George Will:  If Donald Trump is the GOP Nominee, Conservative Republicans Should “Help Him LOSE 50 States”!

Dear Commons Community,

It is well known that there is no love lost between conservative Washington Post columnist, George Will and Donald Trump.  You might recall that in 2012,  Will referred to Trump as a “bloviating ignoramus”.  Now on the eve of what will probably clinch Trump’s nomination to be the GOP presidential nominee, Will has a column blasting Trump again. He recommends the following:

“Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states — condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life. Second, conservatives can try to save from the anti-Trump undertow as many senators, representatives, governors and state legislators as possible…

If Trump is nominated, Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power. Six times since 1945 a party has tried, and five times failed, to secure a third consecutive presidential term. The one success — the Republicans’ 1988 election of George H.W. Bush — produced a one-term president. If Clinton gives her party its first 12 consecutive White House years since 1945, Republicans can help Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, or someone else who has honorably recoiled from Trump, confine her to a single term.”

Good advice, Mr. Will!



Donald Trump’s “America First” Theme – Draws Criticism as an “Ugly Echo” of 1930s Movement!

Dear Commons Community,

Last Wednesday, Donald Trump gave a foreign policy speech during which he referred several times to his proposed “America First” position:

 “My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else. That will be the foundation of every decision that I will make. America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.”

During the Sunday morning television news shows, several commentators mentioned briefly the history  of another America First theme, used in the United States in the 1930s to maintain an isolationist position in the days leading up to World War II.   Susan Dunn, a professor of Humanities at Willaims College, in a CNN op-ed, summarized the earlier America First as:

“It is extremely unfortunate that in his speech Wednesday outlining his foreign policy goals, Donald Trump chose to brand his foreign policy with the noxious slogan “America First,” the name of the isolationist, defeatist, anti-Semitic national organization that urged the United States to appease Adolf Hitler.

The America First Committee began at Yale University, where Douglas Stuart Jr., the son of a vice president of Quaker Oats, began organizing his fellow students in spring 1940. He and Gerald Ford, the future American president, and Potter Stewart, the future Supreme Court justice, drafted a petition stating, “We demand that Congress refrain from war, even if England is on the verge of defeat.”

The American First Committee became fairly popular and was supported by a number of prominent businessmen and government officials. 

“Seeking to brand itself as a mainstream organization, America First struggled with the problem of the anti-Semitism of some of its leaders and many of its members. It had to remove from its executive committee not only the notoriously anti-Semitic Henry Ford but also Avery Brundage, the former chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee who had prevented two Jewish runners from the American track team in Berlin in 1936 from running in the finals of the 4×100 relay.”

America First came to an end with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the War.  I doubt that Trump’s speech writers deliberately selected the theme as a throwback to the 1930s.  However, as Eleanor Clift of CBS’s McLaughlin Group commented, they would be wise to check their history books more carefully in the future.


Michael Patrick Lynch:  Teaching in the Time of Google!

Dear Commons Community,

Michael Patrick Lynch, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, had an essay earlier this week in The Chronicle of Higher Education, examining what it means to teach when mobile apps and search engines such as Google provide so much information at our fingertips.  He discusses “Google-knowing” as readily having accurate and warranted information from a reliable source. His gives this example:  “If we are looking for a restaurant, and the directions we get online turn out to be accurate and from a reliable source, then we “know.”

Lynch goes on to describe two main features of Google-knowing.

“First, Google-knowing is cognitively integrated — meaning our use of it is so ingrained in our lives that we don’t even notice how seamless our acquisition of information in this way really is. We rely on it every day, all day long. We routinely allow it to trump other sources. It is our default. In a way, it is like sense perception: Where we used to say seeing is believing, now we think Googling is believing.

Second, Google-knowing is also outsourced. It is not just in our heads. When we Google-know, we are really knowing via testimony: Ultimately we are relying on the say-so, the design work, and the sheer cumulative weight of others’ preferences. We are outsourcing, and as a result, interconnected by the strings of 1s and 0s that make up the code of the digital atmosphere. That is the truest sense in which knowledge is more networked now, and why it is not an exaggeration to say, as the economist Jeremy Rifkin does, that the Internet “dissolves boundaries, making authorship a collaborative, open-ended process over time.” It is also why our online life is more affected by the opinions and biases of others than we often appreciate, as even the most casual web search illustrates (search for: “Climate change … ” for example, and Google will helpfully suggest “is a hoax”).

It is this combination that makes Google-knowing distinctive: at once seamlessly integrated into individual experience but outsourced and guided by the preferences of others. It is both in and out of our heads. That is what makes it so useful, and also so problematic. The Internet is at one and the same time the most glorious fact-checker and the most effective bias-affirmer ever invented. Google-knowing allows us to share in and with the world. And sharing, as Mom always said, is good — except when it isn’t. It depends on what we share (whether it is good information) and whom we share it with (do we stay in our own circle, or do we try to expand our information horizon beyond our personal prejudices?). As any teacher knows, these are the sorts of problems that overreliance on Google-knowing can cause.”

Lynch concludes and advises that

“The epistemic overconfidence that Google-knowing encourages is one reason teaching critical, reflective thinking matters more than ever. In a world where the sharing of information has never been easier, it is not enough to luck into information from good sources; we need to know how to tell which sources are reliable, how to recognize evidence, and how to employ that evidence when challenged.

But while critical thinking is important, it isn’t the end of higher education itself. It is a means to that end, which is a different kind of knowledge — what philosophers have sometimes called understanding.

Understanding incorporates the other ways of knowing, but goes farther. It is what people do when they are not only responsive to the evidence, but also have insight into how that evidence hangs together. Understanding is what we have when we know not only the “what” but the “why.” Understanding is what the scientist is after when trying to find out why Ebola outbreaks happen (not just predict how the disease spreads). It is what you are looking for when trying to grasp why the Battle of Vicksburg was a turning point in the Civil War (as opposed to simply knowing that it was).”

Indeed, teaching has to foster critical thinking, reflection, and understanding.  It has to be about the how and the why and not just the who, what, and when!



The Struggles of Small Private Liberal Arts Colleges!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times this morning has a featured article on the difficulties of small private liberal arts colleges. While better-known private colleges such as Swarthmore and Amherst are doing well, others are struggling financially.  The article focuses on Franklin Pierce where a combination of fewer high school graduates and increasing costs are taking a toll.  Here is an excerpt:

“After years of financial crisis, Franklin Pierce, like dozens of other small colleges nationwide, is struggling to survive. It faces huge debt, a junk bond credit rating and an uncertain future. It has even resorted to creative image-buffing, like hanging a banner on a derelict building here saying, “Future Home of the Franklin Pierce Science Center,” though there is no money for a science center yet.

…In the last few years, small liberal arts colleges have been under financial siege, forced to re-examine their missions and justify their existence. Even several established and respected ones — Bard College, Yeshiva University, Mills College and Morehouse College, among others — have received negative financial ratings.

Not that long ago, colleges across the country enjoyed a seemingly endless supply of candidates and were pouring money into expansion plans. Some added costly luxury amenities like rock-climbing walls to seem more attractive. Some increased tuition on the theory that high tuition connotes prestige, but then cut their cash flow by giving out generous scholarships and grants to lure students despite their price. (At Franklin Pierce not a single student pays the sticker price.)

Now, as times change, the colleges are fighting over a dwindling pool of applicants. In parts of the country, the number of high school graduates is dropping. At the same time, students and parents have started to question the choice of expensive private schools that leave them with high debt and no clear job prospects, taking a second look at public universities. And the reduction in demand is making it harder to pay for some of the overbuilding.

Smaller colleges are especially hard-hit. Many of the endangered ones are in rural areas and have traditionally drawn from regional markets, but have lost market share as students become more willing to travel beyond their home territory. Often they have not been able to keep up with the demand for expensive science and technology courses.  Some are women’s colleges, historically black colleges or religiously affiliated — appealing to a smaller audience.”

While these colleges are indeed struggling there may be hope.  Commenting on the past year at Franklin Pierce, the article mentions:

“Franklin Pierce has about 1,400 undergraduates on its tiny rural campus, tucked here between the choppy waters of Pearly Pond and Mount Monadnock, a popular hiking spot memorialized by Ralph Waldo Emerson. With an endowment of $5.2 million and debt of $39 million, it depends on student fees to pay more than 95 percent of its operating costs; yet to keep students, it must heavily discount its $46,000-a-year tuition, room and board.

At its nadir in the fall of 2014, it hired a new marketing director, James Wolken, who had worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Rhode Island School of Design. He sat in his office recently surrounded by mock-ups for a fall marketing campaign — “Be Frank. Be who you want to be at Franklin Pierce” — and recalled how he had pushed to revive the college’s political polling operation, abandoned during the 2008 recession.

Mr. Wolken argued that the poll would build on the college’s Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communications, and give the Franklin Pierce name new visibility. The trustees argued that presidential elections come around only once every four years, and that the university needed a more permanent boost.

But Mr. Card, a chief of staff in the last Bush administration and new to his job here, liked the idea.

Last spring, the university formed a partnership with The Boston Herald and a private pollster. The unexpected intensity of the election season attracted attention to the operation for 11 months before the New Hampshire primary. Mr. Card leveraged his White House credentials to offer political commentary. And in August, worldwide news media picked up a Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll showing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont leading Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.

The name recognition was phenomenal. “CNN, Fox, regional TV, he always got our name plug there,” Mr. Wolken said of Mr. Card.

In September, Standard & Poor’s raised Franklin Pierce’s rating from a gentleman’s CCC to CCC+, Mr. Card recalled.

This year, undergraduate applications soared to more than 6,400, from 3,600. More than 500 students have put down deposits, up from 370 at the same time last year. Officials say their goal is a class of 540.”

We wish Franklin Pierce and other small liberal arts colleges well!




New York Times Profiles Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace!

Chris Wallace

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has an interesting piece today on Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor, who unlike most of his colleagues, has shown an independence from the cable news station’s conservative, pro-Republican Party canon.  The article points to examples of Mr. Wallace criticizing his own Fox News colleagues.  For example:

“…there was the time he ticked off Roger Ailes, Fox’s powerful chairman, after chastising the hosts  of the network’s morning show, “Fox and Friends,” for their carping coverage of Senator Barack Obama in 2008.”

The article also has several Donald Trump stories especially an interview Wallace recently did with Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“In the Fox studio in Washington on Sunday, Mr. Wallace could not resist making mischief. After grilling Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Mr. Wallace reassured her during a commercial break that the segment had gone fine.

“It was clear you think Donald Trump sucks,” Mr. Wallace said, earning a laugh from Ms. Schultz.”

The article also provides insight into Chris Wallace’s complicated relationship with his famous father, Mike Wallace, long time interviewer with CBS’s Sixty Minutes.

Well worth a read and listen!



Linda Katehi Removed as Chancellor of the University of California, Davis!

Linda Katehi

Dear Commons Community,

Dr. Linda P.B. Katehi, the chancellor of the University of California, Davis, was removed from her post and put on administrative leave pending an independent investigation into a number of possible violations, including using university funds to scrub negative references to the university and to herself on social media.  As reported in the New York Times:

“The chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, had been the target of student protests and criticism by California lawmakers. In addition to the controversy over paying to improve the university’s online profile, she had been criticized for receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation from a publisher of student textbooks and a for-profit education company, which critics said were conflicts of interest.

A statement released late on Wednesday by Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, said investigations would include “questions about the campus’s employment and compensation of some of the chancellor’s immediate family members, the veracity of the chancellor’s accounts of her involvement in contracts related to managing both the campus’s and her personal reputation on social media, and the potential improper use of student fees.”

“The president, with the support of the leadership of the Board of Regents, has determined it is in the best interest of U.C. Davis that Chancellor Katehi be placed on investigatory administrative leave from her position as chancellor pending the outcome of this investigation,” Ms. Napolitano said in the statement.

The university’s provost, Ralph Hexter, will become chancellor on an interim basis, the statement said.

The Sacramento Bee reported in April that the university paid more than $175,000 to two public relations firms to try to remove from the Internet negative search results related to the Davis campus and Ms. Katehi specifically. One goal of the public relations effort was to play down search results related to a November 2011 incident when a police officer pepper-sprayed students who were sitting in the quad during a protest, images of which were widely circulated online.”

Interesting case in the age of social media!


Ted Cruz Names Carly Fiorina His VP Running Mate!

Cruz nd Fiorina

Dear Commons Community,

Ted Cruz made a daring but somewhat desperate announcement yesterday that in the event of his nomination, Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive, would be his vice-presidential running mate. Appearing alongside Mrs. Fiorina in Indianapolis, Mr. Cruz delivered a fiery speech, castigating Donald Trump as “an untrustworthy narcissist”. He and Mrs. Fiorina jointly criticized the news media for rushing to treat Mr. Trump’s victory in the nomination fight as a foregone conclusion.  The Republican race, Mrs. Fiorina said, was a struggle “for the soul of our party and the future of our nation.”

I think this is too little too late.


Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary of the Online Learning Journal (formerly JALN)!

Dear Commons Community,

Peter Shea, Editor in Chief, Online Learning Journal, and Associate Provost and Associate Professor, SUNY Albany, has a posting today on the Online Consortium blog celebrating the twentieth anniversary of OLj/JALN.  For those of you not familiar with OLj, it was the first fully-online open source publication devoted exclusively to online education.  The authors who have published their work with it represent the pantheon of scholars in this field.

Congratulations to Peter and the staff at OLj.



Trump and Clinton Big Winners in Yesterday’s Primaries!

Northeast Primary Results

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump won five primaries (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Maryland) yesterday and Hillary Clinton won four.  These victories pretty much make Trump and Clinton the presumptive nominees for their respective parties. Clinton is surely the Democratic Party nominee and it would take a most egregious maneuver by the Republican National Committee to deny the nomination to Donald Trump at the GOP convention in July.  As commented in a New York Times article:

“The big night for Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton intensified the aura of inevitability around their nomination bids and created urgent new challenges for their rivals. More significant, it increased Mr. Trump’s chances of avoiding a fight on the floor of the Republican convention in July and of claiming the nomination on the delegates’ first ballot.”

Bring on the general election!


New York Times Editorial Blisters Donald Trump – Compares Him to a Pygmalion Character!

Dear Commons Community,

Today is primary day in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island and a good showing by Donald Trump can bring him closer to being the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.  The New York Times editorial today blasts Trump as someone completely unfit to be president and compares him to a Pygmalion character.   As a reminder, the George Bernard Shaw play, Pygmalion, involves a professor of phonetics Henry Higgins, who makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of gentility.  The essence of the Times editorial is that no attempt to change Donald Trump will work and make him into a viable president of the United States even if he hires a new campaign manager to help him change his comportment and manners.  Below is the full editorial.



New York Times 

By the Editorial Board

April 26, 2016

The Donald Trump Pygmalion Project

Tuesday’s primaries in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island could bring Donald Trump close to securing the delegates he needs to win the Republican presidential nomination, though probably not all the way there. After a series of missteps, he seems to realize that he needs to improve the style and substance of his campaign among both Republicans who resist him and the electorate at large.

That’s why Mr. Trump has hired a Henry Higgins to work on his comportment. Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s new campaign chief and an old-guard Republican strategist, has eclipsed the abrasive Corey Lewandowski and his nonnegotiable “Let Trump Be Trump” approach. Mr. Manafort’s ambition is to turn this Eliza Doolittle into a candidate more acceptable to decent society, in time for the general election.

Mr. Manafort rolled out his Pygmalion project with a PowerPoint presentation behind closed doors at the Republican National Committee retreat in Florida last week. “The part he’s been playing is evolving,” Mr. Manafort assured the Republicans. Mr. Trump doesn’t really mean it when he says things like he’ll deport 11 million immigrants, or block Muslims from entering the country, or kill terrorists’ children, or when he maligns women. He’s doing all that, Mr. Manafort suggested, to win the primaries; come the general election, Mr. Trump will bloom into his truer (and presumably kinder and gentler) self.

Mr. Trump himself has been saying the same thing in private for months, including in regular calls to members of Congress and Republican leaders.

“He’s always said privately that he’s learned from negotiations that you start from the far end. If you start in the middle you lose,” says a longtime Republican operative who was in the room in Florida. “When he said those things, he was stimulating the group of voters that he capitalized on. Can he pivot to bring in more voters so he has a larger base in the general election? Most people think he can. But is there enough time?”

Starting small, the Trump-improvement strategists have already persuaded Mr. Trump to deliver a New York victory speech devoid of epithets and to stop calling the Sunday morning TV shows to bloviate on this or that. Mr. Trump followed up his New York speech with a couple of soft-focus interviews, telling one reporter that he would be “more disciplined,” and use a teleprompter like a proper politician.

But Mr. Trump has reverted to bad habits. He’s still telling lies, and earned four Pinocchios last week for saying that ISIS is “making a fortune” on Libyan oil the terrorist group doesn’t control. On the trail last week, he showed crowds that he hasn’t forgotten or doesn’t regret what he said about Mexicans and Muslims. “I sort of don’t like toning it down,” he said in Connecticut. “Isn’t it nice that I’m not one of these teleprompter guys?”

Mr. Trump knows that to do well in Tuesday’s primaries he still needs those “motivated voters” who want him to say what other politicians won’t. Yet the Trump on the stump is the true man. However copiously applied, cosmetics cannot obscure his brutish agenda, nor the narcissism, capriciousness and most of all, the inexperience paired with intellectual laziness that would make him a disastrous president.

Come Wednesday, with Tuesday’s primaries safely out of the way, Mr. Manafort’s makeover efforts will enter a new dimension — Mr. Trump’s first foreign policy address. The campaign promises no less than “a clear, consistent long-term foreign policy for making America safe and prosperous.” That’s sure to be an interesting test, given that until now Mr. Trump has demonstrated limited knowledge of foreign trade policy, Middle East issues or geography. A sometime adviser, Roger Stone, said in an interview released Monday that the presidency “is show business” to Mr. Trump, who Mr. Stone said lacks the bandwidth to read a 40-page briefing book.

Whatever persona or good manners Mr. Trump chooses to display from now on, he can’t hide his unfitness for the presidency.