American students are way down the international list when it comes to math scores. Why is this? Is there something we could be doing to make learning math a simpler task? Our guests say yes, and have suggestions for kids- and adults- struggling to master mathematics.
Bob Sun, inventor of The 24 Game and First in Math
Jason Wilkes, author, Burn Math Class: And reinvent mathematics for yourself
From the moment a child is born, parents are working to get them off on the best possible foot in everything from sports to academics. We look into how families can best evaluate good pre-kindergarten programs for children, and how those programs can set kids up for success.
Dr. Suzzanne Bouffard, author of The Most Important Year: Pre-Kindergarten and the Future of Our Children
When the first prisons were created years ago, they were found on religious beliefs, and many prisons today still embody religion as central to their operations. While inmates are not required to practice a religion, many of them have benefitted over time from religious programs that are provided in prison. Why were prisons found on religious beliefs? And, what is religion’s role in the prison system today?
Tanya Erzen, author of God In Captivity: The Rise of Faith-Based Prison Ministries in the Age of Mass Incarceration, explains that the first prisons in our country were created by religious reformers who thought that prisons would exhibit more tolerance than the current methods of sanctioning criminals. They hoped that through prayer and reflection criminals could be rehabilitated and would no longer commit crimes. Today, almost all prisons in the United States, state and federal, offer religious programs to their inmates. Erzen explains that in the event that a prison is unable to fund religious programs, they will provide other programs, such as drug addiction and education courses, that are likely to be taught by religious individuals. While the different programs provided do vary, inmates believe these groups have been particularly helpful for them because it allows them to receive an education and gives a sense of meaning to people with longer prison sentences. Prison can be dehumanizing, but providing inmates with religious programs that give them hope can make the daunting aspects of prison a little more bearable.
While these programs are helpful for many inmates, some do not believe that these programs are fair, particularly inmates who are not Christian. While these programs call themselves “faith-based,” most are based off of Christianity. Erzen talks about a prisoner who was Muslim that felt that these groups were his only option to receive an education, so he attended the groups despite having different religious views. Furthermore, these religious programs also endorse favoritism in prisons. Erzen explains another instance in which prisoners who attended church on Sunday were more likely to receive things they needed because the warden was religious. He would attend these services and the inmates could hand him slips of paper with a request, and they knew that by the end of the day this request was being processed. While these flaws within religious programs should be addressed, they do not deter from the overwhelming amount of good that they can create.
Tanya Erzen, author of God in Captivity: The Rise of Faith-Based Prison Ministries in the Age of Mass Incarceration
Today, more than ever, there is an immense amount of pressure put on high school students to attend either an Ivy League or another elite college. When students are not accepted to these kinds of colleges, it is devastating and they often feel that their success in life will be impacted tremendously.
Frank Bruni, columnist for The New York Times and author of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, explains that this idea is just a myth that is perpetuated by the media. He states that if a politician or CEO attended an Ivy League or another elite college, the media will articulate this fact continuously throughout the profile. However, if they attended a smaller college or a state school, this detail is often excluded entirely. By only talking about a limited number of schools in the media, it reinforces the idea that only those who attend those schools will be successful in their future. Another idea that maintains the pretentious importance about the college that a student attends is the belief that people who have important jobs will only hire people who attended the same college as them. Bruni explains that this does happen, but that this should not deter a student from looking into other schools, as well.
However, Bruni does not think that students should completely avoid applying to Ivy League schools or elite schools. He explains that students should not solely rely on them, nor should they be upset if they do not get accepted because schools choose incoming freshman who meet their current needs, whether that is to fulfill a sports team, maintain alumni relations, or increase access to minorities. Furthermore, Joshua Steckel, a counselor at a New York high school and co-author of Hold Fast to Dreams, explains that there are even pitfalls to attending elite colleges if they are not a good fit for the student. These include day-to-day challenges, meeting financial obligations, and, for students of color or low-income students, being excluded by their peers. In order to ensure that a student attends a college that is suitable for their needs, it is important they learn about other options besides Ivy Leagues and elite colleges.
But, in order to encourage students to apply to smaller schools or schools that are not well-known, they need access to the resources to help them find these schools. Steckel explains that access to high school counselors is extremely limited–some schools have 1,000 students assigned to one counselor. Furthermore, he states that a lot of colleges have committed to accepting more low-income students and students of color, but these schools tend to not be well-known. So, many students would benefit from having a counselor to help guide them in finding these schools and through the college application process. But, Bruni explains that no matter what college a student attends, the results of their experience will be based on if they make the most of what the school has to offer. More privileged communities focus too much on getting students into top schools, rather than learning how to make the most of it. Students have the ability to thrive at any school and become successful after graduation, whether they attend an Ivy League or a state school, but what matters most is that they are taught how to.
Frank Bruni, columnist for The New York Times and author of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania
Joshua Steckel, counselor at a New York high school and co-author of Hold Fast to Dreams
Over the years, school budgets have faced detrimental cuts that have forced schools to eliminate programs that are not necessary in meeting state curriculums. In many instances, one of the first programs removed from schools is music education. While music education is not a requirement in many state curriculums, researchers believe that educators may want to rethink this decision because of the many benefits that learning an instrument can have on the development of a child.
While learning how to play an instrument is a good hobby for children to take on, it can actually have many more positive benefits than simply being an activity. Dr. Nina Kraus, Director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, explains that there is evidence that supports the belief that music education can help students become better learners in a number of tasks. Furthermore, Dr. Aniruddh Patel, Professor of Psychology at Tufts University, states that learning a musical instrument can enhance the brain’s ability to process the sounds of speech which can play a role in the development of reading abilities, hearing and noise, and memory and attention. This is caused by a biological effect that music can have on the nervous system, as well as the brain. In one study conducted by Dr. Kraus, it showed that trained musicians were better at interpreting emotional sounds which Dr. Kraus explains is due to aspects of music, such as pitch and timing, having a role in speech, too. Dr. Patel supports this evidence by stating that many people who have taken music education have a larger capacity with some verbal and linguistic tasks.
However, in order to cultivate these different developments, it is not enough to just hear music. Dr. Kraus explains that the biological changes found in studies are more prevalent in individuals who actively participated in playing and creating music. Even a minimal amount of music training has been shown to impact brain development. Dr. Kraus states that less than five years of music education still had an impact on many individuals. In order to obtain the most from music, an individual must embark on the task of learning an instrument instead of just listening to it.
Dr. Nina Kraus, Director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University
Dr. Aniruddh Patel, Professor of Psychology at Tufts University
Due to federal law, all kids are guaranteed the right to an education. But, this education has proven to be limited for students with special needs, especially students with autism. With the increased number of autism diagnoses, it is becoming more important to provide these children with an education that will benefit their future.
With special education, not all students require the same curriculum. Mark Claypool, CEO of ChanceLight Behavioral Health and co-author of How Autism is Reshaping Special Education, explains that students with autism would benefit from much more intensive services that are often applied in behavioral therapy, as well as other services, like speech and language therapy. He further explains that studies show that if you begin working with an autistic child early in their life that it can help the child grow into an independent adult. However, the current structure of school days do not allow for these services to easily fit into a regular school day.
Yet, this should not hinder the education system from working to change their special needs programs. Claypool believes that pursuing a better system is a worthwhile endeavor because special needs education already benefits from teachers who truly want to be there and the inclusivity of these programs. In order to aid autistic children in reaching their full potential, it is important that they are given the opportunity to receive a beneficial education.
Mark Claypool, CEO of ChanceLight Behavioral Health and co-author of How Autism is Reshaping Special Education
The right to an education is guaranteed to all students by federal law. But experts and parents are now wondering if we’re doing enough to help students with autism reach their full potentials.
The Spanish Flu of 1918
We all know about the Bubonic Plague, but fewer of us know very much about the Spanish Flu. Author Susan Meissner’s new novel explores the illness, and she joins the show to discuss the disease itself, how it interacted with World War I, and the immense cost of the sickness.
Culture Crash: Hulu’s Big Push
For years, Netflix has been the top choice for TV streaming enthusiasts. But Hulu has slowly become a more well-rounded service with top-tier original titles and a huge back-log of TV classics.