Check out Schools of Thought's new home!
New school year! New buildings, new classrooms, new teachers, new subjects -- and a new home for Schools of Thought!
August 12th, 2013
10:33 AM ET

Check out Schools of Thought's new home!

To all our friends @CNNschools,

Today, Schools of Thought moves to a new home on CNN.com. The new CNN.com/education will continue to share education news and opinions that CNN gathers from around the world, while reporting on ideas, innovation and technology that are making schools evolve. We'll be helping families navigate education, from the hard good-bye at the pre-K door to the hugs outside college commencement.

We'll also keep the discussion going on Twitter @CNNschools, on Facebook at CNN Living, and will be working closely with CNN.com/Living and CNN.com/Parents, where we're already examining how parenthood and families are changing. Our friends at CNN Student News will continue to provide a commercial-free 10-minute news broadcast for middle and high school classrooms every weekday, as well.

Check out the new site, and good luck on the start of a new school year — there's always more to learn!

Jamie Gumbrecht, Donna Krache and John Martin

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Filed under: Voices
August 10th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Why I won't break up a school fight

By Robyn Barberry, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Robyn Barberry teaches English and drama at a Maryland high school. With her husband, she manages Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction with more than 200 teen volunteers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and blogs about motherhood for The Catholic Review.

(CNN) - In Florida, a 64-year-old bus driver has been criticized for failing to physically intervene in a three-on-one fight that took place in July. The bus driver says he was afraid to step in. As a high school teacher, I can't blame him.

The adults who work in public schools are outnumbered. When a violent, hormone-fueled scene unfolds, it's our duty to quell the calamity with every resource we have in the name of safety. But where do we draw the line?

Early in my teaching career, I was afraid of some of the bigger boys at school, especially one. I could see he carried a great deal of hatred inside - for me, for his classmates, for the world. He was tall and muscular; he could have been an athlete, but his poor grades, bad attitude and spotty record kept him from playing sports.

One afternoon, as I waited outside my classroom door, I heard a scuffle behind me. The boy I feared and another, smaller boy were shoving each other by my white board. I stepped in, and told them to stop. When they didn't, I shouted louder and told another student, my go-to helper, to get another teacher. As the shoves turned to punches, rage grew in the larger boy's eyes. The other student asked him to stop, but he had thrust his hands around his neck. I tried to pull him free, but the large boy shoved, pressing the other student and my arm against the cinder block wall. I felt trapped and frightened, and thought I might black out. Just then, two male teachers pulled the boys apart and dragged them to the office.

"Are you OK?" a third teacher said. "Look at your hand!"

My wrist was red and swollen. It hurt, but not as much as knowing I wasn't safe in my own classroom. My neighbor teacher took over my class so that I could go to the office to fill out an incident report. I could barely grip the pen. Two police officers assigned to our school urged me to file assault charges against the boys, but I insisted they just hadn't seen me. I wanted to believe that they wouldn't hurt me, but I also wondered if the boy would retaliate if the law got involved.

Fortunately, my wrist was only sprained and I returned to work the next day in a cumbersome brace. But I kept wondering, what if the boy had pushed the other one harder? What if his anger was directed at me? Suppose it was my head that was smashed against that cinderblock wall? What if he'd had a weapon?

On the other side, what if adrenaline gave me undiscovered strength and I had hurt one of them? Could their parents sue me? Would I lose my job?

Read Barberry's full column

My View: Don't segregate boys and girls in classrooms
"Single-sex classes might do more harm than good," Michael Kimmel says.
August 9th, 2013
10:58 AM ET

My View: Don't segregate boys and girls in classrooms

By Michael Kimmel, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Michael Kimmel is distinguished professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University. His new book, "Angry White Men," will be published by Nation Books in the fall.

(CNN) - Is your daughter a tomboy? Your son not especially into football? Does your daughter excel at math? Your son a skilled artist? Or does your daughter switch roles, relatively easily, from skinning her knees on a soccer field to worrying about what to wear to a party? Or does your son, like mine, come home sweaty and bruised from lacrosse practice only to sing gorgeously in the shower as a member of his high school a cappella group?

If your answers are yes - and probably most parents recognize some elements of these traits in their children - you can breathe a bit easier today. That is, at least, if you happen to live in Wood County, West Virginia.

That's because recently, under a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and its local affiliates, the Wood County Board of Education agreed to abandon for two school years its program of separating boys and girls into single-sex classes. The ACLU had filed a lawsuit on behalf of a mother and her daughters who claimed the sex segregation was a form of sex discrimination against girls.

This little-noted legal settlement gives all of us - parents, teachers, administrators, and kids themselves - something to think about: Are single-sex classes really an effective way to educate our children?

Historically, of course, single-sex schools - especially private schools and colleges - were the norm. But since the dawn of the 20th century, both educators and parents have seen them as historic anachronisms, especially for boys. Single-sex schools for girls may have challenged stereotypes, but single-sex schools for boys reproduced them, fostering what David Riesman and Christopher Jencks, in their monumental midcentury study, "The Academic Revolution," called "male arrogance."

Today, single-sex schools may provide some benefits, though these tend to be benefits that accompany the economic privilege of the families that can afford them. (That is, single sex private schools tend to also be schools for the elite.) But single-sex classes, in otherwise coeducational public schools, are entirely misguided.

Read Kimmel's full column

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Filed under: Gender • School choice • Voices
July 24th, 2013
10:40 AM ET

Gladwell: College football should be banned

(CNN) - Long-time New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell, "a football fan" and author of "The Tipping Point" and "Outliers," tells Fareed Zakaria that college football is similar to dog-fighting, allowing young men to smash into each other despite known neurological consequences: "The idea that as a culture we would be absolutely quick and sure about coming to the moral boiling point over the notion that you would do this to dogs and yet completely blind to the notion you would do this to young men is, to my mind, astonishing."

Gladwell says the sport should be banned, and that students and donors should boycott it.

"What has to happen for this crusade to work...is for one prominent school has got to drop the sport," he said. "That school has got to be, it's got to be Harvard or Penn or the great prize of Stanford...if Stanford walked away, I think that it would put a dagger in the heart of college football."

Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter @CNNschools

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Filed under: College • College football • Sports • Voices
July 15th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Jeff Bridges: I dream of a United States with 'no kid hungry'

Editor's note: Jeff Bridges has worked for more than 30 years on issues concerning childhood hunger here and abroad. He founded the End Hunger Network in 1983 to organize the entertainment industry around this cause. Since 2010, Jeff has been the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry® campaign to end childhood hunger in America.

(CNN) - When I was growing up, I had everything I needed. My wonderful parents, Dorothy and Lloyd, made sure we had nutritious food and they taught us where food came from.

I have been blessed in many ways, and my wife, Sue, and I have been fortunate enough to pass that on to our own four daughters. We've never had to worry about how we'd feed our family.

Other families in America are not as fortunate as I have been.

Few Americans realize that the majority of low-income children in this country get most of their nutrition at school. Whether it's the free breakfast, reduced-priced lunch or after-school snacks, these federally funded meal programs provide a critical safety net for families struggling to put food on the table.

However, there is a huge gap in the number of children who could be getting these meals and the number actually accessing them.

Read Bridges' full column

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Filed under: Kids' health • Nutrition • School lunch • Voices
July 8th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

The story of Malala's friend: Brightening girls' lives with education

Getty ImagesBy Gordon Brown, Special for CNN

Editor's note: Gordon Brown is a United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education. He was formerly the UK's prime minister.

(CNN) - Today we can tell the remarkable story of Shazia Ramzan, a 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl.

Last October Shazia was travelling home from school with her friend Malala Yousafzai when a Taliban gunman boarded their bus and shot both of them. Malala suffered head and facial injuries and had to be rushed to hospital in the UK. Shot in the neck and arm, Shazia spent a month in hospital while her deep wounds healed. Both were attacked by terrorists who wanted to stop girls going to school.

Shazia dreams of being a doctor. Fighting back from her injuries, she attempted to resume her schooling at home in the Swat Valley. So keen was she to return to school at the earliest opportunity that she ignored continuing threats to her life from the same Taliban terrorists who shot her and Malala.

For months she has had to be escorted to school each day by two armed guards. Her home has had to be protected by police. Sadly, the more that Shazia spoke up, the more the threats escalated, making it difficult for her and her family to remain secure.And in the past few weeks violence has escalated across Pakistan. A female teacher was gunned down in front of her young son as she drove into her all girls' schools. A school principal was killed and his pupils severely injured when a bomb was thrown into a school playground in an all-girls school in Karachi just as a prize giving ceremony began.

Only ten days ago, in a massacre which will long be remembered as the single worst terrorist assault on girls' education in recent years, the bus in which 40 female students were travelling from their all-girls college campus in Quetta was blown up by a suicide bomber. 14 girls were killed. So violent was the terrorist attack that another group followed the injured girls to hospital and opened fire on them again.

Despite the public revulsion against the violence, the attacks have continued. Only this weekend two schools were blown up, while another two girls were murdered for posting a video in which they were filmed dancing in the rain.

Read Brown's full column

I was an affirmative action 'imposter'
CNN writer John Blake reveals what he learned when he became an affirmative action imposter.
July 5th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

I was an affirmative action 'imposter'

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - I walked into the room hoping no one would discover my secret.

I feared my accent would betray my identity, so I kept silent. I glanced self-consciously at my cheap clothes, wishing I could afford better. I stared at the photogenic, self-assured students around me as if they were from another planet.

For me, they were from another world.

I was a 17-year-old African-American from an impoverished, inner-city community and had no idea what I was getting into. Next to me in a college freshman orientation class were students who came from private schools and grew up in homes with swimming pools and maids.

But here was the catch: I wasn't an affirmative action enrollee at an elite white university. I was a black student thrust onto the campus of a predominantly black university. My hang-up wasn't race; it was class. I was suffering from "class shock." I was on a path to self-destruction because I didn't know how to cross the bridge from poverty into this strange, new world.

I thought about that period in my life after learning last week that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the use of race in college admissions but had signaled that it may soon abandon that position. People are already preparing for what may come next: Colleges are going to create diversity by using class instead of race. Some call it economic affirmative action.

It is something liberals and conservatives seem to support. That's part of its appeal. Such an approach would create diversity on college campuses without resurrecting the endless wars over race-based affirmative action.

Richard Kahlenberg, dubbed the "intellectual father" of economic affirmative action, says the current approach to affirmative action in higher education does not help many poor black students.

In his paper, "A Better Affirmative Action," Kahlenberg cited research that found 86% of contemporary black students at selective colleges were either middle or upper class.

Class-based affirmative action is something all kinds of Americans - including conservative justices on the Supreme Court - could support, he says.

"Even the most right-wing justices, like Clarence Thomas, have said that they support the idea of race-neutral affirmative action for economically disadvantaged students," he says.

Maybe so. But my experience suggests that there is a hidden challenge to such an approach. Placing poor students in top-tier colleges is only half of the battle. There's another psychological battle that some of these students will fight within themselves, and, as I found out, there's no college prep course out there to help.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Affirmative action • College • Diversity • Legal issues • Sports • Voices
My View: Do our children know how to be citizens?
A new U.S. citizen holds a flag July 3 along with her citizenship papers. Would-be citizens must pass a civics and history test.
July 4th, 2013
03:00 PM ET

My View: Do our children know how to be citizens?

By Robert Pondiscio, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Robert Pondiscio is a former fifth grade teacher and the executive director of Citizenship First, a civic education organization based at Harlem's Democracy Prep Public Schools.

(CNN) -- When you're chowing down on hot dogs and hamburgers on this most patriotic of national holidays, try this experiment: Ask your friends and neighbors across the picnic table why they send their kids to school.

Chances are good that nearly everyone you ask will give an answer that reveals a private, dollars-and-cents view of education. We want to see our kids go to college, get good jobs, earn a decent living and make something of themselves.

We send our kids to school and hope they grow up to lead happy, productive lives, and with luck wind up a little better off than their parents. For most of us, education is the engine of upward mobility. These private aspirations are as American as apple pie.

But we send kids to school not just to become employees and entrepreneurs, but citizens capable of wise and effective self-government in our democracy. This public dimension of schooling was a founding principle of American education. We have all but forgotten it in the current era of education overhaul.

Read Pondiscio's full column

My view: History, literature, civics and arts on the chopping block
Students read in the library of the Technische Universitaet in Berlin in 2012.
June 26th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My view: History, literature, civics and arts on the chopping block

By Julian Zelizer, CNN contributor

Editor's note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America."

(CNN) - Everyone talks about our broken political system. Washington is too polarized. Money dominates politics. Politicians don't know how to lead. Citizens are not as attentive to governance and public policy as they should be. Americans either ignore politics or see it is one more form of entertainment, "American Idol" on steroids.

As a result, politicians get away with all kinds of misstatements and truths, in part because the electorate is so gullible.

How do we make our democracy work better?

Political reform will be essential to making sure that our institutions operate effectively. The news media needs to do a better job of separating truth from fiction and backing away from the increasingly partisan outlook of journalism. Civic organizations need to do more to make sure that voters are active in politics and, at a minimum, that they actually vote on Election Day.

But education is also going to be a key part of the equation. The way in which we teach our citizens in schools and colleges is how we shape our electorate from a very young age. If we do not do a good job imparting the basics that are needed to be virtuous members of our democracy, the system will never be repaired.

Unfortunately, there is some bad news on this front. A recent study by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences sounded the alarm that vital subjects such as history, literature, language, civics and the arts are in trouble.

According to the report, the percentage of students majoring in the humanities has dropped in half, falling from 14 in 1966 to 7 in 2012. In 2010, only 45% of high school students were able to demonstrate a basic understanding of U.S. history.

Read Zelizer's full column

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Filed under: Art • Civics education • Humanities • Voices
My View: Big debt for students, big perks for university elites
While NYU students accrue debt, NYU helps its executives and star faculty buy vacation homes.
June 25th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Big debt for students, big perks for university elites

By Claire Potter, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Claire Potter is a professor of history at the New School for Public Engagement. She blogs at Tenured Radical for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

(CNN) - New York University's 2010 graduating class owed a total of more than $600 million in student loans. It's unlikely the university will forgive them. But NYU has forgiven portions of mortgages they have extended to President John Sexton, other university executives or star faculty - money that has been used to buy properties in Manhattan or vacation homes in the Hamptons.

Does this shock you?

Or, how about this: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, a former executive vice president at NYU, received an "exit bonus" of $685,000. Just to put this in perspective, Lew's NYU exit bonus alone would have provided free tuition for 275 undergraduates, or a little more than 17% of the incoming class.

The revelations about lavish compensation packages at New York University (my alma mater) have raised a firestorm of criticism. Faculty critics have already publicized NYU's top executive salaries: Sexton takes home nearly $1.5 million, Vivien Lee, the vice dean of science gets $1.1 million, and Robert Grossman, the dean of the medical center, makes a whopping $3.5 million.

Read Potter's full column

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