Will the Media be Trump’s Accomplice in 2020?

Dear Commons Community,

Over the past week several Democrats have announced that they will be seeking their party’s nomination for president in the 2020 election.  While it is still early, the media are gearing to cover the primaries and subsequent election like never before.  On Sunday, the New York Times had a column written by Frank Bruni, asking whether the media will be Trump’s accomplice in his election bid.  Essentially he asks whether the media will jump at Trump’s every bombast, opponent insult and  twitter fit or will they focus on the issues and the needs of our country.  Here is Bruni’s introduction to the column:

“Pocahontas” won’t be lonely for long.

As other Democrats join Elizabeth Warren in the contest for the party’s presidential nomination, President Trump will assign them their own nicknames, different from hers but just as derisive. There’s no doubt.

But how much heed will we in the media pay to this stupidity? Will we sprint to Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker or Mike Bloomberg for a reaction to what Trump just called one of them and then rush back to him for his response to that response? Or will we note Trump’s latest nonsense only briefly and pivot to matters more consequential?

That’s a specific question but also an overarching one — about the degree to which we’ll let him set the terms of the 2020 presidential campaign, about our appetite for antics versus substance, and about whether we’ll repeat the mistakes that we made in 2016 and continued to make during the first stages of his presidency. There were plenty.

Trump tortures us. Deliberately, yes, but I’m referring to the ways in which he keeps yanking our gaze his way. I mean the tough choices that he, more than his predecessors in the White House, forces us to make. His demand for television airtime on Tuesday night was a perfect example: We had to weigh a request in line with precedent against a president out of line when it comes to truth. We had to wrestle with — and figure out when and how to resist — his talent for using us as vessels for propaganda.

We will wrestle with that repeatedly between now and November 2020, especially in the context of what may well be the most emotional and intense presidential race of our lifetimes. With the dawn of 2019 and the acceleration of potential Democratic candidates’ preparations for presidential bids, we have a chance to do things differently than we did the last time around — to redeem ourselves.

Our success or failure will affect our stature at a time of rickety public trust in us. It will raise or lower the temperature of civic discourse, which is perilously hot. Above all, it will have an impact on who takes the oath of office in January 2021. Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.”

“The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” the former CBS newsman Dan Rather, who has covered more than half a century of presidential elections, told me. And what we did last time was emphasize the sound and the fury, because Trump provided both in lavish measure.

“When you cover this as spectacle,” Rather said, “what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.” Spectacle is his métier. He’s indisputably spectacular. And even if it’s a ghastly spectacle and presented that way, it still lets him control the narrative. As the writer Steve Almond observed in a recently published essay, “He appears powerful to his followers, which is central to his strongman mystique.”

Bruni raises an important question.  Let’s hope the media takes heed!


Los Angeles Teachers Set to Strike This Morning!


Dear Commons Community,

Barring a last-minute resolution, Los Angeles teachers are set to strike this morning. The move, which follows 20 months of failed negotiations, will involve more than 30,000 teachers at 900 schools, and affecting more than 500,000 students.  As reported by NBC News Los Angeles.

“The strike comes after a “red state teacher revolt” that rolled through places like Arizona, Kansas and West Virginia last spring. But this time, the teachers are fighting against Democratic leaders in a deeply blue state with union-friendly policies.

On the union side, United Teachers Los Angeles is fighting for pay raises, smaller class sizes and additional support staff. On the opposing side is the Los Angeles Unified School District, which says it simply doesn’t have the funds for such changes. On Friday, the union rejected the district’s latest offer, which involved pay raises, smaller class sizes and increased support staff, but did not meet all the union’s specific requests.

In the background is tension over the expansion of charter schools and questions over who gets to control the direction of the district. Its 2017 school board election was the most expensive in U.S. history, with outside groups ― including unions ― spending nearly $15 million.

Nearly every leader in this fight is a Democrat, with the two sides representing larger fissures within the Democratic Party about the future of public education. What happens with this teachers strike could set the stage for how these issues play out in the 2020 election and beyond.

Los Angeles teacher Gillian Claycomb argues that even though the superintendent of schools, Austin Beutner, is a Democrat, his approach to education makes him “just as bad as [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos and [President] Donald Trump.”

“He is a billionaire. He spends a lot of time with other billionaires and people with very deep pockets who are really invested in privatizing public education,” said Claycomb, a high school history teacher and a chapter leader with the local teachers union.

“A strike will worsen the culture and climate in our schools. What it won’t do is provide more money to reduce class sizes and hire more nurses, counselors and librarians,” wrote Beutner in a Los Angeles Times op-ed this week.

Los Angeles teachers complain of class sizes of up to more than 40 people, inadequate “wraparound” services for needy students and a severe shortage of school nurses. Many elementary schools only have a nurse for one day a week.

Beyond the specifics of the debate lie the larger philosophical questions of how Democrats think public funds should be distributed and what a large, diverse, public school district should look like.

“Trump has been defeated in California. There is no Trump constituency. They were defeated, but that doesn’t mean everything is hunky-dory. We have other battles,” said labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Charter schools, in particular, have long been a contentious issue within the Democratic Party, pitting teachers unions against education reform groups. Staff at charter schools, which are publicly funded but often privately run, are rarely unionized.

To the dismay of some progressive groups and politicians, President Barack Obama’s two secretaries of education, Arne Duncan and John King, championed the growth of charter schools. In 2017, the NAACP called for a moratorium on these schools ― a stance that complicated the idea that so-called school choice is a civil rights issue, as education reform groups often argue.

Some groups like Democrats for Education Reform have pushed back against the portrayal of school choice as anything but liberal. The group only supports nonprofit public charter schools and is opposed to other forms of school choice, like voucher programs.

“We’re very clear about the legacy in which we operate. We operate within the legacy of Barack Obama. His agenda is our agenda, and it’s an agenda that hundreds of Democrats across the country support,” Shavar Jeffries, leader of Democrats for Education Reform, told BuzzFeed in February 2018.

But the election of President Trump and his selection of the pro-charter DeVos to be secretary of education have put these Democrats in a tricky spot. Charter schools quickly became associated with DeVos, whom many see as public education’s No. 1 enemy. The issue was suddenly a partisan one, with polls showing liberal support for charter schools dropping. In the 2018 elections, a new crop of liberal candidates criticized charter schools with zeal.

Last spring’s wave of teacher walkouts centered in right-to-work states, where unions have relatively little power. In Los Angeles, the local union is flexing its muscle, with 98 percent of voting members supporting a strike.

How the city’s Democratic mayor, California’s governor and its state superintendent for public instruction react to the strike will be watched closely.

“In the red-state rebellion, people were standing up and fighting against the pro-corporate policies of the GOP. In LA, people are going to be standing up and fighting against the pro-corporate policies of the Democrats,” said Claycomb, who has been teaching for nine years.”

Interesting analysis and one Democratic candidates will need to consider.  We support our teachers and we hope that a settlement can be reached soon.


A College Student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Asks, “What Is a University Without a History Major?”

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a featured article this morning examining the plight of liberal arts colleges in rural America that are facing enrollment declines and financial instability.  The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is one such institution that is weighing major changes to its degree programs.  Here is an excerpt:

“Chancellor Bernie Patterson’s message to his campus was blunt: “To remain solvent and relevant, his 125-year-old university needed to reinvent itself.”

Some longstanding liberal arts degrees, including those in history, French and German, would be eliminated. Career-focused programs would become a key investment. Tenured faculty members could lose their jobs. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Dr. Patterson explained in a memo, could “no longer be all things to all people.”

Dr. Patterson’s plan came as Stevens Point and many other public universities in rural America face a crisis. Such colleges have served as anchors for their regions, educating generations of residents.

Now student enrollment has plummeted, money from states has dropped and demographic trends promise even worse days ahead.

Universities like Stevens Point are experiencing the opposite of what is happening at some of the nation’s most selective schools, like Harvard, Northwestern and the University of California, Berkeley, where floods of applications have led to overwhelming numbers of rejected students.

But critics say that in trying to carve out a sustainable path for Stevens Point — and build a model for other struggling, regionally focused universities — administrators are risking the very essence of a four-year college experience.

“Part of the fear is, is this an attempt to really kind of radically change the identity of this institution?” asked Jennifer Collins, a political-science professor, who wondered aloud whether Stevens Point would become a “pre-professional, more polytechnic type of university.”

Kim Mueller, 21, a senior who hopes to become a history teacher at a Wisconsin high school, said her first reaction to the proposal was: “What is a university without a history major?”

The article goes on to describe similar situations at other liberal arts colleges (public and private).   In parts of the country that are have declining populations, the situation at Stevens Point will play out again and again.


Maureen Dowd on Nancy Pelosi “Spanking the First Brat!”

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd this morning  compares the childhoods of Nancy Pelosi  and Donald Trump to help us understand the dynamic between the two leaders at the center of  the negotiations during the federal government shutdown.  Dowd comes down on Trump as a spoiled brat who was coddled by a “political opportunist”  father who oiled the palms of elected and appointed government officials.  Pelosi, on the other hand, was raised “to see public service as a noble calling” and “to never measure a person by how much money they had.”  The entire column (see below) goes on to compare and contrast the two contenders in the shutdown battle.

Worth a read!




Nancy Pelosi Spanks the First Brat!

By Maureen Dowd

January 12, 2019

WASHINGTON — Two men, sons of immigrants, rising to be the head of their own empires, powerful forces in their ethnic communities. Both dapper and mustachioed with commanding personalities. And both wielding a potent influence on the children who learned at their knees and followed them into the family businesses.

But here’s the difference: Big Tommy D’Alesandro Jr. taught little Nancy how to count. Fred Trump taught Donald, from the time he was a baby, that he didn’t have to count — or be accountable; Daddy’s money made him and buoyed him.

Fred, a dictatorial builder in Brooklyn and Queens from German stock, and Big Tommy, a charming Maryland congressman and mayor of Baltimore from Italian stock, are long gone. But their roles in shaping Donald and Nancy remain vivid, bleeding into our punishing, pressing national debate over immigration, a government shutdown and that inescapable and vexing Wall.

At this fraught moment when the pain of the shutdown is kicking in, President Trump and Speaker Pelosi offer very different visions — shaped by their parents — of what it means to be an American.

When Trump gave his Oval Office address, the framed photo of his dad was peering over his shoulder. In her House speaker’s office in the Capitol, Pelosi prominently displays a photo of herself at 7, holding the Bible as her father is sworn in as Baltimore mayor in 1947.

D’Alesandro was a loyal New Deal Democrat, just as Pelosi — the first daughter to follow her father into Congress — is a resolute liberal. She grew up in a house with portraits of F.D.R. and Truman.

Donald Trump spent most of his life as a political opportunist, learning from his dad that real estate developers must lubricate both sides of the aisle. Trump was once friendly with Pelosi, sending her a note in 2007 when she won the speaker job the first time — with a boost from his $20,000 donation to the party — calling her “the best.” (Unlike with “Cryin’ Chuck,” Trump has not gone for the jugular with a nasty nickname for Pelosi.)

In her memoir, Pelosi recalled that her Catholic parents “raised me to be holy.” She told me, “My mother and my father instilled in us, public service is a noble calling” and to “never measure a person by how much money they had.”

A constant stream of strangers lined up at their house in Baltimore’s Little Italy, seeking food and help. One of Pelosi’s most arresting memories, she told CNN’s Dana Bash, was giving immigrants who came to the door advice on how to get into the projects or to the hospital.

Alexandra, Pelosi’s documentarian daughter, recounts this anecdote: Her son, Thomas — who was named after Big Tommy and who stood at the speaker’s side as she reclaimed her gavel — wanted an Xbox in 2017, so he set up a lemonade stand in Manhattan and raked in $1,000.

His grandmother sat him down and asked, “That’s going to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, right?”

He set up the stand again the next year and was once more schooled by his grandmother asking, “That’s going to the victims of the California wildfires, right?”

Contrast that with Don Jr.’s uncharitable message on Instagram on Tuesday: “You know why you can enjoy a day at the zoo? Because walls work.”

Where the D’Alesandros saw the downtrodden and immigrants as people to weave into the American dream, the Trumps saw suckers to squeeze.

According to The Times’s blockbuster tax investigation, Fred lavished Donald with three trust funds and $10,000 Christmas checks. When Donald was 8, he was already a millionaire, thanks to his tax-scamming father. Fred Trump was hauled before a congressional panel investigating whether he had looted government money through fraud. (One congressman said the patriarch’s chicanery made him “nauseous.”)

By the time Donald was 27, he had fully absorbed Trump family values, a callous inversion of noblesse oblige: He and his father were getting sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent to blacks. As Woody Guthrie, who lived in a Fred Trump complex near Coney Island, wrote in a song, “I suppose/Old Man Trump knows/just how much/racial hate/he stirred up/in the bloodpot of human hearts.” Not quite the same as “This Land Is Your Land.”

Fred’s favorite parlor trick was calculating big numbers in his head. But when Howard Stern had Donald, Ivanka and Don Jr. on his show in 2006 and asked them a multiplication question, they were all stumped.

Over the years, Fred funneled tens of millions of dollars to clean up Donald’s messes. The father even gave the son $3.5 million in chips to save an Atlantic City casino. By the time he was in his 40s, Donnie’s allowance was more than $5 million annually. No wonder he’s still an infant.

When Trump said he could “relate” to federal workers who are now going without pay, it may have been the most audacious lie he told all week. He may know what it’s like to go from bankruptcy to bankruptcy — though always with a paternal safety net — but he has no idea of what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, much less none at all.

As Pelosi told reporters: “He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can’t.” She also leveled the barb on Trump in person.

Pelosi deploys what she calls her “mother of five” voice on our tantrum-prone president, perhaps in an effort to reparent him. But how do you discipline the world’s brattiest 72-year-old?


The Community School is Coming of Age!

Dear Commons Community,

David Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, has an op-ed in today’s New York Times commenting on the community school movement.  His basic message is that community schooling is growing and more education policymakers are looking at it as a model for urban schools.  Here in New York City, the model is slowing taking root. Below is an excerpt from the op-ed.

“Island School is one of 247 “community schools” in New York. These are regular public schools, with a twist. They have longer days and longer school years: Island stays open 12 hours a day, six days a week, including spring and winter breaks as well as the summer. A psychologist makes weekly rounds. A dentist comes by regularly. So does an optometrist, and students who need glasses get them free. (The retailer Warby Parker donates the glasses, a good example of a public-private partnership.)

Parents are ubiquitous at the school, learning computer skills, attending a “caring for the caregiver” class or picking up groceries from the food pantry. The school gives coats to their children, and washing machines on the premises allow them to keep their kids’ uniforms looking sharp. Pro bono lawyers are available to counsel families on immigration, housing and health insurance.

As a result, since 2014 chronic absenteeism at the school has been reduced by 6.5 percent. In 2018, 39 percent of students there passed the state reading exam (within hailing distance of the citywide average).

New York City, which has become the epicenter of the community school movement, rarely does things by halves. There were more than 100 community schools in 2016, when I first wrote about them, and since then, their number has roughly doubled. These are New York’s highest-need schools, with many more students who are poor, homeless or learning English than the citywide average.

As with any education innovation, this rapid expansion carries the risk that overall quality will deteriorate. That’s been the death of many well-intentioned ventures, and because the community school is Swiss-watch complicated, the possibility of failure looms large. The Island School is a small miracle. But is it the norm?

A 2017 RAND Corporation study of the first wave of New York’s community schools concluded that they are generally on the right track. They are staying open longer and finding new ways to help their students. They’re working with families and relying on mentors to persuade students of the value of education.

These practices are critical, according a 2017 report from the Learning Policy Institute (where I’m a senior fellow) and the National Education Policy Center. That study combed the voluminous research to identify the elements of a good community school. When schools both “support academic success and social, emotional and physical health” and “offer a promising foundation for progress,” the report concluded, research shows that students’ reading and math scores go up and they’re more likely to graduate. Fewer of them skip school. And they act out less often.

Most community school principals, the RAND evaluation noted, have built solid relations with partners — nonprofit groups, government agencies and businesses that can connect their school with essential services. But some reported feeling whipsawed between what they saw as competing priorities: giving students the extra support they need, versus increasing test scores.

“We’re mandated to do lots of different things,” one school leader complained. “There needs to be a real understanding of how much time do we have in a school day, in a school year.”

Many of the program’s kinks have since been ironed out, Chris Caruso, the executive director of New York’s community schools, told me. He said that “the investment we’re making will more than pay off over the long term.”

Though RAND won’t release its full assessment of the impact of community schools on student achievement until next year, the evidence in hand is encouraging. Chronic absenteeism at the first wave of community schools has dropped 8.3 percent since 2014 — while citywide there has been no improvement. At the high schools now designated as community schools, 65 percent of students graduate — an 11 percent increase, compared to a 6 percent increase citywide.

Still, no one is declaring victory. Attendance and graduation rates do lag behind the citywide average — after all, these schools aren’t serving youngsters in the city’s toniest neighborhoods — but by shrinking the gap they schools are promoting educational equity.

The community school approach represents a sea change, for it rejects the “no child left behind” belief that test scores are all that matter. Studies show that Americans are losing faith in that approach. In a 2018 survey of 3,000 adults, conducted by Columbia University Teachers College, two-thirds agreed that “students cannot develop basic academic skills without community resources, health and community services to students and families.” This isn’t a partisan issue — more than half of self-described conservatives concurred.

Across the country, the National Coalition of Community Schools reports, roughly 5,000 schools style themselves as community schools, and dozens of school districts have made the strategy systemwide. Mr. Caruso says he has been contacted by educators from a host of cities, including Los Angeles and Detroit. “They are figuring out how, not whether, to do this,” he said.

Those educators would do well to visit places like the Island School, to see for themselves the impact of a good community school on the lives of children.”

The community school is an idea whose time has come!




Iowa Republican Steve King Set the Agenda for the Wall and Anti-Immigrant Politics!

Dear Commons Community,

White supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), in an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, wondered aloud why being a white supremacist is such a bad thing.

King, said he doesn’t mind that the American population includes a range of races ― as long as the culture stays white and European.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

The Times article suggests that President Donald Trump’s demonizing statements about immigrants ― especially his lies about Latinos and his border policies ― were crafted and shaped, in part, by King over the years: 

Mr. Trump’s preoccupation with the wall and anti-immigrant politics reflects how he has embraced the once-fringe views of Mr. King, who has used racist language in the past, promotes neo-Nazis on Twitter and was recently denounced by one Republican leader as a white supremacist.

The interview is one of the few times King has discussed his embrace of white nationalism.

The GOP was largely silent on King but in the past two days, several Republicans questioned his comments.

Next year, King will face a primary challenge from Iowa State Sen. Randy Feenstra in the race to represent Iowa’s 4th Congressional District in the House of Representatives.




Science : The MOOC Pivot!

Dear Commons Community,

This week’s Science has an essay (see below)  reviewing what happened to the disruptive transformation of education that MOOCs promise six years ago.  Essentially the essay rightly concludes that the transformation did not happen and MOOC companies have been struggling to re-invent themselves as content providers to existing institutions. The conclusion of the authors is:

“MOOCs will not transform higher education and probably will not disappear entirely. Rather, they will provide new supports for specific niches within already existing education systems, primarily supporting already educated learners. The 6-year saga of MOOCs provides a cautionary tale for education policy-makers facing whatever will be the next promoted innovation in education technology, be it artificial intelligence or virtual reality or some unexpected new entrant. New education technologies are rarely disruptive but instead are domesticated by existing cultures and systems. Dramatic expansion of educational opportunities to underserved populations will require political movements that change the focus, funding, and purpose of higher education; they will not be achieved through new technologies alone.”




The MOOC Pivot

By Justin Reich and José A. Ruipérez-Valiente

When massive open online courses (MOOCs) first captured global attention in 2012, advocates imagined a disruptive transformation in postsecondary education. Video lectures from the world’s best professors could be broadcast to the farthest reaches of the networked world, and students could demonstrate proficiency using innovative computer-graded assessments, even in places with limited access to traditional education. But after promising a reordering of higher education, we see the field instead coalescing around a different, much older business model: helping universities outsource their online master’s degrees for professionals ( Display footnote number: 1 ). To better understand the reasons for this shift, we highlight three patterns emerging from data on MOOCs provided by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) via the edX platform: The vast majority of MOOC learners never return after their first year, the growth in MOOC participation has been concentrated almost entirely in the world’s most affluent countries, and the bane of MOOCs—low completion rates ( Display footnote number: 2 )—has not improved over 6 years.

MOOC providers explored several potential revenue models in their first years, but selling certificates of completion was the most prominent. In early public talks ( Display footnote number: 3, 4 ), Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller described their business model as a blue ccean strategy ( Display footnote number: 5 ): Rather than focus on existing consumers of higher education, they would sustain a new global service by converting nonconsumers of higher education—especially in places with limited access—into online learners at the world’s best universities. MOOC providers would make learning materials freely and widely available and would earn revenue from a portion of learners who purchased the opportunity to earn verified certificates and credentials.

Data on enrollment, intention, and completion show the challenges with this model.

We analyzed data from all MOOCs taught on edX by its founding partners MIT and Harvard University, from the start of the initiative in October 2012 to May 2018 (organized into annual cohorts starting in June). The dataset includes 565 course iterations from 261 different courses, with a combined 12.67 million course registrations from 5.63 million learners. Data from other edX partners or MOOC providers might reveal different dynamics, but we have a detailed view of two of the largest course providers.

MOOC researchers realized early on that most MOOC registrants leave soon after enrollment. Of those who register for a course, 52% never enter the courseware (table S4), and attrition typically remains high in the first 2 weeks of a course ( Display footnote number: 2 ). We see similar patterns when looking at engagement over multiple years. New individual learners increased from 2012 to 2016 but have declined since (see the first figure). The largest initial cohort was in 2015 to 2016, but only 12% of those 1.1 million individual learners took an additional HarvardX or MITx course in the following year. Second-year retention rates have declined with every cohort, from 38% in the first cohort to 7% in the 2016–2017 cohort. A growing global demand for ongoing learning from MOOCs that might have maintained a blue ocean strategy never materialized.

It was clear from the first few years of MOOC research that MOOCs disproportionately drew their learners from affluent countries and neighborhoods, and markers of socioeconomic status were correlated with greater persistence and certification ( Display footnote number: 6, 7 ). In 2012 to 2013, 80% of learners came from countries rated with high or very high United Nations Human Development Index ratings ( Display footnote number: 8 ). That proportion grew slightly through 2015 to 2016, so that the majority of new registrations and certifications came from the world’s most affluent countries (see the second figure). Rather than creating new pathways at the margins of global higher education, MOOCs are primarily a complementary asset for learners within existing systems.

Last, MOOCs’ low completion rate has barely budged (fig. S1), despite 6 years of investment in course development and learning research ( Display footnote number: 9 ). A strategy that depends on bringing new learners into higher education cannot succeed if educational institutions cannot support learners in converting their time and financial investment into completing a course to earn a credential with labor market value.



In light of these trends, financial sustainability for MOOC platforms may depend on reaching smaller numbers of people with greater financial means that are already embedded in higher-education systems rather than bringing in new nonconsumers from the margins.

In October 2018, edX became the last of the major MOOC providers to announce partnerships with universities to offer fully online professional master’s degrees ( Display footnote number: 10 ), 5 years after Udacity made the first such partnership with Georgia Tech. EdX’s move into fully online master programs was followed by their December 2018 decision—mirroring earlier decisions by Coursera and Udacity—to begin building paywalls around their previously freely available content ( Display footnote number: 11 ).

In these initiatives, MOOC providers will compete with well-established, for-profit companies in helping universities to outsource their online degrees. For two decades, a class of companies called “online program managers” or “school-as-a-service” companies—Pearson Embanet, 2U, and Wiley Education Services—have supported colleges in creating online degrees ( Display footnote number: 1 ). Universities choose how much of the total student experience to outsource to these providers, who offer services that include marketing and recruitment, admissions, online course management, curriculum design, and course instruction and assessment. School-as-a-service providers typically earn revenue by taking a fraction of the tuition of each student enrolled.

MOOC providers are reorienting to compete directly with these companies in one market segment: professional master’s degrees, credentialed by near-top universities, in fields with well-established return on investment, such as data science, computer programming, business, and related fields. The primary competitive advantage of MOOCs relative to established school-as-aservice providers involves cutting labor costs through automation. Many “traditional” online programs include small class sizes, synchronous sessions with instructors, and human-graded assignments. Many degrees offered by universities with the technology and support of Coursera and edX will be onehalf or one-quarter as expensive as typical U.S. professional online credentials, with the bulk of savings coming from a combination of larger class sizes, fewer or no synchronous sessions, reduced contact with instructors, and more autograded assignments ( Display footnote number: 12 ).

Because MOOC platforms support programs that look more like “traditional” online higher education, the literature on online learning can provide guidance. By most indications, students typically do worse in online courses than in on-campus courses, and the challenges of online learning are particularly acute for the most vulnerable populations of first-generation college students, students from low-income families, and underrepresented minorities ( Display footnote number: 13 ). If low-cost, MOOC-based degrees end up recruiting the kinds of students who have historically been poorly served by online degree programs, student support programs will be vital. Some recent research has explored online and text-message–based interventions for supporting these students, but most research suggests that human connections through advisers, tutors, and peer groups provide the most important student supports ( Display footnote number: 14 ). These human supports will push against lower tuition costs. MOOCbased degree providers may find that highly effective online learning for diverse populations costs about the same to provide as highly effective residential learning ( Display footnote number: 12 ).

MOOCs will not transform higher education and probably will not disappear entirely. Rather, they will provide new supports for specific niches within already existing education systems, primarily supporting already educated learners. The 6-year saga of MOOCs provides a cautionary tale for education policy-makers facing whatever will be the next promoted innovation in education technology, be it artificial intelligence or virtual reality or some unexpected new entrant. New education technologies are rarely disruptive but instead are domesticated by existing cultures and systems. Dramatic expansion of educational opportunities to underserved populations will require political movements that change the focus, funding, and purpose of higher education; they will not be achieved through new technologies alone.

Federal Workers Stage Protest March to the White House!


Dear Commons Community,

Federal workers staged a rally in Washington, D.C. yesterday culminating in a protest march on the White House (see video above) demanding that the government be re-opened..  As reported by Reuters:

“Hundreds of furloughed federal employees chanting “We want our pay!” marched on the White House on Thursday, the 20th day of a partial government shutdown over U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funding.

“Stop the shutdown!” protesters shouted in the bitter cold at the union-organized demonstration that started at the AFL-CIO headquarters and ended in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where they hoisted signs reading “Trump: End the Shutdown” and “Not a strike – we want to work.”

Some 800,000 federal government employees have been ordered to stay home or work without pay during the shutdown brought on by a standoff between Trump and Democrats in Congress over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall on the southern U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump, in a 2016 presidential campaign promise, repeatedly vowed that Mexico would pay for the wall. But he has said he will not sign any bill to reopen the government that does not provide wall funding.

Elaine Suriano, 62, a furloughed scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, said she would have to dip into her retirement savings if the shutdown continued and robbed her of yet another paycheck.

“It’s just clear that this administration doesn’t understand normal people and real life or they wouldn’t do this,” Suriano said.

In its third week, the shutdown of about a quarter of the federal government is the second longest since the mid-1970s. Trump has said it could continue for months or even years.

Many furloughed federal workers have turned to online fundraising outlets such as GoFundMe.com to help cover expenses from food to utility bills.

Mathew Crichton, 32, a furloughed Peace Corps employee, said uncertainty over how long the shutdown will last made it impossible to budget for food, lodging and other needs.

“It could go on another day, and it could go on more weeks. It could go on for months,” Crichton said. “It’s really a shame that I’m ready to go to work. I’m able to go to work and I can’t.” Protesters, many wearing neon green vests reading, “I am a worker. I demand a voice,” on Thursday demanded the government be reopened, separate from any debate over wall funding.

Smaller protests across the country – from Palm Beach, Florida, to New York City – had similar demands. In Ogden, Utah, dozens of out-of-work federal employees gathered to urge an end to the shutdown, some holding signs reading “I am TSA. I am furloughed. I am not a pawn. I’m a voter” and “800,000 unemployed. Hurts our family and our economy.”

Trump was not at the White House when the protesters arrived, having traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas.

The president has said he has the right to declare a national emergency if no deal with Congress can be reached on funding the border wall project.”

Dear President Trump declare an emergency and allow the federal employees to go back to work.


Video: Sears Roebuck Welcomed Blacks in the Jim Crow South!

Sears Welcomed African-American Consumers Living Under Jim Crow

Here’s how Sears became an ally to Black Americans living under Jim Crow

Posted by NowThis on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Dear Commons Community,

Sears Roebuck has been in the news lately mainly because of its financial problems and is near bankruptcy.  The video above shows another era in Sears history in the Jim Crow South.  It was sent to me by my colleague Patsy Moskal at the University of Central Florida.


Mayor Bill de Blasio Proposes Two Weeks Paid Vacation Be Required for Private Sector Workers!

Dear Commons Community,

Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged yesterday to make New York the first city in the nation to require private employers to provide at least two weeks of paid vacation to all employees.  If passed, the  proposal would cover about 500,000 workers who currently go without paid time off. The proposal, which requires City Council approval, comes a day after Mr. de Blasio announced a $100 million effort to help ensure that the city’s health care resources are used by the uninsured, including undocumented immigrants — a move that immediately set up a contrast with Republican leadership in Washington.

Mr. de Blasio appeared eager to billboard that contrast with both announcements, leading to speculation among political consultants in New York City that his larger aim leading up to his State of the City address on Thursday is to thrust his name back into the national conversation as a leader of progressive Democratic principles.

Mr. de Blasio did nothing to alter that impression during a news conference in City Hall, in which he presented his plan for paid time off as a link in the long history of workers’ rights initiatives going back to the New Deal. He said that he would travel the country “very soon” to encourage other cities and states to follow suit.

 “I’m focused on New York City, but I know what we do here could have a huge impact on the rest of the country,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I’m going to go out and talk about the things we’re doing here and the impact that they can make. I’m going to push other leaders to take on these ideas. I’m certainly going to push my party to support these kind of ideas.”

From almost the moment he became mayor, Mr. de Blasio has looked to extend his political reach beyond New York City, though his efforts have not always succeeded.

Now in the second year of his second term, the mayor seems to be renewing those efforts in earnest. He revealed the health care plan in a national television interview on MSNBC; he announced the paid vacation plan, which city officials say could benefit about half a million workers, in The Washington Post.

But while the promise on health care largely amounted to improving customer service for coverage that has existed for decades, the paid-vacation measure would be genuinely new. No state or city in the United States has such a requirement, according to City Hall, though Puerto Rico does guarantee paid time off.

The mayor presented a list of mostly European countries that he said require paid time off for workers.

Keep the proposals coming Mayor!