Tuesday, November 12, 2019
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Top 11 national school news stories in 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, we look back briefly to identify the 11 events this past year that we believe will have the greatest influence on the lives of students, schools, and communities in the future.

These aren’t necessarily the best-covered news stories but rather the historical events that will most affect our lives around our schools. We use as our justification for this ordering the statement by former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who said, “The news is the first draft of history.” A retrospective look, as this is, needs to look not at the quality of education journalism but at the movement of history. L’histoire se met en marche.

#1: Disasters, Some Natural, Some Unnatural

Hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, wildfires in the late summer in the Rockies and in the fall in California, and an earthquake in Mexico brought disaster to schools in many regions, with many schools in Puerto Rico still not operating as they should be several months after Hurricane Maria. Great help has come from other schools around the country. But some schools on cement slabs in Houston were closed permanently, as water damage was unrecoverable. Many schools in California were just burned down. And the fact that so many schools in Puerto Rico are still without power has led to families just moving to Florida.

#2: Women Wear Pussy Hats, Rise to the #MeToo Revolution

President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse, and his election resulted in a major rebellion, with women donning pink “pussy” hats, a deliberate reference to or spoof on Mr Trump’s campaign hat, entitled “Make America Great Again.” The rebellion is expected to continue with a March to the Polls on January 20, and it has turned into a revolution and a movement, marked by the hashtag #MeToo, as women speak out about sexual abuse, especially in the workplace, by men in positions of authority.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” suffragist Susan B Anthony once said. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel … the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

#3: Trump Moves to End DACA Program

President Trump signed an executive order that will effectively end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, initiated by President Barack Obama. If Congress doesn’t take action before March 2018 to extend a path to citizenship for illegal aliens who came into the US as children, an estimated 800,000 people now in the US will be at risk of deportation over the next two years as their DACA protection expires.

#4: Total Solar Eclipse Occurs in the US

A total eclipse of the sun occurred on August 21, and it was the first total eclipse to touch the continental United States in about 38 years. The next one is in 2024. The eclipse caused science classes across the country to focus on astronomy during the end of the 2016-17 school year and at the very beginning of the current school year.

#5: Budget Cuts Proposed

As tax reform has passed, the federal government can be expected to take in less money, starting in 2018 and continuing for about a decade. That means either that the national debt will skyrocket or programs are going to have to be cut. Two entitlement programs we complained about were Title II, which helps with teacher professional development costs, although it looks as if the Senate doesn’t want to cut Title II, and Title IV, which sends money to schools to develop curricular materials, especially in the fine arts and educational programs aimed at providing a safe and emotionally healthy school environment.

#6: CRISPR Shows Promise as a Gene-Editing Tool

One of the greatest scientific achievements in the field of genetics happened this year, as scientists discovered that they could edit DNA in embryos using CRISPR, possibly allowing them to fix genes that would cause disease in humans, such as cancer, before the baby is even born. The new technique also brought far-fetched ethical concerns, with some people claiming the actual goal might be designer babies. As students show an increasing interest in STEM disciplines and associated soft skills, we know this work will affect their lives.

#7: Donald Trump Sworn In

President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, bringing an increase in bullying and outspoken white supremacy to the nation. Because many high school graduates go directly into military service, Mr Trump’s actions regarding North Korea are a little disturbing: Not only has he made comments suggesting he’s game for war, but the US has also conducted drills in conjunction with South Korea, drills that resemble direct strikes on North Korean nuclear and missile testing sites. The exercises are conducted every year, but with heated rhetoric and a greater show of weaponry than usual, the situation couldn’t be more worrisome.

#8: Betsy DeVos Sworn In

Despite a rather contentious hearing before a Senate committee, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the 11th US secretary of education. Her views on vouchers and other corporate privatization efforts were well documented before that, but Voxitatis has held on a few occasions that a sympathetic ear is needed in hearing her out.

#9: Gun Violence Escalates

Mass shootings came to the forefront in 2017, with a deadly mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas. That one affected local schools a little, but there was also a school shooting at a small rural school in California—well, the gunman wasn’t able to gain entry to the school building, since the staff at Rancho Tehama Elementary had prepared themselves well. A few students were injured, but many lives were saved as a result of preparedness on the school’s part.

#10: Criminals Breach the Internet

Hackers, AKA criminals, breached security firewalls at the Equifax credit reporting agency this year. This illegal activity exposed credit-related information about more than 100 million people and forced schools to re-examine their data and privacy policies—yet again.

#11: Schools Include Lessons on Fake News, Opioid Addiction

Schools have been called on to cope with crises facing Americans and even threatening the meaning of democracy itself. For example, Rhode Island Gov Gina Raimondo signed bills addressing fake news, calling on schools to work with media literacy organizations and try to incorporate the subject into schools’ curriculum. A new law in Washington state also has the state school superintendent developing a website to teach successful media literacy practices. In addition, laws have been passed in an effort to reduce the number of deaths from opioid overdoses, and schools are delivering important messages about that as well.

Finally, just as Google announces its top searches for the year, we are pleased to report that two of our most-read stories this year were about fine arts programming in schools and the third was about algebra. The only facts about our readership that would have delighted me more is if one of the three was about athletics, but it wasn’t.

Three most-read headlines on the Voxitatis Blog in 2017:

  1. Algebra 1 PARCC question: area of rug equation (March 2016)
  2. How to (p)raise successful kids (Nov. 2016)
  3. Marching band is a transformation at Ben Davis (Oct. 2016)

Most-read stories that were actually published in 2017:

  1. Who run the world? She who codes it. (student journalism)
  2. Obituary: Markel Scott; homicide in Baltimore
  3. Algebra 1 PARCC: racing cars
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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