Education 2017-2018

Written by  //  October 12, 2018  //  Education  //  No comments

See also Education 2015-16
Bald Piano Guy: “Public School Teacher vs. Betsy DeVos”

How the winner of the world’s most prestigious teaching prize succeeds with no resources in the Arctic
(Quartz) [Former Sauvé Scholar] Maggie MacDonnell doesn’t teach at Andover or Eton. Her school is in the Canadian Arctic—in Salluit, to be precise, a remote Inuit village where the temperatures dip down to -13°F (-25°C) in winter and whose community of indigenous people has seen more than its share of depression and teen suicide.
Despite a high level of turnover in the region, with many instructors leaving due to the stress of the remote, harsh conditions alone, she’s taught at her small school for more than six years. Yet it’s not tenacity alone that led MacDonnell to win this year’s Global Teacher Prize, a four-year-old award worth $1 million—higher than the cash value of the Nobel, and the largest prize of its kind.
The global selection committee behind the prize (set up by education philanthropist Sunny Varkey) was impressed by MacDonnell’s dedication to one thing that most teachers, by and large, neglect: the community around the classroom.
When MacDonnell first arrived in Salluit, she was greeted by a room of broken chairs, graffiti, and splintered desks. There were no books. The students assigned to her class—who fall under a failing school system that has been sharply criticized by education experts as well as Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau—were reeling from too many social and economic problems plaguing their neighborhoods to pay much attention to subjects like history and mathematics. …
And asked whether she believes technology—especially that which is geared toward classrooms, as Silicon Valley companies turn their eye toward the education market—can benefit teachers, MacDonnell says that such products assume a certain start line, and that start line is a completely different point for students who are struggling to understand their own culture or have not had a meal the night before. Being able to even know what one’s dreams and aspirations are, she adds, is a middle-class luxury.
“How can an app manage behavior? How can a suicidal student seek empathy from an iPad?” she says. “All of it can supplement learning, maybe, for highly motivated students with digital access. But first—you have to invest in teaching.” (10 July 2017)

12 October
As Academic Freedom Teeters, Will the Old Become New Again?

Academically free universities have provided tremendous economic and cultural benefits to the United States and the West.
Despite the success of the modern university, increasing numbers of people seem to see academically free universities as a luxury they no longer wish to support.
Online education probably will dominate in a world without academically free universities, while top-tier institutions will focus on providing an expensive, individually tailored education to the children of the global elite.

(Stratfor) American institutions seem well placed to control new platforms and revenue flows, though the question likely to arise is whether the loss of academic freedom is something to be wished for.
Academically free universities are one of the West’s great strategic assets. The aim of academic freedom, as defined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in its 1915 Declaration of Principles, is “to advance knowledge by the unrestricted research and unfettered discussion of impartial investigators.” The payoffs from pursuing it have been enormous.
It might seem surprising, then, that the AAUP currently sees “a concerted attack on academic freedom” in the United States, and that The New York Times and other newspapers have reported similar assaults across Europe
The difference between proprietary and academically free institutions is that the latter do not assume in advance that they know the truth, and so cannot tell professors what to think or students what to learn. In the absence of such certainty, all the institution can do is bring together experts and students and leave them to argue it out, following the path of knowledge wherever it leads, regardless of what the people paying for it might think. This is a radical idea, and takes some getting used to.

8 October
How People Learn: A Landmark Report Gets an Update
(Education Week) In an update to its landmark reports on education research, the National Academies’ new How People Learn II digs into what science can tell schools about how to build on students’ culture and experience to improve learning.
Some of the research from that original report has become common knowledge but still sometimes difficult to implement. A case in point, one of the “key findings” of the Research Council in 1999 was the notion of student-centered learning: “the idea that students come to the classroom with preconceived notions of how the world works. If these notions are not engaged, students may fail to grasp new concepts that they are taught. For example, students may sometimes acquire knowledge for the purposes of a test but later revert back to their preconceived notions outside the classroom.”
The new report expands on that idea, digging into the ways research suggests students’ experiences affect how they engage with education and vice versa. “People do not simply collect memories, knowledge, and skills in a linear fashion, but through myriad processes that interact over time to influence the way they make sense of the world,” said Cora Bagley Marrett, the former deputy director of the National Science Foundation, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and chair of the committee that conducted the report.
The committee also confronted common teaching ideas that have not been borne out, such as teaching for different learning styles. “The appeal of this approach, which has gotten substantial public attention, is the premise that all students can succeed if the instruction is customized. However, experimental research has consistently shown that learning styles do not exist as described by the concept’s proponents, so categorizing and teaching children according to such styles is problematic,” they concluded.

4 October
Are You a Visual or an Auditory Learner? It Doesn’t Matter
One mental strategy may be much better suited than another to a particular task.
By Daniel Willingham
(NYT) You must read this article to understand it, but many people feel reading is not how they learn best. They would rather listen to an explanation or view a diagram. Researchers have formalized those intuitions into theories of learning styles. These theories are influential enough that many states (including New York) require future teachers to know them and to know how they might be used in the classroom. But there’s no good scientific evidence that learning styles actually exist.
The theory is wrong, but, curiously, people act as though it’s right — they try to learn in accordance with what they think is their style. When experimenters asked research participants to learn a new task and gave them access to written instructions and to diagrams, the people who thought of themselves as verbalizers went for words, and the self-described visualizers looked at pictures. But tests showed they didn’t learn the task any faster because they adhered to their purported style.
… the idea of tuning tasks to an individual’s style offered hope — a simple change might improve performance in school and at work. We’ve seen that that doesn’t work, but this research highlights hope of another kind. We are not constrained by our learning style. Any type of learning is open to any of us.

World Schooling is a Wild Ride That Just Might Be the Best Thing For Your Kids
This is a generation of parents who see the whole world as our home. We are the kind of people living in the UK who voted to stay in the EU. We aren’t solo nation citizens, but see ourselves as intrinsically connected to every continent on earth. We are also native to Facebook, unafraid of using social media to find free accommodation in other world schooler’s spare rooms.
We are open minded, trusting, we believe that we have something to learn from ancient traditions, different cultures.
We are the parents who refused to accept we had to hang up the backpack and hiking shoes.
There are probably two things that have fanned the flame of world schooling recently; a developing understanding of the diverse way children learn and new opportunities to earn whilst roaming.
World schoolers are liberated by increasing information about the way children learnThere is a wealth of information coming out about how children learn best through play and experiences.  

18 September
The Coddling of the American Mind ‘Is Speeding Up’
A conversation with Greg Lukianoff, the co-author of a 2015 Atlantic cover story and new book of the same name, about campus free speech in a tumultuous time
Haidt and Lukianoff recently published a book, also titled The Coddling of the American Mind, where they go into more detail about the three “Great Untruths” they believe are behind free-speech controversies at America’s universities:

  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker,” or the idea that exposure to offensive or difficult ideas is traumatic
  • “Always trust your feelings,” or the notion that feeling upset by an idea is a reason to discount it
  • “Us versus them,” or homogenous tribal thinking that leads people to shame those whose views fall outside that of their group

The Coddling of the American Mind
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health
(The Atlantic Magazine September 2015 issue) Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.
Two terms have risen quickly from obscurity into common campus parlance. Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless. For example, by some campus guidelines, it is a microaggression to ask an Asian American or Latino American “Where were you born?,” because this implies that he or she is not a real American. Trigger warnings are alerts that professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. For example, some students have called for warnings that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart describes racial violence and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so that students who have been previously victimized by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid these works, which they believe might “trigger” a recurrence of past trauma.

11 September
Making the next wave of Canadian students more globally minded
International Development Studies is a lesser-known area of study in Canada, but new research shows such education is a great way to prepare the next generation of globally-minded professionals for the workforce.
(Open Canada) IDS is a broad, interdisciplinary field that cuts across traditional academic boundaries in areas of study related to global social, cultural, economic and political change. Students focus on the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in the world and also have opportunities for hands-on learning at home and abroad.
Preparing the next generation of global leaders requires a comprehensive understanding of the changes facing the world today as well as strong intercultural communication skills. With growing calls for Canadian universities to equip a future workforce with this knowledge and skillset, and to enhance international learning opportunities, a recent research project on the career paths and citizenship activities of IDS graduates offers important new insight.

9 September
If Democrats Take the House, Here’s What Awaits Betsy DeVos, Civil Rights, and ESSA
If Democrats take control of the House of Representatives next year, expect civil rights to grab the spotlight and for congressional subpoenas in the name of education oversight to become more popular. But you may not see as much of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as some might think.
The bad blood between Democrats and the Trump administration started, well, right at the start, when they clashed with Betsy DeVos in that now-famous confirmation hearing more than 18 months ago. And Democrats have been scrapping with DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education ever since. The two sides have publicly squabbled over how she’s handled states’ Every Student Succeeds Act plans, her approach to Obama-era guidance on school discipline and transgender students, K-12 spending, her changes to civil rights investigations, and, most recently, whether schools could spend ESSA money to arm teachers.
But what if Democrats found themselves the big winners from the November mid-terms and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., ends up holding the gavel on the House education committee? What issues would they focus on the most? How would they handle DeVos? And could Democrats’ eyes get too big for their stomachs?

7 September
DeVos escalates fight with states over student loan companies
(Politico) President Donald Trump’s Education Department is helping some of the nation’s largest student loan companies as they seek to fend off allegations of cheating and misleading borrowers.
The department, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, has thrown roadblocks in front of state law enforcement officials and federal regulators who are pursuing legal action against the companies, which include student loan giant Navient and FedLoan Servicing, a POLITICO review of court records has found.

5 September
How weak schools serve Trump’s agenda
Arne Duncan
(The Guardian) The Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos don’t talk about improving educational outcomes. The Trump administration has no position on increasing access to pre-K, or continuing the work of raising high school graduation rates, or of once again leading the world in college graduation rates. It doesn’t talk about how to help teachers be better at their extremely difficult jobs, and it’s silent on the issue of increasing teacher pay. Some maintain this is due to incompetence, but the more I listen to the president, the more I’m convinced that the administration’s lack of educational goals is by design.
A healthy democracy requires an educated citizenry, while an authoritarian regime benefits from the lack of one.

4 September
What Your Sons and Daughters Will Learn at University
By Philip Carl Salzman
(Minding the campus) Universities in the 20th century were dedicated to the advancement of knowledge. Scholarship and research were pursued, and diverse opinions were exchanged and argued in the “marketplace of ideas.”
This is no longer the case. Particularly in the social sciences, humanities, education, social work, and law, a single political ideology has replaced scholarship and research, because the ideology presents fixed answers to all questions. And, although the most important thing in universities today is the diversity of race, gender, sexual practice, ethnicity, economic class, and physical and mental capability, there is no longer diversity of opinion. Only those committed to the ideology are admitted to academic staff or administration.
Postmodernism: In the past, academics were trained to seek truth. Today, academics deny that there is such a thing as objective Truth. Instead, they argue that no one can be objective, that everyone is inevitably subjective, and consequently everyone has their own truth. The correct point of view, they urge, is relativism. This means not only that truth is relative to the subjectivity of each individual, but also that ethics and morality are relative to the individual and the culture …
Postcolonialism, the dominant theory in the social sciences today, is inspired by the Marxist-Leninist theory of imperialism, in which the conflict between the capitalist and proletariat classes is allegedly exported to the exploitation of colonized countries. By this means, the theory goes, oppression and poverty take place in colonies instead of in relation to the metropolitan working class … This ahistorical approach of postcolonialism ignores the hundreds of empires and their colonies throughout history, as well as ignoring contemporary empires, such as the Arab Muslim Empire that conquered all of the central Middle East, North Africa, southern Europe, Persia, Central Asia, and northern India, and occupied them minimally for hundreds of years, but 1400 years in the central Middle East and North Africa, and occupy them today.

31 August
A class of inspired high school students at work on cures for serious diseases
(WaPost) Imagine a public high school science classroom where there are no textbooks, no tests, no assigned homework. The lab is filled with extraordinarily gifted students who are hard at work on self-directed research projects that seek to find cures or treatment strategies for diseases like Lyme, Ebola, Zika and cancer. They are aided in their research by top-flight scientific instruments seldom seen in a high school setting. Their teacher’s mission is not to grade them but to support them, both in their scientific endeavors and in their personal lives. And over the course of a year, they rack up a stunning number of wins across the science fair circuit.
[The] divide between the public education most are familiar with and the somewhat rarefied world inhabited by Bramante and his students means that this book must be read less as an attainable model to strive for and more as an anomaly, a curiosity possible only when the everyday rules and realities are changed.
Heather Won Tesoriero’s The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America

27 August
Student Loan Watchdog Quits, Saying Trump Administration Is Harming Students
A top federal official in charge of handling complaints about student loans stepped down on Monday, blasting the Trump administration for protecting predatory lenders at the expense of borrowers.
Seth Frotman, the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said in his resignation letter that millions of borrowers had been harmed by “sweeping changes” at the bureau under Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget director, who became the bureau’s acting director in November. A copy of the letter was obtained by The New York Times.

17 August
Frank Bruni: How to Get the Most Out of College
They’re privileged, pivotal years. Navigate them with as much care as you did the path that got you there.
(NYT Opinion) My interest isn’t which types of programs at which kinds of institutions yield the surest employment and highest salaries. That information is already out there and always changing. I also worry that it casts college as purely vocational and plants the false notion that, at the age of 18, you know yourself well enough to plot out the entirety of your professional life.
My focus is on optimal ways to socialize, to prioritize, to pick up skills integral to any career and to open up exciting opportunities both en route to a degree and after you’ve acquired it. Not nearly enough of the roughly 20 million Americans who are beginning or resuming college over the coming weeks pause, in their trepidation and exhilaration, to think about that. …
Many students, nervous about a new environment, follow friends from high school or people whose demographic backgrounds match their own into homogeneous cocoons. That can indeed provide solace and support. But it’s also a wasted opportunity — educationally, morally, strategically. Diversity opens you to an array and wealth of ideas, and being comfortable with it is an asset in just about any workplace or career. You can decide to establish that comfort in college.
But perhaps the most important relationships to invest in are those with members of the school’s faculty. Most students don’t fully get that. They’re not very good at identifying the professors worth knowing — the ones who aren’t such academic rock stars that they’re inaccessible, the ones with a track record of serious mentoring — and then getting to know them well.

11 April
The Myth of ‘Learning Styles’
A popular theory that some people learn better visually or aurally keeps getting debunked.
(The Atlantic) “by the time we get students at college,” said Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you. The thing is, they’re not. Or at least, a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another.

2 April
A revolutionary Finnish model to create school of the future
For sure, all the digital disruption and changes of all business models and the way we will go about our lives in the future is putting pressure and new expectations on the education and schools. The solution comes from Finland.
ScandAsia turned to Finland to find out about the latest in education and look for any school model that fits today’s increasing digitalisation of our society and the skills-based future. And–spot on–the Nordic country, with its recently launched new national curriculum, is indeed on its way with this, by embracing what is called phenomenon-based learning. And such a path, that is inevitable for students to learn 21st century skills, in fact requires systematic change to our schools.
In focus is the book ‘How to create the school of the future – Revolutionary thinking and design from Finland’, written by Pasi Mattila and Pasi Silander, experts in learning environments and digitalization.
It provides a vision and the basis for development as well as ways of leading a change when moving from a traditional school towards [THE SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE. It states that while Finnish schools prepare students well for their future technology and internationalisation have changed the nature of the work. Education and the school must be continuously developed so that they can keep up with the times. In this way, they will continue to offer a basis for future work, in which thinking skills, social interaction and information processing and production skills are emphasised.
[See below Finland Will Become The First Country In The World To Get Rid of All School Subjects (11 March 2017)

26 March
Montreal elementary nixes homework, encourages parents to read with kids instead
Elizabeth Ballantyne School in Montreal West says students are expected to get their work done during the day
Michael Brown, the principal, said assigning students large amounts of homework doesn’t help with their learning.
“The best kind of homework is eating healthy, getting a good night’s sleep and being ready for the next day of school,” Brown told CBC News.
See also: Is homework bad for kids? (6 September 2016)
Most secondary teachers want mobile phone ban in school
Nationwide poll reveals rise in smartphone use in classrooms
(Irish Times) The poll, carried out by online exams website, found that 43 per cent of teachers reported classroom discipline was worse than it was five years ago. Mr Saunders, the founder of Studyclix, said this was most likely linked to conflict that phone use has created.

19 March
School Choice May Be Accelerating Gentrification
The ability to opt out of a neighborhood school increases the likelihood that a black or Hispanic neighborhood will see an influx of wealthier residents.
(The Atlantic) The finding that wealthier families are more open to entering racially segregated neighborhoods if they can avoid the local schools isn’t necessarily surprising. Past research has demonstrated both that schools affect housing choices and that race is used by white families as a proxy for school quality. This is among the first studies to directly link school choice to gentrification, though the data can only suggest cause and effect.

15 March
In ‘Screenagers,’ What to Do About Too Much Screen Time
(NYT) In the new documentary “Screenagers,” children can’t resist the pull of electronic devices, and parents don’t know what to do about it.
Sound familiar?
The average child in America spends more time consuming electronic media than going to school, with many teenagers going online “almost constantly.” And parents aren’t necessarily being good role models. A British study showed that while six in 10 parents worried that their children spend too much time in front of a screen, seven in 10 children worry that their parents are the ones who are plugged in and tuned out.

28 February
They Were Trained for This Moment
How the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High demonstrate the power of a comprehensive education.
(Slate) To be sure, the story of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students is a story about the benefits of being a relatively wealthy school district at a moment in which public education is being vivisected without remorse or mercy. But unless you’re drinking the strongest form of Kool-Aid, there is simply no way to construct a conspiracy theory around the fact that students who were being painstakingly taught about drama, media, free speech, political activism, and forensics became the epicenter of the school-violence crisis and handled it creditably. The more likely explanation is that extracurricular education—one that focuses on skills beyond standardized testing and rankings—creates passionate citizens who are spring-loaded for citizenship.

26 February
Opinion: Put it down: the consequences of phone addiction
There is constant debate on the pros and cons of having technology in the classroom, since many NC State professors have policies listed in their syllabus that forbid the use of cell phones and laptops during class to minimize distractions. Although this debate continues, research is still siding with the notion that phones should be kept away during class time.
According to a study of college students found in Communication Education, “Students who were not using their mobile phones wrote down 62 percent more information in their notes, took more detailed notes, were able to recall more detailed information from the lecture, and scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple-choice test than those students who were actively using their mobile phones.”
We are probably all at fault for texting or looking at Instagram during class, but cell phones are forcing our attention to be divided between what’s being taught in class and what’s happening on your social media feed.
Although distracted students may not seem like a big problem, the growing prevalence of phone addiction is. According to Forbes, Google searches for “phone addiction” and “social media addiction” have risen steadily in the past five years, and there is a correlation between phone addiction and poor mental health.


“People often confuse charters and vouchers, but they are very different,” wrote Parag Pathak of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the Louisiana authors. Vouchers are essentially coupons that allow parents to spend their tax money at private schools, while charters are public schools that operate outside of the normal bureaucracy. Voucher-financed schools often have little oversight or accountability, while many charters must demonstrate that their students are learning.
“The larger theme,” notes Douglas Harris, a Tulane professor who co-wrote the New Orleans paper [The Effects of the New Orleans Post-Katrina School Reforms on Student Academic Outcomes], “is that not all school reform is created equal. The charter system here has significant accountability: Low-performing schools are closed. Students are assigned by lottery, and system leaders limit mid year transfers and discipline policies to prevent schools from cherry-picking students.”The best charters combine flexibility and accountability — and have thrived. The record of vouchers is less impressive.
Unfortunately, DeVos has shown little appreciation for the difference and pushed for education reform regardless of results. It’s the mirror image of school boards and teachers’ unions that have cast all education reform as evil, regardless of results. Both stances end up hurting our schools. (NYT Opinion round-up 22 December 2016)
Researchers studied kindergarteners’ behavior and followed up 19 years later. Here are the findings.
Turns out, sharing really is caring. (August 2015)
AP Classes Are a Scam
(The Atlantic) The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from the courses—and, in an uncertain environment, students keep being suckered
Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That’s the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students.

12 December
France is banning mobile phones in schools
(WEF) On Sunday, France’s education minister announced that mobile phones will be banned from primary, junior, and middle schools, calling it a matter of “public health.” While phones are already prohibited in classrooms in France, starting in September 2018 students won’t be allowed to use them on breaks, at lunch, or between lessons either.

2 June
Michael Ignatieff: Defending Academic Freedom in a Populist Age
(Project Syndicate) Universities nowadays often must fight for their independence on two fronts, against autocratic governments and private interests from without, and against the threat from within posed by fiefdoms of jargon and self-righteous coercion. But success ultimately depends on convincing fellow citizens that what may look like a battle for the privileged few is a battle for the benefit of all.
Those of us lucky enough to work in universities know how privileged we are, but there is a discomfort here. Our salaries are paid by citizens – through taxation, for example, or via tuition support for a son or daughter – who may never have finished secondary school, let alone attended university. We must be able to justify ourselves to them. Our doors must always be open to the public. We must communicate our research in an accessible fashion. And we must remove barriers that exclude our fellow citizens from the chance to learn with us. If we have privileges – and we do – they come with responsibilities, which we must discharge conscientiously.

13 May
How Google Took Over the Classroom
The tech giant is transforming public education with low-cost laptops and free apps. But schools may be giving Google more than they are getting.
(NYT) In the space of just five years, Google has helped upend the sales methods companies use to place their products in classrooms. It has enlisted teachers and administrators to promote Google’s products to other schools. It has directly reached out to educators to test its products — effectively bypassing senior district officials. And it has outmaneuvered Apple and Microsoft with a powerful combination of low-cost laptops, called Chromebooks, and free classroom apps. …
“Between the fall of 2012 and now, Google went from an interesting possibility to the dominant way that schools around the country” teach students to find information, create documents and turn them in, said Hal Friedlander, former chief information officer for the New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest school district. “Google established itself as a fact in schools.”
Today, about 15 million primary- and secondary-school students in the United States use Classroom, Google said.
Google’s ability to test its products on such a monumental scale has stoked concerns about whether the tech giant is exploiting public-school teachers and students for free labor. “It’s a private company very creatively using public resources — in this instance, teachers’ time and expertise — to build new markets at low cost,” said Patricia Burch, an associate professor of education at the University of Southern California.
[Director of Google’s education apps group, Jonathan Rochelle], said that it was important for the company to have large, diverse sets of educational users giving feedback — otherwise it might develop products that worked for only a few of them.
“Our goal is to build products that help educators and students,” Mr. Rochelle said. “Teachers tell us they appreciate the opportunity to get involved early and help shape our products to meet their needs.”
[former director of technology change management for Chicago Public Schools, Margaret] Hahn agrees. She said that schools were getting something substantive in return from Google, something they had rarely received from other tech companies: quick product improvements that responded to teachers’ feedback.
After the Chicago schools tested Classroom, she said, members of Google’s education team started directly contacting her when they were seeking educators to try out the company’s innovations. “They no longer just turn stuff on,” she said. “They come to us first.”

29 March
After Potter: Media pool or knowledge institution? Universities can’t be both
By Éric Montpetit, professor in the department of political science at the Université de Montréal
(Globe & Mail) Most universities seek to increase their presence in the media, but doing so comes with a risk, as McGill found out last week. … Unlike hiring an academic who had followed a more conventional career path, hiring Prof. Potter came with the promise to make McGill visible in the country’s media. Visibility would, in turn, fend off criticism that the university hires only professors whose research have little social relevance, even in the humanities and social sciences. To my knowledge, few Canadian universities pushed this reasoning as far as McGill did, but most (including my own) took steps of one sort or another to ascertain their presence in the media.
After Prof. Potter published a controversial article last week on how the state of social capital in Quebec interfered in the management of a snow storm, McGill discovered that an increased media presence is not always a good thing. …
Universities […] often have to choose between ascertaining their presence in the media and protecting their status as knowledge institutions. If they do not make the former choice an absolute priority, Canadians may rightfully ask why their taxes fund universities, especially in the social sciences and humanities.
The content of Prof. Potter’s article might raise questions worth addressing in Quebec –although I doubt it – but the knowledge it presented was not validated in any way by university research. University professors should sign provocative articles only to the extent that research comes to provocative conclusions. Otherwise, prudence is warranted, even if it rarely makes for articles entertaining enough to increase the visibility of a university in the media.

And in a letter to the editor, Eric Savoy, Département de littératures et de langues du monde, Université de Montréal, writes:
Andrew Potter’s article in Maclean’s about the supposed “malaise” in Quebec is subjective, unbalanced and, to my mind, biased. “Freedom of speech” is not a credible defence against the propagation of prejudice and negative stereotype. This is especially true in the specific context of his position as director of McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada, whose mission is to foster deeper understanding of this complex federation. Incendiary speech and intemperate opinion are harmful to this mission.
The larger context is McGill’s particular status: The university’s administration has worked hard to integrate this anglophone island into the broader academic culture of Quebec. Prof. Potter’s article, which demonstrates no real knowledge of Quebec but a great deal of hostility, undermines that effort.
Freedom of opinion is one thing; responsibility to the nation and respect for the institute’s mandate, are another. The institute has had better directors in the past, and it will in the future.
Prof. Potter was right to resign.

24 March
Susan Cain: Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers.
The glorification of leadership skills, especially in college admissions, has emptied leadership of its meaning.
(NYT op-ed) What if we said to college applicants that the qualities we’re looking for are not leadership skills, but excellence, passion and a desire to contribute beyond the self? This framework would encompass exceptional team captains and class presidents. But it wouldn’t make leadership the be-all and end-all.
What if we said to our would-be leaders, “Take this role only if you care desperately about the issue at hand”?
And what if we were honest with ourselves about what we value? If we’re looking for the students and citizens most likely to attain wealth and power, let’s admit it. Then we can have a frank debate about whether that is a good idea.
But if instead we seek a society of caring, creative and committed people, and leaders who feel called to service rather than to stature, then we need to do a better job of making that clear.
11 March

Finland Will Become The First Country In The World To Get Rid of All School Subjects
(Enlightened Consciousness) The head of the Department of Education in Helsinki, Marjo Kyllonen, has announced that he believes that the way children are taught now is based of a style that was a benefit to students in the beginnings of the 1900s, but now is no longer relevant and beneficial to our modernised way of learning. He strongly believes that our needs have changed and so we need to adapt our teachings to match with our new way of thinking and developing.
The huge changes will involve the removal of school subjects from the curriculum, as proposed by Finnish officials, which will be replaced by the study of individual events and phenomena.
This means that students will no longer have individual classes on subjects such as maths, geography and history, but will instead study an event, such as the Second World War, from the perspectives of maths, geography and history.
There is even a proposed course called “working in a cafe” which will provide students with skills on the English language, economics and communication.
This new system, which is due to commence in 2020, will be introduced to students at the age of 16, meaning that after completing their initial broad subject studies, they can then choose for themselves which particular event or phenomenon that they wish to study, based on their interests and future prospects.
The idea of this is to eliminate disengagement of students who have to sit through individual classes that they believe they will not need based on their future hopes and ambitions of a working future, but instead will apply those prior individual subjects to a specific topic of their choice, thereby still learning the same skills, but using them in a more productive way that is most beneficial to their individual learning.

8 March
A Tale of Two Betsy DeVoses
The generous Grand Rapids resident and the tone-deaf Trump official
(The Atlantic) DeVos, as critics note, has generally opposed regulation and, her opponents argue, contributed to the decimation of public education in the process. Her opposition to regulation and broad support of vouchers even puts her at odds with some school-choice supporters, including people like the former education secretary and charter-school co-founder John King, who have called for some choice, but also strict monitoring.

23 February
Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning.
(NYT) The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform.
But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.
While many policy ideas have murky origins, vouchers emerged fully formed from a single, brilliant essay published in 1955 by Milton Friedman, the free-market godfather later to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics. Because “a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens,” Mr. Friedman wrote, the government should pay for all children to go to school.
But, he argued, that doesn’t mean the government should run all the schools. Instead, it could give parents vouchers to pay for “approved educational services” provided by private schools, with the government’s role limited to “ensuring that the schools met certain minimum standards.”

2 January
Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom
starting with smaller classes, I banned laptops, and it improved the students’ engagement. With constant eye contact, I could see and feel when they understood me, and when they did not. Energized by the connection, we moved faster, further and deeper into the material.
By Darren Rosenblum, professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
(NYT Opinion) When I started teaching, I assumed my “fun” class, sexuality and the law, full of contemporary controversy, would prove gripping to the students. One day, I provoked them with a point against marriage equality, and the response was a slew of laptops staring back. The screens seemed to block our classroom connection. Then, observing a senior colleague’s contracts class, I spied one student shopping for half the class. Another was surfing Facebook. Both took notes when my colleague spoke, but resumed the rest of their lives instead of listening to classmates.
Laptops at best reduce education to the clackety-clack of transcribing lectures on shiny screens and, at worst, provide students with a constant escape from whatever is hard, challenging or uncomfortable about learning. And yet, education requires constant interaction in which professor and students are fully present for an exchange.
Students need two skills to succeed as lawyers and as professionals: listening and communicating. We must listen with care, which requires patience, focus, eye contact and managing moments of ennui productively — perhaps by double-checking one’s notes instead of a friend’s latest Instagram. Multitasking and the mediation of screens kill empathy.
Likewise, we must communicate — in writing or in speech — with clarity and precision. The student who speaks in class learns to convey his or her points effectively because everyone else is listening.

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