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March 2007 News

Revisiting the Zimbardo Prison Experiment


Topic: Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: a Lesson in the Power of Situation

Synopsis: By the '70s Psychology  had shown, that in a group of strangers, individuals could be persuaded to believe statements that were obviously false; that people are often willing to obey an authority or the "group think," even when doing so violates their personal beliefs. Research also illustrated the addictiveness of power among such authorities. Revisiting the Stanford prison experiment, Zimbardo outlines how anonymity affects those in power as well as the needs and legal implications for penal reform throughout society.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education  — March 30, 2007
by Philip G. Zimbardo

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the classic Zimbardo Experiment highlights the need to do a critical analysis of our prision system and the impact that punishment has on our society. In a critical society punishment would be carefully designed to fit the crime, and returning criminals to a useful life in the community would be the major goal. Zimbardo illustrates the distance we are from this ideal. "If the goals of the criminal system are simply to blame and punish individual perpetrators — to get our pound of flesh — then focusing almost exclusively on the individual defendant makes sense. If, however, the goal is actually to reduce the behavior that we now call "criminal" (and its resultant suffering), and to assign punishments that correspond with culpability, then the criminal-justice system is obligated, much as I was in the Stanford prison experiment, to confront the situation and our role in creating and perpetuating it ..."

MLA Grades Spellings Commission

Topic: Comments on the Spellings Commission Report from the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association of America March 2007

Synopsis: This story details the MLA's critiques of the Spelllings Comission Report and specifically the lack of focus on the humanities.

Read the Full Article -- March 30, 2007
by Scott Jaschik

After months of deliberation, the Modern Language Association released its critique of the Spelling's Commission's Report on the Future of Higher Education ... by far the biggest criticism the MLA will offer is that the panel appointed by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings ignored the humanities. But one of the most controversial parts of the commission’s agenda — its call for more assessment of what students learn — is actually endorsed by the MLA, with caveats over how that assessment will be carried out ... although the report ignores the humanities, the educational skills it emphasizes are precisely those that the humanities are credited with developing. A persistent theme of the report is the urgent need to produce college graduates who have mastered ‘critical thinking, writing, and problem solving skills needed in today’s workplaces,’ that is, the very skills the humanities teach ... Indeed, since it is hard to imagine scientists, engineers, and doctors doing their jobs competently without a command of critical-thinking, writing, and problem-solving skills, the humanities are no less crucial than the sciences to ‘global leadership in key strategic areas.’

Changes to Come in English Department

The Paly Voice -- March 29, 2007
by Vienna Tran

"The English Department is considering the elimination of the freshman research paper, adjustments to the laning of English classes, and a new strategy for teaching grammar studies ... 'We aren't sure that the research paper is best filling students needs,' said English Instructional Supervisor Trinity Klein ... the English department has begun an evaluation of the two lanes offered to students. Exploratory Thinking and Literature are regular college preparatory courses, and Critical Thinking and Classics make up the advanced/honors lane. In ninth grade ... the classes are not noticeably different. The problem ... is the difference in the classes as the students get older ... Critical Thinking I and American Classics teacher Sarah Bartlett said, 'there is a reexamination of the research paper assignment at all grade levels ' ...  'It can be a problem when kids who don't understand or aren't prepared for the rigors of Critical Thinking or American Classics sign up for those classes and then don't do well ,,, '" -- Read the Full Article

Opinion Trounces Fact

Topic: Educational Reform in Australia, Higher Education standards

Synopsis: A frank evaluation of the often erroneous standards embedded within the Australian educational System.

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The Australian (Higher Education) — March 28, 2007
by Gary A. Olson

The diminishing value of facts in today’s cultures provides cause for alarm. The Dean of Arts & Sciences at Illinois State University reports, “those of us in higher education — especially in administrative posts — should take the lead in demonstrating that all opinions are decidedly not equal.”

Maywood Police/Kids Fight Crime Together

Chicago Tribune -- March 28, 2007
by Karen E. Pride

"The idea for a youth crime prevention program in Maywood came to longtime educator Wylmarie Sykes when she became a crime victim ,,, Believing that prevention should begin early, Sykes started an intensive youth education program ... Operation Safe Child, a partnership between Maywood police and Elementary School District 89, kicked off this school year. It targets 356 4th-grade students in six elementary schools in the Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview school system ... Police officers regularly conduct 45-minute afternoon classes on topics such as preventing abduction, how to avoid gangs and drugs, fire safety, character development and critical thinking ... The discussions on critical thinking are consistent with what we're trying to do with the state tests on critical thinking," she said." -- Read the Full Article

Georgetown to Sponsor Investigative Journalism Seminar -- March 27, 2007

Washington, D.C. — "On the Murder of Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl: Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies unveiled plans for The Pearl Project, an unique investigative journalism seminar in which faculty and students will search for clues to what really happened when Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered while reporting from Karachi, Pakistan in 2002. A three-credit seminar led by Barbara Feinman Todd, associate dean of journalism in the School of Continuing Studies, and former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Q. Nomani, who joins Georgetown as a professor in the practice of journalism will host the course.  Nomani, Pearl's friend and colleague from his days at the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau, rented the Karachi home where Pearl and his wife Mariane were staying at the time of his disappearance. After participating in the search to find Pearl, Nomani began the preliminary reporting and research for The Pearl Project. "Sadly, we couldn't save Danny, but journalists are sort of like the Marines. We can't leave the truth behind, Nomani said. For the five years since Danny was killed, I have wanted to find out the full truth behind Danny's kidnapping and murder. We are truly fortunate that the leaders of Georgetown University believe deeply in bringing academic principles of critical thinking, investigation and social justice to the world."

Rutgers Business School Announces New Full-Time M.B.A. Curriculum

Rutgers Campus News -- March 27, 2007

Newark, NJ — "The faculty of Rutgers Business School – Newark and New Brunswick (RBS) has approved a new curriculum for its full-time M.B.A. program. The new curriculum, which will be implemented this fall, addresses the career development needs of students as well as the expectations of employers, and leverages the intellectual authority of the faculty ... Rutgers Business School’s M.B.A. graduates will benefit from rigorous training that provides them with critical-thinking skills, specialized knowledge, and the creative ability to shape that knowledge to fit particular managerial challenges they face in their careers."

Dumbed Down Workforce Leads to Serious Recalls

ThomasNet IndustrialNewsRoom -- March 27th, 2007
by David R. Butcher

In a report linking a list of product recalls to the lack of critical thinking skills in the workforce, there is mounting evidence that society’s dumbing down of those entering the workforce is resulting in serious business mistakes. Sighting a recent white paper from Ascendent Consulting in Ridgefield, CT, the report concludes, "a lack of critical thinking skills results in product recalls, bumbled sourcing decisions, new product failures in the marketplace, plant implementations gone awry and the general torpedoing of sound strategies by flawed execution. Conversely, the report points out, "when you convert a half-witted workforce into power thinkers, you retain your best talent and increase both your customer satisfaction and product quality goals."

United Arab Emirates Workshop

AME Info (The Ultimate Middle East Business Source) -- March 26, 2007

Fifty-eight school teachers from 18 schools participated in an interactive workshop on 'Developing Your Students' Critical Thinking Skills,' the third such workshop organised by University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) under the Professional Development Program (PDP) series covering teaching-related issues.

Oregon Biology Teacher Fired Over Bible References

Associated Press -- March 20, 2007

SISTERS, Ore. —  During his eight days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material he provided to students and gave a PowerPoint presentation that made links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood ... That was enough for the Sisters School Board, which fired the teacher Monday night for deviating from the curriculum on the theory of evolution ... Helphinstine, 27, said in a phone interview with The Bulletin newspaper of Bend that he included the supplemental material to teach students about bias in sources, and his only agenda was to teach critical thinking." -- Read the Full Article

Here we see a common misunderstanding between best intensions and uninformed expectations. Critical thinking is clearly the foundation of learning in all domains and disciplines, including biology. This appears to be a classic example of where curriculum, tactics, and purpose are at odds with policy.

Guest Commentary: Separating Educational 'Adequacy' and Funding

Topic: Preparing New Hampshire Students to Compete Internationally

Synopsis:  New Hampshire government needs to define education's purpose relevant to "adequacy" and initiate well-designed studies to assess performance on funded programs.

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Foster'sOnline — March 18, 2007
by Peter Bearse

An international economist and consultant, the author expresses a clear and compelling opinion relevant to where New Hampshire schools need to focus. "So add up the scores: 3Rs + Science + 3Cs (Civics + Creative thinking + Critical thinking). Along with international standards, there are international, educational "best practices." We can; in fact, for the sake of our children, we must learn from our foreign competitors. Competition is healthy, internationally as well as domestically, for the sake of education as well as other "industries." Do we want our children to be less well-off than we are? Let's recognize that the standards that count are being set abroad and make reference to them."

Higher Education Should Teach Critical Thinking

Topic: Critical Thinking Is About Learning How To Learn Well. It Needs To Be Taught in Higher Education

Synopsis: Kids forget most of the facts they accumulate in college. Learning how to learn is the key to replacing and updating the accuracy of information thoughout one's life, and this concept is pivotal in the expectations we hold for higher education.

Read the Full Article  — March 6, 2007
by Jim Seeber (Prof of Sociology, Northern State University)

With about 25 percent of the United States' population having earned a college degree, with the percent of high school grads finishing college declining, "the sadly unasked question for many who cross the threshold into college life is: What is the purpose of a college education? In short, why am I here? ... I would offer instead the quaint idea that college has one purpose and one purpose only: to teach people to think critically ... It matters not whether the degree is in elementary education, gerontology or nuclear physics. Education helps people learn to reason and look for the continuity through critical thinking. That may be hard for mom and dad, politicians and the local priest to accept, especially when those ideas might not correspond to past notions, but would we hope for anything less from an educated and insightful college graduate?"

Annihilation of Critical Thinking in Young Minds

Arab News (The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily) -- March 02, 2007
by Lubna Hussain

With almost 75% of its population under the age of 18, Saudi Arabia faces an uphill challenge of reforming its educational system. In an open conversation, that includes how best to prevent young Saudis from becoming victims to the calls of extremism, critical thinking -- and society's annihilation of critical thinking -- is seen to be at the heart of the problem as well as its solution. Click here to get the full story