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Saturday, January 15, 2005


Baker Mitchell

Dear Professor Plum,

I thought some of your readers might be interested in the followng story that I posted to the Precision Teaching List Server about Saxon Math being taken over by Harcort Achieve.

I flew up from Houston and met with John Saxon in Norman, OK in the early 1990’s to discuss collaboration on a science series. He had a true burning hatred of the large publishers; and in talking about the trash they published, he would get so violently agitated that he could hardly talk. This emotional, visceral, total spite was surprising to me because I thought that he would have been very cool and calculating as a former Air Force pilot and math teacher.

With red face and veins popping, he made a strangling motion with his hands and vowed through clenched teeth that he would “grab those &^%$#&*% publishers and drag them of their hiding places in the weeds into the open and totally destroy them.”

He is rolling over in his grave knowing that one of them now controls his company. A shame.

John, you were and are a savior to millions of young people and teachers. Perhaps you helped train an army that can, one day, complete your mission.

So rest in peace, friend.

Baker Mitchell

The Roger Bacon Academy

Baker Mitchell

Strand (1) [American Heritage Dictionary - shamelessly copied]

NOUN: The land bordering a body of water; a beach.
VERB: Inflected forms: strand·ed, strand·ing, strands

TRANSITIVE VERB: 1. To drive or run ashore or aground. 2. To bring into or leave in a difficult or helpless position: The convoy was stranded in the desert. 3. Baseball To leave (a base runner) on base at the end of an inning. 4. Linguistics To separate (a grammatical element) from other elements in a construction, either by moving it out of the construction or moving the rest of the construction. In the sentence What are you aiming at, the preposition at has been stranded.
INTRANSITIVE VERB: 1. To be driven or run ashore or aground. 2. To be brought into or left in a difficult or helpless position.

strand (2) [American Heritage Dictionary - shamelessly copied]

NOUN: 1. A complex of fibers or filaments that have been twisted together to form a cable, rope, thread, or yarn. 2a. A single filament, such as a fiber or thread, of a woven or braided material. b. A wisp or tress of hair. 3. Something that is plaited or twisted as a ropelike length: a strand of pearls; a strand of DNA. 4. One of the elements woven together to make an intricate whole, such as the plot of a novel.
TRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: strand·ed, strand·ing, strands
1. To make or form (a rope, for example) by twisting strands together. 2. To break a strand of (a rope, for example).

Professor, I don't think either of these uses adequately gives the novice instructional designer a clear idea of what you mean by the word.

I think (dangerous undertaking for an engineer, because we just like to look up the answer in a table, as in- Gravity-fed sewer line capacities: 8" = 15 gallons/minute; 4" = 3 gallons/minute, etc.) that you are implying some sort of taxonometric exercise at the beginning where one classifies the behavior changes to be produced in the learner by the teaching process.

If so, what are the features of the various classes? The phylum, genus, and species of each behavior, if you will (or even if you won't)?

What do you mean by a "strand?"

Help! Please don't leave us stranded, trussed up by our strands of ignorance!

This process of establishing the "strands" is the first step - if we screw this up we're doomed. Or does it matter? As in having an influence on the outcome, not as in "that sewer line sure can handle a lot of matter!"

Best Regards to you out in the Hill Country - Kerrville and San Marcos are lovely this time of year.



Look to definition 2, item 2a, to see what Plum means by strand.


Man, I wish you were my teacher, al those years ago.

Baker Mitchell

Hi, Adrian. Thanks for the opportunity to explain more fully.

It is Item 2 and the items a-g that give rise to my seeking a definition. Professor Plum mentions a Time strand and then itemizes a People strand. But the people are embedded in Time; or times could be embedded in People; and both in the Groups strand.

So we have knowledge such as, "The Athenian Aristotle taught Alexander, a Macedonian, in about 320 BC." How do we parse this single sentence out among the strands. Does some or all of it go into the Institutions strands (educational institution) or into the People strand under Aristotle, Alexander, or both or into the Time strand as an event occuring in 320BC or yada, yada, yada.

Without a definition of "strand" I'm not sure how to parse out the behaviors that I wish to observe from my learned student.

Or maybe I'm just too picky. Sorry.

Speaking of which, I'm sure that the Hill Country Professor is familiar with my favorite western song "You can Pick Your Friends and You can Pick Your Nose, but You Can't Wipe Your Friends Off On the Saddle Blanket!" A touching lament, indeed!

Anyway, maybe I'm missing something obvious, here.




I wonder what Prof. Plum thinks of these reading programs:

[From Phyllis Schlafly's column]

"Orlando school officials have decided to experiment with three new reading approaches: Scholastic's Read 180, which relies heavily students using computers and comes with a price tag of $439,000; McGraw-Hill's SRA Corrective Reading at $130,000; and Strategically Oriented Intensive Reading Instruction at $84,000."

On the consequences of illiteracy:

"Children who are not taught phonics grow up to be incompetent voters, like the Palm Beach County voters who spoiled their ballots in 2000 by over-voting for both Al Gore and the Libertarian third-party candidate. Never having been taught to sound out syllables, they saw "Libertarian" and thought they were selecting "Lieberman" for vice president."

It could also be that they read "liberal" instead of "libertarian". Ah, the joys of the psychotic guessing game.


To OG: I completely agree. I really need to go back and get my degree AGAIN under Prof. P. Am woefully undereducated.

Ok, did I read too quickly? Hill Country? Anyone here in Austin with me? If there's anyone headed down to the live music capitol of the world, time to get excited! Weather here is mild, mild, mild, and kids just started school, so many of the fun tourist-y and not-so-tourist-y spots are open. Perhaps I misunderstood; however, if anyone makes it my way, feel free to email me (you can just click on my name) and I'll be happy to provide you with fun stuff to do down this way. ;)


Regarding the three reading programs cited by Instructivist, I can only speak about Corrective Reading. Great remedial program. Each 65 lessons moves kids more than a year in achievement. [See link SRA/Direct Instruction.] 180 grand seems like a lot, unless you're talking lots of schools. Even so, that's the start uo cost. After that you only need to buy cheap workbooks.


Great Post!

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