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The Government and College Collide

Colleges have been trying to become more liberal in solving their solutions, addressing problems, and catering towards student’s needs and wants. However, Victor Davis Hanson, a historian and winner of the National Humanities Model, presented a column about how colleges are actually moving further away from acting liberally than they had once believed. The choices that colleges have been making to address their issues can arguably be recognized as conservative more than liberal. Is this why problems aren’t getting solved as fast as people would like them to?

Hanson argues that colleges may want to claim to be liberal on the outside and encouraging open and creative minds, they are not allowing the freedom of speech and “edgy speech” that young adults deserve. They also should drop the political niceties, teach more inductive reasoning, and inform students on the current economic status of the job market.

Hanson makes a great point that keeping students informed in the employment rate after graduation and how much money they will be making can help parents and students be more proactive about paying off their loans, and allow parents to do cost-benefit analyses on college, just like you would do for any other major expenses. 

A standardized exit test similar to the ACT or SAT should also be given to all graduates, as a measurement on their education and increased knowledge after years of expensive study. 

Hanson believes that these are things that need to be done by universities, and therefore should be government regulated. However, building up a college that is more government regulated is far from being more liberal; it’s turning a university into being more conservative!

Do some of Hanson’s plans make sense? They can be beneficial to many students, but getting the government more involved in our higher education system may attract more harm than help. Getting a liberal education can be extremely important into making well-rounded graduates that have a better understanding of the world around them.

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Putting Up a Fight Towards Common Core

States have been attempting to improve education through the implementation of Common Core, but their tactics are failing before they even began. Many parents are choosing to have their students opt out of taking the standardized Common Core tests—and its enough students that its raising awareness. 

In New York, there are between 60 to 70 percent of students who are refusing to take the exams. There has also been considerable resistance in Maine, Oregon, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, with more states predicted to hop on the bandwagon this spring when tests are administered again. 

U.S. Department of Education Spokeswoman Dorie Nolt tries to ease parents by informing them that the state tests are meant to simply serve students in underprivileged populations and give teachers and parents an idea of where their student stands educationally. There has been encouragement from Barack Obama to adapt to Common Core as well with a program called Race To The Top. However, each state is free to develop their own tests. This is why there is a variation among states and the responses that parents are giving to Common Core.

 

Much of the criticism and concern with Common Core may also have to do with the amount of tests administered; between kindergarten to grade 12, there are over 113 tests administered just for Common Core outside of other test requirements for class course material. Only 17 of these required by the federal government, but the rallying for No Child Left Behind made pushed for teachers to keep up a closer watch on their students’ progress. Though No Child Left Behind and Common Core may be working wonders for some students, bringing them to higher and better levels of education, there is a huge pressure put on these students at the same time to improve year after year.

Schools are working with parents in some ways and allowing opt-outs for whatever reason, while others are passing laws that only allow 45 hours of testing per school year. These states seem to understand more about how much is expected of students these days. There are more discussions about Common Core and Race To The Top that are still happening in Congress, which might change some of these issues for the better in the future.

 

For the original Huffington Post article, click here. 

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Money Management Tips for Kids

In a capitalist world where money and finance have become the staples to our way of living, teaching children the correct way to handle money has become increasingly important. Many kids have a huge lack of understanding of the value of money and how it is applied, but with some simple actions during your child’s adolescence, you can make them more financially literate.

Here are 8 helpful tips to teaching your kids better money management:

  1. Use Cash—yes, we do mean that you, as a parent, use cash when you are purchasing items. Debit and credit are so much simpler, but the “magical card” doesn’t give your kids a great visual on how much things cost. The cost simply disappears with a swipe, since children do not see the bank statements and transactions. Using cash allows children to see the literal cost of items tangibly.
  2. Bank and ATM Visits—this can be a great way to explain to your child how a bank works: as a storage facility for the money that you have already worked hard for. Many banks are also happy to give your kids a small tour and show your children how money is stored or counted.
  3. Grocery Shopping—bringing your kids along to run errands is a great way to also teach them money management, since you, as a parent, are in the very act of managing your money! Checking the sale values for the best bang for your buck and teaching your children how much items cost is a great starter to introducing them to the commercial world
  4. Build a Budget—show your children the financial responsibilities that must come into play before you can have “fun money.” Build a budget for your money with them by your side so that they can see how finances have to be accommodated. You can also build a budget with your kids if they receive an allowance.
  5. Allowance—offer your child a way to make their own money early on through helping out around the house and doing chores. This money can be spending money or saved money.
  6. Utility Bills—show your kids how expensive bills can be so that they get a realistic perspective of how much comfortable living costs early on. Explain why you have to pay for each of the bills that you pay for, and the consequences if you do not pay those bills.
  7. Clear Jar System—have your kids store their extra coins and money in a clear jar, so that when their money accumulates, they can actually see the pile grow.
  8. Sharing—it is just as important to share our money with others who may need it as it is to save it up. Along with a jar for saving money, or spending money, create a jar that is designated as the “share/donate” money jar and have your child learn the values of giving back to the community early on.

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Be Mindful About Education and Work

At the DREAM Charter School in New York, students have been partaking in belly breathing, meditating, and other calming exercises to develop mindfulness. This seems difficult to understand: though meditating has been proven to be helpful and calming, how does it relate to getting a better education? Shouldn’t these students be focusing on math, reading, and writing? Wrong. These students are working on increasing their mindfulness, or their focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the creative world around them.

Students are still learning their basic subjects, but taking time out for meditation is built into their schedules for the day. Since most schools, at any level, are considered to be a stressful environment, the meditation times give children the chance to calm themselves and clear their minds so that they can better focus on their studies for the day.

This method is also beginning to be applied to work settings as well, especially for big companies like Google, Safeway, General Mills, and Aetna. The reason that mindfulness workshops are becoming so popular is because high stress levels cost American companies around $200 billion to $300 billion a year, simply from less motivation to be productive when one is stressed. Having mindfulness sessions decreases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and only after 3 consistent days of meditating, you can change your psychological stress. Mindfulness also boosts creativity and focus, which is great for work settings.

The CEO of Aetna commented on the great effects that mindfulness training was having on his employees. They reported having better sleep, less stress, and more productivity in their week. They gained about 62 minutes of extra productivity per week, and Aetna has made $3,000 more per year from the employees.

Though mindfulness gives students or workers a window into their thoughts and stressors, it is producing lasting effects in the way that people are retaining information, applying themselves, focusing, and being more creative and innovative in their workplace. Taking time throughout our days to self-reflect and relax for 20 minutes may have seemed like slacking off, but now, those breaks might become more encouraged because of mindfulness.

 

Based on "How Mindfulness Has Changed the Way Americans Learn and Work."

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Reading Up on Shakespeare

High school is riddled with Shakespeare writings and readings, as are most educations in the United States. But this Shakespearean reading is not the easiest to interpret as a high-schooler. It may be hard to interpret this writing, but its important to learn the values that Shakespeare has to offer, and different ways in which we might go about reading them.

As a high-schooler, you will come across many different reading levels; some people have meditated on Shakespeare as if it was their Bible. Others have grown up with parents that have educated them in the world of English and theater, helping students to better understand Shakespeare’s word choice. And finally, there are those who may have personal epiphanies while reading through Shakespeare that change the way that one views the world around them. Epiphanies can motivate someone to continue reading Shakespeare’s works in search of deeper meanings.

 

The impact of Shakespeare is his ability to reach such a grand span of audience, from those who were completely absolved by his writing and ate up every word, to those who were illiterate. His plays were watched, his poetry was listened to, and the acting was enjoyed. Shakespeare welcomed all people to enter a collective dream of beliefs about a new world. The imagination and fiction within Shakespeare was fruitful in itself for the encouragement of looking outside of the world directly in front of us.

The reason that so many people were denied the right to read in the past is because of new conflicting ideas that could be formed and the new realities that were presented. However, these new creativities have lead to bigger and better ideas and advanced our world to where we are today.

 

Based on the article by Frank Breslin for the Huffington Post. 

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Learning is a Choice, Not a Part of Growing Up

There are laws in place that require children under 18 to attend school, but going to school every day for years and years is not the same as learning. There is a difference between learning and education, and learning has been a choice that has been given to adolescents for decades.

Parents send their children off to school in hopes that they will learn more science, math, English, and history to apply to the world around them and their future education. However, it is only the child’s choice to listen and retain the information that is being taught. The truth is that education should be something enjoyable for the children because that is what will motivate them to continue to learn more and more. If you look at your own interests and hobbies, no one tells people to keep up with these interests; they simply do it on their own because they want to! Education is slowly backing away from having this kind of mentality, and we need to reintroduce a passion for knowing and learning more. A great way of turning education around is to make schooling become more of an interest rather than a chore; there are many learning requirements and expectations for learning in schools that makes it difficult for children to enjoy it!

Parents, teachers, and adults cannot continue to thrust information from a subject that a child does not want to learn. Hopefully, more interactive hands-on teaching and activities can spark adolescents’ interests in schooling for the future. Creativity in teaching through theater performance, art, ceramics, and music are also great subjects in school that need more attention and get the brain working.

 

It was best said by John Holt: “Learners make learning.” No parent or teacher can force someone to remember something that bores them or is not something they need to know to be successful. We all have made mistakes and learn from them, whether we receive a great education or not. In the end, learning is a choice we make based on our interests.

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Why Public Higher Education Should Be Kept Alive

Karen S. Haynes, Ph.D. is the president of California State University San Marcos (CMUSM), and she has a few things that she wanted to let us know about the value that should be given to public higher education. Not only is the value of degrees being questioned, but negative stereotypes that are associated with a public state school.

Haynes wrote an article for the Huffington Post spotlighting her argument for why her school and her students within it are becoming just as educated and just as deserving of attention and funding. Though her examples may be a bit specific to CSUSM, she makes some great points that are fighting for all public higher education as well.

Oftentimes, public higher education schools are the only four-year institutions in place to serve a large region of students. It is still possible to have smaller class sizes and build relationships between professors and students. Students have opportunities to become very involved in community service, new clubs, and giving back to the community around them. For example, Haynes mentions that almost 85% of her students at CSUSM remain in the area after they graduate, pouring their new collegiate education into improving the community surrounding the school. Haynes also mentions that serving the community around CSUSM has always been a big mission of theirs.

CSUSM has provide many benefits for their students and their community, as well as services provided veterans and minorities. With the advancements made at this school of public higher education and the services and education provided at other public education universities, there needs to be more funding given. The economic conditions and public investment is shrinking for public higher education, but there are so many ways that these schools are working to help their students achieve more without the help of the state’s money. 

There is too much diversity and opportunity in America’s higher education to kill it with lack of funding. It has played a critical role in providing more affordable and useful education to young adults, so that they may receive a college degree that can, in turn, benefit their community. In truth, public higher education is serving as a great equalizer of education—and we need that to stay in place.

 

Based on the article, "Public Higher Education--the Great Equalizer." 

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Delayed Adulthood

Young adults and teens have been facing hardships with growing up much more than any other generation. Often, the blame has fallen on them for being lazy, less motivated, or just not as successful when they graduate as they had hoped, but in the end, the real problem is simply delayed adulthood, which they really cannot control.

Each successive generation since 1970 has struggled to be financially independent, graduate on time or at all, and marry and settle down with a family. An article from the Sunday Review of the New York Times reported that 25 year olds are twice as likely to still be students compared to when their parents were at their age. Now, delayed adulthood may seem like it carries a lot of negativity with it, but there is an argument to make for how delayed adulthood might be benefitting these young adults more than harming them.

Adolescence is a time when your brain is the most influenced by experience due to the “plastic” or flexible nature of the brain during this time. A lot can be learned during the adolescent years, both through opportunity and vulnerability that can help shape a young adults vision and understanding of the world around them. The case of delayed adulthood is beneficial in this way because dragging out the plasticity of the brain into your young adult years is keeping your brain actively working, in turn making you into a smarter person.

There has been a noticeable change in neurochemical shifts at the end of adolescence and going into someone’s 20s. These changes make our brain less plastic and less sensitive to environmental influences. This means that we are not retaining as much information because our brains are becoming harder. It is still undetermined if this neurochemical change is brought on by less stimuli going into our 20s or if this is a biological phenomenon that is inevitable.

If it is possibly tied to the stimuli and activity that we engage our brains in, it is possible to open our window of brain plasticity for a longer period of time before fixing itself on adulthood. It may seem like the latest generation is harming themselves with their adulthood delays, but some mindful consideration should be given for the positivity that may also be blooming. 

 

Based on the NYT article "The Case for Delayed Adulthood."

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Cracking the Case of the Teenage Brain

The teenage years are such a critical time of learning, and retaining information correctly, because your brain is developing rapidly. Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt have written a book about the neurosciences of the teenage brain, breaking down its development process in order to better understand the changes and interworking of the teenage brain.

During one’s adolescent years, the brain is in its prime for learning because it possesses the ability to form memories that last longer. This means that hands-on experiences, photos, acting out skits, and videos may be more suitable to learning during this time period because of the impact these interactive learning strategies can have on the teenager's memory. However, teenagers are so open to learning everything in their environment that when placed in the wrong one, they can be taught things and remember things that are not helpful or suitable.

When the brain receives signals of happiness or reward, it is receiving a drug called dopamine. During the adolescent years, your body is more likely to send dopamine to your brain in a heightened fashion because it is taking in a lot of memories that appear to be positive. This heightened level of dopamine, however, is what causes a lot of teenagers to fall down a path of addiction, because their body is reacting strongly to their substance of choice. Their brains are also not fully developed, especially in the frontal lobes where decision-making and judgment is made; this is why many adolescents that do make a wrong choice often don’t know how to get themselves out of it. These are just some examples of how negative environments have also been known to effect teens, though there are plenty of positive learning environments that can do good for a teen during these years. 

This is simply a gentle warning and reminder from Jensen and Nutt to take into consideration the kind of environment that you choose to put your children under; they may be retaining harmful, rather than helpful, information or habits. Make sure to continually remind teens to be cautious of certain situations, and how to handle a situation once they are in it. It doesn’t matter how many times they have heard it before; they need the reinforcement! Both of the authors also proved a point to their children that it is hard for them to multitask at their age.

If we take these brain facts seriously, they can be incredibly helpful and advance the learning of teens for "street smart" and "book smart" environments with their sponge-like brain.

 

Based on the New York Times article, "The Teenage Brain."

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Solution for Better SAT Testing Fails

Good news: a man by the name of Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman thinks that he cracked the code for making SAT questions easier to interpret. Bad news: his theory was quickly proved to wrong by Professor Terry Burnham, Ph.D.

Kahneman had tested and found that students score higher on a test when the questions are physically harder to read through his own studies. This could be due to a strange font, small print, or a combination of the two. Kahneman used a specific test called the cognitive reflection test, or CRT, to study how his students would react when given a test where the font was normal versus a test where the font was barely legible. The results that Kahneman found were perplexing.

Kahneman reported to Burnham, who began to do studies of his own, that 90% of his students that saw the CRT in normal font made at least one mistake, but with barely legible font, there were only 35% of his students that made mistakes. How can performance increase when it is difficult to even read the question?! Or even better, can we make our brains work at a higher level that causes them to produce better results?

Burnham wanted to test both of these questions himself, because he was astonished by the outcome of Kahneman’s results. Being a professor himself, Burnham quickly typed up a test with normal font and one with difficult font, and tested it on his students that day. However, Professor Burnham’s students did not perform any differently with the hard-to-read test than the normal test.

Burnham consulted some other scholars on the subject matter; after three years of looking into Kahneman’s conclusion more, they have proved his theory to be untrue. The easy-to-read average score and the hard-to-read average score only differed by .01 of a question, based on 17 studies that included 3,657-3,710 people.

Unfortunately, Burnham or Kahneman do not provide some other solution to how to crack the SAT questions and make them easier to interpret; the mystery of test taking is still out there for us to discover. However, Burnham does warn of the credibility of information we take in, and the cautiousness we should take with powerful and important messages that may not be what they seem.

 

Based on "A Trick for Higher SAT Scores? Unfortunately, No." 

 

--Jessalyn Kieta 

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