Saving Congress from Itself: Salisbury School, 7:30 PM, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015

James Buckley Photo - CopyThe United States Congress faces two major problems according to former Senator James Buckley. The first is its seeming inability to deal with long term problems of any consequence.  The second is runaway spending that, he says, threatens to bankrupt us all. Both issues have been widely discussed and many politicians have vowed to deal with them.

But Senator Buckley says most people don’t realize one of the prime causes of both problems is a category of federal spending called “Grants In Aid” programs. He says there are more than 1,100 such programs. They consume one sixth of the federal budget. They have grown from $24,1 billion in 1970 to an estimated $640.8 billion in 2015, he says. He points out that they are a popular way for our elected representatives and senators to ensure their reelection by grateful constituents back home.

The irony, Buckley says, is that the money the states and local governments receive is derived from the federal taxes their residents pay and the grants come with detailed federal directives on how local officials can spend that money. To put it another way, he says, Congress is bribing the states to adopt Congress’s approach to problems that the Constitution said are the state’s exclusive responsibility.

As we approach another election year this forum promises to be a thoughtful and provocative discussion.

All Salisbury Forum programs are free and open to the public.

The Power of Cartoons: 7:30 PM, Friday, September 18, 2015, Hotchkiss School, Walker Auditorium

Robert Mankoff Cartoon ImageWhat makes a cartoon funny? When is a cartoon dangerous? How do people react to cartoons? Bob Mankoff has been creating cartoons for more than 40 years. He has been the cartoon editor of The New Yorker since 1997. He now looks at over a thousand cartoons each week to select the 16 or so that will appear in the magazine. He personally has created over 900 cartoons that have appeared in The New Yorker.

Mankoff says The New Yorker never uses the word “cartoon.” They are called “idea drawings.” What is an “idea drawing?” Mankoff explains the cartoon must make you think. Mankoff has lectured at the University of Michigan. It must have been one of the school’s most popular classes.

Student Documentaries: Millerton Moviehouse, 11:30 AM, Sunday, June 7, 2015

Civic Life LogoLegalization of Marijuana in Connecticut, Police and the Latino Community, Impact of Social Media on Society, Students and ADD/ADHD Over-Medication, the Struggles of LGBT  Students. These are just some of the topics students are exploring for mini-documentaries they are producing under the Civic Life Project in six area high schools.

Students, teachers and the staff of the Civic Life Project will select the five best films to be show on the big screen at the Millerton Moviehouse Sunday, June 7th at 11:30 AM. Students will be available to discuss their subjects and why they chose them.

Exploring Mars: Following Curiosity, Housatonic Valley Regional High School, Friday, May 1, 2015, 7:30PM

Florence TanWas there ever life on Mars? Florence Tan will probably be one of the first to know. She is NASA’s lead electrical engineer for the instrument package on the Curiosity Rover now maneuvering over the dry landscape of the red planet. The package she helped design is called SAM for Sample Analysis on Mars.

Sample Analysis on Mars searches for compounds of the element carbon, including methane, that are associated with life and explore ways in which they are generated and destroyed in the martian ecosphere.

Actually a suite of three instruments, including a mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph, and tunable laser spectrometer, SAM also looks for and measures the abundance of other light elements, such as hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, associated with life. Because these compounds are essential to life as we know it, their relative abundances will be an essential piece of information for evaluating whether Mars could have supported life in the past or present.

Her talk on the operations of the Curiosity Rover on Mars was organized by the Cornwall Library. It should be both interesting and thought provoking.


“Kids For Cash”: Feb. 1, 2015 11:15AM, Millerton Moviehouse

kids-for-cash Logo

Hillary Transue, 14, made fun of her high school’s vice principal on line, Justin Bodnar, 12, cursed at another student’s mother, Ed Kenzakoski, 17, did nothing at all. Those three and almost 3, 000 other children were sentenced to a juvenile detention facility for minor infractions. In many cases their parents were persuaded or coerced into waiving their right to legal counsel. They were brought before Judge Mark A. Ciavarella and without warning or a chance to offer a defense were pronounced guilty, shackled and sentenced to months of detention in a cockroach invested jail.

It turns out Judge Ciavarella had accepted $2.2 million as a finders fee for the construction of a for-profit penal facility in which to house these so-called delinquents. Judge Ciavarella was himself sentenced to 28 years in prison. Kids For Cash is a riveting look behind the notorious scandal in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania in 2009. Exposing the hidden scandal behind the headlines, Kids For Cash unfolds like a real life thriller.

But this is not just a one time, one town story. The director says that 2 Million children are arrested in the United States every year 95 per cent of them for non-violent crimes.

All Salisbury Forum events are open to the public free of charge.

Up From Poverty: Can Africa Catch Up To Asia, Housatonic Valley Regional High School, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 7:30PM

deFerranti“We are living in a time when people are climbing out of poverty in greater numbers and at a faster rate than at any other time in human history, bar none. And despite how much more there remains to do,” says David DeFerranti, “progress in health, education, etc. is actually stunningly rapid.”

David deFerranti is a former World Bank regional vice president and is now president of Results for Development a non-profit organization he co-founded to support the discovery and implementation of new ideas for reducing poverty and improving lives around the world.

His talk will include examples of particular programs and innovations in Africa, Asia and Latin America that are proving effective when some large scale efforts fail for lack of proper implementation. Despite the many gloomy stories we hear about Ebola, corruption and conflicts he says real progress is being made.

This will be an interesting and stimulating program. We hope you will join us.

All Salisbury Forum programs are free and open to the public.

The Future of Learning And The Prospects for Schooling: October 10, 7:30PM, The Hotchkiss School

IMG_0517Harvard University Professor Richard Elmore says the nature of learning will be transformed over the next decade. He says the development of the neuroscience of learning and the increasing presence of digital culture will likely result in a steadily increasing divergence between “learning” as an individual and social activity and “schooling” as the formal institutionalized form of learning.

“What are the likely social and economic implications of these changes for society at large and for established institutions of schooling?” he asks. He believes the “learning sector” will expand exponentially in the foreseeable future while the “schooling sector” is unlikely to expand beyond its present size. He will discuss such issuess as the development of new modes of learning and the challenges posed for schooling.

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups In America, Salisbury Congregational Church, Nov. 14, 2014, 7:30PM

URGENT collage_1 copyAmy Chua, author of her 2011 comic memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and her husband Jed Rubenfeld will discuss their new book The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explains the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. In her memoir, Chua chronicled her iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, the Chinese way — and the remarkable, sometimes heartbreaking results her choice inspired.  Achingly honest and profoundly challenging, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is one of the most talked about books of our times.

In their latest book Chua and Rubenfeld both professors at Yale University explore the puzzling phenomenon that some groups in America are achieving upward mobility at rates much higher than the rest of the country. “Filled with surprising statistics and sociological research,” as Fox News put it, ‘The Triple Package’ contends that success is driven not by inborn biology, but is instead propelled by qualities that can be cultivated by all Americans. The book serves as an opportunity to discuss what has helped drive America’s triumphs in the past – and how we might harness this knowledge for our future.”

Political Polling-How do they do it?: September 5th, 7:30PM, The Salisbury School

Schwartz_Douglas_2011Douglas Schwartz is the  director of the widely respected and often quoted Quinnipiac Poll. Two months before the mid-term elections, Mr. Schwartz will explain how an independent non-partisan poll is conducted. His talk will give us a behind the scenes look at how a poll is constructed, who is called and why and how the results are tabulated. He says his goal is to have people in the audience come away with information they couldn’t get anywhere else.

The Sixth Extinction: 7:30PM, Friday, May 2, 2014 The Salisbury School

IMG_0468The New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert has spent more than ten years traveling around the world interviewing top scientists and people living near the north pole to get to the heart of the debate about global warming. Her ground breaking three part series “The Climate of Man” in The New Yorker won the 2005 National Magazine Award in the “Public Interest” category. Her book Field Notes From A Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change in 2006 asked what, if anything, could be done to save our planet.

Her latest book The Sixth Extinction says scientists around the world are monitoring developments that may lead to the most devastating extinction cataclysm since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. She reports on the work of scores of researchers including geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes and biologists who study species that are disappearing as the climate changes.

Elizabeth Kolbert talk at Google.

Ms Kolbert explains the science and the studies. She draws frightening parallels to ancient civilizations, unpacks the politics, and presents the personal tales of people affected most by our changing climate.