Week Links in Education: May 27

Stories, particularly related to education in the United States, that caught my attention this week.

Giving a commencement address at Boston University during the WGA strike, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was met with a loud chant of “Pay your writers.”

In New York, Hunter College fired an adjunct professor who was filmed threatening a New York Post writer with a machete after berating pro-life students.

Five years ago, when West Virginia University closed its shrinking campus in the small town of Montgomery, it shattered a community—and deepened local distrust of higher education.

In Las Vegas, a private school founded in 1984 by the current mayor recalled its yearbooks after learning that a student’s quotation came from a prominent neo-Nazi.

In North Carolina, Amy Bailiff walked across the stage to claim her doctorate 24 hours after giving birth.

In Maryland, a 20-year-old man has been terrorizing neighbors at a school bus stop with “an AR-15-style rifle” in what he says is a protest against a new law banning him from taking it into various other crowded public places. The police said his behavior is legal.

In Miami, a mother who persuaded her school district to restrict student access to Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem, which she had not read, on the grounds that it includes “hate messages,” apologized for posting antisemitic memes on Facebook, including references to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

In Newark, Justin walked at commencement to receive his diploma along with the rest of Seton Hall University’s graduating class. This excited some comment because Justin is a dog.

Week Links in Education: May 13

Stories, particularly related to education in the United States, that caught my attention this week.

Serbia’s education minister resigned as the government struggled to contain the fallout from two back-to-back mass shootings—one of them at a school—in Europe’s most heavily armed society.

Has American mathematics instruction been led astray by inquiry-based learning? Some researchers believe so, proposing a “science of math” akin to the phonics-oriented “science of reading.”

A report from the Jewish Education Project showed that enrollment in Hebrew (supplemental) schools fell by 45% in the United States between 2006 and 2020.

In Tucson, Carol Kay—who came to the United States from Cambodia in 1981, when she was 15 years old, knowing no English—prepared to graduate from the University of Arizona alongside her sons, Harry and Anthony Chhieu. She wants to become a teacher.

Educational Freedom and the Forever War

I was in high school, preparing for college, when the U.S. government declared a “global war on terror[ism].” President George W. Bush described this as a “war to save civilization itself” from intolerance. Unlike terrorists, he said in November 2001, “we value education” and “the right to speak our minds,” and “we respect people of all faiths and welcome the free practice of religion.”

How has that worked out, from the vantage point of life inside the United States? Has “terror” been eradicated here in the “homeland,” more than twenty years (and $8 trillion) after that war began? Have we saved education, free expression, and the peaceful coexistence of all faiths?

Let’s talk about that from the perspective of American educators and students. Let’s talk about the experience of a generation growing up under the threat of school shootings and similar attacks on other public places, which are the face of terror in their time.

Continue reading “Educational Freedom and the Forever War”

Dateline: A PowerPoint Template for Humanities and Social Science

A few months ago, I made available a PowerPoint template called Retrovisibility, which I’ve been using in history courses for many years. Today, I’m releasing Dateline, a completely new template for classes in humanities and social science disciplines. I’m publishing it under a Creative Commons license for free noncommercial use.


Dateline is designed to help instructors prioritize images and multimedia, not text. Inspired by the layouts used in television news, it includes subtle dynamic elements and friendly colors. It’s designed for use with the Braille Institute’s open typeface (or font) Atkinson Hyperlegible for high readability.

A distinctive element in Dateline is the inclusion of a placeholder for dates or date ranges. This is likely to be particularly useful to history teachers. But it may also be useful to instructors in other social science and humanities disciplines. (Potential uses in less chronological disciplines include, e.g., adapting APA citation conventions, listing page ranges instead of dates, displaying copyright notices, etc.) Text-centered slide layouts include a footnote element instead of the date placeholder.


Dateline v. 0.9 (2023-05-06) (CC BY-NC 4.0) (6.85 MB)

Because WordPress.com does not host PowerPoint template (.potx) files, the template is provided as a presentation (.pptx) file instead. You will need to download it, delete the sample slides, and save it as a presentation template. Please click here for instructions about saving a PowerPoint template on your own computer.

This template is provided as-is. I cannot guarantee how it will work for any user.


The best results are likely if you use a recent desktop edition of Microsoft PowerPoint on a Windows PC (both to prepare your presentation and to project it in the classroom). The template is designed for widescreen (16:9) displays.

Important: Dateline results in large file sizes for the slideshows you create. This is particularly true if you choose to include high-resolution background images. A slideshow for an hourlong presentation may become a 50+ MB file. This will be impractical for many users.

For the most consistent results, you should install Atkinson Hyperlegible on any computer you use to prepare slideshows with this template. Installing this font on your classroom computer, however, should not be necessary as long as you embed the font when you save a slideshow. (If you aren’t familiar with what it means to embed a font in a PowerPoint presentation, I recommend learning.)

If you use Dateline on computers running Windows, it should embed Atkinson Hyperlegible in your presentations by default when you save them. However, embedding fonts is possible for only some Mac users.


If you’ve used Dateline and are willing to offer comments, please use the contact form. I’m grateful for any information that could make this template better.

Week Links in Education: May 6

Stories, particularly related to education in the United States, that caught my attention this week.

At an exhibition in Seoul, a university art student ate Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian, which is a banana.

A car accident derailed her college plans, but Janice Hall returned to finish her degree—at the age of 81. “Of course, there’s still challenges from the stroke,” she said. This fall, she’s going to start on her master’s degree.

About 100 miles away, another Indiana school, Taylor University, fired its writing center director—allegedly because she rejected the provost’s attempt to dictate how she taught a writing course with a racial justice theme. Students and faculty seem upset.

In suburban Portland, a pair of high schoolers named Sam and (naturally) Sherman organized a World War II tank to attend prom in. Sherman “even” got a date to go with him. They were escorted by Darth Vader on a unicycle, playing flaming bagpipes, much like Patton’s Third Army.

In Oklahoma, the state governor vetoed a bill—which passed the legislature with nearly unanimous support—that would have guaranteed the right of Native students to wear Indigenous regalia at graduation ceremonies.

Around the United States, legislatures held by the Republican Party are trying to make it harder for high school and college students to vote.

The U.S. Department of Education reported a decline in American eighth graders’ test scores in U.S. history and (for the first time) civics between 2018 and 2022.

Across Europe, students have occupied 22 schools and universities in the latest wave of climate protests.

The U.S. surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, released an advisory document called “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” including a “national strategy to advance social connection.” It noted that young adults have some of America’s highest rates of loneliness, and these rates increased every year from 1976 to at least 2019.

A study published last month found that American elementary and middle school math teachers who believe gender equality has been achieved were more likely to give lower grades to work attributed to girls.

The Supreme Court’s influence scandals now have an education angle: ProPublica has reported that the billionaire Harlan Crow paid the private-school tuition of Justice Clarence Thomas’s grandnephew.

Week Links in Education: Apr. 29

Back from an unannounced hiatus: Stories and essays, particularly related to education in the United States, that caught my attention this week. A 🕛 symbol indicates a metered paywall.

Rolling Stone and the Pulitzer Center produced Brandi Morin’s and Annie Marie Musselman’s feature story 🕛 on the brutal legacy of America’s residential school system for Native American children.

Jill Barshay discussed the limitations of a research study that seems to demonstrate the importance of content knowledge in developing children’s reading skills.

The American Library Association counted 2,571 book titles that were challenged in 2022—40 percent more than in 2021, thanks to organized attempts to purge whole lists of books.

But this April, voters in Illinois and Wisconsin have turned out against book-banning in school board races.

The Seattle Public Library joined the Brooklyn Public Library in its “Books Unbanned” program, offering e-lending library cards to patrons between the ages of 13 and 26 across the United States.

In Oklahoma, five years after a failed teacher walkout, conservative state legislators may be coming around to the teachers’ point of view. But some educators are wary.

The University of Chicago, one of 17 elite institutions being sued for violating U.S. antitrust law in their financial aid practices, is reportedly the first school to settle.

The effects haven’t been uniform. But on balance, it really does look like social media, especially in the age of the smartphone, are bad for young people’s mental health.

In Minneapolis, hackers appear to have stolen 200,000 files from a public school system with 30,000 students, releasing extremely sensitive student and employee records, including reports of sexual abuse.

Schools in Wisconsin use an application called the Dropout Early Warning System to identify students at risk of failing to finish high school. It may be stigmatizing Black and Hispanic teenagers without improving graduation rates.

In Hammond, Indiana—and communities like it across the United States—rail companies like Norfolk Southern park their trains across intersections, forcing children to crawl over and under trains to get to school. The federal government received 28,000 complaints last year.

Marking its 40th anniversary, James Harvey, a staffer of the commission that produced the Reagan administration’s “Nation at Risk” report in 1983, described how the political leaders of the commission doctored the professionals’ findings to portray America’s public schools as failures. Frederick Hess pointed out some paradoxes in the report’s legacy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the 2021 findings of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Although risky sexual behavior, drug use, and experiences of bullying at school have continued to decrease, most other measures of teen wellbeing have worsened.

Cedarville University’s idea of addressing sexual harassment apparently involves shaming women for “encouraging” their boyfriends to violate their boundaries.

Storytelling and Interpretation: A Classroom Activity

Some days ago, my world history survey course covered the First World War, and I came up with a new idea. I wanted to do something I hadn’t managed to do yet, at least not very explicitly: engage these students in building basic historical narratives themselves, in order to learn how narratives are constructed as vehicles for historical interpretation.

Before we met in class, my students had already studied a textbook chapter that focused on the war. So I set up a small-group activity to review that part of the reading.

I asked students to form groups of three or four, and I set a timer. (Four minutes seemed to be about right.) I showed each group a matrix that looked like this:

Key Thought
Historical Narrative Matrix for the First World War

I asked each group to try to identify just one key thought they wanted to communicate about the war’s background (including either context or causes); one key thought about the war itself (in its nature, conduct, evolution, etc.); and one key thought about the war’s effects or aftermath. For each main thought, they should also come up with a few illustrative details—examples that would clarify or justify the thought or that would simply make it more concrete.

Toward the end of the time, I encouraged groups that had already finished in the matrix to do one more thing: Try to distill their three key thoughts into a single overall point to make about the war.

When the time was up, we compared notes as an entire room. And the answers were really, really good.

Each group, I pointed out, had explained what we need to understand about the First World War in the form of a simple narrative. This narrative had a beginning, middle, and end; it also had specific factual content. But its fundamental purpose was to convey a larger idea, not simply to describe a sequence of events.

With this exercise done, I offered students my attempt to do exactly the same thing. We spent the rest of the class period on my interactive lecture. That students had already gone through the work of constructing a similar narrative on their own made everything in my account more intelligible and useful—as well as easier to consider critically.

Ecce Homo Philadelphiensis

We’ve had friends visiting from Munich for a few days. This weekend, I offered them an improvised historical walking tour of central Philadelphia.

We wended our way through Independence Square, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Fairmount Park, and my beloved Rittenhouse Square. We stopped there for cheesesteaks—from a street cart, the way Betsy Ross intended—and ate them while listening to buskers and political protesters. At various points, our guests seemed especially interested in Philadelphia’s public monuments, particularly our battalion of statues.

As we headed back toward the car, we passed yet another cluster of Founding Fathers iconography: tributes to Thomas Jefferson, this time seemingly out of nowhere.

Conversation ensued. I think it had been brewing for a while.

Let me tell you, it really focuses the mind when a German observes that your society seems unusually susceptible to hero-worship.

The Washington Monument at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (public domain)

A Third, Great Thing

If we want a community of truth in the classroom, a community that can keep us honest, we must put a third thing, a great thing, at the center of the pedagogical circle. When student and teacher are the only active agents, community easily slips into narcissism, where either the teacher reigns supreme or students can do no wrong. A learning community that embodies both rigor and involvement will elude us until we establish a plumb line that measures teacher and students alike—as great things can do. …

The subject-centered classroom is characterized by the fact that the third thing has a presence so real, so vivid, so vocal, that it can hold teacher and students alike accountable for what they say and do. In such a classroom, there are no inert facts. The great thing is so alive that teacher can turn to student or student to teacher, and either can make a claim on the other in the name of that great thing. Here, teacher and students have a power beyond themselves to contend with—the power of a subject that transcends our self-absorption and refuses to be reduced to our claims about it. …

Having seen the possibility of a subject-centered classroom, I now listen anew to students’ stories about their great teachers in which ‘a passion for the subject’ is a trait so often named (a passion that need not be noisy but can be quietly intense). I always thought that passion made a teacher great because it brought contagious energy into the classroom, but now I realize its deeper function. Passion for the subject propels that subject, not the teacher, into the center of the learning circle—and when a great thing is in their midst, students have direct access to the energy of learning and of life.

— Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), 116-117 and 120