Marie’s Musings – June 2018

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Thoughts on education, publishing, and other intellectual titillations – by Marie Brown, Consulting Editorial Project Director

*** The following comments, views, and opinions are solely those of Marie Brown, and do not necessarily reflect those of Westchester Publishing Services, its management, and staff.***


“The federal government is bloated, opaque, bureaucratic, and inefficient.” – Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget


The biggest education news this past month was President Trump’s proposed overhaul of the federal government that would merge the Education and Labor departments, into a new Department of Education and the Workforce—which would require congressional approval before being activated. The sweeping plan builds on the President’s pledge to shrink the size and scope of the federal government.  The shifts, if enacted, would likely reduce the number of employees in some offices and reduce or eliminate some social safety net and civil rights programs.

PRO— President Trump, Conservative Republicans, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, most business leaders

CON—Most Democrat Congress members, many educators, and their advocates, teachers unions, labor unions

MY TAKE:  When you have the current Education Secretary who disapproves of the department she heads; when you have a President who wants to minimize the importance of both education and labor, the government is implying that students and workers have been given too much focus and too much support over the years. Tell that to the struggling third-grade non-reader and the worn-out supermarket shelf-stacker who count on their government to have their back.


LearnZillion, a provider of free lessons and videos for educators, has begun selling a new commercial curriculum to school districts, in a move to compete with publishers. Up until now, LearnZillion has focused on providing supplemental lessons, offered at no cost other than what schools pay for support services associated with the material, such as professional development.  But now, the company will begin offering a full-course K-12 curriculum, coupling its material with professional development, print, and digital delivery, and other support, including scope and sequence guides, pacing, assessment, and other features.

Pearson, one of the world’s largest educational publishers, announced that it will be partnering with three new virtual charter schools that will open this year.  Each school is an iteration of Connections Academy, the virtual charter school operator Pearson acquired in 2011.  CA virtual charter schools make up nearly one-quarter of the total in the U.S., second only to K12. According to the National Education Policy Center, enrollment for full-time students in virtual charter schools rose from essentially 0 in 2000 to over 280,000 in 2016.


In light of all the recent school shootings, I guess, the creative geniuses (sorry, bias alert!) of the gaming platform Steam and its publisher, Valve, announced the June release of their new video game “Active Shooter”. This “game” allows players to pose as school shooters wielding semiautomatic rifles, or as SWAT team members responding to a shooting, or as a civilian trying to escape.

As a result of the public outrage over “Active Shooter,” (over 150,00o people signed a petition) the company made the decision to cancel plans to release the game. Was that the only reason?  Sometimes, there just aren’t words.


In a study released by BMJ (previously the British Journal of Medicine), researchers found that the more years of schooling a child has, the higher the risk of the child developing nearsightedness—including early-onset myopia, which can lead to blindness.  Apparently, this phenomenon is rapidly increasing worldwide.  At the risk of sounding ignorant, did the researchers take into account the countless number of hours children are spending with their eyes glued to playing video games or on their social media devices—nearly every free waking hour, taking time out only for meal and bathroom breaks? Please take the time to view the movie “Wall-E” to see how digital saturation might affect children in the future—exaggeration notwithstanding.


  • According to IBIS Capital, a London-based investment bank, the global market for e-learning is $4.4 trillion and poised to grow significantly over the next five years. This projection includes several sectors: K-12 schools, higher education, and corporate and government training programs.
  • Finland’s much-revered, but hard to duplicate approach to education, has introduced another education innovation—the move to a phenomenon-based approach—where students learn about particular subjects, events or phenomena from an interdisciplinary perspective. That’s all the information we have at the moment.  Details will follow when available.
  • Enrollment in for-profit colleges has dropped by more than 50% since their heyday in 2009-2010 when they enrolled 3.7 million learners.  The figure now sits at roughly 1.5 million.

A slow month for education/publishing news.

That’s all folks.

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