What we’re reading

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This past week, President Obama addressed the buzz about the Ebola virus in his weekly address entitled “What You Need to Know about Ebola” by saying that, “we can’t give in to hysteria or fear.” In the past few weeks, we’ve heard arguments for travel bans and other actions seeking to curb the spread of this virus to the United States. In Nate Silver’s “Why An Ebola Flight Ban Wouldn’t Work,” he maps out what a flight ban to West Africa would look like and why it would be ineffective.

On the topic of public health, have you ever thought about public wifi being a public health hazard? According to Mauritis Martijn, we might want to be more cautious when using a public Wi-Fi server. If you’re curious how a hacker can learn intimate details about strangers using public wifi or, like us, are terrified by the prospect of having some stranger looking at the last five things you googled, give “What we give away when we log on to a public Wi-Fi network” a read.

Another way to take care of yourself is to learn some serious hangover cures from some of the most famous heavy drinkers. Did you know that Zelda Fitzgerald’s hangover cure was to go for a morning swim? Or that Brenda Frazier would take a bottle of Coca-Cola, shake it, and then mix it with cold milk?

In education, two particular articles generated a great deal of discussion this week. The first being David Edwards’ “American Schools Are Training Kids for A World That Doesn’t Exist” which discusses what Edwards feels must change in our education system. He argues that we will have to shift from teaching students to “learn and then do” to a different framework that stresses discovery and adapting to an ever-changing world.

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RI marijuana decriminalization law in effect

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In 2012, Rhode Island passed a law to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. This law is currently in effect as of April 1, 2013. This is not an April Fools joke, but rather an effort that Senator Joshua Miller, D-representing Cranston, and state Representative Jay Edwards, D–representing Tiverton and Portsmouth, have been working to pass for the past five years. A first-time offender who possesses one ounce or less of marijuana will now see a $150 civil fine, and no jail time.  An individual who is charged with possession three times in 18 months, however, must pay the original $500 civil fine, and will most likely spend a year in jail.

The implications are huge. The law hopes to debunk the “forbidden fruit” nature of the drug, which is why many young adults may find it so appealing in the first place. Perhaps more importantly, a portion of the money collected from fines will now go towards drug treatment and education programs. Now that possession is no longer criminal, it is hoped that people can seek proper treatment rather than becoming lost in the criminal justice system. This will save the state a great deal of money down the road by relying more on prevention and less on incarceration.

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Providence teacher gives system ‘the finger’ on YouTube

Progressive educator and Brown department head Ted Sizer is surely cheering from the grave. Last week, a Providence schoolteacher named Stephen Round, fed up with teaching students how to take tests, quit his 13-year position as a 2nd grade teacher. Unable to read his resignation at a committee meeting, Round did what any relatively hip middle-aged teacher would do and posted a video of himself reading the letter on the YouTube. While a middle finger might have sufficed, Round’s condemnation of the “demeaning education” provided for students in Providence Public Schools is a more eloquent, and more brutally honest, alternative.

Round, depicting the lack of “enjoyment” in daily classroom life, describes a dystopian learning environment that seems more like something out of Orwell than a classroom in the same city as our beloved Brown. Students never socialized, recess was a privilege, and teaching focused on standardized testing rather than developing students’ interest in subject matter. The school’s culture of adhering to curriculum standards at the policy level had robbed Round’s students of all valuable education, and as a teacher he could literally do nothing to intervene. Moreover, Round claims that educational higher-ups forced him to stop offering additional reading support for dyslexic students simply because it was outside of the curriculum.

Such a “one-size-fits-all” education was exactly what Ted Sizer hoped to eradicate at the high school level by starting his Coalition of Essential Schools in 1984. In a final FU to Providence schools, the teacher claims he’ll be leaving his well-paid position to tutor for free in Connecticut. Many, including plenty of Brown students, will talk about how test-focused curricula are ludicrous, but Round’s simple and bold actions, which have since found national coverage on Gawker (yes, it’s Gawker…but still), have potential to move the issue forward.


Beast op-ed says B.A. overvalued

In a recently published piece on The Daily Beast, Professor X challenges the majority of American educators, economists and employers by claiming that a bachelor’s degree isn’t valuable. You might be wondering who Professor X is, besides a nerdy writer fulfilling his childhood dream of growing up to be a wheelchair-bound, British, mind-reading mutant. Well, he’s actually a community/private college professor (and college degree holder) slash author who wrote a book about his accidental foray into academia and has since become a critic of widespread university education. This most recent piece frames the college premium as an “artificial construct” and goes on to stress how little effect a B.A. has on the skills of employees who earn more than their high school-educated counterparts. Read more after the jump. Continue Reading


Time-waster of the day: April 27, 2011

Earlier this month, sketch comedy group Out of Bounds brought RISK! to Brown. RISK! is a podcast that provides comedians with a venue to tell embarrassing, taboo-laden stories about their lives. The event, held April 13 in MacMillan, was headlined by Michael Ian Black and also featured Brown faculty members Connie Crawford and Deak Nabers. In case you missed it, or didn’t feel like paying the $12 admission, the episode (titled “Education”) is now up on for free on iTunes.

The highlight? Hearing Deak detail his anxiety regarding the conception of his “f**king kid.” Although he’s arguably even more horrifyingly candid about his life in the average Simple Art of Murder lecture…