When I asked my middle-school students what an AK-47 is, they flung their arms up so quickly that I thought someone might dislocate a shoulder.
A rousing (and mostly accurate) description followed. Then, I asked my favorite question:
"How do you know that?"
As the cacophony of “It’s an assault rifle!” and “It’s the most popular gun!” gave way to debating the merits of various Grand Theft Auto sequels, I silently thanked the violent video-game gods.
Middle schoolers love to talk about things they know, and they love to talk about things they do. Put these two together, and we could very well have an enlightening discussion about gun control.
It was a fitting moment to segue:
"So, what do you know about the gun fired at the LAX airport shooting?"
It may seem unusual to talk to young students about such an unsettling topic, but it’s business as usual for me, as I teach current events to 6th, 7th and 8th graders at an after-school academy in the Koreatown district of Los Angeles.
Read more. [Image: David Goldman/AP Photo]
In the latest Economics in Plain English, Derek Thompson looks at why the rising costs of college is more complicated than they might seem.
"We receive more research funding than almost any other university in the world,” Michael K. Young, the president of the University of Washington, crowed during his annual address to the school’s community in October. His enthusiasm seems justified: Research money has become a main source of lifeblood in higher education, especially at science- and technology-focused schools like the University of Washington. While donation dollars contribute to many aspects of university life, including student scholarships, government grants and private fellowships exist to support professors’ intellectual pursuits.
As schools pursue this kind of funding, they face a fundamental question: Should universities strive to produce research that has real-world applications, like the anti-aging drug development process that became the core of a start-up called GenetikSignal? Or should universities focus on basic research, like investigations into the neurological damage that can be caused by pesticides? Although these two ideas aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, they are at tension, especially when funding is limited (which is always). If one lab’s work might lead to the creation of new start-up while another only hopes to solve a theoretical problem, which deserves to get money?
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The U.S. education system is mediocre compared to the rest of the world, according to an international ranking of OECD countries.
More than half a million 15-year-olds around the world took the Programme for International Student Assessment in 2012. The test, which is administered every three years and focuses largely on math, but includes minor sections in science and reading, is often used as a snapshot of the global state of education. The results, published today, show the U.S. trailing behind educational powerhouses like Korea and Finland.
Read more. [Image: Joerg Sarbach/AP Photo]
Oregon wants 80 percent of its adults to hold a college degree or postsecondary certificate by 2025. To meet that goal, lawmakers are focused on making college more affordable—whether that means increasing funding after years of budget cuts or rethinking tuition payments altogether.
Currently, about a third of students in the Beaver State don’t graduate from high school on time—or at all—and just 61 percent of graduates immediately head to college. A third of Oregon students are nonwhite, and half of students are low-income.
State and local funding for higher education dropped by 32 percent between 2007 and 2012 even as enrollment jumped by 36.2 percent, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Unsurprisingly, Oregon students are paying 18 percent more in tuition and fees than the national average, and students’ debt loads are soaring.
Here are three ideas kicking around the state Legislature that would make college free, or much cheaper, for Oregon’s increasingly diverse student population. If the state can successfully pilot these concepts, they could catch on nationwide.
Read more. [Image: Robb Carr/AP Photo]
Imagine walking along a road past a pond, when out of the corner of your eye you see a toddler boy flailing about in the water. You quickly look around. There is no other adult in sight. If you don’t jump in to save him, no one else will. He will drown. You know what you have to do. You dive right in and drag the drowning toddler from the water.
But what if that little child were drowning—proverbially—half a world away? What would you do to save him then?
This is one of many questions Peter Singer, an Australian professor of bioethics at Princeton University, asks undergraduates during his popular semester-long course on practical ethics. The lecture course covers euthanasia, animal rights, infanticide and abortion, effective altruism, and other weighty topics.
Read more. [Image: Aaron Favila/AP Photo]
When it comes to tackling the problem of chronic absenteeism, students who already already have a track record of skipping class can be a particularly tough crowd to sway. But a new report out of New York City—where one out of every five students missed a month or more of school last year — suggests an intensive community-wide initiative is gaining ground.First, some background: chronic absenteeism is defined as missing at least 10 percent of the instructional days over the course of an academic year, which amounts to about 18 days in the average district. The national advocacy group
Attendance Works considers chronic absenteeism as an early warning system that too many schools, parents and students are failing to heed.
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Laurel Sturt was a 46-year-old fashion designer in New York City whose career trajectory took an unlikely shift one day on the subway. A self-proclaimed social activist, Sturt noticed an ad for a Teaching Fellows program. Then and there, she decided to quit her job in fashion design and shift her focus to her real passion: helping others. She enrolled in the two-year program and was assigned to teach at an elementary school in a high-poverty neighborhood near the South Bronx.
A decade later, Sturt has written about the experience in her provocative memoir Davonte’s Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School Gulag. I spoke with her about how her time in the classroom affected her views on education today.
Read more. [Image: Jim Young/Reuters]
One hundred dollars.
This is all that stood in between my aunt Gwen and the 1960 Olympics and a college degree. Following her senior year of high school in 1956, Ed Temple, the legendary coach of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Track and Field team, invited Gwen to the prestigious summer training camp at Tennessee State University. Her roommate there was Wilma Rudolph, the fastest woman in the world and first African-American woman to win three Olympic gold medals.
Over Christmas dinner last year, Gwen told the family how Coach Temple had offered her a scholarship to cover most of school, but that she’d need to come up with the remaining $100 on her own. That amount may sound small—about $900 in today’s dollars—but it was insurmountable to my grandparents, who were sharecroppers in the Deep South. It wasn’t that they didn’t value an investment in the education of their eldest daughter of eight children; it’s just that they couldn’t afford it.
In 1956, there was no such thing as federal student aid. And in the Jim Crow South, blacks below the poverty line had little to no chance of being approved for a private loan. So instead of standing on the podium collecting Olympic gold with her Tigerbelle teammates from Tennessee State, she spent decades in Newark and Boston working hourly-wage jobs.
It’d be nice to think federal student aid programs were originally created to help indigent students access the opportunities afforded through higher education.
Read more. [Image: Aresauburn/Flickr]