Some charter schools get funding from Wall Street, and the support may be there for reasons that ultimately benefit business, says Michelle Fine, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the Graduate Center. In the continuing debate over the effectiveness of charter schools versus traditional public schools, the source of support is an important factor that people should be aware of, according to Fine. Two-thirds of the Harlem Children’s Zone is funded by private money, “some of that from Goldman Sachs,” said Fine, referring to the Harlem-based charter school. “It’s a tax write-off, a way into the privatization of all things public, and a way to break up the unions,” said Fine in her lecture, “Charter Schools: The Promise vs. The Evidence,” part of the CUNY Science Cafe lecture series.
Progressives tend to see the Great Recession as the result of the untrammeled free market. Tea Party conservatives argue that government gone wild is the real story. Who’s right? Listen as Peter Beinart of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism joined by Richard Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review magazine and Josh Marshall, editor of the liberal political blog, TalkingPointsMemo.com, deconstruct the 2012 presidential campaign in a lively discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Twenty years ago Barnes & Noble introduced super stores that “specifically targeted venerable independents and undermined them with discounts,” says literary agent Eric Simonoff. Now e-books and online sales are targeting both the Barnes and Noble giants and the few remaining niche booksellers. Simonoff, author Jonathan Ames and others gathered at the CUNY Graduate Center to consider the future of neighborhood bookstores, once fixtures throughout the city. “The e-book is here to stay, and Amazon is the big bully on the block,” says Simonoff.
For every dollar earned by a man in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a female counterpart earns 14 percent less, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. It’s a statistic that City College professor Maribel Vazquez says must change. “Women in the workforce lack strong negotiation skills, Vazquez says, “because female aggression is perceived negatively by both men and women.” Vazquez delivered the keynote address at “Women in Science: Negotiating a Successful Academic Career,” a panel discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center. An associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, Vazquez also presented her research on the use of micro and nanotechnology in the study of cell migration in the brain.
How will today’s green initiatives to combat worldwide climate change alter the world for future generations? For an answer, Thomas McGovern, anthropology professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, has spent more than a decade studying how Viking settlers in Greenland managed to avoid destroying the land for centuries. “In Greenland they [the Vikings] got it right, but the environment changed on them again,” says McGovern in his lecture, “Sustainability and Collapse: Lessons from the Vikings,” part of the CUNY Science Cafe lecture series. “Their robustness to deal with one problem made them vulnerable to another.”
One of the bedrocks of the Jewish religion is a belief in the coming of the Messiah, but for some it can seem at odds with the history of the faith. “It is a fact of singular importance that the people who created the Messiah have never accepted one,” said Leon Wieseltier, who was the keynote speaker at the 16th Annual Irving Howe Memorial Lecture at the Graduate Center. Wieseltier, literary editor for the New Republic since 1983 and author of Kaddish, among other books, delivered a lecture entitled, “Steady Work: The Unmessianic Nature of Jewish Messianism.”
With the right strategy, community colleges could increase their graduation rates sharply — to 50 percent by 2010, from the current 16 percent to 22 percent, according to the head of the primary advocacy group for two-year colleges. “We need to redesign our learning environments and develop the ability to use 21st-century tools to our best advantage,” said Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, at a National Colloquium: Reimagining Community Colleges, hosted by CUNY at the Graduate Center. “The focus has to be on high-impact, resource-generating innovations, and we must ensure our relevance in our communities.”
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New York City’s enduring love for live theater has long nurtured companies, both on and Off Broadway, that have not only survived, but in many cases thrived despite the recent recession. “Theater will never die, as long as there is one person to tell a story and two people to listen,” says Casey Childs, executive producer of Primary Stages, a company he founded in 1984 dedicated to new plays. Casey was joined by Robert LuPone, artistic director of MCC Theater, and Jeffrey Horowitz, artistic director of Theatre for a New Audience in a discussion entitled, “25 Years of Off Broadway Theatre: Founders Look to the Future,” at the Graduate Center.
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A new biography of Malcolm X by the late author, Manning Marable, is bound to stir up emotions. “The saddest part of the text, which bought tears to my eyes, was when we find out that everyone close to Malcolm X betrayed him,” says Cornel West, referring to members of the Nation of Islam, in which Malcolm was a minister in Harlem before becoming estranged. At an event at the Graduate Center, moderated by sociology professor Stanley Aronowitz, West was joined by Gary Younge of The Guardian to discuss the significance of the book, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.” “By returning Malcom X to a human being, Marable has restored the notion that history is made by real people,” says Younge.
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As a war correspondent in Iraq, George Packer’s reports for The New Yorker often included interviews with ordinary Iraqis, a technique he learned as a 20-something volunteer for the Peace Corps. “I learned how to approach people with whom I had almost nothing in common and draw out the thread of their lives,” said Packer, recalling his time in a remote village in Togo, West Africa. Packer, the author of two novels and four books of non-fiction, including the award-winning “The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq” (2005), spoke at “The Art of the Feature Essay,” at the Graduate Center, along with fellow New Yorker contributors Paul Goldberger, Jane Kramer and Daniel Mendelsohn.
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