Educational Futures

I just attended the first meeting of a parent/teacher/student group at my daughter’s public, science/math/technology magnet school—Winterhaven. The group was formed to deal with a mandate from Portland Public Schools to grow the school’s student body, and then necessarily move, or renovate, because the school’s current building can only serve about 360 students.

Now that I have school-age kids, the whole question of public education is taking on a new relevance for me. My own educational background included being “home schooled” for grades 1-6 thanks to my parents’ realization that our local Colorado public schools were inadequate, and attending Open Living, a unique public alternative school in grades 7-12. Based on my own “alternative” experience, I’m a big believer in the necessity of quality, public education for all to support democracy and civil society.

A large part of the discussion started by PPS’s mandate to Winterhaven has been focused on that particular school, and/or what building it should be located in.

I find my thoughts moving away from these immediate concerns to what it will take to make public education in Portland (or elsewhere) sufficiently vibrant to continue to attract students like my daughters and at the same time serve the largest possible population.

So far, I find PPS’s focus on standardizing school profiles and sizes to be at odds with my knowledge that it is in fact options and alternatives that attract me to public education in Portland. I just don’t buy the idea that our desire for educational equity will be best served by making all schools the same. I believe that drive will lead all schools to the lowest common denominator, and soon drive the middle class away from public education even more dramatically than it already is.

Once the middle class gives up on public schools, I fear a downward spiral where fewer resources generate increasingly poor educational opportunities. I don’t think such a situation will be good for anyone, least of all the less advantaged in whose name school standardization is adopted.

A better path will be to support and celebrate diversity, not just in our public student body, but in the schools themselves. One school might make its mark as a vibrant neighborhood school; another might be an arts magnet. Each should have it’s own identity.

The job of  PPS Superintendent Phillips and the School Board should be to support school diversity, not standardize. If they don’t think there are enough resources to support school diversity now, wait until the middle class pulls out of public education entirely and see how many resources are left.

Given the worthy people around the table with me in this Winterhaven conversation, I have faith that we can produce good recommendations. And in an ideal world, PPS will have the vision and resources to make some of them happen.

What’s up with the pictures?

Update

Read my latest post on my image header for how I ended up carrying out this idea.

People have been asking what the deal is with the images in my site header.

I’ve been experimenting with loading random background images from my collection using Drupal’s integrated jQuery tools.

I’ve been thinking about trying to work on having the images feed from a flickr stream, perhaps using the Drupal flickr module, yet be automatically sized/cropped for the site header. More on that if I get to it.

Many of the pictures are of people in my family, or shots I’ve taken around our home or Portland.

Praying to a New God: Ninkasi, The Sumerian Goddes of Fermentation

My new favorite beer is made by Ninkasi, in Eugene, Oregon.

They make an IPA that is simultaneously deliciously bitter and has all kinds of floral flavors that make each sip a trip to the Sumerian equivalent of Nirvana (An?).

They apparently brew in the Steelhead facility and haven’t managed to build much of a web presence yet:
http://ninkasibrewing.com/

So far, I’ve only found Ninkasi on tap, and at these Portland, OR establishments. Add a comment with other locations if you’ve found Ninkasi somewhere else…

 

Now Blogging with PHP 5/MySQL 5

Thanks to quick work by my host Liquidweb (thanks Siena!), this site is now delivered by the three fives: Drupal 5, PHP 5 and MySQL 5. Still waiting for Linux 5 and Apache 5 ;)

One of my goals here is to demonstrate/evaluate how this technology will operate on a forward-looking platform. Ever since Rasmus Lerdorf himself suggested dropping PHP 4 for the good of all at OSCMS 2007, I figure we better get ready for the future.

Check my blog recipe for platform details.

OSCMS 2007: Open Source Content Management Systems at Yahoo!

Recently returned from the Open Source Content Management Systems (OSCMS 2007) gathering held at the Yahoo! campus in Sunnyvale, CA.

Drupal was strongly represented at OSCMS, but also saw some Joomla, Plone and Alfresco presence.

As often, PHP maven Rasmus Lerdorf was in attendance, in this case, demonstrating the latest in security and performance considerations.

I found great value in the day-long seminar on Drupal/LAMP performance and scalability given by Dries Buytaert (Drupal), James Walker (Bryght), Jeremy Andrews (CivicSpace) and Matt Westgate (Lullabot), with a guest appearance by Robert Douglass (Lullabot). If anyone continues to have doubts about LAMP platform applications scaling to enterprise levels…they should have been in attendance to absorb the variety of solutions from hardware to network to architecture to database to code offered here. After this, I will no longer doubt that LAMP applications can be tailored to meet enterprise demands.

View the OSCMS Flickr stream