By Rachel Simmons, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Rachel Simmons is cofounder of Girls Leadership Institute and author of "The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence." Follow her on Twitter: @Racheljsimmons
(CNN) - Phillips Andover Academy, one of the most elite and selective boarding high schools in the country, failed again to elect a girl to its top student position - the school presidency.
Since the Maryland school went co-ed in 1973, only three girls have held this office. In a letter that launched a fiery debate across its campus, senior girls implored their peers to look hard at the school's "staggering gender imbalance" in student leadership.
Headmaster John Palfrey responded by telling The New York Times, "Girls have not had equal access to top leadership positions." Yet, access for girls is rarely the problem when it comes to pursuing leadership.
It starts early. From childhood to adolescence, girls face mixed messages about displaying power and authority.
The girls at Andover and elsewhere are socialized to be likeable, to please others, to not tout their own successes and to speak softly like proper girls. As a result, they face powerful psychological barriers to attaining leadership roles.
The impact of what I call the "curse of the good girl" effect first appears in friendships, when young girls take pains to avoid direct conflict with peers. "I want to tell her how I feel," a typical girl would say in my research interviews, "but what if she hates me or turns other people against me?"
Editor’s Note: Michael Lomax, Ph.D, is president and CEO of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, the largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to minority and low-income students. Previously, Lomax was president of Dillard University in New Orleans and a literature professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges.
It was on this day in 1854 that Ashmun Institute, the first college established solely for African-American students, was officially chartered.
Twelve years later, Ashmun was renamed as Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University and became the nation’s first degree-granting institution for African-Americans, or what we now know as a historically black college and university.
Where Lincoln led, others followed, and there are now 105 historically black colleges and universities, enrolling more than 370,000 students and awarding 20% of all undergraduate degrees earned by African-Americans.
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” the almost universally recognized motto of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, has come to represent the aspirations of all historically black colleges and universities to ensure that all Americans can earn the college degrees they need and the 21st century economy demands.
UNCF makes those aspirations real for nearly 60,000 students each year by providing financial support for 38 private historically black colleges and universities and awarding 13,000 scholarships to students at 900 colleges and universities.
Like Lincoln University, these historically black colleges and universities began when African-Americans had few other higher education options. Much has changed since then. Today, a college education is not a “good-to-have” but a “must-have,” the basic requirement for almost every fast-growing and good-paying job and career path.
By Katie Lyles, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Katie Lyles, who teaches third graders in Colorado, was a student at Columbine during the massacre 14 years ago.
(CNN) - At 16, my innocence was shattered when two gunmen murdered 13 people at my school and wounded countless others.
Columbine High School promised to be a safe and secure place of learning. And that promise was broken on April 20, 1999.
On that morning, I headed to school worried about my 10th grade math test and my upcoming track meet. Useless worries: The test was never given and we never held the meet.
Scars remain from that day that no one can see. Scars that made my worries about math tests or track performance pale in comparison to whether my science partner would live or whether my classmate's speech would be impaired by the shrapnel lodged in his skull. Today, those mental scars throb in large crowds and force me to scan the room for exits. They make my heart beat faster when I hear the blades of a helicopter overhead.
Now, as a teacher in my eighth year in the classroom, I consider every day that I go to work a privilege. I cherish my students' joy and enthusiasm, and most importantly, their innocence.
I believe that it is our job, as a society, to protect these virtues in our young people. I want them to be worried about math tests and track meets and about science fairs and student council elections - the kind of normal school stuff that builds character. But our epidemic of gun violence is creating a culture of fear in our schools, where students are anxious about safety and intruders. These are worries no student should have.
This becomes even more apparent when we conduct our monthly emergency drill at our school. It's a way to be prepared for the worst, so we practice lockdowns, fire drills and evacuations.
The other day, I was explaining to my third graders that we were going to practice a lockdown just in case a bear happened to be on the playground - a real scenario for our Colorado school. I have used this example my entire teaching career because it's an easy and nonthreatening reason to practice a lockdown.
One girl raised her hand and asked: "Is this what we would do if a bad guy came with a gun to hurt us?"
By Jay Parini, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. He is the author of "The Art of Teaching." His novel "The Last Station" was made into an Academy Award-nominated film.
(CNN) - I've been teaching English in college for 40 years, and I've never met a single professor who likes grading. "Hate" is too strong a word for what they feel. But nobody likes it. The fun stuff is talking to students, holding classroom discussions, thinking about your subject in complex ways and trying to convey your enthusiasm for the subject. Education is about leading students in useful directions, helping them to discover their own critical intelligence, their own voices.
Now a company has come up with software that can grade our papers for us. EdX is a nonprofit company started by Harvard and MIT. It also creates online courses called MOOCs (for massive open online course). With this new software, students submitting their papers online can get immediate feedback: no more waiting until the lazy professor gets around to grading their work, probably leaving coffee rings and inky fingerprints on the pages.
Having a program grade papers would apparently free teachers to do other things, but I think it would be a mistake. Why? As a teacher, I may begin to understand students by their conversation or how they respond in class, but when they actually have to put their thoughts on paper, I can learn a huge amount in a relatively brief time. I can see how they think and feel in relation to the material before them, and if (and how) they have problems in making connections, marshaling arguments, drawing conclusions. Needless to say, I can also get a sense of where they are with the material at hand. Have they learned enough to progress to the next stage?
By Julia Duin, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Julia Duin teaches journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She worked in newspapers for 25 years, including stints at the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Times, and for the past two years, as a contributing writer for the Washington Post Sunday magazine. Her website is juliaduin.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliaduin.
(CNN) - Remember those late summer days, just before the start of school, when you knew you were free as a bird until Labor Day?
I used to enjoy them, too. And then I moved to West Tennessee.
The Volunteer State is one of 10 states - all in the South except for Utah and Arizona - where a majority of schools begin classes before August 15. I’m willing to bet the school start dates here are the earliest in the country. Nashville public schools will begin their classes next summer on August 1. In Chattanooga, it will be August 8. Memphis will start August 5. Things are a little saner in Knoxville, where schools will begin August 21 this year.
But recently, my local school board in Madison County voted to begin school on August 2.
Yes, August 2. I’m the parent of a first-grader in one of the elementary schools in Jackson, a city of 65,211 an hour east of Memphis. It is best known as the place where legendary railroad engineer Casey Jones grew up. It is a center for cotton, soybeans, a Pringles Potato Chips plant - and early schools.
Before moving here, I lived in Maryland, a state that Education Week recently anointed as having the country’s best schools. We started school around the third week in August and ended in early June. Most of the country cannot comprehend starting school August 2.
I like to spend summers near family in the Pacific Northwest, where summer doesn't even kick in until July and August and September are the best months to be there. All around the country, there are reunions, sporting events, fairs, festivals and zillions of outdoor events in August. All my college friends from Oregon are having our once-every-five-years reunion the second weekend of August. In 2008, I went. This year, I will be stuck in Tennessee.
By Wendy Kopp, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Wendy Kopp is CEO of Teach for All, a global network of independent organizations dedicated to expanding educational opportunity, and founder and board chairwoman of Teach for America, a national corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in high-needs schools.
(CNN) - Tech visionary Steve Jobs understood better than anyone the impulse to believe that technology can solve our most complex societal problems. "Unfortunately it just ain't so," he said. "We need to attack these things at the root, which is people and how much freedom we give people. ... I wish it was as simple as giving it over to the computer."
That's certainly true when it comes to education, particularly in impoverished communities.
As a founder of two organizations that recruit top college graduates to expand educational opportunity, I've spent a lot of time examining what's at work in successful classrooms and schools over the past two decades. In every classroom where students are excelling against the odds, there's a teacher who's empowered her students to work hard to realize their potential. Whenever I ask the leaders of successful schools their secret, the answer is almost always the same: people, people, people. They are obsessed with recruiting and developing the best teams.
Research confirms that great teachers change lives. Students with one highly effective elementary school teacher are more likely to go to college, less likely to become pregnant as teens and earn tens of thousands more over their lifetimes. Faced with the choice between giving every child in a school his or her own laptop or putting 30 of them in a classroom with one exceptional teacher, there's no question which is the better investment.
So it's disappointing to see more and more people herald technology as an educational panacea while dismissing the indispensable role of people.
By David J. Skorton, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David J. Skorton is president of Cornell University and professor in the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College and in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell’s College of Engineering. A former president of the University of Iowa, he is a board-certified cardiologist, past chair of the Business-Higher Education Forum and life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
(CNN) - As college admissions notifications go out over the next several weeks, there is no doubt that the cost of college is a growing concern. Students and families are trying to figure out how to get the most out of the college experience and the best value for their investment.
The interactive College Scorecard that President Barack Obama announced in his 2013 State of the Union Address provides the average “net price” of attendance - that is, tuition minus the average amount of financial aid. (As the scorecard notes, it is important to get more specific cost information by using the financial aid calculator on each college’s website.)
Promised, but not yet available in the scorecard, is a summary of the kinds of jobs that students find once they graduate and how much they earn. This information may be of limited utility, however, because, as Harvard President Drew Faust has pointed out, the value of a college degree should not be judged solely on the first job acquired, but it should be “a passport to a lifetime of citizenship, opportunity, growth and change.”
How can students and families navigate these confusing and ever-changing waters? As a university president whose institution received nearly 40,000 applications for admission this year, as someone who is responsible to see the big picture - and as someone who has been through the college selection process with members of my own family - I know that a substantial part of college choice must belong to the student. It must encompass facts, but also the “feel” of the college and the fit with the student’s background, personality and interests.
So, students, here are some things, beyond the College Scorecard, to consider in deciding which colleges provide value for you.
By Andrew Schwartz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Tuba player Andrew Schwartz holds a bachelor’s of music from the University of Hartford. He did graduate work at The Manhattan School of Music and is working on an MBA at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, where he is president-elect of the Graduate Business Association. He is an intern at Atlanta-based music startup Tunefruit. Schwartz's story first appeared on CNN iReport.
(CNN) - It’s no secret that education in America is broken. We can’t define a good school, let alone figure out a way to measure success. Yet when money is tight, as it is right now because of the forced budget cuts, the first thing to be cut is always the arts. And that’s a tragedy.
I spent six years in music school before making a switch to business school. I was convinced that I was going to be a musician. I loved music. I was good at it, and I was willing to do anything to get to the top. But then I realized that, even at the top of the music game, the job security isn’t there. So I dropped out of grad school and am now earning an MBA.
But through that transition, I’ve realized why music needs to be a cornerstone of education. Music is an art and a science, and it's one of the best ways kids can learn creativity and those mythical critical thinking skills. The focus of the curriculum isn’t forcing everyone to learn about Bach or Mozart. It’s about learning how to think, rather than what to think.
That “how” is the holy grail of education. It’s exactly what makes a good scientist, a good entrepreneur or a productive member of society. I don’t play the tuba anymore, but I think the lessons I learned from it are actually more ingrained into me now that I have some distance from the actual medium I learned them in. Here is just a portion of the many life lessons I learned through music:
Work hard and it pays off
This one came early on in my short-lived musical career. I wasn’t a very good musician when I first started out. It was obvious why: I only practiced an hour a day. But Katie down the street practiced four hours a day. My solution was to kick it up to six hours a day until I was just as good as she was. I had to make up for lost time, and I soon overtook her.
Make it happen
An amazing musician once said to me: “Make it happen."
There will always be obstacles in your way. My junior year in college, my quartet was making a recording for an international tuba competition. (Seriously.) It seemed almost impossible for us to get together to record, but we found one time: 10:00 p.m. on a Thursday. We had all been in class since about 8 a.m., and I had a serious sinus infection. It might have been the coffee and more meds than a doctor would recommend, but I’m convinced that these simple words cleared my head and allowed me to power through the pain and exhaustion. We made the semifinals.
By Amity Doolittle, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Amity Doolittle is a lecturer and research scientist at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the director of undergraduate studies in the environmental studies program at Yale College.
(CNN) - Each year, a new class of students arrives at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where I teach courses on social and environmental justice. You can see the energy radiating from them. As young environmentalists, their determination to make a difference is palpable. Their ambition and idealism are so important - it draws bright and forward-thinking students to a profession not known for exorbitant salaries and luxurious lifestyles. And for a few weeks each fall, as the air turns brisk, you can feel the school pulsing with optimism.
Inevitably, as the fall turns to winter, reality sets in, and the atmosphere at the school begins to change. Students confess that they are more confused than when they arrived. They begin to question themselves. One of the hardest lessons they learn is that we, the supposed experts, do not have the answers; we cannot pretend to assume that we know the “right” way to fix intractable global problems.
This lesson is hard for students to accept. They have been primed to believe that they are our future leaders, and in truth, many of them will be. But what they are not told is that becoming a leader will take much more than an advanced degree. Even after graduating, many may have at least a decade of work and life experiences to accumulate before they can be begin to be leaders, begin to make a difference.
I learned this lesson myself over decades. As a doctoral student, I researched native land rights in Sabah, Malaysia. I published the requisite academic book and thought, “What good have I done?” Following academic conventions, my work drew heavily on social theories of power, state building and property rights. I felt that it was dry, held together with jargon. I imagined my book would sit in a dusty library.
By Nicole Saidi, CNN
(CNN) - Teachers and parents share a common purpose: educating children.
But differing beliefs, expectations and methods can make collaboration more challenging.
A 2011 story published on CNN.com by author and teacher Ron Clark, entitled "What teachers really want to tell parents," looked at reasons why educators give up on their field.
He asserted that negativity from parents places undue pressure on teachers and advised greater cooperation.
"We are educators, not nannies," Clark wrote. "We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it."
His opinion consistently resonated with readers over the next couple of years, which made it one of CNN's most-shared stories on Facebook. The story has been recommended more than 898,000 times.
Clark founded the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta and was named "American Teacher of the Year" by Disney and a "Phenomenal Man" by Oprah Winfrey.
But even Clark's status as a leader in his field didn't fully explain why this story captivated people, so CNN revisited the idea with Facebook users last week by asking them to finish this sentence: "The one thing parents/teachers really need to know is _____."FULL STORY