Or, Be Nice, Not Machiavellian, in Professional Networking
Today, I led a discussion for the department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation’s Lunch & Connect series, which we run to keep people connected despite the pandemic. My meeting was titled: “Prepare to Act Naturally! … Or, Be Nice, Not Machiavellian, in Professional Networking.”
It’s that time of year again, where we start preparing our kids for the upcoming Civics End of Course Assessment here in Florida. So here are some decent resources from across the internet that you might find useful. Of course, we must always keep in mind that any review should begin with making sure your kids are familiar with the Civics Test Item Specifications, because it tells you, and them, exactly what they need to know.
We have written about these tutorials before, and they are the first resource I recommend for both instruction and review. They are excellent for a flipped classroom model as well. If you are planning on using them as a review resource, I recommend assigning students only the parts of the tutorials they need, and it would be more effective to perhaps set these up in learning stations across the classroom. You could require that students screen-capture or write down responses to the assessment elements in order to ensure completion and comprehension. (Please note that the site initially loads slowly for some reason!)
The recorded review sessions, available for free at the bottom of the FLVS page, do a good job covering elements of each of the four reporting categories that will be assessed on the EOC. Because they are about 2 hours long, you will want to preview each one and determine where you might want students to focus their attention. They may also provide you with a model for your own approach to classroom-based reviews. I especially appreciate how an effort is made to integrate assessment elements.
You will also want to check out the FLVS Civics EOC Practice test, which may be of use to you, though as with anything, you should decided how effective or appropriate it will be for your kids. Again, however, this shouldn’t be the first time that students are being exposed to these types and styles of items. Answers to the practice test items are available here. Note that answers are actually explained as well, which is an excellent element of review. I would suggest actually having students explain WRONG answers. If they can tell you why an answer is wrong, they should have a much easier time of figuring out why an answer might be right!
These are just a few of the quality review resources that you might find beneficial. If you have any additional resources to share, please shoot me an email or leave it in the comments! And don’t forget that we continue to offer our teacher professional development series on the ins and outs of civics instruction and effective classrooms!
When I met Andreas Weber ten years ago, I was amazed at his audacity in challenging the orthodoxies of Darwinism and conventional biology. Only later did I realize how much his thinking about living biological organisms has to say about the commons. Andreas is a theoretical biologist and ecophilosopher based in Berlin, Germany, who proposes that science study a mostly unexplained and radical phenomenon -- aliveness!
Andreas is my guest on the latest episode (#12) of my Frontiers of Commoning podcast this month. It’s a provocative 45-minute conversation that may have you re-considering some the nature of life, biological processes, and evolution.
Weber rejects the neoDarwinian account of life as a collection of sophisticated, evolving machines, each fiercely competing with maximum efficiency to be the fittest in the laissez-faire market known as “nature.” Instead, Weber outlines a different story of evolution, one in which living organisms are inherently creative and expressive in their struggles to thrive. This struggle is not just about competition, but about symbiotic, enduring cooperation.
This re-framing of the evolution story not only forces us to rethink how life emerges and evolves, but how our entrenched categories of thought about the political economy – nature as the template for our nasty, brutish free-market economy – is simply wrong.
For Weber, life and evolution cannot really be discussed without talking about the “subjectivity” and creative agency of all living organisms. That’s because life is not a collection of fighting machines; it’s a dynamic web of living organisms engaged in a creative drama of interdependency. The heart of the evolutionary drama, Weber insists, is the quest of all living systems to express what they feel and experience, and in so doing, adapt to the world and change it.
If I may crudely summarize Andreas’ thinking in a sentence or two: relationality, aliveness, subjectivity, and wholeness are central to the functioning of healthy living systems. But western, modern Enlightenment thinking (including conventional science) and capitalism don't get it. They are determined to disassemble wholes into their component parts, regard causation in fairly simple, mechanical terms, and to objectify life and assign it essential traits.
Andreas argues that this mindset is far too parochial. It helps explain why modern societies have failed to deal effectively with the pandemic, climate change, and other ecological crises. In a recent lengthy essay, Sharing Life: The Ecopolitics of Reciprocity, https://in.boell.org/en/2020/09/10/sharing-life-ecopolitics-reciprocity Weber – taking a cue from indigenous cultures – explains how a “new animism” could help reorient our perspectives in constructive ways. We might begin to see that we need to enter into the relationality of the world as active participants, and not presume, as scientists do, that we can truly be neutral, “objective” observers.
Weber’s essay proposes animism as a strategy to readjust humanities’ relationship to earth – the shared life of human and nonhuman beings. He argues that “the insistence of western culture to rely only on a material science and to declare aliveness an illusion is a colonization of the living cosmos, which severs humans from their aliveness and destroys the lives of other beings – humans and non-humans alike.” Animistic cultures, then, can help guide us through a process of “western self-decolonization” and a realization of a new conceptualization of the Anthropocene, in which human and non-human agency working together contribute to “a fecund earth.”
I was reading Arthur C. Brooks’ Lenten article, “What You Gain When You Give Things Up” without any premonition when suddenly I thought: I should give up blogging for a month or so. I was persuaded by Brooks’ argument that you shouldn’t just take breaks from things you regret or that cause you stress or other kinds of harm. From time to time, you should also stop doing things that you like and take pride in. He says, “sacrificing something for a short period effectively resets your senses to give you more pleasure from smaller servings of the things you love.” Even more strongly: “to enjoy [pleasures] optimally, we need time away from them.” (Note that he’s talking about activities, not people.)
I’ve been blogging here since 2002. Since about 2008, I’ve put all most posts on Facebook and then also tweeted them. For more than a decade, rather obsessively, I posted every single work day. I still enjoy blogging and get satisfaction from it. I don’t think I need a break from it. But Brooks’ argument applies, and I’m going to give it a try.
I don’t plan to post again until early April–with one likely exception. In my world, the Educating for American Democracy (EAD) National Forum on March 2, at which we will release our EADRoadmap, is a big deal. I may post about that or participate in debates that come out of it. It’s a free, open event, so please register to attend, and I’ll see you there.
You don’t want to miss the upcoming Equitable and Inclusive Engagement webinar hosted by Public Agenda, an NCDD member org, this coming Wednesday February 24th. The event will take place from 1-2:15pm Eastern, 10-11:15am Pacific. This segment will spotlight BIPOC Women Leading Disaster Recovery and the indispensable role they play in assisting their communities with what was needed in the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. This conversation is part of Public Agenda‘s FREE webinar series. Register here! Read more below about the event or find the original posting here.
Equitable and Inclusive Engagement: BIPOC Women Leading Disaster Recovery
Join Nicole Cabral, Associate Director of NY Engagement Programs at Public Agenda, in conversation with Maria Garrett, President of the Fresh Creek Civic Association in Brooklyn, New York; Myrtle Phillips, President of Grand Bayou Families United in Grand Bayou, Louisiana; and Daphne Viverette, former Community Development Director of the City of Moss Point, Mississippi.
Nicole will facilitate a conversation with these three leaders about the integral role they play in the recovery of their respective communities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
Maria Garrett is the founding member and first elected president of the Fresh Creek Civic Association in Brooklyn, New York. For over twenty-five years, Maria has been deeply involved in community building, conservation, and environmental resilience through her work with Flatland 7 and Flatland 8 Community Block Associations, United Canarsie South Civic Association (UCSCA), Community Board 18, the 69th Precinct and more. She resides in Canarsie with her husband and children.
Myrtle Philips was born and raised in Grand Bayou village in the bayou of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. She is the President of Grand Bayou Families United. As a Native American activist, she is dedicated to fighting for the community, even in the face of extreme environmental and political challenges.
Daphne Viverette is the former Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in the Office of Coastal Restoration & Resiliency, where she played an integral role in her community’s recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Her past work includes twenty-five years in a public service capacity implementing and administering local, state, and federal grants as Community Development Director at a Gulf Coast multiple government.
Nicole Cabral is the Associate Director for New York Engagement Programs at Public Agenda. She manages the Public Engagement team in the development and execution of projects on a variety of local and national issues.
For reasonable accommodation requests to attend this discussion, please contact Jennifer Orellana at email@example.com no later than Wednesday, February 17, 2021.
Princeton has $2.86 million in endowment per student, which would yield about $140k per year in interest for every undergraduate. Princeton could charge no tuition if its goal were to maximize accessibility. On the other hand, Princeton received 32,000 applications last year, so it could easily fill a highly-qualified class with people who could pay its full tuition price–or much more than that–if the university’s goal were to maximize tuition income. Princeton could also double or triple its size or create a new campus in another state or country if it wanted to maximize both accessibility and revenue.
Of course, a university sees itself as doing more than providing education. It also generates research, arts and culture, public service, etc. Every dollar that it collects from a student can go to those other purposes. But any endowment money that it spends on those other purposes could have gone to financial aid.
Meanwhile, prospective students also want a bundle of things, including prestige. Prestige comes with selectivity and sticker-price. Imagine you have a choice between paying the basic in-state tuition at UW-Madison ($10,725) or the same amount to Stanford after receiving financial aid. Stanford might look like a better deal, since its tuition sticker price is $55,473. It seems like you are being given $44k. However, it is unlikely that the marginal cost per student at Stanford is really 5.5 times higher than the cost at UW-Madison. More likely, Stanford knows it can charge a base tuition of $55k because many families will pay that much; and asking for less would be leaving cash on the table. Stanford with financial aid is arguably a better deal than UW-Madison’s full price, not because Stanford offers a better (or more costly) education in the classroom but because attending a college that is extremely selective and expensive looks better.
In short, the demand curve rises with price. The more other people pay for a given college, the more valuable it is to you, holding your own costs and the quality of the education constant.
It sounds as if college is a Veblen good, one that rises in perceived value the more it costs. But that logic does not exactly apply. If a college that regularly turns away 94% of its applicants decided to fill its seats with people who could pay full price, it would look less academically selective (as well as less diverse), and it would become less desirable. Many of the people who could pay to attend would now try to go elsewhere. In other words, if you pay full price, you are better off the more of your fellow students do not. Financial aid demonstrates that the college is selecting on criteria other than wealth. This is not typical of a Veblen good, which looks more desirable if only rich people buy it.
As Frank Bruni amusingly postulated, a college could win the prestige sweepstakes by deciding that no one was qualified for admissions. Bruni imagines the day when Stanford finally admits zero applicants:
At first blush, Stanford’s decision would seem to jeopardize its fund-raising. The thousands of rejected applicants included hundreds of children of alumni who’d donated lavishly over the years. …
But over recent years, Stanford administrators noticed that as the school rejected more and more comers, it received bigger and bigger donations, its endowment rising in tandem with its exclusivity, its luster a magnet for Silicon Valley lucre.
In fact just 12 hours after the university’s rejection of all comers, an alumnus stepped forward with a financial gift prodigious enough for Stanford to begin construction on its long-planned Center for Social Justice, a first-ever collaboration of Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the pedestrian bridge that will connect it to the student napping meadows.
One of the anomalies that Bruni is pointing to is that people who attended a college in the past now underwrite it voluntarily with their donations. Usually, you pay in order to obtain a good. Here, you get the good and then you pay for others to get it–in part so that it can be withheld from as many applicants as possible, thus raising its value even more on your own resume.
Good morning, friends in social studies and civics! Back in December, we here at the Institute launched a new webinar series linked, somewhat loosely. to our Civics in Real Life series. Did you miss any of them? Check out the upcoming March webinar with Dr. Kenicia Wright, and then scroll down to see what you may have missed! You can also view all of our archived webinars on our dedicated schooltube channel!
Coming in March!Representation Matters: A Discussion of the Effects of Diversity in American Politics and Education in the United States, with Dr. Kenicia Wright
As befits our time of converging existential crises, a number of new anthologies of essays are popping up to make sense of how modern industrial society got here and to propose coherent strategies for moving forward. Today I’d like to call attention to a fantastic collection of 29 original essays, The New Systems Reader: Alternatives to a Failed Economy, edited by James Gustave Speth and Kathleen Courrier and published by Routledge.
This 480-page book is a cornucopia of fresh, original thinking by leading thinkers and activists such as Gar Alperovitz, Tim Jackson, Michael Shuman, Ed Whitfield, Riane Eisler, David Korten, Richard D. Wolff, Kali Akuno, Aaron Tanaka, and J.K. Gibson-Graham.
Chapters cover a wide gamut of topics: social democracy and radical localism, the elements of a new, green economy, worker democracy, the Solidarity economy, cooperatives, participatory economics, reparative economics, and much more. (I have my own chapter on commoning as a transformative social paradigm.)
The Next System Project is an initiative of the Democracy Collaborative, which has long been showcasing the best research and strategic thinking about "visions, models and pathways that point to a 'next system' radically different in fundamental ways from the failed systems of the past and present...." So it's a pleasure to have so many diverse voices consolidated into a single volume.
“The starting point for this book,” writes the editors Speth and Courrier, “is the inability of traditional politics and policies to address fundamental challenges.” That’s why reading this book is so bracing – it squarely addresses the deep structural, political, economic, and cultural issues that must change.
In sifting through the diverse perspectives of contributors, the editors identify a number of shared premises, which I paraphrase here:
a shift of ownership and control to workers and the public
the imperative to protect the planet and its climate
democratically determined priorities in investment
the abandonment of growth and GDP as the focus of national well-being
equal justice and reparative justice to address systemic racism, and
greater popular sovereignty and economic democracy
For those who may wish to study these essays with a reading group or class, there is a useful 24-page study guide that accompanies The New Systems Reader. It’s by Thad Williamson, for the Democracy Collaborative, and a free PDF of the guide can be downloaded here.
I am working with Tufts colleagues who have backgrounds in civic engagement and engineering to investigate the use of technology in public meetings. Our goal is to develop software that can facilitate video coverage of meetings, enabling different levels of participation for remote participants. The software will be cheap and scalable–it will allow multiple people to use their phones to film the same meeting. Initially, the software will produce one automatically edited, live video-stream of the meeting, which is much cheaper than hiring a professional videographer/editor. Over time, the software will incorporate other features: ways for people not physically at the meeting to speak, links to documents, simultaneous translations, and even possibly fact-checking.
We are interested in understanding how meetings are run (before and during COVID-19), your experiences (if any) with using technology (e.g., Zoom, Facebook) for meetings, and how future technologies can benefit people.
The survey is meant for people who have some role in organizing or staffing public/community meetings. You must be at least 18 years old to participate. It does not matter whether you are a US citizen, but you must be in the USA when you take the survey.
Session: Introducing Inquiry in the Elementary Classroom: Equipping Young Student Historians!
Excite students by interacting with age-appropriate primary sources to grow a culture of inquiry. Create a thinking classroom where students work as junior historians by modeling a “historical mystery” replicated with other content and grades.
Session: Teaching Human Geography through Storytelling
Join the adventure! Explore the interaction of humans with the world, through the inspiring voices of National Geographic explorers.
Session: Digital Notebooking
Participants will learn some ins and outs (determined on what the group knows) of creating more interactive Google Slides for online learning.
Session: Transforming History Curriculum by Integrating Diverse Voices of America’s Past
Engage with strategies to integrate primary and secondary sources representing diverse voices in American History, leveraging library databases.