Should sex ed include fertility information?

Exactly what sort of safe sex should be taught to our young students is always a topic of debate. As we recently saw in Texas, abstinence-only programs don’t seem to work and can even lead to higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Telling kids too much about how to have sex bothers many parents, educators and lawmakers, though. It seems that the jury is still out on the best way to empower students with sex-ed knowledge. One topic that is never debated, or even discussed, as it relates to sex education is fertility itself and that needs to change, according to some experts.

In a story that ran in The Guardian, reproductive specialist Dr. Geeta Nargund says that schools are spending so much time trying to prevent pregnancy that young people are missing out on important knowledge about their own fertility. In her own practice Nargund counsels many women who did not have the facts about their own ability to conceive children until it was too late for it to happen naturally.

That, argues Nargund, is grounded in the misconception that women who wait to have children until they are financially and emotionally ready can do so later in life. The real science is much starker and fertility drops dramatically after women hit their 30s, and continues to fall with each passing year.

I think Nargund has a valid point. If we want students to have all the facts about sex, then let’s not just present one side of the story. Women who want to wait to have children should certainly be able to make that choice but should have all of the information in front of them.

What’s your stance on sex education as it relates to fertility?

How should we teach about social justice in a post-(Michael) Brown world?

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest post by Beth Ellor

Picture a 5th Grade classroom in Chinatown on New York’s Lower East Side. Twenty-seven mostly Asian children – when I use the classic ‘clap, clap, clap-clap-clap’ signal, they fall silent immediately, eyes on me. Thorough plans from their teacher, including Social Studies – based on a Scholastic News magazine article about Selma and Civil Rights.

How do we introduce this to first generation immigrants (based on their accented English and preference for conversing in Chinese) who clearly have no context for that time? We read the article round-robin (a rarity these days), but the follow-up questions are met with blank stares. To enliven the short article, I’ve found some archival photos online to project on the Smartboard, and invite some discussion of how people might have felt then, seeing the shocking images on TV for the first time ever. Then I continue to a video from the recent 50 year anniversary celebration, specifically the speech made by John Lewis before he introduced President Obama. Immediately I regret this, for so many reasons.

The computer is set to the wrong screen resolution, stretching the images too wide. The sound quality is poor, and Rep. Lewis, with his strong Southern accent and also choked with emotion, induces snickers and imitations. My heart freezes. The mikes, positioned for the tall president, virtually obscure the much shorter Georgia Representative Lewis, so he appears to be bobbing in and out of sight. Suddenly, a Civil Rights icon and personal hero of mine is being subjected to derisive whispers and mirth. I find myself reminding them sharply that this man was willing to give his life for his beliefs throughout the Civil Rights struggle, and on that day, he almost did. The youngsters straighten their faces and attempt to pay attention, but there is no resonance for them. Someone else’s fight in some distant time, and definitely not about them. Epic Fail.

During lunch, I examine the bulletin boards around the room, which are based on their study of the Civil War era. Contemporary illustrations have been pinned up, surrounded by hand-written responses by the children. Around an engraving of enslaved people hoeing land and planting, an overseer on horseback holding a whip, and a white man lounging against a fence, watching, the children have noted: “The people want to get all the work done.” “He needs to make sure the work gets done.” (The overseer) And “He is watching to make sure the work will be finished in time.” (The white man) No-one remarks on the whip, the ethnicity of the characters, or the leisurely stance of the slave-owner.

I fall back on my own stereotypes of China under Chairman Mao, with the devotion of workers to collectivism, common goals of productivity, and self-effacing obedience. 60 plus years have passed since the Cultural Revolution, but how do Civil Rights images look to an Asian immigrant compared to a child born in the South Bronx, in Newark, NJ, or in Selma, Alabama? How does a teacher bring up the subject effectively in a 5th Grade classroom in Chinatown? And does it matter?

So it was with perfect synchronicity that I attended a meeting on May 12th called Digging Deeper: Teaching Rights and Social Justice in a Post-(Michael) Brown Era, offered by the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, in partnership with:

International Perspectives on Human Rights Ed, International Ed Program, Dept. of Humanities and Social Services, Steinhardt School.

NYU Partnership Schools Program

Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, NYU.

The event was spearheaded by Carol Anne Spreen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Steinhardt, NYU, and Chrissie Monaghan, Ph.D. Coordinator, NYC-RTE.

http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty/Carol_Anne_Spreen Faculty biography.

http://curry.virginia.edu/articles/right-to-education, including links to other published works.

Her immediate boss, Jonathan Zimmerman, was also there to give an outline of his own contributions to the subject.

http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty/Jonathan_Zimmerman Faculty Biography

Also on hand was David E. Kirkland, who spoke from both a professional and personal perspective about the systemic factors influencing people and communities of color in recent times.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgOoLi1iE7k – for a video with Assistant Professor of English Education David Kirkland discussing how we can understand the complex literate lives of urban youth in and outside of the classroom and the experiences that develop their identity and engagement with the larger world.

http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty/David_Kirkland Faculty biography.

Following these presentations, short introductions were given by representatives of organizations which provide various forms of support and expertise to schools and public forums. I was already familiar with several of these, such as

Teaching Tolerance, http://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources

Which is the education arm of the

Southern Poverty Law Centerhttp://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/teaching-tolerance Also

Howard Zinn’s education site https://zinnedproject.org/ -in conjunction with:-

Teaching for Change, http://www.teachingforchange.org/ and

Rethinking Schoolshttp://www.rethinkingschools.org/index.shtml

But there are so many dedicated organizations also offering social justice education programs!


Facing History, Facing Ourselveshttps://www.facinghistory.org/for-educators/educator-resources#bottom

Equitashttps://equitas.org/en (look under educational resources)

Amnesty International: http://www.amnestyusa.org/resources/educators

Asia Society:  http://asiasociety.org/education

Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/about

Global Nomads Group:  http://gng.org/program-pathways

Speak Truth to Power:  http://rfkcenter.org/speak-truth-to-power and http://curriculum.rfkcenter.org/

Street Law Inc.  http://www.streetlaw.org/en/home

Brooklyn 826 (Valencia 826) http://826nyc.org/

Educational Video Center:  http://www.evc.org/tools

Voice of Witness:  http://voiceofwitness.org/education-about/

While each of these offer distinctive resources and focus, every educator who cares about increasing the depth of exposure and understanding of their students will find a wealth of support here. As with all resources, find the one(s) which meet your needs, match your voice and purpose, and stick with it.

To return briefly to my 5th graders – the educators I spoke to had two important messages.

  • it is best to start with personal stories and experiences before launching into the topic, so that you can create common ground between your students and the theme you plan to launch.
  • (this especially from Facing History, Facing Ourselvespresenter Daniel Braunfeld), create the plans around the age and experience of the students themselves. What works for one group may be entirely inaccessible for another of the same age/grade, so Facing History curriculum is always developed together with teachers on site, not scripted in a pre-digested format.

An article in Scholastic in 5th Grade will be too early and a mismatch for the children’s historical perspective, compared to mine after decades of living through it myself! I hope they will eventually get to discover for themselves, using one of these wonderful programs which are free and available to teachers and schools everywhere!

This post originally appeared on Beth Ellor’s examiner.com page, and was republished with permission.


Beth Ellor has explored the New York City schools as a parent, as an early childhood teacher, and as a retiree currently providing professional development to inner city schools (as an independent contractor for a celebrated i3 provider). Also a substitute teacher in a wide range of schools, she is a close observer of the reality behind the rhetoric of school success, struggle and reform.

K-12 Writing Standards: What Will it Take to Improve Them?

While global communication has grown and improved by leaps and bounds in the past two decades, the same cannot be said for K-12 writing skills. A new study released by Gary Troia at Michigan State University finds that K-12 writing standards are stagnant from a decade ago, along with student writing achievement. What’s more, Troia says that nearly 25 percent of K-12 students in the U.S. are not performing at a proficient writing level. He takes aim at the Common Core standards for writing and says that though some ideas are strong, others are still not asking enough of student writing.

Any U.S. K-12 educator, in any topic area, can certainly relate to Troia’s findings and surveys have found that employers also bemoan the writing deficiencies of their workforce. So if Common Core suggestions are not enough, what is needed to truly transform the writing landscape of K-12 classrooms and learners? Here’s what I think:

Earlier computer/keyboarding introduction

Troia touches on this point in his study when he says that most schools do not comprehensively address keyboarding until third grade. Many children are learning to type, or peck out letters, on a computer keyboard long before they are tracing letters in a Kindergarten workbook. Through keyboarding, children learn spelling and reading, as well as develop their memory skills. So why are schools waiting until the third grade to maximize on this facet of early composition and phonics? Basic handwriting and traditional ways of learning to write are important, but so is the technology that supports contemporary communication. Writing curriculum should include keyboarding and generally more screen instruction at a much earlier age to capitalize on the technology that can catapult U.S. students into a higher level of writing proficiency. The ideas are there – they just need to start earlier.

More interdisciplinary focus 

Writing is not an isolated school subject; it is a skill that permeates all topics of learning. Parents, teachers, students and administrators need to stop considering writing an area of strength or weakness (much in the way we gear students towards math/science pursuits or creative areas if the talent exists). Writing is a must-have skill in the global economy and one that will be needed in some capacity for every career. We can’t let students off the hook if writing is simply not their strong suit. Writing is a skill that anyone CAN master with enough practice and its practical applications need to be emphasized in every subject area.

Remedial intervention

College is not the place where students should receive remedial help on their writing. Stronger programs need to exist as young as pre-K to ensure that no child moves forward without a firm grasp of the writing skills required. Teachers need time and resources to intervene on an individual level. Of course parental help here is also a necessity but cannot be relied upon to ensure that all students have writing proficiency as graduates. Promoting students that lack grade-level writing skills in the hopes that they will catch up only furthers the problem down the road.

It’s time to put writing on the pedestal it deserves. It is the foundation of K-12 academic success and workplace achievement. If we put writing on the back burner, it has the potential to damage every other subject area and hold our students back from their true achievement in school and life beyond the K-12 and college years. Now is the time to make writing a priority, particularly if we expect this next generation of students to lead globally.

How do you think we can collectively improve K-12 student writing proficiency?

New Teacher Tip: Handling Challenging Behavior Problems

Every class has its share of challenging students. If you feel frustrated with the behavior issues that you have to handle, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone—handling behavior issues comes with the job description. Experienced teachers also have trouble managing talkative students, power struggles and disputes among students. Behavior Management: A Whole-School Approach, a book authored by behavior management expert Bill Rogers, delineates how to handle tough behaviors. Typical classroom behaviors and strategies for handling them are detailed below.

Talking in Class

The nonstop talking of a chatterbox can distract other students from concentrating on their work. This is something that you can tackle by giving positive instructions and avoiding negative ones. Rather than using a “no talking” approach, direct instructions to specific students, and ask them to “remain quiet.” Follow this with a “thanks” to indicate that your request has been met. If the talking takes place while you are speaking, simply stop speaking. This works as a reminder to students that they are supposed to listen and not talk among themselves.

Power Struggle

Some students refuse to concentrate on their work and complete it as a way to pull the teacher into a power struggle. Do not fall into this trap at any time. Give students choices with consequences attached. Let them know that if the work is not completed within a specified time, they will miss free time or face other consequences. This puts the responsibility of their behavior on them and teaches them to make choices at the same time. Make sure to show appreciation to students with a smile or a “thank you,” if they make the right choice.

Arguments Galore

Students who challenge everything the teacher says or does can distract the class by forcing it to focus on secondary issues. It might be difficult not to reprimand a defiant student, however getting defensive or adopting a hostile attitude is not likely to solve the issue. Remain assertive and civil and focus on the primary issue. Repeated instances like these may require and “after class” discussion with the student to explain how the behavior spoils the relationships with you and interferes with learning time of his/her peers.


Sulking behavior is also a distraction for the teacher. This is one behavior that needs to be nipped in the bud immediately. Have a private discussion with the student as soon as you observe this behavior. You might have to demonstrate the student’s behavior and mannerisms to him in order to clearly explain his behavior. More often than not, brooding students are unable to understand that they are being rude or socially unacceptable.

Over Dependence

A student who requests assistance all the time may be doing so out of a need for attention or may genuinely not be able to accomplish the task on his/her own. Assess the reason behind the clinging habit before you address it. Try ignoring the persistent calls to look at the work for a while, and when he/she waits patiently, reward him/her by looking at the work enthusiastically. Another strategy is to have students ask their peers before they speak to you for clarification.

Given that these are the five most persistent and frustrating issues most teachers face, adopting the right strategy for handling them should ensure that you have a class that is well behaved.

New more hands on help? Here is an amazing video from the American Psychological Association for teachers looking for tips on how to deal with challenging behaviors.






Global academic collaboration: a new form of colonisation?

Hanne Kirstine Adriansen, Aarhus University

Higher education in Africa is as old as the pyramids in Egypt. But the continent’s ancient institutions have long disappeared. The type of higher education that’s delivered in Africa today, from curriculum to degree structure and the languages of instruction, is rooted in colonialism. This has led many to question whether African universities are still suffering from a sort of colonisation – of the mind.

The story of renowned climate change researcher Cheikh Mbow is an example. Mbow was born in Senegal in 1969 and studied there. Looking back at his experiences during his first years of university, Mbow observes: “I knew all about the geography and biology of France but nothing about that of Senegal.”

Mbow also happens to be my friend, and together with one of his colleagues we wrote a book chapter about the production of scientific knowledge in Africa today. The chapter is based on Mbow’s life story – which I’ll return to shortly.

In recent years a new consciousness has emerged about higher education’s historical roots. People are calling strongly for a decolonised academy. This feeds into a broader debate about the role of modern universities.

There’s little doubt that Africa’s universities need to be locally relevant – focusing their teaching and research on local needs. Unavoidably, though, they’re simultaneously expected to internationalise and participate in the heated global higher education competition. Standardisation is the name of the game here. Universities compete to feature on global ranking lists, mimicking each other.

Internationalisation also sees African researchers like Mbow travelling North in search of research environments with better resources. These international collaborations can be hugely beneficial. But all too often it’s organisations, universities and researchers in the global North that call the shots.

So how can the continent’s universities manage the tricky balance between local relevance and internationalisation? How can they participate in international collaboration without being “recolonised” by subjecting themselves to the standards of curriculum and quality derived in the North? How can they avoid collaborative programmes with the North that become mere tick-box exercises that only benefit the Northern researchers and organisations?

International collaboration grows

Over the past 20 years, international interest in African higher education has intensified. Aid agencies in the North have developed policies that are designed to strengthen Africa’s research capacity. Scandinavian countries were among the first to do so: Denmark has the Building Stronger Universities programme. Norway and Sweden have similar collaborative programmes.

Such initiatives are important. Research funding is very limited at African universities. National higher education budgets are quite low, especially compared with universities in the North. In their bid to educate rapidly growing populations, African universities tend to emphasise teaching rather than research. So these institutions rely heavily on external funding for research and depend on support from development agencies via so-called capacity building projects. These projects engage researchers from the North and South in joint activities within teaching and research, ideally to create partnerships based on mutual respect.

Many researchers from universities in the North and South are involved in these collaborative projects, usually as practitioners. Only rarely do we turn these collaborative projects into a research field, turning the microscope on ourselves and our own practice. After participating in a capacity building project in Africa, some colleagues and I became interested in understanding the geography and power of scientific knowledge.

We wanted to know how this power and geography is negotiated through capacity building projects. We also sought to understand whether such projects functioned as quality assurance or a type of neo-imperialism.

Simply put, our research explored whether capacity building and the tendency towards increased international collaboration in higher education is helping or hindering African universities. The answer? Both.

‘Monocultures of the mind’

The problem with such projects is that they might create what Indian activist Vandana Shiva calls “monocultures of the mind”. Shiva argues that these make diversity disappear from perception and consequently from the world. People all end up thinking in the same ways.

International collaboration can cause African universities to become more dependent on the North. Their dependence is on funding; through publication in journals from the North; and through technology that only exists in the North. It also manifests in thinking mainly using concepts and solutions developed in the North.

Another problem is that this international collaboration may draw African universities into the competition fetish that dominates higher education today. This may help them to become globally competitive. But they risk losing their local relevance in the process.

Capacity building projects risk creating Shiva’s monocultures of the mind. But they can also have the opposite effect: they can empower African researchers and help them to become more independent.

Empowerment through capacity building

Renowned climate scientist Cheikh Mbow in action.

For Cheikh Mbow, the North represented both an imposed curriculum through colonial heritage and the chance to acquire the skills needed to become an
emancipated academic capable of creating new knowledge.

His PhD project explored natural resource management in Senegal “but using methods designed in the global North, in particular from France”. During his project he travelled from Senegal to Denmark and was exposed to another way of behaving. At his home institution, the Université de Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, questioning the knowledge and methods of older professors was perceived as misbehaviour. In Denmark he experienced a different system. There he was asked to question what was taken for granted even if it meant questioning older professors.

Paradoxically, the Danish system enabled Mbow to become an independent researcher. He became aware of how knowledge and methods inherited from the North were used in an African context without being questioned.

Mbow explains:

After several years of research, I began challenging some of
the received knowledge and managed to specify what is particular to Africa.
After being able to contextualise knowledge, I was able to create knowledge
that concerned and responded to societal needs and local realities in Africa.

This is precisely what the African academy – and its societies more broadly – require.

Collaboration to decolonise

I would argue that collaborative projects such as capacity building programmes can be a means to assist African universities in producing contextualised knowledge. These projects can even lead to some sort of decolonisation of the academy if they are based on long-term partnerships, a close understanding of historical, political and geographical context, and not least a common exploration of knowledge diversity.

This article is based on a blog that originally appeared here.

The Conversation

Hanne Kirstine Adriansen, Associate Professor, School of Education, Aarhus University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why the guns-on-campus debate matters for American higher education

Steven J. Friesen, University of Texas at Austin

As of Aug. 1, 2016, a new law allows concealed handguns in college and university buildings in Texas.

It’s already had an impact on me as professor of religious studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Thanks to this law, I set foot in a federal court building for the first time.

And I was not alone. The courtroom was packed. Other citizens were there as well to support three professors who are suing the state’s attorney general and the University of Texas for the right to ban guns from their own classrooms.

Why are these professors taking the extraordinary step of suing the state of Texas and their own university?

In order to understand the situation, we need to consider the political tensions between the legislature and the university, the ideological struggle over the goals of higher education and the possible dangers of bringing more guns to campuses.

Campus carry law in Texas

Until this year, Texas law allowed anyone with a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) to carry a loaded hidden gun on campus, but not inside buildings. This restriction kept down the number of people carrying weapons legally on campus.

During the 2015 legislative session, a majority of Republicans pushed the idea to allow guns on campus. University administrators, faculty, faculty council, staff, undergraduate and graduate students and campus police overwhelmingly opposed the idea.

University of Texas campus. Larry Miller, CC BY-NC

However, in spite of campus opposition, in May 2015, the proposed law, known as Senate Bill 11 (SB 11), was approved. So, as of Aug. 1, 2016, anyone with a concealed handgun license can carry a loaded, semiautomatic pistol into most offices, classrooms, hallways, public spaces, cafeterias and gyms at state universities. All that they need: four hours of training and a score of 70 percent accuracy on a shooting test.

Supporters argue that Americans have a constitutional right to protect themselves and carry weapons with as few limits as possible. Carrying guns into classrooms, they say, is part of that right.

Clash of ideologies

For many of us, however, this conflict is about a larger ideological battle over the goals and character of higher education in Texas, with one side emphasizing obedience to authority and the other the need to critique authority.

Let’s consider these two views of education.

The ideology of higher education in the U.S. has historically focused on critical thinking, and faculty overwhelmingly see this as the primary goal (see especially Table 3) of college and university classes. According to this view, universities and colleges are encouraged to question orthodoxy. In other words, higher education should subject all truth claims to intense scrutiny.

The goal of this process is not to tear down society but to make it better, to allow us to develop our full potential as individuals and as a nation in the pursuit of liberty and justice.

Will guns on campus allow critical thinking? Joeri van Veen, CC BY-NC-ND

But here is where the conflict comes in. As the discussion below shows, the campus carry movement has, it seems, a different ideology for higher education. The underlying motivation is that traditional authority must be maintained and, in the end, disagreement is resolved by force, not by debate. For this ideology, critical thinking is a potential threat to authority.

Republican Party principles

Evidence for this comes from the ideas expressed in the Texas Republican Party platform, a formal declaration of the principles on which a party stands and makes it appeal to voters.

The 2012 Texas Republican Party Platform took an explicit stand against “critical thinking skills and similar programs…that focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Subsequently, the 2016 Texas Republican Platform stepped back from that extreme statement. But it still asserted that parents or guardians – not the government – should have ultimate control over the education of their children.

In the 2016 platform, both guns and religion are discussed in the section on education. Here is what it looks like:

The section on education supports the radical position that all law-abiding citizens should be able to carry guns anywhere without restriction. It says,

“We collectively urge the legislature to pass ‘constitutional carry’ legislation, whereby law-abiding citizens that possess firearms can legally exercise their God-given right to carry that firearm as well. We call for the elimination of all gun free zones. All federal acts, laws, executive orders, and court orders which restrict or infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms shall be invalid in Texas, not be recognized by Texas, shall be specifically rejected by Texas, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in Texas.”

Another paragraph in the education section discusses “safeguarding religious liberties.“ This one begins by saying,

“We affirm that the public acknowledgment of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity, and strength.”

It goes on to denounce “the myth of separation of church and state,” and it supports the right of businesses to refuse service to anyone based on religious conviction.

What this does is to reaffirm the ideology of the Republican Party of Texas – that education should be governed by traditional authorities of family and conservative forms of Protestant Christianity and not by critical inquiry.

In other words, religious commitment of individuals is more important than civil rights. Furthermore, according to this traditionalist view of authority, liberty and safety are preserved not so much by critique and analysis as by encouraging everyone to carry a gun.

Views from ground zero

This raises the question of how this ideology affects students and professors in the classroom.

As the political battle raged in the Texas legislature in spring 2016, I taught a science and religion class in which we spent the semester analyzing the volatile debates in the U.S. about human evolution and creationism.

I asked my students how they would feel about the possible presence of guns in classrooms.

One student self-identified as having a concealed handgun license and did not have trouble with the presence of guns. But most others thought that it would make them more cautious and less forthright in class. One student said she would be vigilant about how other students were acting. Another said she would censor her opinions.

Protests on campus against campus carry.Katie Labor, CC BY-NC-ND

The sentiment they expressed was confirmed in anonymous polling I conducted before our discussion. Two students (11 percent) were in favor of concealed carry on campus as demanded by SB 11, while 13 (68 percent) thought guns should be completely illegal on campus except for law officers. Only three students (16 percent) felt that SB 11 would make them safer, while 11 (58 percent) expected that the law would make campus less safe.

While one class is hardly a representative sample, these numbers reflect discussions I’ve had with my classes over the last few semesters. The numbers also match a variety of conversations I’ve had on campus.

What might change on campus?

As a professor, I have other concerns for my students beyond the classroom. We work with students at a difficult time in their lives as they work through the transition to adulthood. Some of them also face serious emotional issues. When I have to deal with failed exams, missed assignments and occasional plagiarism or cheating, I sometimes worry about how they will respond.

So far I have not encountered physical threats to my own safety, but I know faculty who have. While waiting in line for the security screening at the federal courthouse, I learned of two more examples. One was a professor of computer sciences who told me about the time when he was physically shoved and verbally abused by a student who got a B rather than an A.

He decided not to press charges. But when the legislature passed the campus carry law, he retired rather than face the possibility of legal weapons in university buildings. Another faculty member told of the time she had to convince her dean to drop a student from her class midsemester for anti-Semitic remarks the student made about her.

Systematic studies point toward other problems that await us if we increase the number of guns on campus. We can expect more accidental shootings, more successful suicide attempts and perhaps even an increase in sexual assaults. In the event of an actual active shooter event, we can expect that an armed civilian will make no difference or even make the situation worse.

Will guns change the character of higher education?

The ideological struggle will continue. Polling early in 2015 showed that Texans were divided on campus carry: 47 percent were in favor, 45 percent were opposed and 8 percent were unsure (this included 22 percent strongly supporting and 32 percent strongly opposed). Campus protests and a satirical student campaign against SB 11 are planned.

What’s the difference that the new law will make? Gun image via www.shutterstock.com

Supporters of the law have filed a formal complaint with the attorney general’s office to make the law stronger by preventing faculty and staff from banning guns in their own offices. Legal papers filed by the University of Texas and the state attorney general have stated that professors would face disciplinary measures if they barred guns from classrooms. There is significant political pressure and special interest money to expand gun rights.

If the lawsuit of the three professors is not successful, we will begin to find out fairly soon what difference SB 11 will actually make in real lives – in the classroom, in the relationships of students, faculty and staff – and in the character of higher education in an American setting.

The actual difference will not be abstract or theoretical. Both opponents and supporters of SB 11 claim that the struggle over guns on campus is a matter of life and death.

The Conversation

Steven J. Friesen, Professor, Louise Farmer Boyer Chair in Biblical Studies, University of Texas at Austin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Helping Students to Develop Presentation Skills

Show and Tell

As a young mom I was not familiar with the concept of “show and tell”. My eldest son was 4 years old at the time and he had to take a toy to school and show it to the class, tell them a little bit about it and answer the eager audience’s questions. I thought this is such a great idea to introduce children to the world of public speaking and presentations! After all, public speaking is not necessarily a talent, but a skill, and the younger a child is when they begin to learn this skill, the better.

Apart from being mom, I am also a sixth form teacher and am too well-aware that some students genuinely struggle when asked to present information to a group. I can see that this may be a problem when students go on to tertiary education and also later in life. For personal and professional success, effective presentation skills delivered in a confident manner are vital.

That is why presentation skills need to be nurtured from a young age, before the student really has an awareness of being in the spotlight and possibly being faced with stage fright. Public speaking and presentation skills could be fostered, to such an extent that it becomes a natural skill. “Show and tell” helps a child to prepare a talk about an abstract object rather than a familiar one, it helps to create an awareness of vocal projection and most importantly, it helps to build confidence.


By the time my second son had to do “show and tell”, we had perfected the practice! We progressed from showing (and telling about) favorite toys, to eventually using PowerPoint. By now, my sons were 8 and 10 and their confidence surprised their teachers. “Show and tell” helped to build their public speaking skills and helped them to feel comfortable with talking in front of a group of peers! However, they were also confident because every time that they were expected to present information to the class, they were well prepared. Confidence and preparation are crucial aspects for effective presentation!

My 7 year old daughter has to talk about her summer holidays in class soon. I know that if she is well prepared, she will feel confident and be able to do a good presentation. She was super excited when I suggested that she make a mysimpleshow video to introduce her holiday experience. Afterwards she will also show holiday photographs and talk about each of them. I know that if the presentation goes well, she will be more confident and keen to do a presentation when she gets her next spotlight topic.


When asked about the basics of speech making, my advice to students and parents is simple:

  1. Prepare the speech/presentation very well – plan carefully what you’ll say and use speech cards with highlighted keywords
  2. Practice the presentation a few times – if possible, do it in front of a test audience, like your family
  3. Pay attention to proper posture – be mindful of weird mannerisms that may distract the audience
  4. Make eye contact
  5. Speak loudly and clearly
  6. Be confident! If the audience senses that you are nervous, they will also be nervous

My advice to teachers?

If you are teaching little ones:

  • Keep the “show and tell” and spotlight going from a young age. It does wonders to build confidence!

If you are teaching older students:

  • Regularly include short student presentations in your classes to emphasize the basics of speech making
  • Suggest various ways to make presentations more interesting to an audience, like the use of objects or the showing of short video clips as part of the presentation.

Educators play a vital role in helping students to learn and experience public speaking. Leadership in the community, business world or any organization demands effective presentation skills. Leaders are expected to be able to make presentations without any qualms. So, let’s foster great presentation skills from a young age and right through our students’ school careers, to ensure that they acquire a skill that will be very useful to them throughout their lives.    

LGW Irvine is a secondary school teacher specializing in history, performing arts and languages. With a keen interest in writing, she has published Teacher Planners and an AFL Teacher Handbook. Among her presentations include in-depth courses in study methods and essay writing, as she has a particular interest in helping others to reach their full potential in those areas. Her current projects include History Revision Guides as well as Study Methods workbooks.

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Scholarly collaboration: it’s time for the global South to call the shots

This article was written by Clive Kronenberg

Collaboration is, without a doubt, a positive and important part of academic life. Scholars benefit enormously when they’re able to develop teamwork skills for conducting research jointly or in partnerships.

Scholarly alliances can lighten the heavy burden of publishing in high-class international journals. It makes investigative ground work and funding procedures far less intense. It enables more scholars to share in successes. It is also crucial to identifying and grasping seemingly intractable social problems. All of this can benefit entire regions and even nations.

But there are also pitfalls and problems. Scholars from the global north still tend to dominate such “partnerships”. With more capital in hand, they often call the shots. Over the past decade or so, there have been some attempts to change these power dynamics.

The South-South Educational Scholarly Collaboration and Knowledge Interchange Initiative – or S-S Initiative – fits into this mould.

I am among those who initiated this endeavour. Over the past 18 months or so, its work has yielded some valuable lessons, insights and results. We’re a small group of academics with a shared focus on rural education. We all come from areas in the global South: Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Together, we’ve set up good, effective working engagements.

A history of oppression

In 2014 I started developing a national data base of rural education researchers. My goal was to boost general awareness of, and possibly create linkages between, local scholars dedicated to producing new and improved knowledge of a globally neglected yet crucial area of public schooling.

This culminated in the S-S Initiative. Current participants and collaborators are from Cuba, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Argentina, Mozambique, Rwanda, and South Africa. Scholars from Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, Malawi and the Ivory Coast have also expressed interest in getting involved. It’s clear, then, that participants have something in common beyond their interest in rural education: they all come from countries that have historically been the victims of acute colonial oppression, marginalisation and underdevelopment.

This history continues to negatively impact on the provision of good, quality education, particularly in the realm of rural schooling.

There are many potential approaches to the global problem of rural education. There currently exists a range of secluded, often insulated remedial measures and strategies concerning this sector. These must be shared to develop and increase knowledge that ultimately is mutually beneficial. It is important to create suitable spaces where such prospects can be presented, engaged, and eventually applied where feasible.

Broad goals

The initiative has several key aims. With appropriate interest and support, these will be expanded and developed over time.

First, we’re reaching out to rural education scholars from the global South to join the membership data base. This provides opportunities for the exchange of ideas and experiences, as well as the possibility of launching partnerships in future.

It also sets the groundwork for conference presentations as well as the constitution of review boards. The selection of postgraduate supervisors and external examiners are further opportunities under consideration. In this way, experts can come together and apply their insights and work in a collective manner. Such a course, we hope, will offer suitable prospects to initiate and advance meaningful change in the broader S-S educational field.

We have launched a call for book chapters on the topic of rural education. It is hoped this will eventually lead to the formal establishment of a South-South Educational Journal, with a duly-appointed international review board. There is a dearth of academic journals collectively or especially devoted to learning and teaching practices in the global South as a whole.

It is not a question of expertise: scholars in this initiative have deep knowledge and experience of academic publishing. While some occupy leading positions on editorial boards, others have played key roles in actually establishing and administering academic and scientific journals.

We also hope to merge DVD documentary production with educational field research. This has the potential to reach a wider audience, thereby bringing parents and communities more decisively into the research fold. Schools and children thrive more when parents are more engaged in education.

Together with a dedicated, supportive team, I have already produced one DVD of this nature. A second is close to completion. And, with a colleague in the S-S Initiative, plans are underway for a documentary about rural schooling in the Republic of Cuba.

Small, steady steps

Funding will always be an issue for academics, particularly those from less developed territories. Fortunately, the S-S Initiative was enriched and boosted with funding I received from South Africa’s National Research Foundation. This allowed us to organise a symposium hosted at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Education Faculty.

This gathering brought together a range of educational research scholars from the global South. Established, emerging and postgraduate scholars presented their work with special attention devoted to rural education. It was, as such spaces can be, fertile ground for the exchange of ideas and knowledge. It also allowed us to discuss possible future collaborations.

At their best, these kinds of initiatives don’t just benefit individual academics. Our hope is that by drawing together experts from the neglected global South, rurally-based school children’s educational development can take centre stage.

The Conversation

Clive Kronenberg, NRF Accredited & Senior Researcher; Lead Coordinator of the South-South Educational Collaboration & Knowlede Interchange Initiative, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

After Fisher: affirmative action and Asian-American students

Michele S. Moses, University of Colorado; Christina Paguyo, Colorado State University, and Daryl Maeda, University of Colorado

After eight years, the Abigail Fisher case finally has been put to rest. In a landmark judgment on June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious affirmative action in university admissions.

Abigail Fisher, a white woman, had sued the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) for its race-conscious admissions policy after she was denied admission. She had argued that the university violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Supporters of race-conscious admissions programs are understandably gratified. But has the case resolved the larger moral and political disagreements over affirmative action?

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which supports colorblind policies, has already called the decision just “a temporary setback.”

Indeed, over the last 40 years, affirmative action opponents have repeatedly strategized anew after important Supreme Court decisions in favor of affirmative action. They did so after the 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, when the Supreme Court, while allowing race to be one of the factors in choosing a diverse student body, held the use of quotas to be “impermissible.“

And they did so after the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, when the high court again ruled that race-conscious affirmative action was constitutional.

We are scholars who study affirmative action, race, and diversity in higher education. We believe that the disagreement about affirmative action will not
end anytime soon. And it may well center on lawsuits on behalf of Asian-American college applicants.

Here is what is coming next

Through his organization, the Project on Fair Representation, Abigail Fisher’s advisor, Edward Blum, is currently engaged in a lawsuit challenging Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions policy.

What is different about the Harvard lawsuit is that the lead plaintiff in the case is not a white student. The plaintiff is an Asian-American student.

Asian-Americans participate in an Advancing Justice conference. Advancing Justice Conference, CC BY-NC-SA

“Students for Fair Admissions,” an arm of the Project on Fair Representation, filed a suit against Harvard College on November 17, 2014, on behalf of a Chinese-American applicant who had been rejected from Harvard. The lawsuit charges that Harvard’s admissions policy violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars federally funded entities from discriminating based on race or ethnicity.

The “Harvard University Not Fair” website greets readers with a photo of an Asian-American student accompanied by the following text:

“Were you denied admission to Harvard? It may be because you’re the wrong race.”

How it started

This controversy over how Asian-Americans are being treated in selective college admission was jump-started in 2005, when sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Chang Chung published findings from their study on the effects of affirmative action bans on the racial and ethnic composition of student bodies at selective colleges and universities.

Espenshade and Chung found that if affirmative action were to be eliminated, the acceptance rates for black and Latino applicants would likely decrease substantially, while the acceptance rate for white applicants would increase slightly. But more than that, what they noted was that the acceptance rate for Asian-American applicants would increase the most by far.

As the researchers explained, Asian-American students “would occupy four out of every five seats created by accepting fewer African-American and Hispanic students.”

Such research has been cited to support claims of admissions discrimination against Asian-Americans.

In the complaint against Harvard, Espenshade’s research was cited as evidence of discrimination against Asian-Americans. Specifically, the lawsuit cited research from 2009 in which Espenshade, this time with coauthor Alexandria Radford, found that Asian-American applicants accepted at selective colleges had higher standardized test scores, on average, than other accepted students.

Are elite institutions discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions process? Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

These findings, especially that Asian-American applicants seem to need a higher SAT score than white applicants or other applicants of color in order to be admitted to a selective college are being used as proof that elite institutions like Harvard are discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions processes.

The picture is more complicated

As we know, selective admissions processes are much more complicated than SAT score data can show. There are many factors that are taken into consideration for college admission.

For example, in the “holistic” admissions processes endorsed by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, standardized text scores are not the only, or even the main, criterion for admission. “Holistic” review takes many relevant factors into account, including academic achievement, of course, but also factors such as a commitment to public service, overcoming difficult life circumstances, achievements in the arts or athletics, or leadership qualities.

So, why would the plaintiff in the Harvard case conclude that the disparities in SAT scores shown by Espenshade and Radford necessarily indicate that Asian-American applicants are being harmed by race-conscious affirmative action?

Legal scholar William Kidder has shown that the way Espenshade and Radford’s findings have been interpreted by affirmative action opponents is not accurate. The interpretation of this research itself rests on the faulty assumption that affirmative action is to blame if an academically accomplished Asian-American applicant gets rejected from an elite institution.

Based on his analysis, Kidder concluded,

“Exaggerated claims about the benefits for APAs [Asian Pacific Americans] of ending affirmative action foster a divisive public discourse in which APAs are falsely portrayed as natural adversaries of affirmative action and the interests of African American and Latinos in particular.”

In our opinion as well, focusing on simplistic ideas about standardized tests as the primary evidence for who “deserves” to be admitted to elite institutions like Harvard may serve to stir up resentment among accomplished applicants who get rejected.

As the “Harvard Not Fair” website and accompanying lawsuit demonstrate, these findings have been used to fuel a politics of resentment among rejected Asian-American applicants.

When speaking with reporters, Espenshade himself has acknowledged that his data are incomplete – given that colleges take myriad factors into account in admissions decisions – and his findings have been overinterpreted and actually do not prove that colleges discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

Are Asian-American students a monolithic group? Charlie Nguyen, CC BY

Moreover, in using images of Asian-American students to recruit complainants against Harvard and other highly selective institutions of higher education, the Project on Fair Representation relies on the idea that Asian-Americans comprise a monolithic group. In fact, the term “Asian-American” refers to a diversity of Asian ethnicities in the United States, whose educational opportunities and achievements vary widely.

The 2010 census question on race included check boxes for six Asian groups – Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese – along with a box for “Other Asian,” with a prompt for detailed responses such as “Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian, and so on.”

In addition, by casting plaintiffs as meritorious and deserving of a spot at an elite university, it also conveys the stereotypical received wisdom about Asian-American “model” students who are wronged by race-conscious affirmative action programs.

The Harvard lawsuit comes next

At this time, Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is pending.

Now that Fisher has been decided, this case is the next front in the divisive politics surrounding race-conscious affirmative action in higher education admissions.

Relevant to the Harvard case is that a civil rights complaint alleging that Princeton University discriminates against Asian-American applicants was dismissed in 2015 after a long federal Office of Civil Rights investigation.

Although public disagreement about the policy continues, affirmative action is an imperfect, but as yet necessary tool that universities can leverage to cultivate robust and diverse spaces where students learn. June 23’s Fisher ruling underscores that important idea.

Related to the coming public discussions about the Harvard lawsuit, we are of the opinion that race-conscious policies like affirmative action need to be supported. The fact is that “Asian-Americans” have diverse social and educational experiences. And many Asian-Americans benefit from affirmative action policies.

The Conversation

Michele S. Moses, Professor of Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice, University of Colorado; Christina Paguyo, Post Doctoral Fellow, Colorado State University, and Daryl Maeda, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Colorado

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How to Prevent the Winter Slide

By Frank Milner

As students get set to embark on their coveted winter break plans, parents should be prepping on how to combat the dreaded “winter slide” that can impact their very own kids. Days and even weeks out, students can begin to “coast” and quickly lose momentum in school.

Despite the fact that it’s not as long as the three-month break that kids typically refer to as the “summer slide,” the two to four weeks that students go without any educational activity can truly be detrimental to their long-term academic success, including core subjects such as math and science.

Parents have several opportunities to keep their children’s minds engaged and active, ready for the next semester or quarter. Here are some simple tips and best practices:

  • Have Them Help Plan a Long Drive or Vacation. Many families will embark on a vacation over the break, or drive far distances to visit relatives. If this is the case, make sure to include your child in the planning process. For example, have them figure out mileage between points A and B and the stops in between. Also prior to the trip, have them read up on your destination and put together a report of what to expect. It should include what the destination is best known for, wildlife that can be found there and a brief history of the area. Getting your child immersed in the culture and geography of your destination will help develop and strengthen their research skills and make them more aware of the world around them.
  • Involve Them in Meal Planning and Cooking. The kitchen is a great way for parents to reinforce the importance of following directions and managing time. For those opting to stay at home during the break, make it a point to involve your children in meal planning and cooking. These are crucial developmental skills and key elements to help improve your child’s organizational skills.
  • Work On a Project Together. The holidays are a great time to sit down with your child and work on a project together. Have them read aloud the instructions for assembling new equipment while you put it together. Or, if you are wanting to build something that requires cutting, have your child do the measuring before you start sawing or drilling. The skills your child will take away from this exercise is the importance of following steps and directions. It will also give them a good example of how you should work with others to achieve things that may be difficult for one person to perform.
  • Encourage Them to Be the Family’s News Reporter. Visit local zoos, botanical gardens or any place in your community where kids can see and learn about new things. If traveling, encourage them to bring a journal and record observations with drawings or brief written descriptions. Having your children share with you the highlights of their day will help with memory recollection and store noteworthy events.

It is perfectly alright to let your children enjoy holiday festivities. But, it is equally important to make sure they also spend time improving their brain function and keeping the information they spent months learning fresh in their heads as they head into the second half of the year. Relaxing is always a good thing, but too much can be detrimental and cause your kids and students to succumb to the dreaded “winter slide.”

Frank Milner is the president of Tutor Doctor, the top in-home tutoring franchise that offers students a personalized, one-to-one, in-home tutoring service to all ages. Milner has been at the helm of Tutor Doctor since 2007, after recognizing the company’s ability to help children across the world with its unique alternatives to the “one-to-many” teaching model that most extra-curricular learning centers offer. Milner’s daughter once struggled with what he calls “math meltdowns,” and understands that privacy and one-to-one learning allow for unlimited growth potential in a student. Milner is a firm believer that academic success can be achieve through two components – academic foundation buildings and academic discipline – and he carries that mindset into new cities and countries around the globe.