Editor's Note: Dave Schechter is CNN's Senior National Editor and will be doing a series of blogs on education in the coming weeks.
CNN Senior National Editor
There’s a lot important happening in education – ranging from school districts coping with budget shortfalls to the creation of a national set of curriculum standards to new ways of teaching math – and I plan to write about these developments in the weeks before most children resume school in August and September.
But while researching the serious stuff my mind detoured to movies with education themes. So, let’s have some fun. Here are a dozen of my favorites:
Blackboard Jungle: (1955) Glenn Ford struggles to maintain control as a new teacher in a difficult urban school.
Teacher’s Pet: (1958) I started in newspapers, so I’m a sucker for Clark Gable as the grizzled editor and Doris Day as the journalism teacher he tries to show up and then charm.
To Sir With Love: (1967) Sidney Poitier as a teacher determined that his students become more than just bricks in a wall.
The Paper Chase: (1973) John Houseman as the intimidating Professor Kingsfield, who insists that his students study law the old fashioned way.
The Breakfast Club: (1985) A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal learn the others are more than they appear.
Pleasantville: (1988) When you view the world in black-and-white, there may be blank pages in your education.
Stand and Deliver: (1988) Edward James Olmos’ portrayal of math teacher Jaime Escalante’s efforts to win respect for the achievement of his Latino students.
Dead Poets Society: (1989) Robin Williams as a boarding school teacher struggling to break through conformity by seizing the day.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: (1989) History doesn’t have to be boring, especially if you have a phone booth time machine.
Matilda: (1996) If you have children, you’ve watched the tale of the smart little girl . . . more than once.
October Sky: (1999) The “based on a real story” tale of a teacher who helped launch a boy’s dream skyward instead of it being buried in a mine.
Finding Forrester: (2000) In and out of the classroom, the lesson is not to judge books by their covers.
I’ve left off a lot of popular films so chime in with your choices.
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Our need for oil almost wiped out the sperm whale once, and now our insatiable hunger for it threatens them again.
Sperm whales were hunted in the Gulf of Mexico in the 18th and 19th centuries for their oil, but were somewhat spared when petroleum replaced whale oil as an energy source. Now, instead of hunters, the same oil that helped to save the sperm whales from extinction threatens their survival in the Gulf.
Sperm whales, listed as endangered in 1970, are social animals. The young live with their mothers for years in stable groups, and the whales dive deep in search of food. Because they spend so much of their lives undersea, our knowledge of their behavior and community structure is limited. We have a lot to learn before we can say we truly know these animals.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Here is an oil spill riddle: What is the difference between BP’s website, the White House Press Office, and those horns the soccer fans keep blowing at the World Cup? Well, two of them produce a craze-inducing, ceaseless whine that makes it impossible to keep track of the real action. The third is a plastic souvenir.
Back when the oil started gushing (which seems like sometime in the mid 1970’s now,) the promises from BP and the White House that they had the best minds on the case were at least vaguely reassuring. The daily verse and chorus of press releases and expert assessments were like an old standard crooning from your iPod. But now the statements from on high sound like the mindless buzz of those vuvuzela horns.
Public fatigue and anger over the drone from the Gulf reached a tipping point this week, and now no one in power is being spared. When President Obama spoke about the crisis from the Oval Office, his message clearly crash landed like an oily pelican on the deck of public opinion. Congress is faring no better. For all its endless hearings into the matter, the Capitol Hill crowd appears incapable of producing much of anything beyond bluster. And BP is being tagged daily as the latest poster child for corporate irresponsibility and insensitivity. Case in point: The BP exec who referred to his concern for all the “small people” hurt by his spill. Nice work, Gulliver.
At the core of the trouble is a basic lack of faith. The polls all show it. Many Americans simply do not believe what BP is promising. The company says it is committed to taking care of the mess, but BP sounds like a great big corporate teenager promising he’ll clean his room. We have been given no real reason to think that Congress will ride to the rescue, and even though many Americans still like President Obama, they see his handling of this affair as weak, indecisive, and late.
So when all these erstwhile bandleaders say, yet again, “C’mon, America, join us in a chorus of ‘God Save the Gulf,’” it’s not that people don’t want to sing along. It’s just that the drone of the same old words, with too little action, keeps drowning out any real song of salvation.
Washington - While closing arguments have ended in California's Proposition 8 trial - a case that will determine the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban - the outcome may not have an impact on states considering similar legislation.
The reason: State budget crises and the upcoming elections have shifted the focus from social issues to fiscal stability, which will sidetrack same-sex marriage legislation in other states, a policy expert said.
"I have also seen this issue pushed aside since the recession started. States are just so focused on budgets and the shortfalls," said Christine Nelson, a program director at the National Council of State Legislatures. "I had a legislator tell me 'Are you kidding? Our state needs money and job creation. So why in the world would we be tackling that?' "
Nelson, who follows the issue of same-sex marriage, said there's been very little legislative activity this year, which she attributes to a year where most legislators are up for re-election.
Editor's Note: Anderson Cooper and AC360° received more than 60 letters from 6th graders in Beaumont, California. Some of those letters are posted below. Click on the thumbnails of the letters to read them.
Read some of the letters here
"We have a voice. We should say something." That’s the message from Brian Lindeman to his 6th grade science and math class at San Gorgonio Middle School in Beaumont, California More than 30 students have fallen into a rare moment of silence. Their eyes are glued to the projection screen behind Mr. Lindeman. On the screen is AC360.com and the disturbing images coming from the Gulf oil spill.
As the disaster is unfolding, by coincidence, the students are studying the impact of trash and oil on the environment. “The timing of the spill made for an interesting situation. The class was able to bring in articles each day that were related to material we were studying," Lindeman told AC360.
"We wanted to focus on the environment and the community and stay away from whose fault it was and the politics. And CNN had more of that information than anyone else did; so we started following your site for daily updates," Lindeman added.
Lindeman stressed to his students that there are things they can do to help. He told them, even at the age of the 11, they do have a voice and can be heard. So the students started writing letters. They wrote to the person they thought might have some answers: Anderson Cooper.
"I, and all of my classmates are writing a letter to you because we are concerned about the animals, plants, pollution, fresh water and the humans and their jobs. I would like to know what is going to stop this? Who is going to? And especially when?" – Aryana
"This is a special group of kids", Lindeman told us. "They really wanted to do something. We were getting most of our information from AC360.com so they wanted to write. They wanted to say 'Hey! We are listening! We are paying attention! What can we do?'” “I told them maybe you will be the spark. We can write and maybe someone else will write. That's how movements start," Linderman said.
Every student wrote a letter. Many of their concerns were similar.
They care about the animals:
"We are very concerned about the environment and the living habitats. How can we make the environment more clean?"- Kaylin
They worry about the residents of the Gulf:
"Please tell BP to do something about the oil spill because every day more oil spills out and more animals and plants will die and more people will go out of business. At least give some money to the fishermen who make their living on the fish and shrimp in the ocean."
They worry about the people impacted the most by the disaster.
"I have many questions to ask you about the oil spill right now. One question is what will happen to the people that fish for their jobs?"- Savannah
And, like the rest of the country, they want an answer to this
"How are people going to make sure spills like this won't happen again? Because if these spills keep happening our water will be forever dirty and our ecosystems will be damaged and more and more jobs will be lost!" – Hailey
When asked why his students were so insistent on doing something, Lindeman said, "We live in a small town in California. There is a real sense of community pride here. And that pride helps when you talk about other communities in trouble. They were genuinely concerned about other people potentially hurting. They connect their community to other communities."
It’s a connection with no boundaries. A connection fueled by a teacher with a powerful message, “We have a voice. We should be heard."
Editor's Note: Sixth grade students from San Gorgonio Middle School studied the Gulf oil spill following AC360°'s coverage in class. They wrote in to tell Anderson their concerns, ask some questions and to find out what they can do to help. Click on the images below to read some of these letters.
Scott Bronstein and Wayne Drash
Editor's note: This account of the night the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded is based on exclusive interviews with five survivors and three of their wives conducted by CNN's Anderson Cooper and the CNN Special Investigations Unit. The interviews paint perhaps the most detailed picture yet of what happened - and the possible causes of the explosion. Additional reporting for this story was done by CNN producers Scott Bronstein and Wayne Drash.
Special to CNN
Editor's note: Kathleen Newland is co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute and directs MPI's refugee protection program. She serves on the Board of the International Rescue Committee and is a former chair of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children. The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan think tank in Washington that analyzes U.S. and global immigration policies and trends.
(CNN) - In just the past week, another 100,000 people have joined the rolls of the world's refugees; they were forced to flee violence in Kyrgyzstan across the border into Uzbekistan.
It is an inauspicious prelude to the observance of World Refugee Day on Sunday. But it is a timely reminder that more than 15 million refugees are looking to the world for help - first to survive and be safe, and then to find a resolution to their plight.
The number of people forcibly displaced from their homes reached 43 million by the end of 2009, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported this week. That's the highest number since the mid-1990s. About two-thirds are displaced inside their own countries, like the 300,000 Kyrgyz who fled this week but did not manage to cross the border into Uzbekistan.