Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Tag: Education

Appalachia’s Employment Struggle

J.D. Vance’s family was not the only family to struggle with employment shifts in Appalachia. This CNBC article follows the story of Tony Bowling following changing times in the employment industry in Appalachia.

Tony Bowling was born and raised in Hazard, a small town in Kentucky. Along with many of the others who live there, he was employed in the coal industry.

The Appalachia region. CC Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“‘Every male on both sides of my family, going back at least three generations, worked in the mines,'” said Bowling.

Unfortunately, Bowling was laid off in 2012, due to a decline in the coal industry across the country over the past ten years. The coal company that he worked for was shut down completely, and his company was not the only one to do so. Bowling enrolled in a technical college in Hazard two years later to pursue a career as an electrical lineman, and this new employment route has been a successful move for Bowling.

“‘I’m making more money now than I ever did in the mines,'” Bowling explained. He is also an instructor in the program on weekends.

Bowling’s story appears to have a positive ending. However, thousands of other coal miners in the Appalachia area remain unemployed.

“‘We’re still dealing with the aftermath of layoffs in the coal industry,'” said Michael Cornett, director of agency expansion and public relations of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program. “‘You don’t recover from the loss of 13,000 coal industry jobs [in eastern Kentucky] since 2011 overnight.'”

Although there is hope in new careers for people like Bowling that are created for individuals who are affected by the decline in the coal industry, most of the positions are out of town and require a large amount of travel, something not everyone can do. Lots of previous coal miners also lack college degrees since their previous positions did not require one.

Coal mining has been a career for many individuals in the Appalachia region throughout history. CC Image Courtesy to Flickr.

Coal mining has been a career that has been passed down through many generations in the Appalachia region. Along with its vast amount of history comes a sense of pride in the job. Although there is an increase in new job opportunities, for those who have grown up with mining as a part of their lives, it is more than simply a job.

“‘There’s a sense of pride and purpose, and nothing to be ashamed of,'” said Cornett. “‘To see the industry downturn tears at the cultural roots of how people perceive themselves and where they live, because it pulls the rug out from underneath you.'”

 

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

 

 

The Link Between Education and Health

“Across America, people are falling ill and dying young. These men and women have something in common. In fact, they stand out because of something they don’t have: a college degree.”

In a recent analysis conducted by Princeton University, economists Case and Deaton discovered that those who have not attended college live shorter, unhealthier lives when compared to those who attended college.

In a Washington Post article published about these findings, author Karin Fischer noted that the reasons behind this discovery are not simply revolving around money- pain, stress, and social dysfunction all contribute to the problem.

Starting in the late 1990s, cases of illness and death started to increase for white men and women aged 45-54 who did not have a college degree. Case and Deaton noticed these rising death rates among those middle-aged individuals and saw a connection for less-educated adults of all ages.

In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance noted how difficult it was for people of a poorer background to attend college even if they had aspirations to (pp. 64-65). He often felt like an outsider at Yale Law School because he was exposed to people of completely different backgrounds than him, but he was also thankful for the incredible opportunities and success that his higher education brought him (pp. 204-7).

Author J.D. Vance as a child. Image Courtesy of the J.D. Vance website.

In the Princeton University study, they also noticed that life expectancy was increasing for those with college degrees.

“While there’s long been a gap in health outcomes based on education, it now looks more like a yawning gulf,” Fischer mentioned.

Stanford researchers have discovered a connection between education level and health. CC Image Courtesy of Pexels.

Those with stable, well-paying jobs are more likely to be healthier in the United States, especially since the United States holds a system of employment-based health care. However, the relationship between education and health is not strictly reliant upon solely socioeconomic status.

Case and Deaton have their own predictions as to why this is happening. They connected the mortality rate among those without college degrees to rising deaths from drug and alcohol abuse and suicide- what they are calling “deaths of despair.” Drug and alcohol addiction were also reoccurring issues that J.D. Vance wrote about in his memoir.

“Their theory goes like this: Over the past several decades, the economy has shifted, eliminating many of the jobs that once went to people without college degrees. The share of men in their prime working years, ages 25 to 54, who are not in the work force has more than tripled since the late 1960s. Those who do have jobs are unlikely to be pulling in the same sorts of wages as generations before them.”

According to Case and Deaton, those who do not have college degrees have reported being unhappier than those with college experience. From this, they may turn to drugs and/or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Rural America was especially negatively impacted by the changing economy, and the people in these areas tend to be white, older, and less-educated than those living in cities and suburbs.

Experts are not saying college is the answer for all of these striking issues, especially since college tuition is too expensive for many affected by these findings. Instead, they recommend changes in policy that “could help ease the disadvantage that comes from not having a degree.” Case and Deaton also want to alter the connection between employment and health care, where education will still matter, but policy changes could change its strong connection to health.

Even though more people today are attending college than those in the past, it is important to consider the effects it has on those that are not able to attend college.

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

 

 

Childhood Trauma Shown to Shorten Lifespan

“Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today,” explained Dr. Robert Block, former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a Ted Talk given by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris on the effects of childhood trauma throughout one’s lifetime, she revealed that childhood trauma increases the risk for seven of the ten leading causes of death in the USA.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris giving her Ted Talk. CC Image Courtesy of the Nadine Burke Harris website.

For those who are exposed to high levels of childhood trauma, life expectancy is 20 years shorter. They are also three times more likely to develop heart disease and lung cancer.

Dr. Burke Harris then summarized what she has been studying: adverse childhood experiences, referred to as ACEs, and their effect on health throughout one’s lifetime. ACEs include:

  • physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • physical or emotional neglect
  • parental mental illness
  • substance dependence
  • incarceration
  • parental separation or divorce
  • domestic violence

For every ACE that applied to the participant, they would get a point on their ACE score.

According to the study, 67% of the population has experienced at least one ACE.

The study then revealed that the higher one’s ACE score, the worse their physical and mental health outcomes tend to be.

It has been shown that growing up in lower income households often presents more severe levels of trauma for children. Unfortunately, this is a common dilemma for many. One out of every five children is born into poverty, and the cycle is difficult to break.

As seen with our 2017 Go Big Read bookHillbilly Elegy, author J.D. Vance grew up in a low-income household, facing adversities, which impacted his life as an adult.

Author J.D. Vance pictured with his grandmother. CC Image Courtesy of the J.D. Vance website.

Not only is it more likely for children in poor families to posses a high ACEs score, but it has also been noted that being raised in a low income household disturbs children’s brain development and academic performance.

In his memoir, Vance explained that when his mother moved him away from the comfort of his grandparents, he was unable to sleep, had depressed feelings, and his grades plummeted.

According to an article on the effect of childhood poverty on development and educational outcomes, children in chronically poor families have “lower cognitive and academic performance” and higher levels of behavior problems than children who are not poor.

It is painfully clear that childhood trauma and the environment that the child matures in can have a lifetime effect on their health and development. Although there have been large numbers of studies on these effects, finding a solution is not as straightforward.

However, Dr. Burke Harris remains hopeful.

“This is treatable. This is beatable… We are the movement.”

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Madison Schools Address Needs of Homeless Students

The most recent piece in the Wisconsin State Journal’s series on homelessness examines the relationship between a child’s insecure housing situation and their education. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1,414 students were identified as homeless throughout the 2014-15 school year in the Madison School District, and even this count is most likely lower than the actual number. Homelessness causes unique stresses for students experiencing it as anxieties about what they will eat and where they will sleep distract from the concentration needed to focus on school. Yet a review of research by the Family Housing Fund reveals that early and constant intervention by schools can minimize and reverse the effects of homelessness.

K’won Watson, a six-year-old at Hawthorne Elementary School, experienced these efforts first-hand while living with his mother and baby brother at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. When he enrolled in kindergarten in October 2015, he received school supplies and free lunches in addition to getting his school fees waived. Further assistance was provided by the district’s Transition Education Program, which was founded in 1989 and works to help homeless students. K’won received intensive reading support and was able to work with Hawthorne’s positive behavior support coach. This network of assistance provided the resources and stability K’won needed in order to concentrate in class.

Unable to find housing after exceeding the maximum amount of time families are allowed to stay at the Salvation Army shelter, K’won’s mother moved their family back to Chicago in the middle of the school year, a sadly common occurrence for students at Hawthorne Elementary. Still, the teachers and support staff there hope they were able to make a positive impact on him.

Says teacher Jani Koester, “If we’re going to break the cycle of homelessness, we have to look at the needs of the children. They have to have hope that their lives can be different.”

You can read the full article by the Wisconsin State Journal here.

ASPIREist Features Clint Smith

ASPIREist is a new half-hour reality feature news show. Each episode has three features ranging a wide variety of topics. The purpose of the show, according to its website, is to “empower 21st century viewers to take action on issues that matter.” Each feature ends with a way for the viewer to take action about that particular issue.

The first episode features Clint Smith, a researcher of the intersections between race, education, and incarceration from Harvard University. His feature called “The New Jim Crow,” like the Michelle Alexander book, focuses on issues similar to what Bryan Stevenson talks about in Just Mercy. He talks about the the racial inequality in the criminal justice system, children in prison, and the greater problem of mass incarceration. View the feature below.

One of the show’s other personalities is Shiza Shahid, a previous Go Big Read speaker. To view her features, visit the ASPIREist YouTube page here.

For more information about ASPIREist, click here.

TBT: Emma Watson interviews Malala Yousafzai

NPR profiled a recent interview with Malala Yousafzai in the article “Viral Video: Emma Watson Inspires Malala to Call Herself A Feminist.” The video shows Emma Watson, a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, having a conversation with Malala for the Into Film Festival. The annual, free film festival is a celebration of film and education for 5-19 year olds across the United Kingdom.

Watson and Malala talked about Malala’s new film “He Named Me Malala.” In the interview Malala said that she hopes it is “not just a movie but a movement.” Malala also talked about how she was inspired by Watson’s 2014 HeForShe speech by saying “When you said ‘if not now, when? If not me, who?’ I decided that there’s no way and there’s nothing wrong by calling yourself a feminist, so I am a feminist. And feminism is another word for equality.” They concluded the conversation by talking about the importance of education for all girls and all children around the world.

Watch the interview below.

To read the article “Viral Video: Emma Watson Inspires Malala to Call Herself A Feminist” click here.

Watch the trailer for “He Named Me Malala” below.

 

Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals

Image from: Equal Justice Initiative

Image from: Equal Justice Initiative

At the end of July, the U.S. Department of Education announced that some incarcerated Americans will once again have the opportunity to be eligible for Pell Grants. In 1994 federal student aid for people in prison was cut, despite research that shows that education programs in prisons reduce recidivism rates. According to a 2013 study, funded by the Department of Justice, those who participated in correctional education were 43% less likely to go back to prison after being released for three years, than those who had no correctional education. The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program will test ways to help incarcerated individuals receive Pell Grants and pursue secondary education.

For more information, read the press release from the Department of Education here.

To read the Equal Justice Initiative’s post about this click here.

World Book Day is today March 5, 2015

In October, Malala spoke at the Edinburgh International Book Festival about the importance of books and education for all children. She was introduced by Harry Potter series author, J.K. Rowling. Below is what Rowling had this to say about Malala: “Malala is an inspiration to girls and women all over the world. It is a real honour for me to introduce her at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.”

After being introduced by Rowling, Malala was interviewed by Nelufar Hedayet. Below are some of Malala’s quotes about the importance of books and education:

My story is the story of thousands of children from around the world. I hope it inspires others to stand up for their rights.

If we want to see the next big change (of every child going to school) we need to become the change ourselves and bring the change.

More information about Malala and World Book Day can be found here.
Her interview can be found here.

Malala’s school uniform to go on display

The Nobel Peace Prize Exhibition 2014-Malala and Kailash opens this Friday at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo. The Exhibition tells the story of Malala and Kailash’s fight for children’s rights. Malala has recorded a personal video message and she provided the Nobel Peace Center with family photos of her life in Swat Valley that will be displayed at the exhibit. However, the most shocking part of the exhibit without a doubt will be the display of Malala’s blood stain school uniform from the day she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban. The uniform will be on display at Malala’s own request.

In an interview for the exhibition Malala explained why she requested her uniform be displayed, “My school uniform is very important to me because when I was going to school I would wear it, the day I was attacked I was wearing this uniform. I was fighting for my right to go to school..to get education. Wearing a uniform made me feel that yes, I am a student. It is an important part of my life, now I want to show it to children, to people all around the world. This is my right, it is the right of every child, to go to school. This should not be neglected.”

Malala’s uniform has been kept by Malala’s family ever since the assassination attempt in October 2012. The executive director of the of the Nobel Peace Center, Bente Erichsen, said that “Malala’s blood-stained uniform is a strong and heartbreaking symbol of the forces many girls are fighting for the right to go to school. We are grateful that Malala has chosen to show it to the public in our exhibition.”

The exhibition will be free and open to the public from December 12th till August 31st, 2015. Below are pictures of the Nobel Peace Prize Exhibit team displaying Malala’s uniform and Malala’s explanation of why she requested that her uniform be on display.



House of Representatives passes Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act

Last week the United States House of Representatives passed the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act. The act encourages the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to continue to support Pakistani education initiatives, especially those for women. The act would also expand the number of scholarships available to Pakistani women under the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Program. The Act was named after Malala Yousafzai in honor of all of the hurdles she has overcome in her life to become the more prevalent education activist in the world.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, said that it was imperative to promote women’s education in developing countries that limit women’s rights. Ros-Lehtinen said, “we know that access to education is a game changer for any society. A society in which women have unfettered access to the education system expands the horizons not just for the girls and the women involved, but for everyone in their community and their nation.”

The next step for the act to become a bill is for it to be passed in the Senate. We will keep you updated on the Act’s status.