Wednesday Night #1679

Written by  //  May 6, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

As there appears to be nothing that we can do to reverse the drastic situation in Ukraine, and we will wait until Peter Berezin’s return to WN on June 11 to delve into the varied reactions to the new economic religion provoked by Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century , we would like to turn to a subject that we have not addressed for some time, despite its pertinence to us individually and to our society as a whole – EDUCATION.

Before suggesting more universal concerns, we look forward to developments in Quebec’s education policies. The first  statements from Dr. Yves Bolduc ,the new Education Minister,  that he wants more English in schools is a breath of fresh air, as is the fact that he has already shelved PQ plans to rewrite the history curriculum to include more nationalist content. He has also said he will gladly sit with Quebec’s anglophone community to discuss the possibility of English schools teaching more French. All well and good, but let’s hear more about the quality of language teaching (both languages).

On our  Education: demographics and trends 2013 – 2014  page, there are a number of background pieces, gleaned here and there, on topics ranging from MOOCS to Kindergarten – we invite you to browse the offerings.  Among the more recent favorites are:

Purpose Learning
A look back from 2100 to the era when Stanford students began declaring missions, not majors.
As Stanford graduates would soon be called upon to lead in a world in which economic, political, social and technological disruptions created some of the largest collective risks that humans had yet faced, the University established Purpose Learning, whereby students declared a mission, not a major. The intent was that students couple their disciplinary pursuit with the purpose that fueled it.
“I’m a biology major” was replaced by “I’m learning human biology to eliminate world hunger.” Or “I’m learning Computer Science and Political Science to rebuild how citizens engage with their governments.”
The goal was to help students select a meaningful course of study while in school, and then scaffold a clear arc for the first 10 – 15 years of their professional lives. It wasn’t about the career trajectory, but the reasons behind it.

Extreme parents, with nothing to fear but fear itself
Today’s generation of parents is arguably the most overprotective in history. Which is odd, given their upbringing. As children, they walked to school alone, rode shotgun without a seat belt and roamed outside for hours on end in happy pursuit of parentless adventure.
These carefree children survived, grew up, and many became parents themselves. Their helicopter tendencies are both ironic and unrecognizable to those who preceded them. Today’s parents accompany their toddlers down playground slides, they fight their kids’ battles at the hockey rink and they fill out their teenagers’ university applications. From play date to prom, they are hell-bent on shielding their children from danger, both real and perceived. The ability to mitigate a child’s exposure to even exceedingly low-probability risks and dangers has become synonymous with any modern notion of good parenting.
The obsession with safety – nudged by fears over lawsuits – has fuelled a staggering amount of policy overreach, particularly in schools, the crucible where parental paranoia and society’s rules collide.

Why boomers are retiring to college
(PBS Newshour) In 2006, Carle, who founded George Mason University’s program in senior housing administration, coined the term “university-based retirement communities” — or UBRC’s for short — to describe retirement communities that have a formal or informal relationship to a nearby university, and as a result, offer their residents academic benefits that others cannot.
Like the Goldwires, many older Americans are trading the leisure circuit for the college campus in retirement. By moving close to a university, Carle said, seniors are primed to get what studies show they want: “They want active, they want intellectually stimulating, and they want intergenerational retirement environments.”

On Monday,  The Current raised a question that addresses a  concern that has often been raised on Wednesday Night, although in a slightly different context (we have looked at it more often from the point of view of the unsuitability of  university education to a number of students) — Skilled Trades vs. Liberal Arts: What creates the best workforce? The conclusions may be somewhat unexpected.

PBS Newshour devotes an important part of their programming to education, of course largely from a U.S. perspective, but there is often much relevance to the Canadian context.

Not wishing to neglect Wednesday Night’s underlying focus on matters economic,  we must point out the recent Guardian story — Economics students call for shakeup of the way their subject is taught
Students from 19 countries argue economics courses failing wider society by ignoring need to address 21st-century issues
Economics students from 19 countries have joined forces to call for an overhaul of the way their subject is taught, saying the dominance of narrow free-market theories at top universities harms the world’s ability to confront challenges such as financial stability and climate change.
In the first global protest against mainstream economic teaching, the International Student Initiative for Pluralist Economics (ISIPE) argues in a letter to the Guardian that economics courses are failing wider society when they ignore evidence from other disciplines.
The students, who have formed 41 protest groups in universities from Britain and the US to Brazil and Russia, say research and teaching in economics departments is too narrowly focused and more effort should be made to broaden the curriculum. They want courses to include analysis of the financial crash that so many economists failed to see coming, and say the discipline has become divorced from the real world.
Comments, please from our professors of economics!

While western countries debate the pros and cons of core curricula, drop-out rates and student debt, we too often forget the crusade against girls’ education in other parts of the world, where educated women are considered a threat. One of the most brutal examples is the case of the nearly 300  girls kidnapped in Nigeria by the terrorists of  Boko Haram, whose very name translates as “western education is forbidden”. The government authorities and army appear to be helpless and/or inept . International intervention is on its way apparently, although we are a bit mystified by what the FBI is going to contribute – their expertise in kidnapping would not seem to be particularly applicable to the terrain of northeastern Nigeria.

Finally, we should mention the death of philanthropist  Liliane Stewart, widow of David Macdonald Stewart, who was a major benefactor of  McGill and particularly Macdonald College. Her funeral will be next Tuesday – the 13th at Notre Dame Basilica.

Wednesday Night authors continue to be busy. The two Davids (Jones and Kilgour) debate the latest news about  Canada’s middle class: Tories can celebrate surprising report, for now(Jones) vs. Canada’s middle class: Important factors beyond income tell the true story(Kilgour) and Céline Cooper’s byline appears in the May/June  Policy A Referendum on a Referendum: Non, Merci!

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