Wednesday, December 31, 2008

FDR's New Deal & Uncertainty

For those social studies teachers that haven't read Amity Shlaes book, "The Forgotten Man," I suggest giving it a glance before introducing the topic of the Great Depression. But, in light of the current economy crisis and choices president-elect Obama may face, she has some interesting thoughts on FDR's uncertainty, and constantly changing policies, that froze markets:

"Using emergency powers, FDR yanked the country off the gold standard. Both American and international markets looked forward to a London conference at which a new monetary accord was to be struck among nations. Over the course of the conference, though, FDR changed orders to his emissaries multiple times. Some days he was the internationalist, sending wires about international currency coordination. Other days he was the cowboy, declaring that all that mattered was what the dollar bought in farm states. The conference foundered.

Some of the worst destruction came with FDR's gold experiment. If he could drive up the price of gold by buying it, he reasoned, other prices would rise as well. Roosevelt was right to want to introduce more money into the economy (the United States was deflating). But his method was like trying to raise an ocean level by adding water by the thimbleful. What horrified markets even more was that FDR managed the operation personally, day by day, over a breakfast tray. No one ever knew what the increase would be. One Friday in November 1933, for example, Roosevelt told Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau that he thought the gold price ought to be raised 21 cents. Why that amount, Morgenthau asked. "Because it's three times seven," FDR replied.

Morgenthau later wrote that "if anybody knew how we set the gold price, through a combination of lucky numbers, etc., I think they would be frightened."

They were. The "Roosevelt Rally" flattened. The arbitrary quality of other initiatives reinforced concerns. The New Deal centerpiece, the National Recovery Administration, helped some businesses compete and criminalized others for the same behavior. Sometimes Roosevelt goaded federal prosecutors into harassing corporate executives. Other times, he schmoozed the same execs at the White House. In 1936, FDR pushed through deficit spending. In 1937, he was Mr. Budget Hawk.

Uncertain, markets froze. Businesses refused to hire or invest in equipment. Unemployment stayed stuck in the teens. The 'deal' part of the New Deal phrase was problematic; businesses didn't want individual favors, they wanted clear laws for all. Industrialist Ernest Weir summed up what his community was desperate for FDR to do: "Above all to make the program clear and then stick to it."

You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Great Article: Bush the Reader

Okay, for those of you with an adamant, unyielding disgust for our current president, George W. Bush, read no further. But, for those interested in a little inside baseball about "W", that I was unaware of, I found this article by Karl Rove interesting:

"With only five days left, my lead is insurmountable. The competition can't catch up. And for the third year in a row, I'll triumph. In second place will be the president of the United States. Our contest is not about sports or politics. It's about books.

It all started on New Year's Eve in 2005. President Bush asked what my New Year's resolutions were. I told him that as a regular reader who'd gotten out of the habit, my goal was to read a book a week in 2006. Three days later, we were in the Oval Office when he fixed me in his sights and said, "I'm on my second. Where are you?" Mr. Bush had turned my resolution into a contest.

By coincidence, we were both reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." The president jumped to a slim early lead and remained ahead until March, when I moved decisively in front. The competition soon spun out of control. We kept track not just of books read, but also the number of pages and later the combined size of each book's pages -- its "Total Lateral Area."

Download Opinion Journal's widget and link to the most important editorials and op-eds of the day from your blog or Web page.

We recommended volumes to each other (for example, he encouraged me to read a Mao biography; I suggested a book on Reconstruction's unhappy end). We discussed the books and wrote thank-you notes to some authors.

At year's end, I defeated the president, 110 books to 95. My trophy looks suspiciously like those given out at junior bowling finals. The president lamely insisted he'd lost because he'd been busy as Leader of the Free World."

Regardless of your politics, I found the article enjoyable (click here to read the whole thing). There's just something wonderful about hearing about a president's book reading contest with a staffer -- regardless of whom it might be. This, in addition to all the memos and policy papers they are both reading throughout the day.

2008: The Year Free Speech Surrendered

With most American newspapers caving both financially and in objectivity, it's nice to occasionally stroll over on the web and read "The Australian." It's always wonderfully insightful and out-of-the-box from our major domestic papers. In my browsing, I found this article:

"The year 2008 deserves to be seen as a year of anticipatory surrender, a year when the West decided to roll over on free speech of its own accord. Just in case. No threats. No demands. Just suppress controversial speech in advance, just in case it causes offence. You understand, we don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. In fact, such a trashing of core Western values is difficult to understand."

Read the whole thing here.

State Agency at Odds with Its Governor

There's something interesting going on in South Carolina. The Governor would like the SC Employment Security Commission to do a better job before he signs for a federal loan, and the ESC is rebelling and putting a lot of unemployed people in jeopardy.

"Sanford has some things he wants first before he signs the request, such as an independent, third-party audit to review operations and performance of the commission.

Among other things, Sanford wants to have unemployment insurance data collected, Details like reasons for getting unemployment and dates of employment benefits, and quarterly employment numbers and wages.

Additionally the Governor wants information about companies that close, like when they shut down and where they're located."


After receiving the Governor's proposal, the ESC countered:

Halley agrees to a performance audit to be done by the Department of Labor, but not an independent, third-party as the governor requests.

After receiving the counter-offer, the governor's office released a statement, saying:

"We are disappointed by the updated agreement. It shows that the Employment Security Commission is afraid of the scrutiny an outside audit would provide. We are insisting on an independent audit before we sign anything."

In these times, perhaps we should asking our government agencies to do more, not just ask for and spend more money -- that apparently no one has. Just a thought...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Better for the Environment: Books or E-Text?

Recent Life Cycle Analysis of which is better for the enviroment, books vs. e-text, found the following results:

"Paper production, electricity of printing operations, and personal transportation were the main factors affecting the book footprint, while electricity was the main issue for e-readers; and that books were responsible for four times the greenhouse emissions as e-readers. In '04, two UC-Berkeley students evaluated newspaper vs PDA-based e-newspapers [PDF], and decided that a newspaper released 32-140 times the amount of CO2, and used 26-185 times the amount of water. A 2007 study in Sweden (here is the abstract) also looked at newspaper and found that newspaper's biggest impact was in the paper production, while energy was the big impact for reading on the Internet; for e-devices (the Kindle, etc.), production of the e-object is the biggest impact. The study concluded that reading e-newspapers had less impact than an actual newspaper."

So, if you want to help the environment and educate at the same time, perhaps it's time more teachers and parents use available e-texts for their students.

Read the whole article:

Monday, December 22, 2008

College Essay Assignment

Here's a great Christmas break assignment (if you haven't already assigned it) that can be given to all high school seniors...

Write an essay which answers one of the five prompts below. These prompts appeared on the 2006-2007 Common Application, so it is quite likely that many of you will be able to use the final draft of this essay during your college application process. This essay should be evaluated and used as the basis for a class discussion on college and scholarship application essay requirements. The student can then revise and edit the essays.

Strive to reveal your character, your strengths, and your interests. Be original. Essay drafts must be typed and should not be less than 250 words or more than 500.

#1: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

#2: Discuss one issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

#3: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

#4: Describe a character in fiction, an historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

#5: A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

9th Grade Reading List

We have been working on putting online a 9th Grade Reading list of classic literature. Here's what we have put up so far (most, soon all, have both etext and audio):

Short Stories
The Interlopers, by Saki
The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence
To Build a Fire by Jack London
Tobermory by Saki

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer by Walt Whitman
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth
The Seven Ages of Man by William Shakespeare
Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
The Wreck of the Hesperus by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

The Odyssey

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

If you have some suggestions to add to the curriculum, please do not hesitate to let us know and we will add it. Please remember, however, that we can only post selections in the public domain.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Contemporary Dickens Scrooge

..."If Dickens were writing today, his anti-hero would be a very different character. To be sure, he would still be "engrossed" by "the master-passion, Gain", but he would not be solitary.

The Scrooge of the era up to the fall of Lehman Brothers would not shut himself away alone in a freezing office in a foggy courtyard. On the contrary, he would be out and about, persuading people to borrow money they could not afford for purchases they did not need, or to invest in schemes which promised astonishing 10 per cent annual returns. He would be promoting "lifestyle". He would have lots of "friends" and fabulous parties. He would have wonderful PR. The stuffy old firm of Scrooge and Marley would be rebranded – as "S&M"? – to attract the cool young crowd.

The modern Scrooge would never want for company in his greed. He would be joined by some knaves and many fools – the latter including, as it were (and no offence intended), you and me. Pyramid schemes, like that apparently practised by Bernie Madoff, cannot exist without thousands of slaves to build the pyramid. In this, the first era of popular capitalism, many of us made ourselves willing slaves, as few had the chance to do at the time of Charles Dickens."

Read the whole thing here.

And, for those that would like to read the original or pass it along to your children or students, we have a wonderful audio text version of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" at the Adam Smith Academy site.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 75% Teaching Solution, Part 2

The other day, I wrote about what was termed the “75% Teaching Solution,” and I’d like to take this opportunity to expand and clarify the remarks.

First, the word “Solution” was not in reference to the way teachers currently teach, as if it were a problem. It is in reference to what many consider a problem in education, student motivation.

We have heard time and again from teachers that say their kids aren’t motivated to learn. They lack drive. They have no interest.

This “solution” is an attempt to solve that problem. When a student’s personal initiative becomes the product of his/her performance, rather than the curve of their scores, then they can’t help but be motivated to produce, to get ahead, to out-perform the standard.

On the flip-side, we have heard time and time again from students who sincerely, but sadly, believe, “I’m not that smart, so what’s the point of trying?” This approach shatters that objection. By plugging away, an average student can make himself exceptional. They can learn that hard work pays off. That persistence and determination are rewarded. With a little nudging (by the teacher) to do that much more, they can exceed their own limited expectations. Gain a little self-esteem. And, who knows? Maybe that lesson will carry over into other classes, and life.

Second, the “75% Teaching” part of the title does not mean you teach 75% of the coursework, or at 75% of your own capability. In fact, if done right, it means more work for you and your students. You teach the same course, or workload, that you always have. That’s the standard. But, you raise the expectations for higher grades. Expand the standard, and make them go that extra mile.

For example, if you teach 9th Grade English, and normally assigned the following short stories as part of your curriculum (all are available at the Adam Smith Academy website in audio and text form):

The Interlopers, by Saki
The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

To Build a Fire by Jack London

Students would still need to complete and PASS these requirements (with a score of 80% to PASS). But, in order to get a “B” in the class, the teacher may require 3-5 additional stories to be read and PASSed:

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence
Tobermory by Saki

And, in order to receive an “A,” in addition to the typical novels and plays assigned (Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey), they would need to read and PASS:

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

These are just examples, but I hope you get the idea. Teach the standard, and have them exceed it. Raise expectations. Not just of your students, but of yourself. You will need to create tests for these additional pieces, and make yourself available for questions. But, ultimately, the reward will be seeing what your kids can do if they put their mind to it.

As always, please do not hesitate to comment on this post at either the Adam Smith Academy site or below. We enjoy and welcome the feedback, since this post is in response to feedback that we have already received.

(Thank you to those fellow teachers that did!)

Monday, December 15, 2008

The 75% Teaching Solution

American initiative and productivity are the envy of the world. Whenever Americans have been faced with difficult times, whether it be in war, business or charity, it always seems as though Americans overcome obstacles through a unique blend of creative problem solving and hard work.

So, why can’t education be any different?

With American productivity and initiative in mind, the Adam Smith Academy would like to propose the 75% Teaching Solution. It works like this:

1. In the creation of student curriculum, Teachers teach 75% of a student’s total course grade. On a straight PASS/FAIL grading system (80% equals a Passing grade, anything below Fails), students are tested on the standard, or minimum 75% of the course’s curriculum. Should the student PASS all the exams for 75% of the coursework, they shall receive a grade of “C”. They have done the minimum, satisfactorily.

2. Should they FAIL certain exams or portions of the curriculum, the student would then fall within the range of “F” to “C” for the course.

3. For a student to obtain a better grade than the satisfactory, “C”, he/she voluntarily does more coursework on his or her own, and will PASS/FAIL any exams based on the additional coursework. So much more for a “B”, and even more for an “A”. Therefore, they must take the initiative to produce more.

This solution gives whole new meaning to the words, “Extra Credit.” Or, in actuality, it takes these words on their face. To do beyond the satisfactory level, students do “extra” and receive a better “credit.”

This solution also taps into and encourages American productivity. It provides students with a valuable understanding of what will be expected of them when they leave school. It’s a life lesson. Doing the minimum only gets you so far. Doing more than expected creates an opportunity for greater rewards. And, even students that may not have the highest IQs, or innate mental ability, are rewarded for their determination and hard work. Just like in life, they can out-work their intellectual superiors.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Top 10: Must-Read High School Books

There are lots of opinions on this... and we're looking for the perfect list of the Top 10 High School books English teachers believe every student must read.

Please add your list below in the comments area.
Or, please CONTACT US directly with your list.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Building a Better Mouse-Trap for Education

Over the course of the last year, the Adam Smith Academy has sought to give students a more entertaining education in the format(s) they desire. With parents and teachers support, we have worked hard to build a better mouse-trap, so to speak, to capture student's interest. And, we could not be more grateful to all that have supported us.

As of late, we have been receiving more than a few emails from teachers asking if it were possible to start talking to publishers to see if they might be willing to partner with the Adam Smith Academy to present their material online, in one or both of our formats (Animated videos for the web and iPod or Audio-Text). So that, they, the teachers, could capture greater student interest in the material.

In response, I have written to teachers explaining that while we have not talked to all textbook publishers, the ones that we have, have never responded favorably. I liken it to the way newspapers use to feel about online community. At first, they wished they'd just go away. Now, they're playing catch-up... and losing.

With this in mind, I thought I would share with you one of our latest experiences. Recently, I wrote about a particular author I enjoyed reading (all names will be withheld), but am unable to post on the site because of copyright issues. Well, interestingly enough, I was contacted by a very nice member of the foundation's outreach team. He read the post. After discussing the author for a bit, we chatted about potential partnership opportunities, in either animation or audio-text form. Both of which could be done in a subscription form, where the foundation could continue to receive revenue from the work.

Well, no sooner had it gone up the ladder, than it came crashing back down.

You see, while the higher-ups felt this would be something that they would "eventually" do, it was not something that they felt they needed to entertain now, since they felt classroom distribution remained "strong."

It was here that, admittedly, I may have lost it. I felt compelled to inform my new, wonderfully nice, outreach friend that his boss is living in the past. In about 4 clicks, I was able to find out that: (1) copies of the book were already available online for free at certain sites, (2) free audio versions of the book were available, (3) a quick Google search found over 48,000 free summaries of the book, and (4) the information contained on all the other sites about the book and the author were far more comprehensive and user-friendly than what the foundation had at its site.

So students could actually read, listen and find out more information faster about the book and the author, before opening the book or visiting the foundation's site. In fact, it might even be recommended. The foundation's site is a gobbledy-gook of too much extraneous information. Weeding your way through the mess to find pertinent information on the book itself, ended in a teaser to buy the book. I hate that.

Not to mention that fact that the numbers that his boss felt were "strong" over the course of the year, could easily be achieved in webpage views in a month. But, I digress.

The point it is: It baffles me when those that have the greatest ability, and sometimes even a sincere desire, to educate our children, don't recognize what's happening around them. "These kids today" are far more tech-friendly and sophisticated than people give them credit for. If you don't work with them, they'll work around you. You should hear some of the stories I've heard about 9-year-olds redesigning teacher's webpages - because they were coded wrong. Or, making suggestions to teachers and parents about the best places to find information. It's amazing. It's gone far beyond letting your kids program the TV, or figure out how to connect the DVD player properly.

Some people say kids have attention span problems. I believe it's actually the opposite. They're frustrated with the ancient tools they're being asked to use by people who don't know something better is out there. And, the people who may have the content they desire, are withholding it. Seems silly to me.

"The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe

We have been getting numerous requests by students for more Edgar Allan Poe stories on the site. (I thought Halloween was over.) So, while it may not be appropriate for the holidays, as long as they are reading and listening it's a gift to us, we have added Edgar Allan Poe's haunting tale, "The Masque of the Red Death."

The language within the piece is as exquisite as it is horrifying. And, for teachers and parents, it gives a useful example of an "allegory," prose designed to operate with multiple meanings. For example, we can ask what the literal and symbolic meanings of the rooms suggest? Or, we can ask, what the Red Death represents both literally and allegorically? Why do the rooms go from east to west? Is it because the sun rises and sets in a similar manner? And, what could that mean? Birth and death? What's behind the Prince's name? And, why does he leave the people in his care on their own? Or, how about that clock? And, the guests emotional reaction to it? etc. etc. etc.

There are tons of wonderful little tidbits found within this short story that give rise to multiple follow-up questions, essays, creative opportunities for students. So, even though it may not be completely appropriate for the holidays, feel free to assign it just for the teaching opportunities it provides.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" Speech

In an effort to expand our history collection of memorable people, places and events at the Adam Smith Academy, we have added Patrick Henry's famous, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" speech in our AudioText format.

One interesting note regarding the speech that I read in "Thomas Jefferson: A Life," was that the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was in attendance during the speech. And, while I am paraphrasing from memory (I don't have the book handy to confirm, since I checked it out from the library several years ago), it was during this speech that Thomas Jefferson knew he had to had to join the cause. While there were certainly rumblings among the citizens, he couldn't believe that Patrick Henry would dare give such a speech in such a place -- treason during this period found much quicker justice. He also knew that this man, considered a Lion in his day, was speaking a principled truth that would ultimately lead Jefferson to lend his life and property to the cause -- against the greatest armed forces known to man at the time, the British Army and Navy. This was no small thing. It was David vs. Goliath, with David being without his sling.

Remember, this speech was not in front of fellow rebels at some secret tavern meeting. But, it was addressing the Virginia House of BURGESSES, in Richmond, VA in March, 1775. The House of Burgesses was an assembly of the Crown. It was akin to actually addressing the British Crown. That's really speaking truth to power. And, let it be known, that there were several calls of treason, and for Patrick Henry's head, during the speech... but he kept going. Talk about the courage of one's convictions.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"... Coming to Life?

Last night over drinks and a lovely tree lighting in the community, myself and a number of university colleagues got into an interesting discussion regarding the state of our nation, the multiple bailouts and companies traveling to Washington with hat in hand, and wondered aloud if Ayn Rand's novel, "Atlas Shrugged" was coming to life.

The very notion that government should be in the business of saving business(es) or, for that matter, stimulating capitalism is, on its face, antithetical.

And, for those that believe "something must be done," ask yourself one question: Where does the money come from?

Government has to take the money from somewhere to give it to something or someone. It's not stimulation. It's a transfer. A transfer from success to failure (insert person or business for each). From the productivity of one to lack of productivity in another.

And, it's not even an efficient transfer at that. It's an extremely costly transfer. For all those that have bitterly complained about Bank ATM fees, imagine the costs of a government bureaucracy, and all the wheels that must turn and be greased, to funnel out what's left.

At any rate, it was an incredibly interesting discussion and one that unearthed long forgotten quotes like:

"I swear, by my life and my love of it,
that I will never live for the sake of another man,
nor ask another man to live for mine."
- John Galt


"So you think that money is the root of all evil?
Have you ever asked what is the root of money?
Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist
unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them.
Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish
to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value.
Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears,
or of the looters, who take it from you by force.
Money is made possible only by the men who produce.
Is this what you consider evil?"
- Francisco d'Anconia

So, in light of the times and in thinking of your children and/or students, perhaps it's time to brush off that old copy of "Atlas Shrugged," and bring it to the attention of your students. Or, at a minimum, consider assigning either "Anthem" or "The Fountainhead" to stimulate an interest in the work.

We'd put them on the website, but they are still copyrighted material. But, the Ayn Rand Institute, I believe, still offers free copies to students.

Just a thought...

UPDATE: Building on the above, I just came across this article, which outlines what can happen when the government "helps" business on behalf of the public. While the Big Three are by no means, Rearden Metal from "Atlas Shrugged," I think it plainly illustrates the folly of the government getting into the business of business.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville - Chapters 1- 10

Okay, I have been basically begged not to write the following, but I can't help myself...

This will prove to be a whale of an undertaking, but the Adam Smith Academy is proud to announce an Audio-Text version of "Moby Dick" or "The Whale" by Herman Melville.

You can see why I was begged not to write that... Puns kill.

Justified or not, the first 10 chapters are up, and can be viewed by clicking here.

Only 125 more chapters to go.

Karma Catches Up with O.J.

O.J. Simpson has been sentenced to 15+ years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping. Others will of course comment on the demise of O.J. How did this happen? etc. etc. It could be, however, that Karma just took its time catching up with him.

"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling

"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling is one of those stories that just must be read to children. Unfortunately, not all great parents are great actors. And, this is definitely one of those stories that needs a wonderful story-teller to not only convey the action, but also all the different colorful characters.

So, the Adam Smith Academy has included the complete reading of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" for parents and students on our site for FREE. Teachers, with a computer in their classroom, can also hit the play button with the speakers turned up, so the whole class can listen and read along.

To listen and read our telling of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," click here.... and enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe was recently suggested by a teacher for one of our Audio-Text pages, where students can read and listen to the text. So, we dutifully added it to our collection.

You can read and listen to "The Raven" here.

We have also collected an amazing collection of original Dore illustrations that we will be adding to the page today. But, feel free to visit "The Raven" page, and listen while we work.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Credit Availability" vs. "Creditworthy"

In light of the economic times and the endless stream of politicians and talking heads discussing the world "Credit Crisis," I thought I would bring up something that has heretofore not been mentioned, but should be discussed when delving on the problem in your classrooms.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the current "Credit Crisis" a lack of credit availability? Or, is it a lack of creditworthiness on the part of the borrowers?

CONTEXT: We have been told the current economic crisis is a result of a "housing bubble," where banks extended loans to people with poor or no credit histories. Now, homes across the country are going into foreclosure, as those people can no longer pay their mortgages as the rates have reset. Which, in turn, has made the mortgage backed paper and securities worthless, creating huge losses for financial firms and investors.

To increase liquidity, the Fed and the Treasury has created a "financial backstop" through a number of instruments to get money back out to the public and businesses. But, today, banks appear unwilling to loan the money.

Why? Revert to previous discussion questions, and add a number more like, "If you were a bank president would you be lending money? If so, what would be your credit standards?"

You might be surprised to find out the student's answers. I know I was.

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" Audio-Text

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is an 18th century classic by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that was once thought perfect for high school students, but now considered too difficult a read.

With the Adam Smith Academy's "No Excuses" Audio-text format, where students can read the text while listening to the audio and looking at the illustrations, we believe it can once again be enjoyed by high school students.

To view "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" audio-text, click here.

This was a teacher suggested addition to our text pages. If you have a suggestion for a classic piece of literature updated with audio narration and illustrations, please do not hesitate to contact us at the

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Young Goodman Brown" AudioText & Illustrated

Traditionally, "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was reserved for advanced High School students (or Senior Honors English Courses), or for Freshman English 101 courses at college. Now, however, with our new AudioText pages, where students can read and listen to the text narration, almost any level high school student can enjoy "Young Goodman Brown."

To view and listen to "Young Goodman Brown" click here.

In addition to the Audio-Text, we have also included a series of illustrations for students to follow along. And, if a student doesn't understand a word within the text, he can click it and a definition will pop-up -- for every word.

So teachers and parents, don't be afraid of assigning this classic piece of literature to your students. The story will stay with them for a lifetime.

(Side Note: Teachers and parents if you have any short stories, or even full classic novels, that you would like the Adam Smith Academy to create an Audio-Text page for, please do not hesitate to contact us, or write a comment below, and we'll be sure to add it to our list.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

George Washington Animated Lecture

After weeks and weeks of work, another arrow has been added to our animated quiver.

Now kids can watch an animated history lecture about George Washington, presented by our very own Professor Adam Smith.

At our site, kids can also watch the lecture and read along. We would love to hear some feedback from teachers and parents to find out if their children enjoyed the presentation.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Classic Short Story DVDs -- Now Available FREE*!

We have received hundreds of requests from teachers and parents to make our animated movies of the following classic short stories:

"The Boarding House" by James Joyce
"The Bet" by Anton Chekhov
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce
"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe
"Tobermory" by Saki
"The Gift of the Magi" by O.Henry
"Pigs Is Pigs" by Ellis Parker Butler

available on DVD -- for those unable to use the internet in their classrooms -- and now we have!

The best part is, through a generous gift, we can now make the DVDs available for FREE! And, when we say free (just like any other business), we need to add the charges for the costs of shipping and processing. Those aren't free to us. *So, the total comes to $5.95 with shipping and handling. But, the DVD itself and the content is at no charge, so that your students can enjoy this new way of learning the classics for increased comprehension and retention.

Additionally, for those that have the ability, the DVDs can be "ripped" (as the say in the industry), so that the content can be transferred to an iPod or iPhone. So, it has a dual-purpose.

Should this new way of distributing our content be successful, we're looking forward to making more of our titles available in this fashion.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"A Christmas Carol" - AudioText & Animated Movie

Okay, if you're anything like me (I hate seeing Christmas commercials and mailers too early), you're probably asking yourself, "Isn't it a little early to be posting Christmas reading material?"

Yes and No.

Yes: If you plan on doing "A Christmas Carol" as a play at your school.

No: If your students, sons or daughters have not read "A Christmas Carol" yet.

If you are in the later camp, then it's time assign our AudioText version of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. With our AudioText version, your students can listen to the audio of the text as they read along. And, at the end, they can watch an animated version of the story.

While I'm somewhat partial to the Alastair Sim's black-and-white version of the story, we have found that kids like the animated version better.

So, please enjoy! and "Merry Christmas, Everyone!" ... albeit a little early.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Really Sad: Freshman Commits Suicide After Bullying

Stuff like this really angers me:

ACTON - Jeremiah Lasater was a gentle giant. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and 220 pounds, he was the kind of teen who can bully other kids if he wishes.

Instead, the 14-year-old Vasquez High School freshman was the one who got pushed around. Classmates routinely pulled down his pants. They threw food at him in the cafeteria. They made fun of the boy with the thick glasses who took special-education classes.

The teasing probably started when Jeremiah was in sixth grade, said senior German Hernandez, a teaching assistant in the boy's fifth-period Algebra I class. Kids called him a nerd.

"He didn't deserve that," he said. "He should have talked to somebody."

Jeremiah apparently kept his troubles to himself until Monday, when he decided he couldn't take it anymore. After a student threw chili on him during lunch, he walked to a restroom, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Fellow teachers and staff (and parents!), please be on the lookout for warning signs. Sometimes kids will keep it to themselves, so it is up to us to step up for them.

"Much Ado About Nothing" in a Night

Is it possible for a teacher to assign the William Shakespeare play, "Much Ado About Nothing" for an evening's homework, and not think it too much.

We think... absolutely!

The Adam Smith Academy is proud to announce the AudioText posting of "Much Ado About Nothing," where students can read the five act story, while listening to a live recording of a version of the play.

Click here to view.

Additionally, at the end of the 5th act, we have created links to the Kenneth Branagh filmed version of the play. Which, surprisingly and delightfully is a fairly accurate portrayal of the original. So, students can read, listen and, finally, watch Shakespeare in an evening without fear of assigning too much.

Because after all, it's entertainment! Just as Shakespeare intended.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chpts. 11-20 -- "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

Chapters 11-20 of "Jane Eyre," by Charlotte Bronte, are now up at the Adam Smith Academy, in our "No Excuses Education" format. Students can now read, listen and watch a Jane Eyre mini-series to enhance and improve comprehension of the story.

To start Jane Eyre, please click here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte - 1st 10 Chapters AudioText

In our quest to continuing to give teachers and parents better resources for students, we are adding to our online AudioText novels.

The latest novel that we are in the process of adding is Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." Students can read the eText, listen to the audio narration and click on any word to get its definition. Additionally, students can watch the mini-series movie, "Jane Eyre," to reinforce comprehension of the book. (The first mini-series segment can be found at the end of Chapter 2.)

All students learn in different ways. Our "No Excuses Education" approach covers every facet: reading the words, listening to the audio and visually watching the story.

We would love to get feedback from English teachers out there to see if they find this approach helpful in increasing student comprehension and interest in classic literature.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" -- AudioText & Movie

The Adam Smith Academy is extremely proud to have completed Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" AudioText (a combination of the novel's eText and Audio narration all on the same page) with links to the Movie. Additionally, students can click on any word within the text of the novel and get its definition.

So, now students will have no excuses for not reading and understanding the novel. We like to call it, the "No Excuses Education".

No longer can students give teachers or their parents the excuse that they could not read or understand the novel. With the combination of audio, etext, clickable definitions, and even an accompanying movie, students cannot say they didn't have time or couldn't understand what was going on. With the audio for each chapter available, students need only to sit back and listen. Chapters range from around 6 minutes in audio to no more than 20.

So, parents and teachers can assign a couple of chapters, and know it couldn't take them longer than 30-40 minutes to complete them. Not only that, but with the way the AudioText is structured, students can enjoy watching the movie to reinforce comprehension at the end of certain sections.

Click here to begin reading, listening and watching Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Northanger Abbey" by Jane Austen

Flixster - Share Movies

Okay, I'm really, really excited about posting this novel (we're almost done... the first 11 chapters so far). Click here to read and LISTEN to Chapter 1 of "Northanger Abby" by Jane Austen.

Anyway, what is different from other sites is that we incorporate not only the novel's text, but also visitors can click to listen to the audio as they are reading.

And, let's just say, a visitor doesn't understand a particular word within the text. Well, now all you have to do is click the word, and the definition will pop-up. FOR EVERY WORD!

It's taken a great deal of programming to complete this (what we are calling) AudioText experience, but we think it will be well worth it for students reading this classic piece of literature.

In fact, we love the ability for students to be able to define any word they click within our text so much, that we've added it to just about every etext we've posted.

Anyway, please enjoy Austen's "Northanger Abbey" and let us know what you think about our latest AudioText pages, with the enhanced ability to be able to define any word. Love that!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Complete Collection of Aesop Tales

This was a monster undertaking. We put a complete collection of famous Aesop Fables online with text and narration on the same page.

Parents, teachers and students can now read and listen to the Aesop Fables. The list includes:

* "The Ant and the Grasshopper"
* "Avaricious and Envious"

* "The Bald Man and the Fly"
* "The Bat and the Weasels"
* "The Bats, the Birds, and the Beasts"
* "The Bear and the Fox"
* "Belling the Cat"
* "The Belly and the Members"
* "The Boy Hunting Locusts"
* "The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf'"
* "The Bundle of Sticks"

* "The Cat-Maiden"
* "The Charcoal-Burner and the Fuller"
* "The Crow and the Pitcher"

* "The Dog and the Shadow"
* "The Dog and the Wolf"
* "The Dog in the Manger"
* "The Donkey and the Grasshopper"
* "The Donkey in the Lion's Skin"
* "The Donkey, the Fox, and the Lion"

* "The Farmer and the Cranes"
* "The Farmer and the Snake"
* "The Father and His Sons"
* "The Fawn and His Mother"
* "The Fisher and the Little Fish"
* "The Flies and the Honeypot"
* "The Four Oxen and the Lion"
* "The Fox and the Cat"
* "The Fox and the Crow"
* "The Fox and the Grapes"
* "The Fox and the Lion"
* "The Fox and the Mosquitoes"
* "The Fox and the Stork"
* "The Fox, the Rooster, and the Dog"
* "The Fox Without a Tail"
* "The Frog and the Ox"

* "The Goose with the Golden Eggs"

* "The Hare and the Tortoise"
* "The Hart and the Hunter"
* "The Hart in the Ox-Stall"
* "Hercules and the Wagoner"
* "The Herdsman and the Lost Bull"
* "The Horse, Hunter, and Stag"

* "The Jay and the Peacock"

* "The Kingdom of the Lion"

* "The Labourer and the Nightingale"
* "The Lion and the Mouse"
* "The Lion and the Statue"
* "The Lion in Love"
* "The Lion, the Fox, and the Beasts"

* "The Man and His Two Wives"
* "The Man and the Lion"
* "The Man and the Satyr"
* "The Man and the Serpent"
* "The Man and the Wood"
* "The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey"
* "The Milkmaid and Her Pail"
* "The Miser and His Gold"
* "The Mole and His Mother"
* "The Mountain in Labor"

* "The Nurse and the Wolf"

* "The Peacock and Juno"
* "The Piglet, the Sheep, and the Goat"
* "The Pomegranate, Apple-Tree, and Bramble"

* "The Rooster and the Pearl"
* "The Raven and the Swan"

* "The Salt Merchant and His Donkey"
* "The Serpent and the File"
* "The Sick Lion"
* "The Swallow and the Crow"
* "The Swallow and the Other Birds"

* "The Tortoise and the Eagle"
* "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse"
* "The Traveler and His Dog"
* "The Tree and the Reed"
* "The Two Crabs"
* "The Two Fellows and the Bear"
* "The Two Pots"

* "The Wolf and the Crane"
* "The Wolf and the Kid"
* "The Wolf and the Lamb"
* "The Wind and the Sun"
* "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"
* "The Woodman and the Serpent"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Brownies on Skates" -- Elementary School Reading

We've had an overwhelmingly positive response from teachers and parents regarding our Palmer Cox "Brownies" series. So, we'd like to add one more story parents and teachers can reading to children, which always bring a smile to their face.

In "Brownies on Skates," Palmer Cox follows the Brownies as they come up with idea that they'd like to skate, break into a store for skates, skate in the moonlight, and return the skates to the store before dawn.

To read the story, with beautiful, original illustrations, click here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Brownies' Good Work" by Palmer Cox

For those that love classic literature with a moral bent, Palmer Cox's "Brownies' Good Work" is a wonderful example that should be read to all children. In the poem, the Brownies find a farmer unable to work his fields, due to injury. Knowing that if something isn't done for the farmer the field's yield will be lost, the Brownies chip in and help.

You can read the story here, complete with some of Palmer Cox's illustrations.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry

Yes, yes, we know. It's entirely too early to be thinking of Christmas in September. But, apart from being one of the great Christmas stories for kids, "The Gift of the Magi" is also a story of love and giving -- no matter what the season. O. Henry shows us to what ends couples, or love ones, or maybe just people will go to give to one another. In this classic short story, a young couple, Jim and Della, sell their most prized possessions in order to buy a Christmas gift for the other.

You can watch a short trailer of the full movie here.

Or, you can read the illustrated etext of the story here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Brownies Repair the Streets

We have been getting an awful lot of positive response from posting The Brownies. So, we'd like to follow-up with another great story to read, Brownies Repair the Streets. (And, for those of you interested in doing a little narration, please contact us at our website:

In this wonderful little tale, the Brownies come upon a street in total disrepair, and decide to help the townsfolk out by doing some service like Brownies true. The illustrations, by the author Palmer Cox, are wonderful and will bring a smile to your face.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Tobermory, by Saki (or H.H. Munro) tells the story of how a cat either is taught how to speak by a visiting Professor, or perhaps has been capable all along. Trouble is cats have an uncanny ability to lay under tables and chairs without being seen, as the guest of a dinner party soon find out after dear Tobermory begins to share a number of the guest's secrets and overheard conversations to all. In short, it's a brilliantly wicked little tale that is sure to amuse both children and adults alike.

To view an excerpt of the movie, click here.

To view the illustrated text, click here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to School with The Brownies

The Adam Smith Academy is going back-to-school this new school year with The Brownies! The Brownies are Palmer Cox's brilliantly funny and fun illustrated Brownies, that are always getting themselves in and out of adventures. If you love to read kids verse, that is sure to bring a smile to their face, The Brownies are the ticket. To get your feet wet for the new school year, enjoy The Brownies at School!  

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fun Student Assignments

Recently, we heard from an English teacher at a middle school who was using the animated classic literature movies in an ingenious way to teach her kids.

First, she would have her class watch one of the Adam Smith Academy illustrated movies. And, like most teachers that have used the site, she would follow it up with a class discussion of the story and quiz them on important points.

She then took it a step further, and asked them to become movie critics and review the movie, illustrations and narration. She did this specifically in order to elicit opinions on the illustrated style and narrated story-telling.

Then, she would assign another reading assignment, and have the students storyboard it themselves. This is where it got interesting. According to her, every child became a director. They literally attacked the assignment, each student looking to out-do and one-up their classroom competition. They poured over the reading material, finding their own important points and created elaborate Hollywood movies out it.

To quote the email we received, "Not only did the students come to class eager to share their vision of what a movie based on the story should look like, but they got into very heated discussions as to what was relevant and what wasn't in critiquing other student's ideas. It was like the class had become their own production company, and every student his or her own Spielberg. It was amazing! At the end of class, students were asking what new story they would be doing. I couldn't believe it."

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Pigs Is Pigs" by Ellis Parker Butler

The classic comedy short story, "Pigs Is Pigs" by Ellis Parker Butler has now been narrated and illustrated at the Adam Smith Academy. You can view the movie here! It's a great story that every kid should read... and with the Adam Smith Academy they can now view it with streaming video.

The can also download and view the "Pigs Is Pigs" eText here.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce is a classic literary short story that just about everyone in college must, and should, read in English 101. Now, you can watch a narrated and illustrated version in streaming video here.

You can also view the "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" eText here.

You can also view more animated classic short stories at the Adam Smith Academy website.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe

This animated version of "The Tell-Tale Heart," by Edgar Allan Poe, was narrated by Steve Anderson and illustrated by Eraklis Petmezas. You can view it here.

You can also view "The Tell-Tale Heart" eText here.

You can also view more animated classic short stories at the Adam Smith Academy website.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"The Bet" by Anton Chekhov

"The Bet" by Anton Chekhov asks the question: Which is better to die by capital punishment or to live a life in solitary confinement?

This particular short story has been adapted into several television shows and movies. You can also view "The Bet" eText at the Adam Smith Academy website.

View more animated classics at the Adam Smith Academy website.

"The Fox and The Crow" by Aesop

"The Fox and The Crow" is a classic Aesop fable, teaching children a valuable lesson regarding "flatterers".


You can view more animated classic short stories at the Adam Smith Academy website. You can also view "The Fox and The Crow" eText at the site.

"The Boarding House" by James Joyce

"The Boarding House" was a short story originally published in 1914 as a part of the literary classic, "Dubliners." It is considered one of James Joyce's favorite short stories.


See more animated classics at the Adam Smith Academy. Also you can view "The Boarding House" eText at the site.