VOX POPULI: Turning a blind eye to bullying is not acceptable
Looking at their classes every day from the teacher’s platform, teachers can tend to get a feeling they know everything about their charges but, in fact, they only see a small fraction of what is going on.
The teacher I interviewed said it is very difficult to know what is really happening in the vast, deep ocean of the world of children.
That teacher had been unaware of one serious bullying case. However, once she found out about it, she set about getting her class to think deeply about bullying and why it is wrong.
Eventually, she was able to get the children to realize that bullying must not be tolerated. That was the right course of action.
In the case of a second-year junior high school student in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, who committed suicide, a number of students responding to a survey by the school concerned said his teacher knew that the boy was being bullied but had “turned a blind eye.”
The city's board of education said: “The homeroom teacher saw other students pulling a wrestling move on the boy in the hallway, but did not recognize it as bullying.”
There were other pieces of disturbing information. For example, there was an account of the student being “forced to do suicide practice.”
The survey was hastily closed and the facts about what really happened have become blurry. Critics say the municipal authorities don’t want to rock the boat.
However, some of the answers students gave in the survey offered a ray of hope. One student wrote: “I also looked the other way, but I felt very bad when I realized that what I was doing was also nothing but bullying.” Everyone can learn from this feeling of remorse.
“There was also bullying during the Showa Era (1926-1989)/ I write absence on a return postcard for a school reunion,” goes a tanka poem I read a few days ago in the Tochigi edition of The Asahi Shimbun.
Bullying makes no one happy. Let’s agree not to tolerate it.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 11
Some of the News Fit to Print
BUFFETT DONATES TO GATES FOUNDATION
Warren Buffett is continuing to make good on his promise to donate most of his $44.1 billion to charity. The third richest person in the world gave about 18.4 million of his company’s Class B shares, valued at $1.52 billion, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Businessweek reported Saturday. Giving generous donations to the Gates Foundation, which aims to improve education and health care has become an annual tradition for Buffett, a plan initiated in 2006, according to the Associated Press. The article is in The Huffington Post.
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FOR MANUFACTURING JOBS, WORKERS BRUSH UP ON MATH
Politicians have touted modern manufacturing as the solution for lifting the economy and providing good jobs. But today's manufacturing work requires strong math skills — not just adding and subtracting, but a good grasp of fractions, decimals and basic trigonometry. And job applicants who want to go into manufacturing often don't have what it takes. So colleges and nonprofits, especially throughout Illinois, are stepping in to bridge this skills gap by combining manufacturing training with basic reading and math. The piece was on NPR’s Morning Edition.
ADJUNCTS GET SOME SUPPORT FROM THE NEA
Adjunct instructors are getting some help (rhetorically, at least) from the country’s largest education union. The National Education Association’s Representative Assembly voted overwhelmingly last week to ask the Department of Labor to help adjuncts get unemployment benefits. The union will ask the department to issue an advisory letter saying that adjuncts lack “reasonable assurance” of work, and are eligible to collect unemployment benefits when out of work. Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, said that adjuncts struggle to get unemployment benefits during the summer months when they are not teaching, and that universities often contest their claims by saying they have a chance of getting rehired. Even if the letter is issued, though, it would be non-binding. “But it is something that individual adjuncts can use as they are making their claim,” Maisto said. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
GIRLS REPORT HIGHER MATH ANXIETY THAN BOYS
New research from England finds that girls show higher levels of mathematics anxiety than boys, and that this distress is related to diminished performance on math tests. Even so, the study found no gender differences in math achievement, with the researchers suggesting that girls may well have outperformed boys were it not for their anxiety. The post is from Education Week’s Curriculum Matters blog.
ALARMS SOUND AS FEDERAL ED CUTS LOOM
A pair of new reports out today raise dire warnings about the impact on school districts and federal education programs from the sweeping, across-the-board spending cuts set to hit all federal agencies in early January if Congress doesn't act to head them off. The reports, from the American Association of School Administrators and the National Education Association, take a close look at the threat posed by what's known as sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that loom as a result of the deal last August to raise the federal debt ceiling. The post is from Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.
UNION MEMBERSHIP DECLINES
Things are looking grim for teachers unions. The National Education Association (NEA) membership has declined by more than 100,000 since 2010, and the union’s own projections indicate that within two more years it could have lost a total of 308,000 full-time teachers and other workers. This would represent a 16% drop in membership from 2010. It’s not simply member numbers at stake, but the dues each member provides. If projections are correct, then the NEA budget will decline 18% and they’ll have $65 million less to work with. The article is in EducationNews.org.
PROS AND CONS OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Peter DeWitt blogs for Education Week: Teachers and administrators need to be evaluated, and those that I work with and connect with on Twitter want to be evaluated. However, the tools that are being used to evaluate are not the best ones. State testing should never be a part of a teacher or administrator's evaluation. We know that large educational publishers like Pearson Education are making millions off of states because they not only offer the tests, they offer the textbooks that will "ensure" that students will do well on tests...if teachers are really doing their jobs (they say...).
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MASSACHUSETTS TIGHTENS CONTROL OF TWO-YEAR COLLEGES
In a major shake-up, lawmakers are tightening state control over community colleges, tying budgets to academic performance and giving education officials greater say over choosing and evaluating college presidents. The wide-ranging policy changes, a chief goal of the ¬Patrick administration and the business community, bring greater oversight to the 15-college system, long criticized for low graduation rates and a lack of uniform standards. The legislation will also extend to the college level the accountability movement that has reshaped ¬K-12 education. The article is in The Boston Globe.
ANOTHER STATE TO ASSESS SKILLS
Bucking a growing trend of state partnerships with Western Governors University, Wisconsin plans to go it alone to develop online competency-based degree programs for its students. Earlier this month, Governor Scott Walker and administrators from the University of Wisconsin system announced their plans to create flexible degree options for the system, which includes 13 universities and 13 two-year colleges. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
DISRUPTION, INNOVATION, AND TECHNOLOGY
Centre College President John Roush writes in The Huffington Post: We need to move beyond the notion that the highest quality education can occur only in our classrooms, our laboratories, our practice spaces, and our overseas study locations. Partnerships with other colleges and universities, and even with technology firms, have the potential to make us a much stronger undergraduate college. I am convinced that grabbing up, if you will, those elements of high-tech educational opportunities will afford our students the chance to encounter even richer intellectual opportunities for learning from people and places heretofore not accessible.
NO CHILD LAW WHITTLED DOWN BY WHITE HOUSE
In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified. On Friday, the Department of Eucation plans to announce that it has granted waivers releasing two more states, Washington and Wisconsin, from some of the most onerous conditions of the signature Bush-era legislation. With this latest round, 26 states are now relieved from meeting the lofty — and controversial — goal of making all students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Additional waivers are pending in 10 states and the District of Columbia. “The more waivers there are, the less there really is a law, right?” said Andy Porter, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. The article is in The New York Times.
WHY NOT AGREE ON EDUCATION?
Veteran education writer Richard Whitmire writes in The Huffington Post: Tourists making their way to the Washington Monument last month may have came across 857 neatly arranged student desks -- a symbol of the number of American students who drop out of school every hour of every school day. The startling array was courtesy of the College Board, which wants President Obama and Mitt Romney to start debating fixes to the nation's beleaguered public school system. Yes, education needs discussing. But guess what? These two candidates are already on the same page.
COALITION SEEKS FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATION
Amid concern that funding to promote academic disciplines beyond reading, mathematics, and science is getting squeezed out of the federal budget, more than two dozen education organizations are banding together in a new coalition to more effectively make their case to policymakers. Members of the new College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness Coalition represent subjects including arts education, social studies, history, foreign languages, P.E., and health education. The article is from Education Week’s Curriculum Matters.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
It doesn’t seem surprising that someone who can set goals, visualize paths to achieve them, and summon the motivation to start down those paths would be more likely to succeed than someone who can’t do those things. But measuring the potential effect of those characteristics – which together compose the characteristic of “hope” – is starting to become more clear. A growing (but still small) body of research is finding that students with high levels of hope get better grades and graduate at higher rates than those with lower levels, and that the presence of hope in a student is a better predictor of grades and class ranking than standardized test scores. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.