Educational rights for women remain motionless in Turkey

Story from The Pendulum Student News Organization from April 2013. Story by Kate Riley.

ISTANBUL — Despite major education initiatives and social reformations since the time of Ataturk, many girls in Turkey still do not receive an education.

Mustafa Kemal, now better known as Ataturk, or “Father of Turks,” is credited with founding the modern Republic of Turkey and was the first president of Turkey. Ataturk’s many social, political and economic reforms were embedded in the six fundamental principles of what is now known as “Kemalism.”

These six principles include Republicanism, Nationalism, Populism, Statism, Secularism and Revolution. The latter two were vital in the emerging role education has played in Turkey throughout the past decades.

“Kemalism was one of the main reasons that education and literacy increased and spread around girls and boys ‘equally’ after the establishment of the Republic,” said Nesrin Ersoy McMeekin, an instructor at Koc University, a private university in Istanbul.

A leisurely park in Istanbul overlooks the Blue Mosque, a historic site where Turkish sultans once lived.

“Still, it was and is a slow process, but since man and woman are considered equal by law, it became the government’s duty to provide equal education for both sexes,” McMeekin said.

“Principles of Kemalism were very strongly — and unfortunately sometimes wrongly — used in education in different periods of the Republican era. Right now there is a big battle of keeping some of them and/or destroying them.”

As a professor of higher education, as well as someone who grew up in the Turkish education system, McMeekin has experienced challenges due to lack of funding for public education in Turkey, much like the monetary problems faced in the United States. She also sees how familial relations play a major role in the education of both young girls and boys, whether positively or negatively.

Although primary school is mandatory just as it is in the United States, many children, particularly girls, are not enrolled due to “traditional values” sought by parents, according to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). This problem occurs primarily in the eastern parts of the country, which are considerably more rural and conservative.

Tolga Tan is a second-year Koc student who grew up in Kadikoy, Istanbul and is passionate about his own education. Tan has seen the impact families seem to have in various parts of the country.

“In rural areas, getting some sort of education has traditionally been a challenge,” Tan said. “Most people in the eastern part of Turkey usually complete only primary education. The gender role in rural parts is more pronounced than it is in urban parts. Many girls don’t receive any education although it is unconstitutional, and this is mainly due to the parents and what they call ‘traditional.’”

According to the UNGEI and the United States Embassy in Turkey, the main obstacles to school attendance for girls in Turkey include a lack of school facilities, gender discrimination, low expectations from education, low quality of education and the cost associated with families sending their children to school.

Many children, particularly girls, are not enrolled due to ‘traditional values’”

UNGEI exemplifies the problem by outlining Van, a small town in eastern Turkey that demonstrates how poverty and cultural traditions have historically kept girls at home. Many families are worried an education could “spoil their daughters for marriage,” according to the report. But through the efforts of the UNGEI, more and more of these families have altered their opinions in order to change their family’s educational legacy.

“It is true that if the parents have higher education it is more likely that their kids will have one as well,” McMeekin said. “But there is also a significant number of parents who would do everything to have their kids go to university just because they themselves didn’t have the chance.”

Both Tan and McMeekin believe the amount of money pumped into education from the government could be increased, which might financially encourage families to make more of an effort in regards to their children’s education.

According to the United States Embassy in Turkey and the UNGEI, part of the problem lies in the cost of transporting a child to school and buying supplies. This could be solved with the creation of scholarships to improve attendance rates in public primary, secondary and higher education in the eastern parts of Turkey.

Public universities in Turkey generally cost about 400 Turkish Lira per semester, which is equal to about $222.60 in the United States, or they are free of charge. But students must go to primary school and follow the system in order to eventually take the university entrance exam during their final year of high school. At this point, there are a number of scholarships given if needed, McMeekin said.

But the campaign “Hey Girls, Let’s Go to School” has seen challenges that inhibit some children from eventually reaching these upper levels of education. Although the UNGEI has seen persistent poverty and a lack of resources in rural Turkish areas that continue to harm the potential of the nation’s education system, it has also seen increased media visibility and support from prominent politicians including the Prime Minister and the first lady of Turkey since its 2003 inception.

Additionally, the number of female children not enrolled in primary school has decreased significantly since 2003, according to World Bank analyses. In 2003, the number of girls not in primary school in Turkey was about 253,000, while that number shrank to about 53,000 in 2010.

“In the last 15 to 20 years, emphasis on education and campaigns to support girls and kids from rural areas in getting education have increased significantly,” McMeekin said. “But is it enough? Not yet. There is still a huge prejudice against girls’ education in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey.”

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Future NC education, economic policies very different under opposing candidates

Story from The Pendulum Student News Organization from November 2012. By Kate Riley

An election season inevitably brings much debate and discussion, especially with such different candidates to choose from. As expected, a majority of the chatter on social media sites, television ads and in–person centers on the presidential election.

But the elections at the state and local level will have a more personal impact on the lives of North Carolinians than some might realize.

For example, the next governor of North Carolina will have the power to appoint individuals to more than 400 different boards and committees, according to the Office of the Governor. These offices include Alamance Community College, Commission for Public Health, Domestic Violence, the State Board of Education and the Local Government Commission.

Job creation and the economy, as well as the state of public and higher education in North Carolina, are two issues that both Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton find leading their campaigns, according to their campaign websites. On the state level, job creation is vital to the success of North Carolina’s economy.

All graphics by Paige Gregory, Interactive Projects Editor

Walter Dalton vs. Pat McCrory: NC Economy and Job Creation

As of September 2012, North Carolina’s unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, up from 9.0 percent in January 2009, when current Governor Bev Perdue took office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate in January 2008 was 5 percent.

But the unemployment rate locally, in Burlington, in January 2009 was higher than the state’s average, at 10.1 percent. It has dropped to 9.7 percent as of September 2012, but is still above the state’s rate.

Both Dalton and McCrory promise significant job creation.

According to Dalton’s campaign website, he “will fight for businesses that make products in North Carolina, not overseas. He will push job training in growth industries like nursing and allied health, biotechnology, and in military contracts.”

In September, Dalton outlined his job creation plan, including the offering of tax incentives to companies that provide tax relief to small businesses and who hire long-term unemployed workers, according to a report by The Charlotte Observer.

Dalton also pointed out how his plan comes from numerous meetings he held with business, education and community leaders, helping him take a look back at the state of North Carolina’s economy and how he could improve it.

McCrory also offered a job creation plan in July that calls in both personal and corporate income taxes, as well as a more “aggressive energy exploration,” according to The Charlotte Observer’s report. Dalton said this plan could result in the increase of consumption taxes, ultimately hurting small businesses.

McCrory’s campaign website outlines his “seven-point” economic plan, which includes modernizing the tax code in order to “spur job creation, productivity and innovation” and reforming education to create a solid future workforce. Both candidates seek to alter education to fit the need for good workers in the state.

Dalton vs. McCrory: Education

In the past four years while Purdue has been governor, there have been a lot of questions about her commitment to pushing for more funding in the public education system.

The 2009-2010 final appropriated North Carolina school system budget was $8,245,341,827 according to Department of Public Instruction reports. The budget was cut for the 2010-2011 school year to $7,360,833,223, down almost $800 million. This budget includes everything from central office funding to instructional supplies to funding for the bus system.

The current proposed 2012-2013 school year budget is $7,444,122,100.

For the Alamance-Burlington School System (ABSS), which surrounds Elon University, this meant a $4.3 million reduction in federal stimulus dollars from 2011-2012, according to the ABSS website.

Along with the budget issue, the North Carolina high school graduation rate in 2012 was 80.4 percent, the highest in five years, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

Both gubernatorial candidates have extensive education plans that affect the public school budget, higher education and an overall better educational experience for North Carolina students.

Dalton aims to restore funds to public education, specifically by closing tax loopholes, according to his campaign website, directing revenue from these efforts to bring back funds. This would also give financial aid back to many students in college who lost it, according to WRAL.

In 2003, Dalton wrote the Innovative Education Initiatives Act, pushing for the establishment of the state’s early college high school system. This program links students directly with higher education partners, according to Dalton’s education plan. After five years, students get a high school diploma and two years of college credit or an associate’s degree.

This helps better prepare students to go to college or to enter the workforce after graduation.

McCrory hopes to develop two “paths to success,” according to his platform, that would allow for high school students to either have a diploma deeming them college ready, or one deeming them career ready. The latter would allow students to have skills to enter the work force or to attend community college.

His plan also calls for the implementation of new tests in the third and ninth grades to ensure students are at the level they should be in the respective grade level. McCrory also believes the only way to measure student success is to test students in basic skills in reading and math. This will allow the state to grade schools to establish “transparent, objective, and easily understood data to parents, educators and the public, and will spur improvement among all schools,” according to McCrory’s campaign website.

All graphics created by Kate Riley, Special Projects Editor

All graphics created by Kate Riley, Special Projects Editor

Howard Coble vs. Tony Foriest: House Candidates

Republican candidate for the House of Representatives, incumbent Howard Coble, believes stimulating the economy through tax relief creates new jobs, according to his campaign website. Representatives from the House have the power to vote on legislation that would create these types of tax cuts for North Carolinians.

Former Sen. Tony Foriest-D, said job creation has to “supersede partisan bickering,” and according to his campaign website, the issue is finding the best way to do so.

Foriest believes each taxpayer should pay his or her “fair share” without concession, echoing Obama’s views.

Almost five years ago, the North Carolina unemployment rate was at 5.0 percent and between January 2008 and September 2012, the unemployment rate reached 11.4 percent at its highest point. Whomever wins this race could have a significant impact on the future of job creation both within the state and nationally.

Obama sparks discussion about rising college costs during UNC speech

Story from The Pendulum Student News Organization from April 2012. By Kate Riley

If Congress takes no action by the end of June, the interest rates on government-backed Stafford loans will double July 1. It’s a reality that millions of students face — and that many do not understand — but one that President Barack Obama said is not nearly a high enough priority on America’s agenda.

Obama spoke to an energetic and enthusiastic crowd of several thousand students Tuesday afternoon at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He discussed current issues facing those with increasing debt and also explained his own experiences with paying for school, sharing that both he and his wife, Michelle, shared a “mountain of debt” when they first married.

“We only finished paying off our student loans — check this out, I’m President of the United States — about eight years ago,” Obama said. “It wasn’t that long ago.”

But students today are struggling more than ever, Obama said, and since he’s been in their shoes, he said he is dedicated to solving the broken system, despite opposition.

Photo by Kate Riley, special projects editor

Student loans and the rising cost of college degrees should not be a partisan issue and both Republicans and Democrats have made great strides for students in the past, Obama said. But he also quoted “a Republican congresswoman” who said she had “no respect for students who graduate with debt, because there’s no reason for that.”

Although Obama did not name her, the full quote comes from Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. He omitted her reference to students who graduate with more than $80,000 in loans without having worked to help pay for school.

The government can only do so much for students, though, Obama said. The federal government cannot continue to subsidize the skyrocketing cost of education, and must instead work on persuading colleges to keep costs down.

Obama referenced plans associated with the Race to the Top incentive program, offering a warning to institutions that cannot shrink their costs. The proposal rewards less expensive schools with more federal financial aid, and revokes aid from those schools that cannot lower costs.

Current college students are at major disadvantage compared to their parents, Obama said, because they’re entering the workforce with much more debt. He acknowledged that there’s still a great deal of work that needs to be done to liven up the economy, and said that investing in education by getting rid of subsidies for big oil and gas companies and the wealthiest Americans—including himself—is one of the best ways to do just that.

“We’ve got to make sure you’re not saddled with debt before you even get started in life,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want students working two or three jobs just to get by.

Throughout Obama’s speech, student response was often so positive that he was drowned out, and even shouting into the microphone was not enough to overpower the cheers. Not surprising, though, as many students at UNC have student loans and find Obama’s speech to hit close to home.

“I think anyone with anyone with student loans should be interested in this cause,” said UNC graduate student Maggie Ellis. “I care about a lot of things, but student loans are something that I deal with every day. I’ll have to think about this probably for decades to come.”

UNC senior Katherine Bayard has dealt with loans all four years of college, she said, and they aren’t going away just yet as she plans to attend graduate school next year.

Photo by Kate Riley, special projects editor

“It’s a daunting experience (having student loans), having to pay off that large of an amount of money with a large amount of interest when you don’t have any money to begin with,” she said. “I will have more loans going into grad school next year as well. But I would like to know a little bit more about what he’s planning to do exactly because I know that’s the main goal.”

One UNC junior, Everett Lozzi, said that he wants to know more about just that — he said that while Obama made many promises and discussed getting more funding into higher education, it is necessary to know where that money is coming from.

“I am not particularly supportive of his policies in the first place,” he said. “The one assumption he made was the tuition is going up but he never really explained why. His solution just seems to be to pump money into something without providing more supply, and that’s part of the reason why costs are going up. He doesn’t talk about where that money is coming from. If we aren’t paying as much in tuition then somebody is paying for it, and that’s a lost opportunity cost.”

Despite uncertainty in Obama’s full explanation, his emphasis was strong in that America needs to have a better, more affordable future for its students.

“I don’t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of Americans are doing really, really well, and a growing number of Americans are struggling to get by,” Obama said. “That’s not my idea for America. I don’t want that future for you, I don’t want that future for my daughters. I want this, for everyone, to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot.”

For a full transcript of Obama’s entire speech, click here.

President Plans to Address UNC Crowd

Story from The Pendulum Student News Organization from April 2012. By Kate Riley.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 10.54.50 AM

Kassondra Cloos contributed reporting.

Follow @elonpendulum and @pendulumlive for the complete live coverage of Obama’s speech.

In 2007, Congress passed a law that cut interest rates on popular federal loan programs for low- and middle-income undergraduates in universities across America. President Barack Obama is pushing for an extension of the law before it expires July 1.

If the law expires, rates on subsidized Stafford loans will double on July 1 from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, according to a report by WRAL.

“I actually have student loans,” said UNC Chapel Hill freshman Andrea Gonzalez. “I took out I think $6,000 in a year in Stafford loans which is what (Obama) is fighting for – to reduce the interest rates. I would really love to get out of college and not have a lot of debt so that I might be able to get into the work force. I think the youth is going to be the next level of the economy and if we all come in with a lot of debt, it’s just really going to mess everything up.”

In an earlier report, the White House said that it would cost 7 million students $1,000 or more to pay their loans. Obama called this a “tremendous blow” that is completely preventable.

I think that it’s going to take, especially from Washington, reevaluating how we’re using our money and putting emphasis on education and protecting the consumer.
-Sam Robertson, UNC sophomore

UNC sophomore Sam Robertson agrees and said that if America wants to stay competitive from a global standpoint that it’s going to have to make education more affordable for students of all financial backgrounds.

“I think that it’s going to take, especially from Washington, reevaluating how we’re using our money and putting emphasis on education and protecting the consumer,” she said, “which is purchasing an education, as opposed to corporations.”

Robertson said that she doesn’t have out student loans because she is fortunate enough to have a full ride, but both of her sisters are still paying back their loans from college.

“I know that both of my sisters have pretty tremendous debt and that it really affected what they chose to major in in college,” she said. “I’m fortunate to not have such a burden, but I know that it could have changed their life paths in the end.”

Students from both public and private universities alike have loans, including Elon University students. According to Kiplinger’s “Best-Value in Private Colleges” from 2011-2012, Elon was ranked 34th. The average need-based aid offered to students is $10,846 while the average non-need-based aid is $5,380.

At his speech at UNC Chapel Hill today, Obama will speak about interest rates on student loans in conjunction with his wish to extend the 2007 law.

UNC senior Tom Shane said he has a decent-paying job lined up for after graduation, but he has figured out that about one-eighth of his after-taxes budget will be consumed by his loan payments. Shane is an out-of-state student from Minnesota, and said he and others who are not offered lower in-state tuition are crushed especially by the weight of debt.

“This is how we bridge the gap,” he said. “With more student loans.”

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Alumnus joins forces with local musical talent


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Story from The Pendulum Student News Organization from February 2012. By Kate Riley.

North Carolina native Alan Fox finds beauty in the music he produces and wants to inspire his listeners.

But it was a long road to get to where he is today. Fox had to work different jobs and undergo numerous experiences in order to reach success. The Oak Ridge native made appearances in “The English Teacher” with Julianne Moore and played the male lead in Taylor Swift’s music video for her song “Fifteen.” But this wasn’t Fox’s dream—he wanted to make music of his own—and Elon graduate Max Cantor helped him achieve it.

“My passion was always music,” Fox said. “I slowly but steadily worked on stuff and wanted to make a go at it. And things just kind of worked out.”

Although his career in music was still fresh, Fox found he wanted to promote his work through videos. This is where Cantor, Class of 2010, came in.

Cantor moved to New York City three months after graduating from Elon. He applied to places around the city for employment while also working on personal video productions on the side. Not much later, he found himself developing and working on Elon’s current admissions video shown to all students who visit for a campus tour.

From this project, Cantor said he gained a lot of work in New York City and shortly after, he began working with Fox to direct and edit his music videos.

“Alan and I both do these projects that are ‘pay the bills’ projects,” Cantor said. “And we make the most of them and they’re fun. But there is still that itch to do the bigger projects and the projects that we really care about, and I think hopefully we are getting closer and closer to doing projects like that.”

One such recent project was a music video by Fox, “Mirrors,” which Cantor directed and edited. The two worked to try and create a finished product that would actually mean something to the audience.

“The idea of this song is that it is about someone that we all know,” Fox said. “We don’t really see the good in ourselves as much as we see the negative.”

This is one project  the two have worked on together. Another one of their favorites, they said, was the song and video “Lost and Misled.” Both said they feel close to this song and liked the message it sends to listeners, and that they want most of what they produce together to carry meaning.

“There are a lot of white college rappers that are kind of indistinguishable from one another and there are kind of ‘flavor of the week’ songs,” Cantor said. “That’s not something I’m into, and I know that’s not something that Alan’s into. I think that we have loftier aims, but I also want to make sure that the messages are substantial.”

Cantor emphasized how important it is in this industry to be different from the rest of musicians, pointing out that Fox does this particularly well.

“If you have a good work ethic, if you’re smart and you write well, people will listen and they won’t pay attention to their preconceived notions about what they thought about you,” Cantor said.

Fox said it is also one of his main goals to create that type of reputation for himself and he is willing to try hard to bring forward his best work.

“I just really believe that if you’re not going to put out your absolute best quality, then why do it?” he said. “One thing that I really like about Max, is he has a feeling for what is as good as it can be. I think that there is something to be said for really crafting something that you’re proud of, and then doing it.”

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Wake County School Board Back on Track

Post from The Pendulum Student News Organization by Kate Riley (November 15, 2011)

Well, they’ve done it.

Finally, the school board is making a change and turning back to maintaining one of the best school districts in the country.

From those of who thrived under the unique policies of nearby Wake County school system, thank you to residents for voting, and thank you for voting sensibly.

Two years ago, Republicans were voted into the Wake County school board, creating a 5-4 majority against the Democrats. And throughout the past two years, this Republican majority pushed for major changes, one of the biggest of them regarding the school system’s diversity policy and busing system.

This new majority wanted to redistrict students so they would attend their base school. In essence, this would segregate schools again in order to save money on busing and reduce students’ commute time. But the community did not agree.

There was a two-year fight against this policy. I know, because I was a part of it. There were rallies and meetings. There were Facebook events and flyers made. There was a desire to keep the diversity policy that we had known and loved, and we weren’t going to go down without a fight.

This story was heard all over the nation, in sources as diverse as the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post. Stephen Colbert also featured a segment about the district on his show on Comedy Central.

My high school, Enloe, has had a reputation for being one of the best public high schools in the state for quite a while. Its magnet program, which offers a special, more academically rigorous curriculum, buses in hundreds of students from all around Wake County, which creates for a very diverse student body. My elementary and middle schools were both structured in the same way. All three are great schools placed in poorer areas in Raleigh to have greater diversity, not just in race, but also in religious beliefs and socio-economic status.

I understand the meaning of diversity and its importance. One of my best friends growing up was black, and my prom date was Indian. But what does it matter? That was normal for me. It was normal for students who were lucky enough to attend one of these incredibly diverse schools. And this valuable learning experience was almost taken away from current and future students of Wake County.

To me, there was nothing greater in my secondary educational experience than the people that I had the honor of interacting with. Being a knowledgeable, global citizen is something that I know Elon aims for, and it is something every school should strive for by bringing diversity directly into the classroom. With 323 students from Wake County currently enrolled at Elon, according to the Fall 2011 Registrar Report, it is obvious that this issue impacts our students.

This is the second largest number of students from a county at Elon. Understanding and accepting diversity shouldn’t be optional — it is a concept that each person and student should automatically be surrounded by, and a classroom is a great place to begin.

No student should be deprived of an education, and the best education starts with the understanding of the world around you, understanding the people around you. So again, I thank you Wake County. You have known the consequences of depriving students of the valuable lessons of acceptance and open mindedness, and voted for a change.

And now, with the majority reversed once more, it seems clear that residents of Wake County realize the benefit of this unique system and want to see it restored and preserved for years to come.



Potential and Current Educators Consider Future of Public Education in North Carolina

This past summer, the North Carolina General Assembly altered the face of public education through various budget cuts, program changes and salary alterations. The new budget, passed in 2013, eliminated supplemental pay for advanced degrees, bonuses based on student gains and experience-based raises.

The budget also ended teacher tenure which is, at its core, job security for experienced teachers.

“One of the problems will be recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers for us in the school system because salaries have been pretty much frozen,” said Christine Kushner, vice chair of the Wake County Board of Education in Raleigh, N.C.

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Amy Daughtridge is the AIG Facilitator at Sandy Ridge Elementary School in Durham, N.C. Please click the image to see a slideshow with audio.

Legislators who approved the changes said the old system rewarded the wrong things, such as credentials and longevity, rather than rewarding teachers for classroom results. While this describes what was written in the changes, the budget includes only small steps toward performance-based pay.

“We have done so much good work to be 25th in the nation and we could really recruit top students to teach here,” Kushner said. “Teachers don’t go into teaching for the money, but at the same time, it is a profession. So that is a grave concern.”

According to the News and Observer, school districts are now authorized to give 25 percent of teachers four-year contracts that include $500-a-year raises. The 2013-2014 budget does not include any raises for teachers or other state employees, and new teachers must teach for five years before they will receive a pay raise. Currently, there is a state-wide task force to create a more comprehensive plan.


Informational courtesy of the National Education Association. Please click image to view full report.


Informational courtesy of the National Education Association. Please click image to view full report.

“In many ways, teaching is like missionary work because it’s something you do because you’re called to do it,” said Deborah Long, interim dean of the school of education and professor of education at Elon University. “You believe that it’s important work and you want your life to matter and you want to make a difference in the world. But sadly, we also have a lot of people who feel as though they can’t afford to go into teaching because they want to have a family. They want to send their families to college, and it’s unfortunate that people have to opt out of teaching for that reason.”

Experienced teachers left North Carolina because of recent changes and new teachers were not advancing in pay, which resulted in North Carolina’s average pay decreasing from $47,354 in 2008 to $45,947 in 2013, according to the National Education Association. This resulted in North Carolina becoming 46th in the nation for average teacher pay.


Nevertheless, N.C. Governor Pat McCrory said he does want to see changes made in the education system since the legislature’s decision. McCrory and his administration were contacted for comment, but did not respond.

“When employers are begging for qualified applicants in a state with the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation…that tells me we have a disconnect between commerce and education,” McCrory said to a crowd in August, just days after teachers marched in the state’s capital to protest the changes. “All of us need to come together and eliminate this gap.”

After the July 2013 budget was approved, Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 11.37.52 AMGovernor McCrory created a $30 million innovation fund to provide $10,000 stipends to top 1000 teachers – about one percent of the state’s educators.

This does provide some additional pay for teachers, but many believe the biggest benefit in a change from the government would come from the reinstatement of a supplement for advanced degrees.

Amy Daughtridge, the AIG Facilitator at Sandy Ridge Elementary School in Durham, N.C., said she feels much more prepared now to be a gifted child teacher, as she is in the middle of getting her master’s in gifted education through Meredith College in Raleigh. Daughtridge is in the last group of master’s students who will receive their degree with the supplement provided by the state.

“It has made me think, reflect, forced me to a higher level of thinking about my position that I don’t think undergrad would have ever done,” Daughtridge said. “Not only because I was undergrad, but because I was so much younger and I didn’t have the experience I have now.”

Daughtridge said the pulling of higher degree funding is a “slap in the face,” demonstrating to educators that the legislature does not care if teachers get any further education because “anybody can do your job.”

Lauren Kepke, a senior elementary and special education double major at Elon University, is in one of the last groups of North Carolina Teaching Fellows, a group that is required to teach in the state for four years after graduation.

Kepke said that while she is going to teach in North Carolina because she loves it, she wants to see improvements in the state regarding education if the state wants to bring in qualified teachers.

“I would like to see them value the furthering of education,” Kepke said. “If we want to see our education system improve, we need to have the smartest teachers and we need to encourage furthering education. This could be through master’s programs and professional development. That’s where a lot of our cuts are taking place, therefore putting less qualified teachers in situations with more students they are in charge of.”

The North Carolina pay scale ranges from about $30,800 per year for new teachers with Bachelor’s degrees to $65,520 for those with maximum experience and credentials. The UNC system research on North Carolina teachers found that those who had graduate degrees when they started teaching had a large impact on student scores in high school math and English.

For many professors, students, and current teachers alike, the lack of supplement provided by the state for an advance degree was a big change that many, including Long, would like to see changed.

Long wonders how many teachers can afford to get a master’s degree when they know they are not going to get compensated for it.

“We’re concerned about our numbers in the Master’s of Education program,” she said. “They are grandfathering in the students who just graduated and they are setting a May 7 deadline for the next cohort that will be graduating. What we have to do because our students don’t graduate until August is to accelerate their graduation so that they will graduate before the end of January so that they will come in under the deadline. We’re hoping that the legislature and the governor will see the error of their ways and

Please click image to see entire Storify story. Created by Kate Riley.

Please click image to see entire Storify story. Created by Kate Riley.

decide that they are going to reinstate that supplement.“

McCrory asked the state board of education in September if it could guarantee extra pay for all teachers now enrolled in master’s degree programs, no matter of when they were planning to graduate. The board, however, said it was not possible.

“Master’s pay for teachers is one education policy I think we can change now,” Gov. McCrory told the board, as reported in the

News and Observer. “…”I’ve worked with my budget office, the Office of Management and Budget. I’ve talked to our budget

director, asking ‘is there any way we can find sufficient revenue, to find money and give them the dollars they deserve?’ My budget director said absolutely.”

The board chairman Bill Cobey said the board could not adopt a policy, but McCrory’s spokeswoman Kim Genardo and senior education adviser Eric Guckian said the state school board could adopt a policy to extend the pay to all students currently in master’s programs.

While this does not extend to all future master’s students, it does fit some of the demands from disgruntled citizens and educators.

“It makes me consider how much professional development is available and how I will continue my education after college,” Kepke said. “It makes me consider if I will continue teaching in North Carolina after I receive higher education and teach for the Teaching Fellows four years. I am afraid that nobody is going to move to North Carolina to teach anymore unless they are moving here for other reasons.”

Daughtridge believes that increased respect for teachers is the biggest need that would prompt the most change.

“I think if we were treated a little more like professionals, including our pay but not just through pay, that perhaps the public would see us a critical,” she said. “We are the reason for all of the other professions, and you would think that would carry a little bit more weight and respect.”

Please click here to see the 2013-2015 North Carolina public education budget fact sheet provided by the North Carolina Justice Center.

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To see how Sandy Ridge and other schools in N.C. are performing, click the image to see NC School Report Cards provided by the Department of Public Instruction.

An Intellectual Climate

There were 60 people packed into a room in Elon University’s Oaks Commons. Pizza and chips were all over the floor, and now-President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were battling it out on the television screen. After half an hour of cheering, booing and yelling, an executive board member of The Politics Forum turned to fellow executive board member and senior Greg Honan and something that’s stuck with Honan ever since:

“I really feel like I’m at college right now.”

It was moments like this that brought Honan, along with fellow senior Cara McClain, to begin facilitating constant conversations, not about the latest fraternity function or football game, but about the intellectual climate on their university’s campus.

Jux slideshow by Kate Riley. Please click to see quotes from Elon students about their opinions about the university's intellectual climate.

Jux slideshow by Kate Riley. Please click to see quotes from Elon students about their opinions about the university’s intellectual climate.

“We all have curiosities and passions in class and are engaged,” McClain said. “But oftentimes, that’s the end of learning. We want to see how we can foster more of these discussions outside of the classroom.”

After many “we should do this” type of conversations, McClain and Honan created what is today known as the Intellectual Climate Working Group.

Right now, the group is made up of about 20 Elon students and faculty who are “passionate about improving the intellectual culture on campus,” Honan explained. At its base, the group hopes Elon students will be able to ‘let their nerd out.’

“Cara and I talked a lot about how we wished Elon was more ‘nerdy’ and that we wished there were more spaces, literally and metaphorically, for intellectual activities to take place,” Honan said. “We felt like many of our peers were apathetic about class and that the current structure and policies of the university ran counter to a strong intellectual community.”

Of course, many of these ideas were prompted partially by the two students’ own experiences, lectures they attended, as well as through reading about other academic institution initiatives, finding best practices, and bringing them back to the group.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 9.18.40 PMThe Intellectual Climate Committee at Duke University in Durham, N.C. performed an comprehensive undergraduate study to look at the various aspects of Duke’s intellectual climate. It explores ideas Honan and McClain hope to consider in their expansion of the Intellectual Climate Working Group at Elon.

Right now, two Elon-specific initiatives being taken by the group include a book club and the “Coffee Klatch.”

The book club will focus on both fiction and non-fiction books. The first book club was held during the first week of school and ran out of copies of the book chosen, “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years,” McClain pointed out.

Coffee Klatch, an informal gathering of people to have a discussion, usually occurs and will occur after big talks on campus.

“Sometimes students leave these talks feeling curious or confused, without much to hold on to,” McClain said. “Students can come for the entire time or for 10 minutes to further discuss the lecture.”

Many upper-level administrators, including Provost Steven House and President Leo Lambert, had been involved in these discussions calling for a need for an enhanced intellectual and academic climate on campus in the past year. In addition, President Lambert spoke about this need in his recent Opening of School address to the faculty and staff before the beginning of this school year:

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When recruiting students to join the group, promotion had so far been mostly through email blasts, word-of-mouth, but also includes fliers and E-Net. Jason Husser, assistant professor of political science and policy studies, has helped the group with trying to find the best ways to reach students who might really be interested in expanding their academic interests.

“It’s important for the university to foster intellectual engagement,” Husser said. “It’s a very cerebral place already, but we could take it up a notch. We should encourage and facilitate opportunities to encourage even deeper learning.”

While there are many clubs deemed “academic” and “honors” on Elon’s campus, as well as a full

A look at the academically-focused and honors organizations at Elon. Graphic by Kate Riley.

A look at the academically-focused and honors organizations at Elon. Graphic by Kate Riley.

cultural calendar with free events for students, there are discussions at a lot of levels of administration for how to foster even more of a “positive nerd culture,” Husser said.

“Outside of the classroom, sometimes I feel that some students don’t challenge each other intellectually,” said senior Brandon Joyner. “However, my friends are able to have meaningful conversations about the news that is affecting us daily and it means a lot to me that I have that outlet of friends to talk to about events and news that could affect our future. I would think most of the people here at Elon are very intellectual. They have an opinion about very important issues in the world today.”

Please click for entire Storify. Storify by Kate Riley.

Please click for entire Storify. Storify by Kate Riley.

Student voters affected by NC Voter ID Law

BURLINGTON, N.C. — Despite backlash from around the country and as shown through demonstrations in the state, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed into law House Bill 589 on Aug. 12, known more commonly as the ‘Voter ID Law.’

While the governor has stated that the new law will protect the state from voter fraud, critics say it “reverses crucial reforms designed to help protect the rights of African-Americans, young people and the poor,” according to NPR. McCrory also recently wrote an editorial for USA Today, defending his decision.

The new law reduces early voting by a week, gets rid of same-day registration and ends pre-registration for 16 and 17-year olds, among other new stipulations for voters.

The law will also require voters to show government-issued photo identification, including a driver’s license, veteran’s ID or passport, and no longer accepts student IDs as a valid form of identification to vote in the state. College students must now present a valid N.C. driver’s license or passport in order to vote, according to the House of Representatives outline of the law.

phoenix card

A university or college ID will no longer be accepted as a valid ID form to vote. Graphic by Kate Riley.

Press Millen, partner at the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in downtown Raleigh, said that students should be thinking about this act as it concerns them greatly.

“Many students don’t have N.C. licenses,” Millen said. “There are only 7 forms of ID that are accepted to vote and a student ID from a private or public university doesn’t work. Therefore, most university students in N.C. won’t vote unless they have a passport.”

Womble Carlyle and Millen are currently suing the state because of the Voter ID bill. Their clients are two university students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who are currently registered to vote in the state, but because of the legislation, no longer can vote because they do not have proper identification.

Christie Cameron, Clerk of the N.C. Supreme Court, said she could not comment on the story because, as she pointed out, the law could be passed to the state Supreme Court.

Progress North Carolina's Facebook Page offers an detailed account of all things North Carolina regarding policy. Its users had much to say after the law was passed.

While many do oppose the bill, some agree with its intentions, but with some conditions attached.

“As long as North Carolina makes it possible for people without the proper ID to get it somehow, then I am for the bill,” said Carolynn Whitley, program assistant in political science, religious studies and philosophy at Elon University.

Whitley is a native-born N.C. resident and hopes students will still be able to vote with no problem.

Graphic by Kate Riley

Graphic by Kate Riley

However, many students at Elon have the potential to be affected by this act, including Elon’s large out-of-state student population.

Freshman Gabriela Alvarez from Virginia said she was ready to switch her voter registration to N.C. until she heard more about the bill. She believes that students should be able to register with just a drivers license.

However, she now does not know if she will register to vote in N.C. at all.

“Wouldn’t it just be easier to register for an absentee ballot in Virginia?” Alvarez said. “(Students) are still citizens. It’s our right to vote. It’s part of our civic responsibility.”


Students love technology, need to love people too

I love my laptop. I remember the day I got in at the end of my senior year of high school, ready to bring it to college. And I use it constantly every day.

MacBook Pros (and the occasional Windows PC, ha!) can be seen everywhere on college campuses. We use Blackboard and Moodle to get our assignments for class, email to keep in constant contact with our professors and our bosses, and the Internet to look up the latest statistics for our paper for class. So I ask this in the most meaningful way possible: What in the world did we do before technology came into the classroom?

OK, that might be a bit extreme. But think about it — your life at Elon right now as a student. When was the last time you went to a class without your computer (if your professor didn’t specifically prohibit them)?

According to, 85 percent of U.S. schools have multimedia computers for student use and 64 percent of U.S. schools have Internet access. And check it out — according to the same information, the Kindle has been tested at seven universities as a textbook replacement. Mashable reported that while 27 percent of students say their laptop is the most important thing in their backpack, only 10 percent of students say their textbooks are the most important thing.

The access to Internet and online reading is a quicker, more effective way to give out information to large groups of people, such as a class. The Internet in schools also allows students to familiarize themselves with topics more easily, and let them connect with the university community better.

But the technology world in schools is not perfect. reports that 64 percent of teenage students used emoticons at some point in schoolwork and that two-thirds use informal abbreviations, such as Internet shortcuts. These could be found in actual formal writing pieces. Now, that’s where I think there is a downfall. We are so used to letting the Internet do the work for us that we don’t take the time to research and investigate a topic to a point where we can elaborate about it intelligently.

Yeah, there are mixed reviews about this subject and definitely mixed opinions. As a communications student, of course I love the Internet. I take the majority of notes in class on my laptop and use my phone to look up information. I am definitely an avid technology user both in and outside of the classroom. But I think it’s important to remember that there are actual people behind those emails, text messages and Blackboard updates and we should all try to talk to them once in a while.