Bathe yourself in these education stories

Though it may be the heart of the summer doldrums in some places, these are bountiful education days for the reform aficionada among us ? and a great time to begin blogging for Flypaper, one of the more counterintuitively-named education blogs in the business. ?If you don't believe me, try typing ?flypaper? in Google, as opposed to, let's say, EdSector or Checker Finn. I was surprised, though, that of the 333,000 results delivered in 0.20 seconds, Fordham's Flypaper was number 4. Pretty fair.

Indeed, I am very happy to be part of the Flypaper crowd, who are among the few serious education reformers with senses of humor ? though I have given orders not to be included in the videos featuring mousketeer headbands (Gadfly version). But as someone who has come to the Beltway by way of Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap ? where Saul Alinsky was memorialized ? I know where Arne Duncan came from.

But on to the day's education news ? Monday's actually.? We have plagiarism and autism and a Today Show special on American education ? and a little summer fun with a little shinrin-yoku.

Monday's Times was an education two-fer. The paper ran a front-page story on one of my favorite subjects: plagiarism in the Internet age.? And, on the inside (to those of us old timers still crumpling paper and washing off ink) was a featury piece on special education in Madison, Wisconsin. ?My letter to the Times about plagiarism probably won't run, but it read, in part, ?the larger problem? is that the rise of the Internet coincides with the fall of education.? Amidst the predictable psycho-babble comments that often accompany such new tech stories ? ?Today's students stand at the crossroads of a new way of conceiving texts and the people who create them and who quote them,? was one expert's conclusion ? came this refreshing comment from Indiana University senior Sarah Wilensky, ?If you're taught how to closely read sources and synthesize them into your own original argument in middle and high school, you're not going to be tempted to plagiarize in college, and you certainly won't do so unknowingly.?

The story on special education in Madison addresses the predictable problem of inclusion versus separation for disabled students.? Written by the recently reinstated education reporter, Michael Winerap, scourge of reformers, and headlined ?A School District That Takes the Isolation Out of Autism,? the story says that even liberal Madison is reconsidering ?the fine balance? between special ed kids (17% of the total) and the general student population the famously liberal city has managed to fashion. Winerip quotes one parent saying, ?I am not convinced that even the most masterful teacher ? and we have many of them here in Madison ? can teach effectively to the full range of ability and need we currently have in our public schools. Not at the same time in the same classroom.?

And though I have tried to swear it off ever since its gruesome ?Middle School Madness? story last spring, over my breakfast fiber came the Today Show, which announced a special series on education. It began, ominously enough, by profiling a drug-addicted mother whose son was failing in school until she kicked the meth habit. ?This is a story happening all across America,? waxed Today's Ann Curry.? Oh no!? Are we in for a series on education or on why we can't fix our schools until we clean up our parents and the neighborhood?? Stay tuned. It starts in September and will feature, says Curry, ?Big thinkers from all over.?? (In the meantime I recommend the segment on Chelsea's ?Perfect Day.?)

Finally, in case there isn't enough excitement in your summer doldrums, this from my friend Enid, in an email with the subject line, ?forest bathing.?? ?Another reason to value trees,? she writes, attaching an article from the? Health Sciences Institute, a respected source of alternative health information, about the Japanese custom of shinrin-yoku, which translates to, you guessed it, forest bathing. Says the article, ?Stress is a killer. That's generally acknowledged.? If stress strikes, according to this report, go ?immerse yourself in a forest or a park with plenty of trees for an hour or two, or however long you can. Take a walk. Enjoy the smells, the sounds, the air. Research shows that forest bathing prompts physiological changes in the body that do more than help you relax; they actually empower the immune system and undo the harmful effects of stress.?

Let's not tell the Today Show about this one.

-Peter Meyer

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