Weekly Education News Wrap-Up: Dec. 19th

December 19th, 2011 by admin

Jerry Brown slashes higher education spending, disabled services
Los Angeles Times
In a controversial move to balance the state budget, California Governor Jerry Brown announced nearly $1 billion in spending cuts, which includes big slashes to funding for higher education and eliminates funding for the free school bus service. While some of the cuts were much less than feared, many are still opposed to Brown’s decision.

For-profit school leaders criticize Cummings investigation
Interim CEO and President of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities Brian Moran, along with other supporters, spoke out against the investigations being made by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as “just more politics.” Cummings has requested the compensation agreements for the chief executives of 13 for-profit schools to investigate whether their salaries and bonuses are appropriately tied to student performance.

We are the median: Burdened by student loan debt
MSNBC’s series on different families around the country who are living on around $50,000 a year to see how they are coping as “middle-class.” This installment checks in with a small family who is struggling under a burden of student loan debt.

Sallie Mae has a new look
The student loan giant SLM Corp, otherwise known as Sallie Mae, unveiled a new corporate logo this week and officially made the move to the Nasdaq Stock Market instead of the New York Stock Exchange. These changes come in the wake of the past few volatile years for the company and increasing concern regarding the private student loan market.

Is college worth the money?
The Washington Times
Columnist Amy Phillips addresses the issue beneath the student loan crisis and the objections of Occupy Wall Street: It’s not the loan money itself; it’s the fact that they don’t feel that the investment in their degree – money, time, effort – didn’t pay off as promised. Phillips questions whether it’s useful anymore to just go out and get a liberal arts degree, especially since we see now that it doesn’t transmit to being automatically employable.

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Weekly Education News Wrap-Up: Dec. 12

December 12th, 2011 by Clifford

YouTube for Schools Is Education Hub for the Digital Age
YouTube is launching a brand new tool to help teachers and students get their learn on. “YouTube for Schools” is a portal that helps curate education materials and videos on subjects such as history and math while filtering out potentially offensive or distracting content.

Education World Tackles Cutting-Edge Classroom Tech Topics
Integrating technology into education is a key part of developing students’ 21st-century skills. Education World, a longtime provider of free educational resources, has revamped the technology section of its website so that educators have what they need to prepare students for the modern workforce.

Biden tests 2012 education pitch
Bloomberg Businessweek
Top White House officials are trying to transmute three disastrous, government-created crises into an education campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama. Vice-President Joe Biden tested the formula at a Florida high school, where he told parents and students that Obama is considering “tough and draconian” fixes to rising college costs, one of which could be the denial of federal education loans to some colleges.

Focus on high-tech education grows in county
The Columbian
Clark County’s biggest educational agencies are nourishing STEM starts, with the hope of seeing high-tech opportunities blossom. In education, STEM is shorthand for science, technology, engineering and math. Local K-12 school districts are working with Clark College, Washington State University Vancouver and Educational Service District 112 on a regional approach to high-tech education.

No more excuses for U.S. schools
Washington Post
Many Americans, including me, are skeptical of efforts to portray our public schools as failures compared with those in the rest of the world. The late Gerald W. Bracey, my favorite contrarian education expert, exposed exaggerations, false assumptions and deceptive graphics that made us look worse than we were.

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Weekly Education News Wrap-Up: Dec. 5

December 5th, 2011 by ErinS

Official Calls for Urgency on College Costs
The New York Times
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at a Las Vegas conference of college financial aid workers, calling for higher education officials to think creatively and “with much greater urgency” about how to correct the issues of rising costs and student debt.

Meet 5 Big Lenders Profiting from the $1 Trillion Student Debt Bubble
With students and recent graduates across the nation drowning under an average of $25,000 in student loan debt, who are the big private lenders who are raking in the profits? AlterNet takes a look at the top five and how they’re using their cash flow to impact the political future of student loan reform.

Wells Fargo Slashes Student Loan Rates
Bloomberg Businessweek
Wells Fargo & Co. announced that it’s lowering interest rates on student loans, dropping its fixed interest rates on their basic undergraduate loans from 7.75% to 7.24%. However, this lower rate will not be available for everyone, and interest rates will still be calculated based on borrowers’ credit scores.

The Federal Role in Pricing
Inside Higher Ed
Arthur Hauptman discusses the role of the federal government when it comes to controlling college prices and spending and how the symbolic calls by President Obama’s administration for institutions to reduce tuition and costs aren’t likely to affect much change over the long term.

On Campuses, the Income Gap Widens at the Top
The Chronicle of Higher Education
As a follow-up to their look at the compensation of presidents at public colleges and universities, The Chronicle of Higher Education has now released their assessment of private college and university presidents and how they’re compensated in comparison to their total budgets and their full-time professors. And they found that Wall Street is the only place with economic disparities at the top.

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Weekly Education News Wrap-Up: Nov. 28

November 28th, 2011 by admin

education-news-headlines-ts71086696The other student loan problem: too little debt
San Francisco Chronicle
Jesse Yeh uses the University of California-Berkeley library instead of buying textbooks. He scrounges for free food at campus events and occasionally skips meals. He’s stopped exercising and sleeps five to six hours per night so he can take 21 credits — a course load so heavy he had to get special permission from a dean. The only thing he won’t do: take out a student loan.

Big expansion, big questions for Teach for America
Tuscaloosa News
In a distressed neighborhood north of Miami’s gleaming downtown, a group of enthusiastic but inexperienced instructors from Teach for America is trying to make progress where more veteran teachers have had difficulty: raising students’ reading and math scores. “These are the lowest performing schools, so we need the strongest performing teachers,” said Julian Davenport, an assistant principal at Holmes Elementary, where three-fifths of the staff this year are Teach for America corps members or graduates of the program.

Deficit Supercommittee’s Failure Triggers Steep Cuts for Education and Research
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Congressional supercommittee charged with cutting $1.2-trillion from the federal budget conceded defeat Monday, after its members reached an impasse over taxes and entitlement spending. The panel’s failure to produce a deficit-reduction plan triggers across-the-board cuts of roughly $1-trillion in discretionary spending over nine years, starting in the 2013 fiscal year.

An educational aid at your fingertips
Click. Click. Tap.Technology is amazing, isn’t it? In a matter of decades, we go from computers the size of rooms to ones that fit inside our rooms. Now, we can put computers on our laps and type emails, surf the Web or do homework.And since we can do homework with them, wouldn’t it make sense to take our laptops to school? Turns out, that’s actually a controversial idea. Both sides have their reasons for and against, and they both put up a good argument.

Shawnee Mission school district: No apology to Brownback required from student
The Wichita Eagle
The Shawnee Mission School District says student Emma Sullivan will not be required to apologize for a tweet critical of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. A statement from the district says officials have reviewed the facts surrounding Sullivan’s tweet last week. During a visit as part of a student government program Sullivan tweeted comments critical of Brownback.

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Weekly Education News Wrap-Up: Nov. 21

November 21st, 2011 by admin

education-news-headlines-ts71086696A Lazy River Ride to a Higher Ed Crisis
Huffington Post
As debates about the state of U.S. higher education continue to heat up, Andrew S. Rosen takes a stand on the current priorities of private and public universities alike, claiming that the focus needs to switch from resort-like campus amenities back to faculty, quality education and affordable degrees.

Five Myths about Student Loans
Washington Post
Do you think you know all there is to know about student loans and the education debt crisis? Mark Kantrowitz debunks five myths about the debate that might affect how you view the situation, including that student loan forgiveness will stimulate the economy, all education debt is good debt, student loans go away with bankruptcy, widespread student loan defaults will worsen the national deficit, and the federal government should get out of the student loan business.

How to Kick Off Your Student Loan Repayments
U.S. News & Word Report
If you graduated from college this past May, your six-month post-grad breather time before student loan repayment begins is already over, and you need to start thinking about how to begin paying back your education debts. If you didn’t get a good rundown on this from your counselors before you left school, U.S. News & World Report has advice on how to buckle down and get started.

Have Big-Time Sports Distorted Higher Education?
Chicago Tribune
In the wake of the Penn State scandal that has rocked the U.S., former university professor Ron Grossman takes a look at the elite culture that has developed around university sports and the potential negative effects it has on the development of U.S. higher education.

For-Profit Schools Look Abroad for Growth
Major for-profit school groups are looking at expansion opportunities overseas, particularly markets in Latin America and India. Devry, Apollo Group, Kaplan, Capella and ITT have all expressed interest in opening international campuses that could provide opportunities for areas where a rising middle class, growing college participation rates and a young population are increasing demand for postsecondary education.

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Anders Behring Breivik and the Insanity Defense

July 27th, 2011 by rebeccac

Early this week, the lawyer representing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik implied that he would be seeking the insanity defense for his client.

It’s probably surprising to very few people – after all, what other options are left to a man charged with defending someone who executed one of the most devastating peacetime attacks on a nation as benign as the Kingdom of Norway? Who confessed to both the bombing and the shooting after letting himself be apprehended?

Almost every legal system in the world, save for Sweden, has a provision for an insanity defense, exempting defendants with mental health problems from responsibility for their actions and therefore shielding them from full criminal punishment. But there are a lot of elements to an insanity defense* that have developed over the years, and it’s worth a look to try and estimate whether even this tactic will be sufficient to try to explain the terrible acts he committed.

(*For the sake of this article, we’ll look at the U.S. insanity defense – mainly because the author couldn’t learn Bokmål quickly enough to read up on Norwegian law.)

Insanity defense through the ages
Exemptions for the criminally insane can be documented all the way back to the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi from 1700 BC. The ancient Greek and Roman civilizations also had similar qualifications, so there is a long and entrenched history for this argument in all sorts of legal systems. In general, they all relate to the lack of mens rea (“guilty mind”), which essentially claims that the crime itself isn’t enough, that the criminal must also have – on some level – a guilty conscience about it.

However, the definition of who is considered too insane to be responsible for whatever crime was committed varies and is often being argued and changed. Under 13th century British King Edward II, a person was insane if their mental capacity was no more than that of “wild beast.” After 1500, it was on the juries to acquit the insane and then refer them to the king or queen for sentencing of detention.

In 1843, the British House of Lords created the M’Naghten Rules, which continue to shape the insanity defense even today. They weren’t so much actual laws as a set of questions that served as a guideline and sought to determine if, because of mental illness, the criminal either (a) didn’t know his action was wrong; or (b) didn’t understand the nature of his own actions. Many U.S. states still use versions of these rules to determine legal insanity.

Other developments have come and gone through the years. The idea of “irresistible impulse” was introduced to expand the M’Naghten Rules to cover those who understand that their actions are wrong but lack the mental capacity to stop themselves. Broader arguments for the definition of legal insanity were introduced in the 1950s but set aside a few decades later in another case. The latest clear development was The Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984, put into place after John Hinckley, Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity after attempting to assassinate President Reagan. It returned more strongly to the M’Naghten Rules as a basis for legal insanity and making it the responsibility of the defense team and expert witnesses to prove the existence of severe mental illness.

Insanity defense today
While it may seem like every time you turn on the television some high-profile criminal is pleading insanity, it’s actually neither very popular nor terribly successful in the United States. In 2001, Frank Schmalleger did a study of eight states and found that less than 1% used the insanity defense, and of those cases, only 26% were successful. On top of that, the majority of the insanity defenses that won did so only because the defendant had a previously diagnosed mental illness.

So even though the use of this defense is rare in the U.S., media exposure makes it seem like it’s everywhere. Traditionally, cases where the insanity defense is pleaded suddenly become much more interesting to the viewing public and get much more air time on news channels. It’s a tricky situation and one seen by many in the public as just an excuse by defendants to try and wiggle out of going to prison in favor of going to a mental health facility instead.

What about Breivik?
Yes, what about him. An admitted domestic terrorist who systematically killed 76 people, many of them teenagers at a youth camp. His lawyer has already made public statements saying that Breivik was on drugs at the time of the attacks, that he believes what he did was necessary and that he is fighting a war. The consensus seems to be that these statements are laying the groundwork for an insanity plea. If Breivik’s lawyer proceeds with that argument – and Breivik agrees to it, which is a question in and of itself – what is the likelihood that he will be effective?

Legal experts have said not so good. The nature of the attacks themselves suggest months, maybe even years, of preplanning in order to effectively execute, and none of his behavior during the event seemed to imply anything other than full and methodical control, which undermines any claims to impulsive or temporary insanity. When you pile onto this his political writings, his confession that his actions were horrible but necessary, and his prediction that many would see him insane afterward, it’s going to be a tough sell all around.

But in a country as proudly free and democratic as Norway, where even monsters and madmen have the right to a fair defense, it might be the only chance Breivik has got.

What are your thoughts on the insanity defense? Is it a valid legal protection? And does Breivik stand a chance with it or with any defense?

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Scholarship Feature: Midland Business and Professional Women’s Club

July 21st, 2011 by admin

A Texas organization is throwing their support behind women who are trying to get back on track with education.

The Midland Business and Professional Women’s Club is offering four $500 scholarships each semester for women 25 years old and older who enroll in an accredited Texas school.

“Sometimes women don’t go back to school because they can’t pay and that shouldn’t be the situation,” President Glenda Knox told The Midland Reporter-Telegram.

In addition to meeting the age, gender and state requirements, those interested also must:

  • Be a high school graduate or GED recipient
  • Take at least six credit hours each semester
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Submit a completed application and two reference letters
  • Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher
  • Submit copies of expense receipts, their course schedule and (if applicable) their prior semester’s transcript

It’s preferred that the scholarship money is used directly for education expenses – books, tuition, etc. – but, unlike some other scholarships, they recognize that award winners may need the money for other related expenses, like childcare or transportation.

The Midland Business and Professional Women’s Club is a regional organization that focuses on representing women’s equality in the workplace. The application for their scholarship can be found on their official site.

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Kids in the Weight Room

July 15th, 2011 by rebeccac

His name is Giuliano Stroe, and next week he’ll be seven years old.

He has a seven-year-old face, too – soft, big-eyed, young. The rest of his body, though, doesn’t quite match. In fact, it doesn’t look like a child’s physique at all – it belongs, instead, to a 30-year-old bodybuilder competing in the Arnold Classic. He’s been training since he was around four years old and has already reportedly broken records for number of air pushups, longest time as a “human flag,” fastest 10-meter hand-walk with a weight ball between his legs – y’know … kids’ stuff. His father, who trains him, has posted YouTube videos of Romanian-born Guiliano working out, and they are spreading quickly. He’s beyond ripped, beyond strong, and he’s creating a lot of new debate on an old topic.

Isn’t it bad for children to lift weights?
First off, let’s real quick define what we mean here when we say “lifting weights.” It’s actually kind of a broad term that can mean anything from competitive Olympic bodybuilding to bicep curls with that set of economical 10-pound dumbbells you keep in the closet for those days you can’t get to the gym. For the purposes of this piece, let’s assume that when I say “weightlifting,” I’m talking more about the latter than the former – simply anaerobic forms of strength training for health purposes without any significant goal toward bodybuilding in any of its varied forms, either for competition or recreation.

The idea that children and weightlifting were the fitness version of oil and water has been around so long that I didn’t even know where it came from or why I believed it to be true. It was just a fact, reinforced everywhere by anecdotes and the doctor recommendations and the age requirements at gyms – usually 12-14 years old before you could be there and even then only with a parent.

The truth is the idea first appeared in the 1970s after a research study in Japan found that child laborers were abnormally shorter than their non-laboring counterparts. They concluded that the hours of heavy lifting stunted their growth, and this morphed into kids + weightlifting = bad, a concept which entrenched itself into popular culture. It became common knowledge: Until they hit puberty, children were still growing and throwing weights around compacts their bodies, inhibits bone development and damages their growth plates. Period. End of discussion.

Except that it’s not. Not by a long shot. In fact, a 2010 study published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics claims just the opposite. Researchers in Germany analyzed 60 years’ worth of studies regarding children and the effects of weightlifting and found that almost every subject benefited. They didn’t gain a lot of muscle mass or buff up, but the weight training generated neurological changes that caused children’s muscles to function more efficiently.

They’re not the only ones taking a new stance on this controversial topic. In 2009, the National Strength and Conditioning Association – a highly recognized educational association on strength and conditioning and one of the most respected providers of personal training certifications – released a position paper on youth resistance training, claiming that a properly designed and supervised program is not only safe for children, but can also prevent injuries, enhance sports performance, and improve psychological and social well-being.

So what does this mean?
So let’s say you’re studying fitness training or taking personal training courses. (It’s pretty hot right now.) Or let’s say you have kids – maybe they’re in sports or maybe they don’t like sports but still need a way to be active. What happens now? Do personal training schools start adding child specializations to their certification programs? Do gyms drop their age restrictions and purchase Crayon-colored dumbbells for the weight room? Will commercials for a child-sized Bowflex (complete with an animated Chuck Norris!) run between sugary cereal spots during Saturday morning cartoons?

Probably nothing as extreme as that, but odds are that mindsets on the topic will be evolving and you might see more parents getting their kids involved in a form of exercise that’s long been reserved for “grownups.” The key is – whether you’re a parent looking to improve your child’s health or someone in the industry, like a personal trainer, who’s suddenly faced with a substantially younger client base – staying informed and staying involved. Both the NSCA’s release and an article on the Mayo Clinic’s website listed recommendations, and it sounds like they can be distilled down to a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Always supervise. Weightlifting is like any sport or recreational activity; there’s a danger of injury if not properly supervised, so make sure you’re there to spot and support.
  • Form is first and foremost. Even in adults, the most common cause of injury in strength training is bad form. Make sure they have the motions down first before you even throw any kind of weight into the equation.
  • Don’t push it. Small bodies, small weights. No one needs to clean-and-jerk here – or get strapped into hefty machines. A lot of the time their own body weight or resistance bands will be enough for the youngsters to start on.

The case of Guiliano Stroe is an extreme – an extreme that might further skew the opinions of many people who, like myself, have long believed kids and weightlifting are a bad combination. After all, most probably don’t find that kind of bodybuilder physique topped with a child’s face entirely natural.

But the facts of the matter are changing, studies are proving the old ideaswrong, and strength training is being shown to improve kids’ health, growth and well-being. It remains to be seen how quickly the idea will spread or how much future studies will support it, but it’s certainly in flux.

So keep an eye out next time you’re at the gym – the eight-year-old who was in the childcare room last week might be snaking your bench press tomorrow.

What are your thoughts? Should weightlifting start becoming more common amongst the prepubescent crowd?

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