Category Archives: Education

Campaign 2016: The presidential race rated NSFS

As in Not Safe for Schools.

From the Washington Post:

Social studies teachers have long used presidential elections to provide engaging, real-time lessons about democracy, helping them bring to life what students read in textbooks about American politics, history and civics.

But this election cycle, unique in so many ways, also has proven to be a dicey challenge for classroom consumption, with teachers struggling to explain and dissect developments that have at times been far too lurid for young minds. Just the language of the campaign — including allegations of sexual assault, lewd comments about women, attacks on each candidate’s supporters — would be the kind of talk that would land a child in the principal’s office.

“This is the first time I’ve really said to myself, ‘I can’t cover this election like I want to because it’s not school-appropriate,’?” said Kris Goldstein, who teaches government to seniors at Tokay High School in Lodi, Calif. It was a realization he had after Republican nominee Donald Trump attacked a critic by urging people to watch her sex tape. “There’s certain things I don’t want to be talking about.”

Many teachers say they have shifted their lesson plans to keep things G-rated and to ease anxiety among minority and immigrant students, some of whom feel like they are in the line of fire. Some teachers have avoided classroom discussion of the election altogether; others say their students are too captivated to avoid it.

They want to assign students to watch the third presidential debate scheduled for Wednesday night, but they also fear what their students may see and hear.

Studies reveal music’s big impacts on growing brain

We’ve always been passionate believers in the value of music and art ecducation starting at the earliest years.

Gowing up in Kansas in the 1950s, we were the beneficiary of musical education that started in elementary school, where we participated in both singing and band programs, acquiring a love of music that has lasted throughout these last seven decades.

Our paternal grandmother was an elementary school teacher in Abilene, Kansas, and music was a critical part of her daily teaching. After her death in 1959, we received a letter from one her colleagues, telling us that one of her students had written that he still found inspiration in songs he had learned in her first and second grade classes.

The pupil was Dwight David Eisenhower, then serving as President of the United States.

Music and fine arts programs slashed as testing rises

But today, in classrooms across the country, education is music and the fine arts has fallen prey to a combination of budget cuts and the relentless imperative of the standardized test, a regime designed to turn out cogs in the machine rather than well-rounded, independent-minded individuals.

As the journal of the National Education Association reported in 2014:

Across the nation, the testing obsession has nudged aside visual arts, music, physical education, social studies, and science, not to mention world languages, financial literacy, and that old standby, penmanship. Our schools, once vigorous and dynamic centers for learning, have been reduced to mere test prep factories, where teachers and students act out a script written by someone who has never visited their classroom and where “achievement” means nothing more than scoring well on a bubble test.

“NCLB [No Child Left Behind] has corrupted what it means to teach and what it means to learn,” explains NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Teachers have to teach in secret and hope they don’t get into trouble for teaching to the Whole Child instead of teaching to the test.”

A Google search for the words “music education elementary schools eliminated” turns up more than a million hits, a tragic litany of stories reporting slashed programs across the nation and throughout much of the Western world.

Musical training improves standardized testing scores

Ironically, music education actually improves children’s test scores, as the Children’s Music Workshop notes:

Music education programs increase children’s cognitive development. Also, research shows that “preschoolers who took daily 30 minute group singing lessons and a weekly 10-15 minute private keyboard lesson scored 80 percent higher in object assembly skills than students who did not have the music lessons,” as reported in a 1994 study by Frances Rauscher and Gordon Shaw at the University of California, Irvine (Harvey, 1997). It is clear that music education programs dramatically stimulate a child’s learning capacity, as shown in drastic increases in the scores of children who participated in music programs. Music education programs can begin as early as preschool and should continue for the greatest results.

When music education is sustained throughout the elementary years, children continue to learn better through the clear connections between music and other areas of study. For instance, a 1999 study presented in Neurological Research reveals that when second and third-grade students were taught fractions through basic music rhythm notation, they “scored a full 100% higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.” This study shows that the students who learned about the mathematical concept of fractions related their music knowledge of the relationships between eighth, quarter, half and whole notes in order to fully understand the material.

Students in music programs consistently score better on tests, as also exemplified in the 2001 study compiled by Music Educators National Conference, which exhibits that “SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 41 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework/experience in the arts.” It is obvious that when students have experience in music education in both the elementary and high school level, they perform considerably better in other important subjects as well. Music education programs in the elementary school level are necessary for the future success of students in all subject areas.

Musical training reshapes the brain

A major study by scientists from Harvard and McGill University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience [open access] used brain imaging to map changes in children’s brains resulting from musical study concluded with this summary:

M]usical training over only 15 months in early childhood leads to structural brain changes that diverge from typical brain development. Regional training-induced structural brain changes were found in musically relevant regions that were driven by musically relevant behavioral tests. The fact there were no structural brain differences found between groups before the onset of musical training indicates that the differential development of these brain regions is induced by instrumental practice rather by than preexisting biological predictors of musicality. These results provide new evidence for training-induced structural brain plasticity in early childhood. These findings of structural plasticity in the young brain suggest that long-term intervention programs can facilitate neuroplasticity in children. Such an intervention could be of particular relevance to children with developmental disorders and to adults with neurological diseases.

And yet another study proves the power of music. . .and dance

And now comes yet another study revealing the direct impact of education in music and dance on the brains of growing children.

From Concordia University in Montreal:

Endless hours at the barre. Long afternoons practising scales. All that time you spent in piano lessons and dance classes as a youngster may have seemed like a pain, but new research now confirms what your parents claimed: it’s good for mind and body.

In fact, a recent study published in NeuroImage ($35.95 to access] by a team* of researchers from the the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, proves that dance and music training have even stronger effects on the brain than previously understood — but in markedly different ways.

The researchers used high-tech imaging techniques to compare the effects of dance and music training on the white matter structure of experts in these two disciplines. They then examined the relationship between training-induced brain changes and dance and music abilities.

Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Greek immiseration deepens

As the financial overlords of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and the European mandate ever deeper cuts in payrolls, healthcare,  and pensions, Greeks are cutting back still more on all but the basic essentials of life as costs paying more than ever for housing, hospitals and drugs, and now-privatized public transit systems.

In turn, Greeks have cut back on spending for education, fuel, and home appliances.

From the Hellenic Statistical Authority:


Two more Ayotzinapa students are gunned down

Two years after the 26 September 2014 abduction and disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero [previously], two more the school have been murdered.

From teleSUR English:

The bodies of two students from the Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa were found among five who were killed allegedly by paramilitary groups in the area, speakers of the school said Wednesday.

The school is the same school that had enrolled the 43 students who were forcibly disappeared and presumed murdered two years ago in the nearby city of Iguala, in the violence-ravaged southern state of Guerrero.

Jonathan Morales and Filemon Tacuba were killed on Tuesday in the Tixtla-Chilpancingo highway, while they were aboard a public transportation van that was intercepted by gunmen who forced them and other passengers to get off the vehicle and shot them at the foot of the road, in what authorities described as an execution.

The students were returning from internships as part of the activities of their senior year.

The bodies of Jonathan and Filemon were mourned Wednesday morning at the Ayotzinapa college. The student’s committee said that there is widespread fear on the campus which has forced many students to leave the men-only boarding school.

Quote of the day: Caution, men [not] working


From Harvard University Professor and former Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence H. Summers, writing for the Washington Post:

Job destruction caused by technology is not a futuristic concern.  It is something we have been living with for two generations. A simple linear trend suggests that by mid-century about a quarter of men between 25 and 54 will not be working at any moment.

I think this likely a substantial underestimate unless something is done for a number of reasons. First everything we hear and see regarding technology suggests the rate of job destruction will pick up. Think of the elimination of drivers, and of those who work behind cash registers. Second, the gains in average education and health of the workforce over the last 50 years are unlikely to be repeated. Third, to the extent that non-work is contagious, it is likely to grow exponentially rather than at a linear rate. Fourth, declining marriage rates are likely to raise rates of labor force withdrawal given that non-work is much more common for unmarried than married men.

On the basis of these factors, I expect that more than one-third of all men between 25 and 54 will be out work at mid-century. Very likely more than half of men will experience a year of non-work at least one year out of every five. This would be in the range of the rate of non-work for high school drop-outs and exceeds the rate of non-work for African Americans today.

Will we be able to support these people and a growing retired share of the population? What will this mean for the American family? For prevailing ethics of self-reliance? For alienation and support for toxic populism? These are vital questions. Even more vital is the question of what is to be done.

Racial profiling begins in America’s pre-schools


Continuing with today’s theme, a sobering new study reveals that institutional racial profiling begins in the nation’s pre-schools.

From the Yale Child Study Center:

Preschool teachers and staff show signs of implicit bias in administering discipline, but the race of the teacher plays a big role in the outcome, according to research [open access] conducted by the Yale Child Study Center. The results help explain why black students tend to be suspended at much higher rates than white students, the authors say.

Release of the findings has been requested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is scheduled to be presented to federal and state officials on Sept. 28.

Researchers used sophisticated eye-tracking technology and found that preschool teachers “show a tendency to more closely observe black students, and especially boys, when challenging behaviors are expected,” the authors found.

But at the same time, black teachers hold black students to a higher standard of behavior than do their white counterparts, the researchers found. While the study did not explore why this difference in attitude exists, the researchers speculated that black educators may be demonstrating “a belief that black children require harsh assessment and discipline to prepare them for a harsh world.”

White educators, by contrast, may be acting on a stereotype that black preschoolers are more likely to misbehave in the first place, so they judge them against a different, more lenient standard than what they’re applying to white children.

“The tendency to base classroom observation on the gender and race of the child may explain in part why those children are more frequently identified as misbehaving and hence why there is a racial disparity in discipline,” added Walter S. Gilliam, director of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and associate professor of child psychiatry and psychology at the Yale Child Study Center.  Gilliam is one of five researchers who conducted what is thought to be the first such study of its type.

Findings suggested that when the preschool teacher and child were of the same race, knowing about family stressors led to increased teacher empathy for the preschooler and decreased how severe the behaviors appeared to the teacher. But, when the teacher and child were of a different race, the same family information seemed to overwhelm the teachers and the behaviors were perceived as being more severe.

“These findings suggest that teachers need support in understanding family struggles, as they may related to child behaviors, especially when the teacher and child are of different races,” Gilliam said.

Primary funding for the research came from the WK Kellogg Foundation.

Chart of the day: Partisan views of institutions

Given the relentless endorsement of the Republican agenda by the nation’s leading news network, the GOP view of the press is rather ironic.

From the Pew Research Center: