Thousands Protest NATO in Chicago!

Dear Commons Community,

Thousands of protesters marched through downtown Chicago on Sunday in one of the city’s largest demonstrations in years, airing grievances about war, climate change and a wide range of other complaints as world leaders assembled for a NATO summit.

The protest, which for months had stirred worries about violence in the streets, drew together a broad assortment of participants, including peace activists joining with war veterans and people more focused on economic inequality. But the diversity of opinions also sowed doubts about whether there were too many messages to be effective.

And some of the most enduring images of the event were likely to be from the end – when a small group of demonstrators clashed with a line of police who tried to keep them from the lakeside convention center where President Barack Obama was hosting the gathering.



More Men Seeking Jobs in Fields Traditionally Dominated by Women!!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a lead article today on the increase in the number of men who are seeking jobs traditionally held by women.  Citing as examples, dental technicians, elementary school  teachers and nurses, the article suggests that the tough economy is pushing men into these women-dominated fields.

“ young men have come of age in a world of inverted expectations, where women far outpace men in earning degrees and tend to hold jobs that have turned out to be, by and large, more stable, more difficult to outsource, and more likely to grow…

While women continue to make inroads into prestigious, high-wage professions dominated by men, more men are reaching for the dream in female-dominated occupations that their fathers might never have considered.

The trend began well before the crash, and appears to be driven by a variety of factors, including financial concerns, quality-of-life issues and a gradual erosion of gender stereotypes. An analysis of census data by The New York Times shows that from 2000 to 2010, occupations that are more than 70 percent female accounted for almost a third of all job growth for men, double the share of the previous decade.”

For the overall health of gender relationships, this is a good thing.




Bill O’Reilly: Republicans are Disorganized and Don’t Get Things Done for People!

Dear Commons Community,

Fox News’ biggest audience getter, Bill O’Reilly, must have seen Valhalla because he was quoted on the Rachel Ray show as saying:

“I’m not a big Republican Party guy … Because I think they’re disorganized and they don’t cooperate and they don’t try to get things done for the folks.”

He said that he was “pulling back” and telling his viewers that he would be tough on both candidates. “I think politicians in general have gotten away from helping people and I don’t like that,” he explained.

Alleluia!! I cannot believe the turn around.  Please, Mr. O’Reilly please  tell your colleagues at Fox News or at least post it on the lunchroom bulletin board.


Who Were the First Americans? It Seems We Do Not Know!!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has an article today that explores the question:  WHEN and how did the first people arrive in the Americas?   It seems a long held-theory is about to be shattered.  According to the author:

“For many decades, archaeologists have agreed on an explanation known as the Clovis model. The theory holds that about 13,500 years ago, bands of big-game hunters in Asia followed their prey across an exposed ribbon of land linking Siberia and Alaska and found themselves on a vast, unexplored continent. The route back was later blocked by rising sea levels that swamped the land bridge. Those pioneers were the first Americans.

The theory is based largely on the discovery in 1929 of distinctive stone tools, including sophisticated spear points, near Clovis, N.M. The same kinds of spear points were later identified at sites across North America. After radiocarbon dating was developed in 1949, scholars found that the age of these “Clovis sites” coincided with the appearance at the end of the last ice age of an ice-free corridor of tundra leading down from what is now Alberta and British Columbia to the American Midwest.

Over the years, hints surfaced that people might have been in the Americas earlier than the Clovis sites suggest, but the evidence was never solid enough to dislodge the consensus view. In the past five years, however, a number of discoveries have posed major challenges to the Clovis model. Taken together, they are turning our understanding of American prehistory on its head.

The first evidence to raise significant questions about the Clovis model emerged in the late 1970s, when the anthropologist Tom Dillehay came across a prehistoric campsite in southern Chile called Monte Verde. Radiocarbon dating of the site suggested that the first campfires were lighted there, all the way at the southern tip of South America, well before the first Clovis tools were made. Still, Professor Dillehay’s evidence wasn’t enough to persuade scholars to abandon the Clovis model.

But in 2008, that began to change. That year, researchers from the University of Oregon and the University of Copenhagen recovered human DNA from coprolites — preserved human feces — found in a dry cave in eastern Oregon. The coprolites had been deposited 14,000 years ago, suggesting that Professor Dillehay and others may have been right to place humans in the Americas before the Clovis people.

This discovery inspired other scholars to re-examine old finds with new techniques. In the 1970s, for instance, a farmer in Washington State found a mastodon rib with a bone shard lodged in it, as if the mastodon had been killed with a weapon. Since the mastodon remains predated the earliest Clovis sites by eight centuries, the nature of the finding was initially disputed. But in 2011, researchers led by the Texas A&M archaeologist Michael R. Waters announced that by analyzing the rib and the embedded fragment using scanning and modeling techniques, they had confirmed that the embedded bone was a spear point — strongly suggesting that humans in the Americas were hunting the animals with bone-tipped spears long before the end of the ice age.

The Clovis model suffered yet another blow last year when Professor Waters announced finding dozens of stone tools along a Texas creekbed. After using a technique that measures the last time the dirt around the stones was exposed to light, Professor Waters concluded, in a paper in Science, that the site was at least 15,000 years old — which would make it the earliest reliably dated site in the Americas.”

This is all most interesting and opens up all kinds of possibilities.




Can History Stand Alone or Should it Be Integrated with Social Studies!!

Dear Commons Community,

The Teachers College Record is making available online an  article entitled, Can History Stand Alone? Drawbacks and Blind Spots of a “Disciplinary” Curriculum, by two professors of education, Stephen J. Thornton and Keith C. Barton.    Published originally in 2010,  it explores whether history should be taught as a separate subject or integrated with the social studies.  Their conclusion:

The academic discipline of history cannot, by itself, provide guidance for content selection because educators face restrictions of time and coverage that are not relevant in the context of academic historical research. In addition, educators must concern themselves with developing students’ conceptual understanding, and this necessarily requires drawing on other social science disciplines. If students are to develop the insights that historians have most often promoted for the subject, historians must return to their place within the conversation of social studies education.”

A summary of the article appears below.




Background/Context: Over the past quarter-century, many historians, politicians, and educators have argued for an increase in the amount of history taught in schools, for a clear separation of history and social studies, and for an emphasis on disciplinary structures and norms as the proper focus for the subject. Unfortunately, discussions of history education too often rest on the problematic belief that the academic discipline can provide direction for the nature of the subject in general education.

Description of Prior Research: Throughout much of the 20th century, U.S. history educators made common cause with other social educators to promote principled and critical understandings of society. Both groups stood in opposition to calls for more nationalist views of history education. In the mid-1980s, however, this situation began to change, as a coalition of historians, educational researchers, and political pressure groups promoted history as a subject distinct from and independent of the larger realm of the social studies. This new coalition has been unable to avoid conflicts over the selection of content, however, and approaches favored by nationalists often clash with the more critical and inclusive perspectives of historians.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: In this article, we trace the relationship between historians and other social educators during the 20th century and explore how the forces favoring a realignment of history and social studies coalesced in the mid-1980s. We argue that this coalition has led to an unproductive emphasis on history as a “separate subject” and a resulting lack of attention to the goals of history in general education.

Research Design: This analytic essay draws on curriculum theory, historical sources, and contemporary cognitive research to outline the changing relationships between historians and other social educators and to examine the limitations of a purportedly disciplinary curriculum.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The academic discipline of history cannot, by itself, provide guidance for content selection because educators face restrictions of time and coverage that are not relevant in the context of academic historical research. In addition, educators must concern themselves with developing students’ conceptual understanding, and this necessarily requires drawing on other social science disciplines. If students are to develop the insights that historians have most often promoted for the subject, historians must return to their place within the conversation of social studies education.


New Yorkers for Great Public Schools: New Coalition to Challenge Bloomberg’s Education Policies!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has an article describing a new education coalition, New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, which  will be made up of labor unions and advocacy groups that  plan to support mayoral candidates who pledge to reverse some of Michael Bloomberg administration’s more-contentious public education policies.

The coalition is a direct response to another well-financed political group, StudentsFirstNY, which was formed this year as a counterweight to critics of the administration’s stewardship of the city’s schools, and is led by former schools chancellors of New York (Joel Klein) and Washington (Michelle Rhee). The new coalition will be called New Yorkers for Great Public Schools.  The article comments:

“The dueling groups underline the highly visible role that public schools are expected to play in next year’s mayoral race, as the contenders debate the merits of policies like the expansion of charter schools and the use of teacher evaluations in firing faculty members.

They also highlight the potential role that outside money could play in the mayoral race. The new coalition has the backing of many of the city’s big unions, including the United Federation of Teachers. StudentsFirstNY, which is looking to raise $10 million a year, has been financed primarily by hedge fund managers and venture capitalists.

Jon Kest, the executive director of New York Communities for Change, who is one of the prime organizers of the new coalition, said on Thursday that his opponents had been “amassing a small fortune to try and buy the support of mayoral candidates with a massive advertising campaign.”

The New York mayoral election is shaping up to be a well-funded, major  debate on education reform.


G.O.P. Super PAC Plans Massive Dirty Attack on Barack Obama!

Dear Commons Colleagues,

An article on page one of the New York Times provides an inside look at the sleazy side of super PAC political operations.  The article reports:

“A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from.

Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.

The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.

“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.

The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

A copy of a detailed advertising plan was obtained by The New York Times through a person not connected to the proposal who was alarmed by its tone. It is titled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good.”

The proposal was presented last week in Chicago to associates and family members of Mr. Ricketts, who is also the patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs.

Brian Baker, president and general counsel of a super PAC called the Ending Spending Action Fund, said Mr. Ricketts had studied several advertising proposals in recent months and had not signed off on a specific approach to taking on Mr. Obama.

“Joe Ricketts is prepared to spend significant resources in the 2012 election in both the presidential race and Congressional races,” Mr. Baker said in an interview Wednesday. “He is very concerned about the future direction of the country and plans to take a stand.”

The document makes clear that the effort is only in the planning stages and awaiting full approval from Mr. Ricketts. People involved in the planning said the publicity now certain to surround it could send the strategists back to the drawing board.

But it serves as a rare, detailed look at the birth of the sort of political sneak attack that has traditionally been hatched in the shadows and has become a staple of presidential politics. “



Video: European Time Lapse Map – AC.1000-2003!

To expand the screen to full size, click on [  ] in the lower right corner.

Dear Commons Community,

For history buffs, check out this time-lapse map in the video above, which has boiled down Europe’s  history into just three-and-a-half minutes.  The map traces changes in Europe’s borders from 1000 AD until 2003, and was created using software from the Centennia Historical Atlas.

Watch the empires and nations grow and fall, all accompanied by a great  soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.  Be sure to expand the screen to full size by clicking on [ ] in the lower right corner.



Librarian at Shorter University Refuses ‘Lifestyle Statement’ Requirement: 60 Staffers Leave Georgia Baptist School!

Dear Commons Community,

A tenured librarian at a Georgia Baptist university is refusing to sign a “lifestyle statement” against homosexuality, adultery, premarital sex, drug use and drinking in public.

“It’s a matter of conscience,” said Michael Wilson, who has worked at Shorter University in Rome, Ga., for 14 years, to the website Inside Higher Ed.  The New York Daily News reported:

“Nearly 60 staff members are leaving because of policy changes at the school, according to Save Our Shorter, a group fighting to “reveal the truth about what is happening on the Shorter campus.”

Shorter University has been affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention since 1959, but its troubles with the convention didn’t begin until 2001, when the organization sought to take more control of the school, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The convention began to delegate the school’s trustees, prompting Shorter’s board to vote to cut ties with the organization.

The Baptist group filed suit, arguing that Shorter could not unilaterally become independent, and won.

In 2008, the school joined the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, known for hiring mostly only evangelical Protestants, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Wilson, who is gay, continued to work at the school, but notes that the atmosphere began to change at that time, as Shorter grew stricter under the convention.

But in October, the announcement that employees would be required to sign the “lifestyle statement” appeared to be the last straw.

The statement, which also required faculty to be active members of a local church, sparked controversy on campus as several staff members resigned before they were even circulated.

Wilson waited, read the statement, and returned his with one line crossed out:

“I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.”

Congratulations to Mr. Wilson.



L. Rafael Reif: New President of M.I.T. Led Online Learning Initiatives as Provost!

Dear Commons Community,

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday filled its top leadership position with one of its own. L. Rafael Reif, the university’s provost and an MIT faculty member (electrical engineering) for 32 years, will assume the presidency on July 2, officials announced.

Mr. Reif, 61, will succeed Susan Hockfield, who announced in February that she would step down after seven years as the university’s first female president.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Reif (pronounced “rife”) emphasized his immigrant story. Born to a poor family in Venezuela, Mr. Reif spoke little English when he arrived at Stanford University as a graduate student in 1974. He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford and joined MIT’s largest department, electrical engineering, in 1980.

Of becoming MIT’s president, Mr. Reif said, “I cannot tell you that it is a dream come true, because it’s a dream I never dared to imagine.”

Mr. Reif led the development of MITx, the institute’s new online-education program, university officials said. He is also credited for his lead role in the formation of edX, a new partnership between MIT and Harvard University that will offer free online courses from both institutions.

During a news conference, Mr. Reif was asked how his administration might differ from that of Ms. Hockfield. He drew no sharp contrasts, other than to say that “education and innovation” would be his priorities.