Saturday, May 31, 2014

* The Executive Function of the Brain

Middle East |​NYT Now
Suicide Bomber Is Identified as a Florida Man

News of the suicide attack surfaced on Tuesday in Twitter messages from the Nusra Front, an Islamist extremist group in Syria aligned with Al Qaeda. And on Facebook, there was praise for Mr. Abusalha and what he had done.
“When his turn came up” to carry out a suicide bombing, he “was very happy, because he will meet his God after that,” Abu Abdulrahman, the fighter, said via Facebook.


The brain continues to mature and develop connections well into adulthood. A person’s executive function abilities are shaped by both physical changes in the brain and by life experiences, in the classroom and in the world at large. Early attention to developing efficient skills in this area can be very helpful. As a rule, it helps to give direct instruction, frequent reassurance and explicit feedback

Sunday, May 25, 2014

* Super-organisms

Every generation goes through a utopian phase: My generation wanted to “give love a chance” while shouting “one, two, three, four :we don’t want your fucking war” until Kent State  ended the protest movement and AIDS ended the “sexual revolution”.


The current generation has made a faustian bargain with facebook and twitter in its own utopian paroxysm :  We surrender our privacy in exchange for the rush of a digital democracy, with Arab Springs toppling from our materialist pantheon the  Weiners , Spitzers and Sterlings;  Bondses, Clemenses and Armstrongs, toppling accomplished with the tip of a finger, a mouse click and a  tsunami of “shares," a  kind of digital super-organism like Nature's swarms. 


The same digital dynasty which made such topplings possible with the right hand also feeds billions of dollars every tenth of a second with the left hand to  an automated casino on Wall Street until the sheer mindless greed of the roulette wheel  rots the soul.


One tycoon is quoted in a recent issue of  Rolling Stone as saying “It is so easy to make money, “ leaving the rest of us who don’t find that to be so easy to wonder if we are idiots or he is braggart.


I suspect when the digital dust settles, and utopia and the fountain of youth have once again failed to materialize,  this generation will have become wrinkled and tired and cynical just as my generation of dead-heads has . 


It is almost laughable to turn the pages of  a Rolling Stone  magazine  these days with all the pot bellied, white haired hippies having reuniting their bands or mounting yet another mega-concert. 

Springstein---the Boss ---has become a kind of aging Frank Sinatra, trying to stuff his meaty self into  jeans and leather jackets the way Sinatra pasted himself into his toupe and false teeth, with an ascot of jowels cushioning  old golden throat's billion dollar vocal chords.


They will all be lost -------the fattening faces, the facebooks, the unformed utopias ---- all will wash away into the forgotten future,
unless of course social media's super-organisms, swarm down in digital revolutions, just in time to save mankind from canibalizing  of the biosphere.

Do I detect a smidgeon of utopianism in this 70 year old writer?

* A tidbit of contempt I overlooked a year ago--- and a background piece.

* The All of Leopold Stokowski

Letter to the Editor
Yale Alumni Magazine
Dear Editor:

Organist and Head of the Organ Department  of the Juilliard School Paul Jacobs ('02 MusM,'03 ArtA), may indeed have a mission to "save civilization with classical music" (YAM, May/June 2014)  but he would have a better chance at tackling  it if he took a cue from Leopold Stokowski who wrote his own epitaph before he died in 1977, still conducting, at age  95: It is an epitaph of  total musical egalitarianism.

Stokowski enjoys a legendary  celluloid immortality  bestowed upon him by his co-conductor Mickey Mouse  in the Walt Disney  film " Fantasia”  Mr. Jacobs might aver that the Stokowski orchestrations of Bach’s organ music deserve that Disney moniker too.

I had the privilege of witnessing  Stokowski at age 88 rehearse a choir he would conduct at Carnegie Hall  and there was nothing mickey mouse about him. He halted the music with a single clap of his  hands: "You must learn to concentrate; it is the secret to everything" he oraculated, expecting immediate comprehension and obedience.

Concentration  seems to be Paul Jacobs' insight too as he performed the entire Bach organ repertoire from memory in a grueling dawn to dusk marathon. But Stokowski knew that the modern egalitarian  audience needed more than concentration to stay in their seats for Bach.

They needed to be seduced by the sound -- not so much a Wagnerian "wall of sound"  but an orchestral ocean of sound whose tides rise and fall with waves whipped up from Stokey’s  glorious strings and brass.

I suspect the Juilliard organist might say Stokowski stooped to conquer.  The maestro’s famous hands would direct him to his epitaph: “Music is the Voice of the All,”  a philosophy which  Paul Jacobs might just need to use in  mounting his crusade to save the civilization of the All.
Paul D. Keane
M.Div. '80

Saturday, May 17, 2014

* Rare Footage

Friday, May 16, 2014

* Tribute to an Honest Man


Saturday, May 10, 2014

* Edifice Christianity vs.Ethical Christianity


Fwd: Re: Your article in Reflection​s

Paul Keane 

May 11 (1 day ago)

to Greg, Harry, Craig




Gregory Sterling, Dean
Yale Divinity School

Hi Dean Sterling

You ask [in this issue of  Reflections]: how many (of you) are still practicing Christians?

With all due respect I consider myself a practicing Christian and yet I do not enter an edifice or repeat verbal formulas .

One of the hopeful things to come out of YDS in recent years was your editor's call for "unconventional ministries" . I admit to being surprised when they actually published my blurb about The Anti-Yale as digital heir to Holy Smoke neither of which had/has an edifice or publishes a creed or has ever earned a penny , but both of which are in my opinion radically spiritual.

BTW without your having published that blurb I never would have thought  to call you in the midst of the Tsarnaev burial controversy . The guy must be innovative I thought.

All of my adult life I have used the media for spiritual purposes from Kent State to AIDS at Yale to Tsarnaev and recently on ageism in the Valley News  as a school board member.

Yet YDS has never seen what I do as spiritual even when 60 Minutes came to the YDS campus over the discovery of the heterosexual transmission of AIDS.

I suppose your initial reluctance to be involved last May "because (I) went to the media"  as you said of the Tsarnaev affair is why Christianity has lost its power over the young.

They are creatures of media. Media use seems anathema to the quiet humbleness required to be a churchgoer and therefore anathema to its creatures.

Hence the popularity of Crystal Cathedrals and talk show preachers.

But as you know Christianity has a radical activist component from the Fathers Berrigan  to Wm Sloane Coffin to Mother Teresa. And now even the new Pope has understood the paradox that publicity in the service of spirituality is a form of humility.

In a world full of danger and bureacratic doublespeak
the terrible swift sword of a lightning flash of truth from the media is cathartic and energizing to those who do not wish to sit respectfully in pews.

I suspect that the alleged murderer Paul of Tarsus nor the table turning Palestinian carpenter who flipped off the money changers would particularly want to sit respectfully in pews either.

No. I am not trying to convince YOU that I am a practicing Christian ( I know that I am one and that certainty is enough for me. )  .

Instead I am trying to suggest that you return to your editor's instinct two years ago  when he canvassed alums to "submit unconventional ministries"  to the alummi magazine.

Building on that editor's impulse might broaden the appeal of the emptying churches.  (The New Yorker's brilliant Adam Gopnik has a different view: When the economy goes up steeples come down,  he says of the last 70 years.)

It's not that simple. But certainly those who use the media make the steeples less musty.

My instinct that the guy must be innovative  provoked this response  to your article in Reflections in one sense.

But in a larger sense it was provoked by my pleasant surprise  after having been rejected by you on my initial appeal for help with the Tsarnaev burial proposal , to have you offer to help find a suitable recipient for that tainted gravesite .

After the mayor and two Hamden ministers (one from the church of my confirmation; the other from the church of my YDS internship ) fled from the bad publicity as fast as they could I confess thinking you might too.

But no. Only  you and the former  mayor Craig Henrici --- my childhood friend --- and Dean Adams --- who has stuck with me since 1976 --- chose to associate yourselves with the creator of that controversy  which began almost one year ago today.

It is for that courage that I take the time to respond to your question in Reflections: are you a practicing Christian?

You and Craig and Dean Adams have already answered it in  my opinion: standing shoulder to shoulder with the outsider.

Best wishes,

Paul D. Keane,
M.A., M.Div. '80, M.Ed.

Dean Adams

On May 11, 2014, at 5:49 AM, "Paul Keane"
 In short:  Edifice Christianity  vs. Ethical Christianity. 

From: "Sterling, Greg E"
Date: May 11, 2014 9:42 AM
Subject: Re: Your article in Reflections
To: "Paul Keane

Dear Paul,

Thank you for all that you do for Christianity. My concern is not to lose a sense of community. I do not feel the need to preserve "Edifice" Christianity, but worry that "Ethical" Christianity can not be sustained without communities. We need ethics and an awareness of the divine within communities-at least in my judgment.

Best wishes,


Sent from my iPhone

Dear Dean Sterling,

Thank you for your generosity of spirit which I have learned to expect but which I do not take for granted.
I agree with your concern for community. I think  the new generation is telling us that  it will be found on a screen not in an edifice, although the outlet to charge the screen might.
---------- Forwarded message ----------


* Hartford School Board member has his say on "Consolidation"

The New York Times


Librarian Jeannette Bair and Jillian Sherwin, 11, ahead of a school meeting in Rochester, Vt. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times

ROCHESTER, Vt. — Tucked into valleys and isolated by mountains and rural expanse, many of Vermont’s 273 school districts serve just a smattering of children. It is an old system, borne of the state’s agrarian history and knotty geography, and many Vermonters like it that way.
Among those who do are many residents here in Rochester, a town of close to 1,100 in the center of the state. Its district has one school for about 150 pupils in kindergarten through 12th grade, some of whom come from nearby towns with even smaller districts. But some in Vermont see little future in the tiny districts, and a move is on for consolidation. It will not be easy.
Vermont has more school districts than cities and towns, and a valued tradition of small-scale democracy. The last time there was a major overhaul in school governance was the late 1800s. But now there is an urgent fiscal reality: Vermont’s public schools have lost more than 20,000 students since the second half of the ’90s, making these districts even smaller, while education costs — and taxes to pay for them — have risen. “If you designed a system from scratch, you would not design what Vermont has right now,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat. “We currently have more superintendents and administration than any state of our size. We need to think of a better way.”

Robert Meagher at the same meeting. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times
But while frustration increases — on Town Meeting day this year, 35 school budgets failed, which is about twice as many as usual — a House bill intended to streamline the education system by combining these tiny school districts has generated fierce opposition from parents, teachers and local administrators concerned it will erode that tradition of local control. And it comes with political difficulties, since many lawmakers voting for the bill would have to change the school board structures in their own towns.
“The fact of the matter is, in a state as small as Vermont, the schools are the heart of most communities and the notion of local control is close to a religion here,” said Shap Smith, the House Speaker, a Democrat who supports the bill.
The measure, which passed the House last Wednesday after more than a month of wrangling, would give districts a few years to find ways to combine voluntarily. A state team monitoring the process would design a final plan for any remaining districts, ultimately forming 44 to 55 K-12 districts, many with at least 1,000 students. The new structure would go into effect in 2020, after approval by voters in the voluntarily aligned districts and legislators. How much money the measure would save is unclear, but proponents say it would create efficiencies and increase student opportunities by sharing resources and collaborating on programming, as well as reduce administrative costs.
“We think this is going to bend the curve of education costs,” said State Representative Johannah Donovan, a Democrat and chairwoman of the House Education Committee. Ms. Donovan also said the bill could help reduce staff and might help grow classes to more sustainable sizes.
But even as small districts shrink further, many communities still view the proposal as a galling rebuke that ignores geographic realities, like mountains and rivers that might make travel to and from districts difficult.

Vermont has more school districts than cities and towns and a valued tradition of small-scale democracy. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times
Rochester, like many Vermont towns, has felt the pressure of declining enrollment, having lost about 100 students over the last decade. A report by a consultant from the Vermont School Board Association that was completed last fall raised doubts about whether the district could continue to have a high school — which will see just 13 students graduate this year — if enrollment and costs continue on their divergent paths.
When the floodwaters of Hurricane Irene wrecked the auditorium, the town rebuilt it. And earlier this year, residents voted in a nonbinding referendum to keep the high school open. The principal, Catherine Knight, is leading an effort to shore up the school with specialized programming and by playing up the strengths of its small size. “We just see ourselves carry on a tradition,” said Ms. Knight. Referring to her students, she added, “They may not have 50 courses to choose from, but they know who they are and who cares about them.”
Under the House consolidation plan, Rochester School would likely become part of a larger district, and would no longer be run by its current board, although the town could be represented on that larger district’s new board. Residents here are concerned that their school would wither away in a bigger district, possibly leaving their students no option but to be bused to schools on the other side of the nearest mountain.
“Smaller schools like Rochester are going to be trampled on,” said Doug Gorton, a member of the school board here who works as a construction estimator. “This valley really needs a K-12 school.”
Around the state, concerns about eroding village schooling have fueled opposition to the proposal. “I know how decent and how joyful a school run by local residents is compared to the anonymous monstrosities that the rest of the country has,” said Paul Keane, a former teacher and Hartford school board member.

The Rochester School Board at a budget meeting. Their only school has about 150 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times
Proponents of the bill said that small schools were already closing, which was eroding local control anyway, and governance reform may be the only way to save them, by connecting them to resources from larger districts and heading off what some see as a looming budget crisis.
“Small schools can only survive if we change the governance structure,” said Dan French, the superintendent of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union, the terminology Vermont uses to refer to a cluster of districts overseen by one superintendent.
State Senator Dick McCormack, a Democrat who leads the Education Committee, said last week that there was not enough time for his chamber to take up the House bill this session. “In Vermont, we delegate a lot of that to the towns,” he said. “If we were to reform something at this profound a level, we would really need serious consideration and the fact is that the clock has run out. Whatever was done this year will be a matrix for future work.”
Mr. McCormack said that the Senate would likely take up a bill early this week intended to create more savings in existing supervisory unions and encourage voluntary mergers.
Governor Shumlin said he is hopeful lawmakers will pass something this session.
As the debate continues, remote areas would likely continue to vex higher-level administrators interested in consolidation, distant as they are from bigger schools or administrative offices. That could be, in the end, what helps keep a school like Rochester’s from closing, regardless of administrative changes.
“Because it’s so isolated,” said Ms. Knight, the principal, “I think people will really fight for it.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

* Dartmouth Rejects AP Course Credit

Bureaucratic Baloney and Mindless Gobbledygook
The Huffington Post  has  noted that Darmouth College faculty have made a gutsy decision : Students may no longer substitute AP courses taken in high school for credit toward a Dartmouth degree.

I say "gutsy" because after nearly three decades in public education and  three evaluations of my Vermont  high school  by the  (LINK)New England Association of Schools and Colleges,  NEASC, I am aware of tremendous pressure put on high schools by bureaucrats and,  by dollar-conscious parents, to do everything they can to make high school graduates eligible to cut college costs.

The Almighty Dollar reigns here.  Dartmouth is challenging this false god, and I say "good for them."

As an English teacher, holding four college degrees (two in English), I was always frustrated by the deadening prose  in the NEASC evaluation forms which involved months of faculty committee work and a cowardly silence on the part of faculty about the unintelligible bureaucratic gobbledygook which NEASC produced for faculty to read and evaluate.

Here's an example of  the platitudinous vagueness and jargon taken from its high school evaluation process:

21st Century Learning Expectations
Effective schools identify core values and beliefs about learning that function as explicit foundational commitments to students and the community.  Decision-making remains focused on and aligned with these critical commitments.  Core values and beliefs manifest themselves in research-based, school-wide 21st century learning expectations.   Every component of the school is driven by the core values and beliefs about learning and supports all students' achievement of the school's learning expectations.  (from the Overview for Standard 1)

I was just as guilty as anyone else in my silence when we had to endure months and  volumes of this nonsense.

 I knew there was no point in fighting this bureaucratic beast.  It was entrenched.

Is it any wonder that high school Advanced Placement courses  do not meet college standards when high school faculty are forced to prostrate themselves in obeisance to such mindless prose and bureaucratic baloney ?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

* Holy, Holy, Holy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

* My Seven Decade Lookaround


Monday, May 5, 2014

* I Love Vermont

Ms. Jess Bidgood, Reporter
Mr. Jake Sotak,  Reporter
The New York Times

Dear Jess and Jake,

What an excellent article, Jess, in today's New York Times. (attachment).

Special thanks to your talented colleague on the Times, (ahem, my former student---  brag  ) Jake Sotak for alerting you to this worthy topic

I admire particularly the phrase "callous rebuke".  And capturing the "geographical" component of the problem at the outset (valleys, mountains) made the problem much more understandable to the average reader, especially Vermonters visualizing an army of yellow buses transporting children across treacherous Rochester Mountain Rd. ---part of which is proudly unpaved. ( Note: Vermont has more dirt roads than paved roads and any point in the state can be reached on a dirt road by only crossing asphalt intersections. True.)

Your month of research, Jess, paid enduring dividends.

And thank you too for giving me the most idealistic quote in the piece.

I love Vermont.

Best wishes,


Paul D. Keane
M.A., M.Div., M.Ed.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

* Kent State, May 4, 1970, premonitory of American mass shootings to come.

Ohio National Guardsmen open fire
on student protestors and bystanders,
Kent State University, May 4, 1970

(Clockwise: William Schroeder,
Sandy Scheuer, Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause)
These photos were chosen by parents
 of the Kent State murdered students,
 as the photos they wished to be displayed
in memory of their children, two years after the killings.
Particularly poignant was the  photo choice of the Schroeders for their son Bill,  a shirtless portrait, exuding a Huck Finn zest for life.

As program coordinator for the Center for Peaceful Change, the University's memorial to the slain students, I arranged for  creation of 
The May 4th  Resource Room
in the KSU library which would display these photos.

Note at link above that the Library declines to refer to the murders instead euphemizing them as "the May 4, 1970 events."


Barry Levine and Allison Krause
outside Eastway dorm complex,
 Kent State, 1970

Barry and Allison
Romeo and Juliet
 to many of us
living in
Eastway complex,
always in each other's arms,
a joy of liberated affection.

(Allison would bleed to death in Barry's arms.)


(Jeffrey Millier lies on the asphalt altar of the Kent State human sacrifice. A grieving female bystander, as streaming blood puddles behind her,  seems to express the eternal loss of mothers everywhere.)

When I saw how much blood had drained from 
Jeffrey Miller's head, 
and then found the telephone lines to be dead in Eastway complex,
I got in my car and abandoned my job and the campus.

The FBI took over  the entire campus and ordered all 18,000
resident students to leave town, frantically  and vainly searching the dorms for evidence of a conspiracy and "weapons." 

 My assistant as a resident counselor in Manchester dorm was a geology major.  His rock collection was taken and later displayed as "evidence"  by the local grand jury that students had been planning a riot at Kent State


In the insanity of the moment,
a student protestor jumps up and down
in the slain student's blood.