In December, eighth-grade students in the Southern California city of Rialto were asked to research and write an argumentative essay about whether the Holocaust actually occurred.
The assignment prompted widespread outcry and criticism from such groups as the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which called it “grotesque.”
At a packed emergency school board meeting Wednesday, officials again apologized. “From the bottom of my heart, I feel sorry for this whole thing happening,” the school district’s interim superintendent said. A district spokesperson declined to comment on whether the teachers involved faced any disciplinary action.
Photo: Attendees of Wednesday’s school board meeting, at which every seat was taken. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times
Since 2004, the amount of money owed by U.S. college graduates entering the workforce has more than tripled.
Graphic: Doug Stevens / Los Angeles Times
Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country; a third of all babies born in the state are to teenage mothers.
Alarmed by the high poverty and low education rates associated with teen pregnancy, the business community pushed the Legislature to pass a bill requiring school districts to implement sex education. But parts of the law designed to appease conservatives in the deeply religious state have made things difficult for those who want to teach about safe sex.
"The majority of high school students in Mississippi have sex before they graduate," says Dora Chen, a former Oxford High School student now attending Princeton University. While at Oxford High, Chen was editor of the school newspaper when it ran a story about sex education that featured a pregnant classmate. At a school board meeting after the story was published, Chen endorsed so-called "abstinence-plus" sex-ed programs, which urge abstinence but also teach about contraception, as opposed to abstinence-only. "To me, if we just do abstinence-only, we’re really sort of ignoring the large majority of students in Mississippi."
Speaking out from autism’s ‘silent prison’
Ido Kedar is only in high school, but he’s already written a revealing look into what it’s like to live, and be educated, with autism. His message is as simple as it is powerful:
"I want people to know that I have an intact mind."
Photos: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times
Because everyone loves Malala… (except the Pakistani Taliban).
On the first anniversary of the day she was shot by the Taliban, Malala said she hasn’t done anything to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala may not think she deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, but at the very least she’s deservedly won the European Union’s top human-rights prize for her continued championing of education rights for women.
Said European Parliament President Martin Schultz:
“The European Parliament acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman. Malala bravely stands for the right of all children to be granted a fair education. This right for girls is far too commonly neglected.”
test reblogged from theatlantic
The recession’s aftershocks, five years later
It’s been five years since the financial meltdown that spurred the Great Recession, and the effects of the downturn are still rampant. Students are saddled with debt while unable to find work, adult workers are seeing their wages stagnate while older workers who lose their jobs may not have a chance at attaining another.
Reporters Walter Hamilton and Shan Li recently looked at the economic status of a middle class family from Redondo Beach. Janet Barker, an eighth-grade teacher, thought her life was completely in order just a few years ago:
Then the financial crisis struck in 2008. She has abandoned her dreams, and these days, she’s just trying to hold her family together. Five people squeeze into her 1,000-square-foot house because they can’t afford to live anywhere else. She’s supporting her ex-husband, their daughter, an unemployed son-in-law and a grandchild.
As Carl Van Horn, labor economist and director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, puts it:
"American workers are between two uncomfortable realities: Either they are working and terrified about the future or they are not working at all."
Read the full story from reporters Walter Hamilton and Shan Li here.
Photos: Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times
The most adorable thing you’ll see today
The Los Angeles Unified School District has taken a step forward in its $1-billion plan to equip every student with an iPad. The program launched in two elementary schools yesterday, though critics stand firm that the effort is far too expensive, and unnecessary.
As for the students above:
Avery Sheppard, left, views a smiling Tiannah Dizadare on his iPad at Broadacres Avenue Elementary in Carson.
Photo: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times
Is Michelle Obama’s health campaign doing all it can?
First lady Obama has long been an advocate for healthy food and exercise during her stint in the White House, headlining the “Let’s Move” campaign and hosting frequent events in her garden to highlight the benefits of quality food.
But when it comes to the marketing of sugary treats and syrupy sodas to children, did she do enough to try and save failed federal guidelines she had previously praised?
…when food and media companies — including many that supported her anti-obesity campaign — mounted a fierce lobbying battle against the guidelines in 2011, the first lady went silent.
It wasn’t until earlier this year, after the guidelines had been blocked, that Obama resumed her call for more responsible food marketing.
And despite her victories in the fight against obesity, Obama is not without her critics:
…some who see themselves as Obama’s allies in the fight against obesity believe her desire to create partnerships with industry kept her quiet when her voice would have counted most. Fourteen companies that back Obama’s anti-obesity campaign helped kill the voluntary advertising guidelines, lobbying reports and other records show.
"The White House got cold feet," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had championed the guidelines. "It sort of undermines everything that the first lady was doing."
Photo: Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press/MCT
Prepare to empty your brain of these 50 common misconceptions, myths, rumors, and old wives tales about science!
For who believed their elementary school teachers and still assumed the tongue had different sections that picked up on different tastes (like us).
test reblogged from mentalflossr
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