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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

House Historian Selected; Pelosi and Boehner Collaborate

Whatever happens in next week’s elections, there was at least one recent instance of non-partisanship on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner collaborated on the selection of the new House historian, Matthew Wasniewski, through a non-partisan search process.

6:48 pm edt 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Math, in Singapore and the U.S.

Mathematics teaching methods used in Singapore increasingly are being applied in the U.S., as educators seek to heighten students’ interest in and learning of math. 

In local and national seminars he has led through the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, Roger E. Howe has considered lessons from Singapore as well as from China, among elsewhere, and books including Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, by Liping Ma.  The William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Mathematics at Yale, Roger Howe has been involved with efforts to strengthen K-12 math instruction for some two decades. 

The seminars that he has led – in which both elementary and secondary-grades teachers of math have participated – have addressed word problems, estimation, and symmetry.

9:24 am edt 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nutrition and Health, Science and Math

Posts to this blog on July 31 and February 17 suggested how Michelle Obama’s "Let's Move" campaign is both reflecting and helping to catalyze increased consciousness about nutrition, fitness, and health – while a great deal of work remains. 

Now, with the poverty rate increasing and use of food stamps on the rise in Connecticut as elsewhere, the connection between food stamps, nutrition, and health is receiving sharper scrutiny.  New York is exploring banning “the use of food stamps to buy drinks that contain more sugar than substance,” as officials argue in a New York Times opinion piece: Op-Ed Contributors:  No Food Stamps for Sodas . 

For context, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide behavioral study of fruit and vegetable consumption, finding that only one quarter of the nation's adults eat vegetables three or more times a day.  See a September 25 Times article, “Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries .”

Various previous posts to this blog have included examples of curricular resources on science, health, and nutrition.  Most recently, public school teachers participating as National Fellows developed related curriculum units in the following seminars that Yale faculty members led:

 Nanotechnology and Human Health” (led by W. Mark Saltzman)

Evolutionary Medicine” (led by Paul E. Turner)

These were among ten local or national seminars the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute offered in 2010.  More information about the work of Fellows in these seminars, and about the Institute’s work in the sciences and math among other areas, appears in a September 26 post that includes mention of a Report to the President on K-12 STEM Education, released by the White House, which cites the Teachers Institute.

9:13 am edt 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Domestic Violence Awareness; How to Help

During this month of October designated for heightened awareness of domestic violence, the New Haven Register covered this year’s annual "Sound of Hope" event to remember victims of this crime, as a New Haven Independent account described the solemn occasion in 2008.

Another recent Register article discusses related issues, while a third article describes a $20,000 foundation grant toward staffing and maintenance at a shelter run by Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven.  That shelter protected 77 women and children during the six months spanning April through September 2010, an increase of some 30 percent over the same period in 2009.

Susan Campbell’s October 10 Courant column highlighted men countering domestic violence in greater Hartford.

An October 13 New Haven Independent article featured Rosa DeLauro and George Jepsen at an event at SCSU to counter violence against women.  SCSU VP Ron Herron was mentioned in a September 24, 2009 post to this blog, as among the men against domestic violence in the New Haven region. 

ESPN’s Dana O’Neil wrote an October 14 column, “Athletes Play Role in Domestic Violence Problem, Solution.”

Posts to this blog on August 21, July 18, May 14, and earlier treated related laws and articles (including an October 2008 opinion piece, "Domestic Violence No Game" – which touched on athletes and the more positive role sports could play in this area.)

Please consider supporting the "Stay at Home" Fundraiser of Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven.

7:57 am edt 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dairy Farms and Preserving Open Space

Today’s Hartford Courant includes both an editorial and a column sympathetic to the 150 or so dairy farms remaining in Connecticut – down from some 5200 in 1945, 660 in 1980, and 245 in 1999, according to rounded estimates. 

I, too, am sympathetic to Connecticut dairy farmers and to their role in preserving open space in our state.  Having myself worked throwing hay for a dairy farmer in the summer of 1985, having seen my brother work several years for that farm and another, and having grown up drinking un-homogenized, un-pasteurized milk our family obtained through a barter arrangement with a farmer who harvested our hay, I respect farmers’ dedication and their often multiple socially useful purposes.  (Vegans may fault this argument, but I’m an unabashed consumer of dairy products, albeit someone who tries to support local and/or organic dairy.  I’m no purist but also aim to limit meat consumption.)

An early 2009 article in the New York Times reported that cows’ manure could actually be more lucrative than their milk!  This is the counterintuitive result of a system that pays milk processors and retailers far more, given their relative investment, than farmers themselves. 

No longer drinking the raw milk my brother and I grew up on (our farmer neighbors sold their herd of cows years ago, ending the barter arrangement), my family now tries to buy our milk from sources including The Farmer’s Cow and Mountain Dairy.

Fortunately, the development rights to the erstwhile dairy farmers’ fields were sold to the State of Connecticut, part of a larger effort to preserve open space.  Connecticut is now more than two-thirds along toward its goal of preserving 21 percent of its land as open space.

1000 Friends of Connecticut, which recently held its annual meeting at the new transit-oriented, LEED-inspired building 360 State Street in New Haven, is an organization advocating for smart growth and sensible conservation statewide.

7:15 am edt 

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