Education

Class Struggle

As levels of student debt continue to rise, regulators have an opportunity to reform higher education.

AP Photo/Steven Senne
O n November 28, hundreds of students from Brauch College linked arms and protested outside a City College of New York board meeting in which members authorized, by a 15-to-1 vote, a $300 annual tuition increase until at least 2015. The protest was so disruptive that, according to The New York Times, Brauch canceled classes after 3 p.m. and stopped regular foot traffic going in and out of the building where the meeting was taking place. Three people were arrested. Occupy CUNY, the group of students that staged the protest, announced on its Facebook page that it aimed to make public education “accessible” and “fair.” The City University of New York’s (CUNY) tuition is already more than $5,000 per year and with the new rates, will be more than $6,000 for the 2015—2016 school year. The students’ demonstration lined up with the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has focused on one of the facets of economic injustice increasingly affecting the “99 percent”—student debt. It’s no wonder. The...

Identical Twins: One Boy, One Girl

In July 1984, three high school kids tossed Charlie Howard off a Bangor, Maine, bridge, to his death, for being gay. The boys spent some time in juvenile detention; one later wrote a book called Penitence and spoke about accepting diversity to ease his remorse. (When I started dating the woman who is now my wife, she found that book on my shelves and turned ghostly white. In her history class at Bangor High, she told me, she sat behind one of the killers. She was out at the time. You can imagine how she felt when, as she recalls, the town rallied around the killers.) The national news media didn't notice homos at the time, but the news of Charlie Howard's death scorched the lesbian and gay community. It was the Matthew Shepard story of its day. Charlie was what we then called a "flamer"; now we'd probably call him transgendered. I thought of Charlie as I read Bella English's Boston Globe story this weekend about twin boys in Orono , Maine—just a few miles up from Bangor, about two...

Schooling Capitalism

T his week, both coasts saw student marches on Monday and big-city police raids on Tuesday. As the chancellors of the University of California met by teleconference, students throughout the U.C. system held demonstrations and teach-ins opposing tuition hikes and police violence. At U.C. Davis, they called a student strike. Meanwhile, their counterparts at the City University of New York marched on their own board of trustees as it voted on five years of tuition hikes. Tuesday, Philadelphia police cleared occupiers out of city hall’s Dilworth plaza to make way for a $50 million renovation project. The raid followed multiple ostensible deadlines, and weeks of controversy within the camp and between occupiers and the city over whether they would relocate to a new space (many have). Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who earlier in his career was attacked for ACLU ties, drew criticism for restricting most journalists to a “First Amendment zone” as police forced out Occupy LA Tuesday...

Bring Back the Space Race

To remain competitive, the U.S. needs to rebalance its portfolio of talent.

After the Soviets launched Sputnik, the U.S. created NASA and funneled millions of resources into technological and scientific research to shore up U.S. competitiveness. In China today, the government has had the foresight the U.S. once did and has put in place a talent program to support its students in the pursuit of higher education and innovation. Returning to the investment in science education of the Sputnik days and fostering technical talent like the Chinese may at once help reduce U.S. employment and make the country more competitive technologically. As Reuters recently reported, the U.S. has an insufficient supply of qualified skilled workers to fill job vacancies that require technical knowledge—especially in manufacturing, where technicians are in high demand. A manpower survey also reported that 52 percent of U.S. companies had trouble filling essential positions; that study supports statistics from the U.S. Labor Department showing that more three million tech jobs...

Ivy League Brain Drain

At Yale, OWS-inspired protesters target recruiters for the country's major finance firms.

Joseph Breen Student protesters and attendees—both from Yale—at a Morgan Stanley recruiting event. S he was tall, blond, standing in the lobby of a swanky hotel in downtown New Haven. She came for the recruitment seminar by Morgan Stanley, the banking and investment firm. Like the other Yale University students who attended, she came to learn more about starting a lucrative career on Wall Street. And like most of the people I interviewed that evening, she seemed afraid. "Thanks for talking with me, Ally," I said. "Can I have your last name?” "I don't know if I can say," she said. "I'll be right back." She never returned. Perhaps it was all the noise outside. To get to the hotel, Ally and dozens of other would-be recruits had to get by a phalanx of demonstrators, also from Yale, who were protesting the Morgan Stanley event. They were raising awareness of what they call the "brain drain" of American society. While Yale graduates who become entrepreneurs, artists, teachers, and...

Department of Follow-Up: How Do You Make Better Parents?

Like a lot of nerds, my jaw dropped this weekend when, on the NYT 's opinion page, Tom Friedman concluded that what our education system needs to help children perform better is ... drum roll ... better parents . Well gosh, no one ever thought that before. Um, could you follow that up with a policy Rx, please? Fortunately, Dana Goldstein has indeed done that, right here . Her column is a nice guide to school-reform thinking on precisely this question, with great links...

One Small Step for Climate Scientists

Researcher gains legal standing to sue for privacy against global-warming skeptics.

In a small victory for global-warming advocates, the case against climate scientist Michael Mann has hit some rough ground. Mann, a climate scientist who has been fighting a battle against the American Traditions Institute (ATI) since January, received his first piece of good news in the case on November 1 when a Virginia judge ruled that Mann did, in fact, have standing to join the case over the release of his e-mails from his time at the University of Virginia (UVA). The judge also decided to reopen the consent decree between UVA and ATI concerning exempted e-mails. Facing a Freedom of Information Act request, UVA maintained that there was material in Mann’s e-mails that should be safe from release under an academic-material exemption. Mann and UVA were concerned that the initial consent order allowed the contested material to be reviewed by ATI’S lawyers, Chris Horner and David Schnare—an arrangement that struck many as inappropriate. As I wrote about in October , Mann’s struggle...

A Reading Assortment for 11/11/11

Occupy Harvard's signs say "We want a university for the 99 percent!" Umm, where I come from, we call those "state schools." #justsaying The U.S. Census reports that half of working women have no paid maternity leave. And guess whose jobs are least likely to offer paid leave? The 50 percent who need it most. Hope Yen's article for the AP includes this: Lower-educated mothers are nearly four times more likely than college graduates to be denied paid maternity benefits. That’s the widest gap over the past 50 years. Women with no more than a high-school diploma saw drop-offs in paid-leave benefits from the early 2000s to the period covering 2006 to 2008, which includes the first year of the recession.... The analysis highlights the patchwork of work-family arrangements in the U.S., which lacks a federal policy on paid parental leave, unlike most other countries. There’s a longer-term trend of widening U.S. income inequality caused by slowing wage growth at the middle- and lower-income...

Penn State Rallies for Victims

AP Photo
Why does the Penn State community cheer for Joe Paterno? We’ve seen nearly a week’s worth of rallying in support of the legendary football coach after a grand jury indictment made plain that Paterno enabled his longtime assistant’s sexual abuse of children. While the university’s Board of Trustees almost certainly gave Paterno the opportunity to resign immediately, he opted instead to announce his retirement at the end of the season (three regular games and a postseason away). This forced the board’s hand, leading it to fire the coach, along with university president Graham Spanier, Wednesday night. Student rallying turned feverish, and the night ended with rocks and bottles thrown, a lamppost dismantled, and a news van overturned. All of this to protest the firing of someone who could have intervened in the pattern of abuse of young boys by Jerry Sandusky—and did not. The shouts of Penn Staters protesting Paterno’s firing Wednesday night prompted the rest of the nation to look on in...

Are You Pink- or Blue-Brained?

(Flickr/TZA)
Think that single-sex education is a sensible idea, since boys and girls learn so differently? Think again. In Slate recently, neuroscientist Lise Eliot , who researches child brain development, and social psychology professor Rebecca Bigler explained their recently published peer-reviewed article in Science , which examines an “overwhelming body of research on the topic.” They had three main findings: “Decades of research on academic outcomes from around the world has failed to demonstrate an advantage to single-sex schooling, in spite of popular belief to the contrary.” “Thousands of studies comparing brain and behavioral function between adult men and women have found small to insignificant differences, and even smaller differences between boys and girls.” “Single-sex schooling facilitates social stereotypes and prejudice in children.” If facts, not ideology, have any hope of carrying the day, this article should be essential reading in the Mars/Venus-at-school debates. Part of the...

Half-Right Brooks

David Brooks’ column today is one of his better ones—noting that the U.S. is plagued by two kinds of inequality, that which divides the top one percent from everyone else, which is prevalent in our major cities, and that in smaller cities and rural areas, where college grads are doing OK but where the bottom has fallen out for those Americans who don’t complete college or, worse, high school. The gap between the lives of college grads and others has widened not just in terms of income but health, diet, marriage stability, and the percentage of children born and raised out of wedlock. Brooks isn’t the first conservative to have noted the disintegration of family life within America’s working class; Rich Lowry at National Review has also picked up on this. But neither Brooks, in today’s column, nor Lowry take the necessary further step of identifying what exactly has caused all this. If they want to take that step, they should check out the collected works of William Julius Wilson, the...

On Borrowed Time

President Obama's new student loan plan isn't enough to help students saddled with debt.

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski
On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced its new plan for student loans: new graduates can cap their student loan repayments to 10 percent of their monthly income. After 20 years, their debt will be forgiven. Graduates already repaying their loans can consolidate and get half a percent interest rate cut. These changes will go into effect next year, two years before they were already scheduled to do so, and the administration said the move was in response to an online petition drive on its “We the People” site. The high student-debt burden—it will reach $1 trillion this year—is also a centerpiece of the Occupy protests around the country. The loan plan is clearly a move to ignite college student and recent graduate support, and it’s also a change President Obama doesn’t have to go through Congress to enact. All of which makes this move understandable from a political standpoint. The problem is that it actually doesn’t do much to help students. The administration and others will...

Campus Cash

Teacher evaluations are becoming big business for private companies

AP Photo/Andy King
New education reforms often translate into big money for private groups. Following the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, states paid millions of dollars annually for companies to develop and administer the standardized tests required under the law. Companies also cashed in on a provision mandating tutoring for students at struggling schools. Now, a movement to overhaul the teaching profession is creating another source of revenue for those in the business of education. More than half of states are changing their laws to factor student test scores into teacher evaluations and adding requirements for the classroom observations used to rate teachers. The main intent of the new laws is to identify which teachers are doing a good, bad, or mediocre job and to help them improve. One early outcome of such recent legislation, however, is a booming market that sells services and products to help states and school districts scrambling to meet the new standards. “It’s an incredibly heavy lift for...

All the President's Frenemies

Barry Blitt
This piece from our October 2011 issue won an award from the National Association of Black Journalists on June 24 for best magazine commentary/essay. It's a packed house at St. Sabina's Church on the South Side of Chicago. The pews are full, and attendees who didn't come early on this August Sunday must huddle in the back, though they don't have to strain to hear the speakers, media maven Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West. Chicago is Barack Obama's home court, yet this is the last church meeting where you'd find the president, lest he confirm the right-wing fantasy that he's a fellow traveler of leftist radicals. Fruit of Islam bodyguards stand in their pinstriped suits looking like the Secret Service outfitted by Al Capone's tailor, fingers pressed to their white earpieces as the man they're protecting, Minister Louis Farrakhan, sits in the front row. Next to him is Father Michael Pfleger, the pastor of St. Sabina's, whose caustic remarks about Hillary Clinton prompted...

Segregation Nation

Omaha's radical attempt at school integration shows how beneficial diversity can be -- and how hard it can be to sustain.

Tyliesha Tucker attends a well-regarded high school in Nebraska's Bellevue school district. Last year, Tyliesha, who is 15 and "pretty hilarious" by her own description, went to her local school in the Omaha Public School District. So did her 13-year-old brother, Kevin. But then there was the incident in the bathroom with a group of girls who had been tormenting her. Tyliesha won't tell me exactly what happened. But her mother, Mildred, knows and remembers well the day it happened: "Tyliesha kept calling me, crying, saying, 'Take me out of here!'" Mildred had been worried about her kids well before that. Kevin, who was in eighth grade at the time, kept getting into fights on the school bus. And Tyliesha had been complaining to her mom about bullying and gang violence for a while. The previous year, her friend had been shot right near the school. So the bathroom incident was really just the last straw. "That was the day I decided to opt her out of that school," says Mildred, an African...

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