css.php

Frank Rich on Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers!

Dear Commons Community,

Frank Rich has a fine column today in the NY Times today on the political involvement of billionaires Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers.    Among other things, he traces their contributions to ultra right-wing political causes such as the Tea Party.   While Rupert Murdoch has been in the limelight for decades, the Koch brothers have generally been seen as philanthropists (e.g., the David Koch Theatre in Lincoln Center) and having preferred less visibility for their political involvements.   Mr. Rich comments that the Koch brothers were the subject of an expose last week in an article written by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker.

Mr. Rich’s column is required reading for anyone wanting to understand more how moneyed interests use their financial resources to push their political and  personal agendas and to secure their privileged positions.

Tony

Frank Rich’s column is available at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29rich.html?th=&adxnnl=1&emc=th&adxnnlx=1283076105-eoqRzciKCOjhJOowoVN/8g

47th Anniversary of “I Have a Dream”!

Dear Commons Community,

Today, August 28th, 2010, is the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by the Reverend Martin Luther King.  For me, both then (as a teenager)  and now as I look back on how our nation has evolved, I feel it was the beginning of us moving forward in dealing with issues of race.  I know we have a ways to go but I believe sincerely that we have made genuine progress in the past 47 years in how all of us see, talk, and interact with each other.

However, on this anniversary I have a great concern that our attention will be focused on another assemblage in Washington, D.C. organized by Glenn Beck and supported largely by the Tea Party.  His message whether direct or subtle will be the exact opposite of what the Reverend Martin Luther King delivered 47 years ago.   I sincerely hope that history does not repeat itself and that today’s oratory does not put our nation on a Glenn Beck road of racial division and hatred.

Tony

Use and Misuse of Laptops in the Classrooms!

Dear Commons Community,

During the past few days there has been a very interesting discussion on the Hunter College LISTSERV debating the use and misuse of laptops in the classroom.  The yeas refer to the fact that laptops are becoming indispensable learning tools and many students now use them to take notes and  to look up information pertinent to class discussions.  The nays cite examples of students not actually using their laptops for instruction-related activities and that many are engaged in social networking, reading emails, and in one case, looking at pornography.  It appears that the issue is of particular concern to faculty who teach in large lecture halls with hundreds of students where control of the devices becomes almost impossible.  The crux of the matter is how to develop a policy that does not throw the baby out with the bath water that is not to ban them outright but how to monitor students who use laptops for learning versus those who use them for other purposes.

Tony

The Web is Dead: Long Live the Internet!

Dear Commons Community,

This past week, Wire Magazine had a provocative article entitled, The Web is Dead:  Long Live the Internet.  On the cover was a graphic illustrating Internet traffic and essentially shows World Wide Web activity declining in favor of specific applications that do not require Web-based software.  Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semi-closed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display. It is driven primarily by the rise of mobile computing devices, and one where HTML doesn’t rule. And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives.  This of course has implications for many Internet-based activities especially those that are profit-driven.

The Wire article is available at:

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/all/1

Tony

The Dishonesty of Standardized Testing in New York City Public Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has an article today referring to the achievement  gap among New York City’s public school children.  For years we were told by our elected officials and the schools chancellor of the progress that had been made under mayoral control.  That myth came crashing down a few weeks ago when the NYS Department of Education admitted that passing rates had been lowered or “dumbed” down to give the appearance of student progress in our schools.  Hundreds of thousands of school children and their parents were duped into thinking that they were achieving when in fact they were not.  A number of articles have been published on this but it is sad at how gentle the NY Times has been on the issue.  The NY Daily News (see a sample below) has done a much better job of alerting the public to the ruse perpetrated by our mayor, schools chancellor and former NYS Education Department officials.

Tony

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/07/30/2010-07-30_ed_scores_dont_pass_smell_test_kids_losers_in_mike_and_joels_game.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/08/01/2010-08-01_the_sound_of_bubbles_bursting.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2010/08/02/2010-08-02_critics_howling_in_ed_test_mess.html

Five Neuroscientists Unplug and Take a Rafting Trip!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has an article on the experiences of five neuroscientists who decide to unplug completely from their high tech daily lives to spend a week  rafting on a remote river in southern Utah.  No watches, no cell phones, no laptops.  Two of the five believe that the nature experience will refresh their brain function while the other three are skeptical.  The give and take between them is interesting.  They discuss anxiety, deep thinking, and attention deficit disorder. It is worth a read for anyone interested in what happens when we become unplugged from our fast-past technology connected lives.

Tony

The full column is available at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/16/technology/16brain.html?th&emc=th

New York City High Schools to be Graded Based on their Student Performance in College!

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week, the New York City Department of Education announced that it would institute a new policy designed to follow the progress of high school graduates who pursue higher education at a CUNY college.  Specifically, a report will be prepared for each high school  telling them just how many of their students who arrived at the CUNY  needed remedial courses, as well as how many stayed enrolled after their first semester.    NYC high school students who enrolled in CUNY’s two-year or four-year colleges in 2007 needed at least one remedial course, and 40 percent of them dropped out within two years. I believe this policy was long overdue and a step forward in the right direction in attempting to bridge the high school and college academic progress of our City’s students.

A  New York Times article providing further details is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/education/10remedial.html?_r=1&ref=education

Tony

President Obama Calls for Increase in Graduation Rates!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday at the University of Texas, President Obama outlined his goal to raise the nation’s college graduation rate to 60 percent in just 10 years, adding at least 8 million graduates.   Citing data from the College Board, he indicated  that the United States ranks 12th globally in the percentage of a young adults who hold at least an associate’s degree and that 40.4 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds held such degrees in 2007, falling far short of other countries such as Canada  (55.8 percent), South Korea and Russia, both of which had 55.5 percent rates, according to statistics from the College Board.   A critical aspect of the data is that it reflects graduates in the 25 to 34 year old category.  Research of CUNY students conducted by Paul Attewell and David Lavin indicate many students do not graduate until much later in life (in their late 30 and 40s).  Regardless President Obama raises a good issue that those of us in higher education need to address and policy makers especially at the state level need to consider as they decide budgets for the large public university systems that are the major providers of higher education in this country.  A news report on President Obama’s speech is available at ABC News at:

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/president-barack-obama-outlines-college-education-goal-university/story?id=11359759

Tony

Higher Education Enrollment Projections!

Dear Commons Community,

As part of the preparation for a presentation I am making in September for EDUCAUSE, I looked up enrollment   projections for higher education at the USDOE NCES website at:     http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=98

Here is a brief summary:

“Enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased by 14 percent between 1987 and 1997. Between 1997 and 2007, enrollment increased at a faster rate (26 percent), from 14.5 million to 18.2 million. Much of the growth between 1997 and 2007 was in full-time enrollment; the number of full-time students rose 34 percent, while the number of part-time students rose 15 percent. During the same time period, the number of females rose 29 percent, compared to an increase of 22 percent in the number of males. Enrollment increases can be affected both by population growth and by rising rates of enrollment. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 25.5 million to 29.5 million, an increase of 16 percent, and the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college remained relatively stable (37 percent in 1997 and 39 percent in 2007). In addition to the enrollment in accredited 2-year colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities, about 447,000 students attended non-degree-granting, Title IV eligible1, postsecondary institutions in fall 2006.

The number of young students has been growing more rapidly than the number of older students, but this pattern is expected to shift. Between 1995 and 2006, the enrollment of students under age 25 increased by 33 percent. Enrollment of people 25 and over rose by 13 percent during the same period. From 2006 to 2017, NCES projects a rise of 10 percent in enrollments of people under 25, and a rise of 19 percent in enrollments of people 25 and over.”

By 2017, there will be more than 20 million students enrolled in postsecondary education.  A most serious question is who will pay for all of this education. If current trends continue with the diminution of public funding, it will be the students and their families.

Tony

Broadband Access – Latest F.C.C. Report

Dear Commons Community,

In July, the F.C.C. released its latest broadband access report.  Essentially it indicates that while a substantial majority of Americans have access to broadband connections capable of “originating and receiving high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications,” roughly 80 million American adults do not subscribe to broadband at home, and approximately 14 to 24 million adults do not have access to broadband services in their communities.   The total population of the United States is approximately 310 million people of which 225 million are adults.  The F.C.C. data suggests that fully one-third of adults do not use broadband services in their home.  For those of us who use online technology in our teaching, we should keep this mind as we develop media materials that require the high speed that broadband provides to deliver content.  This does not mean that we should not use these media but that we should also consider additional (text, still image) materials as secondary sources of content.

The full F.C.C. report is available at:

http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db0720/FCC-10-129A1.pdf

Tony