Banned Words List 2012: No Love For ‘Fiscal Cliff,’ ‘Spoiler Alert’

Banned Words List 2012: No Love For ‘Fiscal Cliff,’ ‘Spoiler Alert’image

By Jeff Karoub

DETROIT — Spoiler alert: This story contains words and phrases that some people want to ban from the English language. “Spoiler alert” is among them. So are “kick the can down the road,” “trending” and “bucket list.”

A dirty dozen have landed on the 38th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. The nonbinding, tongue-in-cheek decree released Monday by northern Michigan’s Lake Superior State University is based on nominations submitted from the United States, Canada and beyond.

“Spoiler alert,” the seemingly thoughtful way to warn readers or viewers about looming references to a key plot point in a film or TV show, nevertheless passed its use-by date for many, including Joseph Foly, of Fremont, Calif. He argued in his submission the phrase is “used as an obnoxious way to show one has trivial information and is about to use it, no matter what.”

At the risk of further offense, here’s another spoiler alert: The phrase receiving the most nominations this year is “fiscal cliff,” banished because of its overuse by media outlets when describing across-the-board federal tax increases and spending cuts that economists say could harm the economy in the new year without congressional action.

“You can’t turn on the news without hearing this,” said Christopher Loiselle, of Midland, Mich., in his submission. “I’m equally worried about the River of Debt and Mountain of Despair.”

Other terms coming in for a literary lashing are “superfood,” “guru,” “job creators” and “double down.”

University spokesman Tom Pink said that in nearly four decades, the Sault Ste. Marie school has “banished” around 900 words or phrases, and somehow the whole idea has survived rapidly advancing technology and diminishing attention spans.

Nominations used to come by mail, then fax and via the school’s website, he said. Now most come through the university’s Facebook page. That’s fitting, since social media has helped accelerate the life cycle of certain words and phrases, such as this year’s entry “YOLO” – “you only live once.”

“The list surprises me in one way or another every year, and the same way every year: I’m always surprised how people still like it, love it,” he said.

Rounding out the list are “job creators/creation,” “boneless wings” and “passion/passionate.” Those who nominated the last one say they are tired of hearing about a company’s “passion” as a substitute for providing a service or product for money.

Andrew Foyle, of Bristol, England, said it’s reached the point where “passion” is the only ingredient that keeps a chef from preparing “seared tuna” that tastes “like dust swept from a station platform.”

“Apparently, it’s insufficient to do it ably, with skill, commitment or finesse,” Foyle said. “Passionate, begone!”

As usual, the etymological exercise – or exorcise – only goes so far. Past lists haven’t eradicated “viral,” “amazing,” “LOL” or “man cave” from everyday use

5 Tech Companies Set to Impact Higher Ed in 2013

5 Tech Companies Set to Impact Higher Ed in 2013


By  Kevin Ducoff

It’s a great time to be in the education technology industry: venture capitalists have dropped a whopping $1.37 billion into the industry between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012.

That’s a lot of cash, and a lot of opportunities for companies to seriously change the way we do education. There are already plenty of promising startups impacting the industry, but which companies are set to be the big contenders in 2013?

Here are four companies we expect will impact higher ed next year:

1. 2U

Formerly known as 2tor, 2U is the first startup of its kind to partner with top universities to offer full degree programs entirely on the Web. The company has raised an impressive $97 million in venture funding, positioning it as a key leader in the ed tech industry.Founded in 2008, 2U has already partnered with the University of Southern California to help create its online Master of Arts in Teaching Degree, and has developed Georgetown University’s online nursing program — alongside additional programs at UNC-Chapel Hill, Washington University in St. Louis, George Washington University and American University. Equally impressive is 2U’s recent announcement that it plans to partner with 10 universities across the country to offer rigorous, online, for-credit undergraduate courses through a consortium. 2U is one startup pushing online education into the mainstream, in large part due to the incredible technological learning infrastructure it offers to universities. We can expect to see big things from this company in the coming years.

2. EdSurge

Launched in 2011, EdSurge was founded by veteran journalists and education technology professionals. The company recently nabbed $400,000 in seed funding from investors including the Washington Post, and it’s backed by finances from the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation.EdSurge aims to act as an online hub that entrepreneurs can use to connect with educators using their products, and vice versa. The startup shares information on all things ed-tech via its website, newsletters, and events with the goal of bringing timely and reliable information to ed-tech entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers, and educators using their products. Although it’s just recently launched, we can expect to see much more from this company as it expands its services.

3. Echo360

Boasting $31 million in startup funding, Echo360 offers a variety of online and mobile tools for blended learning. Developed in partnership with the University of Western Australia, Echo360 recently snagged $450 million to fund an initiative that aims to reach 50 percent of U.S. college students in the next five years. The company also recently acquired ed-tech startup LectureTools Inc., its first public acquisition.

With one million students at 500 institutions already using its services today, Echo360’s blended online and in-person learning techniques stand to revolutionize the ed-tech market.

4. Noodle

Tons of searches are conducted on education topics every day–and this startup is moving to be the go-to site to meet that need. Noodle, founded in 2010 by the creator of the Princeton Review and 2U, Noodle has developed the most comprehensive, age-ubiquitous online search engine dedicated solely to educational topics. Users can search for all things education, from tutors to summer camps to MBA programs.

The site features over 170,000 education providers and has received millions in funding. With more and more students turning to the Web as a resource for educational info, Noodle is likely poised to make waves in 2013.

5. Always Prepped

Although currently in beta, Always Prepped has raised an impressive $650,000 in startup funding. The company provides online tools to help manage student and classroom data, providing a single stream of imported data for teachers to analyze their students or classes. The platform also helps teachers to send real-time report cards with one click. Although it’s been recently launched, this is one startup to watch throughout 2013.

The up-and-coming education technology industry–and the vast amount of capital pouring into the market–means there’s lots of room for key players to emerge in the next few years. Watch as these promising companies continue to innovate, and keep your eyes open for even more key players in 2013.

NYC High School Secretary, Embezzled Public Funds To Buy McDonald’s

Kappry Vera, New York City High School Secretary,
Embezzled Public Funds To Buy McDonald’s
A former secretary at a New York City high school is facing $9,000 in fines for inappropriately spending public dollars, mostly on fast food and “dozens of visits to McDonald’s,” according to the New York Daily News.

Kappry Vera resigned from Manhattan’s Urban Assembly School for Construction and Design in August 2011 when school officials started investigating her suspicious spending, according to the Daily News. The school’s principal noticed “questionable purchases” on the city-funded credit card intended for school purchases.

The purchases totaled more than $3,000 in personal spending between August 2009 and May 2011. Vera dropped hundreds of dollars at joints like Subway and Burger King. Trips to McDonald’s, up to four times a day, totaled $765.

Vera’s embezzlement charge comes nearly a year after Bronx principal Liza Cruz Diaz was removed from PS 31 over allegations that she stole about $5,000 from the school. Investigators said Cruz Diaz used some of the money to pay for her daughter’s “Sweet 16” party and deleted financial records when she became aware of the probe.

Employee siphoning of public dollars for private use plagues districts nationwide. A Pennsylvania audit of the York City School District last November found that the district misspent nearly $1 million in federal taxpayer money on items just sitting in storage. Items purchased by the district include 16 boxes of hula hoops, three greenhouses, Wii video game systems, dozens of laptops, expired tickets to Hersheypark and 10 boxes of stopwatches.

In Massachusetts, the state auditor has called for sweeping reform of financial accountability for the state’s 30 special education agencies after her office found several of the collaboratives had misused millions of public dollars.

The most egregious offender was the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, which auditors found to have spent $26.7 million in “inadequately documented and potentially unallowable expenses,” like $1,255 on alcohol, $18,284 on meals and entertainment, $142 for 30 pounds of swordfish for a special education director’s cookout, numerous purchases totaling $5,735 in golf-related charges, and $4,576 on vehicle expenses, including gasoline “for what appears to be a personal vehicle.”

Are Sleepy Students Learning?

Are Sleepy Students Learning?
sleeping students

How does the mind work—and especially how does it learn? Teachers’ instructional decisions are based on a mix of theories learned in teacher education, trial and error, craft knowledge, and gut instinct. Such knowledge often serves us well, but is there anything sturdier to rely on?

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field of researchers from psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, computer science, and anthropology who seek to understand the mind. In this regular American Educator column, we consider findings from this field that are strong and clear enough to merit classroom application.

By Daniel T. Willingham

Question: Some of my students seem really sleepy—they stifle yawns and struggle to keep tired eyes open—especially in the morning. This can’t be good for their learning, right? Is there anything I can do to help these students?

Answer: Sleep is indeed essential to learning, and US teenagers (and teenagers in most industrialized countries) don’t get enough. Although recent work shows there is a strong biological reason that teens tend not to sleep enough, there is some good news in this research. First, the impact on learning, although quite real, does not appear to be as drastic as we might fear. Second, the sleep deficit teens tend to run is not inevitable; with some planning, they can get more shuteye.

Researchers studying both humans and other animals have worked over the last 50 years to answer what would seem to be a straightforward question: Why do we sleep? The need for sleep appears to be as basic and universal as the need to eat. All animals sleep (with the possible exception of sharks), and all animals, if deprived of sleep, will “catch up” with extra sleep when given the chance. The universality of sleep across species indicates that it is essential to life. Yet its purpose is not known. It may be related to energy conservation or nervous system recuperation.1 One thing sleep clearly doesn’t do: it doesn’t provide a time for the brain to “turn off.” Most of the brain is active during most of the time you’re asleep.2 But whatever sleep does for the brain, it’s clear that lack of sleep brings wide-ranging cognitive costs,3 and sleepiness is a major contributor to workplace and automotive accidents.4

As many teachers and parents are well aware, US high school students don’t sleep enough. Although no set of guidelines is considered authoritative, a generally accepted rule of thumb is that adolescents should ideally get nine or more hours of sleep each night. Eight hours is considered borderline, and less than eight, insufficient. By this measure, only about 8 percent of teens report optimal sleep, and the majority—69 percent—report insufficient sleep.5

Despite the fact that teenagers don’t get enough sleep, research confirms that students actually sleep less as they get older. Large-scale studies of sleep habits in as many as 20 countries show that students sleep less as they progress through their teen years, especially on school days. American 9-year-olds get about 10 hours of sleep on weeknights. By the time they are 18, the figure is just 7.5 hours. But on weekends, the decline is much smaller: 9-year-olds sleep just over 10 hours, and 18-year-olds sleep about 9.5 hours each night.6

The reduction in sleep as the teen years progress is correlated with a change in chronotype—that is, an individual’s time-of-day preference. Some people like to stay up late and feel most alert at that time, whereas others prefer mornings. These preferences do have an impact on cognitive performance: people perform better on measures of attention, memory, and executive functioning when tests are administered at their preferred time of day,7 and these effects are observed at all different ages.8 Throughout the teen years, the preference for evenings increases,9 and this preference is observed in cultures throughout the world.10 Hence, the increasing sleep loss as kids move through the teen years is due to staying up late. On weekends, staying up late causes little sleep loss because kids can sleep in. On weekdays, they go to bed somewhat earlier, but not early enough to make up for the fact that they must rise quite early to get to school.

Cognitive Consequences of Poor Sleep

What happens to students’ ability to think and reason when they are sleepy? Conducting this research is more difficult than one might think. First, researchers are reluctant to conduct experiments in which they ask children to reduce sleep significantly, and parents are, of course, reluctant to enroll their children in such studies. Thus, these studies tend to entail relatively mild sleep deprivation, and usually only for one night or occasionally for as many as three or four nights. But what really concerns us is chronic insufficient sleep, not brief sleep loss.

The alternative is not to ask students to sleep less as part of an experiment, but rather to measure typical sleep and cognition in a large group of students and test whether the poor sleepers differ from the good sleepers. This method seems to get at the sleep issue of interest but carries drawbacks of its own. Poor sleepers may differ from good sleepers in many ways other than the amount of sleep they get—for example, socioeconomic status (homes of low-income families tend to be noisier and more crowded), diet, level of anxiety in the child, and so on.

While both types of research have limitations, in this case both also lead to similar conclusions: poor sleep leads to worse performance on an array of cognitive and behavioral measures. Most of these effects are seen in both younger children11 (under 12 years) and older children12 (aged 12–18). (This article will focus on older children, as most of the research has been conducted on this age group.) What’s surprising is that the consequences of sleep deprivation are not as widespread as you might think—some cognitive functions seem little affected—and the effect is not as large as you might guess.

In both correlational and experimental studies, poor sleepers show slightly worse performance than good sleepers on measures of executive function—that is, tasks that require maintaining or manipulating information in mind.13 For example, a student might hear a sequence of four letters and numbers in random order, and be asked to report first the numbers, then the letters, each in ascending order (e.g., if a subject heard “8 J 3 R,” she should say, “3 8 J R”). Each sequence is scored as correct (1 point) or incorrect (0 points). In one study like this, subjects who got insufficient sleep averaged 10.7 points (of 24 possible) and subjects who got sufficient sleep averaged 11.7 points.14

There are also reliable effects of sleep deprivation on students’ mood and behavior. Both younger and older kids who have slept less are rated by parents as more irritable, hyperactive, and inattentive. They are also more likely to be anxious or depressed.15 However, since these findings come from correlational studies, we must question whether the mood disturbances are caused by lack of sleep, or are merely associated with it. Data from children with sleep-related breathing disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, which involves pauses in breathing and shallow breathing that disturb sleep) are helpful in showing that sleep loss actually causes changes in mood. Some cases of disordered sleep can be corrected via surgery that helps children’s breathing, and such children not only sleep better postsurgery, they show dramatic improvement in mood.16

Teachers and parents most often note that sleep-deprived children of all ages seem inattentive and have difficulty concentrating.17 Most will seem sleepy and lacking in focus, but some become impulsive and hyperactive. Indeed, it has been suggested that sleep-deprived children are behaviorally similar to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.18 Curiously, formal studies of attention in which the speed and accuracy of responses is recorded (in contrast to ratings of attention made by parents or teachers) show little or no cost when young children are sleep deprived.19 This finding contrasts with that of adults, who do show sleep-related deficits on attention tasks.20 Young children also show little (if any) effect of sleep deprivation on memory.21 This finding is particularly surprising, as sleep is known to have a consistent and fairly robust effect on memory in adults.22 (It’s important to keep in mind here the limitations of this body of research mentioned above. Some children may suffer severe, chronic sleep deprivation and may experience attention and memory problems, but researchers are not going to design studies in which children must endure long-term sleep loss.)

In sum, sleep deprivation influences many (but not all) aspects of children’s mood, cognition, and behavior. But do these effects have consequences for performance at school? Yes. Again, the data are mostly correlational, but experiments draw the same conclusions.23 Lack of sleep is associated with poorer school performance as rated by students themselves24 and by teachers.25 Restricted sleep is also associated with lower grades in studies in the United States,26 a finding replicated in Norway27 and Korea.28 Students who sleep less are more likely to repeat a grade (21 percent vs. 11 percent in one study of Belgian 8- to 10-year-olds29), and according to studies conducted in Germany30 and Turkey,31 they score lower on standardized tests taken at the end of schooling.

Biological Changes That Prompt Teen Sleep Loss

Why don’t teens get enough sleep? The answer would seem obvious: teens are hypersocial, and so they stay up late on the phone or on Facebook. And they feel pressure from peers to stay up late, as it’s a mark of being grown up. Those social factors may play a role, but biological factors are likely more important.

Humans know that it’s time to go to sleep via internal cues generated by the body. There are two types of internal cues. One is a circadian rhythm in which hormones that induce sleepiness are released at night and those that induce wakefulness are released throughout the day, beginning early in the morning. Two of the most important hormones are melatonin, which makes you sleepy (and the release of which is suppressed by light exposure), and cortisol, which makes you wakeful. The cyclical workings of these hormones are obvious to anyone who has suffered from jet lag: your body’s release of hormones that affect sleepiness remains (at first) on your home schedule when you travel. The second internal cue for sleep is sleep pressure, meaning that the longer you have been without sleep, the more you feel inclined to sleep.32

We are also sensitive to cues external to the body that it’s time to go to sleep: cues like reduced light and knowing it’s the right time for sleep. These external cues are also important for adjusting the internal circadian cues; if you travel to a new time zone, your body does not stay on your home schedule forever. External cues (especially the local day-night cycle) adapt the internal cues to the new time zone.

Both sleep pressure and circadian rhythms appear to be affected by puberty,33 likely through interactions with other hormonal changes occurring at that time. The precise mechanism is not well understood, but the contention that the change is biological is supported by the observation that sleep rhythms change in the adolescence phase of other species.34

Some studies of adolescents lend fairly direct support to this hypothesis. For example, in one study,35 researchers measured cortisol levels in 357 children when they were 9 years old, and then again at ages 11, 13, and 15. At each age, cortisol was measured upon waking, between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and just before sleep. These collections continued for three days. Because cortisol is associated with wakefulness, levels are highest in the morning and fall during the day. That pattern was observed at all ages in this study, but the decline in cortisol levels during the day differed by age: it was steepest for the youngest children and shallowest for the oldest children. In other words, there is a daily cycle—a wave form—for cortisol, and the wave flattens as children go through adolescence. That means the internal signal about when one should be sleepy and when one should be wakeful is weaker in teens than in younger children. (The signal returns to its earlier, stronger form in the early 20s.) The weakness of the melatonin and cortisol signals means teenagers should be less sleepy in the evening (and so they stay up later) and less wakeful in the morning.36

If teenagers don’t go to sleep at night because of weak internal cues that it’s time to sleep, we might expect they would be more susceptible to external cues such as light or noise that would keep them awake. Although there are no data (positive or negative) showing teens are more likely to stay awake in the presence of light or noise than younger children or adults, there is evidence these external cues cost them sleep. For example, teens sleep less in spring than they do in winter, plausibly because it gets dark earlier in winter.37 Other data show that teens living in brightly lit urban districts are more likely to be “night owls” than “morning people.”38

Other studies are consistent with the hypothesis that teens are especially dependent on external cues to help them fall asleep. Many studies show a correlation between electronic media use and later bedtimes, and therefore less sleep.39 One interpretation of this correlation is that kids who would stay up late anyway use electronic media—phones, computers, games—to pass the time until they feel sleepy. But another interpretation is that they don’t feel sleepy because they are using these devices and, in particular, are exposed to lighted screens and content that make them wakeful. Some small-scale experimental studies show that playing an action video game or watching a movie they find exciting makes it more difficult for teens to go to sleep.40 Many teens report that they watch television to help them go to sleep,41 though nighttime television viewing is associated with daytime sleepiness.42

Interventions to Help Teens Sleep

Lack of sleep affects how students do in school, but just how large a cost does it exact? By standard measures, not a very big one. The effect size for most of these studies is about d=.10, which statisticians classify as a “small” effect. Now, it might be that studies to date have not measured school performance with very sensitive measures, and that the real cost of sleep loss is actually bigger. And of course, there is a quality-of-life issue here. Most parents, upon seeing their child miserably sleepy and dragging through a school day, would not shrug and say, “Well, as long as it doesn’t affect your grades.” So how might we help teens sleep more?

The rather obvious “tell them to go to sleep” might actually work. Although parents are less likely to set bedtimes as their children move through high school, students with parent-set bedtimes do get more sleep on school nights than students without them. On weekends, sleep patterns of the two groups do not differ.43

What else might be done? The core of the problem for teens seems to be that weak internal cues to sleep make it likely they will stay up later at night. They will sleep later in the morning to compensate, but they can’t do so on weekdays when they must get up for school. Indeed, by some estimates, school start time is the most important predictor of sleep/wake patterns in students.44 So why not start school later?

If kids know school starts later and they can therefore sleep later, won’t they just stay up later? Surprisingly enough, the answer seems to be “no.” Researchers have examined sleep patterns in schools with different start times, and students do get more sleep if their school starts later.45 The same applies to college students,46 but these data must be interpreted with considerable caution, as college students have much more control over their class schedules.

One study tracked the performance of students in seven Minneapolis high schools as they changed their start times from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. Researchers reported that the later start time was associated with better student attendance, fewer reports of sleeping in class, and reduced depression among students. There was no impact on grades, but the researchers cautioned that they were not terribly confident in this analysis because of difficulties in equating grades across different courses and different schools.47

A second study comes from the school system in Wake County, North Carolina. Between 1999 and 2006, 14 middle schools in the system changed their start times—nine to later times, but five schools switched to earlier times. The researcher examined data from standardized state tests and calculated that earlier start times were associated with lower test scores, equivalent to about a 2 percentile point decline.48

Perhaps the best study on the subject comes from the United States Air Force Academy. Like many high schools, the Academy divides the day into seven periods. Students sign up for classes, but if there are multiple sections, they are randomly assigned to one; hence, a student cannot arrange to avoid (or ensure) an early morning class. Analysis of grades shows that those students who happen to have later start times earn higher grades.49

What Are the Implications?

Inadequate sleep represents a challenge to educators that is in one sense overt—teachers see students drowsy in class every day—and in another sense subtle, because it seems like a common nuisance rather than a real threat to education. And indeed, the problem should not be overstated, at least insofar as it affects education. The impact of typical levels of inadequate sleep on student learning is quite real, but it is not devastating. All the same, its impact lasts for years, and there is every reason to think that it is cumulative.

Starting school later seems like a natural solution, but the logistics of the change are far from simple. The Fairfax County School Board in Virginia has considered whether to change the county high schools’ 7:20 a.m. start time on no fewer than eight occasions in the past 24 years.50 Recently, it decided to hire a consultant to develop a plan for later high school start times.51 Some of the obstacles (in Fairfax and elsewhere) include: increased costs associated with transportation; objections from parents to a later start because they don’t want to leave their child at home unattended when they leave for work; objections from parents and students to a later end to the school day because it interferes with athletics as well as afterschool clubs and jobs; and objections from parents to changes in elementary school start times (necessary due to bus route changes prompted by the change in the high school start time).

Another change that administrators could contemplate without the logistical problems of a later start time would be to adjust the schedule of classes. Put simply, it’s a good bet that most middle and high school students are sleepiest during the first period and grow more alert as the day wears on. So what ought to be scheduled for first period? Are there classes where the sleepiness cost could best be borne? In high school, perhaps electives could come at the start of the day. If these are the classes students are most interested in, that may give them an incentive to go to sleep earlier so they get to school on time; they also may feel more alert if they find these electives more exciting than their required classes.

Finally, teachers can explain to students (and if possible, their parents) that they can influence the amount of sleep they get. Although students must fight their own biological system to acclimate to the school schedule, they are not wholly victims of it. Just as travelers can adapt to new time zones, so too can students train their bodies to sleep at a reasonable hour. According to current research, the best strategy is to maintain a consistent bedtime and to refrain from gaming, movies, or other activities they find exciting in the few hours before bedtime. The payoff in grades may accumulate slowly or even be mostly unnoticeable, but the payoff in reduced sleepiness and overall mood will likely be almost immediate.

Daniel T. Willingham is a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia. His most recent book, When Can You Trust the Experts? How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education, provides a shortcut for evaluating claims about programs and strategies. His previous book, Why Don’t Students Like School?, helps teachers apply research on the mind to the classroom setting. For his articles on education, go to 


1. Jerome M. Siegel, “Clues to the Functions of Mammalian Sleep,” Nature 437, no. 7063 (2005): 1264–1271.

2. Richard S. J. Frackowiak et al., eds., “The Neural Correlates of Consciousness,” in Human Brain Function (New York: Academic Press, 2004), 269–285.

3. William D. S. Killgore, “Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Cognition,” Progress in Brain Research 185 (2010): 105–129.

4. Pierre Philip and Torbjorn Akerstedt, “Transport and Industrial Safety: How Are They Affected by Sleepiness and Sleep Restriction?” Sleep Medicine Reviews 10, no. 5 (2006): 347–356.

5. Danice K. Eaton, Lela R. McKnight-Eily, Richard Lowry, Geraldine S. Perry, Letitia Presley-Cantrell, and Janet B. Croft, “Prevalence of Insufficient, Borderline, and Optimal Hours of Sleep among High School Students—United States, 2007,” Journal of Adolescent Health 46, no. 4 (2010): 399–401.

6. Tim Olds, Sarah Blunden, John Petkov, and Fabricio Forchino, “The Relationships between Sex, Age, Geography and Time in Bed in Adolescents: A Meta-Analysis of Data from 23 Countries,” Sleep Medicine Reviews 14, no. 6 (2010): 371–378.

7. Christina Schmidt, Fabienne Collette, Christian Cajochen, and Philippe Peigneux, “A Time to Think: Circadian Rhythms in Human Cognition,” Cognitive Neuropsychology 24, no. 7 (2007): 755–789.

8. Carolyn Yoon, Cynthia P. May, and Lynn Hasher, “Aging, Circadian Arousal Patterns, and Cognition,” in Cognition, Aging, and Self-Reports, ed. Norbert Schwarz, Denise Park, Barbel Knauper, and Seymour Sudman (Levittown, PA: Psychology Press, 1999), 151–171.

9. Mary A. Carskadon, Christine Acebo, Gary S. Richardson, Barbara A. Tate, and Ronald Seifer, “An Approach to Studying Circadian Rhythms of Adolescent Humans,” Journal of Biological Rhythms 12, no. 3 (1997): 278–289; Sunghan Kim, Gwenden L. Dueker, Lynn Hasher, and David Goldstein, “Children’s Time of Day Preference: Age, Gender, and Ethnic Differences,” Personality and Individual Differences 33, no. 7 (2002): 1083–1090; and Christoph Randler, “Age and Gender Differences in Morningness-Eveningness during Adolescence,” Journal of Genetic Psychology 172, no. 3 (2011): 302–308.

10. Christoph Randler, “Morningness-Eveningness Comparison in Adolescents from Different Countries around the World,” Chronobiology International 25, no. 6 (2008): 1017–1028.

11. For a review, see Rebecca G. Astill, Kristiaan B. Van der Heijden, Marinus H. Van IJzendoorn, and Eus J. W. Van Someren, “Sleep, Cognition, and Behavioral Problems in School-Age Children: A Century of Research Meta-Analyzed,” Psychological Bulletin 138, no. 6 (2012): 1109–1138.

12. For a review, see Amy R. Wolfson and Mary A. Carskadon, “Understanding Adolescents’ Sleep Patterns and School Performance: A Critical Appraisal,” Sleep Medicine Reviews 7, no. 6 (2003): 491–506.

13. Basil Anderson, Amy Storfer-Isser, H. Gerry Taylor, Carol L. Rosen, and Susan Redline, “Associations of Executive Function with Sleepiness and Sleep Duration in Adolescents,” Pediatrics 123, no. 4 (2009): e701–e707; Joseph A. Buckhalt, Mona El-Sheikh, and Peggy Keller, “Children’s Sleep and Cognitive Functioning: Race and Socioeconomic Status as Moderators of Effects,” Child Development 78, no. 1 (2007): 213–231; Michael Gradisar, Grace Terrill, Anna Johnston, and Paul Douglas, “Adolescent Sleep and Working Memory Performance,” Sleep and Biological Rhythms 6, no. 3 (2008): 146–154; Maija-Riikka Steenari, Virve Vuontela, E. Juulia Paavonen, Synnove Carlson, Mika Fjallberg, and Eeva T. Aronen, “Working Memory and Sleep in 6- to 13-Year-Old Schoolchildren,” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 42, no. 1 (2003): 85–92; Angela C. Randazzo, Mark J. Muehlbach, Paula K. Schweitzer, and James K. Walsh, “Cognitive Function Following Acute Sleep Restriction in Children Ages 10–14,” Sleep 21, no. 8 (1998): 861–868; and Avi Sadeh, Reut Gruber, and Amiram Raviv, “The Effects of Sleep Restriction and Extension on School-Age Children: What a Difference an Hour Makes,” Child Development 74, no. 2 (2003): 444–455.

14. Gradisar et al., “Adolescent Sleep and Working Memory Performance.”

15. Melisa Moore, H. Lester Kirchner, Dennis Drotar, Nathan Johnson, Carol Rosen, Sonia Ancoli-Israel, and Susan Redline, “Relationships among Sleepiness, Sleep Time, and Psychological Functioning in Adolescents,” Journal of Pediatric Psychology 34, no. 10 (2009): 1175–1183; E. Juulia Paavonen, Eeva T. Aronen, Irma Moilanen, Jorma Piha, Eila Rasanen, Tuula Tamminen, and Fredrik Almqvist, “Sleep Problems of School-Aged Children: A Complementary View,” Acta Paediatrica 89, no. 2 (2000): 223–228; and E. Juulia Paavonen, Tarja Porkka-Heiskanen, and Anja Riitta Lahikainen, “Sleep Quality, Duration and Behavioral Symptoms among 5–6-Year-Old Children,” European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 18, no. 12 (2009): 747–754.

16. N. J. Ali, D. Pitson, and J. R. Stradling, “Sleep Disordered Breathing: Effects of Adenotonsillectomy on Behaviour and Psychological Functioning,” European Journal of Pediatrics 155, no. 1 (1996): 56–62; Ronald D. Chervin, Deborah L. Ruzicka, Bruno J. Giordani, Robert A. Weatherly, James E. Dillon, Elise K. Hodges, Carole L. Marcus, and Kenneth E. Guire, “Sleep-Disordered Breathing, Behavior, and Cognition in Children Before and After Adenotonsillectomy,” Pediatrics 117, no. 4 (2006): e769–e778; and Nira A. Goldstein, J. Christopher Post, Richard M. Rosenfeld, and Thomas F. Campbell, “Impact of Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy on Child Behavior,” Archives of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery 126, no. 4 (2000): 494–498.

17. Dean W. Beebe, Gahan Fallone, Neha Godiwala, Matt Flanigan, David Martin, Laura Schaffner, and Raouf Amin, “Feasibility and Behavioral Effects of an At-Home Multi-Night Sleep Restriction Protocol for Adolescents,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49, no. 9 (2008): 915–923; and Gahan Fallone, Christine Acebo, Ronald Seifer, and Mary A. Carskadon, “Experimental Restriction of Sleep Opportunity in Children: Effects on Teacher Ratings,” Sleep 28, no. 12 (2005): 1561–1567.

18. E. Juulia Paavonen, Katri Raikkonen, Jari Lahti, Niina Komsi, Kati Heinonen, Anu-Katriina Pesonen, Anna-Liisa Jarvenpaa, Timo Strandberg, Eero Kajantie, and Tarja Porkka-Heiskanen, “Short Sleep Duration and Behavioral Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Healthy 7- to 8-Year-Old Children,” Pediatrics 123, no. 5 (2009): e857–e864.

19. Astill et al., “Sleep, Cognition, and Behavioral Problems.”

20. Julian Lim and David F. Dinges, “A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Short-Term Sleep Deprivation on Cognitive Variables,” Psychological Bulletin 136, no. 3 (2010): 375–389.

21. Astill et al., “Sleep, Cognition, and Behavioral Problems.”

22. Susanne Diekelmann and Jan Born, “The Memory Function of Sleep,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, no. 2 (2010): 114–126.

23. For reviews, see Julia F. Dewald, Anne M. Meijer, Frans J. Oort, Gerard A. Kerkhof, and Susan M. Bogels, “The Influence of Sleep Quality, Sleep Duration, and Sleepiness on School Performance in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-Analytic Review,” Sleep Medicine Reviews 14, no. 3 (2010): 179–189; and Howard Taras and William Potts-Datema, “Sleep and Student Performance at School,” Journal of School Health 75, no. 7 (2005): 248–254.

24. Christopher Drake, Chelsea Nickel, Eleni Burduvali, Thomas Roth, Catherine Jefferson, and Pietro Badia, “The Pediatric Daytime Sleepiness Scale (PDSS): Sleep Habits and School Outcomes in Middle-School Children,” Sleep 26, no. 4 (2003): 455–458; Andre Kahn, Carine Van de Merckt, Elisabeth Rebuffat, Marie Jose Mozin, Martine Sottiaux, Denise Blum, and Philippe Hennart, “Sleep Problems in Healthy Preadolescents,” Pediatrics 84, no. 3 (1989): 542–546; Anne Marie Meijer, “Chronic Sleep Reduction, Functioning at School and School Achievement in Preadolescents,” Journal of Sleep Research 17, no. 4 (2008): 395–405; and Robert E. Roberts, Catherine Ramsay Roberts, and Hao T. Duong, “Sleepless in Adolescence: Prospective Data on Sleep Deprivation, Health and Functioning,” Journal of Adolescence 32, no. 5 (2009): 1045–1057.

25. Fallone et al., “Experimental Restriction of Sleep Opportunity in Children.”

26. Katia Fredriksen, Jean Rhodes, Ranjini Reddy, and Niobe Way, “Sleepless in Chicago: Tracking the Effects of Adolescent Sleep Loss during the Middle School Years,” Child Development 75, no. 1 (2004): 84–95; and Wolfson and Carskadon, “Understanding Adolescents’ Sleep Patterns.”

27. Ingvild W. Saxvig, Stale Pallesen, Ane Wilhelmsen-Langeland, Helge Molde, and Bjorn Bjorvatn, “Prevalence and Correlates of Delayed Sleep Phase in High School Students,” Sleep Medicine 13, no. 2 (2012): 193–199.

28. Chol Shin, Jinkwan Kim, Sangduck Lee, Yongkyu Ahn, and Soonjae Joo, “Sleep Habits, Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and School Performance in High School Students,” Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 57, no. 4 (2003): 451–453.

29. Kahn et al., “Sleep Problems in Healthy Preadolescents.”

30. Christoph Randler and Daniela Frech, “Correlation between Morningness-Eveningness and Final School Leaving Exams,” Biological Rhythm Research 37, no. 3 (2006): 233–239.

31. Senol Besoluk, “Morningness-Eveningness Preferences and University Entrance Examination Scores of High School Students,” Personality and Individual Differences 50, no. 2 (2011): 248–252.

32. Stephanie J. Crowley, Christine Acebo, and Mary A. Carskadon, “Sleep, Circadian Rhythms, and Delayed Phase in Adolescence,” Sleep Medicine 8, no. 6 (2007): 602–612; and Megan Hastings Hagenauer, Jamie I. Perryman, Theresa M. Lee, and Mary A. Carskadon, “Adolescent Changes in Homeostatic and Circadian Regulation of Sleep,” Developmental Neuroscience 31, no. 4 (2009): 276–284.

33. For a review, see Ian M. Colrain and Fiona C. Baker, “Changes in Sleep as a Function of Adolescent Development,” Neuropsychology Review 21, no. 1 (2011): 5–21.

34. Megan Hastings Hagenauer and Theresa M. Lee, “The Neuroendocrine Control of the Circadian System: Adolescent Chronotype,” Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 33, no. 3 (2012): 211–229.

35. Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, Amber L. Allison, Jeffrey M. Armstrong, Marcia J. Slattery, Ned H. Kalin, and Marilyn J. Essex, “Longitudinal Stability and Developmental Properties of Salivary Cortisol Levels and Circadian Rhythms from Childhood to Adolescence,” Developmental Psychobiology 54, no. 5 (2012): 493–502.

36. Mary A. Carskadon, Christine Acebo, and Oskar G. Jenni, “Regulation of Adolescent Sleep: Implications for Behavior,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1021 (June 2004): 276–291.

37. Mariana G. Figueiro and Mark S. Rea, “Evening Daylight May Cause Adolescents to Sleep Less in Spring Than in Winter,” Chronobiology International 27, no. 6 (2010): 1242–1258.

38. Christian Vollmer, Ulrich Michel, and Christoph Randler, “Outdoor Light at Night (LAN) Is Correlated with Eveningness in Adolescents,” Chronobiology International 29, no. 4 (2012): 502–508.

39. For a review, see Neralie Cain and Michael Gradisar, “Electronic Media Use and Sleep in School-Aged Children and Adolescents: A Review,” Sleep Medicine 11, no. 8 (2010): 735–742.

40. For example, see Malena Ivarsson, Martin Anderson, Torbjorn Akerstedt, and Frank Lindblad, “Playing a Violent Television Game Affects Heart Rate Variability,” Acta Paediatrica 98, no. 1 (2009): 166–172.

41. Steven Eggermont and Jan Van den Bulck, “Nodding Off or Switching Off? The Use of Popular Media as a Sleep Aid in Secondary-School Children,” Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 42, no. 7–8 (2006): 428–433.

42. Jan Van den Bulck, “Television Viewing, Computer Game Playing, and Internet Use and Self-Reported Time to Bed and Time Out of Bed in Secondary-School Children,” Sleep 27, no. 1 (2004): 101–104.

43. Christoph Randler, Sabrina Bilger, and Juan Francisco Díaz-Morales, “Associations among Sleep, Chronotype, Parental Monitoring, and Pubertal Development among German Adolescents,” Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied 143, no. 5 (2009): 509–520; and Michelle A. Short, Michael Gradisar, Helen Wright, Leon C. Lack, Hayley Dohnt, and Mary A. Carskadon, “Time for Bed: Parent-Set Bedtimes Associated with Improved Sleep and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents,” Sleep 34, no. 6 (2011): 797–800.

44. Jihui Zhang, Albert Martin Li, Tai Fai Fok, and Yun Kwok Wing, “Roles of Parental Sleep/Wake Patterns, Socioeconomic Status, and Daytime Activities in the Sleep/Wake Patterns of Children,” Journal of Pediatrics 156, no. 4 (2010): 606–612.

45. Donn Dexter, Jagdeep Bijwadia, Dana Schilling, and Gwendolyn Applebaugh, “Sleep, Sleepiness and School Start Times: A Preliminary Study,” Wisconsin Medical Journal 102, no. 1 (2003): 44–46; and Amy R. Wolfson, Noah L. Spaulding, Craig Dandrow, and Elizabeth M. Baroni, “Middle School Start Times: The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep for Young Adolescents,” Behavioral Sleep Medicine 5, no. 3 (2007): 194–209.

46. Serge V. Onyper, Pamela V. Thacher, Jack W. Gilbert, and Samuel G. Gradess, “Class Start Times, Sleep and Academic Performance in College: A Path Analysis,” Chronobiology International 29, no. 3 (2012): 318–335.

47. Kyla Wahlstrom, “Changing Times: Findings from the First Longitudinal Study of Later High School Start Times,” NASSP Bulletin 86, no. 633 (2002): 3–21.

48. Finley Edwards, “Early to Rise? The Effect of Daily Start Times on Academic Performance,” Economics of Education Review 31, no. 6 (2012).

49. Scott E. Carrell, Teny Maghakian, and James E. West, “A’s from Zzzz’s? The Causal Effect of School Start Time on the Academic Achievement of Adolescents,” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 3, no. 3 (2011): 62–81.

50. Emma Brown, “Fairfax Takes Small Step in Debate over High-School Start Times,” Washington Post, June 12, 2012.

51. Donna St. George, “More Sleep for Teens? Montgomery Petition Signed by Thousands,” Washington Post, November 2, 2012.

Smart people doing dumb things — education edition

Smart people doing dumb things — education editionUntitled-2
by Valerie Strauss

Here’s a smart look at how smart people do really dumb things when it comes to school reform. It  was written by Larry Cuban, a former superintendent of Arlington Public Schools for seven years, a former high school social studies teacher for 14 years and professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, where he has taught for more than 20 years. This was first published on his blog about school reform and classroom practice.
Why do smart people do dumb things?

by Larry Cuban

Why do smart people do dumb things? Examples are legion. Recall President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Or Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus resigning over an extra-marital affair. Or shrewd investors in Bernard Madoff’s company losing their financial shirts.

Switch to education and consider El Paso (TX) Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia who went to jail for inflating student test scores and giving a no-bid contract to his mistress.

OK, Larry, you made your point. People with smarts, power, and position caved in to their impulses. They did dumb things.

Actually, I want to go beyond that self-evident point made elsewhere and say that very smart educational policymakers also engage in folly not involving sex or money. Two stories make that point.

The first happened in New York City public schools in the early 1980s over abolishing “social promotion.” For many years, reformers had criticized educators for moving students to the next grade when they lacked the requisite knowledge and skills. The then Chancellor instituted a “Promotional Gates Program” in elementary and middle school grades with high-stakes tests in reading and math. If students didn’t pass they would have to repeat the grade. After a few years, so many students failed the test and were retained in grade that they eventually dropped out of school. When data confirmed that outcome, the Promotional Gates program disappeared.

Then a decade later, another chancellor attacked “social promotion” by holding back 35,000 students, requiring them to take special summer classes to advance to the next grade. Of that number, nearly 25,000 had failed the annual tests but almost a fifth of those failures occurred because of mistakes made by district officials. The chancellor at that time quickly ended the program. But in 2000, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein railed again at “social promotion” and, yes, you guessed it — another version of the “promotional gates” was resurrected.  Putting an untested policy into action the first time might be chalked up to error. And then putting those same ideas into practice a second time is dumb. But a third time? Well, That’s plain stupid.

Now consider the story of an elite university sliding into dumbness.

In the late 1960s,, Stanford University administrators secured federal funds to build a multimillion dollar facility called the Stanford Center for Research, Development, and Teaching (SCRDT). A fully furnished television studio with “state-of-the-art” cameras, videotape recorders, and monitors occupied the main floor with the star-in-the-crown of the new building located in the Large-Group Instruction room (LGI).

The amphitheater-shaped room with half-circular rows looked down on a small stage with a lectern, a massive pull-down screen, and two large monitors suspended from the ceiling. At most of the individual seats was a small punch-button pad called the “student responder.” The responder contained the numbers 1-10 and letters T and F.

At the very top of the amphitheater was a glass-enclosed technician’s station where an aide could assist the professor with simultaneous interpretation of various languages, show slides or films, and put on monitors data that the professors wanted.  Administrators had designed the room for professors to enhance the delivery of lectures.

For lectures, the student responder came into play.  Students punched in their choices to communicate answers to the professor’s questions, such as “If you agree, press 1, disagree, press 2.” “If statement is true, press T.”  As students pressed the keypad, the data went directly to a mainframe computer where the students’ responses were immediately assembled and displayed for the professor at a console on the lectern. The lecturer was then able to adjust the pace and content of the lecture to this advanced interactive technology, circa 1970, that linked students to teacher.

By 1972 when I came to Stanford as a graduate student, the LGI was being used as a large lecture hall for classes from other departments. The now-disconnected keypads were toys that bored students played with during lectures. The pull-down screen was used for overheads and occasional films. The fixed position cameras purchased in the late 1960s were already beyond repair and obsolete.

In 1981, when I returned to teach at Stanford, the SCRDT had been renamed the Center for Educational Research at Stanford (CERAS). In the LGI, none of the original equipment or technology (except the sound system) was used by either students or professors. The student responders, however, were still there.

In 2011, nearly a half-century after the SCRDT installed the LGI, the amphitheater room was still in use as a regular lecture hall. When I came to hear a professor lecture, yes, you guessed it, my fingers crept over to the “student responder” and I began to click the keys.

In 2012, however, a long awaited renovation occurred and the responders were gone. Finally.

In the past two years, however, Stanford faculty and administration have been swept up in offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The pervasive belief among many faculty including top University administrators is that MOOCs will “revolutionize” U.S. higher education teaching, learning, and college course offerings.  The belief in the power of disruptive technologies such as MOOCs to upend an institution is deep and abiding.

Perhaps there is another reason smart people do dumb things beyond succumbing to sex and power. They are too smart, they are too facile in devising clever responses to turn away arguments, logic, and evidence that challenge their beliefs and policies. They then end up doing foolish and even stupid things.

Coal in California’s Stocking as NCLB Waiver Denied

Coal in California’s Stocking as NCLB Waiver Denied

Christmas came early for the state of California — and unfortunately, the state found out that it’s at the top of the Department of Education’s ‘naughty’ list.

33 states and the District of Columbia have been granted waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act’s requirements, the most important of which is the demand that 100% of a state’s students be proficient in English and math by 2014. States applied for waivers by laying out reform plans judged by the Department of Education to be sufficiently productive as a workaround to NCLB.

A waiver also allows states more freedom to spend Title I money provided by the Federal government, whereas that money was earmarked for funding elements of NCLB.

Successful waiver applications included broad, comprehensive reforms to teacher evaluation systems based in part on student standardized test data. John Fensterwald of EdSource relayed that California’s denial wasn’t much of a surprise:

The rejection of California’s application was not unexpected. Gov. Jerry Brown, [State Superintendent Tom] Torlakson and the State Board of Education had chafed at some of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s requirements, and had filed a waiver request that ignored them.

Fensterwald reports that a major sticking point for California was the resistance to using standardized testing data in evaluations.

California will now be forced to comply with NCLB’s requirements that have seen 7 out of 10 California schools already designated as in “Program Improvement,” which means that their Adequate Yearly Progress [AYP] measures have fallen short, leaving them out of compliance with NCLB. That amounts to ~4,400 schools. The Program Improvement designation means that Title I funds continue to be restricted in use and that parents must be notified by PI districts that they have the right to transfer their children to better-performing schools — and that the PI school foots the bill for transportation.

California maintains that NCLB requirements are “deeply flawed,” and will continue to implement reforms in ways it deems most effective.

Superintendent Torlakson said of the failed waiver application:

“Based on a thorough examination of federal and state law, California made a good-faith effort to seek relief from requirements that even federal officials have acknowledged time and again are deeply flawed.”

Individual districts, though, may have hope — Secretary Duncan has noted that the Department could consider waiver applications from districts whose state-level applications have been turned down. For reform-minded districts in California such as Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento City and Fresno — all of whom are members of the California Office to Reform Education, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education.

10 additional states have outstanding waiver applications.

We Need to Load Up on Mental Health Detection and Shoot for a Safer Society

We Need to Load Up on Mental Health Detection and Shoot for a Safer Society
by Fran Lasker

After the tragic and horrific consequences of yet another school massacre, it is crystal clear that we need to take immediate action to control the sale of guns, but this is only part of the solution. How about taking the long overdue action needed to evaluate mental illness and psychopathic proclivity and look at ways to upgrade the overall well being of students? Our immunity to the unsettling behavior of others enables us to overlook fellow human beings who are immensely troubled. This is a problem of epic proportions! Although there is no checklist for predicting a deranged killer, it is imperative that we pay more attention to those around us who concern us. It is difficult to assess the threat level of someone driving their car, walking down the street, or just passing us by, but schools provide enough exposure to create a paradigm to begin threat assessment and find ways to upgrade happiness.

Every time one of these devastating school shootings occurs we take a look at the “profile” of the assailant and construct a sorry list of characteristics after the fact. Tragically, it is with hindsight that the profile of the shooter emerges from neighbors, teachers, relatives and friends. They volunteer their opinions on the unhappy, disgruntled, agitated and friendless individual. Where were these people and their observations before the massacre? Why not take a deeper look at students who are isolated and seemingly invisible or make violent pronouncements on social media? Shouldn’t the unhappiness of those around us set off a few alarms? This is not to say that some young person who dresses in black and sits alone at lunch is a potential shooter and mass murderer; he or she could just as easily be a poet or songwriter. I am not suggesting that we judge others by their appearance or lack of social skills. My point isn’t about the magical powers of school officials, teachers or neighbors or even parents in predicting who is a potential murderer. It is about not turning a blind eye. It is about turning up the volume on our instincts and taking responsibility to seek help for a worrisome student. If someone appears to be isolated and troubled it is irresponsible, dangerous and uncaring not to seek help.

Schools test our children all the time yet there is no test that is routinely administered to assess mental health and well-being. It is imperative that some sort of assessment tool be developed to evaluate the potential for violent tendencies and also for unhappiness. Gathering information about students is vitally important. Simple questions are so illuminating, do they have friends, do they experience violence at home, do they get angry, hold a grudge, do they sleep well at night? School assemblies could be conducted on positive and inexpensive ways of coping with stress and distress. Kids should be warned about signposts of mental illness and encouraged to speak out about classmates that they feel concerned about. Kids are tuned in to their fellow classmates, why not support and cultivate a community that advocates and speaks up rather than suppressing concerns. Kids could be directed to support groups or peer counseling, mindfulness meditation, yoga and the plethora of positive and transformative methods to aid kids in coping with life. I am not saying that assessment is a foolproof predictor or that a yoga class will prevent a future shooter. But, we need to start somewhere, so why not support and encourage programs that enhance mental health? Meditation has certainly got to be an improvement over World of Warcraft video games for development of inner-peace!

So much money and time is poured into dealing with pathology and so little into the concept of inner-happiness. The outpouring of love and caring towards victims in the wake of a tragedy is immense and life affirming, but we need to invest in caring and concern for one another preemptively. I believe that the country of Bhutan is on the right tract. It measures its wealth in something called the GNH (gross national happiness) a sophisticated survey instrument to measure the population’s general level of well-being. We should borrow from this concept! I can’t imagine a healthy well-adjusted person walking into a classroom and shooting children. We need to shoot for a healthier, happier population rather then more guns to arm ourselves.

Arming Teachers Isn’t the Answer

Arming Teachers Isn’t the Answer
By Deborah Gorman-Smith and Michele McLaughlin

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has led to a national conversation about guns, with many arguing that access to these weapons is the problem and others claiming that arming teachers—or in the case of the NRA, putting armed policeman in schools—is the solution. Lawmakers in several states are reportedly drafting bills that would allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom. We are very troubled by these proposals, not just as the parents of school-aged children; one of us grew up in Newtown and is an education policy analyst, and the other studies youth violence prevention. And there is no evidence to support having civilians carry guns in schools and much that suggests such a move is more likely to lead to harm.

It’s important to keep in mind that while mass shootings are extremely rare, violence impacts the lives of young people every day.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that each day, an average of 13 people between the ages of 10 and 24 are victims of homicide in the U.S., making homicide the third leading cause of death among youth and young adults; it is the leading cause of death among African American youth. Yet very little of this violence occurs on school grounds. Children spend more than a third of their waking hours on campus, but less than 2% of youth homicides occur at school.

One of the reasons why there are so few homicides at school is because these places are largely successful at keeping guns off the premises. Adult supervision and, in very high-risk schools, metal detectors have proven to be effective deterrents. While there are no specific data regarding having armed adults in schools, an analysis of U.S. mortality data found that people with guns in the home are at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide there. There is no reason to think schools would be any different: the more guns there are, the more opportunities there are to use them.

If arming teachers isn’t the answer, what can schools do to minimize the risk of violence? Although much work remains to be done, policy experts have begun to gather rigorous evidence that suggests the most effective strategies include improving access to mental health services, reducing access to lethal weapons and developing “early warning” systems that identify young people at risk of committing violent acts.

Within and outside of schools, we need better mental health support as well as threat assessments so that people have somewhere to turn for help when they recognize someone is in trouble and requires help. “Gatekeeper” programs, such as those used in suicide prevention may be valuable models. These programs, including one called Sources of Strength, involve training adults and peers to recognize warning signs. Gatekeepers then provide a link between young people and mental health professionals. There is limited evidence for most gatekeeper approaches, but some have revealed promising data.

But better mental health support is only one piece of the puzzle. To address the underlying causes of violence, researchers have identified a number of effective strategies such as school-based prevention programs that help all students develop their conflict-resolution skills, emotional awareness and self-control; family-based programs designed to improve parenting and solve problems in nonviolent ways, and mentoring programs that pair a young person with an adult who can serve as a positive role model and help guide the young person’s behavior.

Schools are safer when they have a culture that includes supportive teacher-student relationships and clear norms and expectations that violence is not tolerated. Students need to feel that they belong at school and that others care for them. The students most at risk of committing violence are the ones who are most alienated from school and their community. Connecting them to school and services is essential. And to do this effectively, parents and families need to be included.

While we may never completely eliminate violence in schools, research over the past 20 years has shown that we can significantly reduce the risk of violence.  And the more effective we are at addressing the underlying causes and at developing effective early-warning and prevention systems, the less need there will be for policies aimed at minimizing the damage from extreme violence. Sandy Hook broke our hearts. But we need to move forward thoughtfully and use evidence-based findings, rather than heated rhetoric, to support our policy decisions.

New Orleans schools ban creationist curriculum, shun Texas revisionist textbooks

New Orleans schools ban creationist
curriculum, shun Texas revisionist textbooks

by Robert T. Gonzalez

Sanity wins this round — at least for six schools in New Orleans. By a unanimous vote, N.O.’s Orleans Parish School Board voted on Tuesday to keep creationism out of its classrooms. Hallelujah.

“No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class,” reads a measure released by the School Board earlier this week. “No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.”

The new policy also takes a deliberate stand against Texas’s conservative revisionist curricula:

No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the state of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories.

“The conservative elements in the state have gotten stronger and stronger and more and more religious and farther to the right. I think it behooves us to take these steps to protect our kids’ educational futures,” said School Board Presdient Thomas Robichaux.

“To teach anything but scientific theory in a science class is just wrong for our kids. The Louisiana Science Education Act [enacted in 2008, the law has been described as “anti-science” by a veritable truck load of scientific organizations, and is responsible for shit like this being taught in science classes] is a direct attack on our children’s future and this is a direct defense to that.”

It’s like Bill Nye says: creationism is not appropriate for children.

You’ll find the OPSB’s full measure here. Read more at WWLTV.

Package for Dr. Jones

Package for Dr. Jones

The University of Chicago received this mysterious package last week with no clues as to how it arrived in the school’s mail bag.

Like all good things, the mysterious journal addressed to Indiana Jones that arrived at the University of Chicago last week came from the internet – eBay to be exact. And how it found its way to the university is a tale that ought to be told with a cinema map and an animated moving read line.


The university had received a package (above) that was addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.” Inside was a near-exact replica of the journal of Abner Ravenwood, which Indy uses in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Perplexed about its origins, the school posted on Tumblr and set up an e-mail tip line to try to find out if anyone could offer clues as to where the book came from. They also contacted Lucasfilm and an eBay user who had been selling similar replicas online. On Monday morning the university told Wired that they received an e-mail from the eBay seller, Paul Charfauros, informing them that he had gotten a letter from the U.S. Postal Service to say that one of his replicas — intended for a buyer in Italy — had been lost in the mail.

“Somewhere between Guam and Italy the replica fell out of its original external package and was lost in Honolulu, Hawaii,” Garrett Brinker, director of undergraduate outreach for the University of Chicago, told Wired. “Then for some reason, with fake postage, no tracking, not even a zip code — it looks like the Postal Service had to manually write in a zip code on the package — somehow without all of that the package landed in our laps in Chicago, Illinois.”

As the university elaborated on their Tumblr:

We believe that the post office wrote on our Zip code on the outside of the package and, believing the Egyptian postage was real, sent it our way. From Guam to Hawaii en route to Italy with a stopover in Chicago: truly an adventure befitting Indiana Jones.

After the university discovered the mystery journal last week, dozens of tips and theories poured in about where it could have come from — some thought it was part of an ARG, others thought it was a promotional stunt by Lucasfilm, and still others thought it might have been a piece of creative “art abandonment.” But Brinker himself hoped that it was the work of an enterprising prospective student who wanted to send a very creative admissions essay. Some had thought that it might be a lost delivery from an eBay replica-maker, but others hoped for an even more elaborate tale behind the journal’s origin. Even Brinker.

“We anticipated this in some sense, and as I mentioned before, it’s one of the least romantic theories,” Brinker said, adding that he’s still delighted about how the mystery has unraveled. “Now we even have multiple departments on campus that want this journal and want to store this journal, including special collections in one of our libraries…. So it’s turned out to be quite a fascinating story.”

The eBay seller has offered to let the university keep the replica and in return the school will be sending him some University of Chicago garb as a sign of gratitude for the magic package, which, of course, belongs in a museum.