The Killing of the Liberal Arts

JOSEPH EPSTEIN In a loose definition, the “liberal arts” denote college study anchored in preponderantly Western literature, philosophy, and history, with science, mathematics, and foreign languages playing a substantial, though less central, role; in more recent times, the social science subjects—psychology, sociology, political science—have also sometimes been included. The liberal arts have always been distinguished … Continue reading

The intelligent textbook

Want to know more about your subject? Type in your own question and artificially intelligent software will construct a new page to answer your query Michael Reilly The aim of Inquire is to provide students with the world’s first intelligent textbook, says its creator David Gunning of Seattle-based Vulcan. At first glance, the system just … Continue reading

The spectre of plagiarism

A spectre is haunting Europe, and this time it is the spectre of plagiarism and scientific misconduct. Some high-profile politicians have had to resign in the last 18 months – but the revelations are also shaking respected European universities. Debora Weber-Wulff Many European countries, especially Germany, have long considered it unnecessary to give plagiarism more … Continue reading

Teaching and Students

CHARLES KENNY The bad news is that many of the billion-plus kids in school today aren’t learning very much. In fact, in public schools in the developing world, many are learning close to nothing — many kids leave school unable to read or do simple sums. If we’re going to convert more kids in class … Continue reading

New Free Courses May Threaten Traditional Model

Jeffrey R. Young The recent announcement that Massachusetts Institute of Technology would give certificates around free online course materials has fueled further debate about whether employers may soon welcome new kinds of low-cost credentials. Questions remain about how MIT’s new service will work, and what it means for traditional college programs. … Read More>>

MIT launching certificate program based on OpenCourseWare, open source platform

John Timmer A decade after MIT began to put its teaching materials and lectures online via the OpenCourseWare platform, the university has announced that it will leverage these materials to provide an online certification program, currently termed MITx. Although these certificates won’t have the same weight as an MIT degree, they will indicate mastery of … Continue reading

The Extraordinary Syllabus of David Foster Wallace

What his lesson plans teach us about how to live. Katie Roiphe Lately David Foster Wallace seems to be in the air: Is his style still influencing bloggers? Is Jeffrey Eugenides’ bandana-wearing depressed character in The Marriage Plot based on him? My own reasons for thinking about him are less high-flown. Like lots of other … Continue reading

America Needs Broadly Educated Citizens, Even Anthropologists

The president of Arizona State University explains why Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s emphasis on practical education is short-sighted. Michael M. Crow Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for reductions in state appropriations for particular academic disciplines so that public universities can focus resources on producing graduates in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. … Continue reading

To protect baby’s brain, turn off the TV

Brandon Keim, A decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that parents limit TV consumption by children under two years of age. The recommendations were based as much on common sense as science, because studies of media consumption and infant development were themselves in their infancy. The research has finally grown up. And … Continue reading

Teacher Sets Herself on Fire in Front of Students

Woman’s self-immolation follows confrontation with rowdy pupils in southern France. Abby Ohlheiser (An emergency vehicle is parked on October 13, 2011 in front of Jean Moulin high school in Beziers, southern France, after a depressed French maths teacher set herself on fire in the high school playground.) Photo by Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images. A 44-year-old math … Continue reading

Still Waiting for Superman

Dave Eggers and Matt Damon’s American Teacher is almost as flawed as last year’s big school reform movie. Dana Goldstein What is it with documentaries offering silver bullet solutions for the woes of the American public education system? Last September, the big school reform movie was Waiting for Superman, which posited that the proliferation of … Continue reading

Should Kids Spend More Time at School?

KJ Dell’Antonia What if your kids went to school Dolly Parton style, 9 to 5? Besides gaining the opportunity to rewrite that particular earworm of a song for the school’s talent show, the theory goes, they’d learn more. Have more time for enriching after-school activities at school, instead of requiring a parent to drive them … Continue reading

Every Child Is A Scientist

Jonah Lehrer Pablo Picasso once declared: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Well, something similar can be said about scientists. According to a new study in Cognition led by Claire Cook at MIT, every child is a natural scientist. The problem is how to … Continue reading

Permanent Record

How I Found the Report Cards, and How They Changed My Life Paul Lukas Meet Marie Garaventa. What you see above is the front of her report card from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls, a vocational school she attended in the late 1920s, after she had finished the eighth grade. As you can see, … Continue reading

Preschool Funding for Kids Now Pays Off Billions Later

Katherine Harmon  Sending kids to preschool has been shown to be a strong investment that can pay off big time down the road. There are few sure investments in this chaotic economic climate, but on a national level, education has proven to pay off big down the road. As tight economic times have put the … Continue reading

Can You Pass Harvard’s 1869 Entrance Exam? (We Bet Not)

Cord Jefferson A New York Times education blogger recently uploaded to the web an 1869 Harvard entrance exam (PDF) in a post reminiscing on the days when college was "a buyer’s bazaar." Long before attending college was a cutthroat affair, so eager was Harvard to get qualified applicants that it would boast in its ads … Continue reading


What will Suri Cruise learn at her Scientology-influenced school? Brian Palmer Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise, who has begun attending a Scientology-influenced schoolSuri Cruise attended her first day of school last week. The daughter of the world’s most famous Scientologist matriculated at the New Village Leadership Academy in Calabasas, California, which employs educational methods developed … Continue reading

Trust Issues

Paul Collins Hartwick College didn’t really mean to annihilate the U.S. economy. A small liberal-arts school in the Catskills, Hartwick is the kind of sleepy institution that local worthies were in the habit of founding back in the 1790s; it counts a former ambassador to Belize among its more prominent alumni, and placidly reclines in … Continue reading

Try Again

Why the Poets & Writers MFA rankings are a sham. Scott Kenemore Is Poets & Writers trying to shame Columbia into lowering its tuition? Poets & Writers has just released its 2012 rankings of creative writing MFA programs. Year after year, their ranking of Columbia University—my alma mater—has steadily fallen. I can remember when it … Continue reading

Portal is used to teach science

as Valve gives game away for limited time Ben Kuchera Portal is one of the rare games that can change the way we think about the world, how we view the physical space around us. Valve is now offering the first Portal title for free, provided that you download a copy of the program for … Continue reading

Party Hard, Study Harder

The stakes are getting higher for U.S. college students in programs abroad—and it’s not just about going wild overseas. Nick Summers “In every study-abroad program, you’re going to find students who just want to drink and sleep around,” says Jonah Newman, a senior at Northwestern. “But people traveling to the Middle East, to parts of … Continue reading

PHD Comics Movie

providing an inside view of science Kunio M. Sayanagi Earlier this year, graduate students suddenly found themselves deprived of a major source of procrastination when updates of the Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD) Comics suddenly reduced to trickles. The hiatus led to a widespread speculation that Jorge Cham, the creator of the comics, fell victim … Continue reading

SpongeBob Found to Impair Preschoolers’ Thinking

Matt Blum Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants! Rot your kids’ brains right there in their heads will he. SpongeBob SquarePants! There’s a lot of hullabaloo on the web today about a newly-published study out of the University of Virginia that shows that preschoolers who watched SpongeBob SquarePants had increased difficulty … Continue reading

Why Can’t American Students Compete?

Twice as many students in Singapore are proficient in math as in the United States. (Even ‘brainy’ Massachusetts lags behind Liechtenstein.) “We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time,” President Obama said in his State of the Union address this year. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and outbuild … Continue reading

David Protess v/s Medill

“To see the most celebrated faculty member on a prestigious journalism faculty in a great university come to this kind of nasty parting with his institution—for a lot of us on the inside, it remains something of a mystery,” says a former colleague. Bryan Smith UPDATE (9/7/2011): This morning, Judge Diane Cannon of the Cook … Continue reading

Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?

Mark Edmundson A message in a bottle to the incoming class. Welcome and congratulations: Getting to the first day of college is a major achievement. You’re to be commended, and not just you, but the parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who helped get you here. It’s been said that raising a child effectively takes a … Continue reading

Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age

Cathy N. Davidson Five or six years ago, I attended a lecture on the science of attention. A philosopher who conducts research over in the medical school was talking about attention blindness, the basic feature of the human brain that, when we concentrate intensely on one task, causes us to miss just about everything else. … Continue reading

Meet the Glamorous Celebrity Tutors of Hong Kong

Brutal exams go down easier when your teacher looks like a pop star. Hillary Brenhouse It’s a Saturday evening, and 45 teenagers have gathered here to watch Richard Eng perform. Some days he’ll play to three or four times as many kids, his high cheekbones and bright teeth projected on flat-screen TVs. Tonight, the bangs … Continue reading

Free schools: for and against

“Free schools” are privately run but charge no fees. The first opens this month: will they raise standards? Rachel Wolf and Melissa Benn Education minister Michael Gove champions free schools Melissa Benn: You and your colleagues promote free schools as a means to provide a rigorous education for poor children in a grossly unequal educational … Continue reading

The Loss of Excellence: Starting Over

Madeleine Li Just before I left for my campus visit in July of 2009, I called my mother to give her the good news: I was on the shortlist for a new tenure-track position. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope that I would not have to go back to my old department for the … Continue reading

College Rape Accusations and the Presumption of Male Guilt

Pressured by the Obama administration, universities abandon any pretense of due process in sexual assault cases. PETER BERKOWITZ Late August and early September bring recent high school graduates, bright and eager, to campuses around the country. Carefully planned orientation sessions will impress upon freshmen the paramount importance of sensitivity, of avoiding offensive words and ideas, … Continue reading

Science Education Challenge

Popular Science and InnoCentive invite readers to invent a better way to teach science Jacob Ward PopSci Innovation Challenge Graham Murdoch It’s time to get the next generation of scientists thinking about what’s important, and you can help. Below are five education challenges chosen by the editors of Popular Science in partnership with InnoCentive, an … Continue reading

Science education requires overcoming childhood understanding

John Timmer It’s not a secret that the general population hangs on to no end of non-scientific beliefs despite contrary evidence; the Nobel Intent forums have been visited by proponents of homeopathy and intelligent design, to give just two examples. Two developmental psychologists at Yale are now suggesting these and many other non-scientific beliefs—their list … Continue reading

College upperclassmen still fail at scientific reasoning

John Timmer Most of us develop a sort of intuitive logic about how the natural world works. Unfortunately, a lot of that informal reasoning turns out to be wrong, which complicates scientific education. But as students make their way through the science education pipeline, they should gradually start moving beyond the informal reasoning of their … Continue reading

RCMP spied on noted literary scholar Northrop Frye

Northrop Frye is shown in an undated photo. (Bill Becker / THE CANADIAN PRESS) The Canadian Press OTTAWA — Canada’s intelligence service spied on renowned literary scholar Northrop Frye, closely eyeing his involvement in the anti-Vietnam War movement, an academic forum on China and efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. Newly released archival records … Continue reading

God Is in the Basement of the Empire State Building

Dinesh D’Souza, the new president of the city’s only Evangelical college, wants to build a “Christian A-team.” But can the man who says Obama supports radical Muslims persuade students to follow him? Andrew Marantz Scenes from the King’s College midtown campus, with Dinesh D’Souza at the center.   (Photo: Brian Finke) Each spring, the King’s College, … Continue reading

South Korea’s pupils to go paperless by 2015

THE fusty aroma of old textbooks may take you back to your school years, but children starting school after 2015 in South Korea are more likely to recall the smell of an overheating tablet computer. That’s because the education ministry intends to transform schools into paperless digital operations by then, according to Korean news site … Continue reading

Good Communication in Early Years Key to Success at School

A team of researchers in the UK has shown that although social background has a noticeable effect on a child’s readiness for school, what parents do with their children, even before they begin to talk, is actually much more important. The results showed that children who were taken to the library more often and owned … Continue reading

The Trinity Sisters

Many of America’s most powerful women went to a college you’ve never heard of. By Kevin Carey Official White House Photo by Pete Souza Sister Ann Gormly is almost ninety, but she still skips the elevator and climbs the steep wooden staircase in the main hall of Trinity College, her alma mater and former employer … Continue reading

Hollowing out the ivory tower

Alison Wolf tells Tim Black that the now orthodox view of universities as engines of economic growth is making us lose sight of their primary purpose: the pursuit of knowledge. Tim Black ‘The idea – which I have to say has affected large numbers of politicians – that you can just give people at university … Continue reading

A Better Way to Remember

Scientists and educators alike have long known that cramming is not an effective way to remember things. With their latest findings, researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan, studying eye movement response in trained mice, have elucidated the neurological mechanism explaining why this is so. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, their results … Continue reading

Yale, Jews and double-standards

Photo by: Courtesy CAROLINE B. GLICK Last week Yale University announced its decision to close down its institute for the study of anti-Semitism. The move has been widely criticized as politically motivated. For its part, the university claims that the move was the result of purely academic considerations. While not clear-cut, an analysis of the … Continue reading

AC Grayling has caricatured British universities.

No wonder they’re fuming The New College of Humanities founder has exposed higher education as a luxury consumable for the middle classes Simon Jenkins This has been a purple week for red rage. The hirsute philosopher, AC Grayling, may call himself a "pinko" but his embryo London humanities university in Bedford Square has induced apoplexy … Continue reading

Testing, Testing … Big

Does China’s nerve-racking gaokao college-entrance exam really identify the country’s best and brightest, or is it even sillier and more unfair than the SAT? BY CHRISTINA LARSON SHANGHAI — For three days each June, all of China quiets to a whisper. In Shanghai, the ever-present construction crews are furloughed, and thousands of uniformed signal guards … Continue reading

Large-Scale Early Education Linked to Higher Living Standards and Crime Prevention 25 Years Later

High-quality early education has a strong, positive impact well into adulthood, according to research led by Arthur Reynolds, co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative and professor of child development, and Judy Temple, a professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The study is the longest follow-up ever of … Continue reading

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

HENRY PETROSKI In Goethe’s 1797 poem "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice"—and in countless later versions of the story, including the famous sequence in Disney’s "Fantasia" in 1940—disaster results when a young man, taking advantage of his wizardly master’s absence, uses sorcery to lighten his chores. The poem ends with the admonition that magic should be used solely … Continue reading

Murder Most Academic

A British Ph.D. candidate puts “homicide studies” into practice. The Sun/Sipa Press Serial killer Stephen Griffiths In some modern societies—and certainly Britain is one of them—satire is prophecy. This makes effective satire difficult because reality so soon catches up with it. Satire is also dangerous and perhaps even irresponsible, for no idea is too absurd, … Continue reading

Clever, but stuck

Governments have neglected the importance of high achievement in their focus on failing schools Alison Wolf Listen to politicians or London-based journalists and you might conclude our school system is a write-off. Callaghan, Thatcher, Blair, Adonis, Cameron and Gove have all gone on the attack, usually pointing by way of evidence to yet another set … Continue reading

The MIT factor

celebrating 150 years of maverick genius The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has led the world into the future for 150 years with scientific innovations. Its brainwaves keep the US a superpower. But what makes the university such a fertile ground for brilliant ideas? Ed Pilkington MIT students at a physics class take measurements in 1957. … Continue reading

The Failure of American Schools

Who better to lead an educational revolution than Joel Klein, the prosecutor who took on the software giant Microsoft? But in his eight years as chancellor of New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, Klein learned a few painful lessons of his own—about feckless politicians, recalcitrant unions, mediocre teachers, and other enduring obstacles to … Continue reading