In March, Atwood came to New York City, for the annual National Book Critics Circle award ceremony, where she was being given a lifetime-achievement award. (Atwood recently remarked, on an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit, that she is at the “Gold Watch and Goodbye” phase of her career.) The ceremony was held at the New School, and the collective mood of the assembled editors, critics, and writers—a concentration of New York’s liberal intelligentsia in its purest form—was celebratory, as such events always are, but also agitated and galvanized. That morning, President Trump had issued his first federal budget plan, and he had proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as ending funding for public broadcasting, and closing agencies devoted to social welfare and environmental oversight. The crowd felt like bruised defenders of a civilization that they hadn’t realized was susceptible to attack.
Trump’s agenda was criticized by many of the award recipients. Michelle Dean, a young Canadian writer who won the association’s annual prize for excellence in reviewing, declared, “The struggle we presently find ourselves in is not a mistake, and not a fluke. . . . It crept into our lives while we were napping. Power sometimes works that way, but I still wish we hadn’t missed it.” Lately, Dean added, she’d been rereading “The Handmaid’s Tale” for the first time since high school: “There are so few books like that being published right now. The application of literary intelligence to this question of power—it’s kind of out of style. And many writers just seem more interested in exploring the self.”
Two days before Trump’s Inauguration, Atwood had published an essay in The Nation, in which she questioned the generalities sometimes made by left-leaning intellectuals about the role of the artist in public life. “Artists are always being lectured on their moral duty, a fate other professionals—dentists, for example—generally avoid,” she observed. “There’s nothing inherently sacred about films and pictures and writers and books. ‘Mein Kampf’ was a book.” In fact, she said, writers and other artists are particularly prone to capitulating to authoritarian pressure; the isolation inherent in the craft makes them psychologically vulnerable. “The pen is mightier than the sword, but only in retrospect,” she wrote. “At the time of combat, those with the swords generally win.”
At the New School, when Atwood, wearing a long black dress with a patterned black shawl draped around her shoulders, was summoned to the stage, she took a cheekier tack than she had taken in the Nation essay. “I’m very, very, very happy to be here, because they let me across the border,” she said, her voice low and deliberate. Atwood characterized literary criticism as a thankless task. “Authors are sensitive beings,” she observed, to titters of amusement. “You, therefore, know that all positive adjectives applied to them will be forgotten, yet anything even faintly smacking of imperfection in their work will rankle until the end of time.” An author whom she had reviewed once berated her use of the adjective “accomplished,” she recalled. “ ‘Don’t you know that “accomplished” is an insult?’ ” she deadpanned. “I didn’t know.”
Then her remarks took an exhortatory turn. “Why do I do such a painful task?” she said. “For the same reason I give blood. We must all do our part, because if nobody contributes to this worthy enterprise then there won’t be any, just when it’s most needed.” Now is one of those times, she warned: “Never has American democracy felt so challenged.” The necessary conditions for dictatorship, Atwood noted, include the shutting down of independent media, which mutes the expression of contrary or subversive opinions; writers form part of the fragile barrier standing between authoritarian control and open democracy. “There are still places on this planet where to be caught reading you, or even me, would incur a severe penalty,” Atwood said. “I hope there will soon be fewer such places.” Her voice dropped to a stage whisper: “I am not holding my breath.”
In the meantime, she thanked the book critics, though even her gratitude carried a note of subversion. “I will cherish this lifetime-achievement award from you, though, like all sublunar blessings, it is a mixed one,” she said. “Why do I only get one lifetime? Where did this lifetime go?”
"It was bad enough late last month when the Education Department, in a legal filing, informed the nation’s public servants that they shouldn’t trust its administrator’s word about whether their student loans qualify for its debt forgiveness program. • But the panic among borrowers that the newfound uncertainty unleashed helps illuminate an additional problem with the public service loan forgiveness program: Many people who believe that they qualify — and entered graduate school, borrowed piles of money and chose employers accordingly — may not realize that they are not making qualifying payments or that certain loans are not eligible for forgiveness. • The program, which began in 2007, was enacted with what was supposed to be a clear-cut proposition: People who worked for 10 years in public service jobs and made regular payments would have the remainder of their federal student loans forgiven. A wide variety of jobs were supposed to qualify, from nonprofit work to teaching in a public school or practicing medicine at a public hospital. • But now, 10 years later, the legal filing has sown all manner of confusion — which itself comes in the wake of a disheartening amount of misdirection given to borrowers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau receives plenty of complaints about loan servicers offering incorrect information. And well-meaning employers may also pass along bad advice."
London — Whenever I was encouraged by my elders to pick up a book, I was often told, “Read so as to know the world.” And it is true; books have invited me into different countries, states of mind, social conditions and historical epochs; they have offered me a place at the most unusual gatherings.
I have had access to private rooms, overheard exquisite conversations and been able to observe subtle changes in another person’s inner life. Books have shown me horror and beauty. All this is true.
But the most magical moments in reading occur not when I encounter something unknown but when I happen upon myself, when I read a sentence that perfectly describes something I have known or felt all along. I am reminded then that I am really no different from anyone else.
Perhaps that is the secret motive behind every library: to stumble upon ourselves in the lives and lands and tongues of others. And the more foreign the setting, the more poignant the event seems. For a strange thing occurs then: A distance widens and then it is crossed.
So a digital temperance movement would start by resisting the wiring of everything, and seek to create more spaces in which internet use is illegal, discouraged or taboo. Toughen laws against cellphone use in cars, keep computers out of college lecture halls, put special “phone boxes” in restaurants where patrons would be expected to deposit their devices, confiscate smartphones being used in museums and libraries and cathedrals, create corporate norms that strongly discourage checking email in a meeting.
Then there are the starker steps. Get computers — all of them — out of elementary schools, where there is no good evidence that they improve learning. Let kids learn from books for years before they’re asked to go online for research; let them play in the real before they’re enveloped by the virtual.
Then keep going. The age of consent should be 16, not 13, for Facebook accounts. Kids under 16 shouldn’t be allowed on gaming networks. High school students shouldn’t bring smartphones to school. Kids under 13 shouldn’t have them at all. If you want to buy your child a cellphone, by all means: In the new dispensation, Verizon and Sprint will have some great “voice-only” plans available for minors.
You know how important it is for kids to develop life skills like managing emotions or learning to make better decisions — skills that are actually as important as doing well on an academic test. The problem is, you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you did start by buying some expensive prepackaged program that just isn’t working for your school’s particular needs.
Associate Professor Stephanie Jones and her team at Easel Lab’s SEL Analysis Project came up with an idea called “kernel of practice” — evidence-based strategies and activities that educators can easily use with their students that are free and flexible. (Schools pick and chose which strategies they want to try.) The team shared strategies for elementary schools:
Dyslexia affects up to 1 in 5 people, but the experience of dyslexia isn't always the same. This difficulty in processing language exists along a spectrum -- one that doesn't necessarily fit with labels like "normal" and "defective." Kelli Sandman-Hurley urges us to think again about dyslexic brain function and to celebrate the neurodiversity of the human brain."
This lesson includes an animated video and follow up questions to check for comprehension and deeper understanding. Then the lesson provides recommendations for deeper engagement with the topic and ends with an invitation to participate in a discussion forum.
"Institutions of higher education are dependent on state and federal funding, including tax exemptions, research funds and scholarship support. Pressures from within also exist, often inspired by students and faculty members seeking to create a consensus of belief that can marginalize disagreement and dissent. Nevertheless, the key to the astonishing success and international superiority of the American university, particularly in science and engineering, has been its resilient commitment to freedom and nondiscrimination, and its respect for truth, no matter how uncomfortable.
The presidents of our colleges and universities must defend the principles that have enabled institutions of higher education to flourish. These are freedom and tolerance, and openness to individuals no matter their national origin or religion. The actions and spirit of the new administration threaten the American university’s core values.
The voices of our leaders in higher education must be heard in opposition. The cause is not partisan. The cause is a democracy where citizens of the entire world are welcome, minorities are protected and dissent respected. Such a democracy is the only context in which research and learning and the pursuit of knowledge can thrive. The time to act together is upon us. The world must have no doubt about where the American university stands."
The dystopia described in George Orwell’s nearly 70-year-old novel “1984” suddenly feels all too familiar. A world in which Big Brother (or maybe the National Security Agency) is always listening in, and high-tech devices can eavesdrop in people’s homes. (Hey, Alexa, what’s up?) A world of endless war, where fear and hate are drummed up against foreigners, and movies show boatloads of refugees dying at sea. A world in which the government insists that reality is not “something objective, external, existing in its own right” — but rather, “whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.”
“1984” shot to No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list this week, after Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to President Trump, described demonstrable falsehoods told by the White House press secretary Sean Spicer — regarding the size of inaugural crowds — as “alternative facts.” It was a phrase chillingly reminiscent, for many readers, of the Ministry of Truth’s efforts in “1984” at “reality control.” To Big Brother and the Party, Orwell wrote, “the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense.” Regardless of the facts, “Big Brother is omnipotent” and “the Party is infallible.”
As the novel’s hero, Winston Smith, sees it, the Party “told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears,” and he vows, early in the book, to defend “the obvious” and “the true”: “The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall toward the earth’s center.” Freedom, he reminds himself, “is the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” even though the Party will force him to agree that “TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE” — not unlike the way Mr. Spicer tried to insist that Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” despite data and photographs to the contrary.
"At her contentious confirmation hearing as Donald Trump’s nominee to be education secretary on Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was asked a question by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) about an important education debate involving how student progress should be measured. The query essentially rendered her speechless as she appeared not to know how to answer. When Franken told her he was upset she didn’t understand it, she did not protest."
"DeVos refused to agree with a Democrat that schools are no place for guns, citing one school that needs one to protect against grizzly bears. (She really said this.)"
"DeVos seemed to have no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities."
"DeVos refused to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that all schools that receive public federal funds — traditional public, public charter or private schools that receive voucher money — should be held to the same standards of accountability."
"There’s no way to sugarcoat it: 2016 has been an emotionally exhausting and, at times, devastating year. With violence and conflict constantly making headlines, the passing of several artistic legends and a bitter, divisive election in the U.S., the countdown to 2017 seemed to kick off midsummer.
But 2016 was also full of hopeful, small acts of kindness between families, neighbors and even strangers, that reaffirmed love and empathy can persevere through the most difficult times. We saw this on display every day in 2016 through the Kiva community.
Hundreds of thousands of borrowers (351,465 to be exact) around the world shared their dreams for a better future for their families, and lenders responded by funding $133 million in loans to help those families take their next steps.
Kiva also celebrated a momentous milestone– 10 years of impact, made possible by the generosity of 1.6 million lenders from 192 countries. That’s truly an international movement of people who believe in lifting each other up as a global community."
Our schools and communities are contending with many factors that affect the conditions for learning, such as bullying, harassment, violence, and substance abuse.
The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students to help address such issues.
Specifically, the Center
Provides training and support to state administrators, including 11 grantees funded under the Safe and Supportive Schools grant program, 22 grantees funded under the Project Prevent grant program, school and district administrators, institutions of higher education, teachers, support staff at schools, communities and families, and students
Seeks to improve schools' conditions for learning through measurement and program implementation, so that all students have the opportunity to realize academic success in safe and supportive environments This website serves as a central location for the Center. In particular, it includes information about the Center’s training and technical assistance, products and tools, and latest research findings. We welcome you to explore and discover, ask questions, and share your perspective.
For information about the Agency and Center staff, go here. To contact the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, call 1-800-258-8413 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pakistan's Press Information Bureau on Wednesday released a readout of a phone call on Monday between Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and the U.S. president-elect, Donald Trump. The readout is unusual in that it focuses almost entirely on Trump's contributions to the conversation, and reproduces them in a voice that is unmistakably his.
The readout is reproduced in full below:
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.
On being invited to visit Pakistan by the prime minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.
But critics of Ms. DeVos’s move this week are especially concerned about a particular piece of guidance from the Obama administration she struck down: that the Education Department should place great weight on a company’s track record when selecting student loan vendors, and should steer away from companies with histories of shoddy service or other problems.
Essentially, that puts Navient — the nation’s largest federal student loan servicer, which faces a spate of regulatory and legal problems related to its business practices — on stronger footing than it had been in bidding for agency contracts.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau responded to Ms. DeVos’s memo with a pointed note saying that borrowers “should be able to repay their debt without having to deal with illegal loan servicing practices.”
If the department does go forward with a single portal, Ms. DeVos’s memo seems to improve Navient’s shot at winning the bid, according to procurement experts.
In one of the memos rejected by Ms. DeVos, her predecessor as education secretary, John B. King Jr., said that a company’s past performance should be “the most important noncost factor.” Analysts interpreted that as a signal that Navient’s track record would hamper its bid.
With those priorities now scrapped, the company is back in the running, said Rohit Chopra, a former student loan ombudsman with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who also briefly worked for the Education Department.
Mr. Tarkan of Compass Point agreed. He previously considered the joint bid of Nelnet and Great Lakes the front-runner, but Navient’s size makes it a very strong competitor — once past performance is played down.
For students, the decision is about more than just what company name appears on their monthly statement. The loan servicer has tremendous power to guide them through repayment options. Some plans stretch payment periods out for as long as 30 years, and others help qualifying students get a portion of their debt forgiven. Strategic use of those paths can trim — or inflate — the sum that a student ultimately pays by tens of thousands of dollars.
Public radio and television broadcasters are girding for battle after the Trump administration proposed a drastic cutback that they have long dreaded: the defunding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The potential elimination of about $445 million in annual funding, which helps local TV and radio stations subscribe to NPR and Public Broadcasting Service programming, could be devastating for affiliates in smaller markets that already operate on a shoestring budget.
Patricia Harrison, the corporation’s president, warned in a statement on Thursday that the Trump budget proposal, if enacted, could cause “the collapse of the public media system itself.”
I have come to be much more curious about boredom in school, for a number of reasons. First, it simply seems a shame that most kids seem to become less curious, rather than more, as they move through school (and through their young lives). There is a lot of talk in education circles about the need to create "lifelong learners" who can adapt to an ever-changing world over the course of their lives. I don't see how we create lifelong learners if curiosity wanes rather than grows over time in school. Second, boredom is not uniform in school, which suggests it may not be as inevitable as we might think. Third, boredom is not always a code word for hard work, so it is not the case that the cure for boredom--sacrificing rigor and hard work--will necessarily be worse than the disease. I have seen my own kids, as well as others, work quite hard on projects in which they are interested, whether school related or of their own initiative. Finally, while worrying about boredom might seem like a luxury, or even an elitist concern, boredom is frequently cited as a major reason for why kids drop out of school--even more so than academic failure.
“But the biggest shift we need,” Rose believes, is much more elemental. “We need to get away from thinking that the opposite of ‘bored’ is ‘entertained.’ It’s ‘engaged.’” It’s not about pumping cartoons and virtual reality games into the classroom, it’s about finding ways to make curriculum more resonant, personalized, and meaningful for every student. “Engagement is very meaningful at a neurological level, at a learning level, and a behavioral level. When kids are engaged, life is so much easier.”
"The advantages of having an enemy are well-known. In Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" -- suddenly a new best-seller in the Trump era -- the masses engage in a daily mandatory ritual, the "Two Minutes of Hate," during which their anger is feverishly stoked against the foe of the moment. Dictators, strongmen and autocrats have practiced the art of drumming up loathing toward others to great effect.
Trump is no dictator, but he does have strong authoritarian tendencies and, like other demagogues, he knows that perceived enemies can help him fire up the base, rally the crowds and shift responsibility. Don't look at me, this script cries out; look over there, there is a threat, a danger, a foe.
When it comes to enemies, a demonized media is even more useful than the average antagonist.
Trump's real nemesis is the truth. By attacking the media, he opens up a new line of attack against facts, his true target. He is, after all, the Gaslighter in Chief. He is trying to confuse the public so that they will not believe inconvenient truths."
HOUSTON — It’s looking as if 2017 could become the year when the anti-vaccination movement gains ascendancy in the United States and we begin to see a reversal of several decades in steady public health gains. The first blow will be measles outbreaks in America.
Measles is one of the most contagious and most lethal of all human diseases. A single person infected with the virus can infect more than a dozen unvaccinated people, typically infants too young to have received their first measles shot. Such high levels of transmissibility mean that when the percentage of children in a community who have received the measles vaccine falls below 90 percent to 95 percent, we can start to see major outbreaks, as in the 1950s when four million Americans a year were infected and 450 died. Worldwide, measles still kills around 100,000 children each year.
The myth that vaccines like the one that prevents measles are connected to autism has persisted despite rock-solid proof to the contrary. Donald Trump has given credence to such views in tweets and during a Republican debate, but as president he has said nothing to support vaccination opponents, so there is reason to hope that his views are changing.
"There were quite a few moments at her confirmation hearing Tuesday when Betsy DeVos floored lawmakers with her answers, but the nominee for education secretary left senators puzzled by denying her documented involvement in a foundation that has funneled millions of dollars to anti-LGBT causes.
DeVos, from 2001 to 2013, was listed in tax filings as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, a nonprofit group founded by her mother that has been a generous donor to controversial groups like Focus on the Family and Family Research Council. Yet when pressed by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to explain her role at the foundation, DeVos insisted her name should not have been included in any tax forms and that she had nothing to do with the organization.
'That was a clerical error — I can assure you,' DeVos said. 'I have never made decisions on my mother’s behalf.'"
"In February, an international team of astronomers announced in Nature that they'd traced one of the flashes back to a galaxy 6 billion light years from Earth based on an “afterglow” they saw emanating from the host galaxy. But that identification quickly fell apart when other researchers observed that the glow persisted long after the bursts came and went; two months later they reported that the purported burst was actually a flickering black hole. During those same two months, the researchers looking at Arecibo data announced that FRB 121102 was repeating — a discovery that shifted the field of FRB research under astronomers' feet.
That's how science works — it's surprising, sometimes silly and almost always messy, especially when it involves phenomena researchers don't fully understand.
Heino Falcke, an astronomer at Radboud University-Nijmegen in the Netherlands, invoked past missteps in his analysis of the new study for Nature: “As good detectives, we should avoid adopting newly emerging dogmas too soon, even when we think we have caught the suspect red-handed,” he wrote. “FRBs are nimble fugitives and are not necessarily all alike.”
Lorimer suggested that clarity might come from adopting Chatterjee's “sit and stare method” — taking a telescope, pointing it at a known FRB source, and waiting to detect another pulse. This is no simple task; there are a limited number of radio telescopes in the world and an inexhaustible list of possible uses for them. On top of that, two of the U.S.'s top radio telescopes, Arecibo and the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, are facing funding woes and could be shut down. But new instruments are about to come online, including China's Tianyan (“eye of heaven”) telescope, whose 500-meter dish makes it the largest in the world.
But if astronomers can figure out where FRBs come from and why, they may start to use the signals to probe other mysteries."
"DAVIES: Do you have a view yourself about what they [Facebook] should be doing?
SILVERMAN: You know, the first thing in terms of what should be done is that - is the answer is kind of a lot of things. And that's an unsatisfying answer to give, but it speaks to the complexity of this problem. When people started circulating lists of fake news websites, it was a huge problem because a lot of the sites on those lists, sure, they may publish some stuff that's misleading or false but they weren't publishing stuff a hundred percent in those areas. And there were a lot of simply ideologically-driven sites that were on these lists. And so if, for example, Facebook wanted to just implement a big bad blacklist, get rid of lots of sites, that would be a terrible, terrible outcome. So it's not as simple as I think some people have suggested it can be.
I would like to see them make flagging more of - more easy for people and to make sure that it can't be abused. I think they absolutely need to innovate in the area of algorithmic detection of misinformation. I also think, frankly, they do need to increase the amount of people who are reviewing content, whether it's for being offensive or other things because the scale of their platform is so big that I don't think they've put the human element in there in the right places. So them figuring out where that can be applied and how to guard against ideologically-driven decisions is a big thing. And to be honest, I think that they should figure out ways to identify the sites that are a hundred percent fake news and to see how they're sharing. Are they just being shared among small groups of people who all sort of think the same way and realize that that probably isn't a story that should spread further. So I'm not a huge proponent of blacklists but I think that analyzing the content and knowing what it is and knowing how it's being shared is really important.
The other unsexy thing finally, I think, is that we need to put this in our education system. There are a lot of people being fooled by fake news. There are a lot of people who don't know how to kind of check out the story they're reading online and that's understandable. It's not a matter of intelligence. We're consuming media in very different ways. We're having a whole menu of links and things from all different kinds of sources fed to us every day by Facebook. And that's very different from opening up a newspaper and knowing where everything was coming from. So I think we do in our schools need to start thinking about how we integrate more media literacy and critical thinking education so that people can make better judgments for themselves."
"Jobs Aren’t Just About Politics: For the people who carry them out every day, they’re much more personal. Over several months, we interviewed 100 American workers about their jobs and collected their insights and experiences in an interactive dashboard.What American workers have to say about their work."
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