The unexpected key to student engagement? Dignity.

What happens when someone you respect doesn't treat others with dignity?

ROSALIND WISEMAN: If I could wave a magic wand and change something about education, it would be that we would value dignity over control and compliance in schools and in children's education. Dignity means the essential worth of a human being; you just have it and it cannot be taken away and we often conflate the two words of dignity and respect. When we do use the word dignity we conflate dignity and respect as being the same thing and they are not. And so, dignity is the essential worth of someone and respect is admiring their actions, admiring someone based on how they have acted—and usually that is about them treating people with dignity. So, one of the things that we get really confused about is that we say, well, we have to respect our elders, we have to respect our teacher, we have to respect our parents, our grandparents, the police, a politician, those kinds of things. But that is based on this assumption that we don't talk about, which is that we admire what they have done to get to that position. But what happens when we have people in those positions who abuse the power and abuse their position of authority and the position of respect that they have to not treat people with dignity? It makes people incredibly angry when you are on the receiving end of this and it looks like, often times, that people in positions of power are hypocrites and that they are just using this position to go after other people.

But especially for young people, there's really not space to be able to talk about that because we have this thing of 'you have to respect your elders', which means you can't confront them when they are doing things that you fundamentally think are taking away your dignity or the dignity of other people. And so, this is actually one of the biggest problems for young people in education or taking adults in general seriously, because they consistently see adults who are using their position of respect and authority to go after other people or to put themselves above the rules that they are also forcing young people to obey. So, this is something that we don't like to acknowledge, it's something that we feel, like, oh my gosh this is going against my cultural values of respecting people in positions of respect. But really what we're doing is that we are looking like we respect people when they are abusing power and we're just angry. And what happens for young people is they disengage from school when it happens to them or they disengage in whatever it is that they're doing when they have an adult who is doing this.

So, all to say, if I could change something about education, it would be to have dignity be a bedrock of education and that everyone—the teachers, the parents, the students, the staff, everyone, the administrators—has to be treated with dignity. That's the thing that I would do if I could wave a magic wand, it would be that. And I guess in a specific way of saying that too also is that we have a tendency to be hard on people and soft on ideas. We have a tendency just overall in our cultural right now people can't make a mistake, people gang up on them on social media. I want to switch that from the spaces of dignity to be soft on people that we're all trying our best, especially right now my goodness I'm a great example of that of we're all trying our best and be hard on ideas. So, rigorous on analyzing and critically thinking through ideas but be soft on people because we've got to be able to figure out how to get through these really fundamental challenges together.

  • Respect and dignity are sometimes conflated, but Cultures of Dignity founder Rosalind Wiseman argues that they are very different.
  • Dignity, according to Wiseman, is the essential and inextricable worth of a person. Respect is the admiration for someone's actions, which often involves how they treat others. The rub comes when people in positions of authority and respect (for example, our elders) behave in ways undeserving of that admiration but are seemingly above reprimanding.
  • "This is actually one of the biggest problems for young people in education," Wiseman says, adding that when that loss of respect and dignity hits home for students, they tend to disengage from learning. "If I could change something about education, it would be to have dignity be a bedrock of education and that everyone—the teachers, the parents, the students, the staff, everyone, the administrators—has to be treated with dignity."

This video is part of Z 17 Collective's Future of Learning series, which asks education thought leaders what learning can and should look like in the midst and wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

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