Since 1963, U.S. students have been “very bad at tests and very good at life,” Fareed Zakaria says, noting that during the same period of time the United States has “dominated the world of science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, economic growth.” The U.S. tradition of students receiving “a broad general education that prepares you not for your first job, but for your sixth job” accounts for U.S. dominance, the CNN host and author of In Defense of a Liberal Education tells the Graduate Center.
In this message-oversatuartion era, marketers have to “pick an audience and superserve them,” says branding guru Alan Goodman, who teaches a marketing master class at Macaulay Honors College. At MTV, where he developed the logo and the iconic animation IDs, Goodman says he saw the network as more than just a music video channel, and identified the audience as young people and proposed to reach them by offering programs that would annoy their parents. The campaign for Nickelodeon, he says, took the kids’ network from the lowest-rated basic cable network to the highest in nine months without changing programming. One tool he used in his Nick campaign was doo-wop, which people told him was a mistake because it was out of style. Kids responded to it, he says, because it was different.
Hashtag politics gives people who don’t have big money to donate to candidates a way to compete with big donors, or so says social media guru Alan Rosenblatt in a talk at Baruch. Hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter aggregate conversation and opinion, creating “powerful social capital” to compete with financial capital, Rosenblatt says. The hashtag has made it easier for likeminded people to affiliate across physical distances and interact, says assistant professor Katherine Behar, who noted that this presidential race has been called the first social media election. “One thing we are seeing as never before,” Behar says,” “is the strange sight of news media covering social media.” The hashtag makes interaction with the candidates easier. When Donald Trump is tweeting, says Rosenblatt, he’s “actually interacting directly with a voter who might not have had any opportunity to meet the candidate.”
The cyber currency created in 2009 as “a plaything for hackers,” will be used by governments by 2023 and consumers by 2027 by some estimates, Nathaniel Popper, author of Digital Gold: Bitcoin and theInside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money, tells a Baruch audience. The digital dough wasn’t worth anything until 2011, adds Popper, when it was adopted by users of the now defunct Silk Road website — to buy and sell heroin and marijuana without the transactions being trackable. Bitcoins, which exist as entries on a digital ledger, had an exchange rate value of more than $500 in September 2016. “Most of the general public still thinks of this as some sort of weird Tamogatchi pet or Pet Rock or something, but this is something that basically every Wall Street bank has a team working on right now,” Popper says.
Young people can agitate against injustice better than the leader of the United Nations can, or so he says. “I as secretary-general have constraints sometimes, political constraints,” Ban Ki-moon tells his audience at Lehman College, which was the U.N.’s home for five months in 1946. “But young people, you don’t have a limit,” Ban says. “You just raise your voice. We need you rise up for civil rights, for social justice, for equal opportunity and fair play here in the United States and beyond.”
Colum McCann’s advice to aspiring writers? Write. The Hunter College creative writing MFA professor reads “A Letter to a Young Writer” and his short story “What Time Is It Where You Are” at the Writing Center. Going against the common advice to write what you know, McCann urges young writers to “write toward that which you want to know. Better still, write toward that which you don’t know.”
Who is the Neapolitan novelist writing as Elena Ferrante? The world doesn’t know, yet the world has taken notice of such books as The Days of Abandonment and The Story of the Lost Child, the final story of her (or his?) Neapolitan quartet, which place Naples at the center of the universe. Ferrante’s translator Ann Goldstein and publisher Kent Carroll join The Graduate Center’s Giancarlo Lombardi and Bettina Lerner at Proshansky Auditorium to talk about Ferrante’s work, which one critic calls a social tapestry with an underlying feminist sensibility that explores the struggles and contradictions faced by women in the latter part of the 20th Century.
Donald Trump is the only pol “who screws up and his poll numbers go up,” says Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, and he seems willing to say anything. “It’s funny how when you’re president of the United States,” says Politico chief political correspondent and Brooklyn College alum Glenn Thrush, that “stuff you say has a tendency to actually happen.” The Trump beat reporters, in conversation with Peter Beinart at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, describe a Trump rally as “the angriest bar mitzvah you’ve ever been to.”
They could starve in India or work like slaves on the sugarcane plantations of British Guiana; that was the choice for thousands of Indians who left home from 1838-1917. One was journalist Gaiutra Bahadur’s great-grandmother Sajuria, who, pregnant and alone, immigrated in 1903. Bahadur seeks her story in Coolie Woman: An Odyssey of Indenture. Indenture provided cheap labor after Britain abolished slavery, and the indentured weren’t treated much better than slaves. Women had it worse, as victims of domestic violence. The abolition of indenture was “the first significant victory” for Indian nationalism, Bahadur tells a LaGuardia Community College audience.
Award-winning music writer and cultural critic Jessica Hopper gives a raw backstage look into the marginalization of women and people of color in the music industry. In her lecture at Macaulay Honors College, Hopper, the author of “The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic” said: “Writing is a way that we refuse to be silent.”