TIME universities

Dartmouth Bans Hard Alcohol on Campus For All

Dartmouth Advanced Placement
Students walk across the Dartmouth College campus green in Hanover, N.H., on March 12, 2012. The school is banning hard alcohol on campus. Jim Cole—AP

Fraternities need to reform or disband, says Dartmouth president

Dartmouth College plans to ban all hard alcohol on campus following a series of high-profile reports of sexual assaults at universities around the U.S.

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon said on Thursday that all students, regardless of age, would be banned from consuming and possessing hard alcohol on campus, while warning the college’s fraternities that they would need to reform or disband.

(MORE: Dartmouth’s President on Sexual Assault Prevention and Bystander Intervention)

Several schools have taken similar steps to reform their alcohol policies since a Rolling Stone articlewas published about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. While that story has since been discredited, Brown University announced this month that it would ban alcohol at its fraternities, Swarthmore College has banned hard alcohol from events on campus, and U-Va. has banned mixed drinks and punches at its fraternity parties.

(MORE: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses)

TIME Infectious Disease

A California High School Suspended 66 Kids Over Measles Fears

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Getty Images

School districts are grappling over whether to make vaccination a condition of enrollment

A two-week suspension for 66 high school students who have not been fully immunized for measles has been handed down by a California high school.

The move comes after one student was believed to have exposed 20 others to the highly contagious disease during a school field trip.

That student is being allowed to return to the Palm Desert High School according to the Los Angeles Times, and the suspended students can return to school earlier if they provide proof of immunization or are medically cleared by the Riverside County Public Health Department.

“We are simply responding, being very careful and making sure we’re taking the best care of students and staff,” Desert Sands Unified School District spokeswoman Mary Perry told Reuters.

School districts are grappling with the decision of whether or not to require students to prove they have been vaccinated before enrollment.

The homegrown measles virus, which causes rash and fever, was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. Its reappearance and subsequent surge has created concerns over parents who do not have their children vaccinated because of fears of negative side effects.

California and the surrounding states, plus Mexico, have reported over 90 cases of measles from an outbreak that is believed to have originated in Disneyland in mid-December.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME

Humans of New York Founder Raises Over $700,000 for Inner-City Kids to Visit Harvard

Humans of New York is one of the Internet’s runaway success stories, and creator Brandon Stanton is intent on giving back to the people who’ve helped his blog become what it is today.

For his latest project, Stanton says he was inspired by a picture of a student from the Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school in Brownsville, one of Brooklyn’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods.

The student, Vidal, identified his principal, Nadia Lopez, as the most influential person in his life. “When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us,” he told Stanton. “She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”

Stanton launched a crowd fund campaign Thursday inspired by Lopez, with the goal of $100,000, which would go towards organizing trips for Mott Hall Bridges students to visit Harvard. As Stanton wrote, “Since many of her scholars have never left New York, [Lopez] wants them to know what it feels like to stand on the campus of one of the world’s top schools, and know that they belong.”

It took 45 minutes to raise the $100,000, so Stanton quickly revised the goals of the campaign, updating the site to reflect the needs of the students at Mott Hall. Lopez noted that Mott Hall was in need of a summer program, writing that “Learning stops during the summer for my scholars. We have what is called a ‘summer slide.’ My scholars can’t even go outside. It’s too dangerous.”

Currently, the campaign has raised over $700,000. To donate, you can click here – the campaign is scheduled to run for another 11 days.

This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com

TIME Education

Colleges Pit Music Against Math as Funding Dries Up

Music Class Students
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Limited money is causing state schools to choose among subjects with the most demand

Bob Marley once sang that when music hits you, you feel no pain. But the music department at the University of Alaska at Anchorage could soon end up bruised, bloodied and down for the count.

That’s because music is being pitted against other subjects with stronger demand, such as business and engineering, as the public university cuts its budget in response to lower oil prices that have resulted in a drop in state tax revenue.

This is not happening only in Alaska. Colleges and universities across the country are going through the same painful process of winnowing their offerings to show students, lawmakers, and taxpayers they are serious about saving money. And what was once a theoretical conversation about the value of the humanities versus the sciences or business is now a very real debate over which academic programs will survive and what jobs will be lost.

Advocates welcome the chance to weed out costly programs with hardly any students, or force them to attract more and do a better job of graduating them. Critics say the budget-minded process threatens to preserve more popular departments that churn out employable graduates, such as biotechnology and nursing, at the expense of less pre-professional degrees like philosophy and history.

“That could be a very dangerous, unintended outcome,” says Sandra Elman, president of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the accreditor for Alaska and other northwestern states. “If this is going to be looked at in terms of a financial bottom line, you don’t have to be the head of Microsoft or Nike to know that the programs that graduate the most students might end up on top,” she says. “Faculty have the right to be concerned.”

Indiana State University was among the first schools to undertake a comprehensive review of its offerings, from 2006 to 2008, which resulted in the elimination or suspension of 48 academic programs, including art history, German, and journalism as it sought to trim a bloat of offerings that had led to 8,000 empty seats in classes.

The process was painful, says Robert Guell, an Indiana State economics professor and chairman of the campus academic senate, but it was a way of “culling the walking dead. Your perspective on this depends on whether you’re the organ donor or the organ recipient,” Guell says. “The body may be healthier overall, but it still doesn’t feel good for the donor.”

To save $6 million, the University of Southern Maine is cutting French, geosciences and applied medical sciences, and consolidating six other majors: English, philosophy, and history will be combined into one department, and music, art and theater will be grouped into another. Though French is still widely spoken in Maine, the French Department had graduated an average of 4.8 majors per year for the last five years.

Other institutions have adopted a model that ranks departments according to productivity and divides them into five groups, with the bottom 20% eliminated or reorganized.

Boise State University, for instance, over the summer instructed programs in the bottom one-fifth to plan for “significant change,” says Provost Martin Schimpf. Among those slated to be cut are bachelor’s degrees in bilingual education and geophysics and a master’s degree in physical education pedagogy.

Schrimp says the process, ordered by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, will help the public university consolidate programs that were teaching the same subjects and save $2 million a year.

“We create and eliminate programs all the time,” he says. “There’s a lot of overlap and interdependence. By having a universitywide conversation, these things pop out. That’s the value of the process itself.”

But prioritization can create its share of problems, especially at schools where faculty members have been cut out of the process. Critics point to the University of Northern Iowa, which in 2012 announced it would eliminate one-fifth of its academic departments.

A December 2012 report by the American Association of University Professors derided Northern Iowa’s eliminations as “created solely as a device for laying off members of the faculty whom the administration no longer wished to retain.”

In addition to music instruction, the proposals in Alaska could doom several other programs, including the respected Alaska Quarterly Review, a literary journal.

“It’s very difficult,” says Bill Spindle, a University of Alaska Anchorage vice chancellor who has helped lead the process, which aims to save about $7 million per year. “We want to prune, we don’t want to break off branches.”

The university has ranked its programs into categories including one that calls for “further review” of departments about which questions remain and that may not have long to live. A final decision is expected to be released this week, and Spindle says cuts will be even deeper than originally expected because of a state budget shortfall.

Among those most at risk include Chinese (“[T]his program should stop creating new courses and contemplating new programs when it has only part of one faculty position,” according to the university prioritization report) and two music programs (“This is a very expensive and relatively non-productive program, and there are serious opportunity costs with putting so many resources into something that produces only four graduates in three years”).

Music Department chairman Christopher Sweeney says the actual number of graduates over those three years was closer to seven for each of the two at-risk music degrees, but he acknowledged that even this number was lower than he’d prefer.

“As much of a nightmare as it was,” said Sweeney, “it was a good wake-up call on how to serve our population better.” But he added: “We are not going down without a very, very severe fight.”

The at-risk list also includes some surprises. Chemistry is on it (“The number of graduates is very troubling”) and a graduate certificate in nursing (“This program has weak student demand”).

Also surprising are the subjects that were rated as successful—art, for instance (“an impressive level of student-centric discussion”), and medical laboratory science (“Alumni survey data indicates grads are finding employment, mostly in Alaska”).

The university urged departments to explain their value by demonstrating proof of learning, but some didn’t take the hint, says Diane Hirshberg, a professor of education policy who helped lead the prioritization study. “We had programs provide evidence,” she says. “Then we had others that said, ‘Our students know this and this,’ without providing any evidence. It’s frustrating.”

Even professors who hate the thought of universities cutting programs acknowledge it needs to happen occasionally. Schools tend to grow more than they shrink, and some departments outlive their usefulness as employment trends change.

The key to avoiding problems is transparency and communication, says Jack Maynard, the Indiana State provost who led his campus’s prioritization.

“By doing that, you take away a lot of the weapons people would use: speculation and rumor,” says Maynard, who came out of retirement recently to return as the school’s interim provost. He says Indiana State used the process to transform its identity into a stronger campus focusing on rural health care.

At other schools, however, some fret that a change in identity would be the wrong outcome. New York City’s Lehman College, for example, is undergoing a prioritization process some professors worry could shift the school away from the humanities and toward science and engineering.

“A college needs to have a philosophy department,” says Duane Tananbaum, a Lehman history professor, “even if it’s not overflowing with students.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news website focused on inequality and innovation in education.

TIME Congress

Republicans Look to Gain on Obama’s Education Blunder

John Boehner Holds Media Briefing At The Capitol
Speaker of the House John Boehner takes questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Jan. 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer—Getty Images

On Tuesday, President Obama dropped his proposal to reform popular college savings plans. On Wednesday, Republicans wouldn’t let him hear the end of it.

“I’m not sure why President Obama would have sought to undermine them in the first place, but it’s certainly good to see the President coming around to Republicans’ pro-middle class view on this matter,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the chamber floor.

“What crazy tax hike scheme will the White House dream up next,” tweeted House Speaker John Boehner.

“Well, that must have polled badly,” taunted the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board.

The proposal—ending a tax break for mostly wealthy families and redistributing the billion dollars saved towards tax breaks for the less well-off—was a part of a broader plan but so politically perilous that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi pressed the President to drop it while aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.

White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Wednesday that the proposal was a “distraction” and dropped because it could “jeopardize” a larger education strategy that included $50 billion in tax reforms and a plan to make two years of community college free.

But Republicans will keep the issue in the spotlight. Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a member of the House GOP leadership, introduced a bill this week with Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind to strengthen the nearly 12 million savings accounts, which are known as 529s. Americans accumulated nearly $245 billion in the plans last year, according to the Investment Company Institute.

“These are particularly important goals as college costs continue to rise and students struggle with extreme amounts of student loan debt,” says Jenkins, who notes that there is a “spotlight” on the issue due to the president’s “misstep.” “We certainly are going to call on him to support [the bill.]”

The bill aims to reduce paperwork, allow students to withdraw from college without a refund penalty and updates the current law by including computers as a qualified expense. Jenkins says that she expects the bill to hit the House floor in a month.

Kind says that the Administration could have done a better job of educating members of its plans ahead of the State of the Union.

“This has become a trusted vehicle for education savings and therefore calling for the tax benefit elimination from 529s seems to be a giant step too far,” he says.

Kind laughed when asked if he thought Republicans would use the President’s fumble to their own political advantage.

“It’s the world in which we live,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s what makes entitlement reform so hard. When you have people honestly trying to put forward some straightforward provisions only to be attacked by the right or the left. That’s what makes developing consensus very difficult.”

TIME Education

Obama Drops Effort to Tax College Savings Plans

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address - DC
US President Barack Obama delivers his sixth State Of The Union address to the nation at the US Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2015. Olivier Douliery—SIPA

He just proposed it in the State of the Union.

Just one week after proposing the idea in his State of the Union Address, President Obama was forced to withdraw a proposal to change the way tax-preferred college savings plans work after criticism from Republicans and members of his own party.

A White House official confirmed Tuesday that Obama is no longer calling to tax income from so-called 529 plans in his budget to be released next week, but will maintain the other elements of his plan to make college more affordable. The administration had argued that the plans benefited those higher on the income scale and planned to use the savings to pay for the president’s free community college proposal and expanded tax breaks that would help those at lower incomes.

“We proposed it because we thought it was a sensible approach, part of consolidating six programs to two and expanding and better targeting education tax relief for the middle class,” a White House official said. “Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision so that they can instead focus on delivering a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support, as well as the President’s broader package of tax relief for childcare and working families, paid for by eliminating the trust fund loophole and making sure the wealthy pay their fair share.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pressed Obama to drop the proposal with administration officials Tuesday aboard Air Force One as she joined Obama on his trip from India to Saudi Arabia. The White House said that Obama’s other proposals to close the so-called trust-fund loophole on inherited wealth and a new fee on the liabilities of the nation’s largest financial institutions would more than cover the cost of his education proposals.

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner called on Obama to withdraw the proposal. “529 plans help middle-class families save for college, but now the president wants to tax those plans,” he said. “It’s another example of his outdated, top-down approach­ when our focus ought to be on providing opportunity for all Americans. And so, for the sake of middle-class families, the president ought to withdraw this tax increase from his budget when he submits it soon.”

TIME Education

What the New Senate Education Chair Thinks About No Child Left Behind

Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., right, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, for the committee's hearing looking at ways to fix the No Child Left Behind law. Susan Walsh—AP

Sen. Lamar Alexander, the new chairman of the Senate committee on education, walked into Congress this month with guns a-blazin’.

Twelve years after the passage of George W. Bush’s signature education bill, No Child Left Behind, and eight years after that troubled law was supposed to be revised and updated, the Tennessee Republican says now is the time for its long-neglected makeover.

He plans to take a revised version of the law to the Senate floor by the end of February, with hopes of pushing it through Congress “in the first half of this year.”

What exactly that makeover will look like is now the subject of hot debate on Capitol Hill.

The primary issue at stake is testing. Under No Child Left Behind, students are required to take a raft of standardized exams, each of which are used to assess whether schools are succeeding or failing, and, increasingly, to hold individual teachers accountable for their performance in the classroom.

Critics of No Child Left Behind—and there are lots and lots of them—generally hate the testing mandate. Conservatives and Tea Party activists decry it as “government overreach,” while liberals, local teachers unions and parents lament the reliance on “high-stakes testing.” Even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that too much testing can “rob school buildings of joy.”

So far, Alexander says that while he sees the benefits of aggregating and breaking down federal testing results, “the jury is still out” on whether an updated No Child Left Behind should require federal standardized tests at all, and if they do, whether the government should be barred from imposing consequences on schools with bad test scores.

How Alexander and the Senate education committee ultimately come down on this issue could fundamentally alter the way that public education works in this country.

In a conversation with TIME last week, Alexander offered a peek into what he thinks might come next.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve said you’re not sure how you stand on the testing issue, but what is your thinking at the moment?

The thing that worked with No Child Left Behind is to take tests results, break them down and aggregate them so that we know that children really aren’t being left behind—so you can’t have an overall average for a school that’s pretty good, but still leave all the Latino kids in a ditch somewhere. But what’s increasingly obvious to me is that the biggest failure of No Child Left Behind has been the federal accountability system—the effort to decide in Washington whether schools or teachers are succeeding or failing. That just doesn’t work. But I think the jury’s still out on the tests.

How so?

What I didn’t realize when we started was the large number of tests that are required by state and local governments. [Former Florida Gov.] Jeb Bush’s Foundation of Excellence in Education in Florida found that there are between eight and 200 additional tests required by state and local government in Florida. That is a lot more than the 17 tests that No Child Left Behind requires.

So you’re not necessarily opposed to keeping those 17 federally mandated tests?

Dr. [Martin] West at Harvard [who testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee last week] suggested keeping the [17] tests but making the decision about success, failure and accountability part of a state’s system. … Dr. West argues that that’s the real culprit—trying to [design accountability systems] from Washington—and I think that’s a pretty persuasive argument. I mean, it may not be the federal tests so much as letting someone at such great a distance assign so much weight to a single test and such arbitrary consequences to it.

So there may still be a federal testing mandate in a revised No Child Left Behind?

Most of the controversy that exists today is the result of Washington getting involved [in state education policy] over the last six or seven years. People don’t like that. Teachers and their unions do not like being evaluated from Washington, and communities do not like being told what their academic standards are, i.e. Common Core, from Washington. They might adopt it for themselves, but they’re not going to be told what to do. … [Washington’s involvement] actually creates a backlash, making higher standards more difficult to hold onto and teacher evaluation systems more difficult to create because of all the anger. … It’s just not the way you make permanent improvements in 100,000 public schools. The community has to own the change. The teachers in the school have to own the evaluation system and believe it’s fair or it’ll never work.

So keep the federally mandated tests, but leave the consequences portion to the states.

That’s right. That’s what Dr. West argues: you have to have the annual test. You have to disaggregate it. You have to report it, so we know how schools and children and school districts are doing. But after that, it’s up to the states, who spend the money and have the children and take care of them and it’s their responsibility to devise what’s success, what’s failure and [what the] consequences [should be].

You’re saying that Dr. West’s position, but it sounds like you’re pretty sympathetic to it.

The jury’s still out for me. What I know is the biggest failure of No Child Left Behind is the idea that Washington should tell 100,000 public schools and their teachers whether they’re succeeding, whether they’re failing and what the consequences of that should be. That hasn’t worked.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 23

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Though the “No Child Left Behind” brand is thoroughly tarnished, the law sparked the revolution of data-driven educating.

By Nick Sheltrown in EdSurge

2. To help cities plan for flooding, drought, wildfires and other effects of climate change, the University of Michigan built an adaptation tool for the Great Lakes region.

By Lisa A. Pappas at University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute

3. Teachers are underpaid in America. Early childhood workers earns even less for setting the foundation of all future learning for our children. That should change.

By Laura Bornfreund at New America Foundation

4. Chicago’s ‘Crime Lab’ — which uses scientific research to understand and experiment with innovative ways to prevent crime — could be replicated in other cities.

By Tina Rosenberg in Fixes, at the New York Times

5. To reduce billions of needless miles driving, a startup is bringing the Uber model to the trucking industry.

By Liz Gannes in Re/code

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME global health

What the Gates Foundation Has Achieved, 15 Years On

Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived
Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived Scott Olson; Getty Images

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Much has been done over the foundation's first decade and a half — with more still to do

There are a whole lot of things you may or may not get to do in the next 15 years, but a few of them you can take for granted: eating, for one. Having access to a bank, for another. And then there’s the simple business of not dying of a preventable or treatable disease. Good for you—and good for most of us in the developed world. But the developed world isn’t the whole story.

The bad—and familiar—news is that developing nations lag far behind in income, public health, food production, education and more. The much, much better news is that all of that is changing—and fast. The just-released Annual Letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation makes a good case for hoping there is still more to come.

The 2015 letter represents something of a threshold moment for the Foundation. It was in 2000 that the Gateses began their work and set themselves a very public 15-year deadline: show meaningful progress in narrowing the health, income and resource gap between the world’s privileged and underprivileged people, or be prepared to explain why not. So far, nobody—neither the Gates Foundation nor the numerous other global health groups like the World Health Organization and UNICEF—have much explaining to do.

The number of children under five who die each year worldwide has been nearly cut in half, from a high of nearly 13 million to 6.5 million today. Polio has been chased to the very brink of extinction, and elephantiasis, river blindness and Guinea worm are close behind. Drought-tolerant seeds are dramatically increasing agricultural yields; economies in the once-desperate countries in sub-Saharan Africa are now matching the developed world in rate of annual growth. Up to 70% of people across the developing world now have access to wireless service, making mobile banking possible—a luxury in the West but a necessity in places there is no other banking infrastructure.

The trick of course is that progress isn’t the same as success. The 13 million babies who were dying a year in the years before the Foundation began, for example, factored out to a horrific 35,000 every single day. Slashing that in half leaves you with 17,500—still an intolerable figure. For that reason and others, the Gateses are turning the 15-year chronometer back to zero, setting targets—and framing ways to achieve them—for 2030.

The most pressing concern involves those 17,500 kids. The overwhelming share of the recent reduction in mortality is due to better delivery of vaccines and treatments for diseases that are vastly less common or even nonexistent in much of the developed world—measles, pneumonia, malaria, cholera and other diarrheal ills. Those are still the cause of 60% of the remaining deaths. But the other 40%—or 2.6 million children—involve neonates, babies who die in the first 30 days of life and often on the very first day. The interventions in these cases can be remarkably simple.

“The baby must be kept warm immediately after birth, which too often doesn’t happen,” Melinda Gates told TIME. “This is basic skin-to-skin contact. Breast-feeding exclusively is the next big thing, as is basic cord care. The umbilical cord must be cut cleanly and kept clean to prevent infections.”

HIV may similarly be brought to heel, if not as easily as neonate mortality. A vaccine or a complete cure—one that would simply eliminate the virus from the body the way an antibiotic can eliminate a bacterium—remain the gold standards. But in much of the world, anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have served as what is known as a functional cure, allowing an infected person to live healthily and indefinitely while always carrying a bit of the pathogen. Gates looks forward to making ARVs more widely available, as well as to the development of other treatment protocols that we may not even be considering now.

“We’re already moving toward an HIV tipping point,” she says, “when the number of HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa who are in treatment will exceed the number of people becoming newly infected.”

Food security is another achievable goal. Even as Africa remains heavily agrarian—70% of people in the sub-Saharan region are farmers compared to 2% in the U.S.—yields remain low. An acre of farmland here in America may produce 150 bushels of corn; in Africa it’s just 30. The problem is largely rooted in our increasingly unstable climate, with severe droughts burning out harvests or heavy rainstorms destroying them.

“Millions of people eat rice in Africa,” says Gates, “and rice has to be kept much wetter than other crops. At the equator it’s staying drier longer, but when the rains do come, they hit harder.”

In the case of rice and corn and all other crops, the answer is seeds engineered for the conditions in which they will have to grow, not for the more forgiving farmlands of the West. In Tanzania, site-specific seed corn has been made available and is already changing lives. “That seed,” one farmer told Gates when she visited in 2012, “made the difference between hunger and prosperity.”

Finally comes banking. Across Africa, only 37% of people are part of the formal banking system, but up to 90%, depending on the area, are part of the M-Pesa network—a mobile banking link accessible via cellphone. The Pesa part of the name is Swahili for money and the M is simply for mobile.

“Today too many people put their money in a cow or in jewelry,” Gates says. “But it’s impossible to take just a little of that money out. If someone gets sick or you have another emergency, you simply sell the cow.” Mobile banking changes all of that, making it much easier to save—and in a part of the world where even $1 set aside a day can mean economic security, that’s a very big deal.

Nothing about the past 15 years guarantees that the next 15 will see as much progress. The doctrine of low-hanging fruit means that in almost all enterprises, the early successes come easier. But 15 years is a smart timeframe. It’s far enough away that it creates room for different strategies to be tried and fail before one succeeds, but it’s close enough that you still can’t afford to waste the time you have. Wasting time, clearly, is not something the folks at the Gates Foundation have been doing so far, and they likely won’t in the 15 years to come either.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

6 Sneaky but Scientific Ways to Help Kids Learn

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Anna Pekunova—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Parents want to teach kids the skills they’ll need to lead happy, productive lives. But we have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, acknowledges this “time famine” at the outset of her book, which is filled with evidence-based ways to help kids learn the skills they need. Here are a few of her suggestions. Chances are you’re already doing some of them. Now you can rest assured that research supports your methods, and maybe you can try a couple of new things. As Galinsky says, “we teach best when we are learning.”

  1. Play games backwards. For example, “Simon Says, Do the Opposite.” It’s the classic with a twist. If Simon says, “Be quiet,” the kids should be loud.

Why:
This helps kids practice inhibitory control, an important executive function. Executive functions also include focus, cognitive flexibility, and working memory. These skills predict academic success at least as well as IQ scores.

  1. Talk about feelings. Encourage your kids to talk about how they feel (She’s sad and frustrated that she left her new necklace at Grandma’s and won’t be able to get it back until next week. She’s also envious of her brother, who remembered his necklace.) Speculate about how others might feel, whether it’s in real life situations (Another driver cut you off, and that made you angry, but maybe that driver was having a terrible horrible no good very bad day) or in a book (Alexander was disappointed when the shoe store had exciting striped sneakers for his brothers but only white ones for him.).

Why:
This helps kids learn the skill of empathy. Kids who are able to understand what others are feeling and understand their intentions have smoother transitions to school, college and beyond because they can see others’ point of view.

  1. Tell Stories. Read. Talk about what you’re reading. Read to your kids, or ask them questions about their books. Tell stories. If you go to a friend’s house, encourage the kids to tell the story of the visit later. Family life is filled with what Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley call “business talk.” This kind of talk usually uses simple vocabulary and conveys what an adult wants from a kid. Storytelling and discussion of books uses richer language and is called “extra talk.”

Why:
It promotes good communication skills. In a survey Galinsky conducted, employers were most concerned about employees’ verbal and written communication skills. Extra talk correlates positively with academic performance. Of course, it might also be pleasant.

  1. Choose toys that have no point. Lego bricks, not sets. Or break up sets after the thrill wears off and see what your kid can make. Guide instead of taking over. (“It doesn’t seem to fit here? Where else could it go?”) Don’t wrest the brick from her hand even if you know you could make something cool.

Why:
This kind of play promotes object, space, and number sense, skills that help kids make connections. Information is easy to come by in the age of Google, but it’s of limited use if you can’t make creative connections.

  1. Write Out the Fights.You probably don’t feel like pulling out a notebook when the kids are fighting, but try Galinsky’s approach, supported by research and tested on her own kids. Collaborate with your family to:
  • Identify the dilemma.
  • Determine the goal
  • Generate a list of solutions. Go beyond your typical solutions.
  • Think about how these solutions might work, and not just the ones that were your idea.
  • Pick one and try it.
  • After you’ve tried it, discuss how the solution is working and either tweak or change the plan.

Why:
This process models critical thinking, which Galinsky defines as “[T]he ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide beliefs, decisions, and actions.” Life is packed with decisions to make and problems to solve, but in the short term, good critical thinking skills might help your kid judge when a friend is influencing him to make a mean-spirited or dangerous choice.

  1. Praise effort — not talent or intelligence. Instead of saying, “You got that problem right. You’re so smart,” say “You worked hard on those problems and you figured them out. That’s great.” Talk through how they deal with challenges and praise persistence.

Why:
Kids who receive this kind of praise are more likely to take on challenges. They have a “growth mindset,” which means that they see their abilities as something they can develop. This sets the stage for a lifelong interest in learning.

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