Sunday, February 08, 2015

Q+A with Lani Guinier

Interview by Tamar Lewin

Lani Guinier, the first tenured woman of color at Harvard Law School, went through a trial by fire in 1993, when President Bill Clinton withdrew her nomination for assistant attorney general for civil rights.
                Negative publicity about her political and academic views had made her a polarizing figure. Conservatives called her "the quota queen," though her essays, published in "The Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy," make it clear she opposed quotas and was seeking voting systems that would promote representation not just of the majority but also of a greater range of groups.
                Her new book, "The Tyranny of Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America," returns to the theme of inclusion, making the case that college admissions has become a "testocracy" in which standardized test scores are seen as the most important measure of merit, and character counts for little. She argues for a rethinking of merit that would better reflect the values of a democratic society.

Is there anything you find encouraging in what's been happening in higher education?

A: There have been some very interesting peer-learning developments. When Uri Treisman was at Berkeley - he's now at the University of Texas - he saw that African-American students were not doing as well in his calculus class as Asian-Americans, and he was concerned.
He hired people to follow the students with a camera for several months, to witness how they were studying. The assumption among his colleagues followed the well-known stereotypes, that the black students were not as well prepared and not spending as much time on their homework. But he found something different, that they studied in their dorm rooms by themselves, while the Chinese-Americans studied together, talking about their calculus problems while they cooked and ate their meals.
          Many of the African-Americans had adopted isolation as a strategy for coping with their environment. Professor Treisman started a program to help them mirror what the Chinese students were doing. He invited them to lunch, and when they talked through calculus problems, he discovered that, in some ways, they were better at teaching each other calculus than he was. They could give more useful examples to map out how to solve a problem. 

Working together, their grades improved dramatically.

At Harvard, in the context of physics and women, Eric Mazur had the same experience when he had his students work through questions together instead of listening to him lecture. Because of those results, a lot of professors have changed how they teach, to have less lecture time and more peer learning.

 New York Times, 2/8/2015

The Mentor Act - you can help pass this bill

Stay out of the court system by helping young men stay out of the court system. Studies have shown that children with positive male role models are less likely to commit a crime. Boys are eleven times as likely to go to prison as girls.

This bill establishes mentorship as legal excusal from jury duty and aims to reduce the number of young men committing crimes, cases tried, and jurors needed.

Show your support by visiting
-or- print this page and mail it to your state Assemblymember.

MLK Education Grant - March 16th deadline (San Diego)

Since 1998 the MLK Choir has given out 81 Educational Grants totaling over $159,000.

At our scholarship concert on June 8th, 2014 we awarded educational grants to
 4 talented students pursuing artistic majors.
June 8, 2014 Sunday 4:00pm
Sixteenth Annual Educational Grants Awards Ceremony
College Avenue Baptist Church
MLKCCSD is proud to support our local, budding artists in the San Diego community.

Grant Application Deadline - March 16th

We are looking for High School artists with flair (and grit and determination). If you sing, dance, play an instrument, paint, sculpt, film, act, write stories or plays, or pursue any other form of artistic expression, we'd like to know. Apply today!

How to Qualify

  • You must be a Graduating High School Senior
  • You must have a GPA of 2.75 or higher
  • You must be a Resident of San Diego County, and a US citizen
  • You must intend to pursue your art by attending a university, accredited four-year college, community college, conservatory, or art school in the next school year.

How to Apply

  • Download our 2015 Educational Grant Application (pdf, requires Acrobat Reader 3.0 or higher).
  • Print it out and follow the directions.
    • Fill out the application form completely,
    • Sign both pages of the application,
    • Write a short essay (500 words) about yourself,
    • Get two recommendation letters,
    • Have your school send us a certified copy of your school transcript.

  • Send the completed application no later than March 16th, 2015, to:
Educational Grant Committee
P.O. Box 5445
San Diego, CA 92165

Some Advice

  • Read through the application first. For those parts of the application that involve other people (transcript, references, etc.), ask for their help right away. Don't wait until the last minute.
  • Filling out this application is going to take some work. But chances are that it would take less time than a summer job and it could be more rewarding!
  • Be creative, show us what you can do, and have fun! If you need help, please contact us.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Is your cell phone secure ?

Good advice from attorney Jeffrey Steinbrecher on improving your phone’s security:

“First, turn off all services you are not currently using – they provide avenues of attack.  Second, never use an open or public Wi-Fi.  It’s like having unprotected sex with a stranger. Sure, it might be OK a few times, but you will eventually get hurt. Third, use encryption. Store all sensitive files securely. Use two-factor authentication – e.g., a password and fingerprint scanner, or better, an iris scanner. Fourth, take care of devices and don’t let them out of your sight. With hardware encryption, keep devices off. In sleep mode, an attacker could recover data from your RAM.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

General William Tecumseh Sherman failure in California - Spring 1856

Excerpt from Fierce Patriot – The Tangles Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman,
 by Robert L. O’Connell

The spring of 1856 found Sherman a public figure of sorts: acting as chairman of a committee boosting a national wagon route from Missouri to California, speaking at the dedication of a twenty-two-mile railroad heading east, and accepting a commission as major general of the California militia. In the last instance, his timing couldn't have been worse, since it put him on a collision course with the very hand that fed him: the city's business community.
Like most things here, politics in San Francisco were extreme, and extremely corrupt-speculation, extortion, rigged bids, and stuffed ballot boxes were key instruments of municipal government. Public reaction was spasmodic, what historian Lee Kennett terms "a kind of spontaneous combustion of extra-legality," manifested in the so-called committees of vigilance. This first took place in 1851, when such a committee temporarily displaced city government, hanged a few purported malefactors, and then withdrew. The business community prided itself on the episode-their version of cleaning up city hall-and they were ready to do it again should the occasion arise.
It did, just as Sherman took command of the militia. A member of the board of supervisors, James Casey, had openly gunned down a political opponent and then turned himself over to the sheriff, a trusted associate, thereby galvanizing the elite to go vigilante. A throng of armed men surrounded the jail holding Casey, protected by a nervous and greatly outnumbered posse, virtually a cinematic archetype. Sherman, in his military capacity, inspected the jail, promptly declared it indefensible, and left, only to watch helplessly with the governor and mayor from the roof of the International Hotel as Casey and another suspect were removed by a crowd of twenty-five hundred men several days later, their fate a quick and public hanging.
Sherman wasn't sorry to see Casey go, but he was determined to support Governor John Neely Johnson's efforts to checkmate the vigilantes. On June 1, he and the governor met with General John Wool and Commodore David Farragut, the senior U.S. military representative, in nearby Benicia, asking for muskets and a ship to land them i11 San Francisco. Farragut promised only a naval demonstration (which he delivered), but they thought they had a deal with Wool to supply the guns.
On this basis, two days later Johnson declared a state of insurrection in San Francisco and ordered Sherman to call out the militia. At this point, things didn't simply unravel, they dissolved. Sherman suffered the indignity of learning from a bank customer that General Wool had no intention of delivering the proffered weapons. Meanwhile, the governor's proclamation had produced precious little in the way of volunteers, "the fizzle-call of General (?) Sherman," one local paper called it. In less than a week, Sherman resigned his commission as general without arms or an army; but retaining his sardonic sense of humor, he recommended Halleck as his replacement.
Along with pretty much everybody else in authority, Sherman found himself in the crosshairs of the press, publicly lampooned as "a Mighty Man of War taken from the desk of a counting house." For the first time in his life, he felt the sting of journalistic ridicule, and it revealed a very thin skin.  "I conceived a terrible mistrust of the press in California," he wrote long after. While Sherman was actually handled much less roughly than others, he remembered that the papers "poured out their abuse of me." He would continue to read newspapers compulsively, but now it was with an anger seething and growing until seeing his name in print became virtually synonymous with seeing red.
It has been suggested - and Sherman's own words can be used to support the view - that his retreat in the face of the vigilantes was politically transformative and imprinted a kind of nightmarish fear or grassroots democracy gone wild and one that was at the root of his fury over secession.  The impact was apparent, but not the whole story. Sherman was far too gregarious and egalitarian in the way he treated people to become a pure authoritarian. He liked much that democracy had created and feared just its logical conclusion, which he believed he had seen in California and again in the Confederacy.
More significant, perhaps, for his fate as a strategist was a trait he first exhibited here in the face of overwhelming odds: He knew when to quit and cut his losses. This is a much-overlooked military capacity: in the heat of the moment to retain sufficient objectivity to recognize the prospect of sure defeat and then to summon the self-control to reverse course and withdraw. For some-Grant, for instance-this proved impossible. But Sherman's military career was studded with such moments, epiphanies of defeat, and they were emblematic of his eventual success. He came to realize that in war there would be good days and bad days, but the ultimate objective must always remain paramount.
The remainder of Sherman's stay in California also turned out to be about cutting his losses. Boomtown's bubble had burst, the easy river of gold was long gone, and the economy was only scraping along. Lucas decided to shut down his bank's San Francisco branch, and Sherman handled the closing in an orderly and responsible fashion. A new branch was being opened in New York, and Lucas would put Sherman in charge.
Sherman departed in a dark state, with many regrets. Halleck persisted; he did not. The dream of big money in the Golden State had hardly panned out. And then there had been the vigilantes. In his mind, at least, the whole interlude had been a litany of failure; but in spite of everything, he liked California and wanted to stay. He had held his own in a tough environment and continued to impress capable and powerful people. His skills as a banker were sufficient for Turner and Lucas to send him on to the real financial big leagues. Meanwhile, his strategic skill set was gradually, silently, growing, his capacious mind filling with useful knowledge and experience. He would need it all. He was headed for even worse times.

Fierce Patriot – The Tangles Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman, by Robert L. O’Connell. Random House, NY, 2014.  ISBN 978-1-4000-6972-9. Excerpt from pages 49-52.