Summer Reading – Quantum by Manjit Kumar

Dear Commons Colleagues,

I have just returned from a one-week beach vacation on Nantucket.  We had excellent weather and enjoyed the salt water, sand and breezes that are typical on the island.  However, I also read a book, Quantum, by Manjit Kumar.   For anyone interested in the mental mind battles over quantum theory between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, this is a must  The physics behind quantum theory is a bit difficult but even this political science major and education researcher was able to keep up with most of it.    I must say I felt a bit more comfortable with what I read and understood when in the next to last chapter, Kumar quoted the American Nobel laureate, Richard Feynman in 1965, as “ I can safely say that nobody understands  quantum mechanics”.

The real pleasures of this book are the biographical sketches and insights into the great physicists of the 20th century.  They are all here.  In addition to Einstein and Bohr, there are Pauli, Heisenberg, Born, Planck and others.   I highly recommend it for anyone interested in this era.   For me, a challenging but great summer read.


Bob Herbert – Pessimism and Blowing Opportunities!

Dear Commons Community,

Bob Herbert has a rather pessimistic column today that refers to a number of blown opportunities by both the Bush and Obama’s administrations.   The Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the economic recovery and unemployment, and the Gulf oil spill are presented as examples of how our country has shown its inability to resolve major issues.  I don’t generally give in to pessimism but I do think of myself as a realist and some of what Herbert is saying is true.  I would add that a major part of the problem is that we lack a cohesive governing system and instead have a party system wherein the loyalty of our elected official are to their parties and vested interests first rather than to the country or people as a whole.  Every decision made is with a view as to how to get re-elected or how to keep one’s seat in Congress, a legislature, a senate, etc.  The overall good of the country is a second priority.  Herbert concludes his piece with  “the greatness of the United States, which so many have taken for granted for so long, is steadily slipping away.”

I hope not!!!


The full column is available at:

Anniversary of Three Civil Rights Workers Killed in Philadelphia, Mississippi

Dear Commons Community,

On this first day of summer, we should remember that forty-six years ago, three civil rights workers were reported missing in Philadelphia, Mississippi.   The men, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman,  and James Chaney,  were involved with Freedom Summer activities sponsored by the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE).  In August, 1964, their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam.  In 1967, nineteen men including known members of the Ku Klux Klan, were indicted,  seven of them  were found guilty of conspiring to deprive Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney of their civil rights and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to ten years.    On June 21, 2005, the forty-first anniversary of the crime, Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of the manslaughter of the three men.  A number of books, movies, and songs have dealt with the death of these three young men.   Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were New York City residents.  Goodman was a student at Queens College.


Pew Study – The Future of Cloud Computing!

Dear Commons Community,

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released its newest report. entitled, The Future of Cloud Computing.  ( available at:   If you are not familiar with the Pew I & ALP reports, they  are excellent sources of information  on the uses of Internet technology in American society.   In this report, which was based on a survey of Internet experts, the overall conclusion was:

“Technology experts and stakeholders say they expect they will ‘live mostly in the cloud’ in 2020 and not on the desktop, working mostly through cyberspace-based applications accessed through networked devices. This will substantially advance mobile connectivity through smartphones and other internet appliances. Many say there will be a cloud-desktop hybrid. Still, cloud computing has many difficult hurdles to overcome, including concerns tied to the availability of broadband spectrum, the ability of diverse systems to work together, security, privacy, and quality of service.”

I have commented several times on the potential of cloud computing (see URLs below for my previous postings) and I believe it has an important role to play in the future of Internet technology. The popularity of social media websites such as Facebook, youttube, twitter, etc. are indicative of the fact that the Internet is moving in this direction.  Also the large investments in this technology by Microsoft, Google, and IBM further lend credence to its potential.   I agree with the Pew study that we have and will live in a hybrid cloud for a while but it is quite possible in the not too-distant future that much more of our application software will not have to be running on our desktops or laptops.  We will rely on the cloud.


The 2015 Report on Colleges of Education: Why Some Prospered, and Many Fell by the Wayside!

Dear Commons Community,

Willis Hawley, professor emeritus of education and public policy at the University of Maryland College Park, former dean of the college of education from 1993 to 1998 and former dean of the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University from 1980 to 1989, has a piece in the current edition of Education Week entitled, “The 2015 Report on Colleges of Education: Why Some Prospered, and Many Fell by the Wayside”.  He paints a gloomy picture for many schools of education unless they are willing to transform and address a number of quality issues that have evolved with respect to their teacher education programs.   He predicts that “many were either eliminated or became mere shadows of their former selves.”   He sees a convergence of federal and state policies, foundation money, and technical expertise from consulting companies as forcing schools of education to change or become much less significant players in public education.   I am not sure that this will be the case and not likely within the next five years but it does speak to some of the issues that are of concern to schools of education across the country and especially those in large urban areas such as those in CUNY’s colleges.  Recent policies approved by the New York State Board of Regents allowing entities other than colleges and universities to certify teachers is an example of the type of political activity that will force schools of education to consider whether their teacher education programs can continue as they are.

The full article is available at:


Oldest Shoe Unearthed!

Dear Commons Community,

A group of archaeologists have discovered what they believe is the world’s oldest known leather shoe.   The shoe was found in a cave in Armenia.  It is believed to be about 5,500 years old which puts it in the Copper Age, when humans are believed to have invented the wheel, domesticated horses and other modern innovations.    It was probably worn by a woman with a size 7 foot.   A hearty thank you  to the dedicated researchers who are tracing back who we were and how we lived in the distant past.

A full article is available at:


Too Much Technology – Paying a Mental Price!

Dear Commons Community,

In the past two days, I have read  an article and a book review that dealt with the subject of the effects of  too much technology (email, cell phones, twittering, facebooking, multitasking, etc.) on our brains.

The article interviews a family of Internet addicts who fear that they are not functioning as well as they should because their brains are adapting too much to immediate and constant barrages of information to the point that they are distracted from other endeavors including each other.  For example, it describes the case of a teenage boy who is doing “C” work in school and who has trouble doing homework as:

“He could not focus on homework. No wonder, perhaps. On his bedroom desk sit two monitors, one with his music collection, one with Facebook and Reddit, ..His iPhone availed him to relentless texting with his girlfriend.”

It also describes the father as going to sleep with a laptop and cell phone on his chest.

The book, The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr also raises a similar alarm.    The reviewer sums up Carr’s book as:

“The Shallows” is most successful when Carr sticks to cultural criticism, as he documents the losses that accompany the arrival of new technologies. The rise of the written text led to the decline of oral poetry; … the television show obliterated the radio play;… the Internet has diminished our interest in reading books. …The incessant noise of the Internet, Carr concludes, has turned the difficult text into an obsolete relic.”

Both pieces are written for a general audience but they raise important issues for educators as to how do we integrate technology in our teaching and learning and at the same time balance  the activities of  our students.   While many faculty  have embraced the Internet technologies and are using course management systems and social networking to connect to our students, maybe we also need to slow down our activities and require them to read  the long and difficult texts.

The article concludes with a concern that too much technology limits our empathy and ability to relate with one another.   Clifford Nass, a communications professor at Stanford University,  is quoted as saying that:

“The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other,…It shows how much you care… empathy,   is essential to the human condition. We are at an inflection point…A significant fraction of people’s experiences are now fragmented.”


For more information:

The NY Times article is available available at:

The book review is available at:

David Brooks on President Obama’s National Education Policies

Dear Colleagues,

David Brooks, the neoconservative columnist for the NY Times, has an interesting piece in today’s paper on President Obama’s national education policies.  Essentially he congratulates President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, for the manner in which they have administered the Race to the Top program.  Payments (as much as $700 million) will only be forthcoming to those states that enact education reform and change policies.   He refers to several examples and studies by right of center, corporate funded think tanks such as the Thomas Fordham Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute to support his position.   In New York State, for instance, over the past two months we saw the media wars over charter schools.  In reading this, while Brooks makes sense as he develops his position, I also kept thinking about Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy of “speak softly and carry a big stick”.


David Brooks’ article is available at: