NRA’s Call for Armed Guards in Every School is “Shameful”!

Dear Commons Community,

The National Rifle Association had a press conference yesterday in response to the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Delivered by its vice president and spokesperson, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA announced Friday that it wants to arm security officers at every school in the country.  He pointed the finger at violent video games, the news media and lax law enforcement — not guns — as culprits in the recent rash of mass shootings.    “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  The press conference   was interrupted by protesters. One held up a banner saying, “NRA Killing Our Kids.”

Government officials and the media were quick to counter the NRA’s proposal.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the National Rifle Association’s call for armed guards in schools represents a paranoid vision of America.  Bloomberg has long called for stricter gun control laws. He said Friday’s press conference by the nation’s largest gun lobby group was “a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country.”

The NRA said posting armed police officers in every school could stop the next killer “waiting in the wings.”  Bloomberg said the NRA blames “everyone but themselves” for the crisis of gun violence. He asked for America to rise above and demand Congress and President Barack Obama to work on reasonable gun restrictions.

A New York Times editorial this morning was just as critical.

“Mr. LaPierre looked wild-eyed at times as he said the killing was the fault of the media, songwriters and singers and the people who listen to them, movie and TV scriptwriters and the people who watch their work, advocates of gun control, video game makers and video game players.

The NRA, which devotes itself to destroying compromise on guns, is blameless. So are unscrupulous and unlicensed dealers who sell guns to criminals, and gun makers who bankroll Mr. LaPierre so he can help them peddle ever-more-lethal, ever-more-efficient products, and politicians who kill even modest controls over guns.

His solution to the proliferation of guns, including semiautomatic rifles designed to kill people as quickly as possible, is to put more guns in more places. Mr. LaPierre would put a police officer in every school and compel teachers and principals to become armed guards.

He wants volunteer and professional firefighters, who already risk their lives every day, to be charged with thwarting an assault by a deranged murderer. The same applies to paramedics, security guards, veterans, retired police officers.

We cannot imagine trying to turn the principals and teachers who care for our children every day into an armed mob. And let’s be clear, civilians bristling with guns to prevent the “next Newtown” are an armed mob even with training offered up by Mr. LaPierre. Any town officials or school principals who take up the NRA on that offer should be fired.”

What is scariest to me is the number of elected officials in both parties who are beholding to LaPierre and the NRA including at least two candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann.   Rick Perry offered up a proposal very similar to LaPierre earlier this week.  Michelle Bachmann went further.  She gave an interview  commenting on the merits of the AK-15 (the weapon that was used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School)  and why “she loves” that gun.

God save us and our children from these maniacs.



Republicans Look in Disarray after Boehner’s Plan B Vote is Cancelled!

Dear Commons Community,

The House Republicans looked in disarray yesterday as Speaker John A. Boehner’s effort to pass fallback legislation to avert a fiscal crisis in less than two weeks collapsed.  The New York Times is reporting it was “an embarrassing defeat” after conservative Republicans refused to support Boehner’s draft legislation that would have allowed taxes to rise on the most affluent households in the country.

“House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a vote on the bill after they failed to rally enough votes for passage in an emergency meeting about 8 p.m. Within minutes, dejected Republicans filed out of the basement meeting room and declared there would be no votes to avert the “fiscal cliff” until after Christmas. With his “Plan B” all but dead, the speaker was left with the choice to find a new Republican way forward or to try to get a broad deficit reduction deal with President Obama that could win passage with Republican and Democratic votes.

What he could not do was blame Democrats for failing to take up legislation he could not even get through his own membership in the House.

“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement that said responsibility for a solution now fell to the White House and Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader. “Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”

The stunning turn of events in the House left the status of negotiations to head off a combination of automatic tax increases and significant federal spending cuts in disarray with little time before the start of the new year.

At the White House, the press secretary, Jay Carney, said the defeat should press Mr. Boehner back into talks with Mr. Obama.”



The Sloan-C 2013 Blended Learning Conference – Call for Papers!

Dear Commons Community,

As a track chair for the 10th Annual Sloan Consortium Blended Learning Conference and Workshop (July 8 and 9, Hyatt Regency, Milwaukee, WI), I would like to bring to your attention our Call for Presentations and invite you to submit a proposal. Proposals for presentations must be submitted by February 11th, 2013 at The Sloan Consortium Blended Learning Conference and Workshop: Trend to Blend: Lessons from the Field reflects a renewed interest in blended learning while emphasizing the importance of research and proven effective practices of the past decade in guiding our future.            

Our conference seeks proposals for workshops and presentations that specifically address the many facets of blended learning. We look to share best practices and persistent challenges in blended learning as they relate to pedagogy, learning activities, instructional design and course development, faculty development and training, student services, accessible learning opportunities, academic planning and strategy, and research through the assessment and evaluation of learning.

Faculty, students, instructional designers, instructional technologists and academic administrators are encouraged to submit proposals which are engaging, informative and interactive. These sessions can be targeted to all attendees of beginners, intermediates, or experts.

Proposals are requested in five tracks: teaching and learning, research, student support, faculty development and support, and leadership and administration. Proposals may be configured as workshops, information sessions, or posters.

Please note:

  • Proposals  due by February 11, 2013
  • Notification of acceptance by March 24, 2013
  • Deadline for presenters to accept is April 7, 2013
  • Presentation schedule posted to the website by April 8, 2013
  • Early Bird registration deadline is May 6, 2013
  • Final date for abstract edits is May 6, 2013
  • Full presentation submission for conference proceedings by July 1, 2013


Providence Teacher Says I Quit!

Dear Commons Community,

Here is a video that is making a bit of a splash on the Internet.  Stephen Round, a veteran teacher of fifteen years in Providence Rhode Island, publicly resigned because of the conditions in his school.  He said that parents need to know what is being done to their children in many of today’s public schools.  There is an important lesson here for Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhea, Bill Gates and others who are turning public education into a one size fits all, teach to the test system.

Worth a listen!



Barack Obama – Time’s Person of the Year for 2012!

Dear Commons Community,

MSNBC is reporting that TIME magazine unveiled its 2012 choice for its iconic Person of the Year cover live on TODAY Wednesday. President Barack Obama is this year’s choice, managing editor Rick Stengel revealed.

As it has for the past 85 years, the weekly newsmagazine selected the person (or sometimes group, or thing) that its editors deemed had the single greatest impact during the past year, for better or for worse.

Time’s Person of the Year has been a perennial topic of year-end debate ever since aviator Charles Lindbergh was chosen the first Man of the Year back in 1927 (the title was amended to Person of the Year in 1999). But the title is not necessarily an accolade; while many presidents, political leaders, innovators and captains of industry have been cited, some of the more notorious Persons of the Year include Adolf Hitler in 1938, Joseph Stalin in 1943 and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. There have also been more conceptual choices, such as “the American Fighting-Man” (1950), “Middle Americans” (1969), and last year’s choice, The Protester.



Survey of Elementary School Principals: Doctoral Student Needs Participants!

Dear Commons Community,

A doctoral student, Steven Franklin, in the Education 
Psychology program here at the Graduate Center, needs 
participants for a survey he is conducting of 
elementary school principals. 

If any of you are principals or know of any who might be 
interested in participating, please see and/or forward the 
email request and link to the survey from Steven below.


Hello, my name is Steven Franklin and am currently a 5th year 
PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center. In addition, I am a 
School Psychologist who works for the NYC DOE. I am presently 
conducting a study that investigates elementary school 
principals' perceptions of teacher ineffectiveness. The study
will also use student achievement data in order to investigate 
any correlation between perceived causes and student 
achievement. The overall purpose of the study is to add to the 
current literature on teacher evaluation in order to help 
develop a more fair and productive teacher evaluation system.

My study consists of a survey that can be accessed online. 
I am writing to you to find out if the survey can be placed 
on your website and/ or emailed to principals. In addition, 
if a list-serve of elementary school principals in your region 
exists I could send them the survey myself. 

All responses are kept confidential. 

The survey itself can be accessed by copying and pasting 
the link: > > 

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. 

Thank you for your support,

Steven Franklin

Wal-Mart and the Mexican Pyramids: Bribery Run Amok!!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a front-page, investigative report on Wal-Mart’s push to build a store in the shadow of one of Mexico’s most treasured cultural landmarks, the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacán.  This story is a follow-up to another investigative report that was published earlier this year.

The essence of the issue was that Wal-Mart wanted to build a major store that was on the main road leading to Teotihuacán.  However, local zoning restrictions were being established that would not have allowed commercial development so close to the pyramids in order to preserve their historical significance and cultural ambience.  However, 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavorable zoning decision. Instead, records and interviews show, they decided to undo the damage with one well-placed $52,000 bribe.  The plan was simple. The zoning map would not become law until it was published in a government newspaper. So Wal-Mart de Mexico arranged to bribe an official to change the map before it was sent to the newspaper, records and interviews show. Sure enough, when the map was published, the zoning was redrawn to allow Wal-Mart’s store.   Problem solved.

The article mentions similar cases in other parts of Mexico involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.  As a result, there have been a number of protests in Mexico against Wal-Mart’s stores.   It is no wonder that American enterprise is so distrusted in many parts of the world.


Fox News Execs Squashed Talk Of Gun Control After Newtown Massacre!

Dear Commons Community,

Rupert Murdoch may have become a vocal advocate of increased gun control in the wake of the massacre in Connecticut. Just don’t tell that to his “fair and balanced” network, Fox News.

The Huffington Post reported that the media mogul loudly called for a renewed push for tighter gun laws after the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary. Many of his papers followed suit. The New York Post’s front page on Monday blared, “ENOUGH!” The Sun cried, “END THE LUNACY.”

However, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported on Monday that top Fox News executives explicitly barred people from discussing the topic. According to Sherman, the edict came from David Clark, the man in charge of weekend coverage, as well as Michael Clemente, the powerful vice president for news, who backed Clark’s ruling that it was too soon to talk about guns. “We were expressly forbidden from discussing gun control,” one source said.

Fox News has traditionally not been the friendliest place for gun-control advocates. Both network chief Roger Ailes and host Sean Hannity reportedly have permits to carry concealed weapons in New York.


For Whom Is College Being Reinvented? MOOCs and other Disruptive Innovations!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an essay by Scott Carlson and Goldie Blumenstyk, that takes a critical look at the higher education reforms that are being discussed particularly MOOCs and online education.  Their major thesis is that while higher education needs to examine itself and its inefficiencies, the idea that MOOCs and other technology-centric solutions are the answer, is short-sighted.  Furthermore, these approaches may very well create a two-tier system of colleges:  one for those people of means that will be full-time, small classes and socially-rich versus for those of less means that will be based on large section-size, electronic-delivery, and socially distant education.  For example:

“… the gap between the country’s rich and poor widened during the recession, choking off employment opportunities for many recent graduates. Education leading up to college is a mess: Public elementary and secondary systems have failed a major segment of society, and the recent focus on testing has had questionable results.

Part of the problem is that the two-tiered system .. is already here—a system based in part on the education and income of parents, says Robert Archibald, an economics professor at the College of William and Mary and an author of Why Does College Cost So Much?

“At most institutions, students are in mostly large classes, listening to second-rate lecturers, with very little meaningful faculty student interaction,” he says. “Students are getting a fairly distant education even in a face-to-face setting.”

If the future of MOOC’s as peddled by some were to take hold, it would probably exacerbate the distinction between “luxury” and “economy” college degrees, he says. Graduates leaving high school well prepared for college would get an even bigger payoff, finding a place in the top tier.

“The tougher road is going to be for the people who wake up after high school and say, I should get serious about learning,” Mr. Archibald says. “It’s going to be tougher for them to maneuver through the system, and it is already tough…

“Higher education does have real problems, and MOOC’s, badges—certificates of accomplishment—and other innovations have real potential to tackle some of them. They could enrich teaching, add rigor, encourage interdisciplinarity, reinforce education’s real-world applicability, and make learning more efficient—advances all sorely needed.

But the reinvention conversation has not produced the panacea that people seem to yearn for. “The whole MOOC thing is mass psychosis,” a case of people “just throwing spaghetti against the wall” to see what sticks, says Peter J. Stokes, executive director for postsecondary innovation at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies…He believes that many of the new ideas, including MOOC’s, could bring improvements to higher education. But “innovation is not about gadgets,” says Mr. Stokes. “It’s not about eureka moments. … It’s about continuous evaluation.”

The article concludes by citing Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia and a frequent commentator on technology and education, who believes that some of the new tools and innovations could indeed enhance teaching and learning—but that doing so will take serious research and money.

“In any case, he says, the new kinds of distance learning cannot replace the vital role that bricks-and-mortar colleges have in many communities.

“To champion something as trivial as MOOC’s in place of established higher education is to ignore the day-care centers, the hospitals, the public health clinics, the teacher-training institutes, the athletic facilities, and all of the other ways that universities enhance communities, energize cities, spread wealth, and enlighten citizens,” he says. “Not only is it not about the classroom, it is certainly not just about the direct delivery of information into people’s lives. If that’s all universities did, then publishing and libraries would have crushed universities a long time ago.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Vaidhyanathan says, the discussion of college reinvention represents a watering down of higher education’s social contract—a process that has been in the works for decades. “What it is going to take to reinvigorate higher education in this country,” he says, “is a strong political movement to champion research, to champion low tuition costs as a policy goal, to stand up against the banks that have made so much money lending for student loans, and to reconnect public institutions to their sense of public mission.”

“That is going to be a long process,” he says. “It has taken 20 years to press universities down into this cowering pose, and it is going to take 20 assertive years to get back to the point where Americans view American higher education the way the rest of the world does.”




President Obama Offers Solace at Newtown Vigil!!

Dear Commons Community,

President Obama offered solace and comfort last night to the citizens of Newtown, Connecticut, at a vigil remembering those killed on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  He mentioned that this was the fourth time during his presidency that he has had to console the families of victims of mass killings.

Some of the key thoughts he offered:

“You are not alone.”

“We are all parents and they are all our children…That is how a society is judged.”

“We can only be sure of the love we have for one another.”

“We don’t do wrong when we do acts of kindness for one another.’

“We are not doing enough in this country to protect innocent people.”

“We need to focus on healing”

He concluded by reading the first names of the twenty children killed on Friday.  You could hear people crying as each child’s name was read.

A powerful speech!!!