Category Archives: Education

Are Students Who Protest Against the Cuts ‘Extremists’?

Josh Allen writes for Vice:

‘Letters to parents requesting a meeting to discuss “concerns that have been raised” usually only happen at school to the parents of kids with the foresight to realise that smoking while your lungs are still developing is totally badass. When you’re an adult, you don’t have to worry about your parents finding out what you get up to, unless you’re stupid enough to get duped into taking a free holiday by BBC3.

So you can imagine the surprise University of Birmingham Politics student Pat Grady’s parents felt when a letter from counter terrorism police, landed on their doormat inviting them “into the local police station” to “discuss concerns” that their son “[might] be involved with domestic extremism”.’

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OECD: England’s teachers overworked and ‘not valued by society’

Graeme Paton reports for The Telegraph:

A teacher helps a boy in red school sweater working at a laptopTeachers in England are working longer hours than those in most other developed nations despite being badly paid and feeling “undervalued” by society, according to international research.

A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that just a third of teachers – 35 per cent – believe they are appreciated by the general public.

The study, which was based on an analysis of 106,000 teachers in 34 countries, found that the profession in England generally performed well across most indicators.’

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FDA considering ban on electric shock therapy

My Fox Boston reported last month:

‘A doctor who was part of an FDA advisory panel on electric shock therapy says the Judge Rotenberg Center is not reporting device malfunctions that randomly shock students to the government as required.

“We have no data on how often this device is malfunctioning,” said Dr. Steven Miles, a physician who served on a panel advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the devices used to deliver the shocks. “Any time that you have a medical device failure, in this case administering random shocks, you cause trauma to people. And in this case you traumatize people with learning disabilities.”

The Canton-based Rotenberg Center, the only place in the country using the devices, disagrees, saying the misfires don’t meet the FDA reporting standard of causing death or serious injury. The FDA, however, is not so sure.’

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Ha-Joon Chang: Trickle-down economics doesn’t work…

Schools should fine ‘bad parents’, says Ofsted chief

From the Press Association:

Michael Wilshaw‘Teachers should confront “bad parents” and heads should be given powers to fine mothers and fathers who fail to support their children’s education, the chief inspector of schools has said. Sir Michael Wilshaw called for headteachers to be given the authority to impose financial penalties on parents who allow homework to be left undone, miss parents’ evenings or fail to read with their children.

The head of the schools watchdog, Ofsted, also said that poverty was too often used as an excuse for educational failure among white working-class families, whose children were often outperformed by those from immigrant communities. His comments come after the education secretary, Michael Gove, indicated that parents would face “stronger sanctions” if they failed to ensure their children turned up to school and behaved properly, potentially in the form of deductions from benefits.’

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Cory Doctorow novel pulled from school reading for ‘questioning authority’

Alison Flood reports for The Guardian:

Little Brother, Cory Doctorow’s novel about teenagers rebelling against the surveillance state, has been pulled from a school reading programme in Florida this summer following what the author said were concerns from the school’s principal over its questioning of authority and its “lauding” of hacker culture.

According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, Little Brother was chosen for a school-wide summer reading programme at Booker T Washington High School in Pensacola, Florida “after an extensive process by the professional staff”. It has subsequently been withdrawn “because of concerns that some parents might object to scenes involving sex and violence and the idea of questioning authority”, said the American free speech organisation. Doctorow wrote on his blog Boingboing that the principal, Dr Michael Roberts, “cited reviews that emphasised the book’s positive view of questioning authority, lauding ‘hacker culture’, and discussing sex and sexuality in passing … In short, he made it clear that the book was being challenged because of its politics and its content.”‘

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Obama woos student borrowers with executive order on loan repayments

Heidi Moore reports for The Guardian:

Obama signs the order at the White House.‘In another attempt to stem the economic threat of high student debt and win favor for his party before November’s election, President Obama on Monday signed an executive order that will limit federal student loan payments for 5 million more people. Calling an education “the single best investment you can make in your future,” Obama extended the four-year-old Pay As You Earn initiative, which has lowered monthly payments for student who borrowed federal student loans for the first time between 2008 and 2011.’

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We are losing the art of reading

Andy Miller writes for The Guardian:

A hand taking Charles Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit  from a bookshelf‘[...] The fact is that when reading a book there is no substitute for reading a book. I have just written one about 50 “great” books, the research for which involved staring at lines of words on pages until first the lines, and subsequently the pages, ran out, and then thinking about them until I knew what I wanted to commit to paper. Some of the books are from the canon, and can be considered “classics” – Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, Moby-Dick – and some are most certainly neither: The Da Vinci Code and, in the words of the Guardian’s reviewer, “something called Krautrocksampler” by Julian Cope. The experience led me to conclude that although we love to argue about books, acquire them, express strong opinions about The Goldfinch, etc, etc, more than ever we seem to be losing the knack of reading them.

In a New York Times blog, Karl Taro Greenfield talked about “faking cultural literacy”. “What we all feel now is the constant pressure to know enough, at all times, lest we be revealed as culturally illiterate,” he writes. “What matters to us, awash in petabytes of data, is not necessarily having actually consumed this content first-hand but simply knowing that it exists.”‘

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Chilean activist destroys student debt papers worth $500m

Neela Debnath writes for The Independent:

Chilean artist Francisco Tapia‘An activist in Chile has burnt documents representing $500 million (£300 million) worth of student debt during a protest at Universidad del Mar. Francisco Tapia, who is also known as “Papas Fritas”, claimed that he had “freed” the students by setting fire to the debt papers or “pagarés”. Mr Tapia has justified his actions in a video he posted on YouTube on Monday 12 May, which has since gone viral and garnered over 55,000 views.

In the five-minute video the artist and activist, translated by the Chilean news site Santiago Times, he passionately says: “You don’t have to pay another peso [of your student loan debt]. We have to lose our fear, our fear of being thought of as criminals because we’re poor. I am just like you, living a s**tty life, and I live it day by day — this is my act of love for you.” He confessed he destroyed the papers without the knowledge of the students during a takeover at the university demanding free higher education.’

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Privatise child protection services, Department for Education proposes

Patrick Butler reports for The Guardian:

Child protection conferences – how to demystify them (Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian)‘The power to take children away from their families could be privatised along with other child protection services under controversial plans the government has quietly announced. The proposal from Michael Gove‘s Department for Education (DfE) to permit the outsourcing of children’s social services in England to companies such as G4S and Serco has alarmed experts. They say profit-making companies should not be in charge of such sensitive family matters, and warn that the introduction of the profit motive into child protection may distort the decision-making process.

A DfE consultation paper published last month argues that enabling local authorities to outsource children’s social services will encourage innovation and improve outcomes for at-risk youngsters. Private providers will allow authorities to “harness third-party expertise” and “stimulate new approaches to securing improvements” for safeguarding services outside “traditional hierarchies”, the document says.’

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Why ADHD is Not a Disorder: Interview with Thom Hartmann

Abby Martin speaks with Thom Hartmann, host of ‘The Big Picture’ and author of ‘Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception’ about the enormous rise of diagnoses of ADHD among American children, and his research into the origin of the perceived disorder as an evolutionary adaption instead of a disorder.’ (Breaking the Set)

Brand names that appear in New York’s Common Core standardized tests anger parents

From the AP:

‘”Just Do It” has been a familiar Nike slogan for years, but some parents are wondering what it was doing on some of New York’s Common Core standardized English tests. Brands including Barbie, iPod, Mug Root Beer and Life Savers showed up on the tests more than a million students in grades 3 through 8 took this month, leading to speculation it was some form of product placement advertising.

New York state education officials and the test publisher say the brand references were not paid product placement but just happened to be contained in previously published passages selected for the tests. Some critics aren’t so sure and questioned why specific brand names would be mentioned at all… The test questions have not been made public, and teachers and principals are barred from discussing them. But teachers posting anonymously on education blogs have complained that students were confused by the brand names, which were accompanied by trademark symbols.’

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Hated £9,000 university tuition fees might not save any money, says report

Andrew Grice reports for The Independent:

‘The trebling of university tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year in England may not save taxpayers any money, an independent think-tank has warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the shake-up of higher education funding in 2012 could reduce the state’s contribution to each student by only five per cent, and warned that this saving could be wiped out if maximum fees were raised by £500 a year. Its research raises the prospect that the controversial hike in fees may not result in any financial gain for taxpayers despite the political pain – not least for Nick Clegg, who apologised for breaking the Liberal Democrats’ 2010 election promise not to raise fees.

University funding could become an issue at next year’s general election. The Conservatives have not ruled out a further rise in fees, but Mr Clegg insists there is no need to increase them. Labour will fight the election on a pledge to reduce fees to at least £6,000 a year and could opt for a lower figure.’

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The 16 Most Powerful Members Of ‘Skull And Bones’

Christina Sterbenz writes for Business Insider:

‘In 1832, five Yale students — including future President William Howard Taft’s father — founded one of America’s most famous secret societies: Skull and BonesSince then, the group has come to signify all that both mesmerizes and repulses the public about the elite.  Each year, only 15 seniors are “tapped,” or chosen, for lifetime membership in the club.

A windowless building on 64 High St., the “Tomb,” serves as the club’s headquarters. The roof is a landing pad for a private helicopter, according to Alexandra Robbins’ book, “Secrets of the Tomb.” For that perk and others, Bonesmen must swear total allegiance to the club. New members divulge intimate personal details, including their full sexual histories, before they’re inducted. They also agree to give part of their estates to the club. But, in return, they receive the promise of lifelong financial stability — so they won’t feel tempted to sell the club’s secrets, Robbins writes.

Until 1971, the organization published annual rosters, kept on file at the university’s library. While most recent members of the society remain tight-lipped about those secrets, we at least know the identities of some of most powerful Bonesmen. Among those business titans, poets, politicians, and three U.S. Presidents, we picked the honor roll.’

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A quarter of UK teachers bring food into school to help hungry pupils

Richard Garner reports for The Independent:

Teachers are having to bring in food to give their pupils breakfast every day because they are too hungry and exhausted to learn as a result of increased poverty, according to a report out today. A survey of 4,000 teachers concluded that the educational opportunities for thousands of children were being blighted by the impact of the Government’s social and economic policies.

The survey, by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said 80 per cent of teachers observed pupils lacking in energy and concentration as a result of eating poorly. Many were also unable to participate in activities like school trips because their parents could not afford to pay for them. In addition, 27 per cent said they brought in food for pupils themselves because they knew they were too hungry to learn, while 55 per cent said pupils were missing out on important education activities because they had no money to pay for them.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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