Wegman Report plagiarism doesn’t bother George Mason University officials

March 18, 2012

Over at Desmogblog, John Mashey details problems with George Mason University’s conclusions that plagiarism did not really occur in  a report written for Congress that plagiarized several different sources.

If true, not only did GMU violate its own policies on duration, but on process, because they have ignored numerous well-documented complaints, including about 4 papers with Federal funding.  This process involved VP Research Roger Stough, Provost Peter Stearns and President Alan Merten, so it was certainly visible inside GMU.

See No Evil,

Hear No Evil

Speak No Evil … except about Ray Bradley [the fellow who filed the plagiarism complaint], who has yet to receive any report.

The attached report enumerates the problems that GMU managed not to see, shows the chronology of a simple complaint that took almost 2X longer than specified by policy and finally produced an obvious contradiction. People may find GMU’s funding and connections interesting, including similarities and relationships with Heartland Institute.  Finally, readers might recall the WR was alleged to be an attempt to mislead Congress, so this is not just an academic issue.

No e-mails stolen to expose the problem, but still no action against those who deny climate change occurs and will plagiarize papers to make their point.  It’s a not-pretty pass.

I suspect reporters get MEGO syndrome reading the stuff, but Desmogblog points to real problems, real difficulties in science, that deserve to be covered better than they have been.

Go read Mashey’s report and follow the links.

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Rhodes Scholars for 2012

November 21, 2011

On November 19, 2011, the Rhodes Trust announced the 32 winners of Rhodes Scholarships for the United States for 2012.

These young people are among the smartest and most accomplished people of their generation.  Under the will of Cecil Rhodes, the developer of African railroads and colonist, Rhodes Scholars must demonstrate leadership and service, and they must be well-rounded, which usually means they are accomplished athletes in one area in addition to their academic acumen.

One of this year’s winners will have to bail out on the second year of his Teach for America commitment — one hopes TFA will understand.  Joshua Carpenter, a 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, taught writing, math and economics in Marion, Alabama.

Past American Rhodes Scholarship winners include former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, musician and actor Kris Kristofferson, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, former President Bill Clinton, late Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, physician and Pulitzer-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, and author Naomi Wolf.  Here’s the press release from the Trust:

WASHINGTON, DC/November 19, 2011 – Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, today announced the names of the thirty-two American men and women chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the United States. Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may allow funding in some instances for four years. Mr. Gerson called the Rhodes Scholarships,” the oldest and best known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates.” They were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those elected today will enter Oxford in October 2012.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by their college or university. This year over 2000 students sought their institution’s endorsement; 830 were endorsed by 299 different colleges and universities.

Committees of Selection in each of 16 U.S. districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview. Gerson said, “applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes. These criteria are high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor. These basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes’s hopes that the Rhodes Scholars would make an effective and positive contribution throughout the world. In Rhodes’ words, his Scholars should ‘esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim.’”

Applicants in the United States may apply either through the state where they are legally resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. The district committees met separately, on Friday and Saturday, November 18 and 19, in cities across the country.  Each district committee made a final selection of two Rhodes Scholars from the candidates of the state or states within the district. Two-hundred ten applicants from 99 different colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, including 15 that had never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship. Gerson also reported, “in most years, we elect a winner from a college that had never before had a Rhodes Scholar, even after more than a century. This year we are pleased to announce first-time winners from Bard College and from California State University, Long Beach.”

The thirty-two Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of Scholars chosen from fourteen other jurisdictions around the world. In addition to the thirty-two Americans, Scholars are also selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Approximately 80 Scholars are selected worldwide each year, usually including several who have attended American colleges and universities but who ae not U.S. citizens and who have applied through their home country.

With the elections announced today, 3,260 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships, representing 314 colleges and universities. Since 1976, women have been eligible to apply and 458 American women have now won the coveted scholarship. And for the fourth time since 1976, more women (17) than men (15) were elected. Men constituted 58% of the applicant pool and 60% of those who reached the final stage of the competition. More than 1,800 American Rhodes Scholars are living in all parts of the U.S. and abroad.

The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and the degree (B.A., master’s, doctoral) chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England. Mr. Gerson estimates that the total value of the Scholarship averages approximately US$50,000 per year, and up to as much as US$200,000 for Scholars who remain at Oxford for four years in certain departments.

The full list of the newly elected United States Rhodes Scholars, with the states from which they were chosen, their home addresses, and their American colleges or universities, follows. Brief profiles follow the list.

Selectees are listed here first by the state from which they competed, and then by the college they attended — note that the college may not be in the state from which the candidate competed.

American Rhodes Scholars-elect for 2012
(Subject to ratification by the Rhodes Trustees after acceptance by one of the colleges of Oxford University)

District 1

New Hampshire, Yale University
Ms. Helen E. Jack
Hanover, New Hampshire

Rhode Island Brown University
Ms. Emma F. LeBlanc
Manchester, New Hampshire

District 2

Massachusetts, Princeton University
Ms. Elizabeth W. Butterworth
Auburn, Massachusetts

Massachusetts, Brown University
Mr. David S. Poritz
Amherst, Massachusetts

District 3

New York, Princeton University
Ms. Miriam Rosenbaum
Bronx, New York

New York, Harvard College
Ms. Brett A. Rosenberg
Chappaqua, New York

District 4

Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College
Ms. Nina R.W. Cohen
Newton, Massachusetts

Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh
Mr. Cory J. Rodgers
Somerset, Pennsylvania

District 5 

Rhodes Scholar Brandon Turner, of Fontana, California, Wake Forest University

Rhodes Scholar Brandon Turner, of Fontana, California, Wake Forest University


Maryland/DC, Yale Law School and Bard College
Mr. Ronan S. Farrow
Washington, D.C.

North Carolina, Wake Forest University
Mr. Brandon E. Turner
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

District 6

Georgia, Stanford University
Mr. Ishan Nath
Atlanta, Georgia

Virginia, Brown University
Mr. Nabeel N. Gillani
Glen Allen, Virginia

District 7

Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Mr. Joshua D. Carpenter
Florence, Alabama

Tennessee, Sewanee: The University of the South
Ms. Carrie H. Ryan
Sewanee, Tennessee

District 8

Texas, Stanford University
Ms. Aysha N. Bagchi
Austin, Texas

Texas, Stanford University
Mr. Anand R. Habib
Houston, Texas

District 9

Indiana, Princeton University
Mr. Mohit Agrawal
West Lafayette, Indiana

Rhodes Scholar Victor Yang, of Lexington, Kentucky (Harvard University)

Victor Yang, from Lexington, Kentucky (Harvard University)

Kentucky, Harvard College
Mr. Victor Yang
Lexington, Kentucky

District 10

Rhodes Scholar Sarah Smierciak, Northwestern University - Chicago Tribune photo

Chicago Tribune photo - Northwestern University student and new Rhodes Scholar Sarah Smierciak speaks with the media on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston today. (StaceyWescott / Chicago Tribune / November 20, 2011)

Illinois, Northwestern University
Ms. Sarah N. Smierciak
Lemont, Illinois

Michigan, Harvard College
Mr. Spencer B.L. Lenfield
Paw Paw, Michigan

District 11

New Rhodes Scholar Alexis Brown, University of Wisconsin

New Rhodes Scholar Alexis Brown, University of Wisconsin

Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ms. Alexis K. Brown
Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin, Princeton University
Ms. Astrid E. M. L. Stuth
Hubertus, Wisconsin

District 12

Kansas, University of Kansas
Ms. Kelsey R. Murrell
Kearney, Missouri

South Carolina, Stanford University
Ms. Katherine Niehaus
Columbia, South Carolina

District 13

Colorado, United States Air Force Academy
Mr. Zachary A. Crippen
Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

USAFA Rhodes Scholar Zachary Crippen at Aspen Institute with Brent Scowcroft and others - USAFA photo

Aspen Institute Left to right; Cadet 1st Class Zachary Crippen (Rhodes Scholar), Cadet Squadron 12; retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, co-chairman of the Aspen Strategy Group; Dr. Schuyler Foerster, the Academy’s Brent Scowcroft professor for national security studies; Cadet 1st Class Peter Lind, CS15; and Cadet 1st Class Nathan Betcher, CS25, pose for a photo at the Aspen Institute Saturday (date not designated) (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Colorado, Harvard College
Mr. Samuel M. Galler
Boulder, Colorado

District 14

Washington, University of Washington
Mr. Byron D. Gray
Post Falls, Idaho

Washington, University of Washington
Mr. Cameron W. Turtle
Pullman, Washington

District 15

California, Brown University
Ms. Brianna R. Doherty
Carmichael, California

California, Stanford University
Ms. Tenzin Seldon
Albany, California

District 16

California, California State University, Long Beach
Ms. Stephanie Bryson
San Diego, California

California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ms. Stephanie Lin
Irvine, California

More details may be available at the Rhodes Trust website for the American group.

Profiles of Rhodes 2012 winners below the fold.

News coverage:

Why isn’t this a bigger deal in American news outlets?

Read the rest of this entry »


Texas House votes to maim education, cripple health care, send the aged off to ice floes

April 4, 2011

Where anyone can find an ice floe in Texas is a powerful question, but the search will be on to find some soon, if the budget approved by the Texas House of Representatives cannot be fixed.

Texas House Democrats sent out a notice shortly after the vote, explaining some of the cuts:

An hour ago, Texas House Republicans forced through some of the most destructive budget cuts in Texas history.  On a party line vote, 101 House Republicans trampled on the priorities of regular, middle-class Texas families. [1]

Tonight, Republicans voted to:

  • Eliminate 335,000 Texas jobs in both the public and private sectors, threatening our fragile economic recovery [2]
  • Lay off up to 100,000 teachers and school support workers, crowding dozens of kids into unruly classrooms [3]
  • Kick 100,000 kids out of full day Pre-Kindergarten [4]
  • Close half of the state’s nursing homes, leaving thousands of seniors with no place to go [5]
  • Create a ripple effect that will force local governments like cities, counties and local school districts to raise taxes [6]
  • Cut off access to financial aid for thousands of graduating high school seniors [7], while forcing up college tuition through cuts. [8]

They didn’t have to cut this deeply into the priorities set by most Texas families.  They chose to make the deepest cuts public education since the creation of our school finance system in 1949. [9]

For months, Republicans have been yelling “Cuts! Cuts!” and they have ignored the thousands of office visits, letters, emails and phone calls of average Texans protesting these hurtful cuts.

Democrats offered plenty of creative solutions that would keep schools open, spare nursing homes from closing, and keep our promise to graduating seniors who have worked hard for a chance to earn a college education. Republicans shot them down one by one in favor of deeper cuts.
Anybody can swing an axe and slash budgets across the board.  Texas needs people who can lead, set priorities, and protect those priorities.

Remember, Republicans chose to make these cuts. Help us hold them accountable for costing jobs, hurting families, and for choosing to sacrifice the future of too many Texas kids.

Sincerely,

Cliff Walker
Texas HDCC

  1. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=HB1
  2. http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Budget-cuts-could-slash-hundreds-of-thousands-of-1291051.php
  3. http://www.kvue.com/home/117522288.html
  4. http://www.newschannel10.com/Global/story.asp?S=14368977
  5. http://www.reporternews.com/news/2011/mar/09/democrats-cuts-will-hit-homes/?print=1
  6. http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/03/08/2906285/unfunded-mandates-from-the-texas.html
  7. http://blog.mysanantonio.com/texas-politics/2011/03/house-budget-writers-ok-bill-that-would-trim-23-billion/
  8. http://www.newswest9.com/Global/story.asp?S=14310923
  9. http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9MBC0PG1.htm

Fewer teachers when more are needed, bigger classrooms when smaller classrooms are needed, less health care in the state with the largest uninsured population of any state, the highest proportion of uninsured people.

Cleaver prop from YourProps.com

Texas Republicans chose the meat cleaver over the scalpel to try to balance Gov. Rick Perry's $27 billion deficit. Many cuts appear targeted to do the most damage possible to education and other "liberal" state functions. Cleaver prop from YourProps.com

Prisons, highways, state parks, and other programs suffered serious cuts, too.

Had a foreign power done this to Texas, it would be considered an act of war.  How will Texas citizens respond?

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High school juniors: Consider a college that will change your life

October 27, 2010

Here’s what I told my U.S. history students on the class blog; a few other people may find my views informative:

Okay, juniors!  You should be thinking hard about what you want to do, what you should do, and what you can do, after you graduate.

College?

Choosing a college can bring on all sorts of angst.

You worry about choosing the right college — the one that will advance you toward your dreams, the one where you’ll fit in (yeah, we all worry about that), the one that you and your family can afford, the one where you can cut it, and the one where you can shine.

I urge you to consider a group of colleges known collectively as Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL).

Several years an education guru, Loren Pope, wrote a book profiling 40 colleges that have reputations of making much better people out of the already good students they take in.  You’ve probably heard of some of these schools:  Reed College, in Portland, Oregon; St. Olaf’s College, especially for choir-minded people who don’t mind Minnesota weather; Austin College, in Sherman, Texas; Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; and a lot of others.  The book was titled Colleges That Change Lives.

The colleges had the good sense to see that they were in league with each other, as well as in competition with each other — and so they banded together to create a one-application process (though each has slightly different essay requirements).

Go to their website and take a look.  See especially whether they are having an open-house sort of get-together somewhere in Texas (we had to drive to Austin for our younger son — it was a great trip, and it helped him pick a school he hadn’t thought of before — we urged them to come back to Dallas).  (Oh — I checked.   They held these events in August – plan to be there next August; note that these events were before school started, so you’ll have to keep your own calendar over the summer to get there on time.)

These colleges mostly present just great places to get a good education, regardless the field you want to pursue (our son, James, did end up in one of the nation’s top physics programs, something he had previously thought he’d have to go to a giant university to get; there are happy endings, you know).  Which one is right for you?

I’ll wager that you’d be happy at more than a dozen of these schools. By the time you graduate from one, you’ll be convinced that you could not have made a better choice anywhere.

You’re not too late to start the process of college consideration; but you do need to get going soon.  College application deadlines for early decision come quickly when you’re a senior, and the schools want your apps before December 1 (or November, or October!).  Plus, next summer would be a great time to visit some of these schools.

I did not attend any of these schools, though I was heavily recruited by Lawrence University (then College), in Appleton, Wisconsin, where our younger son is now (they offered me a chance to play football, in a Division II school, which was awfully attractive).  I also would be happy to discuss my undergraduate school, the University of Utah, with you, or my graduate schools and their undergraduate programs, the University of Arizona and George Washington University.

I’ll be happy to tell you what I know about other schools I know a little about, too — the University of Texas-Dallas, where our older son graduated, or Georgetown, or American,  or Howard, in Washington, D.C., or what little I know of the ivies, or California schools like the Claremont Colleges — all excellent places to study, and get a great life from.

Take a look at the CTCL program.

It’s time you started thinking about what’s out there in the world, and how you’re going to prepare to live a great life.


Beloit College’s list: E-mail already passé to freshmen

August 18, 2010

If they knew what “old hat” meant, they might say that e-mail is old hat — but today’s entering college class of 2014 doesn’t regard e-mail as modern enough, nor much of other technology as fast enough.

Beloit College, in Beloit, Wisconsin, began to publish its profile of the cultural world of entering college freshmen in 1998.  The Mindset List originally aimed to help Beloit professors understand the views of incoming freshmen, with some hopes of bridging the ever-widening Generation Gaps between faculty and students.

Among other things, the Mindset List highlights the importance of teaching patient scholarship methods to students who have astonishing access to electronic information, though not necessarily better access to real knowledge; students need to learn the difference between data and information, information and knowledge, and knowledge and wisdom.

The newest Mindset List comes as one of the list’s creators will retire, an interesting footnote in historic attempts to understand rates of cultural change affecting college-bound kids.  Beloit’s public relations chief Ron Nief created the list with Prof. Tom McBride, who teaches modern students about Milton and Shakespeare.  It is unclear whether Nief will be able to retire from compiling or interpreting the annual Mindset List.  O tempora o mores!

We might assume that Nief had a hand in writing the Beloit College press release on the 2014 list:

Beloit, Wis. – Born when Ross Perot was warning about a giant sucking sound and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of this fall’s entering college class of 2014 have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. The Mindset List website at http://www.beloit.edu/mindset, the Mediasite webcast and its Facebook page receive more than 400,000 hits annually.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since “digital” has always been in the cultural DNA, they’ve never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them.  A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.

Here is the list of 75 touchstones of cultural change guaranteed to give you twinges of your own aging, even if you were in the class of 2010:

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

Most students entering college for the first time this fall—the Class of 2014—were born in 1992.

For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

5. Los Angelenos have always been trying to get along.

6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.

7. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

8. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

9. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus’s folks on Parents’ Weekend.

10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.

11. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

13. Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation.

14. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

15. Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

16. Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

17. Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection.

18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

20. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.

22. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.

23. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.

24. “Cop Killer” by rapper Ice-T has never been available on a recording.

25. Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.

26. Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

27. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.

28. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

29. Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.

30. “Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.

31. The first computer they probably touched was an Apple II; it is now in a museum.

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

33. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

34. “Assisted Living” has always been replacing nursing homes, while Hospice has always been an alternative to hospitals.

35. Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.

36. Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.

37. Whatever their parents may have thought about the year they were born, Queen Elizabeth declared it an “Annus Horribilis.”

38. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

39. Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

40. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.

41. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

42. Potato has always ended in an “e” in New Jersey per vice presidential edict.

43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

44. The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

45. They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.

46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

47. Children have always been trying to divorce their parents.

48. Someone has always gotten married in space.

49. While they were babbling in strollers, there was already a female Poet Laureate of the United States.

50. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.

51.  Food has always been irradiated.

52. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.

53. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn’t he?

54. The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy.

55. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.

56. They may have assumed that parents’ complaints about Black Monday had to do with punk rockers from L.A., not Wall Street.

57. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.

58. Beethoven has always been a dog.

59. By the time their folks might have noticed Coca Cola’s new Tab Clear, it was gone.

60. Walmart has never sold handguns over the counter in the lower 48.

61. Presidential appointees have always been required to be more precise about paying their nannies’ withholding tax, or else.

62. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

63. Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies.

64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.

65. They first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.

66. Galileo is forgiven and welcome back into the Roman Catholic Church.

67. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

69. The Post Office has always been going broke.

70. The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping.

71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

72. One way or another, “It’s the economy, stupid” and always has been.

73. Silicone-gel breast implants have always been regulated.

74. They’ve always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi Channel.

75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.

Beloit College ranks among the best small, liberal arts colleges in the U.S.  Beloit College is part of a consortium our family has some fondness for, the 40 colleges in the group Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL).  Every high school student should be aware of this group, and the methods developed to make application to several of these colleges easier (our son chose Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin).

This list highlights areas of potential ignorance teachers need to consider.  Notice there is little on the list about the Cold War, Vietnam, nor popular books.  The skew to technology includes an implicit skew away from some of the traditional ways we have transmitted culture to our children:  Newspapers, magazines, books, Broadway plays and musicals.  Even broadcast television is notable for the pop culture icons, and great changes in television viewing methods and habits.

The class of 2014 graduates a complete century away from the outbreak of World War I.  Their parents may not have known the administrations of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson — Richard Nixon and Watergate may have been learned only from history books, by their parents.

How much more distant is the class of 2018, who enter high school as freshmen this year — next Monday, in Texas?

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Which party encourages education in Texas?

June 28, 2010

You have the tools to compare the party platforms and determine for yourself which part supports education in Texas — I mean, really supports education, as opposed to using Doublespeak to profess support while angling to get a shiv in the back of education.

You can look at the 2010 Texas Republican Party Platform here.  There are brief mentions of education in other sections, but you’ll find education starting on page 12.  Texas Democrats put education up front, on page 2 (unofficial version, but the emphasis won’t change).

Education sections of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform appear immediately previous to this post, in eleven sections.

Which party is more favorable to educating our children well?


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Diversity

June 28, 2010

This post is tenth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

DIVERSITY

Texas Democrats support innovative approaches to ensure diversity in every Texas institution of higher education. We condemn intolerance on Texas campuses and encourage universities to develop and offer culturally diverse curricula, student activities, and student recruitment policies that promote understanding, respect and acceptance.


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Higher Education

June 28, 2010

This post is ninth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Texas Democrats believe all Texans should have the opportunity and be encouraged to pursue affordable higher education at public universities, community colleges, and technical schools.  Republican “tuition deregulation” – cleverly named to imply an easing of burdens – has dramatically increased the financial burden and forced many students from middle income families to take on substantial debt to avoid being priced out of college. Tuition policies threaten our ability to meet state “Closing the Gaps” goals essential to our economic future. To offer affordable access to higher education, we support:

  • restoration of formula contact hour funding to the level prior to Republican cuts, adjusted for inflation and student growth;
  • legislative rollback of tuition and fees to affordable levels to reflect the restored funding;
  • federal income tax credits for college tuition;
  • full funding of TEXAS Grants and reforming and reopening the mismanaged state Prepaid Tuition Program, to provide higher education to more Texans without excessive debt burden;
  • legislation to reduce the inordinately high costs of college textbooks, technical manuals and other instructional materials;
  • adequate compensation, security, professional status, and benefits for all faculty and fair market wages for college employees;
  • weapon-free institutes of higher education;
  • higher education research funding to spur economic development, including sufficient funding to locate a Tier 1 research and teaching university in every region of the state;
  • collaborative public/higher education partnerships from pre-K-16 to enhance learning and teacher preparation;
  • enhanced, equitable funding for Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern University and for higher education in South Texas and all border communities;
  • efforts to place a voting student regent on the appointed governing board of each state supported four-year institution of higher education; and
  • the continuation of the Texas DREAM Act.

U.S. Rhodes Scholars, 2009

November 23, 2009

Rhodes Trust’s American branch announced the 32 winners of Rhodes Scholarships in 2009′s competition.  List of winners and press release below – congratulations to the winners, and congratulations to all the finalists, each of whom probably deserved to win.

American Rhodes Scholars-elect for 2010
(Subject to ratification by the Rhodes Trustees after acceptance by one of the colleges of Oxford University)

District 1

Maine, Bowdoin College
Mr. William J. Oppenheim III
112 Rosebrook Road
New Canaan, Connecticut 06840

New Jersey, Brown University
Mr. Zohar Atkins
9 Melrose Place
Montclair, New Jersey 07042

District 2

Connecticut, Wesleyan University
Mr. Russell A. Perkins
1583 Ashland Avenue
Evanston, Illinois 60201

Massachusetts, Yale University
Mr. Matthew L. Baum
90 Jensen Road
Watertown, Massachusetts 02472

District 3

New York, Swarthmore College
Mr. Mark Dlugash
16 North Chatsworth Avenue, Apt. 210
Larchmont, New York 10538

New York, United States Military Academy
Ms. Alexandra P. Rosenberg
10 Liberty Street, Apt. 43B
New York, New York 10005

District 4

Delaware, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ms. Caroline J. Huang
10 Rising Road
Newark, Delaware 19711

Pennsylvania, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Mr. Henry L. Spelman
10 Woodbrook Lane
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

District 5

Maryland/DC, University of Virginia
Mr. Tyler S. Spencer
3408 Dent Place, NW
Washington, DC 20007

North Carolina, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ms. Ugwechi W. Amadi
113 Tulip Tree Drive
Camden, North Carolina 27921

District 6

Georgia, Harvard College
Ms. Grace Tiao
5162 Sunset Trail
Marietta, Georgia 30068

Virginia, College of William and Mary
Ms. Kira C. Allman
5223 Blockade Reach
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

District 7

Alabama, Auburn University
Mr. Jordan D. Anderson
5602 Club Lane
Roanoke, Virginia 24018

Florida, Harvard College
Ms. Roxanne E. Bras
602 Trumpet Place
Celebration, Florida 34747

District 8

Texas, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Ms. Elizabeth B. Longino
3243 Greenbrier Drive
Dallas, Texas 75225

Texas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mr. Steven Mo
418 Chickory Wood Court
Pearland, Texas 77584

District 9

Indiana, Harvard College
Mr. Darryl W. Finkton
4335 Shady View Drive, Apt. 2C
Indianapolis, Indiana 46226

Kentucky, University of Louisville
Ms. Monica L. Marks
99 East Star Hill Road
Rush, Kentucky 41168

District 10

Illinois, Stanford University
Mr. Daniel D. Shih
2710 Yorkshire Court
Aurora, Illinois 60502

Michigan, Harvard College
Ms. Jean A. Junior
2303 Somerset Boulevard
Troy, Michigan 48084

District 11

Iowa, University of Chicago
Ms. Stephanie A. Bell
3725 Greenbranch Drive
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265

Wisconsin, Harvard College
Ms. Eva Z. Lam
935 North 31st Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53208

District 12

Kansas, University of Pittsburgh
Ms. Eleanor M. Ott
1520 Crescent Road
Lawrence, Kansas 66044

Missouri, Truman State University
Mr. Andrew J. McCall
13204 Tablerock Drive
St. Louis, Missouri 63122

District 13

Colorado, Regis University
Mr. William D. Gohl
5345 Whip Trail
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80917

New Mexico, University of Arizona
Ms. Justine O. Schluntz
9203 Night Sky Lane NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87122

District 14

Montana, Columbia University
Mr. Raphael J.C. Graybill
401 4th Avenue North
Great Falls, Montana 59401

Washington, United States Military Academy
Ms. Elizabeth A. Betterbed
933 Gway Drive
Fox Island, Washington 98333

District 15

California, Princeton University
Mr. Henry R. Barmeier
13499 Chalet Clotilde Drive
Saratoga, California 95070

California, Yale University
Mr. Geoffrey C. Shaw
460 Bella Vista
Belvedere, California 94920

District 16

California, University of California-Los Angeles
Ms. Elizaveta Fouksman
3821 Hamilton Way
Emerald Hills, California 94062

California, United States Air Force Academy
Ms. Brittany L. Morreale
4128 Via Nievel
Palos Verdes Estates, California 90274

The press release:

WASHINGTON, DC/November 21, 2009 – Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, today announced the names of the thirty-two American men and women chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the United States. Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may allow funding in some instances for four years. Mr. Gerson called the Rhodes Scholarships, “the oldest and best known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates.” They were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those elected today will enter Oxford in October 2010.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by their college or university. Over 1500 students each year seek their institution’s endorsement; this year, 805 were endorsed by 326 different colleges and universities.

TRUSTEES
The Rt Hon Lord Waldegrave of North Hill (Chairman) The Lord Kerr of Kinlochard GCMG Miss Rosalind Hedley-Miller
The Rt Hon Lord Fellowes GCB GCVO QSO Mr Julian Ogilvie Thompson Professor John Bell
Mr Thomas W Seaman Professor Sir John Vickers Mr Michael McCaffery
WARDEN & SECRETARY TO THE TRUSTEES
Dr Donald Markwell

Committees of Selection in each of 16 U.S. districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview. Gerson said, “applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes. These criteria are high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor. These basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes’s hopes that the Rhodes Scholars would make an effective and positive contribution throughout the world. In Rhodes’ words, his Scholars should ‘esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim.’”

Applicants in the United States may apply either through the state where they are legally resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. The district committees met separately, on Friday and Saturday, November 20 and 21, in cities across the country. Each district committee made a final selection of two Rhodes Scholars from the candidates of the state or states within the district. Two-hundred sixteen applicants from 97 different colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, including 16 that had never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship. Gerson also reported, “in most years, we elect a winner from a college that had never before had a Rhodes Scholar, even after more than a century. This year we are pleased to announce a first-time winner from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.”

The thirty-two Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of Scholars chosen from fourteen other jurisdictions around the world. In addition to the thirty-two Americans, Scholars are also selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Approximately 80 Scholars are selected worldwide each year, including several non-U.S. Scholars who have attended American colleges and universities.

With the elections announced today, 3,196 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships, representing 310 colleges and universities. Since 1976, women have been eligible to apply and 424 American women have now won the coveted scholarship. More than 1,800 American Rhodes Scholars are living in all parts of the U. S. and abroad.

The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and the degree (B.A., master’s, doctoral) chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England. Mr. Gerson estimates that the total value of the Scholarship averages approximately US$50,000 per year, or up to as much as US$175,000 for Scholars who remain in Oxford for four years.

The full list of the newly elected United States Rhodes Scholars, with the states from which they were chosen, their home addresses, and their American colleges or universities, follows. Brief biographies follow the list.

For further information, please contact:
Elliot F. Gerson
American Secretary
The Rhodes Trust
8229 Boone Boulevard, Suite 240
Vienna, Virginia 22182
(703) 821-5960

On Sunday, November 22, Mr. Gerson may be reached for press and other calls at 202-288-1195 or amsec@rhodesscholar.org, except between noon and 6:30 PM Eastern time. Joyce Knight of the American’s Secretary’s Office will be able to provide details on how to reach Scholars-elect, and may be reached Sunday at any time at 703-380-7980. Beginning Monday, November 23, questions can be directed to the Rhodes Trust office in Vienna, Virginia, at 703-821-5960, or to Mr. Gerson at amsec@rhodesscholar.org.

Short biographical sketches of each of the scholarship recipients can be found at the Rhodes Trust site.

WASHINGTON, DC/November 21, 2009 – Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the
Rhodes Trust, today announced the names of the thirty-two American men and women
chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the United States. Rhodes Scholarships provide all
expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may
allow funding in some instances for four years. Mr. Gerson called the Rhodes Scholarships,
“the oldest and best known award for international study, and arguably the most famous
academic award available to American college graduates.” They were created in 1902 by
the Will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. The first class
of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those elected today will enter Oxford
in October 2010.
Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by
their college or university. Over 1500 students each year seek their institution’s
endorsement; this year, 805 were endorsed by 326 different colleges and universities.
TRUSTEES
The Rt Hon Lord Waldegrave of North Hill (Chairman) The Lord Kerr of Kinlochard GCMG Miss Rosalind Hedley-Miller
The Rt Hon Lord Fellowes GCB GCVO QSO Mr Julian Ogilvie Thompson Professor John Bell
Mr Thomas W Seaman Professor Sir John Vickers Mr Michael McCaffery
WARDEN & SECRETARY TO THE TRUSTEES
Dr Donald Markwell
NEWS RELEASE — THE RHODES TRUST — Page 2
Committees of Selection in each of 16 U.S. districts then invite the strongest applicants to
appear before them for interview. Gerson said, “applicants are chosen on the basis of the
criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes. These criteria are high academic achievement,
integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership,
and physical vigor. These basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes’s hopes
that the Rhodes Scholars would make an effective and positive contribution throughout the
world. In Rhodes’ words, his Scholars should ‘esteem the performance of public duties as
their highest aim.’”
Applicants in the United States may apply either through the state where they are legally
resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. The district committees
met separately, on Friday and Saturday, November 20 and 21, in cities across the country.
Each district committee made a final selection of two Rhodes Scholars from the candidates
of the state or states within the district. Two-hundred sixteen applicants from 97 different
colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, including 16 that had
never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship. Gerson also reported, “in most years,
we elect a winner from a college that had never before had a Rhodes Scholar, even after
more than a century. This year we are pleased to announce a first-time winner from Truman
State University in Kirksville, Missouri.”
The thirty-two Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international
group of Scholars chosen from fourteen other jurisdictions around the world. In addition to
the thirty-two Americans, Scholars are also selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the
nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya,
New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi,
Namibia and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Approximately 80 Scholars are selected
worldwide each year, including several non-U.S. Scholars who have attended American
colleges and universities.
NEWS RELEASE — THE RHODES TRUST — Page 3
With the elections announced today, 3,196 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships,
representing 310 colleges and universities. Since 1976, women have been eligible to apply
and 424 American women have now won the coveted scholarship. More than 1,800
American Rhodes Scholars are living in all parts of the U. S. and abroad.
The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and the
degree (B.A., master’s, doctoral) chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university
fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as
during vacations, and transportation to and from England. Mr. Gerson estimates that the
total value of the Scholarship averages approximately US$50,000 per year, or up to as much
as US$175,000 for Scholars who remain in Oxford for four years.
The full list of the newly elected United States Rhodes Scholars, with the states from which
they were chosen, their home addresses, and their American colleges or universities,
follows. Brief biographies follow the list.
For further information, please contact:
Elliot F. Gerson
American Secretary
The Rhodes Trust
8229 Boone Boulevard, Suite 240
Vienna, Virginia 22182
(703) 821-5960
On Sunday, November 22, Mr. Gerson may be reached for press and other calls at 202-288-
1195 or amsec@rhodesscholar.org, except between noon and 6:30 PM Eastern time. Joyce
Knight of the American’s Secretary’s Office will be able to provide details on how to reach
Scholars-elect, and may be reached Sunday at any time at 703-380-7980. Beginning
Monday, November 23, questions can be directed to the Rhodes Trust office in Vienna,
Virginia, at 703-821-5960, or to Mr. Gerson at amsec@rhodesscholar.org.

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Calculus as fun

October 1, 2009

I used to love math tests.  And math homework. When I knew the stuff, I’d start hearing Bach in my head and get into a rhythm of solving the problems (though I didn’t know it was Bach until much later — “Aha!  That’s the math solving music!”).

But eventually my brain ossified, before I got calculus into it.  I believe (this is belief, not science) that at some point rather early in life our brains lose the ability to pick up new math ideas.  If you don’t have most of the stuff you need already in there, you won’t get it.  I frittered my math ability away in the library and traveling with the debate squad, not knowing that I’d never be able to get it back.  In my dual degree program, I ran into that wall where I had five years worth of credits, but was still a year away from the biology degree with a tiny handful of core courses for which calculus was a prerequisite.  Worse, I was close to completing a third major.

And I’d failed at calculus four times.

So I graduated instead, didn’t go to grad school in biology.

Earlier this last evening I sat with a couple of new teachers in math at a parents’ night function for seniors.  They commiserated over trying to make math relevant for students.  One said he couldn’t figure out how history teachers survive at all with no mass of problems to solve at the end of each chapter (that was refreshing).

It’s a constant problem.

Then I ran into this story by Jennifer Ouellette at Cocktail Party Physics:

Db081022

Students need to feel inspired, particularly when it comes to a difficult subject. While I was at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics last year as journalist in residence, I got to know UC-Santa Barbara mathematician Bisi Agboola, who generously shared his own story with me. Bisi was educated in the UK and failed most of his math classes through their equivalent of high school. “I found it dull, confusing and difficult.” As a child, he was determined to find a career where he wouldn’t need any math, finally announcing to his skeptical parents that he would be a woodcutter. He was crushed when they pointed out that he would need to measure the wood.

But one summer he encountered a Time-Life book on mathematics –- Mathematics by David Bergamini -– that offered “an account of the history of some of the main ideas of mathematics, from the Babylonians up until the 1960s, and it captured my imagination and made the subject come alive to me for the very first time.” It changed his mind about this seemingly dry subject. He realized there was beauty in it. He wound up teaching himself calculus, and told me he is convinced most physicists also do this. Today he is a PhD mathematician specializing in number theory, and exotic multidimensional topologies. Ironically, he still doesn’t much like basic arithmetic: “I find it boring.”

Jennifer is writing a book on calculus, how it’s real-life stuff.  I hope it’s a great success.  I hope it works.  I hope some student is inspired to get calculus before her or his brain gets ossified.

More information:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Decrepit Old Fool.

Calculate how far you can send this message:

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James Whitcomb Riley, Jr.

September 6, 2009

Just learned of the passing of an old friend last December, Jim Riley.  Jim was a Ph.D. student and one of the assistant debate coaches of the great University of Utah debate teams of the middle 1970s.

He was also the guy who taught me how to properly light and smoke a cigar after we nearly won the Western Speech Association Debate Tournament at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque (1974?).  Lighting a cigar properly is a skill every gentleman should have, even those who do not smoke.  He was a great friend, a wonderful life advisor, and a normal guy in a time and place when normalcy was a rare virtue.

Riley invented the famous Riley Extension as a debater for Washburn University.  The Riley Extension is an argument towards significance of an affirmative case, usually, and is boiled down to two simple questions:  “So what?  Who cares?”

The Riley Extension is now a featured piece of analysis in many Advanced Placement courses in social studies, especially history where the answering of the two questions tends to make for much better essay answers.

Here’s the memoriam note from Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming.  Jim retired from Northwest in 2005, and held the position Emeritus Professor:

Jim Riley

August 18, 1943 — December 26, 2008

James Whitcomb Riley Jr., 65,  died Friday, Dec. 26, in Wellington, Kans.

Services were held Friday, Jan. 2, 2009, at 10:30 a.m. in the Nelson Performing Arts Auditorium at Northwest College.

Jim Riley, 1943-2008

Jim Riley, 1943-2008

James W.  Riley Jr. was born Aug. 18, 1943, the son of Dr. James Whitcomb Riley Sr. and Carolyn Crenshaw Riley in Oklahoma City, Okla. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Washburn University in Topeka, Kans. He attended three years of Law School at Washburn before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He served as a military policeman in Germany and Vietnam.

Jim returned to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, to earn his Master’s degree in Speech Communication where he also taught and coached forensics. Jim furthered his education at the University of Utah while continuing to coach. Jim later taught and coached forensics and debate at the University of Nevada Reno and Boise State University. In 1977, Jim began teaching at Northwest College in Powell.

On May 4, 1991, he was united in marriage with Laura (Barker) Hagerman. Jim retired from teaching at Northwest College in 2005 and later received the status of Professor Emeritus in the spring of 2008.

Jim was an avid outdoorsman. He had a passion for hunting, camping, cutting firewood and river rafting. His fondest outdoor adventure took him down the Grand Canyon with friends, family, and colleagues. Jim also enjoyed teaching, reading and spending time with family, friends and the family’s two dogs.

Surviving to honor his memory are his father, Dr. James W. Riley Sr. of Wellington, Kans.; wife, Laura Riley of Powell; daughter, Mallory Riley of Powell; sons Daniel Hagerman and his wife Abbey Hagerman of Laramie, Jeremy Hagerman and his wife Kelly Shriver of Olympia, Wash., Nathan Hagerman and his wife Melissa Hagerman of Anchorage, Alaska, and Taylor Riley of Powell; and three grandchildren, Mikayla Hagerman, Natalie Hagerman and Collin Poe.

Preceding him in death was his mother, Carolyn Crenshaw Riley, on Jan. 2, 2006.

In Jim’s honor, the James W. Riley Communications Scholarship fund was established to help provide quality, affordable education for students majoring in Communications at Northwest College. Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 high school GPA and must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA while attending NWC. Donations to the James W. Riley Scholarship can be made here .


Using Twitter in the classroom, for coursework

June 27, 2009

Older son Kenny nears graduation there, but we still get the newsletters to parents bragging on the school, and there is much to brag about.  The Good Folks at the University of Texas at Dallas asked us to share this story.  It’s right up the alley of a blog that worries about education, so share it I will.

After all, when was the last time you heard a teacher raving about students using their cell phones and Twitter during class? (Yes, I’m about three weeks behind the curve on this.)

Here’s the story from the press office at UTD:

ATEC Student’s Twitter Video Makes Waves

Project Documents History Prof’s Use of Popular Service as a Teaching Tool

June 11, 2009

An Arts and Technology student’s video account of a professor’s classroom experiment with Twitter is making waves on the World Wide Web, capturing thousands of viewers on YouTube and prompting an article in U.S. News & World Report.

UT Dallas graduate student Kim Smith’s video, “The Twitter Experiment,” shows how Dr. Monica Rankin, assistant professor of history in the School of Arts and Humanities, uses Twitter to engage her 90-student history class in discussion.  The communication application helps overcome the logistical issues involved in having scores of students interact in a short time span and encourages shy students to participate in the course.

“The video is a living example of what my Content Creation and Collaboration course with Dan Langendorf was all about: using emerging media technologies as a tool for education, collaboration with other fields, and documenting the experience for everyone to have access to,” said Smith.

Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that lets users send and read each others’ updates, known as tweets, in short posts of 140 characters or less.   The Twitter video was a course project for Smith’s digital video class.

The video, which took roughly 20 hours to record and edit, was shot during two class periods, one at the beginning of the semester and one at the end. Classmate Joe Chuang helped with the video and editing.

The collaboration of Smith and Rankin began when Smith documented a class trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, in 2008. They kept in touch via Facebook, and developed the idea of using Twitter in the classroom at the beginning of the Spring 2009 semester.

Smith worked out details on Twitter with Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC) faculty members Dr. Dave Parry and Dean Terry, who referred her to individuals who had done similar experiments.  To get students comfortable with using Twitter in a classroom setting, Smith created a simple how-to video and attended class to help Rankin introduce the idea to her students.

The video was first released on Facebook; Terry and Parry both tweeted about it on Twitter and it went global within 48 hours.  New-media icon Howard Rheingold tweeted about it, which helped it further circulate in the “Twitterverse.”

“I have gotten several direct messages from people saying that they were more ‘traditional’ and would not have considered using the social networking and micro-blogging tools in this way, but opened their minds after seeing the video,” said Smith.

A few weeks later Smith posted the video on YouTube, and an entirely different wave of viewers picked up on it.  On Monday, June 1, “The Twitter Experiment” registered 500 views in a few hours. Read Write Web and other popular blogs had picked up the video, causing views to skyrocket.

“I love my classes and experience at UT Dallas and want to master how to use what I learn in EMAC to help professors like Dr. Rankin, who are willing to consider new technologies intelligently and experiment with what they offer,” said Smith.


Media Contact: Karah Hosek, UT Dallas, 972-883-4329, karah.hosek@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, 972-883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

UTD, where the football team is still undefeated.  Seriously, have you thought about using twitter in class, for coursework?  Please tell us the story in comments.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering just how I could make this work, in a district where cell phone use by students is against the rules (ha!), and where students are discouraged from using laptops in class.  In Irving ISD, where every high school kid gets a laptop, this could offer some great possibilities (anybody from Irving reading this; anybody try it yet?).  I’ll have to check to see if our network can handle such traffic, and I’ll have to get an account on Twitter; we have 87 minute class blocks, and smaller classes, but it’s tougher to get kids to discuss in high school.

With the layoffs in Dallas ISD, support for new technology tricks in classrooms is essentially non-existent.  Can I do this as a guerrilla teaching project and make it work before I get caught?

I may have to get some of these people at UTD on the phone.  If you’ve already overcome these problems, put that in comments, too, please.


Heads up on student loans

June 20, 2009

Short note from Di Mortui Sunt:

Got student loans?  Did you know that the Federal government is changing the rules on the direct loans they give to students?  The two big changes are debt forgiveness, for those who meet certain guidelines, and new income based repayment plans.  If you’re about to get loans, you might want to wait til after July 10, when the new rules go into effect as the interest rate will be dropping and the size of the Pell Grant will increase.  Overview here and the official site here.

Official information from the U.S. Department of Education here.  You may want to check with the financial aid office at your college, too.  Gather ye lots of information while the gathering is good.


June 9, 1902: Woodrow Wilson elected president . . .

June 9, 2009

107 years ago today  Woodrow Wilson was unanimously elected president, of Princeton University in New Jersey, on June 9, 1902.

Wilson’s history is remarkable.  He is not the only university president ever to have been elected president of the United States — Dwight Eisenhower and Charles James A. Garfield also served in that capacity (any others?) — but his election to the Princeton post marked an unusual rise in an essentially non-political career that would lead Wilson to the White House through the New Jersey governor’s mansion.

Wilson’s thinking, writing and thinking about how to make colleges and universities more democratic, and therefore more useful as fountains of leadership for the nation, propelled him forward.  This makes him unusually American in the way he worked for national service, and so was called to higher service.

All details courtesy the Library of Congress’s American Memory “Today in History” feature:

  • “On June 9, 1902, Woodrow Wilson was unanimously elected president of Princeton University, a position he held until he resigned in 1910 to run for governor of New Jersey. As university president, Wilson exhibited both the idealistic integrity and the occasional lack of political acumen that marked his tenure as the twenty-eighth president of the United States (1913-21).”
  • “Wilson served on the faculties of Bryn Mawr College and Wesleyan University before joining the Princeton faculty as professor of jurisprudence and political economy in 1890. A popular teacher and respected scholar, Wilson delivered an oration at Princeton’s sesquicentennial celebration (1896) entitled ‘Princeton in the Nation’s Service.’ In this famous speech, he outlined his vision of the university in a democratic nation, calling on institutions of higher learning ‘to illuminate duty by every lesson that can be drawn out of the past.’”
  • “Wilson began a fund-raising campaign to bolster the university corporation. The curriculum guidelines that he developed during his tenure as president of Princeton proved among the most important innovations in the field of higher education. He instituted the now common system of core requirements followed by two years of concentration in a selected area. When he attempted to curtail the influence of the elitist “social clubs,” however, Wilson met with resistance from trustees and potential donors. He believed that the system was smothering the intellectual and moral life of the undergraduates. Opposition from wealthy and powerful alumni further convinced Wilson of the undesirability of exclusiveness and moved him towards a more populist position in his politics.”
  • While attending a recent Lincoln celebration I asked myself if Lincoln would have been as serviceable to the people of this country had he been a college man, and I was obliged to say to myself that he would not. The process to which the college man is subjected does not render him serviceable to the country as a whole. It is for this reason that I have dedicated every power in me to a democratic regeneration.
    The American college must become saturated in the same sympathies as the common people. The colleges of this country must be reconstructed from the top to the bottom. The American people will tolerate nothing that savors of exclusiveness.
    Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton University, “Address to Alumni,” April 16, 1910.
Woodrow Wilson, circa 1913 (in the Oval Office?) - Library of Congress image

Woodrow Wilson, circa 1913 (in the Oval Office?) - Library of Congress image


Fixing education at the top

June 9, 2009

No, Harold Levy doesn’t get it all right.  He’s a former chancellor of schools in New York City, so even if he did manage to get most what he says right, there would be enough people on the other side of some issue to say he did not, that if I compliment him too effusively, someone will say I’m wrong.

Among the greater products of the United States of America — and Canada, let’s face it — is the grand array of nearly 4,000 colleges and universities that set the pace for education in the world.  Our greatest export is education, the idea that education almost by itself can solve many great and vexing issues, the idea that education is a great democratic institution, and the education systems themselves, the methods of education used no matter how little backed by research.

Higher education makes up the better part of what we get right.

In an opposite-editorial page piece in the New York Times today Levy proposes some significant but eminently doable changes in how we work education in high schools and colleges.  Maybe surprising to some, he has good things to say about the University of Phoenix and their $278 million advertising campaign, about high-pressure tactics to reduce truants, and about the GI Bill.


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