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Reminder: Webinar Today (Tuesday – 05/19/20) on: Online Learning: Policies, Practices, and it’s Future in the Face of COVID-19!

Dear Commons Community,

Today I will be on a Webinar panel to discuss Online Learning: Policies, Practices, and it’s Future in the Face of COVID-19, hosted by Roosevelt House and the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College.  Below is a description and registration information. 

I think you will find it a most informative session.  I hope you can join us!

Tony

————————————————————————————————————————————-

 

Roosevelt House and the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College

Present

Online Learning: Policies, Practices, and it’s Future in the Face of COVID-19

Tuesday, May 19
Program begins at 12 PM EST

Click Here to RSVP

Over the past two decades, the prevalence of online learning in U.S. colleges and universities has grown considerably. University administrators, educators, and students have regarded this form of education with both excitement and suspicion. Distance learning holds the promise of greater educational inclusion and increased revenue generation for higher education institutions, yet has been the subject of critiques by its various stakeholders. This panel will provide a multifaceted examination of online learning from three distinct, yet interrelated perspectives. Di Xu will first review existing research on the impact of online learning on access and student performance in U.S. higher education and will discuss instances where online educational programs have been most successfully implemented. Stephanie Hall will then examine the theoretical and policy implications of online degree programs, using the results of a Century Foundation analysis of university contracts with for-profit online program managers. Last, Anthony Picciano will both consider the implications of online learning on faculty, with a focus on collective bargaining, professional identity, and university administration, and conclude the panel discussion with an exploration of how future technological innovations in online education may redefine the professional roles of tomorrow’s teachers, administrators, and researchers.

This webinar is part of a series in May and June co-presented by Hunter College’s National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute that will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on labor and higher education issues.

Join us from 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM EDT on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, with William A. Herbert, Distinguished Lecturer and Executive Director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, Hunter College moderating a panel of researchers from across the country: Stephanie Hall, Fellow, The Century Foundation, Anthony G. Picciano, Professor, Hunter College, and CUNY Graduate Center, School of Education, and Di Xu, Associate Professor University of California Irvine.

We hope you will be able to participate in this special program.

Trump Flips Out After Fox News’ Neil Cavuto Criticized Him for Taking Hydroxychloroquine!

 

Dear Commons Community,

A livid Donald Trump flipped out after being criticized by Fox News’ Neil Cavuto (see video above) for taking the drug hydroxychloroquine, which has specifically not been approved for the coronavirus.  Trump said he’s done with Fox News and was ‘Looking For A New Outlet!’

The anti-malaria drug has not been approved for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but it has become a favorite talking-point in conservative media. 

Trump yesterday claimed he has been taking it after at least two people in the White House were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection. 

But Cavuto warned viewers not to emulate the president. 

“If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus … it will kill you,” Cavuto said. “I cannot stress this enough: This will kill you.”

While many Fox News hosts routinely lavish praise on the president ― and host Laura Ingraham has been one of the biggest media proponents of taking hydroxychloroquine ― the comments from Cavuto set Trump off.

He claimed on Twitter that he was ready to change the channel.

Trump’s comments also included praise for Roger Ailes, the late, disgraced Fox News CEO who left the network after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment.

Despite that history, Ailes served as an adviser to Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Well there is always Rush Limbaugh, Mr. President!

Tony

Webinar Tomorrow (Tuesday – 05/19/20) on: Online Learning: Policies, Practices, and it’s Future in the Face of COVID-19!

Dear Commons Community,

Tomorrow I will be on a Webinar panel to discuss Online Learning: Policies, Practices, and it’s Future in the Face of COVID-19, hosted by Roosevelt House and the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College.  Below is a description and registration information. 

I think you will find it a most informative session.  I hope you can join us!

Tony

————————————————————————————————————————————-

 

Roosevelt House and the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College

Present

Online Learning: Policies, Practices, and it’s Future in the Face of COVID-19

Tuesday, May 19
Program begins at 12 PM EST

Click Here to RSVP

Over the past two decades, the prevalence of online learning in U.S. colleges and universities has grown considerably. University administrators, educators, and students have regarded this form of education with both excitement and suspicion. Distance learning holds the promise of greater educational inclusion and increased revenue generation for higher education institutions, yet has been the subject of critiques by its various stakeholders. This panel will provide a multifaceted examination of online learning from three distinct, yet interrelated perspectives. Di Xu will first review existing research on the impact of online learning on access and student performance in U.S. higher education and will discuss instances where online educational programs have been most successfully implemented. Stephanie Hall will then examine the theoretical and policy implications of online degree programs, using the results of a Century Foundation analysis of university contracts with for-profit online program managers. Last, Anthony Picciano will both consider the implications of online learning on faculty, with a focus on collective bargaining, professional identity, and university administration, and conclude the panel discussion with an exploration of how future technological innovations in online education may redefine the professional roles of tomorrow’s teachers, administrators, and researchers.

This webinar is part of a series in May and June co-presented by Hunter College’s National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute that will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on labor and higher education issues.

Join us from 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM EDT on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, with William A. Herbert, Distinguished Lecturer and Executive Director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, Hunter College moderating a panel of researchers from across the country: Stephanie Hall, Fellow, The Century Foundation, Anthony G. Picciano, Professor, Hunter College, and CUNY Graduate Center, School of Education, and Di Xu, Associate Professor University of California Irvine.

We hope you will be able to participate in this special program.

 

 

Technical Glitches During AP Exams:  College Board in Crisis Mode!

College Board AP Exams & Courses

Dear Commons Community,

All over the world, there have been complaints from students, parents, high-school counselors and admissions officials, about problems with the Advanced Placement online exams. Many have described the same thing: technical glitches and an inability to submit answers.   As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“How many students ran into problems? After the first day, the College Board announced that AP testing was “off to a great start,” with less than 1 percent of about 376,000 students experiencing technical difficulties. The next day, the organization said less than 1 percent of approximately 640,000 students had hit a problem. Day 3? Less than 1 percent, it said, of 456,000 students.

If the College Board’s assertions were correct, that would still amount to tech trouble with nearly 15,000 exams. But the organization’s numbers didn’t seem to square with what many high-school counselors were hearing. In emails to The Chronicle, more than a dozen said 5 to 10 percent of their students had faced technical problems that kept them from submitting exam answers.

Adam Lindley, a college counselor at St. Francis High School, in Wheaton, Ill., said “probably more than half” of the 20 St. Francis students who took the Physics C exam got messages telling them that their answers hadn’t gone through — and that they could ask to retake the test in June. Some said they had no interest in doing that. They just wanted a refund that they apparently weren’t going to receive.

“You’ve got to consider the perspective of a 17-year-old kid who’s going through e-learning right now, and then has to deal with this,” Lindley said. “I would be pissed if I was them.”

Mitchell Lipton, co-director of college guidance at the Frisch School, in Paramus, N.J., knew of 10 students who had experienced technical difficulties (135 had signed up for AP exams, though he wasn’t sure how many had ended up taking them).

After submitting their responses, students were supposed to see a message that said, “Congratulations, your exam is complete.” If not, they were supposed to see a message that said, “We did not receive your responses.” But several students at Frisch didn’t see either, Lipton said: “A lot of kids didn’t know if their exam was received; they weren’t sure if they were done.”

That complicated their decisions about what to do next. “If a student isn’t sure whether they’ve submitted a response, they can request a makeup exam,” the College Board wrote in a midweek “Troubleshooting/FAQs” email to AP coordinators. “However, once they submit a makeup request, any response they submitted for the May exam will be invalidated.” Students had 48 hours from the end of each exam to request a makeup test.

What caused the submission problems in the first place? The College Board blamed users’ technology. “Given the wide variety of devices and browsers students are using, we anticipated that a small percentage of students would encounter technical difficulties,” the organization said in a written statement.

Later, the College Board said some students had run into trouble cutting and pasting their responses: “We took a closer look and found that outdated browsers were a primary cause of these challenges.” The organization reminded students to update their browsers.

Many students took to social media to say that their browsers had been up to date all along. Some said they had been able to submit answers to one question but not the other. What was the explanation for that?

“Hey @CollegeBoard, I followed all the rules,” one student tweeted. “My browser is right and my photos are pngs. However, you recently sent me an email saying that a file was corrupted. I have all the photos with my answers — why are you making me retake the test for a problem on your part?”

As AP complaints burned away on social media, the College Board acknowledged the frustrations of some test takers. “We share the deep disappointment of students who were unable to complete their exam — whether for technical issues or other reasons,” the College Board said in a written statement. “We’re working to understand these students’ unique circumstances in advance of the June makeup exams.”

Some admissions officials blasted the organization. “The College Board’s failure to own its system’s failures or provide reasonable solutions for impacted students is a preview of the nightmare that we could expect with an online SAT or ACT,” Andrew B. Palumbo, assistant vice president for enrollment management at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, told The Chronicle. “Testing companies that operate without adequate oversight or input from school counselors and college-admissions professionals cannot be trusted to successfully transition these assessments online until they have addressed existing issues of inequity, security, and inadequate support and service for test takers.”

Many colleges have indicated that they will grant credit for this year’s AP exams, as they’ve done in the past. Still, Eric Nichols, vice president for enrollment management at Loyola University Maryland, wondered if widespread reports of testing complications would put colleges in a difficult position.

“I envision some students who had these issues — who are told they have no choice but to retest, who then end up not doing very well — asking colleges to give them credit anyway,” Nichols said. “We were already skeptical if the online test is really measuring ability in the content area well enough to still provide credit like we normally do. But in the end, we don’t want to disadvantage the student even more by not accepting them.”

As if all of that weren’t dramatic enough, a curious thing happened over on Reddit, the ever-buzzing hive of anonymous, often coarse discussion. A user by the name of dinosauce313 created a subreddit, or specialized forum, called APTests2020. And whoever it was invited test takers to cheat on the exams. (“The only thing keeping us from success is a little anonymous cooperation.”)

Right away, other users decided that the whole thing was a flimsy College Board ploy to catch cheaters. “Looks like we found the College Board rat,” one wrote. Another put it this way: “dinosauce313, your username is exactly how I’d imagine an out-of-touch 45-year-old … at College Board googling ‘funny internet nicknames,’ getting results from a 10-year-old Tumblr page, and thinking nothing of it.”

Students had reason to jump to that conclusion. In its 2020 AP Testing Guide, the College Board had issued a warning to students: “We will be monitoring social media and discussion sites to detect and disrupt cheating. We may post content designed to confuse and deter those who attempt to cheat.”

Before long, it was online gospel that the College Board was dinosauce313, that dinosauce313 was the College Board. By midweek, the APTests2020 subreddit had morphed into a sometimes clever, sometimes depraved online protest, a 24/7 rant about testing glitches and the College Board itself. One user posted footage of a couple having sexual intercourse. Pornographic images popped up in rainbow colors. A young woman posted a video of herself slowly pulling up her Arizona State University T-shirt (“Go Sun Devils”) and shaking her bare breasts.

Zachary Goldberg, a spokesman for the College Board, stated firmly that the organization had nothing to do with dinosauce313. “As in, we have no connection to it,” he wrote in an email.

Even so, hordes of test takers on Reddit believed otherwise. Maybe, in the middle of a trying spring, they just needed to believe it. Maybe their scorn amounted to nothing more than hormonal hijinks. Or maybe it expressed deep exhaustion with standardized tests and the entities behind them that loom so large in the lives of the young and the college-bound.

Whatever the case, l’affaire de dinosauce313 was an absurd reminder of a simple fact: The pandemic that had shut down the world didn’t halt the march of Advanced Placement exams.

The tests had to go on. That’s what the College Board decided weeks earlier.

Students wanted it that way, according to Trevor Packer, a senior vice president at the College Board who oversees the Advanced Placement program. In early April he told The Chronicle that the organization’s leaders had debated the right thing to do. Cancel the exams or not? After surveying a random sample of students, Packer said, the College Board had been “overwhelmed” by their responses: Nine out of 10 said they wanted to take the exams.

“The comments were full of emotional statements,” Packer said. “Students said, ‘So much has been taken from us — prom, senior trips. Please do not take this normalcy away.’”

At the time, Packer also said this: “Nothing is perfect in this imperfect situation.”

Those words echoed in a message Packer posted this week in a Facebook group for AP coordinators. He described how the College Board had put a premium on building a secure online system that was “impervious to cyberattacks” and attempts to flood it with malware. But that meant that the system, which, he said, had deflected dozens of online attacks, had to be “very rigid.”

“We had to prioritize secure and efficient processing over some of the flexibility that it pains me we cannot provide,” Packer wrote. “We made the choice, which you can agree or disagree with, to make sure that above all, students’ chance to test was not toppled by security incidents or breaches. And the system is performing beautifully, just as intended.”

Some test takers ruthlessly ridiculed Packer online. They jeered him, among other things, for a tweet in which he warned students not to cheat: “It’s not worth the risk of having your name reported to college admissions offices.”

In the end, the College Board’s concern about cheating apparently limited the options it could offer disgruntled test takers. As Packer wrote in his Facebook post, the organization wouldn’t check to see if students had succeeded in submitting their work. Their only option was a makeup test.

“My son had a current browser,” one mother tweeted in response to the College Board. “He was able to submit the answer to first question for Calc BC (jpeg format), but second one would not go through. Could it be your server couldn’t handle the volume of submissions at the end? Can you provide them with a backup solution to submit answers?”

Many other students and parents asked the same question: If they had time-stamped photos of their answers, couldn’t they just send them to the College Board?

“Unfortunately,” the College Board tweeted in response to the mother, “there isn’t another way to submit. We recommend reading our troubleshooting page and photo-submission guidelines to ensure he did everything correctly.”

The testing saga made Wendela Shannon angry. Her daughter, Bryn, a high-school senior in Richmond, Va., had practiced uploading images to the College Board’s system twice, just to make sure it worked. It did, both times.

But when she tried to upload her answers to the first question during the Calculus BC test the very next day, she hit several snags. After trying a few different methods, she managed to upload one page — but not the second — before time expired.

After successfully uploading her answers to the second question, she included the second page of answers to the first question, too. Maybe, she hoped, a grader would read it.

“I was unhappy,” she said. “It wasn’t really my fault.”

“These kids have gotten completely dumped on here.”

Her mother called the College Board. She waited on hold for an hour and 48 minutes before speaking to a customer-service representative who, she said, wasn’t helpful: “I feel like they did a hasty and careless job implementing this because — guess what? — they didn’t want to lose all that money from canceled exams. These kids have gotten completely dumped on here.”

After four days, students around the world had taken a total of 1.64 million AP exams, which cost $94 apiece for domestic students and $124 for those outside the United States and Canada.

Bryn Shannon, bound for the Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall, decided not to take the makeup Calculus BC exam even though she had earned a 5, the top score, on the Calculus AB exam. A high score on both exams, she said, would have allowed her to bypass an entire year of calculus in college.

Still, with graduation approaching, she just wanted to move on. “They have all my answers,” she said. “They should be able to piece them together and give me the score I earned. I did it all in the time they gave me.”

During a week of technical mishaps, it was worth remembering that low-income test takers — many already contending with dated browsers and poor internet service — surely had far worse experiences than their affluent peers did. Those underserved students also weren’t as likely to have parents who would complain on Twitter or contact reporters out of the blue.”

The credibility of the College Board is at stake!

Tony

 

Five Sailors on USS Theodore Roosevelt Test Positive for COVID-19 a Second  Time After Reportedly Recovering!

USS Theodore Roosevelt

USS Theodore Roosevelt

Dear Commons Community,

Five sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt at anchor in Guam due to a COVID-19 outbreak have tested positive for the virus for the second time after reportedly recovering and have been taken off the ship, according to the Navy.

The resurgence of the virus in the five sailors on the aircraft carrier underscores the confounding  behavior of the highly contagious virus. The Associated Press reported that:

“All five sailors had previously tested positive and had gone through at least two weeks of isolation. As part of the process, they all had to test negative twice in a row, with the tests separated by at least a day or two before they were allowed to go back to the ship.

The Roosevelt has been at port in Guam since late March after the outbreak of the virus was discovered. More than 4,000 of the 4,800 crew members have gone ashore since then for quarantine or isolation. Earlier this month hundreds of sailors began returning to the ship, in coordinated waves, to get ready to set sail again.

In a statement Friday, the Navy said that, while onboard, the five sailors self-monitored and adhered to strict social distancing protocols.

“These five Sailors developed influenza-like illness symptoms and did the right thing reporting to medical for evaluation,” the Navy said, adding that they were immediately removed from the ship and put back in isolation. A small number of other sailors who were in contact with them were also taken off the ship.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the outbreak has been a learning process.

“This is a very stubborn, infectious disease,” he told Pentagon reporters during a briefing on Friday. He said that because of the Navy’s quick action, medical crew were notified right away and determined who might have also been exposed and got them all off the ship.

As of Thursday, more than 2,900 sailors have reboarded the ship, and about 25% of the more than 1,000 who had tested positive have now recovered, according to the Navy.

One U.S. official familiar with the situation on the ship said commanders don’t know why this is happening but suggested it could be related to questions about testing accuracy. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that screening has been intensified on the ship. And, anyone who exhibits any flu-like symptoms at all is being tested and removed.

The sailors have been tested using the nasal swab. And in some cases the infection can be at such a low level that it is not detected by the test. It’s not clear whether cases like these are actual relapses, or if people tested negative without really being completely clear of the virus.”

If these five cases turn out to be relapses, this is horrendous news for stemming the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tony

Rebecca Sibilia: A Good Time to Reconsider the Number of School Districts!

EdBuild report: School funding recommendations

Rebecca Sibilia

Dear Commons Community,

Rebecca Sibilia, Chief Executive of EdBuild, a school funding advocacy organization, has an op-ed in today’s New York Times that makes a compelling case that it is time to examine the number of schools districts (more than 13,000) in this country.  Her argument is that changing school district  borders would help to get more public school money where it most needs to be, in poorer areas.  Everything she says is true, fair and rational and would go a long way to level the playing field of school funding.  As she points out, there have been some small successes in balancing school funding, however, the politics of district governance and taxing prerogatives are among the most contentious that exist in state and local politics.  Changing these boundaries are legislatively not simple and there is little interest among either Democrats or Republicans to take the issue on.   Furthermore, the federal government has very limited jurisdiction in school district governess.  And in many states, school district boundaries would involve changes to state constitutions.  Regardless, the case that Ms. Sibilia makes is a noble one, but it would probably  take a political magic wand to make it happen on a large scale.

Below is her entire op-ed.

Tony

 ——————————————————————————————-

New York Times

The Sheer Number of School Districts Is Tilting the Playing Field

By Rebecca Sibilia

May 14, 2020

If we really want to balance school budgets in the wake of the coronavirus — and create more long-term equity in our public school system — we need to come to terms with the idea that we need far fewer than the 13,000 school districts that are currently in operation in the United States.

Today, the lines that define school district borders are largely arbitrary. They’re zigzagging areas of local control, a term that conflates two separate concepts: the ability to oversee a group of neighborhood schools and the right to keep the proceeds from property wealth in narrow jurisdictions. The more exclusively these borders are drawn, the more advantage accrues to wealthy districts, each of which has an independent financial structure, at the expense of the students next door.

This structure may explain the educational geography of Camden County in southern New Jersey, which contains 35 school districts, 23 of which are within a five-mile radius of the city of Camden. Half of these districts serve fewer than 1,000 students apiece, with wide wealth disparities. The median property in Gloucester City School District is worth about $120,000, but four miles away in Haddonfield Borough a median home sells for $500,000. From this wealthy tax base, Haddonfield can raise $13,500 per student, four times higher than what can be collected in Gloucester City.

Camden County is not an anomaly. There are four times as many school districts as there are counties in the United States, over 250 of which contain more than 10 districts each. Almost two-thirds of our district borders nationwide create local revenue disparities of at least $1,000 per pupil across an invisible line between similar school systems in the same neighborhood.

This localism with regard to schools has been challenged legally many times, and state courts have repeatedly ruled that funding based on property taxes is unconstitutional. In all but a handful, they have ordered states to remedy the financial difference, but not to fix the borders that create the root inequity. So, every year, legislatures use state money to try to fill in the gaps between what low-wealth communities can raise from confined property tax areas and what they actually need to operate.

This approach has not done the job. The average predominantly nonwhite district in the United States starts with a local wealth deficit of almost $2,500 per student. State aid is so limited that on average, state legislatures are able to contribute only $260 toward closing the gap. As a result, predominantly nonwhite school districts receive a collective $23 billion less in school funding than their predominantly white counterparts, even though these districts serve the same number of students.

It is clear that this approach wasn’t working before the coronavirus hit, and the economic fallout from the pandemic will demonstrate exactly how flawed this system is. Sales, energy and income taxes are plummeting, and these are the receipts that states use to close the property tax gap across school district borders. Without intervention, we will soon watch education budgets for middle- and lower-income communities unravel.

But if we envision a new map of property taxation for schools — one in which district borders no longer define “local” for the purposes of education dollars, we can tap into funding that is already in the system and offset this challenge. Because larger borders encompass more communities, they can smooth out the major differences in neighborhood wealth that we see across the country.

If a typical U.S. county like Berrien County, Mich., were to combine all of its local taxes into one pool instead of independent collection among 15 different school districts, we could flatten the tax disparity between the highest local tax district at $25,000 per student, and the lowest-wealth district in the same county that generates just $750. According to analysis for an upcoming EdBuild report, sharing taxes across Berrien County would increase funding for 79 percent of all students (and 87 percent of low-income children). If we adopted this plan, the lowest income areas could withstand a state-funding reduction of upward of $3,332 in the next year without seeing an overall decline in available resources.

We know that these kinds of state cuts are coming but pooling the wealth that already exists in the community means that we can buffer the impact for the majority of children in Berrien County, and those nationwide. This solution isn’t unique to Michigan. State after state turn in positive results under this model. County pooling around Fayetteville, Ark., would deliver more money to 84 percent of low-income students. In the Kansas City suburbs, more than three-quarters of all students would benefit. In Johnstown, Pa., 86 percent of nonwhite students could gain access to the money that is already in their neighborhood. And back in Camden, 69 percent of low-income students would benefit from this change.

Reimagining school-funding geography would bring two distinct benefits. In the short term, we could find the money to buffer the impact of impending state cuts. On a longer-term basis, we could start to truly balance cross-border funding inequities and take on the racial and socioeconomic segregation that these borders enable and protect.

By expanding the definition of “local” just a bit, without finding any new state revenue or increasing any local tax rates, we can immediately get more money to a significant majority of all children. Under this kind of new nationwide map, 69 percent of all of the country’s children — and 73 percent of minority and 76 percent of low-income students — would get access to about $1,000 more in local property tax funding.

This money is not insignificant. It would enable distance learning by covering the cost of a Chromebook and home internet access for every student who stands to gain funding. Alternately, the average district could use this new money to hire five mental health counselors and five remedial education coaches for every school in the district. In essence, we can find the money that districts currently and urgently need to address the impact of the pandemic within our own education budgets. The money is already there.

The borders that determine the jurisdiction of local school taxes are not ordained by nature. We draw them, and we can change them whenever we decide. The coronavirus era is a good time for us to think more broadly about school district geographies — in terms of funding, but also how we define schools, taxes and community.

Some of us may see this financial proposal as a quiet first step toward income and race-based integration. Others will see it merely as an urgent financial fix. Either way, this proposal won’t lead to an immediate overhaul that satisfies either group fully, nor will it solve all of our education problems. There are so many challenges to overcome to achieve an equally accessible future for all of our children. But if we take the first step of broadening the definition of local in order to pool money more equitably, we may be able to look back at all the good that came from that redefinition — and see the enormous step forward that this was.

 

Max Boot:  “If FDR had taken Trump’s approach, this column would be in German”

Max Boot on how Trump helped drive him from the rightMax Boot

Dear Commons Community,

The Washington Post’s Max Boot imagined World War II taking a very different turn in his latest column concluding that if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had taken Trump’s approach, “this column would be in German.”

Boot, a conservative and a critic of President Donald Trump, suggested in amusing detail how the War would have played out had former President Franklin D. Roosevelt acted as Trump is currently doing amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.  Here is an excerpt:

“The 75th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany got me thinking about how World War II might have turned out if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had acted like President Donald J. Trump.

Picture the scene a few months after Pearl Harbor. The first U.S. troops have arrived in England, and the Doolittle raiders have bombed Tokyo. But even though the war has just begun, the Trumpified FDR is already losing interest. One day he says the war is already won; the next day that we will just have to accept the occupation of France because that’s the way life is. He speculates that mobilization might be unnecessary if we can develop a “death ray” straight out of a Buck Rogers comic strip. He complains that rationing and curfews are very unpopular and will have to end soon. He tells the governors that if they want to keep on fighting, they will have to take charge of manufacturing ships, tanks and aircraft. Trumpy FDR prefers to hold mass rallies to berate his predecessor, Herbert Hoover. He even suggests that Hoover belongs in jail along with the leading Republican congressmen — “Martin, Barton and Fish.”

In reality, of course, Roosevelt focused with single-minded devotion on defeating the United States’ enemies until the day of his death. Old political battles and agendas fell by the wayside. “Dr. New Deal” had been transformed, he explained, into “Dr. Win-the-War.”

Trump, by contrast, cannot focus on a single subject for the length of a paragraph. So it is no surprise that he has already gotten bored with a war against the coronavirus that isn’t going his way. He is taking his cues not from FDR but from Sen. George Aiken, the Vermont Republican whose plan for the Vietnam War was summed up as “declare victory and get out.” In Trump’s case, that means getting Americans out of the home whether it’s safe to do so or not.

Coronavirus deaths are surging past 86,000 and unemployment claims past 36 million, but Trump sounded on Monday as if the pandemic is already over. “We have met the moment and we have prevailed,” he declared. It’s as if Roosevelt had declared Victory in Europe before D-Day…

…It remains to be seen whether the “very stable genius” will succeed in distracting the public. He has definitely distracted himself. The Post reports: “Trump has been distracted recently from managing the pandemic by fixating on Flynn and related matters, ranting in private about the Russia investigation, complaining about Comey and others in the FBI and making clear he wanted to talk in the run-up to the election about law enforcement targeting him, according to one adviser who spoke with the president last week.”

Was für ein Präsident!

Tony

Thank You to My Students as Our Semester Ends!

Dear Commons Community,

I want to thank my students at Hunter College this semester for their participation and willingness to adjust to the move of our courses to online mode during the coronavirus pandemic.  Last week, students submitted their final papers, and on Tuesday and Thursday evening, they made brief presentations of their projects using Zoom.  Since our abrupt switch to online mode back in March because of the coronavirus, we had to make a lot of adjustments to how our course was conducted.  Using asynchronous discussion boards on Sunday through Tuesday and Zoom sessions on Wednesday worked fairly well but only because there was enthusiastic participation by just about all of the students.   I would also mention that most of my students teach in New York City public schools and had to completely readjust their schedules as they moved to remote learning for all of their own classes. 

If you would allow me a self-indulgence, here is a comment from one of my students on how the course went:

“I just wanted to say that this has been a great class and no better one to really wrap up our two years in this program. It was different from the other courses we have taken and I felt that you really gave us opportunities for open discussions and real conversations which I’ve gained so much from. In addition, I really enjoyed the selection of articles and case studies for the discussion board. I thought the process of reading, responding and then responding to a partner was a smooth way of engaging us. We have come far  but still have a long way to go! And finally, I really enjoyed the Zoom platform to meet for online classes. Although we weren’t able to meet in person for the remaining semester, this platform and your teaching still allowed us to freely participate in conversations and discussions without any major restrictions.
Tony

In Jerusalem – Ramadan Restrictions to Mosques Last Seen During the Crusades Return!

A man praying on the roof of his house in Jerusalem during Ramadan last month.

A man prays by himself on his roof during Ramadan

 

Dear Commons Community,

The coronavirus pandemic  has transformed how Muslims in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are experiencing Ramadan. Essentially  Muslim worshippers are being kept out of mosques due to the fear of the spread of Covid-19.   The last time Muslim worshipers were not allowed into mosques throughout the entire month of Ramadan was when crusaders controlled Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. 

Now, the coronavirus pandemic has done what the intervening centuries had not: largely emptying the often crowded and chaotic spaces of Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site, where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.  As reported by the New York Times:

“The restricted entry to the compound is only one example of how the pandemic has radically transformed the way Muslims in Israel and the Palestinian Territories have experienced the sacred fasting month of Ramadan as they cope with government social distancing measures.

Instead of attending elaborate fast-breaking feasts with extended family members and smoking water pipes at thronged cafes, Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians have spent much of their time in unwelcome isolation.

Standing outside one of the shuttered entrances to the Aqsa compound, Mohammed Suleiman, a school security guard from Jerusalem, held back tears as he spoke about his desire to pray at the mosque.

“The Aqsa is healthy, but we aren’t,” said Mr. Suleiman, clutching a green and red prayer mat. “I hope we can return to it soon because I feel lonely without it.”

In April, the Islamic Waqf, the Jordanian-backed religious body that administers the mosque compound, decided to close the site to the public throughout Ramadan, citing public health concerns.

The Aqsa, which Jews revere as their holiest site and refer to as the Temple Mount, is often at the center of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

In one of the few large open spaces near the Aqsa compound last week, some 30 worshipers, including Mr. Suleiman, gathered under the blazing sun for traditional Friday afternoon prayers, while keeping a distance of several feet between each other. Nearby, a large contingent of Israeli police officers stood guard.

While the Aqsa has been closed to the Muslim public, the imams who work there have continued to deliver sermons in it, livestreaming over Facebook special Ramadan evening prayers, known as taraweeh, as well as Friday afternoon prayers. Tens of thousands of social media users have viewed the broadcasts.

Other organizations have also been providing online content to Muslims during this Ramadan like no other.

“Ramadan Nights from Jerusalem,” a coalition of Israeli and Palestinian organizations, has created a website featuring daily virtual events about Islam, the fasting month and Arabic culture in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

On the site, thousands have tuned into a wide range of programs like a lesson on how to prepare kibbe, deep-fried balls of ground meat and bulgur; a lecture about the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad; and an oud concert.

“We want to provide Muslims with diverse and rich content to engage during the month,” said Dr. Raquel Ukeles, a co-founder of the project and the curator of the National Library of Israel’s Islam and Middle East collection. “But we also want to create opportunities for non-Muslims to learn about Islam and Ramadan.”

Less than a mile from the Aqsa, the decades-old Jaafar Sweets shop in Jerusalem has witnessed a sharp decline in business during the fasting month, selling about half as much as it did in 2019. The Israeli government has allowed sweets shops in Jerusalem to be open for takeout orders only, and the shop’s large seating section was empty.

“During Ramadan, we usually have people from everywhere enjoying our sweets, but we now only have a fraction of that,” said Adnan Jaafar, the third-generation owner of the shop, sitting near a display of baklava, knafeh — an Arabic dessert made with shredded phyllo dough — and other sugary delights.

Perhaps the most significant change at Jaafar Sweets is that it has removed from its menu of offers qatayef, a sweet and heavy Ramadan dessert, a fried pancake that is ordinarily filled with either walnuts or cheese.

“It’s the first time in 70 years we aren’t selling them,” Mr. Jaafar said. “There aren’t enough customers to justify the effort to make them.”

More than 16,500 people in Israel are known to have been infected by the virus and 264 have died. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 375 cases have been reported with two fatalities.

As the days of Ramadan have progressed, several Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel have started to object to the decision to close the Aqsa to the public, with some arguing that if Jews can pray in a socially distanced manner at the Western Wall just below it, Muslims can do the same in the compound.

“It makes no sense,” said Ribhi Rajabi, a truck driver from Jerusalem, sitting in the shade under an olive tree by his home in the city. “If the Jews can pray without a problem in a small area, we obviously can in a space several times the size.”

In early May, Israel loosened restrictions on prayer at the Western Wall, allowing as many 300 people to go there.

But Omar Kiswani, the director of the Aqsa, has fiercely defended the decision to keep the compound closed to worshipers, arguing that preserving the faithful’s health is paramount.

“During Ramadan, the Aqsa is not like any other place here,” he said, sitting on a bench in Jerusalem’s Old City while clad in a long black cloak with gold trimmings and a red Ottoman hat wrapped in a white scarf. “People come in the tens of thousands and sometimes the hundreds of thousand. If we allow everyone inside now, we run the risk of infecting our whole society.”

The site hasn’t been closed to the Muslim public throughout Ramadan since the 12th century when the city was in the hands of crusaders, according to experts and Mr. Kiswani.

“It stayed open through invasions, wars and plagues,” said Martin Kramer, the chair of Islamic studies at Shalem College in Jerusalem. “It’s precisely at such times that people sought to pray.”

It is precisely at this time that people of all faiths are seeking to pray.

Tony

Jerusalem under quarantine in April.

Jerusalem under quarantine

Two Presidents:  One Class and One Crass!

Dear Commons Community,

There is a striking contrast in how two presidents have handled their responsibilities during national crises.   When Barak Obama was elected and immediately had to deal with the Great Recession of 2008, he did not spend his time blaming George W. Bush and the Republicans for leaving the country in an economic mess with millions of people unemployed due to the greed of the financiers and bankers.  Instead he worked on a bailout for that industry that over years brought employment and the economy back. 

Donald Trump on the other hand, as the coronavirus death toll in the United States topped 85,000 and the government reported nearly three million more people filing for unemployment, Mr. Trump spent yesterday attacking Mr. Obama.

In addition to diverting attention from the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Trump’s focus on Mr. Obama allows him to try to turn the tables on his accusers by making them out to be the ones who are corrupt while simultaneously putting his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., on the defensive.

 “This was all Obama, this was all Biden,” Mr. Trump said in an interview on Fox Business Network that aired yesterday. “These people were corrupt, the whole thing was corrupt, and we caught them. We caught them.”

When the host Maria Bartiromo asked if he believed that Mr. Obama directed American intelligence agencies to spy on him, Mr. Trump agreed, without evidence.

“Yes, he probably directed them,” Mr. Trump said. “But if he didn’t direct them, he knew everything — and you’ll see that,” he went on, adding that documents would be released soon to bolster his charges.

Mr. Obama, whose advisers have dismissed Mr. Trump’s comments as the ludicrous ranting of a president in trouble, issued what amounted to his own one-word rejoinder hours later on Twitter: “Vote,” he wrote.

It is incredible that Trump stoops so low that as tens of thousands of our countrymen are dying and the economy is spinning out of control, he is playing politics and spends his time concocting conspiracy theories against the former president.

Tony