Archive for April, 2010


Washington Journal Q&A with DIY U Author Anya Kamenetz

Monday, April 26th, 2010

In this extended question and answer session on C-Span’s Washington Journal, Anya Kamenetz (Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education) discusses the future of higher education. Some combination of free and open courseware (such as the 1900 lectures and course materials available from MIT), along with an instructor- or tutor-guided learning experience, could provide an exciting new hybrid model of open education—one with lower costs and better outcomes. Just as rising tuition costs are closing doors for many prospective college students, the DIY U model is helping to open others.

From the C-Span video library:

Read the whole article here.

 
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WATCH: ABC News: A Generation of Debt

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Why has college tuition risen faster than any other good or service since 1978? Can alternative models of higher education fill the donut hole of self-motivated learners who want to get ahead but don’t have the means to pay for college and don’t want to take on massive debt?

In this clip from Anya Kamenetz‘s interview with Sharyn Alfonsi of ABC News, Anya looks at the skyrocketing costs of college tuition and the debt load being shouldered by this generation of college graduates.

From ABC News:

Read the whole article here.

 
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Raw Milk: Questions and More Questions

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

By David E. Gumpert

This article originally appeared on The Complete Patient.

Wisconsin legislation that would allow Grade A dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly from the farm has now passed both houses of the legislature by significant margins.

The legislation has all kinds of weaknesses from the viewpoint of Wisconsin dairy producers. By being limited to Grade A dairy farmers, it leaves out many small dairy producers that aren’t necessarily suppliers to processors. Moreover, it is time limited–would expire after next year. That means opponents will be pushing to find “problems” even before it gets fully implemented. And it will be implemented by the state’s notorious Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), which despises raw milk and raw milk producers.

Still and all, it is a start, and it is a start in a huge dairy state. It would enable a number of Grade A dairies that have been struggling under the iron fist of the DATCP to legally sell raw milk. Oftentimes. getting a legal foot in the door leads to bigger and better things down the road.

Gov. Jim Doyle will no doubt be pressured by dairy processors and public health types, not to mention his own DATCP, to veto the legislation. That’s what happened to SB 201 in California, which would have rescinded a stringent bacterial-count standard, and had passed the legislature by even larger margins than the Wisconsin legislation; Gov. Schwarzenegger gave in to the pressure and vetoed the legislation in late 2008.

But a lot has happened since 2008. Raw milk is ever more popular, and proponents more politically active. The key will be to convince the governor that the legislation is important to key segments of voters. If you’re for the legislation, give his office a call, 608-266-1212, and say it’s about SB434, the raw milk legislation.
***
A Pennsylvania dairy appears to be the target of an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into interstate shipments of raw milk.

Dan Allgyer, an Amish dairy farmer, had a visit Tuesday morning from two FDA agents, as well as federal marshalls and a state trooper. According to an account by Allgyer, the FDA agents presented a search warrant and said they had “credible evidence” Allgyer is involved in interstate commerce involving raw milk, which is a violation of federal law.

The farmer’s account of the events of Tuesday morning are presented on the web site of the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (NICFA).

It’s no secret that raw milk is pouring out of states that allow its sales–Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina–into East Coast cities like Washington, New York, and Boston, where it can’t be sold via retail outlets. It may well be that, following its typical modus operandi, as in the Max Kane case, the FDA is targeting a single producer for enforcement…hoping to use that example to scare off other producers and thereby reduce the supply.

Afraid not, guys. This trend is too far along. There are too many consumers desperate for their raw milk to let the FDA enforcers stop the supply. Maybe the enforcers will slow things down for a while. But I guarantee, it will pick right up. Strong demand always creates its supply. Economics 101.

***

We may receive actual “scientific’ evidence before long about the influence of raw milk on lactose intolerance. Stanford is conducting a presumably double-blind study to determine whether raw milk eases lactose intolerance, which is a problem for between 30 million and 50 million Americans.

If you live in the Palo Alto area, and have lactose intolerance, you may want to consider participating–you’ll earn an easy $250. The Stanford researchers seem not to be concerned about the explanation offered by the new semi-official web site, www.realrawmilkfacts, that “it would not be ethical to intentionally expose research participants to a high-risk product such as raw milk” as part of a scientific study.

A small study out of Michigan in 2007 showed as many as 80% of individuals suffering from lactose intolerance gained relief from raw milk.

 

Photo: Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle.

Robert Kuttner: Dems May Weaken Bank Reform to Get GOP Votes

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

By Robert Kuttner

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

The financial reform bill now pending in the Senate could be a huge win– for both restraining the excesses of Wall Street and for Democratic progressives — or Senator Chris Dodd could snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. The risk is a replay of the endgame of the healthcare battle, but in reverse: instead of Democrats hanging together and passing a bill with the president belatedly leading, we could see a hollow bipartisanship and a feeble bill.

On Thursday, there was an uncharacteristically fractious meeting of the Senate Democratic Caucus. On one side, leading progressives such as Maria Cantwell, Ted Kauffman, Dick Durbin, Byron Dorgan, and Jeff Merkley, argued that this was a moment to put forward floor amendments that would both strengthen the bill and force Republicans to take difficult votes either backing reforms or identifying themselves with Wall Street.

But the Banking Committee Chairman, Chris Dodd, was more inclined to try and strike deal over the weekend with his Republican counterpart, Richard Shelby, for a bipartisan bill. The price of this would be weaker provisions on derivatives, consumer protection, and on resolving failed large banks. The political price would be that progressives don’t get to offer floor amendments. Under Dodd’s scheme, which is favored by Obama’s legislative and economic advisers, the Senate would immediately vote to take up the bill, and would then vote cloture by a wide bipartisan margin. The bill — still a shell with details to be filled in later — would go directly to the House, where the House-passed bill would become the vehicle for the final measure.

This course would be an appalling abdication, and it would be stupid politics. The protestations by the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, that the Democrats are proposing a pro-Wall Street bill, have been ringing increasingly hollow. It’s Republicans who have been working hand in glove with Wall Street lobbyists. The problem is that so have several Democrats, including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Dodd’s response to the progressives was that he was not sure that he could count on fifty Democrats to back tough reform. That’s right — and one of the unreliable Democrats is Dodd himself. But the solution to that problem is to whip the wavering Democrats, as Obama belatedly did on health reform, not to cave in. And while Obama gave a fairly tough speech on Wall Street, he is not yet walking the walk when it comes to personally weighing in with Senate Democrats to hang tough. Having prevailed as a partisan on health reform, Obama is back in touch with his softer, bipartisan side. Not good news.

If the bipartisan strategy is adopted, both parties will declare victory and go home. Some of Obama’s advisers think this is smart politics because it gets financial reform off the table, and presumably gets it off talk radio because the Republicans will have been enlisted as partners. But think again. Anything that Mitch McConnell can support is not worth having. And if Obama’s tactical advisers think that passing a feeble bill will make the anti-Wall Street popular sentiment disappear, they are kidding themselves. Regular Americans will just see both parties as sellouts, and the tea parties will get new recruits.

What stands in the way of this bipartisan deal is the resolve of the Senate progressives and the personal dilemma of the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid. Senator Reid faces a very difficult re-election in Nevada this November. He needs to present himself as a fighter for the common American, not as an agent of Wall Street. If Reid weighs in hard on Dodd, and if Obama gets personally engaged, he can still head off a deal with Shelby and the Republicans for a backroom deal and a weakened bill.

It would be nice if somebody whose phone calls Obama still takes — Reid, Dick Durbin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi–broke through the wall that Rahm Emanuel has put up and got the president to play a personal role. Otherwise, this could be one of those dreadful lost moments of reform and progressive triumph.

Robert Kuttner’s new book is “A Presidency in Peril.”

He is co-editor of The American Prospect and a senior fellow at Demos

DIY U: The Accreditation Question

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

In a column today for the online edition of the Washington Post, blogger Ezra Klein wrote a short review of Anya Kamenetz‘s DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education in which he praised innovative approaches to higher education but worried that the accreditation factor would be too important for alternative education to appeal to any but committed “lifetime learners”:

But there’s a reason I didn’t drop out of UCLA despite the fact that I was learning more elsewhere: Accreditation matters. It matters more, in some ways, than the learning does. Just look at the pipeline that Ivy League English majors have into Wall Street firms. They’re not getting hired for their skill with a calculator or their feel for a trade. They’re getting hired because they have a diploma from Harvard.

Here’s Anya’s response:

This question assumes that the system of accreditation we have works well today, for the majority of people.
Actually, accreditation today works well for people like Ezra and myself who managed to get into and graduate from selective schools. This is by definition a small minority of people since “selective” means “lets in a small minority.”

It works less well for people who graduate from less selective schools.

It works extremely poorly for people who do not get degrees–often because they are poor and have to work more hours while they’re in, or instead of going, to school. They are cut out of a good percentage of decent-paying jobs. In fact, even in progressive circles there isn’t much public conversation about improving the quality of non-college jobs because the human capital policy we have assumes–”oh we’ll send more people to college so they can qualify for good jobs.”

This third group is a majority of Americans–just over 60 percent have less than an associate’s degree.

Read the entire Ezra Klein article here.

Read Anya Kamenetz’s complete response here.

 
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ANNOUNCING: A New Partnership Between Chelsea Green and Northshire Bookstore

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Chelsea Green Publishing is embarking on a unique new partnership with a very special local indie: Northire Bookstore. In exchange for a prominent display in the store, Chelsea Green will provide the bookstore with books on consignment. The deal would reduce the wasted energy involved in shipping and returning books, and cut out middlemen remainder dealers. It’s an experiment that builds on our personal relationships with booksellers that should prove to be mutually beneficial.

From Shelf Awareness:

Under a new partnership between publisher Chelsea Green and Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., the publisher will provide books to Northshire on consignment in exchange for a prominent display of Chelsea Green Books. In addition, the bookstore will feature “Chelsea Green Author Events” with multiple authors appearing to promote the content and vision of the two companies.

“The current book business paradigm is limiting to bookstores and publishers,” said Chris Morrow, owner of Northshire Bookstore. “It is time to become true partners in selling books.”

Margo Baldwin, publisher of Chelsea Green, observed: “This branded area partnership is the only model that works to preserve and enhance the vitality of both indie publishers and indie bookstores. They need to move into alliances that support one another and build on local economies and shared communities and mission. We look forward to showing the rest of the industry that all is not doom and gloom if you can carve out authentic human relationship and build on it.”

Read the whole article here.

 
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Sy Montgomery: On the Book Tour Trail

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Cross-posted on Sy Montgomery’s Amazon author blog.

What a great send-off for new books! Last week, just as BIRDOLOGY and KAKAPO RESCUE were published, I visited Washington DC twice—and was astonished and delighted at every turn.

The day after BIRDOLOGY came out, I had the great good fortune to appear live on the Diane Rehm Show. I love the show, and very much enjoyed reading Diane’s brave and moving memoir, FINDING MY VOICE. The show has a huge fan base back home in Hancock, NH. The day of the show, our next-door neighbors, Bobbie and Jarvis Coffin, held a “Diane Rehms Coffee” so 16 friends and neighbors could all listen to the interview together—and simultaneously watch the chickens who star in the book’s first chapter from the back window.

Alas, Diane was actually not in town the day of my interview. It seemed she had been called away on some other errand rather suddenly, as I didn’t learn till I was just about to go on the show that she wasn’t there. But happily Diane’s frequent co-host, Susan Page, took over beautifully. Even though she hadn’t had time to read my book, she conducted the interview with warmth and grace, armed with a page of good questions carefully prepared by the show’s staff. (You can hear the show by clicking on the link on our webpage, www.authorwire.com, and go to “Sy in the Media”) The next day, my editor at Free Press emailed with amazing news: within five hours of the show’s airing, the sales rank on amazon.com for the newly-published BIRDOLOGY had soared from number 2,192 to number 112!

More blessings awaited me when I returned to Washington two days later. At a ceremony at National Geographic Society, The Children’s Book Guild presented me with its Award for Nonfiction. This was a huge honor. The Guild is an association of published authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians and scholars who have promoted high standards in children’s literature since 1945. The night before the ceremony, Guild president Abby Nolan gave a dinner party at her lovely home so I could meet some of the good folks on the board and the awards committee. The next day, I felt I was already among friends. But it was still almost overwhelming to stand on the stage of the National Geographic auditorium and receive the award, a cube of leaded crystal, and a specially commissioned portrait, of me with my beloved pig, Christopher Hogwood, and bird friends, painted by Frederick Maryland artist Kate Fortin. Here is a picture of the portrait:

By way of thanks, I gave a powerpoint filled with images of snow leopards and tree kangaroos, tarantulas and red-sided garters, cloud forests and deserts, photographed by my frequent collaborator, Nic Bishop. It was Nic who got me into writing for children. I told the audience how, after I had appeared on a panel at a conference at the New England Aquarium in 1998, Nic came up to me, looking something like I usually do unless I am dressed for a formal occasion: like he had just been hiking in a forest, or woken up under a pile of leaves. Nic could have been an ax murderer for all I knew. But when he asked me if I might want to write the children’s books that would feature his photographs of animals around the world, I had only one request: that he send me some examples of his work.

The moment I lay eyes on Nic’s photos, I knew our collaboration would work. His images were gorgeous, original, and revealing. But far more important to me, the animals he photographed were clearly relaxed. All too many wildlife photographers harass the creatures they photograph by pursuing them too closely, confining them against their will, or stressing them with hot lights. (This is why, for instance, so many photos of bats show an animal with a face full of pointy, scary-looking teeth: the bats are terrified and bravely bare their teeth in an effort to get the horrible predator to desist!) Reptiles and insects often get even worse treatment in the hands of the animal papparazi: photographers have been known to refrigerate these cold-blooded creatures, which renders them too sluggish to flee. But Nic’s photos show the time and care he takes with his subjects to make sure they are relaxed and happy when he takes their portraits. And this has the added benefit of showing these animals as they normally are—not looking terrified or defensive, but relaxed and curious and full of good spirit.

With our first book for kids, THE SNAKE SCIENTIST published in 1999, Nic and I founded Houghton Mifflin’s Scientists in the Field Series, which has expanded to include many other talented authors and to which we contribute as often as we can. KAKAPO RESCUE, beyond a doubt our most dramatic and emotional book for children to date, joins that series this spring. I was delighted to share some of Nic’s striking images of this rarest and strangest of parrots with the audience.

Should I go on? From Washington, I took the train to the Philadelphia Free Library Festival, which was beautifully organized. And as I had in Washington, I was able to connect with beloved friends. So far, the new books have allowed me to visit with friends from my mother’s home state of Arkansas, with classmates from college, with in-laws (some of whom came from New York to be with me in Washington for the CBG ceremony), with colleagues from the newspaper where I used to cover science and the environment and with members of the church that was the center of my life at my second high school in Westfield, New Jersey. (One of my best friends from that church is now a minister! And another took pictures of the ceremony and sent them along to fellow alumni of the church!)

Joyous reunions like these are in store for me over the next two months. My book tour takes me to California—where I’ll reconnect with the bird rehabilitator who raised the orphaned baby hummingbirds I write about in one chapter of the new book— and to Seattle, where I’ll stay with the dolphin-lover and memorist Brenda Peterson, author of I WANT TO BE LEFT BEHIND. I’ll be able to visit with friends in Denver, Boulder, Chicago, Columbus and more. And of course one of the blessings of such travels is the opportunity to make new friends, especially kindred spirits who love birds and other animals as much as I. My schedule is posted on authorwire.com. Hope to meet you along the way.

Cap-and-Refund: A New Approach in the Senate To Putting a Price on Carbon

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

This Earth Day, the fortieth anniversary of the first Earth Day, is the perfect time to recognize our need to reverse course and begin the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources of energy.

The most promising of the climate change legislation proposals being batted around the Senate isn’t the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill, but rather a more straightforward and equitable proposal put forth by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

Simply put, the CLEAR Act would place a cap on carbon emissions from major polluters beginning in 2012, progressively lowering the cap each year thereafter. The great majority of the revenue collected from these polluters would be returned to US citizens in the form of a monthly check. It’s what Peter Barnes (Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide) calls “cap-and-dividend.” Cantwell calls it “cap-and-refund,” which would probably be easier to sell to the American people. President Obama calls it “an elegant solution.”

From Environment360:

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, conducted by New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert, Senator Cantwell recently spoke about her proposal.

Yale Environment 360: Could you just briefly run through what you consider to be the major elements of the legislation?

Maria Cantwell: Well, you want something, first of all, that the American people can understand. They know intuitively that we need to get off of carbon and onto clean energy. That’s what you see in all sorts of surveys of the American people. And they intuitively know that it will create green jobs. What they want to know is, what does the transition look like? And how do you minimize the economic impact?

e360: Could you just a talk a little about what exactly the bill will do?

Cantwell: We try to achieve that transition period with the least impact to the economy as possible and keep consumers whole. So it’s simple, in the sense that it says, let’s start with a gradual reduction of carbon at 0.25 percent a year, and have a gradual increase in that level of reduction every year — but a very predictable level. But do so by having something that doesn’t rely on trading platforms and allowances and giveaways that have been the downturn or the implosion of the U.S. economy of late. But instead have those who are responsible for putting carbon into the atmosphere actually have to come and purchase a permit to continue to do so, knowing that they are going to have to meet these reductions. So it sets a process of getting off of carbon by meeting these goals and [protects] consumers with a rebate check from the auction.

e360: So we auction at the first moment where you have a carbon emitter?

Cantwell: About 2,000 or 3,000 [sources that] are putting fossil fuels into the economy. It’s very upstream. A lot of the proposals have been downstream, impacting lots of different industries, impacting lots of different people. And I think that’s what we have seen Europe do, and we can learn from Europe. We don’t have to replicate the mistakes they’ve already made.

Read the whole article here.

 
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Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day—Join the March on Washington

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Let your voice be heard! On Sunday, April 25, the Earth Day Network is organizing a massive climate rally to show Washington we’re serious about passing meaningful climate change legislation. There will be live music from Sting, The Roots, Willie Colón, celebrity speakers like Avatar director James Cameron, and a free bus to the event. There are plenty of open volunteer slots, too!

From EarthDay.org:

The Earth Day CLIMATE RALLY – National Mall – Sunday, April 25, 2010

The 40th anniversary of Earth Day is quickly approaching, but the United States has failed to enact a comprehensive climate bill.

It is time to stop protecting polluters and enact comprehensive climate legislation that will create American jobs, cap carbon emissions and secure our nation’s future. The first Earth Day was a success because 20 million Americans demonstrated their outrage for the state of the environment. Together, we can make Earth Day 2010 a pivotal moment in the environmental movement.

On Sunday, April 25, Earth Day Network will organize a massive climate rally on The National Mall to demand Congress pass strong legislation. The Climate Rally will include notable speakers Reverend Jesse Jackson, film director, James Cameron, AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, Olympic gold medalist, Billy Demong, producer, Trudie Styler, author, Margaret Atwood, NFL player and television personality, Dhani Jones, environmental photographer Sebastian Copeland and many more.

The Climate Rally will also feature live music from Sting, John Legend, The Roots, Jimmy Cliff, Passion Pit, Bob Weir, Willie Colón, Joss Stone, Robert Randolph, Patrick Stump, Mavis Staples, Booker T, Honor Society and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger.

For more information, including how to RSVP for the event, visit EarthDay.org.

 
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The Virtual University

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The American Prospect (home of best-selling author Robert Kuttner, coincidentally) is running an excerpt adapted from Anya Kamenetz‘s DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. Check out “The Virtual University.”

From The American Prospect:

For most of the thousand years or so since it was invented, a university education was thought to be suited for only a tiny group — a ruling class or a subculture of scholars. Today, nine out of 10 American high school seniors say they want to go to college. Since World War II, this country has turned higher education into not only a mass-market product but the best hope of achieving a middle-class income. Sending your kids to college is now part of the American dream, just like homeownership. And like homeownership, it’s something for which we have been willing to go deeply into hock.

Faith in the universal power of higher learning is at the heart of modernity. From enhancing our basic humanity to preserving culture, from developing our economy and technology to redressing ills like global warming and AIDS, there are very few needs for which more education has not been prescribed. As H.G. Wells famously put it, “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

Young people worldwide are caught between the spiraling cost of college and an apparently bottomless hunger for it. According to a 2009 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), today 150 million students are enrolled in some kind of education beyond high school, a 53 percent increase in less than one decade. With such numbers, there is no foreseeable way enough traditional universities could be physically built in the next two decades to match the demand.

Meanwhile, here in America, the birthplace of mass higher education, we are stalling in our educational attainment while the rest of the world is roaring ahead. In the U.S., about 30 percent of high school students drop out, and just 56 percent of college freshmen complete their bachelor’s degree after six years, 150 percent of the time allotted. Only a little more than a third of Americans end up with any kind of college degree. For more than a century, arguably the world’s most educated nation, we’ve now fallen behind nine others. Unlike citizens of every other rich country except Germany, Americans in their late teens and early 20s are no more educated than older generations.

Read the whole article here.

 
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