Category Archives: Education

In Bosnia’s schools, three different people learn three different histories

Kristen Chick reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

‘Two decades after Bosnia’s brutal civil war ended, reconciliation is still a dream, one the education system is pushing further away from reality. Bosnia Serbs, Bosniak Muslims and Croats typically study in schools with curricula tailored to their ethnic biases. World War II is hardly the only period that receives wildly different treatments depending on the school.

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Study concludes that Britain is “deeply elitist” with a “closed shop at the top”

Andrew Sparrow reports for The Guardian:

An establishment acrostic‘Britain is “deeply elitist” because people educated at public school and Oxbridge have in effect created a “closed shop at the top”, according to a government report published on Thursday.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those “running Britain” was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering'”.

[...] The commission’s 76-page report mostly focuses on analysis, but it does include recommendations, saying government, schools, universities, employers and even parents all need to play their part in promoting social diversity.

Looking at the background of more than 4,000 people filling jobs at the top of government, the civil service, the judiciary, the media, business and the creative industries, the commission investigated where they went to school, on the grounds that going to a private school is reasonably indicative of a wealthy background.’

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The Government-Industry Conspiracy that Promotes Crap Food in School

Michele Simon writes for Al Jazeera America:

‘People often ask me, “How does lobbying work?” Last week it was with fat and sugar, when the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) hosted its 32nd annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party. Some 6,000 bowls of ice cream were served up to Sen.Tom Harkin, Reps. Pete Sessions, Robert Aderholt, Jeff Denham, John Shimkus, Ron Kind and Lamar Smith, among others, according to Politico.

Dairy lobbyists are ever present in Washington, and their efforts usually pay off. For example, last year when the IDFA implored the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give dairy foods a pass in the new snack food guidelines for schools, the agency capitulated, opening school doors to even more junk food, such as YoCrunch Lowfat Yogurt with M&Ms.

This is just one of many examples I uncovered in a report I published last month, “Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods” (PDF). The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. The assumption that eating dairy is essential to the diet has obstructed our ability to criticize federal government support for unhealthy dairy products, of which there are many.

One of the most important forms of government support is the federally mandated collection of industry fees for checkoff programs that promote milk and dairy.’

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Isaac Asimov: “Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is”

Teenagers from wealthy backgrounds still dominate top universities

Richard Garner reports for The Independent:

Piles of £10 notesTeenagers from wealthy backgrounds are still around 10 times more likely to get into top universities than those from poorer homes. Efforts to revive social mobility in Britain by widening access to the best universities have stalled, research indicates.

The report from an independent commission set up to examine the impact of higher university fees also reveals that the gender gap in university admissions is growing with you men from disadvantaged backgrounds the least likely to obtain a university place.

Will Hutton, who chairs the Independent Commission on Fees, said the findings showed “serious gaps in access to university remain. Young men from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly badly affected and remain under-represented in applications to all universities.”’

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GCHQ targets the ‘Xbox generation’ with cyber security university degrees

James Vincent reports for The Independent:

‘Intelligence agency GCHQ has partnered with six universities in the UK to offer specialized degrees in internet security. The BBC reports that the accredited master’s degrees are part of the UK’s 2011 cyber security strategy, with the aim being “to expand the pool of experts with in-depth knowledge of cyber” in the country.

The degrees will target the so-called ‘Xbox generation’ said one official, who have social media and gaming skills but no formal computer education. Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said that the program was a “crucial part” of the government’s long-term plans for the British economy and would help make the “UK one of the safest places in the world to do business online”.’

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New Zealand school plans microchip bracelets to encourage “good behaviour”

Fairfax Media reports:

‘A North Canterbury school’s plan to fit students with microchip bracelets to track their behaviour has prompted concern among parents.

Swannanoa School wants to use silicon bracelets as part of a scheme to reward good behaviour, minutes from a Parent Teacher Association meeting show. Teachers would use portable scanners to add points to a student’s online good behaviour chart with a reward when a certain amount of points was accumulated.

The school says the scheme would cost $7000 to set up. The proposal has been opposed by some parents. The Ministry of Education said it did not recommend the bracelets and would expect broad parent support before it was adopted by the school.’

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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)