Ukrainian Children Are Using the Internet to Learn at School

    As the war in eastern Ukraine continues, people are starting to focus on those who aren’t fighting and whose lives have been ruined by, depending on who you ask, Vladimir Putin and his ambitions for a new Soviet Union or Petro Poroshenko and his desire for a Ukraine that’s more integrated into the greater European economy and the EU. While most of the media focus and scrutiny has been aimed at those fighting, those commanding, and those who are not-so-subtlety influencing and arming (here’s looking at you, Vlad), people are now starting to look at how those who are living in the conflict zone are struggling to survive as winter approaches. Amongst all of the truly tragic and heartrending stories, the death of education in eastern Ukraine is easily one of the most touching as well as one of the most worrying. Just like children living in and fleeing from Syria who are called the “Lost Generation”, eastern Ukrainian children are struggling to avoid becoming a “Lost Generation” in and of themselves.

    In the struggle to continue learning in the face of all of violence, students in eastern Ukraine have been turning to something that is quickly picking up speed in the west, distance education and learning over the internet. In the rebel-held and currently besieged city of Donetsk, city officials estimate that 50 out of 150 schools have switched to distance learning and that about 45% of the city’s children (around 32,000 students) are being educated online through distance education. Another interesting tidbit of information is that most of the city’s education officials completely agree that it is the students who have been pushing for and embracing technology and distant learning in an attempt to continue their education and improve their lives. It’s as though living in a warzone has shown them the importance of educating yourself so that you can either leave a bad situation or return to help fix it.

    While classes such as maths and the sciences have proven more difficult to adapt to these new technologies and ways of learning, the children and teachers of Ukraine are making sure that the work is still getting done and is checked and graded in person, when circumstances allow. The current fighting, along with the fact that the Ukrainian government has cut all funds and support of any kind to the city since it is currently in the hands of rebel separatists, means that many of the teachers are working for free or relying on the tiny amount of money that the rebel government can actually scrape up. That being said, the current mood in the air makes it obvious that as long as the students are willing to learn, the teachers will be there to teach, regardless of pay.

    If you’d like to learn more, the link is here.


    UC Berkeley Protests Bill Maher Commencement Speech

    Bill Maher is a comedian and talk show host known for his outspoken and liberal views about a number of different topics ranging the political and economic spectrum. While he usually toes the line without insulting anyone except for the truly conservative and republican, he has inflammatory views that were eventually going to offend other groups of people. It seems as though the people he has most recently offended are other liberals and it seems as though forgiveness is going to be difficult to get; Maher recently had Ben Affleck on his show and it dissolved into a yelling match about militant Islam and extremism with Affleck calling Maher a racist for lumping all Muslims together. While this might not be too different than Maher’s usual rhetoric, the fact that he insulted everyone in the world’s second largest religion while engaging in a yelling match with a popular actor means that Maher is facing some heavy criticism, even from his own side.

    It turns out that Bill Maher angered so many people that there are now protests against his speaking engagements. Maher was recently chosen to give the commencement speech at the University of California, Berkeley and is now facing student protests and a petition with over 2,000 student signatures against his speaking. While he doesn’t get called out for his comments on Muslims specifically, some of the organizers of the protests and petition are from the Muslim student body and most definitely felt hurt by his callous comments.  All of the protest and petition documents make sure to say that there is no issue with freedom of speech and Maher’s ability to engage in it. What they take issue with is his using of freedom of speech to spread and promote hate speech and intolerance; regardless of whether someone is an extremist or a moderate. Hopefully this is a wake-up call for him and he changes his ways, he’s doing no one any good by acting like he does.

    If you’d like to read more, the link is here.


    Should Fraternities and Sororities Be Banned?

    It seems as though every year brings about new stories of fraternities and sororities engaging in dangerous behavior that results in physical, emotional, and potentially fatal consequences. This month has been a truly awful one for Greek life around the country as a number of colleges and universities have punished Greek institutions by either banning them, forcing them to go co-ed, or simply suspending all Greek life on campus. Fraternities and sororities have a very mixed reputation that have both good and bad things about them and even some alumni see them in a mixed light. The questions remains whether Greek life is going to see a country-wide ban and how it might affect higher education institutions with storied history behind some of the houses.

    Sororities and fraternities are best known in the public for binge-drinking and hazing incidents that frequently send students to the hospital but that also sometimes result in death. While many sororities and fraternities have strong undercurrents of familial bonds and community service, it’s very simple to say that the majority are used as places where students can get drunk and party with each other. While Greek institutions were started off as a way to improve school life, community life, and personal life through community service and brother/sisterhood, the original messages have been corrupted and founding members wouldn’t recognize the racist, sexist, violent, and alcoholic institutions that have replaced them. Many universities hold on to Greek life for the history the houses impart and the generous alumni donations that they bring in but there eventually comes a point when you need to realize that the toxic environment that accompanies Greek life is too much. Between rapes, sexual assaults, brawls, overdoses, and deaths, it might be time to either institute a culture-wide change (perhaps taking lessons from the founding statements and the Greek houses and chapters that still believe in community service and respect for all) or ban them altogether. Either way, something needs to be done before more people get hurt.

    If you’d like to learn more, the link is here.


    College Sexual Assaults Are Finally Being Taken Seriously.

    There’s no denying that one of the largest failings of our entire educational system in the recent years has been the failure to enforce punishment against sexual crimes and the complete lack of care and understand for the victims who are usually forced to continue to go to school with their attacker. While this lack of any attempt to actually punish the perpetrators has been known to victims and advocates for years, it has only recently surfaced in the eyes and minds of the public, thanks to a series of scathing reports from both victims and journalists that point out how most higher educational institutes are more concerned with protecting reputations and alumni donations than the students they claim to care for.

    The government has finally taken notice of the massive failings amongst these institutions and is now taking action. In a rare show of working together, a bipartisan group of congressmen and women are pushing for legislation that will punish offenders as well as punish schools for not taking the proper action against offenders. By using a combination of fines and reducing educational grants and federal money, the government plans to make colleges and universities more accountable for mishandling cases that deal with sexual crimes of any nature. Due to the massive failing in terms of both punishing attackers and supporting victims, many universities are most likely going to fight against these laws so that they can maintain their status. That being said, it’s good news for everyone, especially victims, that the government has taken notice and is involving itself.

    If you’d like the read more, the link is here.


    Higher Education for Wives Doesn’t Lead To Divorce

    A new study has been released that will finally put that pesky “educating women leads to divorce” argument that has apparently been raging unbeknownst to the majority of the country. While the study only looks at trends in marriage, it has come to the conclusion that couples aren’t more likely to get a divorce if the wife had more education than the husband. In what seems to be a throwback to the more openly sexist days of the 40’s and 50’s, the fear was that women who had more education than their husbands were more likely to face divorce and marital unhappiness. Thankfully, this study goes to prove that this isn’t the case in any way and that we have certainly made strides towards gender equality seeing as how men are no longer intimidated by intelligent women.

    Along with the original discovery, the study also found out the couples with equal education were less likely to divorce than those in which the husband is better educated. This move towards egalitarian relationships is a great thing for a wide number of reasons, first of which is the fact that men and women deserve to be equals in every way possible. It also means that people are moving away from using marriage as a status symbol and as a way to keep women subservient to men. People are now marrying for love and whoever is seen as the “provider” is becoming less and less important.

    If you’d like to read more, the link is below:



    Colleges Might Soon Experience Some “Tough Love”

    It is no secret that the United States are quickly falling behind when it comes to international educational standards. We have been consistently slipping in basically every category as other countries overtake us in humanities, math, and the sciences. It seems as though educational critics of the government has finally noticed the lackluster performances of our educational institutions and have written a paper calling for the government to enforce a minimum standard of quality for any higher educational institutes that are looking for federal funding and support. While this doesn’t get to the root of the problem (that our public school system needs to be supported and revamped as opposed to slashed and left to rot), it would help set a precedent and will hopefully lead to higher quality college and university graduates that will be able to join the workforce in a more effective and efficient manner.

    The paper was written by the Education Trust and is titled “Tough Love: Bottom-Line Quality Standards for Colleges”. Education Trust is a non-profit that focuses on educational equality and the paper goes lengths to promoting that. It calls for a system of accountability that sets requirements for the enrollment of lower-income students, graduate students, and the ability for colleges to produce graduates that can pay back their student loans. The paper also argues for penalties to be imposed on those 4-year colleges that end up in the bottom 5% of all schools. The paper also pushes for more scrutiny of “for-profit” colleges and universities as well as attacking elite institutions over the fact that they allow so few low-income students to attend.

    The paper actually agrees with many of the governments ideas about how federal funding of higher education institutes should be run. Both the paper and government want more accountability and for colleges and universities to produce better, harder working, and more intelligent graduates who won’t be as saddled by student debt as the current generations students are. However it remains to be seen whether this can be realistically implemented and whether congress and the senate will actually take an attempt to fix things seriously.

    If you’d like to read more, the link is posted below:



    Classroom Creativity is Dying

    There is no denying that one of the most hated educational practices is that of standardized tests. While they are certainly an important tool to help differentiate between students, there is also something incredibly depressing about a test that is so uninteresting. Teachers around the country have recently begun to notice how little students seem to care about these supposedly important tests. Normally ambitious and hardworking students are increasingly disillusioned with the tests that will help them get into the school of their choice and teachers are beginning to wonder if having these tests is worth sapping the creativity and will to learn that students used to feel, all in the name of going a higher-ranking college.

    One of the ways that teachers have gauged the interest of students in tests and other academic pursuits is how often they try to cheat for higher grades. By walking around a classroom when students are taking these tests, teachers use proximity to both catch students who are cheating as well as to oversee the class. However some teachers have noticed that students don’t even care enough about these standardized tests to cheat, and that is slightly worrisome. While the level of student care and interest in the tests have fallen, the level of resentment towards the tests has drastically risen. An incredibly worrisome trend when you look at how the USA is falling behind in terms of education.

    To many students, the situations that they deal with currently in their every day lives (such as poverty, bullying, and abuse of all sorts) are infinitely more important than some test that is supposed to help rank them against their peers and friends. The only people who care about these tests are those who judge the schools (such as politicians), the administration, and the teachers who need good results on these tests to justify the importance of their jobs. Instead of actively trying to interest the students in learning and education, we have been feeding them pre-set cookie cutter plans that have taken the joy out of learning and replaced it with a bland and uninteresting educational landscape that is failing to grab the attention of our future generations. The desires of politicians and businesses to turn schools into money-making ventures are damaging those who need the schools to work well, the students themselves.


    If you’d like to read more, here is the link:



    Agents of Educational Recruitment

    When people think of agents recruiting for a cause they usually think of profession or college athletic teams, military branches, or some sort of occupation where people need to be coerced into joining. What many people don’t think of is actually one of the most common uses for agents, to recruit students from other countries to join higher education institutes as students. While this has been very common in other countries, US universities have traditionally been against this sort of recruitment and preferred to rely on word of mouth and reputation to draw students from other countries. However as colleges and universities find themselves with smaller class sizes and less money, they have recently opened up to using agents to find willing students and convince them to come over.

    Even with colleges and universities now being allowed, as well as being more open to it in an institutional sense, to use agents, they are going to find that there’s a lot of international competition and that they are going to be starting in a difficult position. Countries such as Australia and Malaysia get over half of their international students through the use of agents. Others such as Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the UK get anywhere from 20%-just under 50% of their international students through agents as well. Clearly there is going to be a lot of competition for the best students who are looking to study abroad.

    While the US might have more expensive schools and a lack of presence in the agent-dominated international student recruitment scene, it does have one thing that not many other countries have. Even to this day, as our country and it’s economy and reputation lie in balance, our universities and institutes of higher education are still thought of as the best in the world. With names such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and many others to our name, our colleges and universities are still amongst the top in the world and are popular destinations for students.

    The allowing and tacit acceptance of agents has opened up a whole new world of students for US colleges and universities. We will finally be on equal footing to try to tempt all of the most intelligent international students to our shores. While we are definitely coming from a place of weakness in terms of our presence, the sterling reputation that our universities have combined with the opportunities our country offers means that there’s a very good chance of seeing the number of international applicants rising in the future.


    You can read more about this here: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/05/01/new-data-use-agents-recruit-international-students#sthash.Uv26I3RC.dpbs