Getting schooled

first_imgAs the dark clouds over the nation’s economic future appear to be lifting, critics say the United States still needs to address a number of deeply rooted challenges to remain a leading business force on the world stage. Among the most stubborn perceived roadblocks to sustained prosperity are the country’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure, a shortfall of workers with crucial 21st-century skills, and an underperforming K-12 public education system, according to recent research from Harvard Business School (HBS).Nearly 2,000 (1,947) HBS alumni surveyed for the “U.S. Competitiveness Project” labeled the nation’s K-12 public education system the weakest of 17 components deemed vital to the country’s long-term competitiveness, such as entrepreneurship, capital markets, and the tax code.The project, co-authored by Michael E. Porter, the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, and Jan Rivkin, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration, and published in September, is an expansive, yearly effort by HBS to identify and evaluate the ways the business community engages in key arenas that may contribute to — or undermine — the interests of American businesses and citizens.The country’s K-12 education system lags globally as students fall further behind in literacy and numeracy rates. While the nation ranks fifth in per-pupil secondary school spending, American students rank an estimated 17th in reading, 27th in math, and 20th in science achievement, compared with peer nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) such as Japan, Canada, and Finland, the research says.“No one has to be convinced this is a critical problem, but there’s a lack of urgency in this country,” said Allen Grossman, a senior fellow and retired M.B.A. Class of 1957 Professor of Management Practice at HBS who led the project’s education research.“A lot of people say it’s money, and there are certainly instances of money being the key need. But we’ve actually increased our total spending on public education in the last 30 years by 100 percent in real dollars, and what we noticed is that there’s some but very little correlation between high performance and more money,” he said. “So it’s how the money is spent.”Grossman launched a joint venture between HBS and the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) called the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) in 2000 that helped inform this new research. He said this is the first time that the effectiveness of business/K-12 education partnerships has been formally studied.The lack of data measuring the quantity and quality of business’ engagement with K-12 education is a major barrier to improving and expanding such efforts, said Grossman. “We could not find virtually anything. Even when we tried to determine what is the … amount business gives away annually to education, we couldn’t find a precise number. No one had any idea.”Grossman hopes the report will form a baseline for future analyses that HBS and other research outlets can build upon.Among the findings:Business support for K-12 education is often shallow, fragmented, and dominated by “checkbook philanthropy.” While the 1,100 school superintendents polled said they liked the idea of the business community being involved in K-12 education, very few had ever measured whether such partnerships were successful. In most cases, they were not. Superintendents were frustrated by some of the approaches, noting that business leaders were often misinformed or under-informed about the actual complexity and scope of challenges facing K-12 education.center_img HBS alumni and superintendents held starkly different views of what the challenges are and how optimistic the nation should be about where K-12 education is headed, with businesspeople expressing far greater pessimism than superintendents.“The findings suggest that there is great untapped potential in the alliance between educators and business leaders. But tapping that potential will require a concerted and coordinated effort, especially to build a mutual understanding and trust between the two sectors,” the report concludes.Graphic by John McCarthy and Christina Pazzanese/Harvard StaffGrossman said the report’s reception from both business and education leaders has been “astoundingly positive” so far. For the business community, by quantifying what business is doing around K-12 public education and evaluating what works and what doesn’t, the report offers reassurance that there are valuable ways to be involved. As for educators, “They are just delighted HBS [is saying] ‘It’s urgent; it’s not ancillary to the welfare of American business; it’s key.’ So by our saying that, with the platform of Harvard, that’s important,” he said. “If not Harvard Business School, who’s going to attack this?”No silver bulletsBecause business leaders often have enormous resources and significant political capital, they can and should play a leading role in helping reform K-12 public education, the study suggested, identifying three areas where business can be particularly useful and effective.First, business can be a credible public advocate for the urgency of education reform. Second, it can use its “franchising” talents to help educators scale up effective programs across districts, states, or even the country. “That’s how you grow your business, but school districts don’t usually have the skill set,” said Grossman.Lastly, business can best contribute by supporting new initiatives like “Cradle to Career” or “Collective Impact” that are now underway in nearly 60 U.S. cities and that take a holistic approach to address outside-the-classroom factors that weigh on student performance, such as social and emotional difficulties, medical issues, and hunger. “You have all of these issues, and then we’re saying to the schools, ‘You solve it,’” said Grossman. “It’s pretty impossible for them to do so. Some of them are making good progress, but it’s still very difficult.”Businesspeople can also help by offering strategy and expertise to educators in areas like marketing and communications, data analytics, and leadership and motivation. While not every facet of business transfers to the education sector, many of the core concepts are valid and applicable.“I think the key is it has to be a real partnership between business and the school district,” said Grossman. “If business comes in with, ‘You know, you’re really hopelessly broken and let me tell you how to do it,’ it’s not going to fly.”Monica Higgins, M.A.’95, Ph.D. ’95, the Kathleen McCartney Professor in Education Leadership at HGSE, agrees, adding that businesspeople need to better understand the unique confines under which K-12 educators operate. “It’s a much more complicated sector than perhaps meets the eye,” she said.“You can’t choose your customer in K-12,” said Higgins, an M.B.A. who taught at HBS for 11 years before moving to HGSE in 2007. She helped in the early framing of issues for the research, but did not work on the report. “That means that some of the traditional business models don’t apply.”Another difference that makes partnerships more difficult is “leadership in education is about exercising influence without formal authority all the time. In K-12, because you have so many local stakeholders and constituencies: parents, school boards, site councils, local politics, etc.,” it’s much harder to reorganize because education leaders don’t have the power to implement sweeping changes on their own, said Higgins.Even when educators identify beneficial reforms or programs, it’s difficult to implement them in other districts or to get them to work as well under different conditions. “Education is a local market business. You have different laws and regulations, different processes for hiring and firing principals. It’s very locally driven,” she said.“With those three differences, I don’t mean to say that business shouldn’t be involved, I just say it’s an opportunity for us to be much more thoughtful about how we collaborate, and I think that level of understanding, or lack thereof, came out in the report,” said Higgins.Getting business to design and implement new education infrastructures to help systems such as staffing and purchasing operate more effectively is one promising area of collaboration, Higgins says. “I know that it’s appealing to get very close to the kids and read to them and come in and do a service day … but there are all sorts of very interesting organization and management possibilities for solutions so that business … could actually be quite helpful,” she said. “Because we have to change the way we teach and learn, the systems supporting it have to change, too.”Grossman conceded the naturally incremental pace of change in education is a barrier to greater participation by the business community. “This, like any major shift in public education, is long-term, hard work. And that’s part of the frustration of it” for the business community, he said. “Businesses like to come in, have a plan, a strategy, implement, and, if not a quick” turnaround, then at least a moderate one, “not 20 years. They don’t think in time frames like that. They can’t. They’re fired if they’re thinking in those time frames.”Despite such barriers, Grossman said that significant student progress in cities like Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Buffalo, N.Y., where business and K-12 educators are working closely, gives him reason to believe that meaningful change nationally is possible.“I’ve been in this field now for 20 years looking at public education, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as optimistic as I am today. I doubt I’m going to be around long enough to see the major changes, but I think our kids and grandchildren will.”last_img read more

Panelists stress value of Holocaust accounts

first_imgExperts discussed the significance and incomprehensibility of the horrors of the Holocaust  in modern day studies Thursday in Doheny Memorial Library.History · Panelist Stephen Smith discusses the value of learning from the stories of Holocaust survivors Thursday in the Doheny Memorial Library. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanThe panel discussion, hosted by the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study and the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute was moderated by the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society in Annenberg Martin Kaplan.The time of the panel was particularly appropriate as Sunday night begins the 24-hour period of Yom HaShoah, the day each year among Jewish people remember the Holocaust.The panel elaborated on the prevailing relevancy of the Holocaust 68 years later.“The idea now behind genocide studies isn’t just descriptive, but prescriptive,” Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni said. “The enormity of what happened during the Holocaust — the chilling efficiency, the numbers involved — allows it to be an important template and window to understand genocide broadly conceived.”The panelists agreed that the survivor testimonies are vital to the way we understand the Shoah and all its aspects. To date, the Shoah Foundation has collected nearly 52,000 survivor testimonies.Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education Executive Director Stephen D. Smith emphasized the value of each individual’s story.“What you notice when you look at them one at a time is that they’re all different,” Smith said. “So, we’re all quite eager to find, ‘What’s the trope here? What’s the single narrative that we’re going to feel comfortable living with the next few hundred years?’ And the answer is, if we do find one, it’s going to be the wrong one, because the answer is found in the granularity of the individualities.”One of the most captivating moments of the panel discussion revolved around the Shoah as not just a collection of historical narratives but one that is living.“The Holocaust is also about us. It’s not just that we can essentialize as something evil that isn’t human, that isn’t relevant, that isn’t about us,” Soni said. “Storytelling gives us a powerful window to understand the Holocaust from the perspective of the victims, but I also think that we have the opportunity to tell new stories about ourselves and about the world.”Soni compared the importance of learning history to the efforts being made by students on campus to understand modern-day issues.“What I see on our college campus is students who are telling stories of reconciliation and engagement,” Soni said. “I’ve seen students who advocate for Israel and for Palestine come together and think constructively about how they can work together on certain issues.”Soni said the lessons learned from telling the stories of individuals in the Holocaust could influence the way people choose to tell the stories about humanity today.“I think this is an incredible opportunity for students, for the university in a global diasporic context, to really tell new stories about ourselves — to tell new stories about the world,” Soni said. “It’s not just stories from a historical perspective, but the way we tell stories about ourselves today.”Luke Phillips, a freshman majoring in international relations and history, said the event highlighted the importance of viewing the Holocaust from a different moral and narrative perspective.“The main reason I came here was to get a different moral version than what I’ve heard from mass media,” Phillips said. “It brings to my mind the question of [whether this] is the greatest evil ever perpetrated, objectively, or is this really a thing of the times — that every age has its own atrocities?”last_img read more

China runners brave gawps, pollution and deadly driving

first_imgShe explained: “It makes me feel so proud of myself because I can do what they can’t.”– Lifestyle choice –At the Running Cat gym in Shanghai, coach Xu Yun is helping people improve their technique.The 31-year-old agrees the sport has become “cool”, but also says growing numbers of young professionals want to sprint off the stresses of a hard day at the office.China’s communist government supports the craze because it encourages healthier lifestyles, said Thomas Loeffler, chief financial officer for greater China of Messe Muenchen Shanghai.Loeffler, whose German company organises sports trade shows, said it was more about lifestyle than health and not merely a fad.“China’s middle class is becoming bigger and bigger and people can afford certain hobbies,” he said.“Running is something that at the beginning was seen as a sport that can be done by everyone, but from studies we can see that people spend a lot of money on running shoes, clothes, bottles and wearable technology.”Sales in China of sports apparel are booming and Nielsen, the trend tracker, said last year that the average expenditure of Chinese runners is 3,601 yuan (more than $500).In China “a marathon is more like a fashion show”, Nielsen said, adding that 86 percent of marathon runners in the country are men, but women are increasingly participating.Runners in China tend to be well educated and often hold senior positions in the workplace, said Loeffler.And if they don’t, running might help: “Competition for jobs and universities is so high that people want to stand out of the crowd.“Being a runner you have a chance to be different, to standout and achieve something that not everybody can achieve.”RELATED VIDEO:Share on: WhatsApp A group of elderly Chinese joggers along a deserted motorway.Shanghai, China | AFP | A group of elderly Chinese joggers are pounding along a deserted motorway when suddenly a taxi ploughs into the back of them, knocking them over like skittles.At least one person was killed and the footage from the eastern province of Shandong went viral on Chinese social media.Thousands die in road accidents every year in China, making the often congested streets a far from ideal place for running.Add to that pollution and punishingly high temperatures at this time of year in many places, and even fanatics might be tempted to hang up their running shoes.But a growing number of young, educated, urban Chinese are shrugging off the hazards to keep fit this way and the number of marathons and running events is mushrooming.Shao Yanna is among a dozen men and women who as a group negotiate the busy streets of downtown Shanghai several evenings a week.“If I don’t run for a long time I don’t feel so good and I will feel down, my emotions will go down and I won’t feel so efficient in my work,” the 29-year-old said, hopping from one foot to the other as her adrenaline surged.Shao, a copywriter, shrugged off a recent Shanghai heatwave that saw temperatures reach a record 40.9 degrees Celsius (105 F).“It’s hot and I will sweat a lot, but it’s fun and not a bad thing. It makes me feel alive and so powerful,” she said, her face glistening with sweat.The air pollution that regularly chokes Chinese cities is another matter, and Shao consults a mobile phone app for a pollution reading before venturing out, training indoors if the measure surges too high.– Odd looks –In 2011 there was just 22 marathons, half-marathons or other running events held in China, according to the state Xinhua news agency.But there will be more than 400 this year, according to the Chinese Athletics Association, and projections are for 800 by 2020.Shao, who began running four years ago and has done more than 10 marathons in China and abroad, says she has witnessed a surge in the number of runners in China: “Running is kind of a fashion thing. If you run, you are fashionable.”Yet for many Chinese, particularly the older generation or those from cities less cosmopolitan than Shanghai, running remains a baffling hobby.Then there are the crowded streets and drivers unaccustomed to runners — as the elderly joggers in Shandong learned to their fate when they were mowed down last month by a preoccupied taxi driver.Shao, who says she gets curious looks when she is running on the streets, is defiant.last_img read more

Navy SEALs cut ties with museum in Fort Pierce over Colin Kaepernick video

first_imgAfter videos reached the internet of dogs attacking a man wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey during a demonstration at a National Navy SEAL Museum, the commander of the Navy SEALs announced the unit will suspend its support of the nonprofit organization.Fort Pierce Navy Museum K-9 Handler Wears Kaepernick Jersey In a email letter obtained by The Associated Press from an anonymous service member, Rear Admiral Collin Green, who heads the Naval Special Warfare Command, said:“Each and every one of us serves to protect our fellow Americans – ALL Americans. Even the perception that our commitment to serving the men and women of this nation is applied unevenly is destructive,”…“We will revisit our relationship with the Museum when I am convinced that they have made the necessary changes to ensure this type of behavior does not happen again.”Museum officials have yet to speak out about the videos.Kaepernick is known for protesting back in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem after Nate Boyer, a former Army special forces soldier who tried out as a long snapper for the Seattle Seahawks, suggested it. The former San Francisco quarterback and other players faced intense backlash. But a number of athletes have started kneeling after national protests broke out in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.last_img read more