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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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Teachers Institute Seminars, 2012

Applications from New Haven Public School teachers to the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute's 2012 seminars are due this week.  Information is available from teachers serving as school Representatives and Contacts for the Institute.

6:13 am est 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Science Teaching and Learning

A January 14 post below touched on physics scholarship and the arXiv (and on a New Haven Review article that discussed the progress of scientific research and the arXiv for a general audience).

NPR/APM have run radio broadcasts on science lecturing, with an emphasis on physics, from reporting by Emily Hanford for a documentary inspired by physicist and White House science advisor Carl Wieman.  In a 2001 Nobel Prize speech, Wieman incidentally remembered his rural Oregon childhood yielded “a profound appreciation for the value of public libraries. At the time I was quite envious that my friends had televisions while we did not, but in retrospect I am very grateful that I spent this time reading instead of watching TV.”  He continued: “My young idealistic teachers in mathematics and science there had a significant influence on me. I particularly remember my science teacher … [who] did a great deal to kindle my interest in science with his enthusiasm and knowledge. I still remember his explanations (far better than any of the material from my college courses!) of the structures of atoms in the periodic table and how these structures determined the various chemical properties and molecular reactions.”

Harvard physicist Eric Mazur figures centrally in Emily Hanford’s January 1 NPR/APM story on certain physicists who “seek to lose the lecture as teaching tool.”

Beyond physics – citing Eric Mazur among others, as well as decades of his own teaching – Yale evolutionary biologist Stephen C. Stearns has reflected on Designs for Learning.  Yale molecular biologist Jo Handelsman and colleagues explore Scientific Teaching. 

Jo Handelsman and Stephen Stearns are among the Yale faculty members who have been involved in review of science teaching and learning at the university, including for non-science majors.  Jo Handelsman directs the Yale Center for Scientific Teaching.

Stephen Stearns and Ramamurti Shankar (the latter in fundamentals of physics) are among the faculty members in the sciences whose lectures are collected as Open Yale Courses. 

Other Open Yale Courses include one in environmental studies led by John P. Wargo and one in biomedical engineering led by W. Mark Saltzman. 

John Wargo and Mark Saltzman have each led several seminars through the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute and its National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools, with public school teachers participating as Fellows and developing curriculum units for their students.  John Wargo’s most recent seminars have addressed “Energy, Environment, and Health”; “Energy, Climate, Environment”; and “Urban Environmental Quality and Human Health.”  The subjects of the seminars that Mark Saltzman has led include “Health and the Human Machine,” “Nutrition, Metabolism, and Diabetes,” “The Brain in Health and Disease,” “Nanotechnology and Human Health,” and “Organs and Artificial Organs.”

A National Research Council committee produced A Framework for K-12 Science Education, to be published in final form in March 2012.

February 12, 2011, April 10, 2011  and June 25, 2011 blog posts, among others, treated science instruction and science fairs in elementary and secondary grades. 

7:06 am est 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Center for Domestic Violence Services and the Need for Those Services

Domestic violence and its prevention have been the subjects of previous blog posts, such as on October 15, 2011.  Last month, the CDC released results of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS).  According to that survey, and quoting or paraphrasing the news release:

Nearly 1 in 5 women has been raped at some time in her life.

One in 4 women has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime.

Almost 70 percent of female victims experienced some form of intimate partner violence for the first time before the age of 25.

About 80 percent of female victims of rape were first raped before age 25.

Female victims of violence (sexual violence, stalking, intimate partner violence) were significantly more likely to report physical and mental health problems than female non–victims.

Across all forms of violence (sexual violence, stalking, intimate partner violence), the vast majority of victims knew their perpetrator (often an intimate partner or acquaintance and seldom a stranger).

About 1 in 7 men has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

Male victims of violence (sexual violence, stalking, intimate partner violence) were significantly more likely to report physical and mental health problems than male non-victims.

“This report highlights the heavy toll that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence places on adults in this country. These forms of violence take the largest toll on women, who are more likely to report immediate impacts and long-term health problems caused by their victimization,” said Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., director of CDCs National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Much victimization begins early in life, but the consequences can last a lifetime.”

The CDC’s NISVS results document the severity of violence as a public health problem and how violence can have impacts that last a lifetime.  Findings indicate female victims of violence had a significantly higher prevalence of long-term health problems, such as diabetes, frequent headaches, chronic pain, and difficulty sleeping.

“The health problems caused by violence remind us of the importance of prevention,” said Howard Spivak, M.D., director of the Division of Violence Prevention in the CDCs Injury Center. “In addition to intervening and providing services, prevention efforts need to start earlier in life, with the ultimate goal of preventing all of these types of violence before they start.”  

The NISVS provides data to help inform policies and programs aimed at preventing violence, while providing an initial benchmark for tracking the effectiveness of prevention efforts.  In summary, in the U.S., “On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner,” based on this survey conducted in 2010. Over a year, that represents some 12 million women and men. More than 1 million women are raped in a year, over 6 million women and men the victims of stalking.

The NISVS is one of various related CDC resources, including on teen dating abuse.

Within Connecticut, Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven (DVSGNH) is now part of a larger regional Center for Domestic Violence Services (CDVS), a program of BHcare.  BHcare provides domestic violence and family mediation for Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Branford, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton, West Haven and Woodbridge.

The CDVS Crisis Hotline numbers remain (203) 736-9944 and (203) 789-8104, as well as 1-888-774-2900 toll-free.

These developments reflect a trend over several years for nonprofits to consolidate toward greater efficiencies in their operation.  Many (though not all) of the same dedicated staff people who worked with the former DVSGNH remain under the new, broader CDVS and BHcare identities.

News includes a March 10 bowling event to benefit CDVS and the women and children it (mainly) serves.

As an April 2010 opinion article argued, “No one should have to stay with an abusive partner or keep kids in a hazardous home because of a shortage of shelter space and staff. Much of the state’s safety, advocacy, counseling and preventive public awareness efforts come via underfunded regional nonprofit service centers. Public money and philanthropy must maintain a partnership to keep pace. . . . Domestic violence harms families and communities. It haunts children and consumes law-enforcement resources. It invades workplaces and schools. It limits women’s freedom. It repeats through generations. It has to stop. This is not just a private problem; it is a public challenge — a challenge to act. It is in everyone’s interest to halt the cycle of abuse. Men, especially, can help. Let’s show our brothers and sons that we can do better, and our sisters and daughters that they can expect more. Indeed, that’s their right. Our culture and our systems of justice should advance that right: a safe home for all.”

6:33 am est 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Physics and the arXiv (and the New Haven Review)

I can’t claim to understand the article that my father-in-law, Q.N. Usmani, and colleagues published in December 2011 in Physical Review C, a journal of nuclear physics.  The subject: “Nuclear matter properties, phenomenological theory of clustering at the nuclear surface, and symmetry energy.” 

Still, this publication reminded me of an article on physics written a couple of years ago for a general audience: Brian Wecht’s New Haven Review article, “The Death of Peer Review: How the Internet Rebuilt Theoretical Science.”  Brian Wecht – a theoretical physicist then at the Institute for Advanced Study – discussed the arXiv, a Web resource that the Cornell library maintains.

This is an occasion to subscribe or renew one’s subscription to the New Haven Review, which is holding a subscription party January 20, as listed on the LiteracyEveryday site.

The article by Q.N. Usmani et al. is freely available at the arXiv.

5:16 pm est 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January, Mentoring Month

As mentioned on this blog in previous years, January is national mentoring month.  Connecticut resources include a state prevention partnership.  The LiteracyEveryday website has information on events such as a January 24-25 national mentoring summit.

5:05 pm est 

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