Category Archives: Lifelong Learning

Afghan Schoolgirls Undeterred by Attack

Dexter Filkins:

One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside Shamsia on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.
“Are you going to school?”
Then the man pulled Shamsia’s burqa from her head and sprayed her face with burning acid. Scars, jagged and discolored, now spread across Shamsia’s eyelids and most of her left cheek. These days, her vision goes blurry, making it hard for her to read.
But if the acid attack against Shamsia and 14 others — students and teachers — was meant to terrorize the girls into staying home, it appears to have completely failed.
Today, nearly all of the wounded girls are back at the Mirwais School for Girls, including even Shamsia, whose face was so badly burned that she had to be sent abroad for treatment. Perhaps even more remarkable, nearly every other female student in this deeply conservative community has returned as well — about 1,300 in all.
“My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” said Shamsia, 17, in a moment after class. Shamsia’s mother, like nearly all of the adult women in the area, is unable to read or write. “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”

Michael Yon has more.

School Leaving Age: Extending compulsory education is no panacea for idle youth

The Economist:

WORKLESS children were “idling in the streets” and “tumbling about in the gutters”, wrote one observer in 1861 of the supposedly baleful effects of a reduction in the use of child labour. Such concerns eventually led to schooling being made mandatory for under-tens in 1880. The minimum school-leaving age has been raised five times since then and now stands at 16; but panic about feral youths menacing upright citizens and misspending the best years of their lives has not gone away.
Today’s equivalent of the Victorian street urchin is the “NEET”–a youth “not in education, employment or training”. And the same remedy is being prescribed: by 2013 all teenagers will have to continue in education or training until age 17, and by 2015 until 18. Now there are political rumours that the education-leaving age could be raised sooner, perhaps as early as this autumn. Bringing the measure forward is said to be among the proposals being prepared for the “jobs summit” Gordon Brown has grandly announced.
During downturns young people tend to have more difficulty finding, and staying in, work than older ones. So a policy that would keep them off the jobless register has obvious appeal for the government. Youngsters who have studied for longer may, moreover, be better placed for an eventual upturn, whenever that might be. And, unlike other measures on Mr Brown’s wish-list, this one is achievable by ministerial edict.

Mathmetician The Best Job in the US; Madison Math Task Force Community Meetings Tonight & Tomorrow

Sarah Needleman:

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation — mathematician — has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S.
“It’s a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school,” says Ms. Courter, a research mathematician at mental images Inc., a maker of 3D-visualization software in San Francisco. “It’s the science of problem-solving.”
The study, to be released Tuesday from, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. ( is published by Adicio Inc., in which Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. holds a minority stake.)
The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of “Jobs Rated Almanac,” and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz’s own expertise.
According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions — indoors and in places free of toxic fumes or noise — unlike those toward the bottom of the list like sewage-plant operator, painter and bricklayer. They also aren’t expected to do any heavy lifting, crawling or crouching — attributes associated with occupations such as firefighter, auto mechanic and plumber.
The study also considers pay, which was determined by measuring each job’s median income and growth potential. Mathematicians’ annual income was pegged at $94,160, but Ms. Courter, 38, says her salary exceeds that amount.


Parents and citizens have another opportunity to provide input on this matter when Brian Sniff, Madison’s Math Coordinator and Lisa Wachtel, Director of Madison’s Teaching & Learning discuss the Math Report at a Cherokee Middle School PTO meeting on January 14, 2009 at 7:00p.m.

Soft Skills–Call Them What They Are

Kathleen Paris, via email:

It grates on me when I hear people talk about “soft skills.” Although definitions vary, soft skills generally refer to the ability to communicate effectively, knit a group of people together toward achieving a goal, and create a sense of shared community and purpose.’s Kate Lorenz describes these as “interpersonal skills and leadership qualities to guide teams of diverse professionals.”[i]
“Firms today are having a very difficult time finding managers who have superior ‘soft skills’ says John P. Kreiss, president of SullivanKreiss, a recruitment and placement firm for design and construction professionals.[ii] Based on my own consulting practice, I would have to agree that most workplaces could do with more soft skills.
Our language is part of the problem. By calling them “soft,” we are demoting this constellation of abilities and skills to something frilly, mushy and largely unimportant. Let’s find a more fitting term for them.

The Worst Jobs in History


The history we are taught usually features the lives and times of the great and the good, of the haves but not the have-nots. However, the monarchs, aristocrats and magnates could not have existed without the battalions of minions who performed the tasks that were beneath their masters and mistresses.
In this website, we take you on a journey through 2,000 years of British history and the worst jobs of each era, as seen in both Channel 4 Worst Jobs series. Tony Robinson has devised a quiz to see how suited you would be to certain jobs, and we have an extract from his book on the worst children’s jobs. The skills agency learndirect has provided information on offbeat careers, and we show you how to take your interest further.

In College, But Only Marginally

Globe Editorial
The Boston Globe
In college, but only marginally
December 23, 2008
MUCH SOUL-SEARCHING is taking place on local college campuses after a recent study showing that college was a bust for almost two-thirds of Boston high school graduates in the class of 2000. Students attending two-year community colleges–the least-expensive option–fared the worst in the survey by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, with an abysmal 12 percent graduation rate.
Specific results for all public and private colleges in the study should be available shortly after Christmas. But some figures are trickling in. Roxbury Community College fell flat. Of the 101 students from the high school class of 2000 who enrolled in RCC shortly after high school, only 6 percent would go on to earn a diploma there–or anywhere else–by June 2007. Quincy College, a low-profile, two-year college on the South Shore, did comparatively well (but not good enough) by its 62 Boston students, posting a 19 percent graduation rate. Bunker Hill Community College, which drew 155 enrollees from Boston’s class of 2000, yielded a 14 percent graduation rate.
The study, which was funded by the Boston Foundation, strips away some of the hype about college attendance rates in Boston. Seven out of 10 public school graduates may get into college, but many lack the preparation to succeed. At Bunker Hill, for example, more than 80 percent of the Boston students from the class of 2000 required a remedial math course. Wisely, Bunker Hill and Boston school officials are now introducing students at some city high schools to the placement exams they will face on campus in the coming year.
The study should put an end to common claims by community college officials that their graduation rates don’t reveal much because many of their students transfer to four-year colleges before earning associate degrees. In this study, a student merely needed to earn a diploma or certificate from any institution of higher education, not just the original college. And by providing at least a six-year window, the study made allowances for students who often juggle college with work or family obligations. Rationalizations are now off the table.

Continue reading In College, But Only Marginally

An Article Full of “Good Cheer” – Merry Christmas! Bringing the Power of Education to Children around the World

Knowledge @ Wharton via a kind reader’s email:

After a trek in the Himalayas brought him face-to-face with extreme poverty and illiteracy, John Wood left his position as a director of business development at Microsoft to found Room to Read, an award-winning international education organization. Under his leadership, more than 1.7 million children in the developing world now have access to enhanced educational opportunities. Room to Read to date has opened 725 schools and 7,000 bilingual libraries, and funded more than 7,000 scholarships for girls. Wood talked with Knowledge@Wharton about the launch of Room to Read, the book he wrote called Leaving Microsoft to Change the World and his personal definition of success.
Knowledge@Wharton: Our guest today is John Wood, founder of Room to Read. John, thank you so much for joining us.
John Wood: Thank you.
Knowledge@Wharton: I read your book back in 2006. You began it with the epiphany you had during your trip to Nepal which inspired you to do what you’re doing now and led to the creation of Room to Read. Can you tell us a little bit about that story?
Wood: Certainly. The book is called Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. The nice thing is I got that title before Bill Gates could get that title for his book, because, of course, Bill has now left Microsoft and is going to do amazing things to change the world through the Gates Foundation. My own personal journey to devoting my life to education was undertaken because, in so many places where I’ve traveled, whether it be post-Apartheid South Africa or post-Khymer Rouge Cambodia or the mountains of Nepal, you just find so many kids who have so little opportunity to gain the gift of education. To me, it just seemed like a very cruel Catch-22, that you would meet people who say, “We are too poor to afford education, but until we have education, how will we ever not be poor.” Throughout places I traveled, be it India, Nepal, Cambodia or Vietnam, I kept meeting kids who wanted to go to school but they couldn’t afford it. I would have kids ask me for a pencil. I thought, “How could something so basic be missing?”

Fast food + nearby schools = fat kids

Julie Steenhuysen:

Youth who study just a short walk from a fast-food outlet eat fewer fruit and vegetables, drink more soda and are more likely to be obese than students at other schools, according to research published Tuesday.
The study, which involved more than 500,000 adolescents at middle schools and high schools in California, lends new fuel to a growing backlash against the fast-food industry as studies suggest they contribute to the rising obesity epidemic in the United States.
“We’ve basically discovered that kids who are going to a school that is near a fast-food restaurant have a higher chance of being overweight and obese than kids who are at a school that is not near a fast-food restaurant,” said Brennan Davis of Azusa Pacific University in California, whose study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.
U.S. youth obesity rates have tripled since 1980, although they leveled off this decade. The government says 32 percent of U.S. children are overweight and 16 percent are obese.

TIMSS-07 comment

In the comments on TIMSS-07 math scores, one important aspect
has not been mentioned.

Grade 8 US



Number 510 537 583 597
Algebra 501 515 596 579
Geometry 480 505 587 578
Data and Chance 531 560 580 574

Korea and Singapore have balanced scores, the US and Minnesota do not. The first three areas are the core areas of mathematics on which otherthings are built. We have to improve on them.
Dick Askey
John Hechinger has more:

U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders improved their math scores in a closely watched international test, but continued to lag well behind peers from top-performing Asian countries. U.S. students also failed to show measurable gains in science.
The U.S. and other governments on Tuesday released the results of the test, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the world’s largest assessment of international achievement. Some 425,000 students in almost 60 countries took the exam, administered every four years, starting in 1995.

Student Weeks

The High School Survey of Student Engagement (Indiana University, 2004) found that 55% of the 80,000 students surveyed said they did fewer than three hours of homework each week, and most received As and Bs anyway.
I just received a paper by a HS student from Oregon, and her information sheet
included a listing of the hours per week she spends on activities:
Equestrian Team: 5 hours a week [52 weeks a year]
Theater/Drama: 15 hours a week [13 weeks a year]
Teach Africa: 3 hours a week [40 weeks a year]
Volunteering at the Hunt Club: 1 hour a week [50 weeks a year]
Volunteering for NARAL: 10 hours a week [1 week a year]
Scholars’ Alliance: 3 hours a week [10 weeks a year]
Food Drive: 15 hours a week [2 weeks a year]
Total outside of homework and school: 52 hours a week for one or more weeks.
[To be fair, the “Scholars’ Alliance” is a Saturday seminar taught by the superintendent
of the district on critical thinking skills, metacognition, the Art of War, the Tao, etc.]
Even so, it might be instructive to note this level of commitment (52 hours/week), in addition to any computer games, television, and instant messaging and other social activities during perhaps an average HS student week–the Kaiser Foundation has found that the average American teen spends nearly 45 hours a week on electronic entertainment media–and compare it with the Indiana University finding of half the HS students spending less than three hours a week on homework.
Could this have something to do with current levels of academic achievement? Is the question of the number of hours American HS students spend on non-academic activities during their waking periods each week worthy of a research study? I think so. If this has been done, please refer me to the study.
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

The Age of Mass Intelligence

Intelligent Life:

We’ve all heard about dumbing down. But there is plenty of evidence that the opposite is also true. Is this, in fact, the age of mass intelligence? John Parker reports…
Russell Southwood is queuing outside his local cinema in south London, listening to his iPod. Hip-hop and jazz, as usual. What is less usual is what he is queuing up for: not a film but a live transmission of this season’s opening night from the Royal Opera House. “I like hip-hop and opera,” he says. “Not a big deal.”
That’s increasingly true. Every other Saturday, Darren Henley is at the Priestfield football ground cheering on his beloved Gillingham. In the evening, he goes to a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic or the London Symphony Orchestra, because he is also the boss of Classic FM, a radio station that sponsors those orchestras.
Cultural incongruities are popping up everywhere. When the Guardian, which sponsors the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, picked ten visitors to interview, one turned out to be a check-out clerk at Tesco who saved all his money during the year so he could go to the festival for his holiday. He was far from the most unlikely visitor who might have been found. High-ranking officers from the SAS (Special Air Service), Britain’s crack covert-operations regiment–who have to remain anonymous–have been known to spend their holidays each year travelling from their base at Hereford to Hay for lectures on Wordsworth and Darwin.

A Retired Teacher on Governance, Administrators and Education Flavor of the Month Theories

James Behrend:

Extraordinary times command extraordinary measures and grant extraordinary opportunities. Our state’s budget crisis calls already for kids and schools to sacrifice. It does not have to be. This is Olympia’s chance to substantially improve our entrenched education system and save some money.
Here are three problems Olympia must tackle to make a real difference:
1. Washington taxpayers support 295 independent school districts. Each district is top-heavy with too many administrators: superintendents, assistant superintendents, executive directors, curriculum directors, special ed directors, human resources directors, finance directors, transportation directors, purchasing directors and other nonteaching executives.
2. The second problem is lack of stability. Administrators introduce too often “new” educational theories. With each new administrator come new ideas. What was the silver bullet in education one year ago is toxic with a new principal or new superintendent.
I experienced over a period of 12 years changes from a six periods day to a four periods “block system” (several years in the planning). After starting the block, my school planned for two years to establish five to six autonomous Small Schools, but only one was eventually organized. In the midst of those disruptive changes, Best Practices was contemplated but never enacted; special ed and ESL students were mainstreamed, and NovaNet, a computerized distant learning, was initiated with former Gov. Gary Locke present and praising our vision. Finally, all honors classes were abandoned and differentiated instruction was introduced.
Eventually, all these new methods were delegated to the trash heap of other failed educational experiments. By 2008, the school was where it had been in 1996, minus some very good teachers and more than a few dollars.
3. The third problem is the disconnect between endorsements and competency. A sociology major gets a social sciences endorsement from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and may teach history, or math, or Spanish. A PE teacher may instruct students in English literature or history. A German or English teacher may teach U.S. history.

Financial Literacy

The Economist:

I SUPPOSE I could be described as financially literate. I have a doctorate in economics; my dissertation focused on financial decision-making. I write about economics and finance, and I’ve worked in the financial industry, designing investment strategies. But, when I look at the balance of my brokerage account (those low-fee global-equity index funds do not seem like such a good idea at the moment) or my credit card statement (peppered with frivolous impulse purchases), I question my financial savvy.
Nonetheless, I have volunteered to provide financial-literacy training to young mothers at a local homeless shelter. This is the first time I have volunteered since school, when my guidance counsellor forced me into it. She thought the experience would look good on my college applications.
I always justified not volunteering by figuring that my actual time was worth less to the charity than the monetary value of my time. But something about this project intrigued me. I thought I’d learn from the experience; it could make me a better economist. I even spent weeks fancying myself the next Suze Orman, empowering the financially downtrodden with my economic knowledge.

Survey Finds Growing Deceit Among Teens
64 Percent Admit Cheating on Test In High School

David Crary:

In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are apathetic about ethical standards.
Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today’s young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.
“The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically,” said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “They have opportunities their predecessors didn’t have [to cheat]. The temptation is greater.”
The Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. All students in the selected schools were given the survey in class; their anonymity was assured.
Michael Josephson, the institute’s founder and president, said he was most dismayed by the findings about theft. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls — 30 percent overall — acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative.

An Interview with Will Fitzhugh: About Academic Excellence and Writing

Michael F. Shaughnessy:

1) Will, you recently gave a talk in Madison, Wisconsin. What exactly did you speak about?
WF: A group of professors, teachers, business people, lawyers and community people invited me to speak at the University of Wisconsin in Madison about the work of The Concord Review since 1987, and about the problems of college readiness and academic writing for high school students.
The Boston Public Schools just reported that 67% of the graduating class of 2000 who had gone on to higher education had failed to earn a certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree by 2008. Also, the Strong American Schools program just reported that more than a million of our high school graduates are in remedial education in college each year.
I recommend their report: Diploma to Nowhere, which came out last summer. While many foundations, such as Gates, and others, have focused on getting our students into college, too little attention has been paid to how few are ready for college work and how many drop out without any degree.
2) “We believe that the pursuit of academic excellence in secondary schools should be given the same attention as the pursuit of excellence in sports and other extracurricular activities.” This is a quote from The Concord Review. Now, I am asking you to hypothesize here–why do you think high schools across America seem to be preoccupied with sports and not academics?
WF: In Madison I also had a chance to speak about the huge imbalance in our attention to scholars and athletes at the high school level. I had recently seen a nationally televised high school football game in which, at breaks in the action, an athlete would come to the sidelines, and announce, to the national audience, which college he had decided to “sign” with. This is a far cry from what happens for high school scholars. High school coaches get a lot of attention for their best athletes, but if the coach also happens to be a history teacher, he or she will hear nothing from a college in the way of interest in his or her most outstanding history student.
When Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a very tall high school senior at Power Memorial Academy in New York, he not only heard from the head coaches at 60 college basketball programs, he also got a personal letter from Jackie Robinson of baseball fame and from Ralph Bunche at the United Nations, urging him to go to UCLA, which he did. That same year, in the U.S., the top ten high school history students heard from no one, and it has been that way every year since.
The lobby of every public high school is full of trophies for sports, and there is usually nothing about academic achievement. For some odd reason, attention to exemplary work in academics is seen as elitist, while heaps of attention to athletic achievement is not seen in the same way. Strange…The Boston Globe has 150 pages on year on high school athletes and no pages on high school academic achievement. Do we somehow believe that our society needs good athletes far more than it needs good students, and that is why we are so reluctant to celebrate fine academic work?

Continue reading An Interview with Will Fitzhugh: About Academic Excellence and Writing

Change Our Public Schools Need

Terry Moe:

Can Barack Obama bring change to American education? The answer is: Yes he can. The question, however, is whether he actually will. Our president-elect has the potential to be an extraordinary leader, and that’s why I’ve supported him since the beginning of his campaign. But on public education, he and the Democrats are faced with a dilemma that has boxed in the party for decades.
Democrats are fervent supporters of public education, and the party genuinely wants to help disadvantaged kids stuck in bad schools. But it resists bold action. It is immobilized. Impotent. The explanation lies in its longstanding alliance with the teachers’ unions — which, with more than three million members, tons of money and legions of activists, are among the most powerful groups in American politics. The Democrats benefit enormously from all this firepower, and they know what they need to do to keep it. They need to stay inside the box.
And they have done just that. Democrats favor educational “change” — as long as it doesn’t affect anyone’s job, reallocate resources, or otherwise threaten the occupational interests of the adults running the system. Most changes of real consequence are therefore off the table. The party specializes instead in proposals that involve spending more money and hiring more teachers — such as reductions in class size, across-the-board raises and huge new programs like universal preschool. These efforts probably have some benefits for kids. But they come at an exorbitant price, both in dollars and opportunities foregone, and purposely ignore the fundamentals that need to be addressed.
What should the Democrats be doing? Above all, they should be guided by a single overarching principle: Do what is best for children. As for specifics, here are a few that deserve priority.

APEC leaders pledge to expand co-op on education, health issues


The leaders supported the efforts of APEC Education Ministers to strengthen education systems in the region including ongoing support to the APEC Education Network.
They welcomed the research-based steps taken by APEC in the areas of mathematics and sciences, language learning, career and technical education, information and communication technologies and systemic reform.
They pledged to facilitate international exchanges, working towards reciprocal exchanges of talented students, graduates and researchers.


Will Fitzhugh’s Madison Talk – Audio

Author, publisher, entrepreneur and good guy Will Fitzhugh recently visited Madison. Listen to the 90 minute event via this 41MB mp3 audio file [CTRL-Click to Download]. (Please note that the audio level varies a bit during the talk – sorry). Video version is available here.
I’d like to thank, and supporters who wish to remain anonymous for making Will’s visit a reality.

Pros, cons of kids missing school for vacation

Bonnie Wach:

When my son, Rowan, was little, the idea that anything on his schedule would ever take priority over my expiring frequent-flier miles, or the opportunity to go on a vacation when the rest of the child-rearing hordes were in school, seemed to me like giving in.
It was like admitting I was one of Them – those overly involved, rule-abiding parents whose world revolved around PTA and soccer schedules, and crafting elaborate dioramas of Indian pueblos. After all, I reasoned, wasn’t the experience of seeing the Duomo in Florence or hiking Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast state park with your family as valuable as reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar?”
Part of my nonchalance, I think, stemmed from the fact that when I was in school, summer vacation stretched for three languorous months, winter break for three weeks, and we had both a ski week and an Easter week.

US officials flunk test of Amerian history, economics, civics

2008-2009 American Civic Liberty Report:

US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.
Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).
“It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI’s civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned,” said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.
“How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don’t understand the American experience?” he added.
The exam questions covered American history, the workings of the US government and economics.
Among the questions asked of some 2,500 people who were randomly selected to take the test, including “self-identified elected officials,” was one which asked respondents to “name two countries that were our enemies during World War II.”

Take the quiz.

You are Invited: Varsity Academics in Madison Tonight, 11/19 @ 7:00p.m.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008; 7:00p.m. in Madison. [PDF Flyer]
Lecture Hall 1345
Health Sciences Learning Center (HSLC)
750 Highland Avenue Madison, WI [Map]

We hope that Mr. Fitzhugh’s appearance will create new academic opportunities for Wisconsin students.


Metered parking is available at the University Hospital (UWHC) Patient/Visitor Lot [Map], just south of the HSLC. Free parking is available in Lot 85, across the street from the HSLC and next to the Pharmacy Building at 2245 Observatory Drive [Map].

About the Speaker:

Low standards led Will Fitzhugh to quit his job as a history teacher in 1987 and begin publishing the journal [The Concord Review] out of his home in Concord, Mass.

Concerned that schools were becoming anti-intellectual and holding students to low standards, he thought the venture could fuel a national–even international–interest in student research and writing in the humanities.
“As a teacher, it is not uncommon to have your consciousness end at the classroom wall. But I came to realize that there was a national concern about students’ ignorance of history and inability to write,” he said.
During his 10 years of teaching at Concord-Carlisle High School, the 62-year-old educator said in a recent interview, he always had a handful of students who did more than he asked, and whose papers reflected serious research.

Those students “just had higher standards, and I was always impressed by that,” Mr. Fitzhugh said. “I figured there have got to be some wonderful essays just sitting out there. I wanted to recognize and encourage kids who are already working hard, and to challenge the kids who are not.”

Fitzhugh will discuss the problems of reading, writing and college readiness at the high school level. There will be an extended discussion period.

For more information, or to schedule some time with Mr. Fitzhugh during
his visit, contact Jim Zellmer (608 213-0434 or, Lauren Cunningham (608 469-4474) or Laurie Frost (608 238-6375).

Most from class of 2000 have failed to earn degrees

James Vaznis:

About two-thirds of the city’s high school graduates in 2000 who enrolled in college have failed to earn degrees, according to a first-of-its-kind study being released today.
The findings represent a major setback for a city school system that made significant strides in recent years with percentages of graduates enrolling in college consistently higher than national averages, according to the report by the Boston Private Industry Council and the School Department.
However, the study shows that the number who went on to graduate is lower than the national average.
The low number of students who were able to earn college degrees or post-secondary certificates in a city known as a center of American higher education points to the enormous barriers facing urban high school graduates – many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. While the study did not address reasons for the low graduation rates, these students often have financial problems, some are raising children, and others are held back by a need to retake high school courses in college because they lack basic skills.
The students’ failure to complete college could exacerbate the fiscal problems in the state’s economy, which requires a highly skilled workforce, say business leaders and educators. While tens of thousands of students around the globe flock to the region’s colleges each fall, many of them leave once receiving their degrees.

Continue reading Incompletes
Most from class of 2000 have failed to earn degrees

O’Conner on the Crisis in K-12 Civics Education

Chloe White:

A survey shows more young people today can name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told a packed auditorium Friday at the University of Tennessee. Civic education has “really lost ground” in the United States, and “unless we do something to reverse that disturbing trend, the joke may be on us,” O’Connor said at the 1,000-seat Cox Auditorium at the UT Alumni Memorial Building.
O’Connor was at UT to celebrate the opening of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
“Only an educated citizen can ensure our nation’s commitment to liberty is upheld. If we fail to educate young people to be active and informed participants at all levels, our democracy will fail,” said O’Connor, the first woman on the nation’s high court.
She spoke about the need for civic education, citing three problems with what she calls “civic illiberty”: the lack of time schools spend teaching civics; a static approach to civic education; and the lack of modern teaching methods such as computer programs in teaching civics.
“Creating engaged and active citizens is too important a priority to shortchange in curriculum planning in schools,” she said.
O’Connor, 78, is co-chairwoman of the National Advisory Council of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, a group with which the Baker Center works. The campaign promotes civic education and provides K-12 curriculum.

Graduate Opportunities 2009

The Economist:

The biggest winner from recession may be the teaching profession–particularly in maths and physics, where it has long struggled to compete for talent with banking and finance. Applications for teacher training in these subjects go up when the government offers golden hellos and other incentives, say Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson of Buckingham University–but high graduate unemployment causes a surge too. It looks as if the pattern is set to repeat: the Training and Development Agency, which oversees teacher training, says its website has received a third more hits this year than last, and registrations of interest are also up. Hidden inside one crisis may be the solution to another.

Playing the Market, These Kids Are Losing a Lot of Play Money

Jennifer Levitz:

Michael Ashworth slumped by his computer, weary from another rough day in the stock market. All his favorite picks — Domino’s Pizza Inc., Hershey Co. and Gap Inc. — were down.
I’ll be honest with you,” he confided. “Before all this, I asked my mom to get me stocks for Christmas,” but then “I told her not to do it. I asked for a parakeet instead.”
Michael, a 13-year-old at Wilmington’s Skyline Middle School, is one of 700,000 players in the “Stock Market Game,” a scholastic contest in which students from grades four through 12 get a hypothetical $100,000 to invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds.
The game is run by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Wall Street’s biggest trade group. Schools pay about $16 a team for a curriculum that includes access to a computer system that executes the simulated trades and ranks teams by states and age group. At the end, the teams in each state with the best returns take home bull-and-bear trophies, gift certificates or other prizes.

Beautiful Math


NARRATOR: You can find it in the rain forest, on the frontiers of medical research, in the movies, and it’s all over the world of wireless communications. One of nature’s biggest design secrets has finally been revealed.
GEOFFREY WEST (Santa Fe Institute): My god, of course. It’s obvious.
NARRATOR: It’s an odd-looking shape you may never have heard of, but it’s everywhere around you: the jagged repeating form called a fractal.
JAMES BROWN (University of New Mexico): They’re all over in biology. They’re solutions that natural selection has come up with over and over and over again.
NARRATOR: Fractals are in our lungs, kidneys and blood vessels.
KEITH DEVLIN (Stanford University): Flowers, plants, weather systems, the rhythms of the heart, the very essences of life.
NARRATOR: But it took a maverick mathematician to figure out how they work.
BENOIT MANDELBROT (Yale University): I don’t play with formulas, I play with pictures. And that is what I’ve been doing all my life.

John Tierney has more.

Students Learning from Financial Crisis

Julian Guthrie:

Alex Gould paced the stage of an auditorium at Stanford University last week, imploring students to think about why the U.S. Treasury bought preferred stock rather than common stock in nine major banks, and how the nation’s economic meltdown began with home mortgages.
Gould, who teaches a course at Stanford on money, banking and the financial markets, searched the faces of his 100 students, many of whom are preparing to graduate in the spring. Students asked questions about their midterm exam, but many grappled with a bigger question: What does a destabilized economy mean for their future?
Related story: A case of balance as credit card rules change.
Educators across the Bay Area are using the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression to teach everything from behavioral finance and social justice to the recasting of capitalism.
“What’s happening now affects every one of us,” Gould said. “It provides an unparalleled laboratory of real-world applications upon which to test theories.”

America’s Most Overrated Product: The Bachelor’s Degree

Marty Nemko:

Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: “I wasn’t a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I’d be the first one in my family to do it. But it’s been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go.”
I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!
Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Perhaps worst of all, even those who do manage to graduate too rarely end up in careers that require a college education. So it’s not surprising that when you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you’re likely to meet workers who spent years and their family’s life savings on college, only to end up with a job they could have done as a high-school dropout.

For ’09 Grads, Job Prospects Take a Dive

Cari Tuna:

College seniors may have more trouble landing a job next spring than recent graduates, as employers trim their hiring outlooks in response to the slowing economy and financial-sector turmoil.
Employers plan to hire just 1.3% more graduates in 2009 than they hired this year, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
That’s the weakest outlook in six years and reflects a sharp recent downturn. Just two months ago, a survey by the same group projected a 6.1% increase in hiring. The August survey included 219 employers, 146 of whom responded to the new survey, conducted earlier this month. The big drop in hiring projections is “extremely unusual,” says Edwin Koc, the association’s director of strategic research.
The results continue a pattern of diminishing job prospects for college graduates. A year ago, employers told the association they would increase hiring for the class of 2008 by 16%. By this spring, though, the projected increase had fallen to 8%. The association doesn’t report how actual hiring compares with its projections.

Business – School Partnerships

Susan Gvozdas:

Two years ago, Marilyn Wilhelm of Annapolis faced a difficult decision. Her husband had lost his job, and the family of six couldn’t make it on the single income of a school day-care worker. Her sister suggested she look into a computer networking career, so she enrolled in the Cisco Networking Academy at Anne Arundel Community College.
After two semesters of working part time and living off savings, Wilhelm became a Cisco-certified network associate. The entry-level certification ensures technicians know how to connect and manage the wiring and switches to link computers and provide Internet access. The college held a career fair last year with companies that had partnerships with California-based Cisco Systems Inc.
Her training and enthusiasm landed her a summer internship and later a job at Chesapeake Netcraftsmen, a networking company in Arnold. This year, she began teaching the basic networking courses she took at the college and started studying for higher-level certification through her company.

Counting on the Future: International Benchmarks in Mathematics for American School Districts

Dr. Gary W. Phillips & John A. Dossey [2.5MB PDF Report]:

Students in six major U.S. cities are performing on par or better in mathematics than their peers in other countries in grades 4 and 8, according to a new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). However, students from five other major cities are not faring as well, and overall, U.S. student performance in mathematics falls off from elementary to middle school grades — and remains behind many industrialized nations, particularly Asian nations.
The AIR study offers the first comparison between students from large U.S. cities and their international peers. The study compares U.S. 4th grade students with their counterparts in 24 countries and 8th grade students with peers in 45 countries.
“Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off…it is the economic equivalent of a force of nature… like the wind and water” (Bill Clinton)
If you are a student today competing for jobs in a global economy, the good jobs will not go to the best in your graduating class–the jobs will go to the best students in the world. Large urban cities are intimately connected to the nations of the world. Large corporations locate their businesses in U.S. cities; foreign students attend U.S. schools; and U.S. businesses export goods and services to foreign nations. Large urban cities need to know how their students stack up against peers in the nations with which the U.S. does business. This is especially important for students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The students in these fields will allow our future generation to remain technologically innovative and economically competitive.
This report provides a comparison of the number of mathematically Proficient students in Grades 4 and 8 in 11 large cities in the United States with their international peers.
This comparison is made possible by statistically linking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2003 and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003 when both assessments were conducted in the United States in the same year and in the same grades.
After the statistical linking was completed, it was possible to compare the most recent NAEP results (from 2007) to the most recent TIMSS results (from 2003). How the United States compares to the overall international average.
At Grade 4, five countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Flemish portion of Belgium) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 39% proficiency) performed better than the international average (27% proficiency) of all 24 countries (Figure 13).
At Grade 8, eight countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Belgium (Flemish), Netherlands, and Hungary) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 31% proficiency) performed better than the international average (21% proficiency) of all 44 countries (Figure 14).
Because of the persistent requests of urban school districts, the U .S . Congress authorized NAEP to assess, on a trial basis, six large urban school districts beginning in 2002 . Since then, more districts have been added, resulting in 11 school districts in 2007 (and plans are underway to include even more districts in the future) . The urban school chiefs in these 11 large school districts, which voluntarily participated in the 2007 NAEP, recognized the global nature of educational expectations and the importance of having reliable external data against which to judge the performance of their students and to hold themselves accountable . They should be commended for their visionary goal of trying to benchmark their local performance against tough national standards. National standards provide a broad context and an external compass with which to steer educational policy to benefit local systems . The purpose of this report is to further help those systems navigate by providing international benchmarks.

Clusty Search: Gary W. Phillips and John A. Dossey.
Greg Toppo has more:

Even if the findings are less-than-stellar, he says, they should help local officials focus on improving results.
“In that sense, I think it could be a very positive thing to use in-house, in the district, to keep their nose to the grindstone,” says Kepner, a former middle- and high-school math teacher in Iowa and Wisconsin.”If they can show they’re improving, they might be able to attract more companies to a system that’s on the move.”
Phillips says the findings prove that in other countries “it is possible to do well and learn considerably under a lot of varied circumstances — in other words, being low-income is not really an excuse when you look around the rest of the world.”

Math Forum audio & video.

The ‘Trophy Kids’ Go to Work

Ron Alsop:

With Wall Street in turmoil and a financial system in crisis mode, companies are facing another major challenge: figuring out how to manage a new crop of young people in the work force — the millennial generation. Born between 1980 and 2001, the millennials were coddled by their parents and nurtured with a strong sense of entitlement. In this adaptation from “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace,” Ron Alsop, a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, describes the workplace attitudes of the millennials and employers’ efforts to manage these demanding rookies.
When Gretchen Neels, a Boston-based consultant, was coaching a group of college students for job interviews, she asked them how they believe employers view them. She gave them a clue, telling them that the word she was looking for begins with the letter “e.” One young man shouted out, “excellent.” Other students chimed in with “enthusiastic” and “energetic.” Not even close. The correct answer, she said, is “entitled.” “Huh?” the students responded, surprised and even hurt to think that managers are offended by their highfalutin opinions of themselves.
If there is one overriding perception of the millennial generation, it’s that these young people have great — and sometimes outlandish — expectations. Employers realize the millennials are their future work force, but they are concerned about this generation’s desire to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

Problems Without Figures For Fourth to Eighth Grade

A Math book for “High Schools and Normal Schools by S.Y. Gillan [9.6MB PDF]:

Arithmetic can be so taught as to make the pupil familiar with thc fact that we may use a number in a problem without knowing what particular number it is. Some of the fundamentals of algebra may thus be taught along with arithmetic. But, as a rule, whenever any attempt is made to do this the work soon develops or degenerates into formal algebra, with a full quota of symbolism, generalization and formulae — matter which is not wholesome pabulum for a child’s mind and the result has been that teachers have given up the effort and have returned to the use of standardized knowledge put up in separate packages like baled hay, one bale labeled “arithmetic,” another “algebra,” etc.
Every problem in arithmetic calls for two distinct and widely different kinds of work: first, the solution, which involves a comprehension of the conditions of the problem and their relation to one another; second, the operation. First we
decide what to do; this requires reasoning. Then we do the work; this is a merely mechanical process, and the more mechanical the better. A calculating machine, too stupid to make a mistake, will do the work more accurately than a
skillful accountant. Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing do not train the power to reason, but deciding in a given set of conditions which of these operations to use and why, is the feature of arithmetic which requires reasoning.
The problems offered here will furnish material to promote thinking; and a few minutes daily used in this kind of work will greatly strengthen the pupils’ power to deal with the problems given in the textbook.
After consultation with teachers, the author decided to print the problems without regard to classification. They range all the way from very simple work suitable for beginners up to a standard adapted to the needs of eighth grade pupils. As a review in high school and normal school classes the problems may be taken in order as they come, and will be found Interesting and stimulating. For pupils in the grades, the teacher will Indicate which ones to omit; this discrimination will be a valuable exercise for the teacher.
A few “catch problems” are put in to entrap the unwary. To stumble occasionally into a pitfall makes a pupil more watchful of his steps and gives invigorating exercise in regaining his footing. The groove runner thus learns to use his wits and see the difference between a legitimate problem and an absurdity.
It is recommended that these exercises be used as sight work, the pupils having the book in hand and the teacher designating the problems to be solved without previous preparation.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 21, 1910.

Many thanks to Dick Askey for providing a copy (the!) of this book.
From the book:

To answer in good, concise English, affords an excellent drill in clear thinking and accurate expression. This one is suitable for high school, normal school and university students, some of whom will flounder in a most ludicrous fashion when they first attempt to give a clear-cut answer conforming to the demands of mathematics and good English.
224. After a certain battle the surgeon sawed off several wagon loads of legs. If you are told the number of legs in each load and the .price of a cork leg, how can you find the expense of supplying these men with artificial legs? Writeout a list of twenty other expense items incurred in the fighting of a battle.
225. The American people spend each year for war much more than for education. If you know the total amount spent for each purpose, how can you find the per capita expense for war and for schools?
227. A boy travels from Boston to Seattle in a week. Every day at noon he meets a mail train going east on which he mails a letter to his mother in Boston. If there is no delay, how frequently should she receive his letters?

Factory for Unhappy People

The Economist:

MORMONS, military and McKinsey are the three Ms said to characterise the student body at Harvard Business School (HBS). Philip Delves Broughton, a British journalist, was none of the above, yet he was prepared to spend $175,000 for a chance to attend this “factory for unhappy people”. He never completely fitted in, perhaps because he largely shunned the prodigious alcohol-driven networking for which MBAs are famous, or perhaps because he did not really want to devote his life to getting rich. Yet his engaging memoir suggests he found it a positive experience.
Mr Delves Broughton did not set out to write a book about the course. Nor is this probably the book that HBS would choose to mark its 100th birthday, which it is celebrating extensively this year. Yet anyone considering enrolling will find this an insightful portrait of HBS life, with detailed accounts of case studies and slightly forced classroom fun, such as the students on the back row–the “skydecks”–who rate the performance of their peers. (“HBS had two modes, deadly serious and frat boy.”)

What They Teach You At Harvard Business School

College Students Behaving Badly

Tara Parker-Pope:

Many people associate property crime and other delinquent behaviors with low social status and a lack of education. But new research has identified a surprising risk factor for bad behavior — college.
Men who attend college are more likely to commit property crimes during their college years than their non-college-attending peers, according to research to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Boston this weekend.
Sociologists at Bowling Green State University in Ohio examined data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which tracks education, crime levels, substance abuse and socializing among adolescents and young adults. Beginning with 9,246 students who were seventh through twelfth graders in the 1994-1995 academic year, the survey followed the students again in 1996 and 2001. The study defined “college students” or “college-bound youth” as those who were enrolled full-time in a four-year college for at least 12 months by the third wave of the survey. “Non-college students” were defined as those respondents who either did not attend college through the course of the study or were not enrolled full-time at a four-year university.

Winners Never Quit? Well, Yes, They Do

Alina Tugend:

I’VE been thinking about quitting lately. No, not my job, nor my marriage nor the incredibly long Russian novel I need to read by September for my book group (check back with me on that later).
Rather, I’ve been thinking about the concept in general. Watching the superhuman feats of the Olympic athletes this week, I’ve admired the dedication and single-minded focus they exhibit. I think about how maybe if I had just worked harder — much harder — at gymnastics when I was young, I could have reached that lofty goal (conveniently forgetting how ill-suited I was to the sport because of my great fear of falling on my head).
Olympians embody one of the great clichés about quitting: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” My athletic career, on the other hand, is summed up by the other platitude about quitting: “You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”

Future ‘Top 10’ Hot Careers in 2012: Space Tourism to Genetic Counseling

Rebecca Sato:

In our information-rich society there is an ever increasing demand for workers in the fields of computers, health care, science and space technology—much of it driven by the demands of the retiring baby boomers. If you like to plan ahead, here is sampling of some of the jobs that will be hot in the next several years and beyond.
1) Organic food Industry
By 2010, organic food and beverage will represent about 10 percent of the total market — a tenfold increase from 1998. Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation says the industry will soon need more organic food producers, certification experts, retailers and scientists as organic becomes mainstream.

The Thinking Behind Critical Thinking Courses

Jay Matthews:

Looking for a way to improve your mind and make some money? Check out the latest “critical thinking” courses. Many come up on a Google search. Many promise better grades and higher test scores. Without much effort, you can create your own course and tap into this hot topic.
The only thing is, it turns out such programs don’t work very well, except as a measure of the gullibility of even smart educators. A remarkable article by Daniel T. Willingham, the University of Virginia cognitive scientist outlines the reasons. Critical thinking, he explains in a summer 2007 American Educator article, overlooked until now by me, is not a skill like riding a bike or diagramming a sentence that, once learned, can be applied in many situations.
Instead, as your most-hated high school teacher often told you, you have to buckle down and learn the content of a subject–facts, concepts and trends–before the maxims of critical thinking taught in these feverishly-marketed courses will do you much good.

It’s Never to Late to Educate

Sam Whiting:

We all have the recurring nightmare of sitting in a college exam with two empty blue books and a sheet of essay questions. You are given the option of answering three out of five, but you go down the sheet and can’t answer one. You have nothing to write and three hours to not write it.
Then you wake up in a panic. If in possession of a college diploma, you will look for it in the dead of night. If found, it will provide about 10 minutes of reassurance. There are only two ways to stop the panic, and psychotherapy is more expensive and less fun than going back to school. At the very least, being a student again will supply new fodder for anxiety dreams to replace the ones that are 30 or 40 or 50 years old.
No matter how “too old for school” you think you are, you are not as “too old” as Hazel Soares of San Leandro. At age 93, Soares is entering her junior year (or years) at Mills College in Oakland. An art history major, she’s taking it nice and slow – slow enough to walk across the stage and accept her diploma at age 100.

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

William Deresiewicz:

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League dees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.
It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an elite education will teach you is its own inadequacy. As two dozen years at Yale and Columbia have shown me, elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.

All the privileged must have prize

John Summers:

The banality and sense of entitlement of rich students at Harvard left John H. Summers feeling his teaching had been degraded to little more than a service to prepare clients for monied careers
I joined the staff of the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at Harvard University in 2000. As tutor, then as lecturer, I advised senior theses, conceived and conducted freshman and junior seminars and taught the year-long sophomore tutorial, Social Studies 10, six times. The fractured nature of my appointment, renewed annually for six successive years while never amounting to more than 65 per cent of a full-time position in any one year, kept me on the margins of prestige and promotion even as it kept me there long enough to serve three chairmen of social studies, two directors of study and three presidents of Harvard.
The post-pubescent children of notables for whom I found myself holding curricular responsibility included the offspring of an important political figure, of a player in the show business world and the son of real-estate developer Charles Kushner.

Tennessee 2nd in U.S. for texting and driving

Marti Davis:

Almost nine of 10 Americans agree that texting while driving spells trouble, yet South Carolina and Tennessee lead the nation in those who admit to sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel.
A national survey of nearly 5,000 cell-phone users, released this week by Common Knowledge Research Services for the Vlingo Corp., revealed that Tennessee’s text-messaging motorists are topped only by those in South Carolina.
A bill that would have made driving while texting, or DWT, illegal failed to pass the Tennessee Legislature in March. So for now, at least, Tennessee’s text messengers can go on typing with their thumbs while steering with their pinkies, perhaps assisted by their knees.
“Clearly it’s an enormous danger for anybody to be texting while driving,” said Don Lindsey, longtime safety expert for AAA of East Tennessee. “Not only do you have the distraction of somebody thinking about what you’re going to say, you either have to either feel with your thumbs those little itty-bitty buttons or, worse, look down on the phone and do it.”

Girl Becomes Teen Driving Statistic

Brian Hicks:

When she got her permit on Monday, Cushire Akabidavis had license to drive on some of the most dangerous roads in the nation, governed by a state with some of the weakest teen driving laws.
Within minutes she became another young victim of that volatile mix.
Drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 were involved in 64 traffic fatalities and more than 8,400 injuries in 2006, according to a study by the motorist club AAA.
Those accidents cost taxpayers $629 million, roughly the price of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
“South Carolina is in the top three worst states in the country for driving, and they have some of the worst laws in dealing with teen driving,” said Tom Crosby, vice president for communications at AAA Carolinas.
“This is the state that would not even pass a law to prevent teens from texting while driving.

The Third World Challenge

Bob Compton, via a kind reader’s email:

ersonally, I know that China and India are not “Third World” countries, but that is because I’ve traveled to those countries and I deeply admire their cultures and their people.
The inspiration for the name “Third World Challenge” came a statement made to me by a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education when I showed my film Two Million Minutes for the HGSE faulty. “We have nothing to learn from education systems in Third World countries,” he intoned with much gravitas, “Much less a Third World country that lacks freedom of speech.” To my surprise, no other faculty member rose to challenge that statement.
While I certainly expected a more open-minded and globally aware audience at Harvard, I have now screened my film around the country and a surprisingly large segment of the American population believes India and China’s K-12 education systems are inferior to that of the United States. While no American makes the statement with the boundless hubris of a Harvard professor, the conclusion often is the same – America is number one in education and always will be.
This of course is not true. American students’ academic achievement has been declining vis-à-vis other developed countries for more than 20 years. What is now surprising and worrisome is US students are even lagging the developing world.

Wisconsin’s improved performance on a noted ranking of science and technology is a plus. But the state still must work harder to turn good ideas into jobs.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial:

Wisconsin is far better positioned in the knowledge economy than it was four years ago, with larger pools of risk capital and better coordination of the state’s best research.
That’s one way to read a new report from the well-respected Milken Institute. The state finished five spots higher at No. 22 in Milken’s State Technology and Science Index (
But the state’s policy-makers and business leaders must figure out how to turn more of the state’s best ideas into jobs across the state, not just in Madison. And perhaps how better to tap the wealth of intellectual property in southeastern Wisconsin.
While Wisconsin moved up five notches, it still ranks only middling overall and still lags far behind on some of the measures. Furthermore, it’s arguable how much such state-by-state rankings tell us in a world where the competitor as easily could be in Bangalore as in Buffalo.

100 Black Men of America:
African American History Bowl Challenge Finals

Teams from 100 Black Men of Charlotte and 100 Black Men of Madison faced each other in Friday evening’s Junior Division finals [Photo (Charlotte Left, Madison Right)]. Madison (Cherokee Heights Middle School) prevailed.
100 Black Men of Jackson (MS) faced 100 Black Men of Chicago in the Senior Division Finals [Photo (Jackson Left, Chicago Right)]. Chicago won.
Madison’s team: Marshaun Hall, Maria Lee and Carrie Zellmer. The team was coached by Cherokee Middle School’s Learning Coordinator Jeff Horney. Enis Ragland, founding President of the Madison chapter and Ken Black, current President of the 100 Black Men of Madison accompanied the team (a team from Madison Memorial High School competed in the Senior Division).
Finally, this photo of the Madison team notifying friends and loved ones that they advanced to the finals provides a useful look at the zeitgeist of a 14 year old, circa 2008.
March, 2008 Madison African American History Challenge Bowl.
100 Black Men of America.

Rod Carew Leads Education Workshop

Michael Schwartz:

Hall of Famer Rod Carew felt right at home Wednesday morning speaking to a group of Temple City High School teachers as part of a traveling education workshop put on by the Hall of Fame, right down to receiving a school hat with a “TC” logo much like his old Minnesota Twins cap as a gift.
Carew told the enthralled group of Southern California educators the story of his life and career, from growing up in Panama, to not making his high school team, to being discovered by a Twins scout on a sandlot field in New York, to becoming an 18-time All-Star elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Because of his life journey, he often tells kids not to let anybody tell them they can’t do something, because anything can happen in life.
“It’s OK to dream, because dreams do come true,” said Carew, whose career proves that point. “No matter what walk of life you take.”

He Gets His Old Room but Not for Free, Not Forever

Michelle Singletary:

They’re coming home.
Many parents already know this, but after four, perhaps five or even six years of school, many college graduates — faced with a tight job market, higher gas and food costs, and mountainous debt — have no choice but to move home to get their financial bearings.
And you know what?
Despite assurances that they will stay for only a little while, this time next year many of those graduates will still be living at home. That’s what MonsterTrak found in its annual nationwide survey of college students, recent graduates and entry-level employers.
Continuing a three-year trend, just under half of prospective graduates, 48 percent, plan to boomerang — or move home — after graduation, according to the online career resource company.

Words of Advice for the Class of ’08 and Beyond

Dan Zak:

We give them at the start of things and at the end of things. Toasts at weddings. Eulogies at funerals. A college graduation, both the end of one era and the start of another, gets the mother of all speeches: the commencement address. This is where a graduate summons his best prose to motivate peers, where a famous person drops in to provide last-minute dispatches from the real world, all in an effort to pack inspirational gunpowder into a cannon about to hurtle an entire class into its future.
Speech: You’ll do fine! Here’s your diploma. Boom.
This is happening all over the country this month, and we’re in the thick of commencement season here. Washington area colleges are catapulting armies of graduates into a tightening job market and a wintry economic climate. It’s a hostile world, and maybe it always has been. But it’s the commencement speakers’ duty to herald the light at the end of the tunnel, even if Social Security is gone by the time the audience gets there.
Chins up, though. For those of us already out in the real world, and for collegians hungry to soak up some more inspiration, we picked the brains of seven people who spoke or were scheduled to speak at area schools. Read on to hear from them.

My Virtual Summer Job

Alexandra Alter:

While his friends scramble for jobs flipping burgers or bagging groceries this summer, 18-year-old Mike Everest will be working as a trader in the fantasy Web world of Entropia Universe, buying and selling virtual animal skins and weapons. His goods exist only online, but his earnings are real. In the past four years, he’s made $35,000.
Mr. Everest, of Durango, Colo., is among a new breed of young entrepreneurs seeking their fortune online in imaginary worlds. As the pool of traditional summer jobs shrinks, tech-savvy young gamers are honing their computer skills to capitalize on growing demand for virtual goods and services. Some work as fashion designers, architects and real-estate developers in Second Life, a fantasy world populated by digital representations of real people. These so-called avatars shop in malls, buy property, hang out with friends or sit “home” watching TV, all manipulated by their real-life counterparts with computer key strokes and a mouse.

Caught in a Swirl of Drug Violence, Mexico Vows to Fight Back

James McKinley:

President Felipe Calderón and dozens of federal agents attended the funeral of the chief of the federal police on Friday morning, a day after his assassination, even as investigators focused on the possibility that someone inside the police force had tipped off the killers to his location.
The services for the federal police chief, Commander Edgar Millán Gómez, and two other agents killed in the line of duty this week started just a half-hour after four armed men shot and killed a commander in Mexico City’s police force outside his home.
Newspapers here, moreover, were full of reports of battles between drug gangs in Sinaloa State, including one involving a bazooka. A sense that violence by organized crime had spun out of control seemed to hang over the country.
After the service, Mr. Calderón, escorted by heavier security than usual, traveled to Tamaulipas State on the border with Texas, where drug dealers have clashed repeatedly with troops and the federal police, to send the message that his administration would not be intimidated by Mr. Millán’s assassination.

The Future of Reading

Ezra Klein:

The title of a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts was “Reading at Risk.” The follow-up, released in November 2007, upped the ante. “To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence,” placed the consumption of Moby Dick up there with questions of poverty and health care. Weighty stuff. Around the same time, Newsweek published a cover story entitled “The Future of Reading”—I assumed the gist was along the lines of, “Nobody will be doing any, and the Russians will win.” I was wrong. In an almost uniquely American take on the subject, Newsweek decided to peer past the decline in reading and instead enthuse about the creation of new, expensive technologies that would help us read—namely, Amazon’s Kindle. The newsmag’s decision made a sort of perverse sense. After all, books may be in sharp decline, but compared to, say, 1992, reading on computer screens is way, way up. If you could put books on a computer screen, and maybe connect that to the Internet, you might really have something.

“Commencement Advice You’re Unlikely to Hear Elsewhere”

PJ O’Rourke:

Well, here you are at your college graduation. And I know what you’re thinking: “Gimme the sheepskin and get me outta here!” But not so fast. First you have to listen to a commencement speech.
Don’t moan. I’m not going to “pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next.” I’m a member of the 1960s generation. We didn’t have any wisdom.
We were the moron generation. We were the generation that believed we could stop the Vietnam War by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything — which they did, for John Belushi. We believed in free love. Yes, the love was free, but we paid a high price for the sex.
My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth’s resources of the weird. Weird clothes — we wore them. Weird beards — we grew them. Weird words and phrases — we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.
So now, it’s my job to give you advice. But I’m thinking: You’re finishing 16 years of education, and you’ve heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief:

Adult Workers Have a Lot to Learn Online

Michael Schrage:

Children are fantastic little learning machines. They are hardwired to play with ideas and absorb knowledge. Adults, alas, are not. That is why the challenge of adult education and lifelong learning is more difficult – and ultimately more important – than childhood education. Societies that are serious about raising their standard of living should focus on enhancing the productivity of parents rather than boosting teenage test scores.
The economic rationale is clear. Ageing populations of Europe, China and North America increasingly enjoy long and healthy lives. Yet as they grow older, wealth creation depends on the ability to acquire and convert information, skills and technologies into new value. In this environment, hard-won expertise, rather like expensive capital equipment, often depreciates with astonishing speed. The cruel “human capital” jibe, that many workers do not have 20 years’ experience but one year’s experience 20 times over, has assumed new poignancy.
The premise that quality education during life’s first two decades matters more than for decades four and five has become literally counterproductive. Demographic realities and dynamic economies have made “ageing adults” today’s most underappreciated – and underappreciating – capital asset class.
Improving returns on that asset requires neither great sums of money nor greater flights of imagination. The key is to rethink and reorganise how busy but anxious adults can benefit from education and training opportunities. Technology makes meeting that challenge far more affordable, entrepreneurial and compelling. Adult education is a market ripe for rapid global transformation.

Continuing our technology & education discussions. Related posts: on technology spending in Milwaukee and Lauren Rosen Yaezel on Technology in the Madison Schools.
Brittanica on Adult Education.