Tight School Supplies Market Hits Old Company Hard

Hammett’s Learning World, a store in a strip mall in suburban Washington, recently announced its closure and displayed signs advertising discounts. The store, owned by J.L. Hammett Co., the oldest retailer of school supplies in the country, is one of 52 stores across the US that closed permanently last week. The company, which was founded in 1863, decided to shut down its physical stores due to lower-than-expected revenues. However, it will continue selling merchandise through its website. This closure is indicative of the shrinking and consolidating school supplies market, which has been negatively impacted by the uncertain economy, tight budgets, and reduced spending on supplies by teachers. Tim Holt, the president and CEO of the National School Supply and Equipment Association, states that the economy played a significant role in Hammett’s closure, as the tight margins in the school market make it vulnerable to even minor shifts. The president of J.L Hammett, Richmond Y. Holden Jr., declined to comment on the store closure. Despite its closure, five years ago, Hammett’s future seemed hopeful, with the success of its e-commerce site and partnerships with child-friendly websites. However, the internet did not live up to expectations, as schools were slow to adopt online purchasing and the web partnerships did not yield the expected profits. Hammett’s sale of its wholesale division to School Specialty further solidified the latter’s position as the leading company in the school supply market. School Specialty’s success comes from its diversification and acquisition of companies that serve different educational niches. The closure of Hammett’s stores has left many in mourning, as the company’s closure marks the end of an era.

Hector Emanuel of Education Week reports that School Specialty, led by President and CEO David J. Vander Zanden, has not ventured into the retail business, as selling to consumers is not their intended audience.

In recent years, Hammett’s financial situation has deteriorated. In an effort to sustain ongoing operations, they borrowed $10 million from GMAC Commercial Finance based in Braintree, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this amount was insufficient. The closure of Hammett’s Learning World has deeply saddened teachers and parents, according to Jutta Stuart, the store manager in Springfield. She expressed that "the teachers are all grieving."

Adrienne Fischer, a third-grade teacher at Kerrydale Elementary School in Prince William County, Virginia, is one of the many educators affected by the store’s closure. She believes that Hammett’s Learning World catered to a specific need that other retailers ignored. She mentioned that office-supply chain store Staples doesn’t provide resources specifically for teachers. Fischer lamented the closure and expressed her nostalgia, stating, "My parents are teachers, so I am familiar with this store. It’s quite unfortunate that it is shutting down."

Study Sheds Light On Qualities Of Best Training For Principals

Principals are widely recognized as important for the success of schools, but there has been little research on how to effectively train them. However, a new report has identified the common elements of outstanding programs that prepare principals to lead instruction and improve schools. The study examined eight programs that were chosen based on expert recommendations and represented different approaches to pre-service and in-service training. These programs had evidence of their effectiveness through the quality of their graduates. The report was prepared by researchers at Stanford University in collaboration with the Finance Project, a policy research group based in Washington.

According to Linda Darling-Hammond, the lead author of the report and an education professor at Stanford, the findings show that high-performing principals can be developed, not just born. However, she also highlighted the lack of infrastructure in most states to support such programs. The programs identified in the study had several characteristics, including actively recruiting candidates, guidance from experienced practitioners, a combination of theory and practice, and well-designed internships that were closely supervised.

To understand the functioning and funding of these programs, the researchers conducted interviews, observed classes and meetings, and surveyed program participants and graduates. They compared these responses with those of a national random sample of 661 elementary and secondary school principals. Additionally, the researchers followed a small group of program graduates in their jobs, interviewed and surveyed their collaborating teachers, and analyzed data on their schools’ practices and academic performance.

The study found that principals who went through these exemplary programs were more likely to engage in practices associated with effective instructional leadership compared to other principals. The pre-service programs chosen for the study were sponsored by four universities: Bank Street College, Delta State University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of San Diego working with the San Diego Unified School District. Ms. Darling-Hammond mentioned that the researchers had intended to include nontraditional programs, such as those offered by New Leaders for New Schools, but they did not have sufficient track records at the time.

The in-service programs highlighted in the study were sponsored by four school districts: Hartford, Jefferson County, Region 1 in the New York City system, and San Diego Unified. The study was funded by the Wallace Foundation, a New York City-based organization that also supports coverage of leadership issues in Education Week. This study follows a critical report on traditional administrator-preparation programs by Arthur E. Levine, the former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, released in 2005.

The study found that exemplary programs actively recruited candidates rather than waiting for enrollment. They worked with local districts to identify excellent teachers with strong leadership potential who reflected the diversity of the local population. As a result, graduates of these programs were more likely to be female and members of racial or ethnic minorities compared to the comparison group. They were also more likely to have experience working in urban schools and had relevant teaching experience, such as serving as coaches or department chairs.

The principals-in-training completed their programs in groups, receiving guidance and mentoring from experienced principals. The programs had comprehensive and coherent curricula aligned with state and professional standards, with a focus on instructional leadership and school improvement. The programs integrated theory and practice through well-designed and supervised internships. Two programs, Delta State and San Diego’s Educational Leadership Development Academy, offered full-year paid administrative internships with expert principals.

A significant proportion of the graduates from the exemplary programs became principals or assistant principals within a few years of completing their programs. This is in contrast to most studies that found a lower percentage of graduates entering administrative positions.

In conclusion, the report identified key elements of exemplary programs for training principals that focus on effective instructional leadership and school improvement. These programs actively recruit candidates and provide a comprehensive curriculum, mentoring, and well-designed internships. However, there is a need for increased infrastructure to support these programs in most states.

The researchers also analysed policies that aid in the promotion of such programs in the states represented by these programs, as well as in three additional states – Delaware, Georgia, and North Carolina. Among the eight states examined, seven have implemented national standards for principal preparation as part of the program-approval procedure. Additionally, six out of the eight states provide support for at least one state leadership academy which assists in organizing, facilitating, and delivering continuous professional development for principals.

Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers, argued that investing in leadership development is beneficial for states and highlights that it is an area in education that has been neglected. However, he did warn that legislators should anticipate resistance from individuals currently profiting from the current system, or rather, lack of system, of professional development and training.

Many Children Struggling To Adjust To Kindergarten

A recent nationwide survey of kindergarten teachers has revealed that a significant number of children are facing difficulties adjusting to their new environment. The survey, which is considered the most comprehensive study on children’s initial experience with formal schooling, also found that many schools are not doing enough to help children transition smoothly into kindergarten. Researchers from the National Center for Early Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina shared these findings at a recent educational research conference. The study is based on responses from approximately 3,600 kindergarten teachers who participated in a survey during the 1993-94 school year.

The researchers emphasize the importance of a positive first experience in kindergarten and 1st grade, as studies have shown that children who have a positive start tend to perform better throughout their academic careers. According to the surveyed teachers, almost half of the incoming kindergarten students face difficulties adjusting. Of these, 16 percent found the transition to be "difficult", while 32 percent experienced some problems. Robert C. Pianta, an education professor at the University of Virginia, suggests that these difficulties may be due to a mismatch between the kindergarten classroom environment and the backgrounds of the children.

One of the main challenges for kindergartners is following directions, with over half of the surveyed teachers reporting that more than 50 percent of their students struggle with this skill. Additionally, many teachers noted that their students lacked academic skills or came from disorganized home environments. These problems were particularly prevalent in inner-city schools, schools with a high number of underprivileged students, and schools with large minority populations.

Currently, schools’ efforts to facilitate the adjustment period are limited to communication with parents through discussions, letters, or open houses. These activities typically take place after the school year has started. Only a few teachers reported taking pre-kindergarten steps, such as collaborating with preschools or visiting students’ homes, to help children adjust to school. Furthermore, teachers tend to focus more on group activities rather than individual approaches. Diane M. Early, a postdoctoral student involved in the survey analysis, suggests that the practices that would be most useful are also the most challenging to implement.

According to the surveyed teachers, one of the obstacles to more comprehensive transition efforts is the late provision of class lists by schools. On average, teachers receive these rosters only 15 days before the school year begins. Teachers also mention a lack of time and concerns about visiting students’ homes located in dangerous neighborhoods.

Individualized transition efforts are more common in private schools and public schools in suburban or affluent areas, where children face fewer adjustment problems. In contrast, teachers in urban schools or schools with higher numbers of underprivileged or minority students are more likely to focus on group activities and delay transition efforts until the start of the school year.

This survey is part of a larger research program by the NCEDL that investigates children’s transitions into formal schooling. The researchers are currently tracking 300 students in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia to observe how they cope with their first experiences in school. Daniel J. Walsh, an education professor at the University of Illinois, applauds the survey as the most extensive data set on children’s school transition to date, calling it definitive.

Justices Consider When To Declare Districts ‘Unitary’

The attorney representing black schoolchildren in Oklahoma City emphasized that school districts previously segregated by law should continue to be bound by court desegregation orders until all the negative consequences of racial separation have been remedied. Julius L. Chambers of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund acknowledged that if his argument was successful, these orders could potentially remain in effect for more than a century if the effects of segregation persisted for that long. Chambers asserted that desegregation orders must remain until all remnants of discrimination are eliminated, but admitted that the exact duration was uncertain.

However, the majority of the Justices appeared unconvinced by Chambers’ position during the arguments in the case of Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell. This case could resolve significant issues in school desegregation law, including the steps a previously segregated district must take to be considered fully integrated and whether any desegregation obligations remain after achieving that status. Contrary to Chambers’ argument, lawyers for the Oklahoma City school board and the Bush Administration asserted that districts should be released from court supervision once they have made a sustained and bona fide effort to comply with desegregation orders, and have eliminated segregation remnants to the best of their ability. Ronald L. Day, the school board’s lawyer, argued that a finding of unitary status must indicate the complete elimination of constitutional violations, resulting in the return of control to the local school board.

Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr, representing the Administration, also emphasized the seriousness of using race as a determining factor, stating that once a desegregation plan has been in effect for an extended period, the state should refrain from continued counting by race.

The Dowell case revolves around the decision made by the Oklahoma City school board in 1985, eight years after a federal district judge declared the district fully integrated, to end mandatory busing for students in grades 1 through 4 in favor of neighborhood schools. This change led to an increase in black enrollment in 11 elementary schools, with more than 90 percent of students being black. U.S. District Judge Luther Bohannon upheld the neighborhood-schools plan in 1987, stating that it was adopted without discriminatory intent and that the re-establishment of mostly black schools was a result of housing segregation beyond the control of the school board. However, a federal appeals court overturned the district’s new student-assignment plan in 1989, holding that even after being declared fully integrated, a district cannot take actions that would result in resegregation without clear evidence of severe injustice caused by unforeseen circumstances.

During the recent arguments, several Justices focused on the implications of residential segregation for the schools.

"In part, isn’t residential segregation a result of legally mandated segregation?" questioned the Justice.

"No," replied the lawyer. "Legally mandated segregation created segregated schools, not segregated neighborhoods."

"What is the purpose?" asked Justice Kennedy to Mr. Chambers, the lawyer representing the black schoolchildren. "You claim that this new plan restores the situation to how it was when the case was filed in 1961. Are you saying that busing has not solved the issue? If the neighborhood pattern remains the same, what is the purpose?"

"The school board cannot create or continue a segregated system," responded Mr. Chambers. "Until the remnants of segregation are eradicated, the court order must remain in place."

"If after 100 years there are still patterns of residential segregation, does this court order have to remain in effect?" Justice O’Connor inquired.

"It must remain until all traces of segregation are eliminated," replied the lawyer. "Currently, 40 percent of the district’s black elementary students attend segregated schools."

"If busing did not make a difference in residential segregation after a quarter-century, there is no reason to believe it will make a difference in another quarter-century," argued Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

"It certainly helped in integrating schools," Mr. Chambers replied.

"So you claim this is not a temporary solution, but a permanent one," Justice Scalia challenged. "That wasn’t the original intent of busing."

One of the most contentious exchanges occurred when Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, the only black member of the Court and the lawyer who won the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, questioned Mr. Starr.

"In Oklahoma City, you say the dismantling of the dual system was done, but disadvantaged African-American children are still in the same schools," Justice Marshall pointed out.

"The dismantling was carried out in good faith compliance with the plan," responded the Solicitor General.

"But the schools are still segregated," Justice Marshall countered.

"You don’t believe that segregation is unconstitutional," Justice Marshall stated.

"With all respect, that is not our position," Mr. Starr replied.

Justice Marshall pursued a similar line of questioning with the lawyer representing the school board.

"Is the school board harmed if it is required to operate its schools according to the Constitution?" he asked. "They are obligated to adhere to the Constitution, yet they object to doing so."

"They do comply with the Constitution," Mr. Day insisted.

"If you remove the court order, what assurance is there that they will continue to follow the Constitution?" the Justice asked.

"They cannot take any action that discriminates based on race," Mr. Day responded.

"So you would have to file a new lawsuit?" Justice Marshall asked.

"Yes, sir," Mr. Day replied.

During the argument last week, there were only eight Justices on the bench. If they find themselves evenly divided, they may schedule the case for reargument later in the term to allow the newest member of the Court, David H. Souter, to cast the deciding vote. The Court is expected to announce its decision in the case by next June.

Your assignment is to rephrase the entire content using enhanced vocabulary and ensure its uniqueness while maintaining natural language. The final output should be rendered in English. The given text for rewriting is as follows:

Federal Guidance Expected On Waiver Renewals

By the end of the month, the U.S. Department of Education plans to issue federal guidance for states to renew their waivers from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Monique Chism, the director of the Department’s Student Achievement and School Accountability office, made this announcement at a recent conference held by the National Association of State Title I Directors. Chism mentioned that the guidance is currently undergoing final clearance and will soon be released to the states.

Up to now, 40 states and the District of Columbia have obtained waivers that provide relief from burdensome aspects of the law, such as the rigid school improvement process and the deadline for universal student proficiency by 2014. Of these states, 34 were approved in the first two application rounds, and their waivers will expire at the end of the current school year. The five states approved in the third round earlier this year—Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and West Virginia—do not need to renew their waivers yet.

Chism informed the Title I officials that the departments expects application submissions for renewal to occur in January and March. There will be two windows for submission, allowing ample time for any necessary legislative or policy changes. The goal is to make the renewal process as smooth as possible.

Additionally, the Education Department will consider the results of its monitoring rounds when making decisions about waiver renewal. The first round, known as "Part A," assessed each state’s readiness to implement their waiver plan through desk-monitoring. The second round, "Part B," involves a combination of on-site and desk-monitoring and focuses on the implementation status of three specific elements in each state’s application. Two elements are chosen by the Education Department, while the third is chosen by the state itself. Currently, the department is concluding the pilot stage of Part B, with Colorado and Mississippi participating in on-site monitoring, and Connecticut and New Jersey participating in desk-monitoring. The department also plans to analyze various aspects of states’ waiver plans through "data runs," particularly regarding state accountability and support systems.

Chism emphasized that states should continue to update and make changes to their waiver plans, as the department aims to streamline the renewal process. So far, only California, Montana, and Nebraska have chosen not to apply for waivers, while North Dakota and Vermont withdrew their requests. However, the department has approved a separate district-level waiver application from a consortium of eight large school districts in California.

All Woman

Georgia O’Keeffe was a woman of few words, but if she had been inclined towards verbal eloquence, she would have been quite the talker and writer. She had a wealth of thoughts and ideas to express, and was not at all reticent or falsely modest. In her view, there was no reason to paint anything that could be conveyed through any other medium. She believed that art should be seen, not read, and referred to it as "arting."

In her later years, O’Keeffe wrote that her first memory was of light – the brightness of it surrounding her. This reflects the sensibility of an artist, but it’s also a biological fact. Every individual experiences a piercing, shaft-shaped blaze of light upon entering the world. O’Keeffe never forgot this drama, which may explain why she saw "God" as a woman and was viewed as eccentric by others. She kept her more blatant manifestations of God’s uterine potencies tucked away in her private collection until her death, knowing that the world wasn’t quite ready for them. And she was probably right – the world rarely is ready for people like her.

Born in 1887, O’Keeffe was the second child and first daughter of second-generation Americans. Her father was of Irish descent and her mother was Hungarian. She had five younger siblings – one brother and four sisters – and her family lived on a farm in Wisconsin. While she wasn’t her mother’s favorite child, O’Keeffe appreciated the freedom that came with not being overly favored. She was able to find her own autonomy without undue pressures and expectations. Growing up in Wisconsin, where there was little to obstruct the view of the horizon and the imagination, was also a blessing.

Her parents’ generation was full of pioneers – men and women who left their homelands behind to start anew in America. They were hardworking people who toiled to create a better life for themselves and their families. O’Keeffe’s upbringing was filled with stories of romantic individualism – heroic tales of adventurers, explorers and pioneers. Wisconsin was the first state to introduce women’s suffrage, and it was a place where social egalitarianism was valued. Despite being born before the discovery of the subconscious mind and collective unconscious, O’Keeffe was already aware of these ideas, understanding them on a level that didn’t require words.

During her art classes, one of the initial exercises that Georgia O’Keeffe undertook was to sketch the figure of a man bending. She attempted to do a fine job but couldn’t seem to balance the drawing well. It appeared as though the man would topple over with a light breeze. She was not satisfied with it and kept fiddling with the sketch until she decided to turn it sideways. This solved the balancing issue, and it now seemed like a man lying on his back with his legs floating in the air. At that time, Georgia knew without a doubt that she wanted to become an artist.

When Georgia and her family moved to Virginia after her early teens, she was sent to a convent school for girls, where she stood out like a sore thumb. The other girls were all about feminine frills and ribbons, whereas Georgia was more focused on expressing her true nature. She was not threatened by their need to be pretty, for she knew she was female deep down – it was as natural as the sunrise. She kept it simple in plain jackets and skirts, and her thick Irish hair braided. Eventually, when she moved on to Chicago for art school, her appearance took on a more androgynous outlook. This did not dissuade the young men in any way – they looked up to and valued her.

On the academic front, Georgia was surpassing expectations – she won many prizes for her technical skills. The more she focused on art, the more she felt restricted, and her dream of becoming an artist was getting further away. Georgia’s mind was consumed with the thought – was she active or passive? Participating in art class typically required her to be passive in her response, but working on her pieces enabled her to be active. She knew by instinct that being in a romantic relationship would mean surrendering the creative spirit within her.

In Roxana Robinson’s biography, she describes a critical moment where Georgia realized that academic conventions and men were stifling her artistic growth. At Lake George, she had discovered a home away from home to paint landscapes by herself. However, one day, some male friends showed up and invited her to take a boat ride across the lake to purchase groceries. Knowing that both men had feelings for her, she accepted both invitations – they rowed together, but they were not happy. They returned to find that their boat had been stolen, which left them with no choice but to carry their groceries and walk around the lake to get back. During this walk, Georgia noticed something about the landscape that she had not seen before – it was gloomy, dark, and daunting. She realized that how she felt significantly determined what she saw. This insight helped her focus more on emotional content than technique. As Georgia famously said, "Nothing is less real than realism."

Georgia collected herself and read a book whose title she couldn’t recall, deemed as one of the first How-To manuals of the 20th century. It said that to have a fulfilling life, one must first discover what they want and learn the price to pay for it. She bought a notebook and dedicated daily efforts to self-discovery, writing "Yes" on the left page and "No" on the right. She continued painting, only teaching because she had to make a living. Her big break came in 1917 at the 291 Gallery, where her first one-woman show was displayed. Alfred Stieglitz, married and a father, fell deeply in love with her. Stieglitz earned the ire of art critics for bringing photography to the forefront of art. He promoted O’Keeffe throughout the ’20s and ’30s as a Woman Artist, emphasizing the feminine qualities of her work. Her landscapes’ earth and rocks looked like human flesh, and her flowers and plants resembled female genitalia. During the height of her affair with Stieglitz, he took scandalous photographs of her body. When Mrs. Stieglitz caught them in the act, she threw him out, and Georgia married him. She paid the price for their union until Alfred’s death. The ’20s in New York City were marked by the rise of Freudian theories of sexual symbolism, causing the intellectually challenged to look for subconscious sexual messages in art.

O’Keeffe found herself under constant attack and unable to defend herself. She was in a lose-lose situation where denying an accusation meant admitting guilt according to the Freudian doctrine. In her gentle way, O’Keeffe tried to explain that people were reading into her flowers what she had not intended. Some argued that the botanical facts were not her fault and that people should stop blaming her. It got so ridiculous that O’Keeffe refused to comment on it altogether.

In her later life, O’Keeffe discovered New Mexico and found her spiritual home in its vastness. She rejected modernity, urban life, and male oppression, as shown in her painting of skyscrapers towering over an innocent night sky. Her fascination with desert objects and the call of space and light drove her art, which grew in emotional content with age.

O’Keeffe was a legend by the time she turned 80 and 90, and she hoped to make it to 100. The prurient speculation into her supposed erotic field-force ceased, or so she believed, until a young man named John Hamilton came knocking on her door. Despite being sixty years her junior, Juan became O’Keeffe’s friend and helper, much to the dismay of scandal-mongers. Juan would sometimes respond to their speculations, but O’Keeffe never commented.

As an artist, O’Keeffe continued to paint well into her 80s and began sculpting due to failing eyesight. Her work became deeper and more ethereal, a far cry from the sexually explicit botanical adventures of her earlier years. Despite her detractors, O’Keeffe left an undeniable mark on the art world.

Greenberg had no idea how to approach O’Keeffe’s delicate dreams, but little did he know that she had another 40 years of private devotion ahead of her. Her influence on American culture is undeniable, but O’Keeffe remained humble about her impact. In a rare moment of expressive speech, she described her own world as something she plays in, always surprised that it holds significance for anyone else.

Thames & Hudson has published O’Keeffe’s O’Keeffes: The Artist’s Collection by Barbara Buhler Lynes & Russell Bowman, available for £29.95. For a special discounted price of £25.95, plus £1.99 for first-class postage and packaging, please call 0800 316 6102 to order a copy through freephone CultureShop.

The Unselfish Gene

Scientists on the hunt for genes linked to various complex traits, including heart disease, autism, schizophrenia, and even genius and criminality, are discovering that genes are far more complex and elusive than previously imagined. The true nature of genes has turned the field of biology upside down and may even undermine the entire gene-hunting effort.

The first indications were uncovered through the study of metabolic pathways in cells. These pathways are similar to Britain’s road networks, with raw materials (food) transported to enzymes (factories) to create the final products (molecules). The concept of the "rate-limiting step" became essential as a metabolic road under strict traffic control that orchestrated the whole network’s dynamics.

Attempts by biotechnologists to engineer cells frequently hit roadblocks, particularly because the key genes responsible for controlling the rate-limiting steps frequently reassert their own agendas. To counter this, scientists genetically engineered these genes to prevent them from taking control. Once reintroduced into the cells, an increase in the yield of the desired products was expected, but the metabolic pathways reverted to making more cells instead of the expected products.

Other geneticists were baffled by an abundance of genes with no apparent function, such as the "prion gene." This gene is transformed into a pathogenic brain-destroying protein in mad cow disease, but its normal function remained unclear. Geneticists who inhibited the mouse’s prion gene discovered that the mutant mice were perfectly normal, and the gene appeared to lack a purpose.

However, a gene that doesn’t serve a function is not a gene by definition. A "gene" must make a difference; otherwise, it remains invisible to natural selection. For over a century, the reductionist biology approach tracked genes back to Watson and Crick’s double helix and the billions of A, T, G, and C gene letters produced by DNA sequencers. However, it now seems that the genes at the DNA level do not correspond to genes at the functional level.

These mysteries are being unraveled through a novel approach to biology called systems biology. Instead of focusing on genetic units of heredity, like genes, systems biologists build mathematical models of entire cells’ systems. Rather than pinpointing specific control points, they examine the entire network’s system properties. Thus, genes are no longer seen as discreet nuggets of genetic information but rather as diffuse entities whose functional reality may spread across hundreds of interacting DNA segments.

This revolutionary concept of genes has vast implications for gene hunters. Despite years of investigation, few genes play a significant role in complex traits such as heart disease, autism, schizophrenia, or intelligence. One explanation for this may be that such genes do not exist as these traits may be the result of a network perturbation generated by almost undetectable changes in several genes.

Finally, the traditional concept of "selfish genes" introduced by Richard Dawkins, where some genes favor their proliferation over that of the host organism, has taken a gene-centric view of biology. While this view has proved influential, some biologists, like Steven Jay Gould, have argued that the individual human is the unit of biology, not their genes. Similarly, systems biology prioritizes the entire organism – the system – over the selfish behavior of any one of its components.

It is likely that there will be many individuals outside of the field of biology who will express a sense of vindication following recent revelations in the scientific community. However, it is worth noting that holistic methodologies have always been at the forefront of research in the humanities and social sciences. In Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, the initial eight chapters chronicle the experiences of the protagonist’s extended family and friends within the turbulent political climate of 20th-century India and Pakistan. The protagonist acknowledges that comprehending a single life requires an understanding of the world in its entirety; perhaps biologists would benefit from adopting a similar perspective.

For context, Johnjoe McFadden is a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Surrey and the author of Quantum Evolution. Contact him at j.mcfadden@surrey.ac.uk.

Populist Manifesto

A prominent academic has issued a warning that elite universities worldwide must abandon complacency, conservatism, and snobbery among their professors in order to flourish in the years to come. Dr. John Sexton, who is the president of New York University, is scheduled to publish a document advocating higher education reform that would resound on both sides of the Atlantic. This would entail that top institutions scrutinize their raison d’être to ensure they remain leaders, not followers, in the higher education jungle. Sexton’s challenge is aimed at the grand US Ivy League colleges, as well as Britain’s Oxford, Cambridge, and the rest of the Russell Group of leading universities.

In an interview with The Guardian, Sexton emphasized that some elite institutions have become satisfied with their success and highlighted the danger of complacency. Unless these institutions commit to reflecting on their purpose continuously, Sexton warns they risk losing their excellence status. The goal of elite universities should be to become the intellectual epicenter of society, promoting research and teaching while continually evaluating their impact on the world.

Sexton further warns that the risk-averse and stale mentality that universities exhibit is due to reaching or having always been at the top. Professors who lack passion for teaching, spend most of their time in the laboratory, or find pedagogy tedious, are, according to Sexton, acting like independent contractors, which he calls disloyal.

Sexton reserves his stinging remarks naming no names; however, they are targeted at the Ivy League group. He argues that this cluster of eight prestigious universities in America’s northeast, including the "Holy Trinity": Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, along with Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Penn, and Cornell, where top research professors teaching undergraduates’ records are considered inadequate, risk relying too much on their reputation instead of continually striving for progress.

Sexton’s manifesto calls for universities to subscribe to a mission statement of "common enterprise." This implies that universities should encourage cooperation rather than competitive attitudes among students and faculty members, foster frequent interaction, and interaction between departments to promote intellectual and pedagogic momentum.

He intends to present his manifesto in a public speech to the university and reject the idea of being too doctrinaire and insufficiently organic in June. Sexton emphasizes that universities must race not against each other but against their own vision and ideology, continuously rethinking the scope of how they discover, test, convey, and preserve knowledge through scrutinizing themselves rigorously continuously.

According to Sexton, if all students want is trophies, NYU is not for them. Other universities should also promote cultures where ideas are freely debated as they form – not guarded jealously. He believes that staff must be willing to engage with students, be passionate about teaching, and spend time in lecture halls, ensuring a dynamic learning experience.

NYU is known for its lack of institutional arrogance, ambitious outlook, and being a leader in innovation, attracting leading professors from around the globe. Sexton offers a decent salary, accommodation in downtown Manhattan, where NYU owns much of the properties, and a place at the "hottest" university in the country.

Historian Niall Ferguson, a former Oxford professor, says he loves the lack of institutional arrogance at NYU and admires the university’s refreshing atmosphere of ambition and looking forward. According to Ferguson, NYU has a lot to teach all British universities and is the most dynamic and least encumbered institution in the USA.

Sexton has a vision of NYU becoming the most coveted university globally, not as assessed by league tables, but by other elite institutions emulating its unique style. In a recent poll conducted by The Princeton Review, US high school seniors and their parents were asked which university they would attend if cost wasn’t a factor and admissions were guaranteed. California’s Stanford ranked first, while NYU secured second place ahead of more prestigious institutions like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Duke, and Columbia.

Over the past two decades, NYU has raised vast sums of money from alumni and businesses and acquired professors from distinguished institutions like Ivies, Oxford, Australia, Germany, and China. Sexton’s objective was not only to lead a university campus but also to abolish cultural silos, implying American narrow-mindedness.

Peacock, an Oxford professor of Metaphysical Philosophy, relocated to NYU three years ago. Reflecting on his experience, he claimed that Oxford was investing too much of its meager resources in undergraduate education, leading to a dearth of investment in research. In contrast, leading Russell Group institutes such as Leeds, Manchester, London, Sheffield, Warwick, did a better job of managing the dichotomy between teaching and research. However, Peacock believed that many British students and teachers had become over-specialized and under-resourced. The lack of resources frequently left vice-chancellors unable to employ desired faculty members, who were being offered lucrative deals elsewhere.

Sexton expressed his admiration for Oxford and Cambridge but expressed deep concern for those institutions which were struggling to secure the funds to function effectively. Meanwhile, in his office on Washington Square, overlooking the Empire State Building, Sexton espoused the virtues of the urban varsity. NYU was founded in 1831, serving the immigrant merchants’ sons who were expected to continue building this illustrious city after university. Sexton strongly criticized the Oxbridge model followed by Ivy League schools, which educated the elites in the countryside, and believed that such systems could exacerbate complacency.

Unlike the American Dream, which aims to promote satisfaction and contentment, Sexton encouraged "an affirmative lack of contentment"; this aim is shared by NYU and the City of New York. Despite NYU’s significant achievements, Sexton is determined to keep striving for excellence and urges other educational institutions to take inspiration from NYU and never be complacent. The key, Sexton said, was that NYU would never reach its "golden age."

Schools In England Say Government Not Providing Enough Air Purifiers

A Midlands secondary school faced issues with inadequate air quality due to a scarcity of monitors to measure its levels. Demand outstripped supply due to poor ventilation, leading to inconsistent readings in certain classrooms that were alarmingly above the recommended clean air limit of 800 parts per million (ppm). The subsequent protest by the concerned staff, however, fell on deaf ears, resulting in the monitors being removed.

As the government identified the correlation between poor air quality and a higher risk of Covid transmission in schools, England was given 350,000 CO2 monitors. However, only 8,000 air purifiers were made available for classrooms. A survey by the National Association of Head Teachers discovered that the government had underestimated how many schools would require air purification systems. It found that 34% of the 9 in our 10 schools that received the monitors had consistently poor levels of ventilation in classrooms, despite actions to correct them. Even after remedial measures, over 53% continued to experience poor air quality.

According to the NAHT survey, only 2% of the schools used air filter devices recommended by the government, whereas 8% bought them themselves. A significant number of respondents said they could not afford them since the price of two filter units suitable for a classroom was expensive, ranging from £425 to £1,170 each, in addition to the cost of filters.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, believes that the demand for air filters would far outstrip the available stock. He insists that the government should pay attention to the issue and replenish the supply to ensure that all schools receive enough air filters to meet their needs. He added that sufficient ventilation should not be a matter of "first come, first served."

The Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Munira Wilson, accused the DfE of failing in its responsibility towards the schools. According to her, the DFE’s criteria for the provision of free air filters were too high. The safe limit of 800 ppm was nearly twice the 1500 ppm level set by the DfE as the threshold.

In Bradford, a consortium of researchers is conducting a study to identify the best methods to achieve clean air in the classroom and investigate the link between Covid transmission rates and CO2 levels. They classified 800 ppm or below as healthy, while above 1500 ppm was problematic and needed immediate attention. The range between 800 and 1500 ppm is often inconclusive due to varying factors affecting the readings.

The DfE stated that 99% of education settings had CO2 monitors. They only require air cleaning units where ventilation is poor and cannot be easily improved. Based on the feedback received from schools, the government is providing up to 8,000 air cleaning units next week.

Educational institutions such as schools, nurseries, and colleges are given until 17th January to submit their applications for the acquisition of 7,000 state-of-the-art air purification units. As a supplemental effort, 1,000 units are already extended to special schools and other alternative provision settings.

Assuring an optimized classroom environment for students, a spokesperson affirms the effectiveness of their measures. Mass testing, the provision of supply staff, and the dedicated efforts of schools and teachers are expected to bring forth positive results.