Tags Posts tagged with "EDUCATION"


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photo courtesy wikimedia

Nancy Fulton
President of the Nebraska State Education Association

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

As an avid bicycle rider, Gov. Peter Ricketts should know that not every child gets the hang of riding a two-wheeler at the same age.

Some children get their balance early and wheel away from home at age three or four. Others take a couple more years to gain the balance and confidence needed to master riding without training wheels.

It is the same with gaining reading skills. Some children read well in first grade. Others, many with lesser advantages at home, take longer to learn to read. Thus, I believe it is wrong for the governor to support a bill, LB651, that would flunk those young children who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade. That is what the governor proposed in his recent article, “Expanding Educational Opportunity (May 2, 2017).

Further, it is wrong for the state to mandate, and not fund, the summer reading camps that LB651 would require for those third graders.

The governor is correct when he says that children who cannot read proficiently by third grade are in danger of dropping out of high school later. He is in correct when he says those children are more likely as adults to be on food stamps, or in prison at some point in their life.

Teachers know reading skills are a key to learning. We also know there is not a shred of evidence that punitive measures are effective.

There are research-based interventions and strategies that have been proven to increase reading achievement – and mandating that a child be held in third grade because he or she has not yet passed a standardized test is not a strategy that works.

What works is reinforcing the importance of reading to children at all levels; providing resources (not the aforementioned unfunded mandates) needed to boost achievement; professional development on multiple strategies for teachers; and less emphasis on testing and more emphasis on teaching.

It means literacy and instructional coaches. It means universal pre-school, which has been shown to level the playing field between students who come to school with a limited vocabulary and those who have an extensive vocabulary when they enter school. Before and after school or “extended learning opportunities” also have been shown to increase reading achievement.

It means real commitment to teaching children to read – not lip service in the form of a bill devoid of resources – that would make that commitment a true value for these children.

Teachers should be encouraged and allowed to focus on the best teaching practices available.

It should be noted that Nebraska fourth graders perform well overall, ranking 10th in the country in the NAEP reading test. That ties Nebraska with Florida.

And by the 9th grade Nebraska readers have climbed to ninth place on the NAEP test, while Florida has fallen to 31st. Care to guess which state flunks third graders based on reading ability? (Yes, it is Florida.)

I urge policymakers to quit the “blame the teachers and their union” game for the failures of society. I urge state lawmakers to work with the educators in the classroom – and to leave the decision regarding whether a child is “held back” a grade up to those who are closest to the situation: the child’s parents, teacher and principal.

Teachers have committed their professional lives to their students and they have solutions to closing the achievement gaps.  They need to be invited to the decision-making table rather than just used as scapegoats for ill-conceived policies.

Trust the teachers. They know what they are doing. They know that learning to read is like learning to ride a bike.

Nancy Fulton is a 34-year teacher (third grade) and currently serves as president of the 28,000-member Nebraska State Education Association.

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Photo Courtesy of nbcnews.com
Photo Courtesy of nbcnews.com

Jessica Wade

Betsy DeVos is a billionaire who has lobbied for the expansion of charter schools and private, religious schools funded by tax payers. That is the extent of DeVos experience with the U.S. education system. She has never attended a public school, her children have never attended public school, she has never held a position in public office and she is now picked to be the Secretary of Education.

Devos’ inexperience was evident during a confirmation hearing last week when Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee grilled her on multiple issues, including sexual assault, child care, tuition and students with disabilities.

Sen. Bernie Sanders went as far as asking DeVos if she believed she would have been nominated for the position had she and her family not made such significant political contributions, about $200 million, in the past.

“As a matter of fact I do think that there would be that possibility,” DeVos said. “I have worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years.”

Inexperienced and arguably unqualified, DeVos found herself in the middle of an issue that has a tradition of sparking heated, partisan debate—the funding of public education.

Many Republicans support DeVos’ activism in making private education more assessable, while many Democrats voice concerns over her support of privatizing public education. The hearing also brought to light a new issue, Devos’ lack of knowledge.

Throughout the four-hour hearing, Devos was asked many questions by the committee and many times she did not have an answer. One such moment was when she was asked a question by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) about an important education debate involving how student progress should be measured. DeVos did not have an answer.

Some other notable moments include when DeVos became confused when asked about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities. As well as the moment DeVos refused to agree that guns should never be allowed on school property.

“I will refer back to Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming,” DeVos said. “I think probably there; I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Democrats are right to be concerned. DeVos’ lack of experience combined with her unwavering support of deterring public education dollars to privatized schools, a policy that lacks significant public support, is not a combination the education system can afford.

Even more concerning is the fact that DeVos is not the only underqualified pick. Ben Carson, nominated as the Housing and Urban development secretary has very little experience in housing and has called public housing social engineering. There’s also Jeff Sessions as the next U.S. Attorney General. Sessions is not entirely supportive of civil rights, he once called the NAACP un-American, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, “communist-inspired.”

DeVos is not alone in her inexperience, but she the first nominee of President Trump to have never completed an ethics review on how she plans to avoid conflicts of interest.

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Photo Courtesy of CNN.com
Photo Courtesy of CNN.com

Eric M. Velander

Velander is a Junior at UNO studying communications and english.

I will be transparent: I am beyond excited for the next eight years under Donald J. Trump and his basket of deplorable.

I will continue my transparency: It was with great trepidation that I typed that declarative sentence. For me, as a citizen and veteran, this intimidation, real or imagined, rings far more problematic than some of the alleged “backward” policies being kicked around on The Hill and in the White House—an amendment to the constitution for example.

I am relatively new to academia, and even newer at branding myself an outspoken centrist and certified conspiracy nut—the truth is out there. Having only been here for two years, I will ask: Has it always been acceptable for faculty and students to “joke,” casually, about the stabbing-death of GOP voters or presidents in the midst of a lesson? What has happened to civil discourse on our campus? Was it ever even here? Has it always been acceptable to minimize and belittle centrist or conservative students with phrases such as “failing grade,” “uneducated white male,” or the kiss of death, “racist xenophobe?”

Note: No, Administrators, I will not name names or even departments, but I assure you these things have happened in front of my eyes in the past 24 months.

Studying journalism kick-started my journey of questioning the academic institution I love, alongside the equally influential journalistic institutions. I was taught to check my sources and check them again. I was taught to be sure, be brief and be objective. I was taught to let the reader decide. I was taught how to influence perception with word choice and timing.

Then I was assured there was a moral high ground when voting left of center, this message propagated with an intimate understanding of Kairos to an ignorant audience—and the illusion dissolved. #FakeNews? #FakeEducation? Was I being played? Indoctrinated?

I don’t have a fix for this type of behavior beyond conscious, free thought. Ideology tests are Orwellian, safe spaces limit speech and I am a free market kind of man. Let the ones who want to teach and learn here do so, unencumbered. However, I have a place here—a voice—we all do.

I believe that every single action we commit, we do with intention, and by direct extension, is political in nature. We study rhetoric, business, biology, we vote and speak and write. So what does that say about Mavericks when these insidious intimidations go unchallenged? What does it say about Mavericks that we allow half of our community to be silenced, belittled, and even threatened on our campus?

To be hypercritical, it transmits the same signal that forced me to quit a certain federal three-letter-agency. It reeks of status quo partisan politics, undermining of free speech, and thought-control, making MKUltra [sic] and Bent Penny look like a practice round in scale and strategy. It communicates the fact that academia has far less academic merit than I want to believe to be true, Lenin salivates in his grave.

Do not misunderstand, I never intended to insult our esteemed faculty and others like them, but instead strive to hold up a filthy mirror to ourselves. To step back and reflect with you upon our society with that mirror, politically and with intention.

Why was Donald J. Trump elected? What does that say about our media? About us? Why do we love or hate him and his voters? Who gave us those ideas? With whom have we discussed those opinions, and did they agree with us? Were we ever challenged in our ideas? Why or why not?

President Donald J. Trump is number 45. There it is. It’s over. It begins.

Now, I challenge the students and faculty of this growing, diverse campus and community to promote critical thought over groupthink and lazy acceptance of someone else’s opinion. I challenge us to promote civil discourse in the name of democracy, in the stead of shunning and hurling of insults and threats toward the “Other.” I challenge us to work for the success of our president.

You elected him, after all. This is your fault.

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Joe Birge

A vast sea of people at the zoo during the day followed by an intimate meeting with students in the evening is a daily experience for Elizabeth Mulkerrin.

As the director of education at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium and an adjunct instructor at UNO, Mulkerrin flirts with her two great loves in life, education and natural sciences.

She found her love for these topics while studying biology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After several semesters of “chasing fish,” she finished with a master of science degree in educational administration. She started teaching biology at Burke High School in 1994, and taught full-time for six years. It wasn’t until she heard the unexpected calling of the Henry Doorly Zoo, when she combined her two great passions.

“The Henry Doorly Zoo and Burke made a partnership to start a ‘high school,’” said Mulkerrin, “The zoo interviewed teachers and they basically said that if they have the program, it’s going to be with Elizabeth. I was asked by the director if I would come over to the dark side of education, which is what he called Informal Science Education.”

In 2000, Mulkerrin broke her contract with Burke to start the education program at the zoo. Students enrolled in Informal Science Education classes at the zoo have the opportunity to get out of the classroom and get their hands dirty. Since becoming the its director of education, Mulkerrin hasn’t been a full-time teacher. Instead, she has satisfied her desire to directly teach students by serving as an adjunct instructor sporadically throughout the years.

“Being an adjunct gives me my student fix, since I don’t teach full-time anymore,” Mulkerrin said with a sparkle in her eye, “When I teach in the evenings, I still get to be with students. They are like really big kids.”

Currently, Mulkerrin teaches one class. This fall is her second semester teaching Trends and Strategies in Science Education, which is a master’s course in the education program. She uses the class to help students understand and analyze trends in education throughout the United States.

Mulkerrin describes her class curriculum as: “Keeping up with what’s new and what’s different with teachers’ ideas about teaching in the classroom. We also go over how to use resources in our communities, so we go on field trips to different corporations to show how they can integrate it.”

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Shudi Peng

I’ve been in America for 4 years and I found there are interesting forms of communication for both Americans and Chinese. Americans tend to be direct, though sometimes tactful; they usually openly express how they feel, whereas a Chinese person tends to reflect before saying something.

After living in America for a few years, my communication pattern has changed. Most Chinese people who’ve had American speech exposure prefer to say things directly. I don’t know if that is necessarily a good thing. Sometimes I like to say something directly but be a little bit tactful. If a person is too direct with me, I may feel angry on the inside without reflecting my feelings on the outside. For example, if someone says something negative to me, I would show no physical emotion but be upset internally.

I once met a female who told me a story about her friend who was a little chubby. Being robust is okay among Americans. However, her friend went to India and it was not accepted as most Indian girls are slender. So when she explored India, people would ask her, “Why are you so fat?” What they said was really hurtful. I don’t like how people can be so direct it could hurt a person. Even though it’s good to be honest, considering other people’s feelings is important.

It’s really hard to say which spoken ways are better – being direct or indirect. For me, a Chinese young woman, I like to say things directly and think directly. Even though sometimes I am reflective, my directness is influenced by my American friends, which is not a bad thing.

So why do Americans and Chinese people communicate differently? I think there are two reasons:

Chinese have thousands of years of culture, and have experienced several dynasties. During these dynasties, people wanted to obtain more power so they had to say things tactfully. For example, when a person wanted to be promoted by an emperor but keep the respect of the people, he would first see what the Emperor thought. Communication was a way to hint to the Emperor whether a person was befitting of such a promotion. During such conversations with the Emperor, people would talk about topics that didn’t seem to be connected. Depending on what was said, the person observed the Emperor’s face to see his reaction.

Photo Courtesy of vergecampus.com
Photo Courtesy of vergecampus.com

Americans, however, have a mere two hundred years of established culture. The country’s conflicts have been relatively few compared with the Chinese. It seems like most Americans do not care about power struggles or politics of the past or present. Whereas, Chinese people prioritize all things political not to just be informed but also understand why some have political power. The big difference between these two countries made them have a different spoken style.

When Chinese people are little children, they were taught by their parents and teachers to observe people’s words and gestures; to examine words and moods for a clue as to people’s thoughts. As they grow up, they have to study a lot, or they will get fired, and will not be favored by other people.

In American culture, it’s different. They are taught to say words directly when they are young. So when they grow up, they could express clearly how they like or dislike something. This is also why America’s relationship networking is simplified, while Chinese people’s network is complex.

If an American person dislikes another person, he or she will cut off the communication with that person. The relationship, in essence, dies. For the Chinese, however, when there is conflict people still communicate and keep a relationship going out of respect and a mutual understanding that relationships are valued and important depending on a person’s worth.

Different countries communicate differently. It’s not about being right or wrong, but instead about understanding that culture gaps exist and the benefits of understanding one another is invaluable.

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Jared Kennedy

The University of Nebraska at Omaha Pre-Health Professionals Club has developed an new initiative called the Future Healthcare Professionals of Nebraska. FHPN reaches out to high schools across the state of Nebraska with the goal of providing aspiring and promising high school students with information about pursuing careers in healthcare.

UNO senior Seif Nasir is the president of the PreHealth Professionals Club. He says FHPN has already given presentations at local high schools and rural towns.

“The organization does this [provides information to high school students] by giving talks and providing online resources to high school students across the state,” Nasir said.

Nasir said as president of the club he is in charge of making sure premed students have access to professionals in the medical field.

“My job is to organize talks and activities with healthcare professionals for pre-health students at UNO to attend,” Nasir said. “For example, we invite doctors to come and talk to pre medical students about careers in medicine, or doctors of physical therapy to come and talk to students who want to pursue a career in physical therapy.

Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu
Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu

According to census data, Nebraska is a rural state with a population quickly approaching 2 million people. Nasir said although Omaha is by far the most populated city in the state, a substantial portion of Nebraska’s population lives in rural cities and towns such as Beatrice, Milford, Imperial, Fairbury, and Friend, among many others.

“Many of these rural cities and towns have only indirect access to, and are in need of, healthcare professionals, and history has revealed that big-city-trained physicians are unlikely to decide to practice medicine in rural towns and villages,” Nasir said. “Thus, for these smaller cities, the best hopes for gaining access to a well-educated physician or healthcare professional is having a member of their own community undergo training and eventually return to their city to practice medicine among their fellow citizens.”

Nasir said the initiative is still in its early stages and the organization is actively seeking volunteers who would be interested in giving talks for and providing efforts towards the initiative.

“Ultimately, the Future Healthcare Professionals of Nebraska would like to expand their program to include other clubs and organizations on campus for the purposes of advertising, technology, and brand design,” Nasir said.

For more information about the club, and to find out how to get involved visit their website at nebraskaprehealth.com, or contact Nasir at snasir@unomaha.edu or unoprehealth@gmail.com.

Nasir said talks have been delivered in Omaha and in Fairbury with more to come.

“I am working to expand the scope of our group,” Nasir said.

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By Jared Kennedy
News Editor

There was a time when going to college meant sure employment. One who had a bachelor’s degree used to be a standout, and the four-year degree they obtained said much about their caliber.

Those days are over.

The upward trend of education ushers in a new standard for students in standing out to potential employers. Students now have to find a new way to stand out in the job market.

Sean Dunphy holds a doctorate of education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He says good communication skills can vastly improve a students likelihood of finding work after graduation.

“Standing out, to me as an employer, has always been a function of engaging demeanor, energy, communication skills and more of the “soft skills” of interpersonal interactions,” Dunphy said.

A question surrounding this shift is, “what means more, education or experience?”

Dunphy says an individual who can speak from a place of experience will have a definite leg up on anyone who only has a formal education. That being said, he maintains that communication skills can set people apart and act as a deciding factor for selecting job candidates.

“Being able to concisely answer questions, succinctly tell a compelling story, and balance a conversation by asking good questions in addition to having good responses has always made a candidate strong – regardless of other experience, training, degrees, or expertise,” Dunphy said.

With higher education now being the standard, students now have little choice but to place themselves in debt in order to get meet the required level of schooling.

UNO Environmental Health and Safety Officer Tyler Davis holds multiple master’s degrees and is in the process of earning a doctorate from UNO. Davis says the current situation with student loan debt is a crisis in the United States.“

There’s not enough focus on personal finance” Davis said. “People don’t know what they are getting themselves into when they borrow money.”

Davis stresses the importance of students seeking out financial aid and informing themselves on how to properly manage their finances. He says having a strategic plan with one’s education is key.

Dunphy says where a student goes to college is not of much consequence, and seeking out a less expensive college is key.  

“I think the most economical path to a credential is always the best,”Dunphy said. “No one really cares whether it’s from “University of Stuck ups” or “South side College.”

Dunphy emphasizes that making connections and networking will benefit an employee and make them more desirable to employers.

“Until the industry acknowledges that degrees don’t make the employee, we’ll all still have to play the game, But that’s what it is – a game,” Dunphy said.

Andy Walters is the associate principle at Avoca High School in Iowa. He is also in the process of receiving his doctorate in education. He says one of the best things a student can do is get a bachelors degree, work in their field, and then come back later for more education.

“A lot of the education a person receives is through doing the work they are looking to do,” Walters said. “By going to school the second time after gaining experience you know what questions to ask, and you know what your deficiencies are that need to be met through higher education.”

Dunphy says that performing duties with conviction and passion is the quintessential behavior of a good and hirable employee.

“When people are driven by their own internal motivation, they stand out as great employees and add to the culture of their workplace,” Dunphy said.

Walters says going forward there will continue to be an increased emphasis on education, a notion Dunphy agrees with, but sees no direct reason for such a shift.

“Uncertainty and the perceived security of having more options as a result of more education could be a major contributor,” Dunphy said. “Traditional wisdom could be driving more to seek degrees.”

The encompassing advice from all three professionals is to work hard and maintain a culture of excellence within oneself. With more students seeking higher education than ever before, it conversely takes more effort and attention for the best students to be recognized.

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Jared Kennedy

News Editor

In the days of a massive blue-collar workforce and a small percentage of Americans seeking higher education, a bachelor’s degree meant guaranteed employment. In the last 10 to 20 years however, high school graduation rates are rising and college enrollment has followed suit–resulting in a fundamental shift for what means guaranteed employment in our workforce.

The steady rise of college seeking high school graduates hit a peak in 2009 with more than 70 percent of said demographic enrolling in secondary education. This would perhaps be of little consequence in a socialist economy where students do not have to pay for college, but in the United States this simply means gravy for student loan services and practically unavoidable debt for students.

According to an article on the George Town University website, by 2020–65 percent of all jobs in our economy will require post-secondary education and training beyond high school.

The bachelor’s degree has now become the new high school diploma, and a master’s degree is now what sets the potentially employed apart from the pack. This is the perception we have now reached. This fundamental shift is not just within the socially constructed norms of who should seek education and how much education they should seek, but as indicated by the facts, graduate level education has become needed in order to facilitate higher employment and job security.

Jobs in blue-collar fields used to be what was left for students who didn’t go to college. As time has passed however, it has become more necessary for those workers to attend trade school, technical school, or make up for lack of education with whatever work experience they can attain. Some factory jobs that could previously be attended by workers without even a high school diploma or GED now tend to require post-secondary education of some nature.

Higher education enrollment as a whole is positive, and raised post-graduate enrollment is in fact, one of the most positive aspects in this shift. Often when students begin post-secondary education they don’t know what they want to do. This sometimes results in students getting degrees in fields they do not feel passionate about.

Graduate education offers students a second chance at finding their true passion and becoming well educated in it, devoid of menial classes that aren’t involved with said field of study. Many masters programs also offer stipends that cover much, or all of the costs for program participants.

The rising cost of education is combated with its increased need. On one hand, young people who value staying out of debt may want to opt out of col-lege. On the other, opting out of college comes with a laundry list of negative by products. This means young people are systematically driven into the tragedy of financial debt.

The shift in American higher education may very well outline the importance of an accompanying shift in the way students pay for, or don’t pay for, college. As it is, the average college student graduates with more than 10,000 dollars in student loan debt. This is a great business model for maintaining the credit system, and helps keep Americans addicted to a flawed and romantic, albeit disgusting, mentality of paying for things with money they don’t have.