List of Press Articles

Author Adam Gopnik's views of news and the world
Event Date : 12/08/2016
By

Patrick L. Sullivan

The Lakeville Journal

/secure/images/gallery1/137-WxC9yNERpdRy.JPGFALLS VILLAGE — Adam Gopnik, a self-described “reluctant pundit” for The New Yorker magazine, got into the punditry business in a rather oblique manner.

Gopnik spoke at Housatonic Valley Regional High School Friday, Dec. 2, as part of the Salisbury Forum series of talks.  Video

Gopnik and his wife were living a hand-to-mouth existence in New York City in the mid-1980s.

They had upgraded their living quarters — from a small room on the Upper East Side that featured insects, to a small loft downtown that was infested with mice.

Gopnik got a phone call from “John” one evening.

John, from the Pluralism and Individualism Conference, was calling to remind Gopnik that he was the keynote speaker at the conference the next morning.

Gopnik had no memory of this.

“So I did what I always do — played for time.”

He figured out he was expected to speak for about 30 minutes.

Gopnik said he figured that “pluralism and individualism” were sufficiently large concepts that he could work in something about modern art — which he actually knew about.

The next morning he slid quietly from the apartment so as not to wake his wife, put on a suit and made his way to the Doral Hotel — which he described as “a little piece of Cincinnati” in mid-town Manhattan.

To his surprise, the ballroom was filled — at 8 a.m. — with well-dressed people congregating under a large banner that read “Pluralism and Individuality ’85.”

“So I just started talking.”

Afterward, John approached him and said, “Thank you. That was very healing.”

“To this day I have no idea who those people were,” said Gopnik. “But they were healed by my words.”

Another surprise was the check John handed him — for $1,000.

“That was a lot of money for us.”

Gopnik went back to the mice-ridden loft, where his wife, Martha, was still asleep.

He told her, “You will not believe what happened while you were asleep.”

Being young, the couple decided to splurge on a fancy meal that cost $500 — half the speaking fee.

After this wonderful experience, they returned home — to find the mice had taken over.

“There is nothing as sobering as seeing your loft overrun with rodents. It was the tipping point.”

Gopnik had an insight. “It seemed that our relationship to New York City was similar to that of the mice to the loft. We inhabited it, but never really owned it.”

The couple stayed at a friend’s house that evening, and never looked back.

“That was my first experience with punditry,” Gopnik said.

“And tonight is the second.”

Defining ‘echo chambers’

In 1986 Gopnik got a job with The New Yorker. One of his assignments was the “comment” part of the “Notes and Comment” section of the magazine.

The New Yorker was not very political at the time, he said. “We had one position: We were against nuclear holocaust.”

Gopnik, by his own admission, was not very good at “comment.”

“It ought to take a direct route. I was still in the Pluralism and Individualism phase.”

He was eventually relieved of those duties and found his niche at the magazine.

But the advent of the online edition changed the situation. There were more contributors, more pieces and the material was posted online on a daily and even hourly basis.

Gopnik had one issue he felt strongly about: gun control.

A Canadian by birth, and cosmopolitan by experience and temperament, “I learned there were lots of options” for how societies structured themselves.

His father, who lives on a farm in Ontario, “is a raccoon shooter.”

But he follows the law, which means licensing and qualification requirements, similar to those involved with driving a car.

So he found the American attitude toward firearms — a Constitutional right — “bizarre.”

So he began writing about gun control.

In the process he discovered something about punditry.

“You never convince anyone of anything.”

He acknowledged that a great deal of punditry consists of “preaching to the choir” and said he believed that the phenomenon of “echo chambers,” in which people tend to read only material they agree with, is a problem.

Nonetheless, Gopnik said he thinks punditry is still a worthwhile activity.

“How many times have we changed a strong conviction?” he asked . “Once, twice in a lifetime?”

But people do change their minds about seemingly intractable issues, such as gay marriage.

“It happens through osmosis, from the ground up.”

Evolution, slavery

To effect that sort of change requires breaking taboos. Merely broaching the topic is enough to get the ball rolling.

The effective pundit, working against taboo or tradition, must use facts and evidence and avoid appeals to emotion, Gopnik said.

He pointed to Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln as masters of rhetoric, who calmly and methodically built their respective cases from facts.

This could be fascinating in and of itself. Gopnik said a contemporary publisher looked at Darwin’s manuscript for “On the Origin of Species,” which begins with a lengthy examination of the breeding of dogs and pigeons.

The publisher asked if Darwin was willing to publish just the dog and pigeon parts, and skip the long part about evolution.

Lincoln’s Cooper Union address begins with “a detailed analysis of which signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution had ever voted on slavery issues.

“It’s about as exciting as reading a report from an insurance adjuster,” Gopnik said. “It would be tedious even for public radio.”

But Lincoln was preparing the ground for his primary point: that slavery had always been a national issue, and was not a regional matter.

Gopnik said both Darwin and Lincoln were relying on empirical facts that were available to anyone.

“It was a new kind of eloquence.”

Gopnik said he tries to apply this to his opinion writing.

As he looks forward to the incoming administration of Donald Trump, he said he will try to emulate his hero, Albert Camus, who was writing editorial comment in post-war Paris.

Camus’ work took “what is human without abstract passion.”

“Camus was saying, don’t discard your inner critic — embrace it.”

And Camus was particularly wary of “the abstraction of ideology — the deadly habit of abstraction.


 

“And that speaks to the moment we’re in now: with speech not intended to persuade, but speech that recognizes we are beautifully plural … and entirely individual.”


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Event Date : 10/28/2016

NPR correspondent Anne Garrels spoke about her new book, “Putin Country,” at Salisbury School on Oct. 21 as part of the Salisbury Forum series. Photo by Alexander Wilburn


SALISBURY — “I have no easy answers,” NPR Senior Foreign Correspondent and author Anne Garrels announced to a packed auditorium at Salisbury School. 


Her talk on Friday, Oct. 21, was part of the Salisbury Forum series. She was there to speak about her new book, “Putin Country: A Journey into The Real Russia.” 


The topic drew such mass interest that Route 44 was jammed that evening with a long line of cars attempting to enter the boys boarding school. Inside, every seat was filled. 


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Garrels tells why Putin appeals to Russians
Event Date : 10/21/2016

NPR correspondent Anne Garrels spoke about her new book, “Putin Country,” at Salisbury School on Oct. 21 as part of the Salisbury Forum series. Photo by Alexander Wilburn


SALISBURY — “I have no easy answers,” NPR Senior Foreign Correspondent and author Anne Garrels announced to a packed auditorium at Salisbury School. 


Her talk on Friday, Oct. 21, was part of the Salisbury Forum series. She was there to speak about her new book, “Putin Country: A Journey into The Real Russia.” 


The topic drew such mass interest that Route 44 was jammed that evening with a long line of cars attempting to enter the boys boarding school. Inside, every seat was filled. 


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How to save American liberal education, at Salisbury Forum talk to open season
Event Date : 09/29/2016

/secure/images/gallery1/134-3ww0u7viX1Pg.JPGSALISBURY, Conn. — Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said the academy is in part to blame for failing to make the case for liberal education’s value to the larger society.


She spoke to an audience at Salisbury School on Friday, Sept. 23, in a talk sponsored by the Salisbury Forum.


Pasquerella said politicians, from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to President Barack Obama, who call into question the value of higher education in general and liberal education in particular, are going wide of the mark.


By emphasizing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses, advocates create a “false dichotomy.”


Employers, she said later in the program, seek graduates with critical thinking skills as well as technical ones.


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Iran and how it got that way
Event Date : 04/27/2016
The Lakeville Journal

SALISBURY — Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet saw the 1979 revolution firsthand.

/secure/images/gallery1/129-Bl6HltNsxTPA.JPGShe was a schoolgirl at the time, watching American television shows and going to a school located in a part of Tehran where protests erupted.

She came to the United States in 1981 at “a touchy moment” — the end of the hostage crisis.

Enrolled at The Hotchkiss School, she recalled, “I was never insulted for being Iranian.”

Kashani-Sabet, now a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke at the Salisbury School on Friday, April 15, as part of the Salisbury Forum lecture series.

Speaking so rapidly that the audience had to ask her to slow down, Kashani-Sabet gave an overview of Iran’s history from the end of World War II, the short-lived Pahlavi dynasty and how the country’s internal affairs were mixed up with Cold War foreign policy and the lingering effects of colonialism.

U.S. missed the signs

She said the American government, preoccupied with the USSR, did not pick up on “the tremors of Islamic unrest.”

As Islamic agitation increased in the late 1940s, the American ambassador described it as “minor discourtesies.”

In Iran there was an uneasy equilibrium between the Western-oriented shah and supporters of the regime, and religious conservatives.

Kashani-Sabet said that the Americans did not pay attention to internal Iranian politics, and failed to understand the sense of territorial vulnerability.

“The 1950s were a curious contrast between violence and tranquility.”

Under prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, in power from 1951 to 1953, the Iranian parliament nationalized the assets of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

This led to an American- and British-engineered coup in 1953. The coup strengthened the shah’s power as constitutional monarch.

But as the shah’s grip tightetend, the unrest mounted. In 1957, the secret police, SAVAK, was formed, with American help, to deal with dissidents.

At the same time, American cultural influence increased. In 1958 the first television station in the Middle East went on the air in Tehran, with a heavy dose of American programming.

“I grew up watching Sesame Street,” Kashani-Sabet said. “We had ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ and Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett honeymooned in Iran.”

By 1962 SAVAK had 24,000 members. In the 1960s, Marxist parties were outlawed.

There were political prisoners, although not as many as some accounts suggest. Kashini-Sabet said between 3,000 and 4,000 is an accurate figure.

“In reality, Iran was pretty good on due process in the early 1970s.”

“Going back to the 1950s, there were clear inklings that a significant swath of the population had ideas about social reality” that were informed by religion.

The unraveling begins

Growing up, Kashani-Sabet said it was understood that one was not to “say anything bad about the shah or his family.”

In 1971, the American embassy noted in a report that Iranian youth was increasingly religious and increasingly critical of the U.S. and its role in Iranian affairs.

“I don’t know what happened to this report,” she said. “It doesn’t get mentioned a lot.”

Unrest was centered in the universities. Students were arrested, and by 1975 Iran was officially a one-party state.

The catalyst for the end of the shah’s reign was the Aug. 19, 1978, Cinema Rex fire in Abadan.

Controversy about the arson fire continues to this day, with the death toll —Kashani-Sabet cited 377, with reservations — still disputed.

The secret police were blamed — although it is possible, she said, that Islamists may have set the blaze.

In any event, the fire was seared into the minds of the populace. “Any Iranian living at the time recalls this.”

The fire gave the opposition considerable momentum — especially since it occurred on the 25th anniversary of the 1953 coup.

“Black Friday,” Sept. 8, 1978, saw a demonstration in Zhaleh Square (where Kashani-Sabet’s school was located) put down in a bloody manner.

She said the death toll was under 100, but the number of casualties grew in subsequent retellings to “hundreds of lives.”

“It changed the tenor of the revolution.”

The shah left the country in January 1979, and the monarchy was dissolved officially by February 1979.

With the radicals ascendant, the revolution reached the boiling point on Nov. 4, 1979, when students took over the U.S. Embassy and the opposition “coalesced around [Ayatollah] Khomenei,” the Shiite cleric.

The shah was in the U.S. for medical treatment, and the hostages were held for 444 days.

Kashani-Sabet said the embassy takeover and the fall of the shah “was seen as a bookend to the Mosaddegh affair.”

Seeking greater clarity

Today, Iran remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, she said (borrowing from Winston Churchill). The recent nuclear deal offers “the possibility of a less contentious relationship,” she said, as well as a “path to a Middle East realignment.”

During the question period, Kashani-Sabet was asked the difference between an Iranian and a Persian.

“Persian” refers to an ethnic group, she replied, while “Iran” is a land mass.

Asked about Iran’s ambitions after the nuclear deal, Kashani-Sabet said the image of Iran as a regional power is “fairly recent” and connected to the development of nuclear energy and weapons.

“But Iran has been the victim of territorial encroachment” going back to 1907, and “Iran has staunch opposition from Arab countries.”

Are relations between the U.S. and Iran improving? Will the recent nuclear agreement help?

Kashani-Sabet said she is “cautiously optimistic” about the agreement, and that relations are somewhat improved — although much depends on how the influence of the “hardliners” is countered.

“The reformers are louder and more visible — but they are not free.”


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Event Date : 03/10/2016

RALPH NADER TALKS AT THE SALISBURY FORUM

 Millbrook Independent
 
by Tonia Shoumatoff
 
Sun Mar 6th, 2016
 

 


Ralph Nader


 “We are seeing a mass stupefaction of the electorate because it’s profitable for the companies who sponsor material that caters to the huge proliferation of false statements which are called news channels,” said Ralph Nader at a lecture on March 4 at the Regional High School in Falls Village, CT.  


When asked about what he thought of the GOP candidates descending into crass speech during their debates he said: ” None of them is qualified even to be dog catcher. A society that thinks politics is a dirty word should not be surprised when they are overcome by dirty politics.”  He said that it is a poor commentary on our election process that citizens groups are totally left out of the debates.


Speaking to a packed auditorium with standing room only and people cramming the balcony, Nader drew the Forum’s largest crowd ever.


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Nader urges citizen vigilance Thu, 03/10/2016 - 9:38am Falls Village
Event Date : 03/10/2016

FALLS VILLAGE — Consumer advocate, lawyer and activist Ralph Nader spoke at Housatonic Valley Regional High School on Friday, March 4, as part of the Salisbury Forum lecture series, drawing what Salisbury Forum President Leon Graham dubbed “the largest crowd in Forum history.” Nearly every chair in the high school’s 500-seat auditorium was filled, and cars were double-parked on the front lawn. 


/secure/images/gallery1/126-mkyL8eET8MIt.JPGNader, 82, dressed in his trademark dark suit and sneakers, gave a wide-ranging talk that lasted nearly half an hour longer than scheduled. The five-time presidential candidate urged the audience to “make civic action a hobby” — which, by his estimate, equals an annual commitment of $200 to $500. If 1 percent of Salisbury residents donated that sum of money each year, Nader said, the town would be able to fund and staff its own congressional watchdog office.


“Think about how many committed birders there are in the world,” he said. “How many committed Congress-watchers are there? Congress is just as important as birds, and if we don’t take care of Congress, we won’t have any birds left anyway.” 


He/secure/images/gallery1/127-zsiqFfWVpdaA.JPG spoke about the importance of holding powerful entities accountable for their actions — and dedicating time and energy to public causes rather than simply voicing discontent. 


“It’s not enough to know what the injustice is,” he said. “You need to have the fire in your belly.” 


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Ralph Nader to speak at Salisbury Forum March 4
Event Date : 03/05/2016
leong@lakevillejournal.com

SALISBURY — Few drivers can even imagine owning a car without seat belts, airbags and antilock brakes. Yet 50 years ago, cars had none of these safety features. They were marketed for horsepower, fins and power steering.


All that changed when a 31-year-old lawyer published “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a chilling critique of the auto industry’s refusal to make cars as safe as possible. Using Chevrolet’s new Corvair model — with its rear engine that unbalanced the car and encouraged spinouts — as his main example, Ralph Nader’s book was a bestseller. More importantly, it embarrassed a reluctant Congress into acting: It created a national safety agency that eventually became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Nader, who will speak at a Salisbury Forum on March 4, is a native of the Northwest Corner. He was raised in Winsted and attended its semi-private Gilbert School. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton, then enrolled at Harvard Law School, where he began to research auto safety. He has said that by his second year at Harvard he already wanted to get a law passed to protect drivers.


After publication of his book, Nader knew how to press his case with the media. But the biggest breakthrough came when General Motors was caught using private investigators to follow him. Connecticut Sen. Abraham Ribicoff called GM’s investigation an effort to smear Nader, the company apologized and settled with Nader for $450,000, which he used to fund the first of many public interest organizations he has founded.


Of course, many people now think of Nader as a five-time candidate for president. He has run as a write-in candidate, as the Green Party candidate twice and as an independent twice, most memorably in the “hanging chad” election that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court awarding Florida, and the presidency, to George W. Bush.


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Those Daring Young Men In Their Flying Machines
Event Date : 01/21/2016
patricks@lakevillejournal.com

MILLERTON, NY. — A crowd of almost 300 people filled the two downstairs theaters at The Moviehouse on Sunday, Jan. 17, for a showing of the documentary film “The Millionaire’s Unit — U.S. Naval Aviators in the First World War.”


Filmmakers Ron King and Darroch Greer and writers Geoff Rossano and Marc Wortman were on hand to answer questions afterward.


The film was presented by the Salisbury Forum.


It covers the story of a group of young men at Yale University who formed a private aviation militia prior to the American entry into the war, in 1917.


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The flyboys from Yale, in film at Forum
Event Date : 01/15/2016
The Lakeville Journal

/secure/images/gallery1/117-4pTjzZPdrxwD.jpgSALISBURY — They were 12 young, rich, privileged students at Yale, where classical education emphasized the duties of a country’s elite. When war broke out in Europe in 1914, they formed an aero club at their own expense to train as pilots. And when the U.S. entered the war in 1917, they were among the first to volunteer for the Naval Reserve and go to Europe to try to destroy German submarine bases. Their comrades called them The Millionaires’ Unit.


On Sunday, Jan. 17, at The Moviehouse in Millerton, The Salisbury Forum will present a new  award-winning documentary film that tells the story of these young men and how their experiences in the war altered not only their lives, but the future of military aviation, warfare, even foreign policy.


Created by friends Ron King (a grandson of unit member John M. Vorys) and Darroch Greer, the film draws on “The Millionaires’ Unit,” a book by Marc Wortman. Extensive research at Yale, the Library of Congress, even the Imperial War Museum in London gave the filmmakers insights into the importance of the Unit. And they filmed World War I planes at air museums in the U.S. and in Europe.


But the most touching parts of the film come from the fliers’ own words in letters home — told by family members and historians (Bruce Dern narrates the documentary). If there is a model for “The Millionaires’ Unit,” it must be the best films of Ken Burns, the ones that draw you inside lives, with all their triumphs and sorrows.


World War I was not the heroic conflict Unit fliers expected. More than 17 million people died, 116,000 of them Americans. Whole towns and villages were decimated. Mustard gas and mud replaced the valor of earlier wars. And while the fliers from Yale, and eventually Harvard and other top Eastern colleges, never succeeded in destroying German U-boat bases, they proved aviation could be a critical component of future warfare. 


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Architecture critic Goldberger at Forum
Event Date : 01/13/2016
The Lakeville Journal

/secure/images/gallery1/116-jUhUxhUQ4hT3.jpegSALISBURY — Architecture is the art that is around us and with us every day. We live in and with the built environment. It has the power to perplex, anger, enthrall, delight, even awe us; its effects set the tone of cities across the globe, the way their people live, and reflects what matters to them and their cultures.


On Dec. 11, The Salisbury Forum will present Paul Goldberger, the country’s most influential writer on architecture, explaining “Why Architecture Matters.” Goldberger was only 34 in 1984 when he won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. The award was created in 1970, and its first winner was another architecture critic, the great Ada Louise Huxtable of The New York Times. Huxtable, as Goldberger has pointed out, made architecture — good, bad, indifferent — “part of the public dialogue.”


Goldberger, a Yale graduate, began his career at The Times, following in Huxtable’s footprints. But he is a quite different writer, who recognizes that the quality of buildings and projects can be somewhere between good and bad. He renders his views in clear, poetic, often witty prose, trenchant rather than mordant. His opinions are founded on his near encyclopedic knowledge of facts and history.


After leaving The Times, he was the architecture critic of The New Yorker from 1997 to 2011. He served as dean of Parsons, The New School of Design, from 2004 to 2006, and continues to hold a chaired professorship at The New School. He is currently a contributing editor of Vanity Fair. 


Goldberger’s love of cities, particularly New York, is evident in his many books, which range from a consideration of the Hamptons in “Beyond the Dunes,” vertical buildings in “On the Rise” and the rebuilding of Ground Zero in “Up From Zero,” a bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. Among his many awards and prizes is the Medal of Honor from the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation, which called his writing “the nation’s most balanced, penetrating and poetic analyses of architecture and design.”


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Buckley's plan to end 'unacceptable dysfunction' in government
Event Date : 10/09/2015
By


Patrick L. Sullivan
The Lakeville Journal
 SALISBURY— James L. Buckley said the solution to congressional dysfunction requires ending the grants-in-aid approach to federal spending, and restoring the proper balance of responsibilities (as specified in the 10th Amendment to the federal Constitution) between the federal and state governments.
Buckley spoke at Salisbury School on Friday, Oct.2, as part of the Salisbury Forum series of talks.


The former United States senator and senior federal appelate judge has a book on the subject, “Saving Congress from Itself,” and delivered a snappy and amusing half hour to the nearly full house.


He said that few Americans realize the extent to which the federal government reaches into state and local matters.


In the first 145 years of the republic, the United States code — the whole of federal law — was contained in one volume.


By 1970, when Buckley entered the Senate, it was 11 volumes, and today it is 34 volumes, with 235 additional supplements containing 175,000 pages of regulations “that have the force of law.”


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Movies That Matter At Forum
Event Date : 06/10/2015
Leon Graham
The Lakeville Journal



A group of high school students give up social media for 10 days. Another interviews local police about brutality. Still another wonders about the relationship between police and the Latino community.


Their findings, like those of students at two other high schools, are related in short documentary films shown at The Moviehouse in Millerton on Sunday, June 7, sponsored by The Salisbury Forum and The Moviehouse’s Millerton Movieworks.


The films are the result of a yearlong curriculum called the Civic Life Project, which uses the power of filmmaking to encourage students to select topics of community concern, research them, then conduct on-camera interviews and edit the hours of footage into a real film.


Created by award-winning documentarians and experienced teachers in 2009, the curriculum has resulted in powerful films about high school rape, drug usage, government surveillance of citizens, even personal redemption by students after trouble with the law.


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First-hand report, from NASA to Forum, of life on Mars
Event Date : 05/07/2015
By


Patrick L. Sullivan


patricks@lakevillejournal.com


FALLS VILLAGE — Mars was once habitable, said NASA’s Florence Tan at the Salisbury Forum Friday, May 1, at Housatonic Valley Regional IMG_0624High School.


But don’t book your trip just yet.


Tan is the energetic, fast-talking SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) Electrical Lead Engineer working with the group that is manipulating Curiosity, a scientific craft that landed on Mars in 2012.


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Salisbury Forum: For Africa There Is Hope
Event Date : 03/06/2015
By
Patrick L. Sullivan


patricks@lakevillejournal.com


FALLS VILLAGE — If Americans think of Africa, they think of disaster and disease, according to David de Ferranti, a former World Bank executive who now runs a nonprofit called Results for Development.


What Americans miss are the success stories — such as the 780 million people raised out of poverty since 1981.


De Ferranti spoke at Housatonic Valley Regional High School as part of the Salisbury Forum series of lectures on Friday, Feb. 28.


“We are all saturated, inundated, impressed and depressed by the images from developing countries,” he said.


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'Cash for Kids': When zero tolerance goes too far
Event Date : 02/12/2015
By
Patrick L. Sullivan


The Lakeville Journal
MILLERTON — Filmmaker Robert May spoke at a question-and-answer session after a screening of his 2013 documentary “Kids for Cash,” about a scandal in Luzerne County, Pa., in which two judges were caught receiving money from a private juvenile detention facility.


But the film is about much more than that.


The screening was a presentation of the Salisbury Forum to a standing-room-only crowd at the Moviehouse in Millerton on Sunday, Feb. 1


May said that during the making of the film, “I realized early on there is a bigger story here — it’s about how we treat kids.”


Judge Mark Ciavarella was elected — twice — on a platform of being tough on crime in general and juvenile offenders in particular. The film shows his television campaign ads and clips of speeches he gave at public schools.


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Salisbury Forum: 'The American Dream is still working'
Event Date : 11/20/2014
By
Patrick L. Sullivan


patricks@lakevillejournal.com
SALISBURY — Amy Chua and Jeb Rubenfeld maintained that the combination of a sense of superiority combined with deep insecurity and impulse control are why certain ethnic, cultural and/or religious groups do well in the United States.


The husband and wife duo from Yale Law School spoke at the Salisbury Forum on Friday, Nov. 14, at the Salisbury Congregational Church. They were promoting their new book, “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.”


The American Dream


Rubenfeld began by describing the state of play in America.


“It’s a mixed story,” he said, citing the mediocre performance of American students on international tests.


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'Palliative care of a dying institution'
Event Date : 10/16/2014
By
Patrick L. Sullivan

The Lakeville Journal

LAKEVILLE — Richard Elmore had some startling observations about and predictions for American education at the Salisbury Forum program Friday, Oct. 10, at The Hotchkiss School.

Among them:
  • American schools are in the process of being marginalized because learning has “escaped” from them.
  • American teachers cannot do what they are being asked to do.
  • The best way to provoke a political crisis in Sweden is to make the case that the schools there are almost as bad as America’s.
Elmore is the Gregory R. Anrig Research Professor of Educational Leadership at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

He began by describing teaching in the U.S. as “an occupation trying to be a profession without a practice.”

A profession, he continued, controls entry into its ranks; does not delegate responsibility for professional standards to a government or other outside agency; develops and maintains standards that have to do with practice and knowledge.

In a dozen years of touring schools in the U.S., Canada and Australia, Elmore has been trying to “create a profession in education.”

He spent time with physicians in a teaching hospital “to try and understand how to create a culture of professionalism.”

He watched instructional rounds in the teaching hospitals, wondering how the practice could be adopted to teaching.

And he went to schools — lots of them. Elmore estimated he visited 500 schools and 2,500 classrooms in the U.S. and hundreds in Canada and Australia over the last 12 years.

He was thinking along the lines of establishing a practice in education that would gather data; describe what happens in classrooms; and make predictions.

And he developed a clinical, self-assessing model of organizations. But, he said, “I’m stepping away from this now. The more I got into it, it was becoming a radicalizing experience.

“I felt I was doing palliative care for a dying institution.”

‘Crushing mediocrity’

Elmore described the general pattern in American classrooms: “The dominant pattern is crushing mediocrity. Students are achieving a small fraction of what we know they are capable of.”

He put the blame for this on the restrictions placed on American schools.

“It’s something we do to ourselves.”

He said that the problems lie more in social capital differences than in “patterns of institutional practice.”

He said of American teachers: “We have dedicated people in public schools. They think they are doing important work. They are not qualified to do the work we are asking them to do. We have a monumental human resources problem we have refused to acknowledge, and the solutions to this are radical and politically distasteful.”

Elmore said that cognitive neuroscience, once a “backwater of psychology,” is now attracting significant resources. “We have growth in knowledge on how people learn.”

But because education is not a profession, there is “no bridge between knowledge and practice;” there is no clinical connection as in a teaching hospital — and no threat of losing a license to practice if a teacher is unable to meet professional standards.

“Because of this we are not making use of what we know about learning.”

In favor of digital teaching

Elmore then began talking about digital culture as a medium of learning. He predicted that digital learning will increase exponentially, traditional schooling much less so.

Why?

Elmore described the school environment as “cells, bells and hallways.”

“If you were starting from scratch the last place you’d go is a school.”

One major flaw in traditional schooling, he believes, is that knowledge and information have to pass through a single adult before reaching the student. There is no redundancy built into the system.

So if there is a misconception on the part of the teacher, it goes straight to the student.

“It’s a miracle this system has survived,” Elmore said. “It has survived because it’s a monopoly with political influence.

“Meanwhile digital culture is largely unregulated. It doesn’t care about having a single authority.”

School is like the post office

Elmore said he can imagine a situation in which the educational system transforms itself.

“But we have given the organization privilege. It’s not going to go away soon.

“The longer this goes on, the more it looks like the post office: a utility that will probably always be there, that employs people;but the volume and efficiency of movement of information has outpaced the post office. Same with schools.”

Elmore said Americans need to be realistic about what schools do:

  • Schools decide what’s worth teaching
  • How the learning experience is organized
  • Who controls access to knowledge
  • What constitutes evidence of learning.

He contrasted that with the digital world, “which responds to the needs, disposition and access of the learner.

“This drives ‘education’ crazy. Most learning outside school is done this way.”

Digital learning offers access

Digital culture is not synonymous with technology, which he described as the “enabling condition.”

Digital culture is not the Internet — “that’s just an artifact we use.”

Digital culture is not information. Elmore asked the audience to imagine a steel plate with a small hole in it. “Information” is on one side, “knowledge” on the other, and the hole is “learning.”

The learning process is dependent on the size of the hole.

In digital culture, the information is bypassing the entire steel plate — never mind the hole.

Digital culture is not the substitution of machines for humans. It is the opposite; it is a means for increasing contact.

“Digital culture is really about access, about enabling relationships previously constrained by distance.”

Wrong by definition

He offered a definition of what learning is not:
  • The ability to memorize and repeat
  • The ability to repeat routine tasks on demand
  • The ability to distinguish between right and wrong answers to factual questions.

He said that public schools (and to some extent private schools as well):

  • Manage the attainment structure — “they are primarily about the allocation of privilege and access”
  • Provide custody and control
  • Provide socialization to prescribed norms and attitudes
  • Influence personal development
  • Oversee learning.
“The problem is we pack all this into one institution — a shrinking franchise increasingly about custody and control.”

Meanwhile, as the institutions struggle, learning “escapes.”

Elmore said the next question will be how schools can adapt, and whether they will. He asked the audience to think of Hotchkiss or any other high-performing high school, whose “stock in trade is their ability to place students into competitive colleges.”

He said higher education is “stressed” at present — “the business model is collapsing.”

“Suddenly there are significant numbers of applicants from schools with hybrid transcripts, with college courses already taken from alternative sources.

“What happens to attainment when these alternative pathways open up?”

He described these changes as “disruptive innovation.” Elmore likened disruptive innovation to the functions of an iPhone — “did you know 10 years ago you needed these things? Now we can’t live without them.”

Disruptive innovation often marginalizes rather than displaces the established institution; the new way grows by redefining the central value proposition (think Federal Express vs. the post office).

Why the Swedes object

Elmore said he is heading to Sweden soon, where there is a major political crisis about international test scores (the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA).

The crisis, which brought down one government already, is that Sweden’s scores are similar to those of American students.

To the Swedes, “this is a major sign of educational system failure,” Elmore said.

During the question-and-answer period, Elmore was asked about charter schools. He said he has seen a lot of them and actively supports one in Chelsea, Mass. Overall, he finds that charter schools run the gamut between outstanding and horrible, and the overall results don’t look much different.

“I don’t think we’ve gained much ground. Charter schools are schools that white people like for other people’s children.”

Asked which countries are doing well with education, Elmore said that of the top 10 countries in the PISA scores, half are Asian and “none of them have anything in common except they all made a Draconian choice to control entry to teaching.”

By contrast, in the U.S., “40 percent of teachers come from the bottom third of college classrooms.”

Asked why students from other countries come to the U.S. if the system is so bad, Elmore said, “These kids come from families with money — gobs of money — and they want American degrees. They understand attainment, they come from cultures where they can buy privilege. What’s mysterious about that?”

Asked about the home-schooling movement, Elmore said, simply, “Wow.”

“Five years ago I thought it was a faith-based, marginal enterprise, without a lot of collaboration.

“Well, home schooling has become a digital culture. While it mimics traditional education to some degree, it is also finding community-based solutions to learning that are extraordinary.” He said that the home-schooling movement will probably soon face some obstacles, such as mandatory attendance laws.

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Quinnipiac Poll: The data on how they collect the data
Event Date : 09/12/2014
By
Patrick L. Sullivan


The Lakeville Journal
IMG_0511SALISBURY— Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, explained the methodology behind the influential organization’s work at the Salisbury Forum on Friday, Sept. 5, at the Salisbury School.


Schwartz said the Quinnipiac Poll began in 1988 as an educational tool, an aid in the study of survey research. After six years the polls were well-established and well-received, and the university decided to expand into New York state, New York City and New Jersey as well as Connecticut.


Schwartz joined in 1994, and soon after, the decision was made to take the poll national.


“We wanted to get national attention but to do it in a way other folks weren’t doing it.”


Between the elections of 2000 and 2008, Quinnipiac started polling swing states — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania.


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Short films give high school students a voice
Event Date : 06/13/2014
By Patrick L. Sullivan


The Lakeville Journal


June 12, 2014


MILLERTON — Five short documentaries by high school students tackled hot-button topics such as gun violence,government surveillance, illegal drugs and “rape culture” at the Salisbury Forum, held at the Moviehouse in Millerton on Sunday, June 8. The films were made under the auspices of the Civic Life Project and attracted a near capacity crowd.


“It Can Happen Here” by Monument Mountain High School (Great Barrington, Mass.) focused on the 1992 shootings at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington. Wayne Lo killed a student and a professor and wounded four others before surrendering to police. The film largely consisted of interviews. The father of the slain student said his son was a “target of opportunity,” meaning Lo had no personal animus. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Much of the screen time was devoted to the Great Barrington police officer who talked Lo into surrendering. Two parents from Sandy Hook — one who lost a child, the other determined to educate the public on the prevalence of gun violence — were also interviewed, as was the owner of a gun store, who said that if all goes well with background checks and paperwork, a person could be out the door with a purchase in 20 minutes.


For such a controversial topic, the film was remarkably matter of-fact, eschewing sensationalism for calmly stated opinions and recollections.


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