Tag Archives: education

This is the American Way¡

I recently heard that the inverted exclamation point is used to denote irony which is why I used it in the title of this post – This is the American Way¡ – and after reading the following you’ll hopefully agree that it’s appropriate. Dateline New York:

PS 120 in Flushing held a carnival for its students Thursday, but kids whose parents did not pay $10 were forced to sit in the auditorium while their classmates had a blast.

Close to 900 kids went to the Queens schoolyard affair, with pre-K to fifth-grade classes taking turns, each spending 45 minutes outside. The kids enjoyed inflatable slides, a bouncing room and a twirly teacup ride. They devoured popcorn and flavored ices. DJs blasted party tunes.

But more than 100 disappointed kids were herded into the darkened auditorium to just sit or watch an old Disney movie while aides supervised — the music, shouts and laughter outside still audible…

Principal Joan Monroe tacked up a list of the number of students per class: “How many attending, Paid,” and “How many not attending, Not paid.”

On Thursday morning, Monroe used the school loudspeaker to remind teachers to send in a list of kids who did not pay.

While teachers were handed a bag of little stuffed animals to give kids who paid for the carnival, one withheld them until she could add her own gifts for the half-dozen or so kids in her class who didn’t go.

She may not have meant it, but I’d say the principal gave her students a real life lesson in how things work in the world beyond the walls of PS 120. Of course if the kids whose parents didn’t pay had been allowed to attend then I know a few people who would say, “Well, they’re getting a good lesson in how our entitlement society works.” Still, I can’t imagine anyone thinking this is the right approach to take with these kids. If it’s an event taking place after school hours at which admission is tied to the money paid then at least the kids whose parents didn’t/couldn’t pay aren’t confronted with the sight of their classmates participating while they can’t, but doing this during the school day when they can’t help but wonder why they’re being “punished”? That’s just stupid.

That Degree in English Might Finally Get Some Respect

I might need to dust off the old resume, because apparently my English degree makes me a hot commodity:

…the skills you develop as an English major are the skills American business always says it needs more of: critical thinking, analytical ability, and the ability to communicate clearly. That was true 32 years ago and it remains true today. Those skills will prepare you for jobs that don’t even exist yet. I know that’s true because they did for me.

In fact, American business’s global competitors are finding they need the same skills, and that their job-focused college educations aren’t providing the people they need who have those skills. So they’re retooling their higher education along the U.S.’s traditional liberal-arts model.

And if you don’t believe Lex, well then check out this piece from American Express that he linked to. The article outlines some of the skills that employers are looking for that English majors have in spades; communication, writing, researching, critical thinking and empathy. That’s all great and good, but if you really want to be a stud you still might need to add a specific area of expertise to those broad skills:

The Association of American Colleges and Universities conducted a recent survey of what employers want from new hires. Its survey report, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, shows that more than half of business executives want college graduates to have not only field-specific knowledge and skills, but a broad range of skills and knowledge. They place less value on the undergraduate major and more on a capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems. In an interview, Debra Humphreys, vice president at The AACU, said that the economic downturn has “put a premium on college graduates who are really multifaceted … people who have both broad knowledge and skills, as well as field-specific skills.” According to Humphreys, this concern has intensified over the years.

So if I dust of that resume I might want to consider adding a line to the education section. As an English major I’m sure I’d find a second degree, perhaps in nuclear engineering, to be a piece of cake.

West Forsyth High School Receives Accolades

The high school that all three of my kids attended (youngest is about to graduate) is one of the best in NC and in the top 400 in the nation according to US News & World Report:

West Forsyth High School ranks #2 and Lucy Ragsdale High ranks #6 in North Carolina, according to the publication.

In the 2014 rankings, 34 North Carolina schools received silver medals and 61 received bronze medals. The only two schools that earned gold medals were Green Hope High in Cary and West Forsyth High in Clemmons.

According to the publication, at West Forsyth High School “students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement® course work and exams. The AP participation rate at West Forsyth High is 61 percent. The student body makeup is 51 percent male and 49 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 32 percent. West Forsyth High is 1 of 15 high schools in the Forsyth County Schools.”

A Teacher Walks Away

Man, this is some incredible writing:

I resigned from my middle school job last month. Looking back, the only thing more difficult than leaving my students was the job itself. On my first day of teaching – an exhilarating, uplifting nine-hour whirlwind of joy – I wondered where this job had been all my life. On my last day, I sat fell into my chair wondering how I lasted so long…

When people asked me what I did for a living I gave them what they wanted to hear: “I’m a teacher,” I’d say.

What I wanted to say is, “What do I do for a living? Every day I walk into a classroom and discover worlds I never knew existed.”

Like CJ’s world, in which his mother keeps him home whenever she’s feeling lonely and depressed. Like Remy’s world, in which he came to this country after watching a warlord shoot his father to death back in Africa. Like Tyra’s world, in which she writes letters every week in class to her father in jail. She’s still waiting on him to write back. Like Angel’s world, in which he has a perfect attendance and regularly stays after school for tutoring – if only to escape going home to Mom and Dad’s arguing. Like Justin’s world, in which he and his two brothers and cousin take turns sleeping on a single bed each night.

A teacher is more than just someone who fills your child with knowledge and makes them “globally competitive,” whatever in the hell that means. They make many of their students happy, well-adjusted human beings and instill in them the audacity to believe they can be more then what they ever dreamed they could be.

Maya Angelou, whose stories we read in class this year, once wrote “of all the needs a lonely child has … the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God.”

I’ll count those 19 months in a classroom a success if just one of my students thought I was their Kingdom Come.

Poorly Educated Poor White Women Dying Young

From a story in The American Prospect:

Everything about Crystal’s life was ordinary, except for her death. She is one of a demographic—white women who don’t graduate from high school—whose life expectancy has declined dramatically over the past 18 years. These women can now expect to die five years earlier than the generation before them. It is an unheard-of drop for a wealthy country in the age of modern medicine. Throughout history, technological and scientific innovation have put death off longer and longer, but the benefits of those advances have not been shared equally, especially across the race and class divides that characterize 21st–century America. Lack of access to education, medical care, good wages, and healthy food isn’t just leaving the worst-off Americans behind. It’s killing them.

The journal Health Affairs reported the five-year drop in August. The article’s lead author, Jay Olshansky, who studies human longevity at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a team of researchers looked at death rates for different groups from 1990 to 2008. White men without high-school diplomas had lost three years of life expectancy, but it was the decline for women like Crystal that made the study news. Previous studies had shown that the least-educated whites began dying younger in the 2000s, but only by about a year. Olshansky and his colleagues did something the other studies hadn’t: They isolated high-school dropouts and measured their outcomes instead of lumping them in with high-school graduates who did not go to college.

The last time researchers found a change of this magnitude, Russian men had lost seven years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when they began drinking more and taking on other risky behaviors. Although women generally outlive men in the U.S., such a large decline in the average age of death, from almost 79 to a little more than 73, suggests that an increasing number of women are dying in their twenties, thirties, and forties. “We actually don’t know the exact reasons why it’s happened,” Olshansky says. “I wish we did.”…

Researchers have long known that high-school dropouts like Crystal are unlikely to live as long as people who have gone to college. But why would they be slipping behind the generation before them? James Jackson, a public-health researcher at the University of Michigan, believes it’s because life became more difficult for the least-educated in the 1990s and 2000s. Broad-scale shifts in society increasingly isolate those who don’t finish high school from good jobs, marriageable partners, and healthier communities. “Hope is lowered. If you drop out of school, say, in the last 20 years or so, you just had less hope for ever making it and being anything,” Jackson says. “The opportunities available to you are very different than what they were 20 or 30 years ago. What kind of job are you going to get if you drop out at 16? No job.”

If you were to poll folks here in the Piedmont of North Carolina you would find a lot of people who agree with this premise. We're in the midst of a tectonic shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy and there are a lot of people who once made a good living with their high school (or less) education who are now struggling to keep their heads above water. Scary, scary stuff.

 

Those Bright Lonely People

An interesting observation about really smart people:

One downfall of being particularly bright is that you are often lonely.  You see and think of stuff that most other people don’t see or understand, so it can be hard to feel a genuine connection with most others.  What is really exciting to you goes right over the heads of most others.  As you get older this gets to be easier to solve by finding your flock, but I think loneliness in the formative years always sticks to you.  

Another downfall is that exceptionally bright people have a high drop-out rate from school, particularly high school. It seems counterintuitive until you spend a day in our public school system.  Bright kids see school as not providing any useful information and find it creates a lot of boring busy work.  On that note, a really great topic for you to explore is the economic impact of the teacher’s union’s stronghold on the American public education system. 

As the parent of children much brighter than myself I'm inclined to agree that it's often hard to understand them, but luckily I haven't seen them exhibit much loneliness. As for the teacher's union, that would be a question worth exploring.