Sandy Hook Elementary, Sex-Ed, and History-less Classrooms
Friday, December 14, 2012 - 3:15pm

Five links that made us think this week.

Our hearts are with the victims and families affected by today’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The terrible tragedy happened around 9:30am on Friday. So far 27 casualties, including elementary school kids, have been reported. Today’s loss comes on the heels of last week’s tragic shooting at the Clackamas Town Center, which left 3 dead in Portland, Oregon. Wherever you might be in your day, please pause for a moment of silence to honor the human loss of today and all of those impacted. 

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last week Senator Dick Durbin chaired a congressional hearing to address the school-to-prison pipeline. This week Secretary Arne Duncan met with a group of formerly incarcerated youth in an effort to identify education and professional development best practices to help them transition back into society. “Returning to society after being incarcerated isn’t easy,” which is why the Department of Education recently announced a program called Promoting Reentry Success Through Continuity of Educational Opportunities. This $1 million grant program is meant to provide formerly incarcerated people with the tools needed to become “productive members of society.” 

In health-related news, Washington D.C. gets an A+ in sex ed. Students in D.C. took the first standardized test in health and sex education in the country. The results revealed that students’ knowledge of sex-ed might be better than their knowledge of math and reading. Students scored an average of 75% in the health and sex education section of the text, significantly higher than average results in the math and reading sections (49% and 46%, respectively). Despite the high scores, a sex education gap remains: only 22 states and D.C. require schools to provide sexuality and STD/HIV preventive education.

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company’s recent report on promising education-to-employment initiatives for youth was developed in response to a global conundrum: “high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills.” The report is based on a survey of youth, education providers, and employers in nine countries and identifies promising practices that can help recent graduates transition from education to employment. The study found that 34% of young Americans consider themselves “too cool for school” and don’t believe that a solid education can determine your future.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” These are the immortal words of William Faulkner, quoted by Timothy Egan in a recent NY Times Op-Ed. Egan received a packet of letters from a group of students who had read a history book he wrote. According to one of the students, “when we heard we were reading your book. . .heads dropped. Let me rephrase that, heads fell to the floor and rolled down the hallway.” Despite their lack of enthusiasm,  Egan argues that recent efforts by some state governors, including Gov. Rick Scott in Florida, to discourage the study of history in schools is incredibly dangerous. I wonder how people like Gov. Rick Scott think we can move forward and innovate without studying our past human behavior and how we got here? And when you consider that deprioritizing the study of history in public schools would primarily affect black and Latino students, it raises questions about the long-term effect of history-less classrooms on the cultural and political identity of black and brown students.

That’s it for this week, everyone. Have a great weekend. Pura Vida.

Category: The Friday Five

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