(CNN) - With music and arts education budgets looking grim at schools around the country, some groups and artist are stepping in to fill the void. CNN's Soledad O'Brien spoke with hip-hop producer and artist Swizz Beats and Music Unites founder Michelle Edgar about their work with students in the Bronx - Swizz Beats' home.
"When they have that type of support and energy behind 'em, they're free to float like a butterfly," he said. "You can see them flourish."
By Peter Smagorinsky, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Peter Smagorinsky is a Distinguished Research Professor of English Education in the University of Georgia College of Education’s Department of Language and Literacy Education.
(CNN) - “Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.”
- Florida Gov. Rick Scott , October 2011
Scott, in this statement, articulates a belief held by many: that education is an entirely pragmatic experience. If a course of study does not produce a useful trade or skill, then it is of little value. What, after all, has anthropology ever done to improve the human condition, except to help us understand our past, perhaps so that we won’t repeat its errors?
Here’s an error you can dig into (if you’re an anthropologist, or perhaps a structural engineer): Dating back to at least the ancient era, when I was a schoolboy in Alexandria, Virginia, people have believed that school-based arts and music programs are frivolous extras that should be the first items on the financial chopping block when budgets are tight. Who actually becomes an artist or musician? Why support a curriculum that doesn’t directly lead to employment?
In Florida, this idea is now realized in a plan to charge engineering majors less for their tuition than English majors, because the technological revolution requires graduates in science, technology, engineering and math, not people who can read poems and write papers about them. I have not yet seen what the Florida plan provides for music majors, but I suspect that soon they’ll be paying a lot more for their courses than even those effete English majors. (Full disclosure: I was an English major at Kenyon College and got a master’s and doctorate in English education at the University of Chicago.)
Education in Rick Scott’s sense is entirely utilitarian. The arts has traditionally been defended on aesthetic grounds because of their contribution to truth, beauty, goodness, and the human spirit, as people like Howard Gardner of Harvard University have long asserted. The aesthetic argument has rarely successfully challenged the pragmatic argument because the premises follow from such different assumptions, and because utilitarian premises are impervious to appeals to beauty. If you don’t believe me, go to Moscow and gaze upon the Soviet-era architecture, which is all business and no pleasure. And it’s plug-ugly.
I contend, though, that music’s inclusion in the curriculum can be defended entirely on utilitarian grounds. Music has often provided the social updraft that gives young people a worthwhile activity through which they can find a way to succeed in mainstream life. School music programs in this sense are cost-effective and of great long-term value to society, rather than serving as a wasteful distraction to the real business of education, which is to produce today’s workforce. Or so Gov. Scott would have us believe.
Among the hundreds of thousands crowding the National Mall on Monday for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, there will be 26 students from University City High School near St. Louis. The students won an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to witness history, and they'll be seated beside U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - In a matter of hours in December, conversations around education stopped being about standardized testing, food allergies and teacher pay. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, everybody wanted to know: What's keeping the kids in my life safe at school?
Should school staffers carry guns? Or should every school have an armed police officer? Do guns have any place on school grounds?
How does mental health fit into school safety?
And is it possible that schools and parents are overreacting - and could that hurt kids?
This week, CNN's Schools of Thought published several perspectives on school security, giving those who work or have kids in school a chance to explain what's happening in school hallways and offices around the country.
Schools of Thought readers had their own experiences and opinions to share, too. Readers posted more than 1,000 comments debating what reasonable school security policies and resources should look like - whether they be guns, police, psychologists or a hard look from knowledgeable community members.
David Thweatt, superintendent of schools in Harrold, Texas, described how his small, rural district implemented a plan to allow some staff members to carry concealed weapons in addition to other security members.
Several readers said they liked that Thweatt's "Guardian Plan" took time to vet and train staff members who wanted to carry guns.
icequeen75: "I think what this administrator (does) makes sense. It is a well thought plan that has the good guys with guns but also extensive training. I also think while we are putting guns in the hands of the good guys, we also need to think of ways to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys.
Encouraged: "Agree 100% with this article. As a kid growing up in suburban Jersey, I definitely knew my school was safer because of the presence of armed security officers. All the more better if there were more trained, but covert, armed personnel. … The poor little ones lost at Newtown deserve their memory honored by providing the means for every student in this country to know he or she is safe and protected when entering a school."
aviva1964: "I really don't know what the big deal is. Many schools already have armed guards. ... Kids see security guards at banks, at stadiums, at airports - security at school does not equate to your kids going to school in a prison, nor will it make your kid afraid to go to school. It might make them less afraid."
But many argued that guns have no place in schools, especially in the hands of those hired and trained to educate kids.
Scott B: "I love my kids enough to not want them to go to school prisons."
TomGI: "As long as the decision to arm the school staff is fully disclosed then fine with me. I want to be informed so I can pull my kids out of there. I don't want my kids going to a school with armed staff. There are alternatives to that, and I want to avail myself of them."
By Kevin Quinn, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kevin Quinn is a 17-year law enforcement veteran, the president of the National Association of School Resource Officers and a school resource officer in the largest high school in Arizona.
This week, Schools of Thought publishes perspectives on school security.
(CNN) – Ever since the heart-wrenching shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I’ve been hearing from parents who want to know what I’m doing to keep their kids safe. As a school resource officer in a high school, I’m here to answer their questions and take action as necessary. We’re all thinking the same thing: Don’t let it happen here.
School resource officers have been around for decades, but many hadn’t heard of them before the past few weeks. We’re not security guards or even extra, hired police officers who “stand guard” in front of a school. School resource officers, known as SROs, are fully sworn law enforcement officers, armed, in uniform and assigned to a school full-time, just as an officer might be assigned a neighborhood. We have all the same training as other police officers, and often more. We know how to deal with situations alone or with just a partner, or how to work within a community of teenagers. The National Association of School Resource Officers estimates there are about 10,000 around the country, mostly in junior high and high schools.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama called for more emergency planning and school resource officers in our nation’s schools – a move the National Association of School Resource Officers applauds. The number of school resource officers declined recently because of tight budgets. Some areas split the cost between the school districts and local governments or use grant funding to employ SROs. I’m not into politics. I don’t care how it gets done. But I know that well-trained school resource officers make schools safer.
We do it by working diligently with community stakeholders. The successful school resource officer program is a collaborative effort by certified law enforcement officers, educators, students, parents and the community to offer educational programs in the schools, reduce crime, drug abuse and violence - all of which contribute to a safe school environment.
By Douglas Rushkoff, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Douglas Rushkoff writes a regular column for CNN.com. He is a media theorist and the author of "Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age" and "Life Inc.: How Corporatism Conquered the World, and How We Can Take It Back." He is also a digital literacy advocate for Codecademy.com. His forthcoming book is "Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now."
(CNN) - Education is under threat, but the Internet and the growth of Massive Open Online Courses are not to blame.
Like the arts and journalism, whose value may be difficult to measure in dollars, higher education has long been understood as a rather "soft" pursuit. And this has led people to ask fundamental questions about it:
What is learning, really? And why does it matter unless, of course, it provides a workplace skill or a license to practice? Is the whole notion of a liberal arts education obsolete or perhaps an overpriced invitation to unemployment?
The inability to answer these questions lies at the heart of universities' failure to compete with new online educational offerings - the rapidly proliferating MOOCs - as well as the failure of most Web-based schools to provide a valid alternative to the traditional four-year college.
Education is about more than acquiring skills.
When America and other industrialized nations created public schools, it was not to make better workers but happier ones. The ability to read, write and think was seen as a human right and a perquisite to good citizenship, or at least the surest way to guarantee compliant servitude from the workers of industrial society. If even the coal miner could spend some of his time off reading, he stood a chance of living a meaningful life. Moreover, his ability to read the newspaper allowed him to understand the issues of the day and to vote intelligently.
What we consider basic knowledge has grown to include science, history, the humanities and economics. So, too, has grown the time required to learn it all. While the modern college might have begun as a kind of finishing school, a way for the sons of the elite to become cultured and find one another before beginning their own careers, it eventually became an extension of public school's mandate. We go to college to become smarter and more critical thinkers while also gaining skills we might need for the work force.
Accordingly, we all wanted our sons and daughters to go to college until recently.
By Cathy Paine, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Cathy Paine is a school psychologist in Springfield, Oregon, and chairwoman of the National Emergency Assistance Team for the National Association of School Psychologists. She was a panelist at the White House Summit on School Violence Prevention in 2006.
This week, Schools of Thought publishes perspectives on school security. Tomorrow, a school resource officer explains his role in campus security.
(CNN) - I received the emergency call at 8:14 a.m. on May 21, 1998.
Eighteen minutes earlier, a 15-year-old student had entered Thurston High School armed with two handguns and a semi-automatic rifle, and in a matter of seconds, killed two students and wounded 25 more, some sustaining life-long injuries. As a school psychologist in Springfield, Oregon, I was called because of my role on the district’s crisis response team. In a few short moments, we were transformed from innocent, unsuspecting individuals engaged in our normal routines into traumatized victims of a school shooting spree.
Those shots shattered our sense of safety and security; no longer could we say, “It can’t happen here.” While nothing in my 23 years of experience in education prepared me for the magnitude of that horrifying event, my training as a school psychologist did prepare me to know how to respond in the moment and to provide counseling support to students and staff in the days, weeks and months of recovery. The experience also reinforced for me how critically important mental health is to all aspects of the school safety and violence prevention continuum.
Since then, I have devoted significant energy to advocating for effective school safety, crisis prevention and intervention strategies at the local and national levels as a member of my district crisis team and as a member and chairwoman of the National Association of School Psychologists’ National Emergency Assistance Team. In both roles, I have learned some important lessons about what works, lessons I strongly believe should be our guiding principles as the nation grapples (once again) with the question, “How to we keep our students safe?” in the aftermath of the heartbreaking events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
By Fahiemah Al-Ali, CNN
North Plainfield, New Jersey (CNN) - Stepping into the auditorium of the Sundance School last weekend was like being transported back to another era.
Glen Miller’s big band crooned "Moonlight Serenade" in the background. A dusty pink feather boa draped sequin-adorned chairs. Heart-shaped velvet boxes sat in the center of each table. A striking black-and-white wedding photograph from 1938 was perched proudly on a small wooden table.
It was the school’s way of celebrating the guest of honor – teacher Agnes Zhelesnik, affectionately referred to as “Granny” by her family and students.
The average teacher retirement age is 59, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. It's a marker Zhelesnik has blown past.
She just turned 99.
Agnes Zhelesnik's students celebrated her 99th birthday.
For 60 years, Zhelesnik was a stay-at-home mother and wife. She began teaching part-time at the Sundance School in 1995, when she was 81.
Eventually, she became a full-time teacher at the school, instructing classes on cooking, sewing and costume-making. She still comes to work every day.
“I love them. They’re my best helpers. That’s the only reason why I come here, is the children,” Zhelesnik says, her blue eyes sparkling behind silver metal-framed glasses.
By Lenore Skenazy, Special to CNN
This week, Schools of Thought publishes perspectives on school security. Tomorrow, a school psychologist reflects on how access to mental health care affects school safety.
(CNN) - In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, we are suffering from a very American malady: Post-Traumatic Stupidity Syndrome.
Folks in the throes of PTSS are so traumatized by a tragic event that they immediately demand something – ANYTHING – be done to prevent it from ever occurring again. Even if the chances of it happening are one in a million. Even if the “preventative measures” proposed are wacky, wasteful, ridiculous - or worse.
On my blog, Free-Range Kids, I asked readers to tell me what their districts were doing in reaction to the Newtown shooting and thus I heard about lots of schools reviewing their lockdown drills – which makes sense, like reviewing a fire or tornado drill. But then I also heard from readers whose school administrators seem to have lost their minds.
One school, for instance, proceeded with its first grade Christmas concert…except that all the parents attending had to hand in their car keys to the office before entering the auditorium.
Because guns don’t kill people … people with car keys kill people?
By David Thweatt, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David Thweatt has been superintendent of the Harrold Independent School District in Harrold, Texas, for nine years.
(CNN) - Good parents protect their children. We protect them from the wind, sun, fire, cold, sickness, from animals, harmful philosophy, other children, predatory adults, injury when possible, their own faulty reasoning and anything else that we see as a dangerous risk to their health and well-being. They are the future, and they are precious.
At the Harrold Independent School District in Texas, we believe we’ve done everything possible to protect our children. We use cameras, electronic security and emergency plans, and some of our staff members are armed.
When I got into education in 1979, the idea of guns in schools was completely off my radar. But I believe faulty logic was used to frame the 1990 gun-free school zones law, which made it illegal for most citizens to knowingly possess firearms near schools. No police record, news account or anecdotal evidence showed that school personnel authorized to carry weapons used guns to hurt or injure innocent children. There was no reason for the federal law except defective reasoning: Policy makers believed that because guns came into schools in the hands of law-breaking gang members and drug dealers, the smart response was to take them away from law-abiding citizens.
What a perilous law that has become. We hung a sign on virtually every school in America that said, “Here await our most precious possessions in the world, and they are not protected.”
In Harrold, our school serves about 105 students in our rural community 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Best-case scenario, we are a half-hour away from the closest law enforcement officials.
In 2005, after shootings at other schools and universities, I began to research ways to protect our school’s children, and my research included the idea of arming staff members. There was no blueprint for how that would work, so we spent two years researching and considering different requirements and legal issues. The school board passed it October 22, 2007.
We call it the Guardian Plan.