Category Archives: Education

Professors object to Condoleezza Rice’s inclusion in civil-rights lecture series

Joe Kimball writes for MinnPost:

Nearly 200 University of Minnesota professors have joined the controversy over a scheduled speech on Thursday by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying in a public letter that they don’t think the Humphrey School lecture series is an appropriate forum for her talk. The speech at the university’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs is part of the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series, which, this year, focuses on civil rights.

Students and others have been protesting the appearance of Rice, who was involved in many of the Bush administration’s controversial human-rights decisions before and during the Iraq War, on such issues as prisoner renditions, torture, the detention of militants at Guantanamo Bay, and others. The professors signing the letter say they support Rice’s right to free speech, and would like to hear her talk about her foreign-policy decisions and experiences, but they don’t feel the civil-rights lecture series is the right time or place.


Lee Camp: You Don’t Even Know You’re Being Manipulated

The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene

Kyle DroppJoshua D. Kertzer and Thomas Zeitzoff write for The Washington Post:

Where’s Ukraine?  Each dot depicts the location where a US survey respondent situated Ukraine; the dots are colored based on how far removed they are from the actual country, with the most accurate responses in red and the least accurate ones in blue. (Data: Survey Sampling International; Figure: Thomas Zeitzoff/The Monkey Cage)

Since Russian troops first entered the Crimean peninsula in early March, a series of media polling outlets have asked Americans how they want the U.S. to respond to the ongoing situation.  Although two-thirds of Americans have reported following the situation at least “somewhat closely,” most Americans actually know very little about events on the ground — or even where the ground is.

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.


Millennials: The greatest generation?

Chris Erskine writes for the LA Times:

All hail the millennials. If not now, then soon.The current crop of young people, the millennials (hatched roughly 1982 to 2004), show all the signs of becoming the greatest generation in human history, surpassing the legendary minds of the Renaissance, or the American Revolution or Brokaw’s esteemed and very worthy WWII America.

I’m not merely being provocative or Pollyannaish — because every generation of parents believes in the promise of its own progeny, even as we mock their awful music. Nor have I been puffing on the wrong end of the peace pipe. I’m simply stating what I’ve found, in teaching them, coaching them and working alongside the sassy little punks: They stand to become the greatest generation we’ve ever seen.

They are inherently more adaptive, they are idealistic, they are tolerant of differences. They are aspirational in all the right ways. At our prodding, they worked harder in high school than we ever did in college.

As a result, the older ones (26 to 33) are the best-educated segment of young adults in American history, according to a Pew Research Center study of millennials that was released in March. (One-third of that group has a four-year college degree or better.) The think tank’s sweeping study of millennials’ attitudes toward religion, race and politics also surveyed the group’s view of the future.


George Washington University launches a master’s program in lobbying for aspiring global influencers

From Politico:

A new Master’s degree program at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management will focus on preparing students for careers in global governance and policy influence. The 39-credit Advocacy in the Global Environment degree is designed to meet today’s global emphasis among corporations, organizations and associations. It will be offered both on campus and online and includes a weeklong study abroad in key international cities.

Graduates will learn to lobby before legislatures of foreign countries, create advocacy plans for multinational corporations, non-profits and NGOs and advise clients on regulatory and policy changes for a foreign country or region.

“Whether you are seeking commerce or a cause, learning advocacy in a global environment is an essential skill to really be successful,” said GSPM Director Mark Kennedy. “This is the first program that will teach students not just how to engage your own state capital or Washington, but how do you engage Beijing, Brussels or Brasília.”

Girl suspended from school for shaving her head in support of friend with cancer

UK Ministers defend ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales

Alan Travis reports for the Guardian:

Justice ministers have defended their ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales, saying it is integral to a new system of rewards and punishments.

The ban on books being sent to prisoners by families and friends is part of a new “incentives and earned privileges” regime, introduced last November, which allows prisoners access to funds to buy books and other items as they move up from “basic” level.

Justice ministry officials say lifting the ban on sending in books would undermine the basis of the new regime.


Segregation in Public Schools Still Thriving

Abby Martin goes over a disturbing new report by the US Department of Education, which shows how black students at public schools are suspended or expelled at a rate three times higher than white students.’ (Breaking the Set)

Unpaid student loans ‘a fiscal time bomb for universities

Rowena Mason and Shiv Malik report for the Guardian:

The university sector is facing a “fiscal time bomb”, the chairman of the Commons business committee has warned, after it was revealed that the government has dramatically revised down the proportion of student debt that will ever be repaid. Adrian Bailey said the Treasury needed to face up to the problem, after David Willetts, the universities minister, revealed the rate of non-repayment of student loans is near the point at which experts believe tripling tuition fees will add nothing to Treasury coffers.

…The Guardian revealed on Friday that the proportion of graduates failing to pay back student loans is increasing at such a rate that the Treasury is approaching the point at which it will get zero financial reward from the government’s policy of tripling tuition fees to £9,000 a year. New official forecasts suggest write-off costs have reached 45% of the £10bn in student loans made each year, all but nullifying any savings to the public purse made following the introduction of the new fee system.


Study: Preschoolers Better At Figuring Out How Gadgets Work Than College Students

From CBS Atlanta:

File photo of preschool children in a classroom. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)A recent study revealed that preschool-age children are better at figuring out how to use technological gadgets than college students. CBS News is reporting that researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, tasked 106 children between the ages of 4 and 5 and 170 college students with figuring out how to use a gadget with which they had no prior experience.

The gadget worked by placing different clay shapes in special boxes to determine which combination would cause a box to light up and play music. Ultimately, the younger children were reportedly much faster at figuring out the correct combination, CBS News learned.


From hoodies to goodies: today’s teenagers have the makings of model citizens

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett writes for the Guardian:

Good news, for those of you who had lost hope in modern society. According to a report by the thinktank Demos today’s teenagers – or youth, as certain newspapers prefer to dub them – far from being antisocial hoody-clad riot-mongers, are actually highly concerned with social issues, keen to volunteer, and take fewer drugs and drink less alcohol than previous generations. This had led to someone who clearly has no real-life experience of the teenage psyche labelling them “Generation C” (C for citizen). Cool.

Despite its cheesiness, Generation C makes a welcome change from the media moniker I once saw attached to my own contemporaries amid the pages of a rightwing paper – the “F**k-it generation” (their asterisks). Contrary to what the media might have you believe, teenagers aren’t all about neknomination, dick pics and goading one another into suicide on Tumblr – some of them are actually quite nice. Even their teachers, in a study by Schoolzone, agreed that teenagers seemed more concerned about social issues. And yet 81% of teenagers felt they were negatively represented in the media and that this was having an adverse effect on their lives.


Universities ask prospective students to stop aping egotistical hyperbole of The Apprentice

From the Sunday Times:

University applicants are adopting the “frantic self-advertisement” of contestants in The Apprentice in an effort to stand out, according to admission tutors.

A growing number of sixth-formers are littering the personal statements of their Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) form with the kind of hyperbole favoured by candidates on the BBC1 show.

But statements designed to impress, such as “My achievements at school were vast” or “I tackle the tasks presented to me with wisdom and sincerity”, are having the opposite effect.

In advice to applicants hoping to study English, Southampton University tells students to avoid “frantic self-advertisement” and says they are “applying to the English department, not The Apprentice”. Linda Ruth Williams, a professor of film studies at Southampton, said: “Some personal statements suffer from hyperbole, it’s media-fuelled… we want to hear their own voice, not a self-aggrandising voice.”


Free Education Lures Somali Children From Streets

From AP:

Two years ago Mohamed Aden was a shoe shiner in Mogadishu, walking the streets of the Somali capital in search of clients even as his friends attended school. Now the 12-year-old boy sits proudly among classmates. For Aden, a poor boy whose family lives in a derelict building in a Mogadishu slum, the transition from streets to classroom might never have happened without a new government-run program called Go2School that seeks to give a free elementary school education to at least 1 million children.

Many in Somalia are happy with the new program, but the country’s al-Qaida-linked militant group this week warned that schools are legitimate targets for attack. Sheikh Ali Mohamed Hussein, a senior al-Shabab official, told reporters on Tuesday that the education program seeks to secularize Somali children. Despite a long history of such anti-education threats, the donor-funded program has proved popular with parents as well as children who otherwise would have no opportunity to get even the most basic education in a country with one of the worst literacy rates in the world.


Six-year-old schoolboy suspended for having Mini Cheddars in his lunchbox has now been expelled

From The Independent:

A six-year-old boy suspended for having a packet of Mini Cheddars in his lunchbox has now been expelled from school.

Riley Pearson was suspended for four days last Wednesday from Colnbrook CofE Primary School in Berkshire, after teachers found the packet of snacks in his lunchbox.

He had been due to return to school on Tuesday, but his parents say that both Riley and his four-year-old brother have now been permanently excluded because of the row over what he eats for lunch.


Army of door-knocking neighbours should be paid to keep ‘bad parents’ in line, says Ofsted chief

From The Telegraph:

Teachers and social workers have a responsibility to tell some people they are “bad parents”, the chief inspector of schools and social care has insisted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw called for an army of “good citizens” to be given financial incentives to wake problem families up in the morning and make sure the children are fed and sent to school.

The former inner-city headmaster who is now the Ofsted chief, also told MPs that there was “undoubtedly” a link between family breakdown and the neglect and abuse of children.


Utah School Threw Out Students’ Lunches Because They Were In Debt

From ThinkProgress:

A Utah school’s child nutrition manager threw out the lunches of about 40 elementary school students this week after the kids’ parents fell behind on payment.

Some parents at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City say they didn’t even realize they were indebted to the school. The school apparently made calls Monday and Tuesday telling some parents that there was a balance on their accounts, and the children of those who had missed the call were the ones whose lunches got thrown out.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the child nutrition manager’s original plan was to withhold lunches for kids whose parents hadn’t paid. But cafeteria workers were unable to distinguish who was on that list before serving. Once the food had been dished out, food safety codes say it can’t be given to another student and must be thrown away.

The children were given milk and fruit instead of a full lunch — the meal that the school says it gives any child who isn’t able to pay.


New York’s data collection plan would track students from preschool to workforce

From USA Today:

Photo Credit: Konstantin Yolshin/Shutterstock

The state Education Department is in the final stages of creating a system to share student data with colleges and a half-dozen other state agencies so that New Yorkers can be tracked from preschool to college to the workforce and, potentially, “throughout their lives.”

As education reformers push the power of data analysis, state officials say the new system will let researchers find the keys to student achievement and failure. What does prekindergarten background say about the likelihood of success in high school Advanced Placement classes? How did college students who fail science do in middle school? What are the links between applying for unemployment benefits as an adult and one’s educational history?

“The only purpose of this work is to get information that can make our education programs better,” said associate education commissioner Ken Wagner, who is leading the initiative. “We want to learn the types of courses that kids do well in that will predict success in college and the workforce.”

But this is a time of growing public anxiety about the use and security of data. Many educators and parents have railed against the state’s separate plans to send identifiable student data to the privately run inBloom cloud service for storage and controlled public use. Critics say the Education Department’s little-known plans to share data with other agencies — known as P-20 — raise all sorts of concerns about how closely government should be following citizens’ lives.


Meditation transforms roughest San Francisco schools

Barry Zito, David Lynch, Russell Brand meditate with students during Quiet Time at Burton High. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The ChronicleFrom The San Francisco Chronicle:

At first glance, Quiet Time – a stress reduction strategy used in several San Francisco middle and high schools, as well as in scattered schools around the Bay Area – looks like something out of the om-chanting 1960s. Twice daily, a gong sounds in the classroom and rowdy adolescents, who normally can’t sit still for 10 seconds, shut their eyes and try to clear their minds. I’ve spent lots of time in urban schools and have never seen anything like it.

This practice – meditation rebranded – deserves serious attention from parents and policymakers. An impressive array of studies shows that integrating meditation into a school’s daily routine can markedly improve the lives of students. If San Francisco schools Superintendent Richard Carranza has his way, Quiet Time could well spread citywide.


Fury at £105,000 pay rise for Sheffield University boss Sir Keith Burnett after he refused to raise employees’ salaries to the living wage

From The Independent:

A leading university vice-chancellor secured a £105,000 pay rise last year while his institution was refusing to lift its employees’ salaries to the level of the living wage.

The decision to award the increase to Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of Sheffield University – one of the elite Russell Group – has infuriated staff at the institution, who have been told their rises must be limited to just 1 per cent. They have joined national strike action over the award which included a two-hour walkout of lessons and lectures earlier this week.

The package awarded to Sir Keith includes £27,000 in lieu of pension payments after he withdrew from the pension scheme. However, according to accounts, that still leaves him with a 29 per cent rise, or £78,000, the largest in the sector in 2012/13.


Couple face jail after taking children out of school for holiday

From The Independent:

A couple who took their three children out of school for a week’s holiday could be jailed under a law which came into effect days before they went away.

Stewart and Natasha Sutherland faced an appearance before magistrates in Telford, Shropshire today after they refused to pay fines which may now go up to £2,000 – and they could both be jailed for up to three months.

The family of five went on holiday to the Greek island of Rhodes for seven days in September last year. But under a change to the Education Act of 1996, from 1 September their children’s school was only allowed to grant them leave in “exceptional circumstances”.


Taxpayer-funded academies paying millions to private firms

Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PAFrom The Guardian:

Taxpayer-funded academy chains have paid millions of pounds into the private businesses of directors, trustees and their relatives, documents obtained from freedom of information requests show.

The payments have been made for a wide range of services including consultancy fees, curriculums, IT advice and equipment, travel, expenses and legal services by at least nine academy chains.

Critics fear that the Department for Education (DfE) is not closely monitoring the circulation of public money from academies to private firms.

While defending their use of public money, one trustee of an academy chain has called for increased scrutiny of their spending. Another said a director had resigned from the trust because of fears over a conflict of interest.


Privacy concerns raised as more than one million pupils are fingerprinted in schools

From The Independent:

More than a million pupils have been fingerprinted at their secondary school – thousands without their parents’ consent, according to new research published on Friday.

Figures show that four out of 10 secondary schools now use biometric technology as a means of identifying pupils – with nearly a third failing in their duty to seek parental consent before introducing the system.

The figures are based on Freedom of Information request returns from 1,255 schools to the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch with the group warning pupils will grow up believing “it is normal to be tracked like this all the time”.


Cambridge University backlash at Duke of Cambridge’s ‘free pass’ to study there

From The Telegraph:

If he was expecting a hero’s welcome from fellow students when he begins a course at Cambridge University next week, the Duke of Cambridge may have to think again.

The news that the Duke will spend a term studying a “bespoke” course in agriculture has prompted a backlash from other students who resent him being given a “free pass” when they had to work so hard to get there.

In its report on the Duke’s imminent arrival, the university student newspaper The Tab pointed out that: “Normally students need A*AA at A-level to gain entry to Cambridge University, whilst the Prince only achieved a mediocre ABC.

“Conveniently though for Will, he is the registered benefactor of the department he will be studying at.”


Vice-chancellors at Britain’s top universities get £22,000 pay rises – as lecturers are stuck on 1 per cent

From The Independent:

Vice-chancellors of the UK’s top universities pocketed average pay rises of £22,000 last year – while insisting their employees stuck to just a one per cent increase.

A survey showed the Russell Group universities – which represents 24 of the most selective higher education institutions in the country – awarded pay rises of 8.1 per cent on average to their vice-chancellors while overall benefits packages also soared by 5.2 per cent.

In many cases, argued union leaders, the rises themselves were more than the annual salary of their staff – now locked in a pay dispute after rejecting a one per cent pay offer.

The findings angered university union leaders, who warned of the prospect of more industrial action on campuses once term resumes later this month.


We Say We Like Creativity, but We Really Don’t


Illustration by Rob Donnell

From Slate:

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

“We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,” says Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school who specializes in creativity.

Staw says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.

Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas.


Multiple arrests as hundreds of student protesters clash with police in central London

From The Independent:

Thirty-six student protesters were arrested in London last night, with many more kettled, during a ‘Cops off Campus’ demonstration over police presence on university campuses.

Between 200 and 300 students gathered outside the University of London Union to protest over alleged police brutality on Wednesday, which included video footage appearing to show a policeman punching a student.

Two of those arrested were held on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and 34 people for suspected breach of the peace and affray, all of whom were taken to stations across south London.

Many protesters split up or went home due to bad weather. Others were diverted towards Euston Square station where they were kettled by officers from more than 20 police vans.

Three officers suffered minor injuries during the demonstration which saw protesters travelling from as far as Coventry.


Uncensoring Howard Zinn’s History

Mom Gives Kids Homemade Lunch, School Forces Them to Eat Ritz Crackers

Mom Gives Kids Homemade Lunch, School Forces Them to Eat Ritz CrackersFrom Gawker:

A mom who thought she was properly parenting by sending her two young kids to school with a homemade, whole-food lunch was shocked to find a penalty note from school officials informing her that the lunch of roast beef, potatoes, carrots, oranges and milk she provided was “unbalanced” and therefore had to be supplemented with Ritz crackers.

She was also fined $10.


At some schools, ‘Big Brother’ is watching

From CNN:

Just as parents are grappling with how to keep their kids safe on social media, schools are increasingly confronting a controversial question: Should they do more to monitor students’ online interactions off-campus to protect them from dangers such as bullying, drug use, violence and suicide?

This summer, the Glendale school district in suburban Los Angeles captured headlines with its decision to pay a tech firm $40,500 to monitor what middle and high school students post publicly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

The school district went with the firm Geo Listening after a pilot program with the company last spring helped a student who was talking on social media about “ending his life,” company CEO Chris Frydrych told CNN’s Michael Martinez in September.

“We were able to save a life,” said Richard Sheehan, the Glendale superintendent, adding that two students in the school district had committed suicide the past two years.

“It’s just another avenue to open up a dialogue with parents about safety,” he said.


William Deresiewicz: The true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers