November 01, 2018

Definition of a Hopeless Romantic

I am a hopeless romantic.

What does that mean, to be a hopeless romantic?

This question was on my mind today when a friend asked me what my definition of a hopeless romantic is, after I told him that I most definitely am one. 

To be a hopeless romantic is to believe in the joy of companionship and romance, passion and gentleness. Hopeless romantics will give all they have to the one they love. They love deeply, completely, entirely... and dangerously. They will hand their whole heart to whomever they love, and do so willingly and joyfully (if at times with a certain amount of fear). Hopeless romantics do not feel, in any way, hopeless; on the contrary a hopeless romantic has such immense hope that it is impossible for them to escape immense pain when their heart, so willingly offered, is returned in pieces.

What, then, becomes of a hopeless romantic once their heart has been broken, if they are so very apt to believe in true love? Hopeless romantics, though they suffer immense heartbreak, still believe in love. That is their very definition - to always believe in love. Whatever amount of time it takes any given individual to heal from heartbreak, if they are truly a hopeless romantic, they will find solace in their belief that they will, inevitably, find one whom they can love with all their heart, and who will love them in return. A hopeless romantic who does not currently have someone to call their own longs and aches for the joy and excitement and love found in romance. They are not, however, to be confused with one who is desperate. Hopeless romantics are not desperate, not in the least; they do, however, long to find one who can return their love so completely as they offer it.

Hopeless romantics hold dear to their hearts every little gesture of kindness and affection, every sweet and gentle communication of love. To a hopeless romantic, the arms of the one they love are home, and just to be held is heaven. A simple hug is as dear to them as anything. They adore the feeling of their love playing with their hair, holding their hand, whispering in their ear. The one they love can simply nudge their side, look in their eyes for an extra moment, or make them a heart out of a straw wrapper, and it will make their entire day. The brush of a hand on their cheek, or of lips on their forehead, rings true to them as a profession of love - because that is their own intention when they do such gentle things. Any small way they can communicate the love they feel for someone, they want to do. This is not to say that hopeless romantics do not also take immense pleasure in larger expressions of love, but the way they hold the little things dear is what sets them apart from other lovers. 

Hopeless romantics are the idealists, the sentimental dreamers, the imaginative, and the fanciful. They give the world its once-upon-a-times and happily-ever-afters. Hopeless romantics may have their feet on the ground, but their souls fly somewhere over the rainbow.

And that last sentence, I think, is also profound (as cheesy as it may be). Not all hopeless romantics are open to the world about how hopelessly romantic they are. Many are level-headed individuals in most situations, and yet are inwardly (sometimes even secretly) completely and totally a hopeless romantic.

And that... that is me. I am a hopeless romantic.

September 11, 2018

9-11

No matter where you were that day, you will remember the event, the day, and what you were doing.  Some of you may have known or lost loved ones in these horrific events.  It is permanently in all our memory banks, and we must never forget!  

I have said that one of my goals this year is to increase the recognition of Public Safety employees and those performing heroic actions.  On this, the 17th anniversary of those tragic events; let us all renew our efforts to recognize these women and men who help keep us safe, and are there to run toward danger, when the rest of us can run from it.  Whether in a formal ceremony presenting a commendation medal, or at a restaurant, business establishment, or airport.  When you see a member of our military, or a public safety employee - say "thank you" for their service, give them a smile, shake their hand, or pay the restaurant for their meal or cup of coffee.  Take the time to recognize them, you may never know how much that gesture of kindness and love will mean to them.  God Bless!

June 04, 2018

Vicki Vale

We all make mistakes, as we all are human, yet you can take solace in one lone fact:

You weren't the one who let Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

May 31, 2018

What 6 Colleges Learned About Improving Their Online Courses

Debates around online education often get stuck on the question of whether it’s as good as face-to-face learning. Perhaps the better question is, How can online education get better? After all, many students choose online courses for their convenience, and in-person classes are often not an option for them. More than six million people courses each year, including one of every four undergraduates.

Making Digital Learning Work: Success Strategies From Six Leading Universities and Community Colleges” wades into those waters with a study of three community colleges and three public research universities, all of which have at least 20,000 students, and enroll significant percentages of Pell-eligible students and students who take online classes. The authors crunched a lot of data to determine how digital technologies affect access, student outcomes, and return on investment.

First, the good news. Researchers from Arizona State University and the Boston Consulting Group found that online education can boost retention and graduation rates, while saving students time and money. But — and this is a big one — to be successful, colleges need to develop a variety of delivery models to match students’ needs, and make significant investments in things like instructional design and student support services. In other words, don’t expect a series of videotaped lectures to get the job done.

A lot of the report is aimed at higher-education leaders who want to think strategically about ROI. But I’ll focus here on a few things that are most relevant to our readers, those on the front lines of teaching.

Colleges in the study reported higher retention and graduation rates — as well as faster time to degree — for students who took at least some courses online. This lines up with research out of the State University of New York system, which found that a blend of online and face-to-face classes seems to work best for many students. The digital-learning study also found that the student body becomes more diverse with online offerings: They draw more older students, women, and Pell Grant recipients.

High-quality digital courses don’t just happen, the report notes. They require instructional designers, data analysts, multimedia experts, and strong student-support staff. The colleges in this study were willing to invest quite a bit of money: The University of Central Florida, for example, spends more than $8 million a year on its 90-member staff in its Center for Distributed Learning.

Working with a team of specialists can provide a faculty member with valuable expertise in the areas of learning science, course design, and technology, while ensuring a level of consistency for students taking digital courses. Those additional investments, the report found, can be offset by reduced overall delivery costs (namely, larger class sizes, fewer physical facilities, and potentially greater use of adjuncts).

A number of colleges also build online tutoring and coaching into their online courses. And some give faculty members the technology needed to provide personalized feedback to students — which is often critical to maintain engagement with online students.
Faculty members are often hesitant to try online teaching, but the study found that successful institutions engage senior professors early, take a collaborative approach to decision making, support strong professional-development programs, and offer incentives like additional pay or course release to help smooth that path.

Research, In Brief

Colleges can help increase rates of completion by paying attention to students’ psychology, according to a study by Mesmin Destin, an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern. In particular, he writes, colleges can bolster completion by "encouraging growth mindsets, linking classroom work to real-world aspirations, and using online modules that help activate students’ motivation and sense of belonging."

People who are more familiar with predictive analytics than their peers are more skeptical of these tools, researchers at Columbia University’s Teachers College found. Advisers and end users of predictive analytics were more critical than administrators, and people who work at institutions that have been using the tools for some time had more concerns than those that were still in the planning stages of using them. Respondents described a "lack of trust” in the validity of the tools and in the ways data are used. Other critiques centered on inadequate training and support, and ethical misgivings about the impact of predictive analytics on the relationship between advisers and students. A few of the people surveyed, the authors wrote, "felt like they were being asked to trust technology more than their own judgment."

For Your Summer Reading

Michael F. Maniates, a professor of social sciences and environmental studies at Yale-NUS, writes that the most influential book for him has been Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach. “Palmer argues that good technique and punchy assignments aren’t enough,” Maniates writes. “He insists that, as teachers, we must reflect deeply about who we are in the classroom and who we wish to be — and why we come to these conclusions. Courage has had a profound impact on my own teaching practice — it’s a smart, deeply affecting book that speaks to the core of our work as mentors."

And John A. Lynch, academic-technology manager at UCLA's Center for Digital Humanities, writes that he highly recommends Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load, by Ruth Colvin Clark, Frank Nguyen, and John Sweller. The book expands on the topic of cognitive load, which is mentioned in another text Lynch recommends, How Learning Works, by Susan A. Ambrose and others. In particular, Lynch says, Chapter 4 of Efficiency in Learning "goes into detail about the research that they’ve done on the high cognitive load that lecturing creates, the reason most instructors don’t understand why their students can’t learn well from lectures, and ways that instructors can redesign their lecture and accompanying materials to reduce that."

Thanks for reading!

March 11, 2018

For an Entire Year...

This year, Trump has spent $91,655,424 of American taxpayer money on golf trips.
For that money, Meals on Wheels could have fed 33,117 seniors for an ENTIRE YEAR.

For that money, after school programs could have fed 635,936 poor kids FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR.

March 08, 2018

When Did The Revolution Become A Revolution?

Question:
When did the war of independence first get described as a revolution? Was it so considered by the people who were engaged in it? Are there any modern students of the period who deny that it was a revolution?

Answer:
OK, I’ll take a stab at this.  Not easy questions to answer holistically.

European political philosophers had discussed the aspects of “revolutionary” governmental change for decades, if not centuries, prior to the American War for Independence (AWI).

The term “revolution” was notably used 80 years before the AWI.  The ousting of catholic King James II in 1688-1689, replacing him with the joint protestant monarchy of his daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange via the method of Dutch military conquering of Scotland, Ireland, followed by key English leadership defections, desertions, capitulations and surrender of the Lords of Parliament (a house stacked by King James II), was called “the Glorious Revolution”. 

While this action was primarily a regime change-- the replacement of one monarch (catholic) with a pair of monarchs (protestant) by military force -- as a condition of assuming the throne William and Mary were forced to sign a document called the “Declaration of Rights” (subsequently known as the “Bill of Rights”), which asserted several principles such as the illegality of prerogative suspending and dispensing powers, the prohibition of taxation without parliamentary consent, and the principle of holding regular parliaments. 

In reality, the “Bill of Rights” placed few real restrictions on the crown. It was not until 1694 that the call for regular parliaments was backed up by the Triennial Act.  Following the Triennial Act, Parliament gained powers over taxation, over the royal succession, over appointments and over the right of the crown to wage war independently.  However, the “Glorious Revolution” fails in the enlightenment definition of “revolution” because it wasn’t a fundamental change of government: monarchs replaced monarchs. Plus, it failed to limit the power of monarch or parliament through a body of law or enact a constitution applicable to the rights of citizens; no draft of a constitution adopted by the citizens who would be ruled by it.  Last, it wasn’t a rising by the people to affect change, but rather a conquest by a foreign military alliance to impose a favorable crown succession.  Because of these flaws, the Septennial Act of 1716 was able to effectively undermine the terms of the 1694 Triennial Act, and subsequent abuses of both monarchial and parliamentary power required further adaptations throughout the next centuries.

In the late 17th and early 18th century the political meaning of the term “revolution” began to be more definitively shaped by enlightenment philosophers.  The revolutionary nature of the AWI was not simply a regime change, but rather the creation of an entirely new nation and the adoption of a new form of government by that nation.  Though the sprawling nature of the American “continental” government and slow communication made the form of direct democracy envisioned by enlightenment philosophers impractical (Rousseau’s theory of direct democracy), the American republican (representative) democracy met the enlightenment era philosophical definition of “democracy” and was substantively different in both form and execution from the former monarchial-based government; and it was backed by a constitution and code of law at both the state and federal levels.

Though the term “revolution” was better defined by the time of the outbreak of the AWI in 1775, it was not an appropriate term for the AWI until the point at which the colonists determined to change the nature of the conflict from one which sought to preserve their rights as Englishmen to one which sought to establish a new nation under new principles of government.  

We might argue that an effective “revolution” had already taken place in Massachusetts; since the colonists had created a democratic government which controlled the instruments of power (legislative, legal, executive) throughout the colony to supplant the previous governmental structures which had been suspended (disbanded) by the Crown. Arguably, after the Boston Port Act Massachusetts could have been described as fighting to preserve this newly adopted governmental structure already in place. 

The same argument arguably applied to Connecticut for an even greater period, since Connecticut had been governed virtually autonomously by a locally elected legislative, executive, and judicial establishment since 24 January 1639; when the delegates from assembled colonial towns adopted the first written constitution in the world composed by those it governed, known as “Fundamental Orders”.  However, these two colonies were unique until Crown-appointed governors closed the offices of administration in other colonies and fled the land, being replaced by locally elected legislators, judiciary, and legal officers.  The bright line might be considered the Declaration of Independence.  Until that time correspondence between the Continental Congress and Britain’s ruler had focused on hope of reconciliation.  Thus, the Declaration of Independence serves as that unique moment when the stated intent of the united colonies changed from reconciliation under the British monarch to independent governance of a new nation under democratic principles.

With that as background, you ask whether the American colonists recognized the AWI as “revolutionary” in its own time.  The answer is an unqualified “yes”.  Many of those we consider “founding fathers” were students of the enlightenment and studied the political and social philosophy espoused by Voltaire, Locke, Rousseau, etc.  They were aware of the elements of revolution and used the term in private correspondence long before the advent of open warfare with Britain.  But, if we consider the advent of true “revolution” to have occurred at about the time that colonists determined to fight for self-rule, then acknowledgement of the AWI as a “revolution” would have had to occur after that moment.  It absolutely did, on both sides of the Atlantic and Europe.  These are but a very few applicable examples:

April 1776, William Henry Drayton’s charge to a South Carolina Grand Jury: Carolinians: heretofore you were bound - by the American Revolution you are now free.  The change is most important, most honorable, most beneficial… Unexpected, wonderful and rapid Movements, character the British and American Revolutions - They do not appear to have been premeditated by Man.

21 March 1778, Thomas Paine, “American Crisis”: “… this distinguished era is blotted by no one misanthropical vice. In short, if the principle on which the cause is founded, the universal blessings that are to arise from it, the difficulties that accompanied it, the wisdom with which it has been debated, the fortitude by which it has been supported, the strength of the power which we had to oppose, and the condition in which we undertook it, be all taken in one view, we may justly style it the most virtuous and illustrious revolution that ever graced the history of mankind.”

1779, Congress ordered the publication of a book titled, “Observations on the American Revolution” written by Governor Morris in Philadelphia  (“Observations on the American Revolution”)

Last, as to whether any serious historians disagree with calling the AWI a “revolution”:  There is probably some discussion regarding the theoretical meaning of “revolution”, but I’ve not read anything from a serious historian disputing the AWI as “revolutionary” (let them speak now or forever hold their peace).  Even Marxist theorists agree that the AWI was “revolutionary” because it determined the forms of bourgeois political form, as well as capitalism and the free market economy that altered empire-colony subsidiary relationships.

Some modern scholars have started describing the AWI as a “civil” war based on the type of fighting that occurred, which is worthy of comment.  A “revolutionary” war is by definition fought amongst people of the same country; that does not make it “civil”.  That is the nature of all “revolutions”: some citizens will support change, others will oppose it.  

While the broad object and effect of the AWI was politically “revolutionary”, at least in the sense of the enlightenment era term, the conduct of the war in some areas became partisan in nature; or even a “feud”.  In many areas of the country there was a decided preference for independence and self-governance, but in others the balance was more narrow, and the causal factors of strife more local and more personal. 

In colonies like Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Virginia the fight for principles of individual rights versus submission to demands of an unrepresentative Parliament may have been clear; in other areas of the country, especially the southern frontiers where government had little real effect on daily life and neither side had the resources necessary to exert military control over a vast region, the grand revolutionary principles often faded against personal realities. 

In those areas differences in religion, affiliation of preachers, economic status, migration, and family ties (both regional and trans-Atlantic) affected allegiances.  Differences were also based on a variety of local issues such as prior land disputes, previous legal and familial alliances, or the latest outrage or atrocity committed by either side.  Whenever the instruments of government break down, mob rule takes over, and principled advocacy isn’t as important as protecting kin, clan, and hearth.  For various reasons, the AWI in the southern regions, particularly in the southern “back country” 1780-1782, became a partisan fight for survival rather than for revolutionary principle.

That is not sufficient region to brand the entire AWI as a “civil” war.  When a population fights among itself, whether for revolutionary or civil issues, the fighting can be vicious, and the broader purpose becomes indistinguishable.  Though in some places at times the AWI fighting took on this partisan aspect, the overall purpose and effect of the AWI, taken broadly, remained “revolutionary” in nature: throwing off the mantle of old government to create a new form of government; and a new nation where none previously existed. 


For that reason the AWI parallels, and even exceeds, the French, Russian, and Iranian revolutions.  All of these featured bitter neighbor-on-neighbor partisan fighting and vicious purges of opponents, yet the political goal and end results of substantive changes in form of government define all of these, including the AWI, as “revolutionary”, not “civil” wars.