Archive for the ‘ Matthew S. Urdan ’ Category

The European Union is at a crossroads in terms of deciding what it is to be. Most Europeans have an opinion, however there are two main groups: the Euro-federalists who believe that the European Union is an intermediary step in the evolution to a supranational European federal state, and the anti-federalists who believe the current economic union is the final stage of evolution for the European Union. (Grigoriadis, 2006). The question of Turkey’s accession to the European Union is at the crux of the debate. As many current EU member nations continue to struggle with immigration issues, racism, and religious intolerance of Muslims—specifically in England and France (Roskin, 2011), it is not surprising that the question of Turkey’s accession is bringing discussion of these social cleavages to a head. The outcome of the debate, while far from certain, will have lasting impacts in terms of what Europe will or will not become. Immigration to EU member nations is not likely to decrease with the increasing trend of climatic change and the forecast of over two-hundred million climate, or environmental, refugees by 2050. (Kolmannskog and Myrstad, 2009). A supranational United States of Europe may be better able to cope with the influx of immigrants and coordinate future disaster and relief efforts than the present European Union and may provide the impetus to bring the nation states together into a supranational federal state. But before that can happen, the people and nations of the European Union must answer questions about their own individual and national identities. To forge a supranational European identity, the people of the European Union nation states must embrace their cultural diversity. It is only then that they can make a decision about what they want Europe to be.

Click to continue reading “Cultural Diversity, the European Union, and the United States”

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One year ago today my heart stopped beating. No, I did not become a vampire, but for a few hours there was total unconsciousness. No dreaming. No movement. No memory. I went to sleep not knowing if I would wake up again, and when I woke up the fatigue was so great my memory is fuzzy, but detailed—a series of sharp images and the activity around me. It must have been the morphine drug cocktail. Still, I remember quite clearly my first conscious thought upon waking: get that damn breathing tube out! Nearly panic stricken, through a series of gestures well-honed from years of debate, I made it quite clear that I was…uncomfortable.

Removing the breathing tube was the first step in my recovery. The next step was the banana popsicle, which was the only food I could keep down for the first two days before I was forced to eat solid food again—just a couple small bites of jello or turkey of the blandest kind. But on the second day, I started walking again three times a day. It was very painful at first, especially being connected to all the tubes, monitoring devices, and I.V.s. But by day four I was walking a couple hundred feet with relative ease and no support or assistance. On day five I went home, driven by my father to the Walmart for meds, and then home.

I spent the next two weeks lying on the couch in front of the television set, watching Pawn Stars and Man vs. Food marathons because despite popular belief, there really isn’t anything on 200 channels of cable television.

Slowly, my appetite returned, my movement got better, sneezing wasn’t the worst imaginable pain pulling every chest muscle out of wack anymore. 24 days after my surgery, 19 days after I left the hospital, I returned to work.

Having gone through the experience of a heart attack, bypass surgery and recovery I am at once profoundly changed and at the same time incredibly lucky. There was less than 5% damage to my heart and my heart is functioning absolutely normally. I have zero physical restrictions and am on minimal medications. Other than the scars running down the middle of my chest and on my left leg, no one would ever be able to tell I had bypass surgery. It could have been a lot worse.

In cardiac rehab, I met men both younger and older than myself. Every single one of them struggled with the most basic physical tasks. They had trouble lifting five-pound weights, trouble walking on the treadmill, trouble stretching, trouble breathing. One man, Floyd, even had to be taken to the ER twice during the three months of rehab sessions. In contrast, I was maxing out the treadmill and exercise bikes effortlessly and would have been running full out if it were allowed. The other men looked at me with obvious longing for a heart that was still young and strong, and perhaps with some regret for some of the choices they had made in life. While it would seem that I’ve been given a do-over, I regret those same choices.

Some days, I look in the mirror and wonder about the choices I have made and the path I took to get to where I am now. The poor choices I have made are so obvious now, but they are by no means atypical of choices most Americans make every single day when they grab that Coke from the vending machine down the hall, stop at a McDonald’s drive thru while running lunchtime errands, stopping at Krispy Kreme when they flash their “Hot Donuts” neon sign or ordering that Dominos pizza for dinner because it’s already 7:30 when you get home from work or the gym and you don’t have time or the energy to cook, especially with the game starting in fifteen minutes.

As long as my bypassed arteries stay clear of plaque buildup, I’m in great shape. But I’m still angry with myself that I didn’t pay more attention to my health. My mother had a massive heart attack eight years ago that almost ended her life at the age of 63. My father has had issues with blood pressure, cholesterol, and has had stents. Both my grandfathers had heart attacks, and my father’s father died immediately from his.

But as of one year prior to my heart attack and bypass surgery, my EKG was normal so because of my relatively young age, 44, at the time of the EKG, no doctor had ever ordered a stress test. The crazy thing though is that you can have an 80% blockage in a coronary artery and still have a normal EKG. And what is even crazier is that my cardiologist found that my heart attack last year was NOT my first heart attack. Apparently I had suffered a really minor one at some point in the past and I never even knew it happened. Talk about a wake-up call.

Unfortunately, it’s still a struggle every single day to eat healthy, to get the right exercise, to get the right amount of sleep and rest. Even with what I know. Fast food, fried food, soft drinks, most candy are now gone from my diet, and as of this week I’m back in the gym working out again. But most Americans keep doing what they’ve always done, oblivious to or disregarding the risks of their behaviors to their own health.

Our government is doing every American a great disservice by not doing a far better job in working to promote better health. We all know cigarette smoking is harmful, so cigarette advertising and warning labels are strictly regulated. Why isn’t McDonald’s under the same scrutiny when we all know Big Macs are not among the healthiest food options out there? And why are Coke and Pepsi products allowed to be sold in school vending machines? Even Gatorade contains excess sodium that no one needs in their diet unless they are an extreme athlete. Water really does suffice.

On this, my first anniversary since my heart stopped beating and started beating again, I strongly encourage all my friends, coworkers and everyone I know to make an appointment with a cardiologist. Assess your heart health and know the risk factors and what you can do to prevent a heart attack and bypass surgery.

They say out of sight, out of mind, and in terms of our heart, it is usually out of sight and out of mind—until it decides to demand your attention. When that happens, time has run out. Emergency intervention is needed to survive. And then, your life becomes a conscious decision every single hour—do what’s right for your heart, or suffer the consequences. I urge all of you, on this Memorial Day, to think about your heart health. In addition to taking time to remember and honor our fallen heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice, remember those other fallen heroes in our lives: parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, children and friends whose lives were cut short because of choices that were made in disregard to their own heart health.

Thanks for reading.

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Abstract

Articulating a uniform purpose with specific outcomes through standards-based accountability is just one small step in instituting successful high school reform. In this article, Matthew S. Urdan examines prominent research on the topic and finds that when different aspects of issues that persist are examined and looked at from a holistic perspective, patterns emerge that indicate that the adoption of a coherent core curriculum, a reduction in school size, and the use of varying subject specific instruction methods would synergistically improve academic achievement across the socioeconomic status spectrum. To be effective, however, these reform initiatives would need to be components of a very specific, three-layered, detailed plan of implementation to overcome fragmented policies and the greatest impediment to reform: teacher inertia and a reluctance to embrace change and proven instructional techniques. This is a two-part article. Please continue reading High School Reform: The Three “R”s Part II after reading Part I below.

The Purpose of High School

As high school attendance has become nearly universal since the beginning of the 20th century, two major schools of thought regarding what the primary purpose of high school should be have emerged: to prepare students for a college education, as articulated by Charles Eliot and his Committee of Ten; and the National Education Association’s Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education’s idea that coursework should prepare students for their future occupational needs. The existence of these two competing major schools of thought as to what the purpose of high school should be has resulted in seemingly endless reform attempts to improve education and the rise of the comprehensive high school which tries to be all things to all students. (Lee and Ready, 2009). Up until 1970, the comprehensive high school had achieved a steady increase in graduation rates; but since 1970, graduate rates have remained static at seventy-five percent. (Stern, 2009). With the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983, which slammed high schools for their poor results and which sparked a flurry of calls for reform, much debate and research has taken place regarding what is broken in the educational system. Many solutions have been suggested, some have even been implemented and achieved moderate success. A major result has been the standards-based reform movement, perhaps capped by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and an increasing trend towards the reinstitution of original Committee of Ten core curriculums designed to prepare students for college. However results within and between states have been fragmented and it is clear that a standards-based approach alone is not enough. While independent researchers at the nation’s top academic institutions address many component parts of the educational system, not a lot of synthesis is taking place, nor is a comprehensive plan being offered by any school district, state, or the federal government as to what and how school reform can be implemented that would result in an increase in standards, equity, and performance of all. Clash, debate and research continue, but in all the literature, very few are asking what may be the most important question: what is the purpose of high school?

Click to continue reading “High School Reform: The Three “R”s Part I”

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Abstract

Articulating a uniform purpose with specific outcomes through standards-based accountability is just one small step in instituting successful high school reform. In this article, Matthew S. Urdan examines prominent research on the topic and finds that when different aspects of issues that persist are examined and looked at from a holistic perspective, patterns emerge that indicate that the adoption of a coherent core curriculum, a reduction in school size, and the use of varying subject specific instruction methods would synergistically improve academic achievement across the socioeconomic status spectrum. To be effective, however, these reform initiatives would need to be components of a very specific, three-layered, detailed plan of implementation to overcome fragmented policies and the greatest impediment to reform: teacher inertia and a reluctance to embrace change and proven instructional techniques. This is a two-part article. Please read High School Reform: The Three “R”s Part I before continuing with Part II below.

Conditions of Successful High School Reform

While any one student can succeed admirably in any given school setting in any location in the country, three conditions for success have emerged as critical in the literature for achieving educational success. These three conditions, or components, should be incorporated into any new high school reform. They are the adoption of a standardized and coherent core knowledge curriculum, a reduction in size of high schools, and the utilization of proven and evidenced-based instructional practices.

Click to continue reading “High School Reform: The Three “R”s Part II”

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America is at a major crossroads and it is time to decide what we want for our society. Do we want to work together to solve our issues and contribute to the positive growth of our nation or do we want to live in a society of hate where the left and the right are always at odds, where bullying and scapegoating is accepted? Do we want to lead the world in the promotion of human rights and democracy, or do we want to be the bully imposing our will on sovereign nations for our own benefit, even if our actions conflict with our most cherished ideals?

In many ways, our response to gay marriage is a microcosm of these larger questions. Paradoxically, while we condemn nations like China for their human rights violations, we still embrace racist practices here at home and give hate a forum. The Obama administration’s decision to no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a step in the right direction to end one of our nation’s last great frontiers of hate and denial of dignity and respect to a significant segment of our nation’s citizens. It is probably the best decision of Obama’s presidency to date, no matter what your politics and views regarding gay marriage are if for no other reason than the decision recognizes the humanity of gay men and women and that they are entitled to equal protection under our laws as citizens of the United States.

At the end of the day, gay marriage is not about you or me or what we think is right and wrong. Gay marriage is about the dignity and respect our fellow Americans deserve as citizens of the United States and equality under the law exactly like the way we have extended dignity and respect, under the law at least, to African Americans, Jewish Americans, Asian Americans, women and the disabled.

In terms of gay marriage issues, the United States is behind other nations of the world. “At a time when the legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships has been proceeding apace in advanced industrial nations around the world (most notably, in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Canada, Germany, and Hungary and partially or locally in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Colombia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), the efforts of U.S. legislators to prohibit legal recognition demand explanation.” (Adam, 2003).

Click to continue reading “Gay Marriage: Our Choice Between Hate and Civil Society”

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