opponents of President Obama's policies are likely racist? Would there be any way to tell which opponents are motivated by non-racial issues and which are motivated by racial issues? If so, how? If not, why not?

3. Do you think that President Obama's color is influencing his style of governance? Explain!! If you wanted to develop a more sophisticated response to this issue, what questions would you ask? Why?

4. Why do you think that racism exists? Do you think that it will ever be possible to eliminate all forms of racism from society? Explain!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Troops to Afghanistan

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Military Chief Says More Troops Needed for Afghan War." The article begins, "The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told Congress on Tuesday that success in Afghanistan would probably require more troops and certainly much more time, a position seconded by a top Republican but challenged by a leading Democrat."

The article continues, "The intense dialogue, at a morning hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, previewed the sharp national debate expected over coming weeks as the White House considers how best to pursue its new strategy in Afghanistan in the face of growing skepticism from members of President Obama's own party."

Questions for Younger Children
1. Have you ever worked really hard at something only to find that it was very dificult for you to finish the project alone? What were you working on? Were you able to finish the project with somebody's help? Explain what happened!

2. Have you ever disagreed with somebody else as to how something should be done? Explain what you wanted to do? How did you think it should be done? How did the other person think that it should be done? In the end, how did you end up doing it?

3. Do you think that its ever OK to hit somebody else? What if the other person is going to hurt you if you don't hit them? Do you think that it's better to use words or fists? Why?

4. Have you ever listened to two people, maybe your parents, as they made a decision? What were they deciding? When people are working together to try and make a decision, is it more important to talk or listen? Perhaps it's important to both talk and listen? Explain!!

Discussion Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Sharp; "Frame the Debate"; Lauded; and, Dysfunctional.

2. Do you think that it's appropriate for the United States of America to continue to send troops to Afghanistan? Why or why not? What if the Taliban could regain power if the United States left?

3. Do you think it will ever be possible to win the war in Afghanistan? Why or why not? Describe what the political climate in Afghanistan would look like if the United States wins the war, or perhaps peace, in Afghanistan?

4. Senator Levin argues that "accelerated efforts to train and equip Afghan security forces should precede any deployment of American troops beyond those already committed by the Obama administration." Explain his argument in your own words. Do you think that his strategy could succeed in enabling the U.S. to win the war? Why or why not?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kanye West at MTV

The London Times is running an article entitled, "Kanye West Spoils the Show at MTV Awards." The article states, " US rapper Kanye West stole the show for the wrong reasons at the MTV Video Music Awards last night when he invaded the stage and interrupted a winner (Taylor Swift) to say that the award should have gone elsewhere."

The article explains, " Russell Brand, the controversial British comedian who hosted the event, reminded the audience of the drama as he closed the show, offering Swift "a shoulder to cry on...But the teenager, who was the US's best-selling artiste after Michael Jackson this year, had already left to record a video of her single You Belong With Me in a subway station."

Questions for Younger Children
1. If you could give an award to the best television show/video game/singer (you pick it) to whom would you give the award? Why? What do you like about this show/game/singer?

2. Have you ever played a game and lost? How did it feel after you lost? Why do think that it felt this way? What does it mean to be a fair loser?

3. Have you ever wanted to say something but known that it would be mean or bad to say it? Why would it have been mean or bad to say this? Did you feel good about not saying it? Why or why not?

4. Have you ever seen somebody go somewhere where they should not have gone? Mabye into a teacher's lounge or into a room that says private? Why do you think that somebody would go somwhere they should not go? Would you consider such an action rude? Why or why not?

Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Humiliated; Umbrage; Consoled; and, Allegations.

2. If you could have said one thing to Kanye West last night after he wrote his appology, what would you have said? Why?

3. Madonna explained that most people turned their backs on Michael Jackson after he encountered difficulties in his life. Do you think that this is typical human nature? Why or why not? Is this kind of behavior appropriate? Why or why not?

4. Thirty years from now, if you were to tell your children about the most significant cultural contribution made in the later part of the First Decade of the Twenty First Century, what do you think that you would tell them about? Why? Do you think that this contribution will be remembered? Why or why not?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fortress of New York

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "A Fortress that Didn't Come to Be." The article states, "It was a city humbled and scared, where the possibilities of destruction had been recalibrated. It was Sept. 12, 2001. The day after...New York would become a fortress city, choked by apprehension and resignation, forever patrolled by soldiers and submarines. Another attack was coming. And soon."

The article explains, "Eight years later, those presumptions are cobwebbed memories that never came to pass. Indeed, glimpses into a few aspects of the city help measure the gap between what was predicted and what actually came to be."

Questions for Younger Children
1. Do you think that it is possible to know what is going to happen tomorrow? Why or why not? What kinds of things can we know will happen tomorrow? What kinds of things won't we know until tomorrow comes?

2. How do you think that this school will be different ten years from now? Come up with as many different ideas as possible?

3. Do you have an imaginary friend? (Have you ever had an imaginary friend?) Tell us about your imaginary friend? Why do you think that kids soemtimes create imaginary friends?

4. Have you ever been afraid that something would happen? Why were you afraid of this thing happening? Did the thing end up happening? Why or why not?

Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Humbled; Incoherent; Novelty; and, Mandated.

2. According to the article, "Christopher Gravagna didn’t feel right that people had to buy their patriotism (when they bought flags). 'That was ridiculous,' he said. 'Why should people capitalize on flags at that time?'” Do you agree with Mr. Gravagna? Why or why not? Try and argue the question from both perspectives.

3. Why do you think that the expectations that people had of New York City on September 12, 2001, did not come true? Do you think it says anything about the nature of the American people that New York City did not change as much as people expected? Why or why not? Is it good, bad or perhaps both good and bad?

4. If you could go back in time to September 12, 2001 and tell something to the worried people, what would you say? Even if they truly believed that you came back in time, do you think that you could say something to make them feel better? Why or why not?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama Talks to Congress

The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "With His Top Priority on the Line, President Reframes Critical Debate." The article begins, "After a month of angry town hall meetings and dire predictions about the state of his top domestic priority, President Obama moved forcefully Wednesday night to take the initiative on health care -- and in the process rejuvenate his presidency and unite his fractious Democratic Party."

The article further states, "It is rare for a presidency so young to have so much on the line. No single speech can create consensus on health-care legislation, and in that sense this was not the make-or-break moment described by some commentators. But Obama has staked his presidency on this issue, and his advisers knew it was long past time for him to assert himself in a more demonstrable way or risk seeing the entire enterprise slip away."

Questions for Younger Children
1. What do you think is the nicest thing that somebody can say to somebody else? Why?

2. Describe a time in which you have asked somebody else to help you do something? What did you ask them to do? Did they help you? Why or why not?

3. Do you think that it's important to learn to speak in front of other people? Why or why not? Do you think that there is a nice way to ask somebody else to help you do something and a way that isn't so nice? Explain!!

4. Have you ever interrupted somebody else when they were in the middle of talking? Why did you interrupt? Have you ever been interrupted when you were in the middle of talking? How did it feel to be interrupted? Why?

Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Domestic; Fractious; Liberal vs. Moderate Wings; (if you want to see some strange looks) Dickering.

2. Do you think that there are significant differences between the skills needed to win a Presidential election and the skills needed to be an effective President? Describe the differences. During this legislative negotiation what one skill do you think that President Obama should use from his campaign expertise to support his Presidential agenda? Explain!

3. Though only alluded to in the article, Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted the President last night, during his address. In England, it's common for members of Parliament to heckle the Prime Minister during addresses. Do you think that the President deserves the respect of Congress? Does the Prime Minister deserve the respect of Parliament? What can we learn about culture from the fact that a behavior that is acceptable in England is frowned upon in the U.S.?

4. What three questions do you have about the current health insurance debate? Why do you think that these questions are important? Go ahead and find the answers to these questions, to the best of your ability.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Cost of Cards

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Overspending on Debit Cards is a Boon for Banks." The article states, "Banks market (charging customers to spend more with their debit cards than they have in their accounts) as overdraft protection, and the fees it generates have become an important source of income for the banking industry at a time of big losses in other operations. This year alone, banks are expected to bring in $27 billion by covering overdrafts on checking accounts, typically on debit card purchases or checks that exceed a customer’s balance."

The article continues, "...The price is enormous. According to the F.D.I.C. study, a $27 overdraft fee that a customer repays in two weeks on a $20 debit purchase would incur an annual percentage rate of 3,520 percent. By contrast, penalty interest rates on credit cards generally run about 30 percent.

Questions to Consider for Younger Children
1. Describe a time in which you either earned some money or somebody gave you money? Do you like having money? Why or why not?

2. Have you ever wanted to buy something for yourself and found that you did not have enough money to buy it? What did you do? How did you feel? Why?

3. Do you think that somebody else should always give you money to buy whatever you want? Why or why not?

4. Have you ever borrowed money from somebody? Why did you borrow it? When somebody else loans you money do you think that it would be fair to pay them back the amount of money that they loaned you plus a little more? Why or why not?

Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to Define/Discuss: Cover (financially); Overdraft; Federal Reserve Bank; Federal Regulations.

2. What is the difference between credit and debit? In what situations would it make more sense to use a credit card than a debit card? Why? In what situations would it make more sense to use a debit card than a credit card? Explain?

3. Do you think that banks should be allowed to charge fees, around $35, if somebody spends more with a debit card than he/she has in a checking account? Why or why not? Now, to challenge your thinking skills, develop an argument for the other side of this question.

4. Do you think that the New York Times should have run an article about overspending on debit cards on the first page of the newspaper? Is this really a current event? Why or why not?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Barack Obama will Address Students

As you might have heard President Obama is set to address students across America on Tuesday, the first day after Labor Day. I'm guessing that many students have already returned to school - but Tuesday is traditionally the first day back. He'll be on C-Span and education channels. Some conservative individuals are complaining he should not be taking up school time. For example, take a look at this article from the Homeschool Examiner. My friend Vicki Davis posted this link to a set of resources to help students understand and think about the speech, posted by the United States Department of Education.

The resource suggests reading a book about American presidents or Obama.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Student as Hunter/Farmer

Yesterday I posted a Tweet considering using the metaphor of hunter or farmer for the student. @lauradoggett responded "Stephen Covey uses the metaphor of school as farm- very powerful. There are no shortcuts to deep learning." Based on Laura's response I did some additional research and found that Covey makes the argument that in school real learning often doesn't occur because students cram for their exams at the last moment. On a farm, however, there is no cramming. Every seed and animal must be nurtured to the fullest extent or they don't develop and produce to their potential. According to Covey, schools should ideally be treated as farms.

My main point in wanting to compare students to hunters or farmers is because I want students to be seen as the key actors. Hunters must chase their prey just as in an ideal educational setting students would chase knowledge. (Students cannot simply be spoonfed or the information won't be as meaningful to them.) After hunters catch their prey they use it in a variety of ways (sometimes the prey is put on the wall, other times it is barbecued, other times it is roasted). Similarly, after students acquire information they should use it in a variety of ways.

Though I unfortunately think that some people will be turned off the hunter metaphor, the farmer metaphor seems to neat and orderly to me. Learning is not a neat and orderly process. Instead it is the process of following clues from one point to another, just as hunters, and hunting dogs, often follow the scent of the quarry.

By the way, this idea is not meant to be fully fleshed out. It started as a Twitter reply to @lauradoggett and then I realzied that I could never convey a meaningful message on this topic in 140 characters or less.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

GM's New Unveiling

Yesterday I was invited to participate in a General Motors event for consumers. The event started at the GM Tech Center in Warran, MI. We then moved across the street where we watched pilot assembly of the new Volt, an electric car that can get up to 40 miles on one charge and 300 miles on a single tank of gasoline, giving it a total distance of 340 miles. Later in the day, we visited the GM Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. While at the Proving Grounds I had the opportunity to drive in a Volt. The New York Times is running an article on the Volt today entitled, "G.M. Says Volt will Get Triple-Digit City Mileage."

1. Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of GM, explained that GM has been developing innovative, green friendly cars, for years. One of their largest problems is getting the word out to the public. If you could advise GM on three successful strategies to most effectively get the word out to the general public at the beginning of the Twenty First Century what would you advise? Why?

2. Bob Lutz explained that the federal government does not want to control GM operations, as a socialist government might. Instead the government simply wants to get its money back that it invested in GM. Based on your knowledge of the GM bailout, do you think that Mr. Lutz is correct? Why or why not?

3. In the introduction to this blog post, I explained the information that I learned about the Volt, yesterday. The information contained in the linked article contains some discrepancies. What can we learn about the written word from the differences in these two accounts? Is it really ever possible to verify the accuracy of written/spoken words? Why or why not? What questions would you ask in an attempt to verify accuracy?

4. What three industries do you think that it is most important to learn about in order to understand the United States economy? Why these specific industries?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fewer People Laid Off

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "247,000 Jobs Lost in July; Rate Falls Slightly to 9.4%." The article states, "Although businesses are expected to keep cutting jobs through the rest of the year, the Labor Department’s latest figures offered some faint signs that the sinking job market was approaching bottom."

Perhaps there's some faint signs of hope in a macro-sense but from a micro-perspective it still hurts to be unemployed. Karen Triplett, 61 of Atlanta said, "I’m beyond down to basics...My daughter’s tried to help me. My son has given me money. But what I can’t do, I can’t do.”

1. Is it easier to look at the economy from a macro perspective or a micro perspective? What does the word easier, even mean?

2. What do you think is the single most powerful thing that you can say to somebody who is down on thier economic luck? Why is this powerful?

3. If you had $1 Billon to spend to improve the economy, what would you do with the money? Do you think that you could make a different with $1 Billion? Why or why not?

4. Do you think that the U.S. economy is ever going to return to its previous heights? Why or why not? If you believe that it will return, how long will it take? Why will it take this amount of time?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yahoo and Microsoft

The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "Congress Concerned About Microsoft, Yahoo Deal." The article states, "The companies have been talking for months about a partnership after a failed attempt by Microsoft to acquire Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo last year. In the deal, Microsoft's search engine, Bing, would be the exclusive search tool for Yahoo's sites. The companies would also combine their advertising sales forces. Together they would have about 30 percent of the search advertising market, compared with Google's grasp of 60 percent of online search advertisements."

The article concludes, "Google won't say whether it will protest the partnership to regulators, saying only in a statement: 'There has traditionally been a lot of competition online, and our experience is that competition brings about great things for users. We're interested to learn more about the deal.'"

1. What questions would you ask in order to become more informed about possible anti-trust violations associated with the potential Yahoo - Microsoft partnership? How would you find the answers to these questions?

2. What do you think that Yahoo and Microsoft would have to do to overtake Google in search? Is it possible for this partnership to overtake Google? Why or why not? Do you think that the partnership wants to overtake Google? Explain!

3. Ten years ago very few people had heard of Google. What type of web application do you think might have the same impact as Google has had, ten years from now.

4. Which of the following companies would you most like to own: Microsoft; Yahoo; or, Google? Why?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Swim Suits?

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Biedermann Stuns Phelps Amid Debate Over Suits." The article states, "Biedermann shattered Phelps’s world record with a clocking of 1 minute 42.00 seconds. Phelps, who owns four of the five all-time fastest swims in the event, finished in 1:43.22. Phelps had set the world record that Biedermann broke, a 1:42.96 that he recorded on his way to Olympic gold last summer in Beijing."

The article adds, "After the 400 freestyle, Biedermann acknowledged that his Arena X-Glide suit was an advantage. He said it makes him 'really fast; honestly, about two seconds in the race.' He added, 'I think the suits are destroying a little bit the sport. It’s just, put on a suit, and you’re really, really fast.'”

1. Why do you think that some suits are faster than others? Speculate!!

2. Do you think that swimmers should be allowed to wear bathing suits that enable them to swim faster? Why or why not? In what ways could such bathing suits help the sport of swimming? In what ways could they detract from the sport of swimming?

3. Do you think it is fair to compare certain bathing suits that enable swimmers to swim faster to steroids that enable athletes to perform better? What are the similarities? What are the differences?

4. Does it ever make sense to discuss/think about non-significant current events, such as this one, when other far more significant current events are occurring around us? Why or why not?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Traders Profit with Computers

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Stock Traders Find Speed Pays, in Milliseconds." The article states, "Powerful computers, some housed right next to the machines that drive marketplaces like the New York Stock Exchange, enable high-frequency traders to transmit millions of orders at lightning speed and, their detractors contend, reap billions at everyone else’s expense."

The article addds, "The rise of high-frequency trading helps explain why activity on the nation’s stock exchanges has exploded. Average daily volume has soared by 164 percent since 2005, according to data from NYSE. Although precise figures are elusive, stock exchanges say that a handful of high-frequency traders now account for a more than half of all trades. To understand this high-speed world, consider what happened when slow-moving traders went up against high-frequency robots earlier this month, and ended up handing spoils to lightning-fast computers."

1. If the old adage is true that it takes money to make money is it fair that those who can afford faster computers can make more money on the stock market? Why or why not?

2. Could an argument be made that individuals who hire traders to trade for them stand a better chance of earning profits than those who trade for themselves, therefore people should not be allowed to hire traders to work for them. Why or why not?

3. Is it important for all individuals who want to trade stocks to have complete equality with one another? (What does complete equality even mean?) If it is impossible to attain complete equality, in what kinds of inequality would be acceptable?

4. Today people have an advantage if they use faster computers to trade. Think one hundred years into the future. What kind of technology will give people an advantage over others in the marketplace?