Tag Archives: Education

Racism and School Discipline

The most recent episode of the popular This American Life discussed racism in school discipline as well as rethinking school discipline generally. This story is one of the most interesting podcast I have heard in quite some time.

Here is a description from the This American Life website:

Stories of schools struggling with what to do with misbehaving kids. There’s no general agreement about what teachers should do to discipline kids. And there’s evidence that some of the most popular punishments actually may harm kids.

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Why Textbooks Cost So Much

Recently, the Planet Money podcast tackled a topic relevant to student: the increasing costs of textbooks.

Here is a description of the show from the NPR website:

Prices of new textbooks have been going up like crazy. Faster than clothing, food, cars, and even healthcare.

Listeners have been asking for years why textbooks are getting so expensive. On today’s show, we actually find an answer.

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Should We “Embrace The Common Core”?

That was the question being debated on the most recent episode on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Carmel Marin (American Progress) and Michael Petrilli (Fordham Institute) who argued for the motion; and Carol Burris (South Side High School Principal) and Frederick Hess (American Enterprise Institute)who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

In K-12 education, there is nothing more controversial than the Common Core State Standards, national academic standards in English and math. Adopted by more than 40 states, they were developed, in part, to address concerns that American students were falling behind their foreign counterparts and graduating high school without the necessary skills for college and the workforce. But is this the reform we’ve been looking for? Has the federal government overreached and saddled our schools with standards that have been flawed from the start? Or will the Common Core raise the bar and improve the quality of our children’s education?

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The History of Education: Race, Gender and Standardized Testing

In a recent episode of NPR’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed Dana Goldstein author of the new book The Teacher Wars, a book which chronicle the American history of teachers, which the subtitle states is America’s Most Embattled Profession.  The book discusses how education in America intersects with race and gender as well as the controversial issues in modern education, including the role of standardized testing.  

 Here is a description an introduction to the interview from the NPR website:

As students return to school, the national dialogue on controversies surrounding teacher tenure, salaries, the core curriculum, testing and teacher competence will get more fervent.

In her new book, The Teacher Wars, Dana Goldstein writes about how teaching became “the most controversial profession in America,” and how teachers have become both “resented and idealized.”

In the New York Times, critic Alexander Nazaryan described the book as “meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced.” Although it’s largely a history, it also draws on Goldstein’s reporting on recent controversies surrounding teaching.

“One of the things I noticed, especially after the recession hit in 2008 and coming into President Obama’s administration, was we were having a big national conversation about inequality,” Goldstein tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And teaching was something that was discussed again and again as a potential fix — a fix for inequality, something that could help poor children achieve like middle-class children and close these socioeconomic gaps that we’re so concerned about as a nation.”

For the book, Goldstein researched 200 years of teaching in America.

“What surprised me … was that we’ve always had these high expectations,” she says. “This idea that teachers have a role to play in fighting poverty and inequality has been with us since the early 19th century.”


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“More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall is Obsolete”

That was the proposition being debated on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Anant Agarwa ( edX CEO & MIT Professor) and Ben Nelson (Founder and CEO of the Minerva Project) who argued for the motion; and Jonathan Cole (Provost and Dean Emeritus, Columbia University) and Rebecca Schuman (Columnist for Slate and Chronicle of Higher Education), who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

Is the college of the future online? With the popularity of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the availability of online degree programs at a fraction of their on-campus price, we are experiencing an exciting experiment in higher education. Does the traditional classroom stand a chance? Will online education be the great equalizer, or is a campus-based college experience still necessary?

Brought to you in partnership with the Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy, a joint venture of Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School. The Richman Center fosters dialogue and debate on emerging policy questions where business and markets intersect with the law.

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April 16, 2014 · 8:54 am

“Affirmative Action on Campus Does More Harm Than Good”

That was the proposition being debated on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Gail Heriot (University of San Diego) and Richard Sander (UCLA School of Law) who argued for the motion; and Randall Kennedy (Harvard Law School) and Theodore Shaw (Columbia Law School), who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

Affirmative action, when used as a factor in college admissions, is meant to foster diversity and provide equal opportunities in education for underrepresented minorities. But is it achieving its stated goals and helping the population it was created to support? Its critics point to students struggling to keep up in schools mismatched to their abilities and to the fact that the policy can be manipulated to benefit affluent and middle class students who already possess many educational advantages. Is it time to overhaul or abolish affirmative action?

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April 2, 2014 · 8:04 pm

Reflections on Nelson Mandela and New York’s Core Curriculum

On the most recent episode of WCNY’s The Ivory Tower, CNY’s finest academics discussed the death of Nelson Mandela as well as New York State’s Core Curriculum public education standards. 

Hosted by David Rubin (Dean of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, this edition of The Ivory Tower featured a powerhouse panel including: Lisa Dolak (Syracuse University College of Law), Bob Greene (Cazenovia College), Tara Ross (Onondaga County Community College), and Kristi Andersen (Maxwell School of Syracuse University).

Here is a description of the program:

The panelists first offer some reflections on the passing of Nelson Mandela. Then they examine the controversial Core Curriculum in New York State that is meant to improve the quality of K-12 education. It has roiled parents and teachers considerably and forced the State Education Commissioner to defend it in public forums around the state.

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December 11, 2013 · 9:56 am

The Fair Housing Act: Then and Now

Last weekend, This American Life ran a fascinating episode on housing discrimination and the history of the Fair Housing Act. 

The “Prologue” talks about the impact where children lives on their education. Here is a description: 

Ira talks to 15 year old Jada who, when she was in third grade, moved from Akron Public Schools in Ohio, to the nearby Copley-Fairlawn schools in the suburbs. After two years, Jada was kicked out by administrators who discovered that her mother was using Jada’s grandfather’s address in Copley, instead of her own in Akron. Jada says that while the schools are only a few miles apart, the difference in education was astounding.
For more information about Jada and her mother, Kelley Williams Bolar, who spent 10 days in jail because she falsified documents so she could enroll Jada and her sister in the Copley-Fairlawn schools, you can go here. (5 minutes)

Both Acts One and Two discuss the history of the Fair Housing Act and housing discrimination in New York City today. 

Act One, “Rental Gymnastics” is described as follows: 

Reporter Nancy Updike talks to a group of New York City residents about their frustrating attempts to rent an apartment. With hidden microphones, we hear landlords and supers tell the apartment hunters that there’s nothing available. But that’s not necessarily true. Forty-five years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jonestalks to Nancy about the history of racial housing discrimination in the United States and what has been done — and hasn’t been done — to rectify it. (31 minutes)

Here is a description of Act II, “The Missionary“:

Once the Fair Housing Act became law in 1968, there was some question about how to implement it and enforce it. George Romney, the former Republican Governor of Michigan and newly-appointed Secretary of HUD, was a true believer in the need to make the Fair Housing Law a powerful one — a robust attempt to change the course of the nation’s racial segregation. Only problem was: President Richard Nixon didn’t necessarily see it that way. With Nikole Hannah-Jones, Nancy Updike continues the story. (16 minutes)

Nikole Hannah-Jones’s investigative series on the history and enforcement of the Fair Housing laws — with more stories, research and interviews —is here.


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November 29, 2013 · 12:45 pm

Freakonomics on College Part 2: Costs and Benefits

Last week, we featured Part I on the Freakonomics episode on the economics of college.  This week Freakonomics discussed the costs and benefits of college education with students, economics, professors and recent grads.  

Here is a sampling of some of those guests interviewed: 

This episode looks at tuition costs and also tries to figure out exactly how the college experience makes people so much better off. . . . 


While there are a lot of different voices in this episode, including current and recent college grads, the episode is also a bit heavy on economists (d’oh!), including:

David Card at Berkeley, whose education papers are here;

Ronald Ehrenberg at Cornell, whose recent paper “American Higher Education in Transition” discusses tuition inflation;

Betsey Stevenson; her blog contributions are here, and she tweets too;

Justin Wolfers, whose blog writing is here; he too tweets; additionally, he and Stevenson are a matched pair — heading for the University of Michigan, by the way — who also appeared in our “Economist’s Guide to Parenting” podcast, along with daughter Matilda, whom they discuss again in this episode; and:

Steve Levitt

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November 13, 2013 · 5:43 pm

“Genetics and Education”

In a recent book, G is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement, Robert Plomin and Kathryn Asbury explore the science of genetics and the potential impact of genetics on education policy.  Plomin and Asbury argue against the taboo (*eugenics*) surrounding use of genetics to inform education.  G is for Genes is the basis of  recent BBC Moral Maze debate.  


Here is a description of the podcast: 

For centuries philosophers and theologians have wrestled with the question of nature versus nurture. Increasingly and for some controversially, the science of behavioural genetics is starting to come up with some of the answers. The argument is perhaps at its most sensitive when applied to education. When it was revealed that Education Secretary, Michael Gove’s outgoing special advisor, Dominic Cummings, called for education policy to incorporate the science behind genes and cognitive development he broke a modern taboo and there was a predictable outcry. In a wide ranging paper Mr Cummings cited the work of Professor Robert Plomin who’s about to publish a book with psychologist Dr Kathryn Asbury which calls for “genetically sensitive” schooling. It’s based on a study of how genes and environment have shaped the development of over 10,000 twins who were studied from birth to early adulthood. The scientists say their work is about probability not prophecy and can be used to personalise education and create better outcomes for all, but fears of genetic determinism are deeply ingrained. How should we use genetics in education? Science is a very long way from knowing exactly which genes influence individual differences in learning but as knowledge in this field advances that time will surely come. We already use genetics to screen for various medical conditions, so why not for learning abilities? And what happens if, or when, the science of genetics becomes so powerful that we can identify different populations that are endowed with different genetic make-ups that we believe are more or less desirable? Is that just a scientific inevitability that we have to come to terms with, or does it open the door to eugenics? How should we use the science of genetics?

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November 9, 2013 · 1:15 pm