October 6, 2013
Guest: Cauldierre McKay, Noa Rosinplotz, Ross Floyd, Nuwar Ahmed, Eric
Wilson, David Coleman, Esther; Eric Schmidt, Cindy, Emily, Angela Sutton,
Jahzaire Sutton, Joel Burg, Tamara, Deane, Mika, Dennis Johnson, Israel
Munoz, Tiffany Montoyiannis, Kim Pate, Eric Kvam, Eboni Boykin, Travis
Reginal, Zak Malamed, Sophia Zaman
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning! Today, we are cg to you
live from the beautiful Bartos Forum at the historic landmark New York
public library, right in the heart of midtown Manhattan. We are bringing
you a very special edition of MHP show, the education nation stunt town
Education nation is now in its fourth year, and I am thrilled that for the
second year in a row, we will be focused on what matters most to the
students, the problems they face, and their ideas for how to solve them.
Now, joining me on stage and in the audience today are students from across
the country, ranging in age from about 13 to 25. And for the next two
hours, we will hear from many of them.
To help with that task, two of my colleagues are in the house. Working one
side of the room is co-host of MSNBC`s "the Cycle," Krystal Ball.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Hey, Melissa. Good morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: And over on the other side, MSNBC anchor, Mara Schiavocampo.
Mara Schiavocampo, MSNBC HOST, FIRST LOOK: Good morning, everyone.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, they are going to be coming around and taking questions
and comments from our student audience throughout the show.
And today, just this once, I`m going to let you guys do something that I
never let my students do. You can use your phones in class. We want to
know your reactions, your thoughts, and especially your ideas in response
to what you are going to be hearing today. So, feel free to use social
media and try to keep the conversation going on twitter.
You can use two different hash tags. You can use the #educationnation hash
tag, and of course, if you are a MHP show tweeter, you can use #nerdland.
This year, the theme for education nation as the summit is "what it takes."
Three small words that encompasses the big task of setting students up for
success in school, college, career, and beyond. And in 2013, no one showed
us all what it takes more than the students themselves. In cities across
the country, we saw students raise their voices and take the lead, using
activism to activate for education reform. And here is just a sense of
what some of those voices had to say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No education --
CROWD: No life!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No education --
CROWD: No life!
TEXT: Students dressed as zombies to highlight the death of their futures
after a decision was made to link test scores to high school graduation.
More than 4,000 providence students are at risk of not graduating in the
spring based on last year`s scores.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This policy will do nothing at all to improve our
education. Many students need a diploma to make it through life.
CROWD: Save our schools! Save our schools! Save our schools!
TEXT: Thousands of Philadelphia students staged a walkout to protest
school clashing and cutbacks in the city`s schools.
Many of the schools that remain are overcrowded and understaffed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Students sit on the floor, share books, like there`s
not enough room for the kids to be in the classroom. There`s a classroom
that has 32 kids where we used to have 15 kids in a class.
TEXT: Chicago students were engaged in boycotts, marches, and other acts
of civil disobedience to protests the closure of 50 schools in the city.
One of the loudest voices of dissent came from a 9-year-old student named
ASEAN JOHNSON, 9-YEAR-OLD: We are not going down without a fight! You
should be supporting these schools! Education is our right! That is why
we have to fight! Education is our right! That is why we have to fight!
Education is our right! That is why we have to fight!
HARRIS-PERRY: I have a few of those student protesters here on stage with
Joining me now is Nuwar Ahmed an 18-year-old junior at Julia High School in
Philadelphia and a member of the Philadelphia student union. Also, Ross
Floyd, a 16-year-old junior at Jones College Prep in Chicago, and co-
founder of the Chicago student`s union. Noa Rosinplotz, an eighth grade
student at Hoister Adams`s Bilingual school in Washington, D.C. And
Cauldierre McKay, a 17-year-old student at classical high school in
Providence, Rhode Island, an executive board member of the Providence
Thanks to all of y`all for being here.
Thanks for having us.
All right. Shake it off. Because you all are here in part because you
already demonstrated that what we need to know about education reform comes
from students themselves.
So talk to me. What are the big challenges in Philadelphia that led to so
many students protesting this year? What is it that y`all felt the need to
be organized about?
NUWAR AHMED, JULIA HIGH SCHOOL, PHILADELPHIA: Mostly, the fact that we`re
not being priority in the eyes of our governor, who is in charge of funding
our public education. And because of the lack of funding, we aren`t able
to have a lot of things, such as teachers and nurses and counselors and
sports and arts and music and all this great things that go into schools
and make schools what they are.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Nuwar, I pretty regularly have conversations with adults
on my show about the notion of education funding. And I have had folks
push back and say, we spend more than anybody else, we spend tons of money
on education. How could it possibly be a money problem? How would you
respond to that?
AHMED: Well, obviously, it`s not their main priority, even if they do
spend a lot of money, they might not spend enough, or they might be taking
money from it. For instance, our governor, he took about a billion dollars
from public education statewide. And, meanwhile, Philadelphia, itself, has
a $300 million deficit, and he is failing to give us the money to fix this
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Hold that for a second, because I want to keep
thinking about this idea of money. But then I want to talk to you a little
bit, because I know Chicago and I know Jones. And I`m thinking, Jones is
one of those schools that is held up as one of the best schools in a city
where sometimes people talk about the problems of a school. So, what in
the world would you have to protest, given that you are a Jones student?
ROSS FLOYD, A 16-YEAR-OLD JUNIOR, JONES COLLEGE PREP, CHICAGO: Right.
Well, I think the issue was Chicago and what makes Chicago so great is that
we`re city of communities and we stand together. So although Jones wasn`t
affected in the education crisis that`s going on in Chicago, 49 elementary
schools were. This past school year, 49 elementary schools were closed in
Chicago. That means kids as young as 8-years-old are having to cautious
really dangerous gang lines, just to receive a free public education. And
when I and my students who I work with and everybody we see that, we know
it`s not right, and we know even if it doesn`t affect us, we have to stand
up because you have to constantly ask the question, what if it was Jones
that was closed, you would want people to go out and marching for you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is about a sense of solidarity among students, even
if it`s not necessarily your school.
FLOYD: Yes. And also, knowing what`s right. When you see 49 public
schools being closed, while at the same time charter schools are coming in
and while at the same time teachers are being fired and $90 million is
being cut from our budgets, you know in your heart that`s not right and I
personally have to do something about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, let me ask in a little bit on this question of
what it takes, given that we know something about -- I have heard something
about funding. I have also heard from something about the question of
solidarity, whether it`s your school that is being closed. It was in the
case of Asean Johnson we all got to know, or whether you are in a great
performing school, but it`s in your city.
So if I ask you now, what does it take, talk to me about whether or not
what it takes is testing. Whether or not what it takes is being able to
prove that your teachers are teaching you something.
NOA ROSINPLOTZ, ARGUED FOR A 3-YEAR MORATORIUM ON TESTING: I think it
takes more than that. That`s totally apart of it. That`s the logistical,
technical part of education. Are we -- are our test scores improving, are
our teachers` ratings improving? But that`s not what education is about.
We are not going to school in order to get an A-plus on a test. We are
going to school in order to learn. And so, I think what education
officials don`t see is that what it takes is more than what they`re giving
HARRIS-PERRY: When you first started protesting the idea of testing as the
central way of deciding whether or not you were learning something, you
were pretty young. You`re an eighth grader now, but how old were you when
you first said, this testing, this high-stakes testing is wrong?
ROSINPLOTZ: I had just turned 11.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, what at 11 made you say, I`m going to stand up
ROSINPLOTZ: I have always felt like people consider children to be dumber
and that age has far too much to do with respect and I decided that I`m the
one taking the test, I`m the one who sees the test, and while my test
scores don`t matter to me, they matter to people I care about. So I don`t
see why I shouldn`t speak up as much as anyone else should.
HARRIS-PERRY: Follow-up on that idea, that the notion of respect, that
maybe part of what it takes is hearing from students, because this year in
Chicago, we heard from students a lot.
CAULDIERRE MCKAY, STUDENT, PSU EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER: Yes. I`m sure that
all students here feel the same about how a lot of adults ignore us,
because we`re a lot younger than them. So Providence has done a lot -- so
Providence student union has done a lot of creative actions to try to break
through this adultism. And like the Providence student union is a youth-
led organizing group that fights to build student power --
HARRIS-PERRY: You guys went zombie this year, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me about that.
MCKAY: In the zombie march, imagine almost 100 students dressed up as
zombies, torn clothes, makeup, fake blood, the whole shebang, taking over
downtown, and shuffling to the department of education. We wanted to send
a message that high-standards, high-stakes tests is sucking out the
creativity of our curriculum and turning us into test prep zombies.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right there. I want to come back, more on this notion
that education is turning us into zombies rather than into full students
who have the capacity to do the amazing things that you all have been doing
and that so many of your colleagues have been doing, when we come back.
But let me also say that this morning, we are going to show you videos that
we received through education nation, from students across the country,
using the hash tag, what it takes, to share their views on what is needed
for academic success.
Stay right there. We are just getting started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For student success, it takes passion, hard work, and
dedication. You really have to be invested and care about what you`re
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back to the 2013 education nation student town hall.
Now, we have been talking about students raising their voices in protest
and speaking out for themselves over the last year. And now, I want to
hear what some of the students in the audience have to say.
But hold for me just one second because I do want to come back to
Cauldierre on this question of zombies and the idea that education testing
was in part turning young people into zombies. So, the young people of
your program got out and said, hey, we want to have a different way of
thinking about education.
MCKAY: Yes. So after the zombie march, it got a lot of publicity locally
and so we decided -- but still, there were adults who were saying, these
students are just complaining. They should just stop and take the test.
So then we thought, why don`t they take the test? So we organized a "take
the test" event where we had 50 accomplished adults, lawyers, businessmen,
elected officials, college professors, et cetera, take a portion of the
state assessment in Rhode Island. And we were extremely shocked to see
that 60 percent of those adults would not have been able to graduate under
Rhode Island`s high-stakes policy.
So, that really brought to us the question, what is this test really
measuring? How is it measuring how successful we`ll be in life if these
adults didn`t even pass it? And those are just like two of our events that
we have done. And we will keep doing creative actions until we ensure that
students have a voice in the education debate.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that. Speaking of having a voice, Krystal, you have
got someone with you there.
BALL: I do. I have John here from New Jersey with a question about
JOHN LEW, STUDENT: Hello. My name is John Lew. And last year my town
passed a multi-million dollar referendum in order to build a new sports
stadium. However, my AP chemistry class last year didn`t have enough money
to buy chemicals to do laboratory experiments. How do you respond?
HARRIS-PERRY: This was an issue in both Chicago and Philadelphia as well.
Would one of you like to respond?
FLOYD: Well, in Chicago recently, we have a thing called TIF funds, which
is tax increment financing, so you can pull it out of certain neighborhoods
and put it into what Chicago senates are developing neighborhoods. But
recently, we have been using millions of dollars to create a new stadium
for De Paul College and we put millions of dollars into the Navy Pier
tourist attraction, while at the same time, 49 schools were closed.
And I think it`s bigger than just these small situations of who gets the
money and who doesn`t. It`s a real attack on the public sector in Chicago
while increasing the private sector. I mean, all across the city, but
especially in education, you can see a real privatization. We are bringing
in charter schools, we are giving money to, you know, hotdog (INAUDIBLE) to
De Paul and Navy Pier, while at the same time, we can`t give kids a basic
free public education.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nuwar, let me ask you to follow up on that, because part of
what we have heard here is that student voices need to be heard. What is
it in Philadelphia that you have learned is an effective way to get student
voices heard, whether it`s creative direct actions, whether it`s actually
taking to the streets. What do you think is effective in this way?
AHMED: I think that showing that students have voices and letting them
decide what to do about the situation. So, in the Philadelphia student
union, it`s completely student led and we organize rallies, marches,
walkouts to show that students care about their education and that we have
the power to do what we need to do and that`s it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes? And real quick, just for the last one, I want to point
out that you had an actual idea of how to deal with the high-stakes
testing. Not just a can complaint, but an idea. What was your idea?
ROSINPLOTZ: My idea I phrased in a letter to James Matthew at "the
Washington Post". I think we should have a three-year moratorium, like
(INAUDIBLE) suggests which is because we have -- since 2001, when no child
left behind passed, we have been testing, testing, testing, and we have
shown no improvement on the PISA, nothing. We are just -- we are going
down. So I think just trying for three years or even one year and then
testing could make a big difference.
HARRIS-PERRY: So three years, moratorium. And I mean, look, this is what
we teach you in science class, right? It`s a hypothesis. If it makes a
different, let`s do an experiment, right? We go three years with the
moratorium, see whether or not it makes a difference and actually test it
with a little bit of empirical evidence.
Nurwa Ahmed, Ross Floyd, and Cauldierre McKay, thank you all so much. Noa,
I`m going to need you to stick around for a little while.
And up next, the reform that will affect almost every student in this room
and in the country. But how much do people really know about it? We are
going to get some answers from one of the experts behind the new program
being implemented in schools across the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Hazel Delgado (ph) and I`m from Metro high
school in Chicago. I believe that in order for a student to be successful,
they must be responsible, determined and be ready to ask questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right.
Perhaps the biggest new thing in education, affecting K-12 students right
now is the common core. And it`s also probably the least understood.
Common core is new set of national standards for reading, writing, and
math. Standards that define what students should be able to do at the end
of each grade. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted
the standards. And the new standards have a lot of support. But some
detractors say common core is a weak attempt at reform, that will
ultimately still rely on high-stakes testing, much like no child left
So here to explain common core and response to some of that criticism is
David Coleman, one of the authors of the standards and the current
president and CEO of the College Board. Also still on stage with us is Noa
Rosinplotz, and now with us is Eric Wilson, a freshman at Miami
Northwestern Senior High.
All right, David, let`s start. What is the most important thing people
need to know about common core that they may have a misconception about?
DAVID COLEMAN, PRESIDENT, CEO, COLLEGE BOARD: The most important thing for
you as students to know about the common core is this is a chance to focus
on a few things. That evidence shows us really matter for your future. In
other words, what the common core found when working on the common core is
that there is evidence from high-performing countries from throughout this
country, that there are a few things, like in math, that really matter for
college and career readiness. And teachers and you need time to preach,
time to teach, and time to practice, and do those things well. And if you
do that hard work of doing a few things well, you will be ready for the
challenges that follow you.
So for the students in the audience, lighter textbooks that focus on
important stuff, be OK with you? Is that cool, yes, no? Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so even as you were talking, because we had
teenagers in the audience, I saw a few eyes rolling which means, right? At
some folks are hearing that common core is different.
Part of what I love about your story of common core was that, it emerges
from your own experience of bar mitzvah and the idea that young people can
be asked to do very difficult, analytic task.
You know, as I said, the common core at its heart is based on evidence from
high-performing countries, but all of us are informed by our personal
experience. And I was really moved by the last panel, where I think it was
Noa who said, people get confused, that they should respect people just
because they are older. And one thing wonderful about a bar mitzvah, as a
very young person, 13 years of age, sits in front of their peers and their
loved ones and reads careful a shared text and everyone can criticize,
right, because they`re all reading the same thing. And the student shows
at that moment or the young person their command of that text, they reflect
on what it might mean, they use evidence from it to develop an idea.
That`s a very demanding idea for a young person in front of a lot of
But if you look at the letter Noa wrote, it`s that same idea. She had an
idea about testing being wrong, but she didn`t just convey her personal
experience, she analyzed it in writing and did research. And it`s that
kind of work where you make arguments based on evidence or read carefully
that`s at the heart of the common core.
HARRIS-PERRY: Eric, I know you have been doing a lot of research about
this, because your class is going to be impacted by common core. Do you
have a question for Mr. Coleman?
ERIC WILSON, FRESHMAN, MIAMI NORTHWESTERN SENIOR HIGH: Yes, why are the
standards so high for common core?
COLEMAN: That`s a great question. What you asked is why are they so high
for common core? And you know, at the heart of it is, today, 40 to 50
percent of kids leaving high school with a degree, like you have done the
work, go into remediation courses in college. That is not OK.
What that means is you are not ready for that first year college course, so
you can`t get credit. You get instead a remediation course. When kids
enter remediation, they almost never escape.
So the standards are high because the demands are high, meaning what you
need to be able to do. But the good news is, they`re also fewer. So, it`s
not that we`re just building a big new wall for kids to jump over, but
allowing students to concentrate on those few things that really matter
that can get them out of remediation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mara, you have got a student out there?
MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, NBC NEWS: With Esther who is a sophomore from Arizona.
This is actually your first time in New York. Welcome. What`s your
ESTHER, STUDENT, ARIZONA: Hi. I actually wanted to know why many states
around the country are actually backing out about using common core.
COLEMAN: I think the great news -- thanks. I think the great news is that
states thus far are not backing out of the common core. Some states have
made decisions about assessment, for example, and have concerns about that,
but what`s so surprising in this country, at a time when let`s just say,
there`s quite a bit of controversy about most domestic policy, there is a
lot of Republican-Democrat collaboration, you have got a situation where in
two separate polls, 80 percent of teachers support these standards. Isn`t
You have Republican congressmen and Democrats and Republican governors
particularly and Democratic and Republican governors working together
because they needed to raise standards, because they saw that students
weren`t ready for jobs, they weren`t ready for college and they broke down
state lines, they broke down partisan lines to work together. So, I`m more
excited by the amount of collaboration that we see in support.
HARRIS-PERRY: Noa, did you have a question?
ROSINPLOTZ: Yes, I do. Can you answer her question, what`s your response
to the people backing out?
COLEMAN: What I said was, that actually, no state has yet backed out of
the standards, so that`s the first answer to her question, which is. But
my answer to the question of, why is there concern, which I think Noa, is
what you`re trying to ask me which is this.
The first thing I want to tell everyone is that parents have a right,
across this country, to wonder about what their kids are learning and care
about that. So this is a time when we`re focusing on a new set of
expectations that actually celebrate fundamentals, like reading carefully
and writing, and a core of math. But parents can get concerned. Hey, what
does this mean for my child? Do I have adequate rights?
They want to make sure they control their child`s privacy, which I totally
agree, and we have to ensure that students` data remains their own. I
think there are principled concerns, but the good news is, no state has yet
withdrawn, to be clear, because the more people look at the standards, they
see work worth doing. And while we are in a difficult period of time, I
think there will be increasing support.
HARRIS-PERRY: Eric Wilson, I appreciate you being here. And Noa, I
appreciate you reminding me that sometimes the best question that you ask
on a panel is the most direct, the shortest, and the most straight forward.
So, thank you for your question.
David Coleman, thank you for being here and facing a room that is
undoubtedly a tough world because there is controversy and I hope that we
learned at least a little something today, but also that students don`t
feel like they are silenced around common core, that it is the thing that
you ought to absolutely be questioning, be taking up, and either be
supporting or not based on what you think is right for your education.
Up next, Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt joins us. And we are
going to take you inside the high school that`s gone completely high-tech.
This is education nation, student town hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sorry. I didn`t see you there. You want to be
like me? All it takes is hard work, determination, and practice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Welcome back to "education nation: the student
town hall" from the New York public library in the midtown Manhattan. Here
Is Melissa Harris-Perry.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. I have got a question for the room. By a show
of hands, who would love to see their schools go completely digital?
All right, OK. All right.
Well, you may be in luck, because across the country, schools are taking
steps to make that a reality. But some students in the Los Angeles unified
school district are learning that lesson that with great progress comes
Last week, some students had their school-issued ipads taken away after
officials learned they had hacked the devices. Now, while Los Angeles may
currently be a cautionary tale in the case of technology in the classroom,
here`s an example of one high school in White Plains, New York, touting the
success of tech, where books are a thing of the past, as they have gone 100
percent digital. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the parents heard we are going to a digital
textbook library, they were very mixed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At first, I felt like, if we were going to do this, I
would feel like the screen was getting in the way of me doing stuff that I
would do with a normal book, like highlighting, annotating, taking notes.
But after using it, it`s actually a lot easier than I thought it was going
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason I thought this was a good idea is I saw that
it would be a huge cost savings for the students and their families.
Normally, a book bill would run somewhere between $500 and $700, and you
would get five or seven textbooks. Instead, now, they can access 40
textbooks for a simple one-time access fee of $150 per year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I find it a lot easier, because now, I mean, I can do
everything I can, writing down notes, I can do on my laptop and I don`t
have to carry as much books.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By accessing this digital library, it is going to make
that first year in college that much more comfortable. So, we are not
going to have to spend too much time adjusting. It will feel like we`ve
been doing this our whole life and put us ahead of the game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of
ERIC SCHMIDT, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, GOOGLE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I want to ask you a question about the idea of taking
away the --
SCHMIDT: We are going to hire these students.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, who hack! Right?
SCHMIDT: Where are they? We need more of these sorts of people.
HARRIS-PERRY: We need the one who are hacking, right, not the once who
like never thought about hacking in.
Let me ask you this, as we see transitions like this, is it the technology
that makes the difference or is it the teacher in the classrooms with the
SCHMIDT: How about the students?
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me about that.
SCHMIDT: You know, most of these revolutions are student rep-led. And you
know, the best picture ever is the kid that`s teaching the parent how to
use a computer, absolutely, always the best image. And this new generation
has grown up all digital. And I think about when I was a student, you had
essentially knew nothing, except what was in the textbook and what your
teacher told you.
Now you can literally know everything. And furthermore, with mutual,
right, all these collaboration tools that Google and other people are
offering, you can actually collaborate, you can learn together, you can
have common lesson plans, teachers can experiment in ways they couldn`t
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me take this to the students so we can learn something
more from them.
Krystal, you`ve got a student with you who has a question.
BALL: Yes. I have Cindy here. She is a student at the new school.
CINDY, STUDENT: Hi. I was just wondering, do you think that technology
engages students in the classroom or do you think that it distracts them?
SCHMIDT: I think a lot of it depends on whether you`re bored or not.
SCHMIDT: And a lot of students are sitting there kind of being slightly
bored. So the question is, what do you do when you`re bored? I hope what
you are doing is you are, rather than playing games, you are sitting and
learning the things you care about. A lot more of education will be
individual led in this new age because there`s so much that you yourself
can learn and so many tools that are available to you.
The other thing, of course, is there`s lots of different choices now of how
to learn. Maybe the best way for you to learn is not to sit there for
eight hours bored. Maybe what you should do is have a little bit of a
lesson, do a little bit of a question, talk to your friends, learn some
more, do another lesson and so forth. A lot of evidence that there`s new
way of learning.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And it raises the bar for those of us who are teachers
who are teaching in wired classrooms. We have to be more interesting than
e-mail and Instagram in order to keep the interest of students, right?
SCHIAVOCAMPO: I`m here with Emily. Emily`s a senior from New Jersey.
EMILY, STUDENT: Hi. I want to know. Although technology in classroom is
a great idea, how do you think it will affect those students who can`t
afford the technology because of their school`s lack of funding?
SCHMIDT: Pretty much everybody has got access to computers of one kind or
another. Think about all those games computers that everybody has now and
so forth. And so the price of computers, tablets, ipads, those sorts of
things have fallen so dramatically. Eventually, the price of the computer
will be lower than the price of the textbooks. So I think we`ll get there.
And it`s certainly true that schools don`t have any money at all, but they
do actually buy some things and almost all of them are busy making this
digital transition. The big issue is going to be, how does teaching
change? Do the teachers accept it? Do they resist it? What do the
measurements say and on and on.
I`m on the board of something called the con economy, which is something
you should take a look at. You learn in a completely different way,
working with teachers changes everything.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to follow up a little bit on that money question.
Not so much the digital divide question, but rather, this is a billion-
dollar program in Los Angeles, the ipad program. What happens when we
create a profit incentive in our schools, so once technology and the
ability to sell technologies or to sell standardized tests or any of these
things becomes the standards for schools, then, there are people who will
become wealthy off of selling these things to our schools. Doesn`t that
change the ability for us to say that it`s good for us versus it is good
for the entrepreneur?
SCHMIDT: Well, the Google products in these areas, we give away for free.
We never charge for them. So, I think well-meaning corporations should
just give this stuff away if they possibly can or at cost. And in the
technology industry, the prices are falling so dramatically, that`s not
going to be an issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you don`t think there`s a profit incentive associated
with moving the technology into all of the schools in the country?
SCHMIDT: Relatively little. There`s relatively little money to be made.
There are start-ups that are for-profit that are working on this. And I
have looked at some of them. And it doesn`t bother me that companies make
money doing this, as long as it works, right? The issue is you make money
and it doesn`t work. What we would pay in this country for corporations to
fix their education system and make it easiest for everyone to be
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Krystal?
BALL: I have Sabir (ph) here. He is a public high school student here in
New York City.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is (INAUDIBLE). I`m the high school from where
is studies that (INAUDIBLE) program. And because technology provides a
shorthand, a shortcut to students` academic work, how do you feel that by
using technology in school, it`s affecting our analytical thinking and our
critical thinking, both in school and in the outside world?
SCHMIDT: Well, the first question, when I was your age, I was in Virginia
and I was required to memorize the names of the counties, of the 50
counties of Virginia. And I remember how painful that was and I forgot it
immediately after I passed the test. Today, I would use Google. Not that
complicated. So hopefully we`re taking the routine and the repetitive and
replacing it by creative and challenging and entertaining work.
Furthermore, there`s in ways of doing education that are much more gamified
(ph). Students will often react to a game where they are competing with
each other for a prize or contest and so forth, and that works. But I
worry about to answer your question directly because I worry about the loss
of deep reading. I`m sure we`re reading a lot. We are texting and so
forth and so on. But are you spending the hours that it takes to read a
long and hard book? And I suspect we`re losing that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Eric, thank you so much for being here. And I love this
point about having, you know, having to memorize the 50 states and now you
just Google it. Also, I also can remember in college having these very
long late into the night fights about fact-based things, you are right, you
are wrong and now, of course, you just Google it. So, I also worry about
that deep interactions that we have.
SCHMIDT: Well, what we do and remember is there`s many things that humans
had to do that computers do better and one thing is memory. So why don`t
we think creative thinking, critical skills, creativity, caring, all the
things that humans are particularly good at. Computers will always be
better at remembering things than we are.
Eric, thank you so much for being here.
And I hope at some point Google will maybe partner with Nerdland to do some
of this free technology giveaway. I like that idea. It helps to change
that profit motivation.
Up next, from high-tech to basic needs, when students are missing something
as simple and as essential as a good meal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For student success, it takes having education as your
top priority. Being self-motivated, having determination, despite
adversity, surrounding yourself with people that help you reach your goals
and just be you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Students deal with so many issues at school, hunger should
not be one of them. But sadly, it is. In a recent report, three out of
five teachers say students regularly come to school hungry. And more than
half of teachers say their students rely on school meals as their primary
source of nutrition.
Joining me now are Jahzaire Sutton, a 12-year-old, who has experienced
going to school hungry, and he is here with his mom, Angela Sutton, who is
vice chair of the program, Witnesses to Hunger.
Thank you both for being here.
ANGELA SUTTON, VICE CHAIRMAN, WITNESSES TO HUNGER: Thank you for having
HARRIS-PERRY: So Jahzaire, I want to start with you, because I think it`s
very brave that you`re willing to talk to us. Tell me, what was it like
when you had to go to school hungry? How did it affect us?
JAHZAIRE SUTTON, 12-YEARS-OLD: That affected me because I wasn`t able to
focus on my schoolwork and that kind of affected my report card grades.
And it was very frustrating, because it`s all I could think of, food, when
I went to school, because I wasn`t able to eat breakfast at home.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you tell your teachers that you were hungry?
JAHZAIRE SUTTON: Yes, in sixth grade, I told one of my teachers, teacher
Kathy. She did something about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: What did she do?
JAHZAIRE SUTTON: Well, when I told her, I didn`t ask her to do it, but she
did it out of kindness. What she did is, every morning, she would bring in
like snacks and chips for the whole class, not just me.
HARRIS-PERRY: That part of it being for the whole class, not just for you,
how important was that to you?
JAHZAIRE SUTTON: It was important to me, because it felt like that she
didn`t just care about me, she cared about the whole entire class, because
she didn`t know how many students in the class were going to school hungry.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jahzaire, your mom, Angela is here. And I want to talk to
you, Miss Sutton, because the work you do with Witnesses to Hunger, I know
you know how hard it is for parents to even admit that sometimes their
children are hungry. When you made the decision to come and be here with
us today, why that decision?
ANGELA SUTTON: Because a lot of people are ashamed, bashful. They worry
about DHS taking their children, saying they`re unfit, a lot of
stereotypes, and basically, a lot of pride as well, because a lot of people
such as myself, we do work. Unfortunately, you have to take and pay bills
and you just don`t have any. You have to make sure to maintain a roof over
their head, you have to make sure bills are paid, and sometimes to buy
food, you have to buy food that`s not healthy. So by the end of the month,
you`re running low, because you just don`t have the money to maintain the
HARRIS-PERRY: Jahzaire, you said the hardest times when you would have
something to eat, but your mom wouldn`t?
JAHZAIRE SUTTON: Yes, there was because she would sacrifice for me and my
little brother. And sometimes, I would just like really I try to push her
or try to make something to eat for her, so she could still have something
HARRIS-PERRY: How did that affect you when you were at school?
JAHZAIRE SUTTON: It kind of affected me, because also, food is on my mind,
but then my mom is on my mind, because she`s not really eating as much as I
am. So it kind of bothered me too.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the audience here is Joel Burg. Joel Burg is executive
director of New York City coalition against hunger.
Joel, this is a familiar story to you.
JOEL BURG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK CITY COALITION AGAINST HUNGER:
Yes, it is, although as you point out, it`s very rare for people to be
brave enough to come on national TV to discuss it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. What are the policy things that we can do that can
affect the lives of young people like Jahzaire?
BURG: We could start with living wages, so parents can earn enough to feed
their families. We can universal school breakfast and school lunch free in
every public classroom in America. We heard, we have all this money for
stadiums and tax cuts for the rich, we have enough money for meals. And
for goodness sake, we can kill these new cuts in the SNAP program. The
food stamps struggle, half those benefits go to children. For whatever
they are describing it as, the truth is, it`s a massive cut in nutrition
assistance to working families and kids.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, hold for me one moment. We are going to stay on
this issue. But you do have a student back there with you, Krystal.
BALL: I do. I have Tamara here who has a fantastic question.
TAMARA, STUDENT: What do you do if someone in your school is going hungry
but they don`t tell anybody and you want to help them but you don`t know
what is going on.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is a great question. Do you have a response to that,
Jahzaire. If somebody is in the school and hungry, is there something that
people can do to help?
JAHZAIRE SUTTON: I mean, if they have best friend or something, they can
always ask, like I`m sorry to bother you, but do you have any like small
snack for me or something and that -- and it could be a simple solution
just like that.
BURG: Well, we are working at the New York City coalition against Hunger
with the no kid hunger campaign to make sure that all schools have, for
instance, universal school breakfast. So, this room is filled with student
activists from around the country. You can demand that your school have
these breakfasts and they should be provided to all students, paid for
entirely by the federal government.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me. We`re going to stay on this topic. I know
there are more students in the audience who want to jump in on this. We
have been talking ipads, but we also want to talk breakfast.
So, stay with us. We are going to take a quick break. We will come right
back with "Education Nation: Student Town Hall."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For success, it takes drive, patience, and confidence.
Drive because there will always be times where you don`t think you can pull
through and everything`s overwhelming. Patience, because time waits for no
man, but you have to work hard day by day. With confidence, (INAUDIBLE),
stick to the goals you have set.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back with the "Education Nation: Student Town Hall"
and we are talking about hunger and its impact on how students learn.
Mara, you have student in the audience with you.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes. I`m here with Deane. HE is a junior and he actually
has a comment about this topic.
DEANE, STUDENT: Well, sometimes it`s really not about how much money you
have, but the amount of time you have to eat, because you can have all the
food in the world, but in my school, if you start zero period, like that`s
it, you don`t have breakfast. And that`s at 7:15.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like this idea. This is part of your point then, Joel,
that if we`re making breakfast available to everybody, if there`s not a
stigma associated with wealth, we just say, look, sometimes young people
are running out without eating and we don`t generate that stigma.
BURG: Look. All the data says, to be schooled, you must be fueled. To be
well-read, you must be well-fed. And so, for most of us adults, we
structure our whole day around when we eat, but for schools, meals are
often an afterthought.
In New York City, sometimes lunch is at 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning. It`s
insane. Meals should be the centerpiece of the school day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Krystal, you have a student?
BALL: I have Mika here who has a great suggestion.
MIKA, STUDENT: Hello, my name is Mika and I`m part of an organization
called Today`s Students, Tomorrow`s Teachers. And for my suggestion, I
just want to suggest that for those who want to, you know, stop this crisis
from happening, I would say start with a goal first. That goal can be, you
know, lower the income status on what you put on the paper for lunch or
breakfast. And, two, start with the community because your community is
very, very important and they would make stuff happen. And then, you know,
broaden your activism to the government. They are different activists that
would help you, for example, Mary Elderman, she`s very, very helpful. Just
write to anyone you can. This is a very important crisis. Everyone will
HARRIS-PERRY: Jahzaire, I want to come back to you because we were talking
in the break, you are doing much better now and you are in a great school.
Tell us about the school and what it is you like about it.
JAHZAIRE SUTTON: My school is very special. It`s called fast charter
school. It stands for folk arts, cultural treasures. And basically, what
we get to do is we get to learn a special language called Mandarin Chinese.
And it`s pretty interesting, because the pronunciation of each character is
weird in a way, since you`re not really like born into it. So, it`s pretty
cool, though, to learn.
HARRIS-PERRY: Suddenly, I just want to say how much I appreciated talking
with Jahzaire today. And so, in the break and knowing that he is learning
Mandarin, and your point about we have got to feed our future leaders
because I look at him and Jahzaire, I see great things for you. I want to
be sure that we keep feeding him so he can, in fact, achieve. So you guys
are doing better now?
ANGELA SUTTON: Yes, much better because, like, I advocate for people that
don`t have a voice. I had to come out and speak up for people, because not
only for myself and for others, because it`s a stigmatism on you not being
able to feed your children. Because it`s not that he doesn`t have food
now, it`s just that he runs out for the bus, he gets up at 5:00 every
morning, he is the first person to get on the bus at 6:00. So, I have to
have him outside at 6:00 a.m. every morning so he can be on the school bus,
just to go to a better school, just because the public school system is
failing. The school system is horrible. There`s no good education. And
if our future is going to survive and thrive, I have to be able to make
sure he`s going to survive in this society, just based off of education
HARRIS-PERRY: And to being willing to do that for your son and to be a
voice for so many, we greatly appreciate it.
Thank you to Jahzaire and Angela Sutton, also to Joel Burg.
Coming up next, the new reality of what it means to be safe in school in a
Plus, a look at how other countries stack up to U.S. schools.
We are going to talk to some students who found out firsthand.
Our "Education Nation: Student Town Hall" continues at the top of the hour.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to the "Education Nation: Student Town Hall."
Here again is Melissa Harris-Perry.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back, everyone.
We turn now to a somber topic.
This is the first "Education Nation: Student Town Hall" since a school
shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, took the live of
21 students plus six teachers and administrators.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`re following breaking news right now.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, an unthinkable
attack on young children.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I was in the gym and I heard a loud -- well, I heard
like seven loud booms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were parents everyone, obviously, just trying
to get to their children, make sure they were OK.
PETE WILIAMS, NBC NEWS: Investigators say the gunman was a 20-year-old who
lived in the area, Adam Lanza.
REPORTER: Inside the school, police found the shooter dead.
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST: The weapons used in the shooting were all legally
purchased and were registered to the gunman`s mother.
An emotional President Obama addressed the nation this afternoon from the
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve endured too many of
these tragedies in the past few years. And we`re going to have to come
together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this,
regardless of the politics.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Exactly one week after 20 children and six
adults were massacred by a gunman in their school, the NRA demands armed
guards be deployed to every school in this country by January.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a
good guy with a gun.
HARRIS-PERRY: And right there, you have it. A huge piece of what the
debate over gun rights and gun safety has been about is school safety.
It`s a hard question. Is armed personnel the answer to violence in our
The Department of Justice announced it plans to provide $125 million in
grants to schools nationwide, including $45 million for 356 new school
resource officer positions, inside school buildings. All as part of a
community-oriented policing program.
The Justice Department is also providing funds to pay for two school safety
officers in Newtown, Connecticut, schools.
But do these measures truly make students feel safe at school?
I`m joined now by Chicago State University student, Dennis Johnson, of the
Black Youth Project. Barnard College student and authority, Tiffany
Montoyiannis; Ross Floyd, co-founder of the Chicago Students Union. And
Israel Munoz, who is also a co-founder of the Chicago Students Union.
Thank you all for being here.
Dennis, I want to start with you.
Do you agree there with Mr. LaPierre that the only thing that stops a bad
guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?
DENNIS JOHNSON, MEMBER, BLACK YOUTH PROJECT: An eye for an eye makes you
blind. You don`t respond to violence with violence, and you don`t put more
police officers in a school. It`s bad enough when you walk into a school
now, it feels like you`re walking through the Cook County jail, because you
got to go through the metal detectors, you`ve got to get your book bag
And you know how the weather can be in Chicago, if it`s cold, that line to
get in the school, will be out the door. So, no, I don`t agree.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk to me, do any of you have friends who carried guns
or arm themselves in part to feel safe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this notion that the gun is the solution is not true?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what makes you feel safe at school?
ISRAEL MUNOZ, CO-FOUNDER, CHICAGO STUDENTS UNION: Personally, my school is
not so much an education environment, it`s more like a prison environment,
like Dennis said. You know, I go in, I have a clear plastic backpack, I
have to put it on a conveyor belt, which leads to an X-ray machine, I have
to walk through a metal detector, get searched, all of that. And that in
itself does not make me feel safe in school, even though it is a safety
measure, rather it makes me feel like I`m going into a prison rather than
somewhere that I should love to be, somewhere like a school.
That precaution does not even give you a sense of safety.
HARRIS-PERRY: Obviously, part of me start talking about metal detector and
that kind of thing, the Newtown shooting is very different than the kind of
violence that`s impacted the Chicago schools over the course of the past
few years. Is there a different way we ought to be thinking about that
notion of safety at school?
FLOYD: I think when look at the Newtown situation, you have to ask, why
did it happen? And what you see is, you have, in many times, these
situations, students who have mental problems or social problems or adults
who have these problems. And they have no chance to get help.
In America, we`re closing down our mental health institutions, and these
people who need help have nowhere to go. And when people who need help
can`t get it, tragedies like this happen.
And so you have to start looking at solutions, and that`s funding our
mental health clinics, getting every student a good education, so they
don`t need to do this, and giving every person a purpose, because when you
have people with no purpose in life, they have -- they tend to do tragedies
and their lives just spiral downhill.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tiffany, you`ve made some interesting connections in your
work between gun violence and actually school bullying, which is a slightly
different way of thinking about being safe at school.
TIFFANY MONTOYIANNIS, SOPHOMORE AT BARNARD: Yes, actually, I think that
one of the main things is, of course, students have to feel safe
physically, but also emotionally. And I think in schools, if we first
solve the problem of every student feeling emotionally safe and
comfortable, then perhaps we can even prevent from anyone even having a
mental problem or having anger that they feel like they have to release
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things we`ve been talking about all morning is
this idea of student voices is and student solutions. And, Dennis, the
work that the Black Youth Project does is about giving opportunities for
you people to offer their solutions.
What are the school safety solutions that the young folks in Black Youth
Project and other folks around Chicago have been coming up with?
JOHNSON: So, the Black Youth Project is a coalition of 100 activists from
around the country. We come from an area where in Chicago, D.C., North
Carolina, even the Bay Area.
And what we do is we listen to the youth. That`s the first thing you need
to do. A lot of times when they make decisions about violence, they don`t
listen to the youth, and we are youth.
So, one of the things we try to do, we find out what`s the root of the
problem in systemic violence. It`s systemic violence.
When you think about it, you wake up in the morning, especially in an urban
community, with lack of resources, you get blue juice, sugar water, hot
Cheetos, you know, that`s already got you running. It`s not a nutritious
meal. You walk into a school, bad enough, you go through the metal
So, we`re challenging issues like that. And then once you`re in there,
dependent on your teacher or her attitude, and you got to deal with that.
And you can`t sit down while you`re in class, you`re jumping and you`re
moving, and they say, oh, he has ADHD or you have some type of mental
disease, so they diagnose you and drug you up.
So, we`re challenging everything. We write letters. We go beyond voting
(ph), we go beyond praying, we need to step up.
Youth, you are not the future, your time is now. The decisions you make
now will determine your future, so don`t wait. With your cell phone, you
can call into a congressman`s office. Keep calling. Make sure somebody
else pick up the phone. You lock it down.
If you`ve got to sit outside and you got to lay down in the street, you got
to do what you got to do. And don`t be scared. Think about it. You`re
going through now is what your kids are going to go through.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to stay on exactly this topic when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For student success, it takes passion and
determination. You need passion not only in high school or college, but
you need your future as well and you need determination to drive yourself
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back to the "Education Nation: Student Town Hall".
We are talking about the issue of safety in schools.
Mara, you`ve got a student with you?
SCHIAVOCAMPO: I`m here with Amina (ph). Amina is a junior at a Newark
Public School and she feels safer with armed guards in school. Tell me
AMINA: In my school, we have three officers and multiple security guards.
In the morning, we have a check where we go through the metal detectors and
the security guards check our bags. I feel safe in our school, because my
community, there`s been a lot of killings and once you`re in school from
8:35 to 2:40, that`s where my safe -- that`s where I feel safe at.
And outside of my community, I feel unsafe, because of so much killings
that`s been going on.
HARRIS-PERRY: Any of you guys have a response to that idea that actually
for Amina, those guards make her feel safer.
MONTOYIANNIS: I do understand that, in fact, but I also wonder how there
are certain kids in the school who emotionally, going back to that, don`t
feel safe. Now, with guards, you do prevent people from coming into the
school, but what about the kids that are, in fact, inside the school who
don`t feel safe because of their peers bullying them and making them feel
like they don`t belong there, in fact.
MUNOZ: I also would like to add to that. Oftentimes in schools, in other
parts of Chicago, primarily the South Side, there are instances where the
police officers and security guards are actually abusing the students. So,
how does that -- these people are there to protect us, but rather, they`re
damaging the school, they`re damaging the environment. And that truly is
HARRIS-PERRY: Krystal, you have a student?
BALL: Yes, I have Jordan here. He`s also from the city of Newark, and he
is the student representative on the Newark advisory board, so representing
40,000 Newark students.
JORDAN: So going to school in Newark, you get the sense that Newark Public
Schools are taking a number of initiatives. They have a number of
resources available to try to increase student safety and create a climate
where students feel they are safe and they don`t have to worry about their
health. They can focus on their studies.
But, still, students know that in truth, after school, there`s a number of
concerns. You have to worry about, are you going to get robbed? Are you
going to get jumped? What`s going to happen in my positions? Should I
wear these sneakers after school because if I walk out, are they going to
get stolen from me?
It`s a really overwhelming experience, because now you have to worry about
what`s going on outside the building. You have to worry about the
robberies, but then you also have to worry about the hazards inside the
building with metal detectors and your book bag being searched and guards.
So, it just goes to show that safety is such a central concern, because
although there is technology and resources available, and that`s important
too, it`s just such an overwhelming experience that sometimes it`s
difficult to take advantage of all of that when your health is constantly
on your mind.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jordan, I want to ask you a real quick follow-up on that. I
know that you actually talk to students in schools across Newark. Do they
have solutions? Have you heard one or two that you`d say, this is the kind
of thing we need to be implementing?
JORDAN: Just more security, but not in the building. Because that -- you
almost get a feeling of victimization -- not victimization, I`m sorry --
criminalization when you have so many armed guards and security and metal
detectors in the building, you almost get the feeling of, wait a second,
I`m the victim here. I need to worry about my health and not what`s going
on with me and what I have in my book bag.
So a number of concerns have been brought up about increasing security
outside the building, because that`s where the majority of things go on. I
know that in one week last year, I had two of my friends and my brother
actually almost got robbed right outside the school building. So, their
idea tends to be just armed guards outside the building to try to stop that
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Jordan.
Mara, you are with a student who was in a very similar circumstance very
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes, this Maisha Clark (ph). She is a sophomore in
And you recently witnessed a shooting on your way home from school, is that
MAISHA CLARK: Yes. I was coming home from school and I was on a bus and I
got off and like as soon as I got off, there was shooting. And it`s like,
it`s not the first time that has ever happened in my neighborhood, but it
just doesn`t make me feel safe to come and go to school, because I feel
like at any given moment, my life can be taken away, and like the NYPD
won`t have any justice because they`re never around.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is not an isolated.
Krystal, you`re standing there with a student with a not dissimilar story.
BALL: I have Mahlon (ph) here.
MAHLON: Hello. My name is Mahlon. And considering the fact that in New
York City schools, bullying is become a socially accepted norm, what can
schools do specifically in order to prevent that?
MONTOYIANNIS: Well, I know for a fact in my school, when there was a
problem with bullying, a lot of the principals or whoever was in charge
would almost kind of blame everyone. So I think that was one of the main
problems and what at least I tried doing was really finding ways to spread
awareness and tell parents that, you know, what, this is actually going on
with their kids. How they can talk to their kids without their kids
feeling like, oh, my God, like, I feel like I`m being interrogated by my
So, it`s really building trust between the school, between parents, between
students. And building that safety and that you can actually talk about,
hey, I feel like I`m being bullied in this situation and I don`t feel safe
in school, I can`t concentrate, and having the feeling that you can
actually talk to someone in your school and talk to your parents. I think
that`s one of the main things that schools need to focus on is building
HARRIS-PERRY: And speaking of building trust, I want to go back. Krystal,
I know you have one other student there who`s got a story very similar to
the story we heard earlier.
BALL: I do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, well, I go to information technology high school
and my school had an innocent where another -- a rival school, I guess you
can say, came to our school and didn`t care who they could have hurt. They
just came with knifes and bats and stuff with intentions to hurt people.
But actually, I would like to say that the police and our school reacted
really well to it, to the point where in a matter of seconds, it was -- in
a matter of minutes, actually, it was pretty much over with and nobody
actually got hurt. But the risk was still there. So I think they handled
it pretty well.
HARRIS-PERRY: So at this point, we`ve heard story of actually witnessing
shootings, of being threatened with -- both within your own school and the
context of bullying, but also in this case, of a rival school coming.
Is there -- and we are almost out of time here -- but is there one thing
that we need to take away from this sense of insecurities in schools, that
is beyond the question of armed guards for generating safety or a sense of
security? It`s a tough question.
FLOYD: I think there`s a correlation between when we`ve been talking about
the criminalization in schools and the bullying in schools. We can either
stop violence by having external solutions. But that only creates more of
a sense of, I`m a criminal, I`m going here because I`m a criminal, this is
an unsafe environment.
Or we can try to change the attitudes of the children. We can make it a
safe, emotional place for them to go and feel safe. And if we can change
the environment, not through armed guards, but by having a sense of
camaraderie and having a sense of safety, then I think many of these
violent acts will stop.
HARRIS-PERRY: My thanks to Dennis, Tiffany, Ross, and Israel.
And up next, a bold new look at how education in other countries compares
to the U.S. We`re going to hear from students who saw the difference
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TYLER MARTIN: Hi, my name is Tyler Martin. I go to Kenwood Academy in
Chicago, Illinois. For students who say it takes cooperation, there has to
be a system of trust and teamwork with an established student body
(INAUDIBLE). Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS0-PERRY: You probably heard that American students score lower on
international standardized tests than students in many other developed
countries. In 2009, American 15-year-olds ranked 14th in reading, 17th in
math, and 25th in math out of 34 industrialized countries.
What we don`t often hear is why. Why do students in other countries appear
to be doing better?
The search for answers, journalist Amanda Ripley followed three American
high school students as they studied in Finland, South Korea, and Poland.
The result is her new book, "The Smartest Kids in the World and How They
Got that Way."
And joining us now are two of the students who are featured in that book,
Eric Kvam and Kim Pate.
Thank you for being here.
ERIC KVAM, JUNIOR AT DEPAUL UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Kim, where did you study during your year abroad?
KIM PATE, OKLAHOMA VIRTUAL HIGH SCHOOL: I spent 10 months in Finland.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what was your experience in Finland and in the schools
PATE: It was very, very different. It was very lecture-based as far as
classes were. Also, all the teachers were very engaged with the students.
There was a much more effective back and forth than I saw in American
HARRIS-PERRY: So on the one hand, you say it`s lecture based, but then you
tell me there is more effective back and forth. So how do those two things
PATE: Well, because it wasn`t a lecture as in you`re sitting in the back
of e room and this dull teacher is just droning on about World War I. It
was -- first of all, you address teachers by their first name, which threw
me out of my chair. But it was asking questions, it was engagement.
And also, it`s harder for students to zone out, as opposed to, you know,
when they`re just assigned busy work. They had to be engaged to keep up
with the material.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So that`s one model. Your model, your abroad
experience was really quite different. Where did you study?
COVON: I studied for a year in South Korea and in the city of Busan. And
the Korean model is very much focused on rigor.
There is a lecture-based system, as there is in Finland. But unlike
Finland, it is very much a one-way from teacher to student. There is
almost no back and forth, even in classes like English. The most a student
will be asked to do is perhaps recite a line from an English novel rather
than converse in English.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, there was hours and hours of studying that was
going on after the regular school hours.
KVAM: That`s right. Hagwons, the private schools, parents pay exorbitant
amounts of money to send their students to hagwons just so they can keep up
in public schools.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you this -- the measures here are measures
of, when we say the smartest kids in the world, these are measures on
standardized tests. Do you feel like there was something in your
experience that you bring back and you say, we ought to implement this in
American public schools?
KVAM: I would definitely say that. In Korea, the way that they approach
mathematics is brilliant. They don`t allow the use of calculators until
very, very advanced mathematics, almost calculus. Instead, students are
expected to compute and use numbers in their head, which allows them a much
more concrete grasp on what they`re doing. They lose themselves far harder
than we do in mathematics, because they have a better grasp on it mentally.
I want to go to Krystal, who is there with Arianna.
Arianna, you go to one of the best schools in the country?
ARIANNA: Yes, actually. Internationally ranked, we took the PISA exam a
year or two ago and we were number one in the world. Our school has a 100
percent -- 100 percent of its graduates go to college, every single one,
whether they take a gap year or not, we all go to college. And I truly
believe it`s because of our college counseling classes.
We all are required -- it`s almost a core class to take. It`s college
counseling. They show us scholarship opportunities, they help us with
essays, they show us the process for many of the college applications,
because it`s different for a lot of people, though it`s similar in some
And I really think that they raise the bar and they expect you to go to
college, whereas other schools don`t necessarily give you that support,
that class, those scholarship explanations. And so, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: That would make a difference. Great.
Kim, let me ask you, one of the biggest things that the author of the book,
Amanda, takes fm t stories of your studies abroad is that school needs to
be harder. What do you make of that? Do you think school in the U.S. just
needs to be harder?
PATE: I think it needs to be done in a really thoughtful way instead of
trying to shove more at students, it needs to be done more thoughtfully,
not just harder content, but how are we delivering the content as well?
Like, why are we needing to repeat things year after year after year? Why
can`t we learn this and move on to the next thing?
HARRIS-PERRY: You have a student teacher with you out there, Mara.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes, Mia is a college student herself, but also teaches high
MIA: So, what I talk to a lot of my students about is some of them don`t
want to go to college at all or at least maybe not right away, so something
I`ve been thinking about and wondering about is how can we engage they will
in a curriculum that is centered around college readiness and still prepare
them for a life after college if that`s not what they`re interested in.
HARRIS-PERRY: Any lessons from abroad on this question of how do we keep
students in assuming a college future?
KVAM: In Korea, they keep them engaged almost by threat of a future. In
Korea, everything depends on this one test, the Korean SAT, it`s very
different from our SAT, the American SAT. Really, it determines your
future in that it determines what university you go to. If you get into a
good university with a good Korean SAT score, you have a fine future, you
make good social connections, you have a secure job.
So, they really understand the importance of university as it relates to
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course, that also flies in the face of some of the
critiques we`ve been hearing earlier about the notion of high-stakes
testing. That is the very definition of high-stakes testing.
KVAM: Almost too high-stakes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, almost too high stakes.
Eric Kvam, thanks.
And, Kim, you`re going to come back in a bit for a little bit more. But up
next, we`ll catch up with one of our favorite people we met last year. She
went from homeless shelters to the Ivy League. And she joins us live with
the latest on her new life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For student success, it takes being unique and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to the "Education Nation: Student Town Hall".
Here again is Melissa Harris-Perry.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last year at the student town hall, we introduced you to a
remarkable high school graduate who overcame every obstacle in her path and
received a full ride to Columbia University.
Eboni Boykin spent much of her childhood in and out of homeless shelters,
but was never swayed from her goal of attending an Ivy League School.
She`s now completed her first year at Columbia and is off to a running
start on her second.
We wanted to bring you an update.
EBONI BOYKIN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Literally, every day I ask
myself, like, what am I doing here? It`s just so amazing to think, just
how I grew up and now I`m here and it never really ceases to amaze me,
like, where I am. And it never really sinks in.
Growing up, I had a really hard time. My mom was single, it was me and my
younger siblings, so we ended up bouncing around to different homeless
shelters and just living with different people and it was really unstable
environment growing up.
And we just really struggled a lot with having money and having food. So,
coming to Columbia has been a huge change, because of course, I never
wonder where my next meal is coming from or things like that. So, it`s
been a stark change.
This is where I read for class, mostly.
When I started here at Columbia, I didn`t feel prepared at all, at least
not by my high school. And my first semester was sort of tumultuous in
that way. There was just a lot going on and I felt sort of overwhelmed and
really small in comparison to everything that was happening in my life.
As time within the on, I found friend groups and activities to get into and
I started to get the hang of my work. And now, I`m in a better, more
secure place. I don`t have to bother my mom with, you know, my expenses.
I`m sort of in a place where I have the opportunity to take care of myself.
I`m absolutely determined to finish what I started by coming here and I`ve
wanted this for such a long period of time, that it just wouldn`t make any
sense not to finish.
What surprised me most about college is that how different it is from the
way people interpret it on TV. I think people always think college, woo,
party, but I haven`t had much time for that. I don`t have time to eat or
sleep sometimes, so I think college is just a lot harder than people let
on, I think.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. College is a lot of work, but it`s worth it.
Joining me now is the extraordinary Eboni Boykin herself.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Eboni, not only are you doing all the hard work that is
college, you`re also doing activities, you`re also working for pay. How do
you balance it all?
BOYKIN: It`s hard. You learn time management as time goes on. I mean,
there are going to be many times where you miss things or you oversleep,
but eventually you find your stride and you learn how much time to allot
for different things, and once you start to get the hang of everything, it
feels good to be balancing so many things at once.
HARRIS-PERRY: You told me a little bit earlier that you`re starting film
studies. Tell me about that decision?
BOYKIN: I don`t know. I`ve loved for a long time and I figured it`s in
the general direction of what I want to do with my life and TV journalism.
HARRIS-PERRY: So tell me, you want to be a TV journalist? That`s
something you`ve talked to me about before?
BOYKIN: Yes, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So last time you were here, I said, come do an internship
with MHP. I absolutely meant it and I know we had a little time finding
housing this year. Do you think you might be able to make this year?
BOYKIN: Yes, definitely, I think we can swing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, because we really -- we really want you to hang
out with us at Nerdland all summer, all right?
BOYKIN: Sounds good.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Thanks, Eboni.
BOYKIN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So nice to have had you here again and so thrilled a about
how well you`re doing at Columbia. Thanks.
Eboni Boykin, thank you so much. And the issue that even has the White
House worried, the cost of higher education, when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. My name (INAUDIBLE). I currently live in
Chicago, but I think what it takes to be a successful student is guidance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: According to the White House, over the last three decades,
the average tuition at a four-year college has ballooned by more than 250
percent. Today, students hoping to attend a four-year college can expect
to shell out a minimum of $17,860 a year. That`s the average for tuition,
fees, room and board, at a public four-year college for in-state students.
And the cost only goes up from there, more than $30,000 a year for out-of-
state students attending a public school and almost $40,000 a year for a
private four-year college.
For nearly two-thirds of bachelors` degree recipients, paying for all that
education means taking out loans, which means the average borrower will
graduate with a degree and $26,000 in debt. Don`t cry, room.
Joining me here on the stage is Travis Reginal, a sophomore at Yale
University. Kim Pate, a high school senior from Oklahoma, who spent her
sophomore year studying abroad in Finland. Zak Malamed, a sophomore at the
University of Maryland and founder and executive director of Student Voice.
And Sophia Zaman, a 2013 graduate of the University of Massachusetts and
president of the United States Students Association.
Thank you all for being here.
I want to start with you, because your story is an interesting one and one
that I remember well from college, where you start out with a full
scholarship in your first year, and then a gap starts to grow each year.
Talk to me about that.
TRAVIS REGINAL, YALE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Oh, yes. It also comes with like
rising tuition costs and calculating your estimated need for the school
year. And so, what happens each year, the student contribution increases,
so for sophomores, it`s over $1,000 additional dollars from freshman year.
And so, that kind of can be an issue. You know, Like, OK, this is supposed
to be coming there like your summer savings. And the freshman amount is
like more reasonable, but unless you`re having some job, like in financing
or something, where people make $18,000 in the summer, unless you do that,
it`s not really feasible. Like even if you work full-time as a student,
people calculate, you`re not going to make those, an amount that they want.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, at this point, Sophia, I wonder how often a decision
about money and a concern about the question of how to pay for college
impacts the decisions that stunts make about where they apply and where
they end up matriculating.
SOPHIA ZAMAN, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS: Absolutely. And we see that
students right now are graduating with more and more levels of debt and I
think that`s something else that goes into consideration. We know that
attending a public college or a public university is not as affordable it
used to be.
And it`s really a shame, because states are divesting, the federal
government is divesting from higher education. And it should be a right.
It should be a public good, and something that`s accessible to all.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. This is one of the reasons that the cost of
education goes up, for students, is in part because there`s less, sort of
dollars coming in from the state. Now, you are at this moment applying to
colleges. How much are you considering cost of college in your decision?
PATE: One of the first pages I go when I go on the Web sites is the
tuition, how student aid do that give, how much of that can I expect?
Because if it`s very little, there`s no point in me looking at the school
and getting invested and excited if I know it`s not going to be a feasible
HARRIS-PERRY: So, how much does the ability to take loans affect that? If
you`re like, well, it`s expensive, but I`m willing to take out the loans,
is it just about how risk averse a student is?
ZAK MALAMED, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: I would make the case that going to
school at the worst time, you could have possibly ever gone to school
because of the value of school. The value diminishing, and when even I
consider taking out loans, that wasn`t enough for me to make the decision
as to whether or not I should actually go to that school, or whether or not
I should stay in school.
It`s a tough decision, because, you know, we look at job opportunities
today and they aren`t there. The value is just not there and the return is
HARRIS-PERRY: Zak, I would disagree with you a little bit about the idea
that the value of a college education has increased because at this moment,
there`s sort of a gap for those who actually finished that degree.
MALAMED: We find is that, yes, there are plenty of students. Research
shows that students who go to school are actually more likely to get a job.
Undoubtedly, that`s the case, but at the same time, there aren`t enough
jobs out there for everyone.
So, is college the right decision for everyone? For me, I think I might be
an inspiring entrepreneur. And so, is school really for me? That`s the
question I keep asking myself.
And is school really for all social science students, or is it focused on,
if I were to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a doctor, of course I need to go
to school. That`s undoubtedly the case.
But for an entrepreneur? You know, it`s a question we have to ask
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, let me ask that question out in the
audience. We have Allison here.
Mara, what do you have?
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes, Allison (ph) is a freshman at Howard University.
And you actually did make that decision to attend that school in part on
the aid that you got.
ALLISON: Yes, I do go to Howard and I received a full scholarship to
attend Howard University. And I recognize that without that scholarship, I
would not have been able to go to college or to go to Howard specifically.
My concern is the 400 students at Howard who did not return last year
because they were not able to afford it. We -- the students coming from
underprivileged backgrounds and underprivileged communities are basically
forced to either take out loans or to forego college, which will create
some type of revolving door that forces students back into these
communities after, if they don`t even get a degree.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So, we have a lot on the table here -- the question of
whether or not college is still worth it or how we pay for it.
So, let`s just kind of go to the audience here.
Who do you have, Krystal?
BALL: I have one more thing to put on the table here. I`ve got Sophia
with a question about undocumented students` availability.
SOPHIA SINGH: Hi, my name is Sophia Singh and I attend (INAUDIBLE)
business. And I`m an SCOE (ph) scholar.
My question is, there are many undocumented students who are always
striving to get a better education. What are we doing, what are the
opportunities that we are providing for them to help them financially?
Because most of them just stop after high school, because they cannot
afford it, their families cannot help or get the amount of loans that they
need to help them?
HARRIS-PERRY: Sophia, I`ll throw this one to you.
ZAMAN: Yes, absolutely. So, all across the country, there are a lot of
state-level fights that are happening around tuition equity for
undocumented students, particularly with the U.S. student association,
we`ve partnered with United We Dream and their affiliates are working in
states like Connecticut and New Jersey, California, Wisconsin, Washington,
And we know that, like, again, we believe education is a right. And so we
really believe that undocumented students should be able to access in-state
tuition, and furthermore, should be able to access grants and scholarships
to help fund their education, because we believe that they deserve to go to
college just as much as I do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Mara?
SCHIAVOCAMPO: (AUDIO GAP) at NYU, and she has a question about the cost of
college test prep.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, college test prep is rather expensive. So how
could college board and sort of ACT testing promote fair testing standards
when there are kids from higher socioeconomic backgrounds who can pay for
testing or tutoring that can range from a test prep book that cost about
$80 from test tutoring that can cost in upwards of $4,000.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is a fabulous question. Do you want to take this one?
REGINAL: I would say that I don`t think you necessarily need all of these
things that she`s talking about. Like, this expensive test prep. It`s
something that someone made a market for. Like how technology is coming
into play, like there`s so much information online, so many free resources.
And people who`s giving away free SAT and ACT prep books that really helps
you chief the same scores as those students who have additional practice.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is a essential question about the fairness of standards.
If our SAT and ACT scores are more correlated with family income than with
performance in college. It`s a great question.
BALL: This is Corwin (ph) and he is himself a future educator studying at
CORWIN: Hi. My question is, as I finish my bachelor`s degree and I`m
already thinking about grad school and hopefully want to get my PhD, I`m
thinking about the large amounts of debts that I`m going to be having. And
knowing that teachers` salaries are not that much, what should we be doing?
Because I feel, it almost makes me question, should I go into this field,
knowing that I`m going to be saddled with so much debt?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean, I am still paying off my student loans. I
don`t really know what to tell you. But what I will say is this. You
know, one of the things that we will undoubtedly have to continue to
address is the question, the affordability of college and the affordability
of graduate school beyond it.
But in the meantime, your point about being an entrepreneur, I guess the
one thing I would say is, I do the work they love and I`m extraordinarily
blessed to be able to be in a position that when I am in the classroom, I
am doing the work that I love that honestly, and I probably shouldn`t say
this on-air, but I would probably do it for free.
And I certainly would do it for not much pay in the classroom, as do most
teachers. So I guess one of the things I would say is, we`ve got to not --
even as we make that decision, we also have to recognize, we have but one
life. And often, that life, the value of it, can`t quite be measured in
the issue of debt.
Stay with us. We`re going to be right back. There is going to be more
from our audience at the "2013 Education Nation: Student Town Hall".
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back at the "Education Nation: Student Town Hall",
talking about something that`s got the room a little bit lit up, the
affordability of college.
Krystal, you`ve got somebody with you.
BALL: Yes, I`ve got Anita here with some other concerns about college.
ANITA: My name is Anita. I feel like some people don`t go to college
because they feel they need to support their family. Like, I have a friend
who lives with a single parent, and she just lost her job. So he feels the
need that he should get a job in order to help her, so he can`t afford
missing, like, four years to go to college.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is a critically important. Do you run into this in
your representation of students?
ZAMAN: Absolutely. We`ve seen more and more that nontraditional students
are going to community college. One thing that really supports families
when they make the decision to pursue higher education is their childcare
services offered by my college or my university. We really need to invest
in those programs and make sure those programs are offered.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: I`m here with Jacob. Jacob is a senior from Connecticut.
But he`s also a Canadian and a British citizen, so he`s looking at this
from a very global point of view.
JACOB: Right. And my question is, as someone born abroad, what are the
factors that are driving the relatively high cost of a college education in
the U.S. versus in other countries?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, we do know, internationally, the cost of education is
growing up in many places, including in Great Britain where we`ve seen big
protests against it.
But one of the central factors here in the U.S. has to do with the
divestment of the states from the state institutions. They`re now making
up larger gaps. The other piece of it had to do with that economic
downturn in 2008, which for many universities meant the money that was
being given to them that they were investing lost its value. So, now,
tuition paying a units, i.e. students, are making up that difference.
BALL: I`ve got Latifah here with another question on affordability.
LATIFAH: How can we stop tuition hikes? And what with families do with
kids who want to go to college but have no way like to afford it?
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a great question. How did you, making a decision,
end up at Yale, when you come from a family that couldn`t afford it? Why
did you apply anyway?
REGINAL: My thing is because my mother is very candid about our economic
situation. She was always like, you know, do good in school to get a
scholarship or something because it`s the only way you can really pay for
it. I was very fortunate to find out that places such as Yale off this
need-based financial aid. It really covers essentially everything. I
guess just fortunate they expanded the opportunity to low-income students.
So, that was always my viewpoint that I was going to go to a place where
they covered a substantial amount.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mara, you have a student making a slightly different choice.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes, John is in the very enviable position of going to
college for free. How did you make that happen?
JOHN: So twice a week I go to my local community college and take calculus
courses. These course are completely free for me. Why? Because my high
school -- I`m still a high school senior -- and my high school pays for all
In fact, these courses are extremely cheap too. They only cost $100 per
So, my question to you, guys, is -- why don`t we promote such methods in
order to lower the cost of tuition for students?
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s an entrepreneurial answer to the question of how to
lower the cost of education.
MALAMED: Yes, you know, in our conversations we run many digital
conversations through Twitter chats. A lot of students are really excited
about pursuing those routes. It`s a lot of work, but the opportunity is
awesome. It really provides, you know, a great opportunity for these
students to pursue higher education before they even go there and figure
out what is the best route for them to go in, because that higher ed
learning experience is very different from your high school learning
experience, but something that every student really values.
HARRIS-PERRY: Travis, Kim, Zach, and Sophia, thanks so much.
Now, I want top thank all of the guests who have appeared both on the stage
today and in the audience.
Also, to Krystal ball and Mara Schiavocampo. Thanks to both of you for
your help today.
Also, thanks for being part of "Education Nation: Student Town Hall".
Also, thank you to the New York Public Library for this stunning space.
Listen, what I will say is we only just put the questions on the table. We
got a chance to hear from some extraordinary young people as they spoke for
themselves. But we do not have all the answers. We assume those answers
are going to come from you, from young people around the world, around the
country, sitting in front of your probably iPhones right now even as you`re
sitting in front of the television.
So, we want you to visit the website educationnation.com/whatittakes, to
continue to make your voices heard, so submit your videos like the ones you
saw today in the show and to let everyone know what it really takes for
student success. Let us know what it takes.
Also, use the Twitter hashtag, #whatittakes. Also, #nerdland.
And right now, stay with MSNBC. Up next, Brian Williams, anchor and
managing editor of "NBC Nightly News" moderates the fourth annual teacher
I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Thank you for joining us.
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