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: Grading art in a standardized-test world
June 25th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

My View: Grading art in a standardized-test world

Courtesy Dunbar LylesBy Katie Lyles, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Katie Lyles has been teaching art in Jefferson County, Colorado, for seven years. In addition to her classroom duties, Katie has been part of her school’s cabinet, the Jefferson County Strategic Compensation Steering Committee, and the Leadership Academy for the Colorado Education Association. She was also a member of TURN and a delegate representative for JCEA.  Katie is part of the steering committee for the Center for Teaching Quality’s New Millennium Initiative.

It takes a thick skin to be an elementary art teacher. And it’s not because of the clothes ruined by paint, the challenge of finding storage space for over 500 sculpture projects, or the glitter that sneaks into the most unlikely places.

No, what requires a thick skin is continually battling public perception that art—especially at the elementary level—is an “easy break in the day” for students. When I tell people that I’m an art teacher, I’m often greeted with a patronizing response that goes something like this: “Awwww! It must be fun to color all day!” That’s usually followed up with a stimulating question such as, “Do you have any students who eat glue?”

Truth be told, I do have fun coloring all day…while teaching color theory, elements of landscape, how to create visual interest through patterns, and the difference between a portrait and a still-life—and this is just with my second graders (who, by the way, have never attempted to eat the glue!).

Sadly, most people’s perceptions about art education come from their personal experience as students. Art classes look a lot different from a seven-year-old’s perspective than from a teacher’s perspective.

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Filed under: Art • Curriculum • Elementary school • Practice • Teachers • Voices
January 12th, 2012
11:45 AM ET

Impact Your World: Atlantans use art to carry on MLK legacy

(CNN) - Martin Luther King believed in his "beloved community." Atlantans share how they're using art to continue that legacy.

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Filed under: Art • Extracurricular
December 8th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

AJC: National charter school enrollment now tops two million students
About two million of the roughly 46 million students in America's public schools currently attend a charter school. More than 500 new public charter schools opened in 2011, while 150 of them shut down.

NPR: Friendly Advice For Teachers: Beware Of Facebook
Some teachers are finding out that what they say on Facebook can put their jobs in jeopardy. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that social networking is protected free speech while some school districts say that restrictions are needed because some postings could have a negative impact the classroom. Schools take a new approach to handling suicides
A University of Missouri training program is helping teachers learn how to prevent the third leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24: suicide.

Digital Trends: Study: Students with smartphones study more often
New research finds that students who use smartphones study on average 40 minutes longer than students who don't have the enhanced gadgets. Much of that time, the phone is used for studying, but during 40% of study sessions, students used the smartphones' enhanced functions for study breaks.

WNCT: Broad Creek Middle School Students Use Sticky Notes To Make Art
Students used sticky notes to create a collage in a classroom window. The students saw a report on CNN Student News about companies in France creating intricate window art and decided to copy the technique.

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Filed under: Art • Behavior • Policy • Practice • Teachers • Technology • Today's Reading List
November 14th, 2011
07:16 AM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the Schools of Thought Editors are reading today:

The Independent: Trade training is tailor made: The business world rediscovers the value of the apprentice
Some British businesses want to bring back the centuries-old apprenticeship system, and a recent survey finds that many students would prefer apprenticeships over college. Ohio teachers will be graded on students' academic growth
In a pilot program with 30% of the state's districts participating, value-added is being tested as a way to evaluate teachers.

PILOTed: Reducing Student Dropouts
Poverty is a key factor in the dropout rate, but there are ways to engage disadvantaged students and help them see that education offers hope.

NPR: Educated And Jobless: What's Next For Millennials?
Some of today's most popular college majors have the highest unemployment rates.

NYC Public School Parents: 10 Point Education Platform for NYC Public Schools: What We Demand!
A group of young activists from a youth arts organization lays out its 10 demands for quality education in NYC schools.

Sacramento Bee: Sacramento State psychology professor won't teach without snacks
Sacramento State psychology professor says students providing snacks encourages them to work collectively. When a class failed to bring snacks, the professor walked out.

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Filed under: Art • At Home • Behavior • College • Elementary school • Extracurricular • Practice • Technology • Today's Reading List
Today's Reading List
November 11th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the Schools of Thought Editors are reading today:

The Chronicle of Higher Education: In Penn State Classrooms, Lessons are Drawn from a Scandal
For students and professors at Penn State, teachable moments are playing out in real life. Kids learn skills through art
Here are three artistic ways to help your child become better at reading and writing.

Empowering Parents: Problems at School?  How to Handle the Top 4 Issues
Bad behavior, falling grades, personality conflicts and skipping school are among the most common problems parents have to address with their kids.

US News:  Teachers Use Cell Phones in the Classroom
Using cell phones in the classroom makes sense, argues one teacher, because they’re a vital part of our everyday lives.

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Filed under: Art • At Home • Behavior • College • Elementary school • Extracurricular • Practice • Technology • Today's Reading List