Category Archives: Education

Building a super-prison for children is a terrible idea

Frances Crook writes for The Guardian:

‘The Ministry of Justice has come up with the idea of building a super-prison for children as young as 12, at the core of which will be a regime of punishment and physical restraint. The jail will house around 300 boys and a handful of girls, and includes a planned unit for babies in case the girls get pregnant.

No one, but no one, supports this bizarre proposal, except for the companies that would profit from building the £85m complex. The government has refused to publish the rules or any details about what it is euphemistically calling a “secure college”. Next week the House of Lords will scrutinise the legislation and consider an amendment suggesting the whole idea be put on hold until more details are published.’

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How The NSA Plans To Recruit Your Teenagers

Andrew Jerell Jones reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - How The NSA Plans To Recruit Your Teenagers‘Kids across America no longer have to wait until college to plan on being a part of the National Security Agency. In fact, they could start preparing for their NSA careers as early as age 13.

The NSA has begun sponsoring cybersecurity camps for middle and high school students, agency recruiter Steven LaFountain told CNBC’s Eamon Javers in a recent interview. Six prototype camps launched this past summer, and the NSA hopes to eventually have a presence in schools in all 50 states.’

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One in ten world leaders studied in the UK

Pan European Networks reports:

‘One in ten current world leaders have studied in the UK, according to research by the British Council.

The analysis found that of heads of state who have studied at universities abroad, the proportion of UK alumni rises even higher to 31% – a close second to those who’ve studied in the USA (34%). But when measured as a proportion of total students in each country, analysis suggests that the UK is ten times more likely to produce a world leader than the USA – UK universities produces one world leader per 50,000 graduates, whereas the US produces one per 500,000.’

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Alabama high schools secretly monitoring students’ social media accounts ‘after tip-off from the NSA?

Annabel Grossman reports for The Daily Mail:

student1.jpg‘A secret surveillance program has been running in an Alabama high schools after a phone call from the National Security Agency alerted the district to a ‘violent threat’. School officials claim the system began monitoring students’ social media accounts in Huntsville City Schools 18 months ago, when the NSA tipped them off that a student was making violent threats on Facebook

The schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence, as part of a program called SAFe, or Students Against Fear. Internal documents explaining the program were obtained by AL.com, showing four different students – three males and one female – posing on Facebook with handguns.’

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Rise of Islamic education system unnerves secular Turks

Dilay Gundogan and Emmanuelle Baillon report for AFP:

‘When Turkish pupils received their school entry exam results after the end of last term, textile worker and father Halil Ibrahim Beyhan received an unpleasant surprise His daughter had been assigned to a religious high school, like thousands of other students under a new system that caught many parents off guard.

Parents, educators and civil society groups have decried the move as another attack on Turkey’s secular principles by the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing the government of imposing religion on students.’

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Plymouth University under fire for spending £150,000 on 7 designer chairs

Sarah Cassidy reports for The Independent:

‘A scandal-hit university which has already seen its vice chancellor suspended and its chairman of governors stand aside as part of a bitter boardroom feud, has spent £150,000 on seven designer chairs. Plymouth University has commissioned the award-winning furniture designer John Makepeace to make seven handcrafted chairs to be used at graduation ceremonies.

The news follows revelations earlier this month that the university had spent more than £24,000 on sending six members of staff to a conference in Miami earlier this year. This was despite threatened job losses which have prompted a series of protests by lecturers at the Plymouth University campus this summer.’

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Occupy Movement Buys & Forgives $4 Million In Student Loan Debt

Koch foundation proposal to college: Teach our curriculum, get millions

Dave Levinthal reports for The Center for Public Integrity:

‘In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.

First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.

Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman — even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.’

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U.S. Justice Department sides with 14-year-old girl raped while serving as ‘bait’ in middle school sting

Challen Stephens reports for AL.com:

‘The federal government today sided with the guardian of a teenage girl who was raped during a botched sting operation in the boy’s bathroom, arguing the Madison County School system was liable under federal law to investigate harassment and protect female students.

“A school board cannot avoid summary judgment as a matter of law when a school administrator willfully ignores a plan to use a 14-year-old special needs student as bait to catch a student with a known history of sexual and violent misconduct, and as a result, the student is sodomized,” reads the federal brief filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals late today.

The U.S. Department of Justice argues administrators at Sparkman Middle School near Huntsville knew the boy was dangerous and showed “deliberate indifference.”‘

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Jerusalem teachers warn of increase in racism after Gaza war

Yarden Skop reports for Haaretz:

‘Teachers in Jerusalem say they are concerned about facing more racism than ever before in the capital’s schools, especially following Operation Protective Edge. As the school year opens, the Education Ministry has published lesson plans on racism to be taught during the first two weeks, but many teachers say that is not enough.’

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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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