Privatization Protest: In December, more than 20,000 people marched through Rome to protest education reforms they believe will gut Italy’s state-run schools, the Agence France-Presse reports. The crowd focused much of its anger on the center-right government’s plan to offer financial incentives to parents who choose to send their kids to private schools, part of a package of initiatives designed to overhaul the system. Education minister Letizia Moratti claims the reforms will “ensure that all students receive education and training of a comparable quality to other European Union states.” But opposing groups argue that, among other things, the changes will lead to the privatization of education and the loss of thousands of school-related jobs.
Book Buzz: Timeworn pedagogies no longer effective? Try this: Replace the beefy contents of canned dog food with a chopped-up chocolate bar, then eat from the can in front of your class. Or, grab kids’ attention by tearing up a $10 bill. These are just a few of the techniques that former English teacher Sue Cowley recommends in her flippant teaching manual, Getting the Buggers to Behave. The book is a literary sensation among Britain’s teachers, according to the London-based Sun; it was published less than a year ago and recently went into its third printing. Cowley says she wrote the guide because she wanted to share what she had learned during her five years of teaching unruly students. She’s currently writing two follow-up tomes: Getting the Buggers to Write and The Guerrilla Guide to Teaching.
Men at Work: Concerned that their students have too few male role models, educators in Western Australia have invited men in local communities to volunteer to be “big brothers” in primary schools, reports the Perth Sunday Times. Most classrooms in the state are run by women teachers, and students increasingly go home to single mothers or parents who work long days, explains principal Rob Dedman of Koorilla Primary. At Dedman’s school, six 18- to 24- year-old men from a local Christian group play games and eat lunch with kids twice a week. The region is also looking into longer-term solutions to the problem: A state politician has called on the government to provide incentives to attract male teachers to area schools.
Dressed Down: Two high school teachers in the coastal state of Yucatan lost their jobs in November after they showed up at work clad in miniskirts. The headmaster of their school, Luis Ojeda, forbids women teachers from wearing any clothing that could distract students, and he deemed their outfits a firing offense. When the two protested their dismissal, Ojeda threatened them, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada reports. About 1,000 students demonstrated in support of the teachers, and the state education secretary asked that Ojeda reconsider the dismissal.
Vol. 13, Issue 5, Page 9Published in Print: February 1, 2002, as Dispatches