It’s time for finals - but what are kids using to help them study?
A new study has found that while 12% of teenagers have taken stimulant medication intended for those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder for non-medical purposes, just 1% of parents think that’s the case, regardless of whether that use is for last-minute studying or recreation.
So why the concern about students using such drugs?
Use of stimulant medication by children without ADHD can lead to acute exhaustion, abnormal heart rhythms, and — if an adolescent becomes addicted and goes into withdrawal — to confusion and psychosis.
Plus, there’s still no scientific consensus on whether medication intended for ADHD actually improves academic performance.
Read more via Science Now.
Photo: Keith Beaty / Toronto Star
An end to zero tolerance for willful defiance in L.A. schools?
California schools have long brought about swift punishments for instances of so-called willful defiance, which have disproportionally led to suspensions of many minority students not just in our home state, but nationwide.
Take the case of Damien Valentine, a Manual Arts Senior High School sophomore fighting against the practice, who says that several such punishments earlier in his school accomplished nothing but setting him back.
So just what is “willful defiance?”
That offense is now widely criticized as an arbitrary catchall for any behavior a teacher finds objectionable, such as repeatedly tapping feet on the floor, refusing to remove a hat or failing to wear the school uniform. It accounted for 48% of 710,000 suspensions issued in California in 2011-12, prompting both state and local efforts to restrict its use in disciplinary actions.
A resolution moving through Los Angeles County would make L.A. Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for the aforementioned offenses.
Said Tonna Onyendu of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit:
“This will be a transformational shift. Instead of punishing students, we’re going to engage them.”
Read more on the matter in
Christina House / For The Times
Is college a bad investment for many students?
A new study finds that college, usually seen as a sure-fire bet for a better fiscal future, isn’t all that helpful for many students - particularly those focusing on the arts or attending schools without a wealth of prestige.
And in the case of some students, college actually sets them back a few steps:
One of the study’s more startling statistics is that 170 of the 853 schools studied — or an astounding one in five colleges – had a negative return on investment.
Check out the full story over at Money & Co.
Photo: Grand Canyon University
The art of music from afar
For piano instructor Talc Tolchin, lessons don’t always require close proximity and immediate scrutiny of finger placements and precision - thanks to modern technology, Tolchin can instruct students from hundreds of miles away.
But Tolchin’s methods do have some detractors:
It’s not for everyone. The world of music instructors is filled with late technology adopters on such tight budgets that even basic equipment needed to conduct online lessons is a stretch, said Rachel Kramer, director of member development for the Cincinnati-based Music Teachers National Assn.
Then there’s tradition. “There will be always be teachers who feel it would never ever work,” she said.
Photos: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times
Preserving ancient teachings in Timbuktu
Boubacar Sadeck, the youngest of Timbuktu’s scribes at 38, is a master of an ancient art - one that ties him closely to the historical writings that he spends his days transcribing and preserving.
“My weakness, my love, is calligraphy,” said the scribe, who fled Timbuktu, famed for its collection of centuries-old manuscripts, when Islamist militias invaded last year. “If I go a day without writing, I feel as if something is missing or strange. When I sit down with my paper and my pen, I feel wonderful. I feel at ease.”
Many of Timbuktu’s ancient scripts are now refugees separated from their former home in Ahmed Baba Institute after Islamist militias invaded. The rest have been either lost or destroyed in the chaos caused by the successful fight to drive the militias out of the city. Now, the future of these artifacts from the past is up in the air.
Read more in reporter Robyn Dixon’s story here
Photos: Evan Schneide / UN, Eric Feferberg / AFP/Getty Images
Presidential Science Fair
President Obama welcomed some of the country’s youngest scientific minds to the White House earlier today, offering them a chance to show off their projects.
The students’ innovations ranged from a more efficient way to detect pancreatic cancer (courtesy of 16-year-old Jack Andraka) or Kiona Elliott, 18, and Payton Kaar, 16 who created a collapsible water filtration system.
Photos: Aude Guerrucci / Getty Images
Shaking up the spelling bee
The biggest spelling bee in the country, the Scripps National Spelling Bee, is introducing a major change to its proceedings. Instead of just knowing how to spell preposterous words, contestants will also have to know their definitions.
If you ask us, for those who have trained for years just on the proper spelling of words, the change is bound to be like a field full of guetapens (the word that propelled last year’s winner, Snigdha Nandipati, to victory).
The reason behind the change:
“It represents a deepening of the bee’s commitment to its purpose,” Director Paige Kimble told USA Today, “to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.”
Read more from reporter Karin Klein’s rundown of the changes.
Photos: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images, Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News/MCT, Fred Watkins / ABC, Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press
Suing over employment let-downs
It’s hard out there for most people to find a job - but going so far as to sue your law school for making it appear like success was easy to find? That’s what Southwestern Law School alumni are up to, having filed against the school for working in hourly jobs when they dreamed of six-figure salaries.
Take a look at the story of one of the students taking their alma mater to court:
Michael D. Lieberman [pictured above] decided to enroll at Southwestern Law School after reading that 97% of its graduates were employed within nine months. He graduated in 2009, passed the bar on his first try but could not find a job as a lawyer. He worked for a while as a software tester, then a technical writer, and now serves as a field representative for an elected official.
Read the full story from reporter Maura Dolan.
Photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
The girl who just wanted to play football
Ella, a 13-year-old who attends the Sequoyah School in Pasadena, just wants to play football - something easier said than done when the rest of the teams in the area refuse to play against a girl.
As the season began, the league voted against allowing a girl to play. If Ella played, it would mean a forfeit, even though the games could still take place. And Sequoyah would be banned from postseason play.
Ella’s teammates didn’t blink.
As it turns out, the team finished 0-8 after Ella joined them, not because they lost, but because each time she prepared to take the field, they were forced to forfeit.
Read the rest of reporter
Michael E. Stern
From high-school equivalency to undercover spy
Fernando Jara changed the course of his life with a single email. Post-9/11, he told the CIA that perhaps he, with a recent conversion to Islam and knowledge of Arabic, could get closer to extremists that they could.
And now, years later, he’s changed his life again - working to aid drug addicts and felons in California.
From humble beginnings, Jara founded a program to rehabilitate drug addicts and felons on a five-acre farm. He is completing a master’s degree at Claremont School of Theology and will soon begin work on a doctorate and a law degree…
It’s an impressive resume for a junior high school dropout — with one exception. Five years are unaccounted for, and few people here know why.
In 2001, Jara disappeared from public view. He went on a journey that took him across the Middle East into the undercover world of Islamic extremism.
Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Learning how to be fancy: It may be one of the world’s most challenging universities, with student IQs and test scores through the roof, but MIT still offers lessons on some more intangible skills - manners.
The university’s “charm school” takes students through their P’s and Q’s with the hope that their napkin handling, hand-shaking and niceties will give them an extra advantage in the job market.
And the world of etiquette is more more complicated than it initially seems:
How does an observant Muslim navigate a business breakfast during the fasting month of Ramadan, for example? (Politely explain why you won’t be eating but don’t give a lecture on religion, skip the meeting or demand it be rescheduled.) Should a male employee hold the door for his female boss? (If you get to the door first, sure, and do it for your male colleagues as well — it’s polite.)
Photos: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times
Learn, you must: When looking to broaden to broaden their horizons, some take up painting, others taking dancing classes - and others take up waving around a big glowing sword.
The class is the brainchild of Alain Bloch, a 32-year-old software engineer with a lifelong love of George Lucas’ epic space opera.
Roughly 25 people meet every Sunday in San Francisco for Bloch’s lightsaber classes, which cost $10 per lesson, and don’t require a trip to Dagobah.
Photos: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press
— Steve Zimmer, L.A. school board member on layoffs that claimed band teacher Ray Vizcarra. Vizcarra resurrected Fairfax High’s band, teaching students to play instruments from scratch. They soon won all-city competitions. But L.A. Unified had to cut jobs, and he lacked seniority.