Thoughts on education, publishing, and other intellectual titillations – by Marie Brown, Consulting Editorial Project Director
***The following comments, views, and opinions are solely those of Marie Brown, and do not necessarily reflect those of Westchester Publishing Services, its management, and staff.***
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Shooters won’t walk into a school if 20% of people have guns.”
– President Donald J. Trump
GUNS IN SCHOOLS?
The US Department of Education, headed by Betsy DeVos has announced that it is weighing whether to allow states to use federal funds to purchase guns for schools, prompting a storm of criticism from Democratic lawmakers, educators, and parents. The bipartisan Every Student Success Act, passed in 2015, does not expressly prohibit the use of Student Support and Academic Achievement Grants for the purchase of firearms. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, which was the site of the Sandy Hook school shooting, swiftly introduced an amendment that would block the Education Department from using the funds to arm schools.
BIAS ALERT: I think we would all agree that school violence is a menace to students, teachers, and school personnel. The words “shooting” and “school” in the same sentence has become far too commonplace. But is arming teachers the answer to the problem? The end does not justify the means. The potential for accidental gun discharges, weapons falling into the hands of students, and teacher distractions pose additional threats to safety. National surveys found that more than 80% of teachers are opposed to the use of guns in schools. Almost every teacher I spoke with said they would leave the profession if guns were part of their school’s policy and culture. Yes, something must be done to make our schools safer. Arming schools is not the answer. FINAL NOTE: the most chilling news item I found this month reported that back-to-school shopping took a disturbing turn when online suppliers couldn’t keep up with the demand for bulletproof children’s backpacks. Breaks my heart.
KING JAMES FOR EDUCATION SECRETARY?
In a related note, an online petition signed by more than 16,000 people is calling for LeBron James, basketball superstar, to replace Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.
The impetus for this initiative was motivated by James’ fully funding a new public school in Akron, Ohio.
MY TAKE: While LeBron James’ interest in and support of education is truly admirable, he is no more qualified to be the Education Secretary than Mr. Ernst, my grandson’s third-grade teacher, is to be a basketball MVP.
TEACHERS PLEASE APPLY
The United States is facing an education crisis as more teachers leave the profession for other fields, often lured by higher pay. Coincidentally, colleges have witnessed a plunge in the ranks of students majoring in education, leading to a shrinking pipeline of young classroom teachers—23% fewer between 2007-2016. There are a number of reasons for this decline of interest. Perhaps it is for financial reasons. Teachers are earning almost 2% less than they did in 1999 and 5% less than their 2009 pay. We witnessed this by the recent news coverage of teachers going on strike in states such as Kentucky and Oklahoma. But perhaps, the reason goes deeper than that. According to a survey by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, deans of colleges of education said the #1 reason for the enrollment drop was the perception of teaching as an undesirable career.
MY STAND: As a former teacher, I can honestly say that money was never the issue for me. I think I wanted to be a teacher from my first days as a student in elementary school. What fun to plan lessons and activities to motivate students! What a thrill to see the light bulb go off in students’ eyes when you’ve unlocked the world of reading to them! Teaching for me is a vocation, a calling, not just a job. What a privilege and responsibility to lay the foundation of skills for the students’ academic achievement! What an opportunity to further the students’ sense of self-worth and respect for others. Next to parents and family, a teacher has the most profound effect on a child’s development. I would guess that each one of us can remember a teacher who influenced our lives. And who can forget the teachers who sacrificed their own lives to protect those of their students? We need the best for our children. I hope that many will hear and heed the calling.
BILL AND MELINDA GATES: PHILANTHROPISTS EXTRAORDINAIRE
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now funding groups that are working directly with clusters of public schools in some of the most impoverished regions of the country. The foundation announced the first round of nearly $100 million for 19 program initiatives for middle and high schools in poor communities across 13 states. The Gates’ pledged $460 million over the next five years. Up until 2018, Bill and Melinda Gates have granted almost $3 BILLION to educational objectives.
TIDBITS FROM ED PUB BIZ
- Reach Capital, one of the most active venture capital firms in schools, has launched a new $82 million fund that is putting a priority on backing companies that are delivering information directly to parents about schools, lessons, and child development—consumer-facing products.
- Adjusted revenue for Cengage’s Learning segment—higher education and school sales—declined 2.2% in the company first fiscal quarter.
- McGraw-Hill Education K-12 revenue declined in both the quarter (down 16.5%–$172.7 million) and the half-year (down 11.9%–$237.4 million). MHE attributes the loss to the decline in adoption sales, particularly in California’s English language arts adoption and a cyclically smaller overall adoption opportunity.
- In what Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) calls a “trough year” in the Pre-K-12 school market—or a low point in the instructional materials adoption cycle—the company’s Education segment kept its revenue decline in the low single digits (down 2.5% to $339.5 million) in the second quarter and down 2.5% to $522.5 million in the half-year period.
STRICTLY PERSONAL –PASS IT ON!
One of the great passions in my life is reading. I just love a good book! One of the great biases in my life is that the book has to be a printed book –preferably hardcover. I am committed to the survival of the printed book! As a result of this passion and bias, my home is overflowing with books. So, I have started in the last few years to give some of my books away to people I thought would enjoy them.
And I remembered as a young child going to the public library to take out the maximum number of books allowed (10, I think it was) and carrying them to the librarian to check out. In those olden days, there was a card inside of each book where you could see the names of those who had checked it out before and the date it was taken out. It was so much fun for me to read the names and sometimes find out that a previous reader was someone I knew—and what date the book was first checked out. So this is how I’m reviving that old tradition and at the same time sharing my own books. When I send one of my books to a friend I paste a label on the inside front cover, asking the reader to fill in the following information: name (or initials) city, state, country, and the date it was read. In turn, if that reader so chooses, he or she sends the book to someone else, asking them to fill in the same information and then send it on to someone else. And so on. I think it would be fun to see how far each book travels over time and space.
Writing this now, it seems kind of corny to me—but that won’t stop me from doing it. If you agree, Pass It On!
THOUGHTS ON THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR
I was always excited as a student and later as a teacher when September rolled around, and we looked forward to the beginning of another school year. We were thrilled to think about what wonderful things were in store for us, and for most of us, realized how much we missed school over the summer. How prevalent is the same sense of innocent anticipation in the school halls this year in light of the increasing concern over school safety? The little ones still feel it. My 6-year-old granddaughter had her back-to-school outfit ready by July 1st. I applaud the teachers and parents who suppress any apprehension they might feel and keep a positive attitude in spite of it. My wish is for everyone to have a successful and safe new school year.
I look forward to commenting on all the good things happening in this new school year.