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Obama audaciously hoping for education reform

by Elena on Jul 15th, 2009

Yesterday, President Obama delivered a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan, a city seriously wounded by the failing auto industry.  His message was, not unexpectedly, one of hope–this time in the guise of a new plan to strengthen the system of community colleges in the United States over the next decade.President Obama at Macomb Community College in Michigan

The President says he plans to spend $12 billion dollars on community colleges, with the goal of adding five million to the number of college graduates we produce every year.  To the down-on-their-luck of Warren, MI, he pitched the plan as “the most significant down payment yet on reaching the goal of having the highest college graduation rate in the world.”

Community colleges make sense as a salve for the economic crisis, in at least two ways:  not only can they provide job-specific training to adults who need to re-imagine their careers, mid-life, they also cost far less than private, or even state, schools. Indeed, President Obama seems to see the growth of community colleges as parallel to the student-loan legislation he has already put in motion, which he hopes will lower the cost of college for many Americans.

In Michigan, he referred to President Truman’s G.I. Bill, which doubled the number of community colleges in America and increased their enrollment sevenfold.   The potential of a strong system of community colleges could be vast, and it’s easy to hope that a decade of strategic spending will force historic changes analogous to those of the Truman era.

Obama Attacks on Economy and Seeks Billions for Community Colleges [New York Times, 07/14/09]

Full text of the President’s speech [White House website]

Related Program:  Discounted Dreams [VIDEO]

(Photo credit:  Jeff Haynes/ Reuters)


Playing to Learn

by Amanda on Jul 14th, 2009

Video: Jane Goodall in The Promise of Play

Summer is in full swing, and students of all ages are finding ways to pass their days — summer school, internships, camp, jobs, family roadtrips,  you name it. But the most important thing they do this summer might just be one “that spontaneously is done for its own sake . . . appears purposeless, produces pleasure and joy, leads one to the next stage of mastery.” In other words: play.

In a recent episode of “Speaking of Faith”, Krista Trippet spoke with Dr. Stephen Brown, a physician with a background in neurology and psychiatry, who became fascinated with the question of why humans (and animals in general) play. He now heads the Institute for Play. Brown tells us:

When one really doesn’t play at all or very little in adulthood, there are consequences: rigidities, depression, no irony — things that are pretty important, that enable us to cope in a world of many demands.

In childhood, rough-and-tumble actually seems to prevent violent behavior, and play can grow human talents and character across a lifetime.  Play can be a glimpse of the’ divine’ – an act that emerges innately and spontaneously if the individual, or animal for that matter, that’s capable of playing is safe and well fed.

As scientist Bob Fagen said: “In a world that’s continuously presenting unique challenges and ambiguity, play prepares [children] for an evolving planet.”

So watch the videos or listen to the entire program. And then go outside and play!

Play, Spirit and Character [Speaking of Faith, NPR, 7/2/09]

National Institute for Play

The Promise of Play [PBS]

Serious Fun? [Taking Note, 6/30/09]


Media Monday: No Tray Left Behind

by Learning Matters on Jul 13th, 2009

850,000 styrofoam trays are used and discarded each day in New York City public schools. That’s 4 million non-biodegradeable styrofoam trays a week!  To draw attention to this frightening issue, students in a 3D Studio class at Parson’s New School for Design created a sculpture entirely out of styrofoam trays taken from local New York City public schools.

Aside from the obvious environmental implications, styrofoam actually poses serious health risks as studies have shown that styrene, its main chemical, may leach into and contaminate hot foods, especially those high in fat (which seems to be most school cafeteria food).

According to the instructor of the course, Debby Lee Cohen:

McDonalds stopped using Styrofoam food containers in 1990. Brooklyn Council Member Bill De Blasio has introduced legislation to prohibit the use of polystyrene in New York City agencies and restaurants.

So why are NYC public schools still using styrofoam in schools?

Watch the video chronicling the students work and follow the links to learn more and get involved:

The Styrofoam (Used) Tray Project: No Tray Left Behind [project website]

Brooklyn School nixes Styrofoam carriers in lunchroom [Brooklyn Paper news story]

VIDEO:  4 Million Trays a Week [NY Times City Room blog]


What We’re Following this Wednesday

by Amanda on Jul 8th, 2009

Media Mondays: The Uniform Project

by Amanda on Jul 6th, 2009

What do indie fashion and education reform have in common? In the case of designer Sheena Matheiken, it’s the power of the school uniform.  In one of our recent programs for The NewsHour, public high school students we met  said they felt empowered wearing a school uniform.

As the founder of The Uniform Project, Matheiken will wear the same dress every day for a year, to benefit the Akanksha Foundation a grassroots charity based in Mumbai, whose contributions go to fund uniforms and other school expenses for children in the slums of India.

Matheiken drew inspiration from the school uniforms of her childhood in India, and has the added challenge of accessorizing the dress differently each day, with an emphasis on sustainable fashion, using accessories that are mostly second-hand or donated. So far the project has been successful, and the story has been picked up in fashion press and readers weighing in with their own donations.

Watch the video:

The Uniform Project

The Akanksha Foundation [website]

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