Scopes Monkey Trial Anniversary!

Dear Commons Community,

On this day, July 21,  in 1925, the ”Scopes Monkey Trial” ended in Dayton, Tenn., with John T. Scopes convicted of violating state law for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. (The conviction was later overturned.)

The Scopes Monkey Trial—formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, was a landmark American legal case in which high school biology teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act which made it unlawful to teach evolution.   This trial has been retold as the play, Inherit the Wind, and later made into a movie.

The trial and its issues are still relevant.  The Huffington Post has an article today entitled, Texas To Revisit Evolution Education Debate Under New Conservative Chairwoman.   It reports that the Texas State Board of Education meets this week for the first time under a conservative new chairwoman, Barbara Cargill,  appointed by Gov. Rick Perry and is expected to rekindle the debate over teaching evolution and the origin of life in public schools.   Cargill, a biology teacher considered to be one of the more conservative board members, disputes the theory of evolution and voted to require that the theory’s weaknesses be taught in classrooms.





Mayor Bloomberg following through on a New College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked for proposals to build a new college of engineering and applied science here in New York City.  The purpose of such a school would be to develop a first-class engineering research facility that would compete with Silicon Valley in high-technology development .   Yesterday, it was reported the Mayor has upped the ante a bit by pledging $100 million dollars in start-up funds from the City as well as free use of land on either Roosevelt Island or Governor’s Island.  Proposals are due by October 2011.  Major schools throughout the country such as Stanford and Cornell as well as NYU and Columbia are said to be submitting proposals.

Congratulations to the Mayor for this initiative and looking forward to the City’s future.


Captains Go Down with their Ships – Not at the News Corporation!

Dear Commons Community,

In  lore of the sea, the captain always goes down with his ship.  As noble as this sounds, it is not always true.  Maureen Dowd uses this metaphor  in her column today to describe Rupert Murdoch, his son, James and Rebekah Brooks, who gave testimony before the British House of Commons.  These “captains” absolved themselves of any responsibility for the scandals that have racked the News Corporation.  It was always others, people who were hired but not them who engaged in low-life journalism.  Here is a  sample from Dowd’s column:

“Mistakes were made, but not by the captains of the ship. We deeply regret these things we were in no way involved in. We’re transparent, even though we’re still paying off former employees to keep their mouths shut.

Playing the ruthless mogul reduced to helpless victim, Rupert came across better than his 38-year-old son James, with the Haldeman buzz cut, the American Harvard dropout accent, the “Mad Men” skinny blue tie, and the ingratiating over-articulateness hiding the arrogant entitlement.

Rebekah Brooks, the 43-year-old former editor of The News of the World and daughter-figure to Rupert, was a prideful pre-Raphaelite Medusa, with a sweet face and soft voice spinning tales of innocence that didn’t quite gel…

Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids pandered to the lowest common denominator, but, in the end, his sleazy henchmen were lower than the people they pandered to. People had a limit, as it turned out. Citizen Murdoch was brought low, his grip loosened and his myth deflated”

Worth a read!


CUNY Tuition Increase – Board of Trustees to Meet this Thursday!

Dear Commons Community,

Bill Phipps of the University Faculty Senate, has sent along the following information regarding the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting on this Thursday regarding the proposed tuition increase. Essentially an increase of $300. per year is being proposed for full-time undergraduate students and proportional increases for all other students.

The full resolution on tuition being proposed for action by the Board of Trustees Executive Committee on Thursday is available on the CUNY website at:

Instructions on how to sign up to testify at the Wednesday Public Hearing on this resolution are at:



The New Normal in Higher Education – Accountability and Performance Measures!

Dear Commons Community,

Greg Johnson, a colleague at Hunter College, has passed on the latest report form the National Governors Association, entitled,   Compete to Complete, From Information to Action:  Revamping Higher Education Accountability Systems.  It calls for a good deal more accountability based on efficient budgeting, performance measures based on data-driven decision making and the possibility for some flexibility from state regulations.  The Executive Summary is below.


Public colleges and universities, which educate the vast majority of the nation’s students, are an important part of states’
economic competitiveness efforts. These institutions face three pressures that will demand increased productivity and a datadriven
investment strategy moving forward:
ƒThe percentage of jobs requiring postsecondary education continues to rise and is expected to reach 63 percent by 2018. At the same time, there is growing evidence of a mismatch between the skill requirements
of new jobs and the skills of individuals seeking them.
ƒState budgets will continue to be squeezed amid slower revenue growth. Competition for resources will intensify, particularly from health care.
ƒThe number of students from groups (e.g., adults, low-income students, and students of color) that have historically enrolled in and completed certificate and degree programs at lower rates continues to grow
as a share of total enrollment.

Increasing productivity in higher education will depend in part on building strong accountability systems that move away from the ones primarily in use today, which tend to emphasize inputs over outcomes and the collection and reporting of data as opposed to using the information in decision-making.

Revamping states’ higher education accountability systems should focus on increasing the use of performance and outcome metrics and then using those metrics to make and evaluate policy decisions, particularly in areas such as budgeting, funding, and regulation.

States should include efficiency and effectiveness metrics in their accountability systems to help answer four key policy
1. To what extent are public higher education institutions meeting the state’s need for an educated workforce and supporting progress toward longer term economic goals?
2. How many students at public institutions are graduating relative to total enrollment?
3. What is the return on states’ and students’ investment in public institutions in terms of completed certificates and degrees?
4. How can public institutions demonstrate that efficiency gains are being achieved without sacrificing student learning?

Several policy options are available for making better use of accountability measures:
ƒBudgeting. Governors can use performance metrics to help set parameters for budget requests and determine priorities for campus and higher education system requests.
ƒFunding. Governors can use performance metrics to allocate a portion of state funding to higher education institutions.
ƒRegulation. Governors can exempt campuses and education systems from specific regulations, such as caps on tuition increases, purchasing and procurement rules, or financial or real estate management policies, in
exchange for achievement on negotiated performance benchmarks.

If You Think Education is Expensive – Try Ignorance!

Dear Commons Community,

Nicholas Kristoph has a superb column in the NY Times today warning that the cutting of education funding in K-12 as well as higher education is mortgaging our future.  Revisiting the plain brick high school that was “his rocket ship” to an education, he laments how is it that America understands it needs to build schools in Afghanistan while slashing school budgets at home.  Citing the research of Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, two Harvard economists, who argued in their book “The Race Between Education and Technology” that a prime factor in America’s rise over the last two centuries was its leadership in educating the masses, why are we now abandoning our schools as other countries have begun to expand investment in educating their masses.   He observes:

“we nation-build in Afghanistan and scrimp at home. How is it that we can afford to double our military budget since 9/11, can afford the carried-interest tax loophole for billionaires, can afford billions of dollars in givebacks to oil and gas companies, yet can’t afford to invest in our kids’ futures?”

He concludes with a  quote from former Harvard president, Derek Bok:

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”



Fox News Embarrassingly Tries to Smooth Over the Rupert Murdoch Scandal!


Dear Commons Community,

The media has been in a frenzy regarding the scandal involving Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers.  I posted on this issue on July 7th. I have been following the story and there has been more than enough coverage in the mainstream media and no need to post further on my blog.  However, there was an attempt yesterday by Rupert’s  Fox News “Fox and Friends” morning show  to smooth over the whole affair by claiming that the hacking activities on the part of his British tabloid was part of a larger hacking problem facing commerce and government in general.   Take a look at this lame interview by host Steve Doocy with Robert Dilenschneider.



New York City Opera – A Ghost of its Former Self!

Dear Commons Community,

Today’s  NY Times editorial laments the diminution of what was once a great New York cultural treasure – the New York City Opera.  For those of us who enjoy and attend opera in New York, the City Opera was the opera for the people.  The company, which used to present as many as 20 productions in a season at Lincoln Center, will present four, which will be staged at BAM, El Museo del Barrio, and the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College.  It is also quite possible that the chorus and the orchestra will be demoted from full-time employment to freelance status.

The editorial rightfully assigns responsibility for this predicament mainly to poor management and ruefully acknowledges that the City Opera is a ghost of its former creative self.    A lack of artistic direction, poor ticket sales, and budget overruns also contributed to its plight.

No Bravos or Bravas here.





Internet Use Affects Memory!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has an article reporting on a study that concludes Internet use affects one’s memory.  Citing research by three professors at Columbia, Harvard and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the study examined whether people were more likely to remember information that could be easily retrieved from a computer.  They conducted several memory experiments such as the following.

“ participants typed 40 bits of trivia — for example, ‘an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain’ — into a computer. Half of the subjects believed the information would be saved in the computer; the other half believed the items they typed would be erased.

[The result was] The subjects were significantly more likely to remember information if they thought they would not be able to find it later. ‘Participants did not make the effort to remember when they thought they could later look up the trivia statement they had read,’ the authors write.”

The authors concluded that while the Internet’s affects on memory are largely unexplored, their study seems to indicate that a relationship exists.

The actual study is available at Science Magazine but requires a subscription.


Michele Bachman on Gays!

Dear Commons Community,

Michele Bachman’s views on gays was the subject of a number of recent  media reports.

The Huffington Post has an article (including an audio file of  a CBS News interview in 2004) quoting Ms. Bachman referring to gays as being “part of Satan”.

The Huffington Post article also quotes Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger, the first openly-gay contender to vie for his party’s nomination, from  an exclusive interview with the Michigan Messenger in which he took specific  aim at Bachmann over controversial therapy methods practiced at her husband’s Minnesota clinic.   The Nation reported that the clinic practiced reparative therapy, which treats being gay as a curable disorder.  A report released by ABC News  offered an inside look at the treatment offered at the clinic and includes a counselor advising a gay man to pray to God for a cure.

“She’s a liar ..a hypocrite and a bigot.” said Karger.

Our country has major problems.  The fact that she is leading other Republican candidates in the Iowa Caucus Poll is surely one of them.