RealClearEd Today 05/20/2014: What Improves College Learning? Damn Near Anything.

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Good morning, it's Tuesday May 20. This morning at RealClearEducation we have news, commentary, analysis, and reports from the top of the education world. Dan Willingham's column today takes a look at the latest focus on improving college learning and student engagement. The Practical Education Law Team breaks down a case in Pennsylvania on a popular after-school dance program and trademark infringement. As we do each weekday we'll update the site throughout the day with new content - on our main page as well as sidebars that focus on specific parts of the education sector in depth. At the bottom of this email are just a few highlights of all the new material on our site this morning.

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On this date in 1932, Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland on her way to Europe. It was not Earhart's first time crossing the ocean but was to be the first solo transatlantic by a woman. Fourteen hours later, Earhart landed in an Irish field, also making her the first person to fly the Atlantic twice. A farm worker saw her plane land and came over to inquire, asking if she had flown far to get there. "From America," she responded.

Earhart had a tumultuous childhood. The family moved around as her father struggled to keep jobs and her parents divorced. In the end, she finished high school in Chicago. She was also homeschooled for a time. Erratic finances ended her higher education and she took a job as a social worker and teacher in Boston in the 1920s at Denison House, a settlement house for immigrants, especially Syrian, Italian and Greek immigrants. Earhart found a way to combine her growing love of flying with social work by dropping leaflets about Denison House over Boston and flying at Denison events. Children from the time remember her as a roadster driving non-conformist - and an inspiring figure.

Earhart leaned in long before the term was coined. With little patience for traditional gender roles, she taught girls at Denison house sports, for instance, and refused to bend to various gender norms herself. She set numerous aviation benchmarks and not just as the first woman to accomplish things - she was the first person to accomplish many aviation achievements.

In school, students mostly learn about Earhart because of her ill-fated circumnavigation of the globe. Yet the fascinating and enduring mystery of that flight should not obscure the remarkable life she led and example she set. At a time when gender gaps are still an issue in STEM careers we might focus more on Earhart's pathbreaking life than the mystery of her death.

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