A Themed Education: Q&A with The Bronx Academy of Letters

The state of public schools in the U.S. has become a public social cause, and a topic of great debate, in recent years. The school system shaping Millennials and post-Millennials has been called broken by some, but the solutions are less clear. Some champion charter schools as the future of the education system, others suggest banning private schools, and recently emphasizing early education by making it a part of the public system, has been held up as a possible solution.

The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters was founded in 2003 during the “small schools movement,” a period of time that larger public schools were being sized down into more manageable organizations with focused curriculums. According to the NYTimes, since 2002 NYC has closed or started a phase out of 63 public high schools, and opened 337 in their place—many of them small themed schools. Today, the movement is continued in a slightly different way, and recently some large schools have been reorganized to house several smaller themed schools all under one roof. Themed educations, schools that focus their curriculums on one particular topic, have been happening all over the country and are one of the educational forces influencing some of the next generation.

The Bronx Academy of Letters is celebrating its 10th birthday, and we were able to sit down with the school’s Executive Director Carrie Angoff and Board President Toni Bernstein, two of the Academy of Letters Advisory Board members, to hear about the obstacles that young and underprivileged Millennials and post-Millennials are facing, and how one school has been working to fix the problem over the last decade.

 

Tell us a little bit about the ethos of the school. How is it different?

Toni: At the time [it was founded], there were these giant, very…

 
 
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Millennial News Feed

Quote of the Day: “When I hear the phrase ‘The American Dream' I think…A loaded term that is meaningless these days. At this point, I'd be happy if I can manage to live a mostly comfortable, independent life. Is that The American Dream? I don't know.” –Male, 25, PA

When it comes to kids using tablets and smartphones, most of the attention is given to the dangers of it all: what will it do to their attention spans, their minds, or their health? But there are potential positives to their mobile use as well. One (Millennial) mom’s reasons for continuing to give her kids handheld devices include the importance of encouraging their technology and problem solving skills, expectations that they will know how to use them in school, and a hope that her girls will be involved in tech in their futures. (Hip Mombrarian)

This might be the year that vending machines became a full blown marketing trend, and Nike has put their own athletic spin on the tactic. Their recent “secret” vending machine in NYC, the Nike+ FuelBox, dispensed products like hats, shirts, and socks that visitors could only pay for with daily points from their Nike+ FuelBands, encouraging exercise in exchange for goods. (Engadget)

We’ve seen FoMo, the rise and fall of YOLO, and now social media has given us MoMo, the “Mystery of Missing Out.” Unlike FoMo, Fear of Missing Out when you see your friends posting a ton of fun pictures on social media, MoMo is the anxiety that results when friends stop posting. In the words of one Millennial, “’what can be so good that they aren't posting?’” It might seem silly to some, but for a generation used to being connected with friends nearly all the time, the feeling of exclusion that results from being left out and unaware of what’s happening is real. (Jezebel)

The value of higher education is already being questioned by Millennials, and evidence is continuing to mount that college systems and hierarchies need to be rethought. One former Yale professor is making headlines by telling parents not to send their kids to Ivy League schools, and that those who attend are not the “winners in the race we have made of childhood” but that instead elite education produces “anxious, timid, and lost” young people. (New Republic)

Oh, Barbie. She's had a rough year, and Mattel recently released an Entrepreneur Barbie in an attempt to tap into girl power marketing, and revive flagging sales. But is the reality that Barbie is just too perfect for today’s kids? The brand’s offbeat, weirdo Monster High dolls do far better than pristine, “clean cut” blond icon. Tapping into new trends in toy tech and giving Barbie a renewed sense of “imaginative play” might help, but at the same time post-Millennials, like the generation before them, could be turned off by anything that doesn’t show some flaws. (The StarPhoenix)

Quote of the Day: “When I hear the phrase ‘The American Dream’ I think of 1950s cliches, the economic downturn of 2008, and how college debt has pretty much made it impossible.” –Female, 17, RI

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