Building a Worcester theatre district

The Hanover Theatre entrance. Photo of interior below.

The Hanover Theatre entrance. Photo of interior below.

From The England Council (

Bank of America has donated $250,000 to the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, in Worcester, to build an outdoor theater. The bank has been a long time benefactor of the theatre and will have the honor of naming the new outdoor plaza next to it.

Bank of America’s generous donation brings the Hanover Theatre closer to achieving its goal of transforming its neighborhood into Worcester’s Theatre District. The $250,000 donation comes in collaboration with the City’s Main Street Reimagined project to restore the street’s public space, including new sidewalks, traffic lights, lighting fixtures and more. Hanover Theatre President and CEO Troy Siebels has prioritized a strong collaborative relationship with the City of Worcester and their respective downtown projects.

“The Hanover Theatre touches well over a quarter million patrons every year and is a staple in the local arts community,” said Ed Shea, Bank of America’s Central Massachusetts market president. “In addition to the positive impact that performing arts has on the community, the improvements to the theater also play an important role in the rebirth of downtown Worcester.”


Chris Powell: Prosecute kids for wearing blackface? Perpetual poverty in New Haven

Promotional poster for Spike Lee’s 2000 film   Bamboozled ,  about a disgruntled black television executive who reintroduces the old blackface style in a    series concept    to try to get himself fired, and is instead horrified by its success.

Promotional poster for Spike Lee’s 2000 film Bamboozled, about a disgruntled black television executive who reintroduces the old blackface style in a series concept to try to get himself fired, and is instead horrified by its success.

Kids can be horrible -- stupid, cruel, hateful, sadistic, reckless, and worse. But in spite of the indignation lately contrived by the Connecticut chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wearing blackface is not high on the scale of youthful offenses.

The other week, at a press conference outside a middle school in Shelton, Conn., one of whose white students recently posted on the Internet a photo of herself wearing blackface, the NAACP suggested that kids deserve to be shot for that kind of thing or at least criminally prosecuted for a "hate crime."

On top of that, according to the Valley Independent Sentinel, the NAACP demanded that Shelton authorities account to the organization for the progress of the "investigation" of the incident and include the organization in a mandatory discussion with students and school staff about racial diversity.

Make wearing blackface a "hate crime"? That's fascism. For no matter how offensive the blackface-wearing student was, and no matter what she meant, if anything, she did it on her own time to her own looks in her own life. A school can disapprove of certain things that rise to public attention, and of course a school always should be teaching decent behavior, but First Amendment freedom of expression in one's personal life is and must remain inviolate. The government has no authority to punish it.

In peacefully protesting racial oppression in the segregationist South, the civil rights advocates of a half century ago struggled and even died for freedom of expression. The NAACP was part of that struggle. Now the organization wants 12-year-olds prosecuted for putting on makeup and making faces.

But it's even more ironic. Lately the NAACP has supported Connecticut's new laws increasing leniency for juveniles who commit crimes like car theft. So now in Connecticut juveniles can get caught stealing cars twice before a court can impose any punishment on them. Many of those juveniles are black. But the NAACP thinks wearing blackface is worse than car theft.

Most kids grow up. The premier of Canada wore blackface when he was young. So did the governor of Virginia. They lately were caught through old photos and repented. Blackface is not who they are now. Most of the kids in Connecticut who lately have advertised themselves wearing blackface have been reprimanded and likely will grow up too. With luck many of Connecticut's young and coddled car thieves will not only grow up but stay out of prison.

The NAACP should grow up as well. There are far more serious things to be indignant about.

* * *

WHY THE PERPETUAL POVERTY? Fresh from his victory in New Haven's Democratic primary for mayor, Justin Elicker has urged Yale University students to devote some time to civic life in the city. According to the Yale Daily News, one student snarked back, "We're a university, not a soup kitchen."

Elicker replied that some city residents "can't put food on the table" while Yalies enjoy an all-you-can-eat dining hall.

But despite that snarky student, Yale is not quite the bastion of privilege it once was. Now about half Yale's students receive the university's own scholarships under "need-blind" admissions policy so that even kids who grew up dining at soup kitchens and don't have much money can get into the university.

Also the other week CTNewsJunkie reported that Connecticut is the only state in which poverty recently increased. So Yale students and Elicker himself might perform a great civic service if they could ever determine why poverty and urban policies are failing so badly.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Depends what you mean by 'hope'

“H   ope  ,  which lay at the bottom of the box, remained.’’ Allegorical painting by    George Frederic Watts   , 1886

“Hope, which lay at the bottom of the box, remained.’’ Allegorical painting by George Frederic Watts, 1886

“Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be….’’

— From ‘‘Thanks, Robert Frost,’’ by David Ray

Llewellyn King: The business case for national health insurance



The leading Democratic candidates for president want differing degrees of major surgery done on health insurance. During the Oct. 14 debate, they contrived only to cut themselves.

The smell of blood from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden must have been a near-divine scent to Republican operatives who haven’t had an easy time of it lately.

Sanders and Warren have signed on to an idea favored by many on the left: Medicare-for-all. Joe Biden, seeking to carve out a position as the seasoned centrist, favors not surgery but Band-Aids all over the patient.

The problem with Medicare-for-all is money. Or, it is advertised as money.

Yet the reason for single payer — a national health insurance system — isn’t to spend more money but less.

Much less.

The United States spends about double what other countries spend, but the coverage is patchy and has non-medical consequences that are severe. One of these is the effect on the mobility of labor. Workers stay in dead-end jobs because they fear the loss of their health insurance.

A bigger effect is the burden on business of saddling it with health care. The price tag for business is huge. Transferring that expense to the government would have the effect of a big tax cut. A new Social Security tax designed to compensate for the loss of business support in health care would be reasonable. Business would be ahead, and the national misery of paying in multiple ways for health care would be ended. Simple is cheaper.

One benefit would be the leveling of the playing field for business and employees. The employer-provides-system is a burden on business as well as a distorter of society.

The Milliman Medical Index calculates the cost of health insurance for a family of four, on a standard plan, at $28,386. Unsurprisingly, many employers are now seeking to share health-care costs with employees. In 2019, according to Milliman, companies are paying 82 percent of employees’ health insurance premiums.

The current system costs everyone in every possible way. Doctors employ staff whose only job is to wrestle with health insurance companies, and hospitals have armies of people working on claims. An attorney working for a big city hospital told me that it has 150 people whose only job is to struggle with insurance claims.

The mistake the leading Democrats are making, especially those of the left, is just looking at health insurance from the humanitarian point of view. Sanders sounds off on the uninsured and the bankruptcies. Democrats are all heart and not enough numbers — or courage to suggest necessary tax adjustments.

What they should do is look at the business case against the sustained chaos that passes for health care. Businesses of all sizes should be enthusiastic about being relieved of the health care burden: a burden carried only by U.S. businesses.

Americans pay roughly twice as much of the Gross Domestic Product for health care — about 19 percent — as does any other advanced country. The driving issue should be to reduce that; to get the fat out, to curb profiteering, to end rent-taking by insurance companies, and to end the wasted effort in negotiations on nearly every claim. Patients and business would both be winners.

The business cavalry has an expeditionary force already saddled up with a group called Business for Medicare for All. Its chairman, Richard Master, says: “You don’t need to be a progressive to see why single-payer is a logical option for America. For a growing number of business leaders, including myself, transitioning to a single-payer, centrally financed health care system makes sense from a purely economic perspective.”

From the doctors’ corner, John Perryman, a Roscoe, Ill.-based pediatrician, says the leading Democrats missed out. “The system is chaotic and failing. The debate was very disappointing. Biden said it would cost $3.6 trillion a year to switch over — the amount we now spend on health care every year. But that is growing by 4 percent a year which means in 10 years, we will be spending $30 trillion, with 20 percent going to insurance companies. The only way to get that down is with a single-payer system,” he says.

Perryman is a member of Physicians for A National Health Program, a 23,000-strong group of doctors with offices in Chicago. A different prescription is being written.

On Twitter: @llewellynking2

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle ,on PBS. He’s based in Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

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How climate change is changing electric utilities, with Ernest Moniz, Paula Gold-Williams

She only looks simple

“ Portrait of a Woman  “  (oil and acrylic on linen and acrylic on cotton duck), by Ian McKeever, in his show “The Nature of Painting,’’ at Heather Gaudio Fine Art, New Canaan, Conn., through Nov. 16. The gallery says:    “Using different techniques to apply translucid layers of paint , McKeever {has gone on} to create beautiful lyrical abstractions on canvas….His paintings became more about the implicit light and suggestions of visual passageways to a space inside their surface. For McKeever, light is not something to be depicted per se, but rather conveyed through the inherent qualities of the medium, be they oil, acrylic or gouache.’’

Portrait of a Woman(oil and acrylic on linen and acrylic on cotton duck), by Ian McKeever, in his show “The Nature of Painting,’’ at Heather Gaudio Fine Art, New Canaan, Conn., through Nov. 16. The gallery says:

“Using different techniques to apply translucid layers of paint , McKeever {has gone on} to create beautiful lyrical abstractions on canvas….His paintings became more about the implicit light and suggestions of visual passageways to a space inside their surface. For McKeever, light is not something to be depicted per se, but rather conveyed through the inherent qualities of the medium, be they oil, acrylic or gouache.’’

'Last rosebud'


In my Autumn garden I was fain
     To mourn among my scattered roses;
     Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses
To Autumn’s languid sun and rain
When all the world is on the wane!
     Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,
     Nor heard the nightingale in tune.

Broad-faced asters by my garden walk,
     You are but coarse compared with roses:
     More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses,
Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk,
That least and last which cold winds balk;
     A rose it is though least and last of all,
     A rose to me though at the fall.

— “An October Garden,’’ by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Charlie Simmons: Our tax system makes pollution worse

Schematic drawing, causes and effects of air pollution: (1) greenhouse effect, (2)    particulate contamination   , (3) increased UV radiation, (4) acid rain, (5) increased ground-level ozone concentration, (6) increased levels of nitrogen oxides.    — From Wikipedia

Schematic drawing, causes and effects of air pollution: (1) greenhouse effect, (2) particulate contamination, (3) increased UV radiation, (4) acid rain, (5) increased ground-level ozone concentration, (6) increased levels of nitrogen oxides.

— From Wikipedia


Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who sparked student protests across the globe, had this to tell the U.N .General Assembly in New York: “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.”

As a retired businessman and engineer, I can’t help but look at Greta with admiration. Yet I shudder to think that my generation has abdicated our duties to such an extent that we are leaving the mess of climate change on the shoulders of high schoolers.

Lawmakers and business leaders in my generation have a responsibility to act today to mend our planet before these young people have to inherit it. Some of the most straightforward, yet least discussed solutions, lie in our tax system.

Unfortunately, the man-made crisis of climate change is made worse by our man-made tax system. In 2018, many of the biggest fossil fuel companies paid zero dollars in taxes — and actually received billions in rebates.

These shocking facts, uncovered by the Institute on Taxation and Economy Policy, flew under the radar of mainstream media.

In total, ITEP found that at least 60 of the biggest American corporations didn’t pay a cent in federal taxes in 2018. Of those, 22 are power utilities and oil and gas corporations, including famous names such as Chevron, Halliburton, and Occidental Petroleum — and that was only in 2018

How is this possible?

In part, it’s because there are a mind-boggling number of tax incentives offered to fossil fuel companies. There are deductions for domestic fossil fuel production, tax credits for vague “intangible drilling costs,” and deferred federal tax payments.

In 2016, The Wall Street Journal estimated that these provisions amounted to $4.76 billion per year given out to fossil fuel companies from the federal government.

That was before GOP corporate tax cuts worsened the problem in 2017 by slashing the industry’s already low tax rate and offering a new deduction for capital expenditures — while simultaneously opening up half a million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to new drilling.

Companies like Chevron will tell you they’re committed to preventing climate change, pointing to their $100 million pledge to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, an industry-led organization allegedly dedicated to fighting climate change.

This is a paltry amount compared to the $4.5 billion in profit they made in 2018 — or even to the $955 million they avoided in taxes thanks to the Republican tax cuts. Chevron received a $181 million rebate on Tax Day.

Essentially, American taxpayers lost $955 million, funded a $100 million PR stunt, and paid $81 million directly to the corporation to fund more drilling and exploration our planet literally cannot afford. Chevron’s not unique, either — Occidental did the same thing.

While the current administration lets fossil fuel companies raid America’s natural resources and its coffers, the rest of us can’t sit back and wait for change. Greta certainly isn’t, and she’s only 16.

Tax incentives should encourage better behavior from corporations, not pay polluters to profit from environmental degradation.

Forcing our elected officials and 2020 candidates to introduce incentives for fixing climate change — and remove those that accelerate it — should be on the top of the agenda. our economy and the health of our environment ultimately go hand-in-hand, and it’s long past time our tax system reflected that.

Charlie Simmons is a retired tech executive from Silicon Valley and a member of the Patriotic Millionaires.

Enough, already, with the mobsters

The late South Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger

The late South Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’ in

Thank you, Scott Mackay, of the Public’s Radio, for urging folks to move on from the much-outdated cliches of dark, mob-ridden Boston and Providence. It’s been a long, long time since the Mafia has been a big force in either city, and Whitey Bulger’s Irish-American mob in South Boston has been gone for many years, too. I have worked and lived in both cities and am weary of the cartoon versions presented by the entertainment media.

Then there are the tedious – and associated with the Mafia obsession – reruns of the life of Buddy Cianci (whom I knew). His vaudeville act was stale well before he died, in 2016. But I’ll always be impressed by his genius for getting credit for other individuals’ and organizations’ contributions to the city and for his charming lack of interest in the city’s fiscal stability. Still, yes, to be fair, Buddy aroused a lot of interest, even excitement in cynical old Providence, and he could be very funny.

To read Mr. McKay’s essay, please hit this link

'For the grapes' sake'


O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist;

Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!

For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—

For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

— “October,’’ by Robert Frost

Is Boston signaling recession?

Boston skyline from Belmont

Boston skyline from Belmont

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

The very rich greater Boston area may be signaling that a recession is coming. Bloomberg News reports that for the first time since the Great Recession “tenants in the third quarter cut back on office and lab space in Boston, Cambridge and the suburbs, said Aaron Jodka, who leads the research team at Colliers International Group Inc.’s Boston office. A quarter-over-quarter reduction in occupied space in all three markets has only happened during recessions or in the early stages of a recovery, he said.’’ Boston has seen a boom in the construction of office and luxury residential space since the end of the Great Recession, with new skyscrapers making downtown resemble Manhattan.

New York and some other cities are reporting declines similar to what’s being reported in Boston.

We often don’t know we're in a recession until after one has started. A big challenge in fighting the next one will be that the oceanic federal budget deficits, in part from Republican tax cuts for the rich, as well as the very, very low interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve, apparently at least partly in response to pressure from Trump, even in a time of (general) prosperity, will give the federal government far weaker tools than in previous downturns to fight a recession. They’ve used them up when they didn’t need them.

Happily, the Bay State has a very able administration led by Gov. Charlie Baker that would probably deal with the challenges of recession better than the leaderships of most states, and, of course, Massachusetts will continue to be one of America’s richest places.

To read more, please hit this link.

Todd McLeish: Could a tough N.E. hard coral help save tropical corals?

Northern Star Coral is found in the waters along the Rhode Island coastline. In this photo, the northern star coral is attached to a rock and near green alga, commonly called sea lettuce, and red alga.    — ecoRI News photo

Northern Star Coral is found in the waters along the Rhode Island coastline. In this photo, the northern star coral is attached to a rock and near green alga, commonly called sea lettuce, and red alga.

— ecoRI News photo

From ecoRI News (

The ongoing decline of tropical coral reefs around the world is causing a domino effect that could impact the quarter of marine life that depends on this ecosystem. Reefs are becoming bleached and dying as warming waters force corals to expel the algae that live in their tissues and produce sugars to provide food for the coral.

A Rhode Island scientist is co-leading a collaborative effort to determine if New England’s only hard coral species — a variety that can survive bleaching — could provide a solution to the coral-bleaching problem in the tropics.

Northern Star Coral is found in a range that extends from the Gulf of Mexico to Cape Cod.

“Some corals in Florida can have hundreds to thousands of individuals in one colony, and they can be 10 to 20 feet high. Here in Rhode Island, most of our coral colonies are about the size of a silver dollar. They don’t get big, mainly because they don’t grow during the winter,” said Koty Sharp, Roger Williams University associate professor of biology, marine biology and environmental science. “They’re also not super charismatic; they’re not as visually impressive. But under a microscope we see beautiful structures, tentacles, mouths, different colors.”

Sharp believes that the Northern Star Coral’s adaptability to life in both temperate and tropical waters may provide insight into how corals handle the stress of changing environmental conditions, which could ultimately help tropical corals be resilient to the climate crisis.

“Because the Northern Star Coral lives in this large latitudinal range, individuals of the same species experience really different temperature changes and really different environmental shifts throughout the year,” she said. “They’re exposed to different thermal regimes — drastic shifts up here and stable temperature conditions down south. That gives us the flexibility to learn more about how an individual’s history or experience of temperatures and water-quality conditions may influence the physiology of the organism and how that influences its resilience.”

Sharp and colleagues from throughout the species’ range are conducting a variety of experiments to learn about the symbiotic relationship between algae and Northern Star Coral, as well as investigations of its thermal resilience, tolerance for heavy metals, and how it responds to other threats. Sharp’s focus is on the bacteria that live in and on the coral.

“The peculiar thing about this species is that because it goes through winters where water temperatures drop to 2 degrees Celsius, they go through a period of dormancy in winter when they retract into their skeleton and shut up for the winter,” she said. “We don’t know much about what happens during that period of inactivity, but from our bacterial data, it looks like there is very little regulation of the surface microbiome of the coral in winter, and then in spring there is a reorganization of the microbiome.

“We’re focused on finding the processes that happen so they can have this spring awakening. Every New Englander can relate to this; what do we do to regroup and reboot? That’s the key to coral’s resilience to such extreme temperatures and conditions that are unfavorable to most coral species.”

Sharp and a team of Roger Williams University undergraduates are conducting several laboratory experiments designed to identify the factors that influence coral health and its relationship with its algal partners. They are also using DNA sequencing to identify the types of bacteria that live in the corals, culturing those bacteria, and determining what role each plays.

“We’re finding there are bacteria in and on the coral that we think are very important for defense against marine diseases,” Sharp said. “Some are actively inhibiting the growth of potential coral pathogens.’’

How the results of Sharp’s research can be transferred to helping tropical corals become resilient to warming temperatures is uncertain

“We’re hoping to learn more about how corals recover from disturbance, whether a thermal disturbance like a warming event or a winter event up here in New England,” Sharp said. “My lab is interested in what that recovery looks like from a microbial perspective. But it’s not necessarily the goal to apply microbes from New England to tropical reefs. What’s more broadly useful is identifying the mechanisms they use for recovery.

“If bacteria provide the ability to resist or recover from stress, then what’s the biochemistry of that success? It may be as simple as the production of certain chemicals that kill other pathogens. It may be that there are certain compounds the bacteria make in the springtime that support the growth of the coral host. We just don’t know a lot about the functional significance of associated bacteria, but we’re excited to learn more about the partnership and how it can be translated to corals in the tropics.”

Sharp is pleased with each of the small successes she and her students are achieving, like their recent ability to spawn corals in the lab and create the conditions the larval corals need to settle on a rock and start to grow. This will enable her to grow multiple generations of larval corals that her colleagues around the country can use in their own studies.

“It’s a New England coral that we can learn a lot from about coastal ecosystems in New England, but we also want to translate our findings to the tropics in new and powerful ways,” she said. “We need all the information we can get.”

Rhode Island resident and author Todd McLeish, a frequent EcoRI News contributor runs a wildlife blog.

Pamela Thompson: In Maine, re-envisioning teacher education

At the Center for Innovation in Education, at Thomas College. Note that chairs and tables are on rollers.

At the Center for Innovation in Education, at Thomas College. Note that chairs and tables are on rollers.

From The New England Journal of Higher Education, a service of The New England Journal of Higher Education (

What does it mean to re-envision teacher education? This is the question that the faculty at the newly named Lunder School of Education at Thomas College, in Waterville, Maine, have been asking and exploring. More than a quixotic pursuit, the purpose of this inquiry has been to re-design what we think of as classroom space, to re-construct an educator preparation curriculum, and to model both the distinct art and distinct science of creative teaching.

Setting aside the hubris of a formulaic approach to improvement in the wider field of teacher education, we recognize that a major challenge to re-envisioning teacher education is overcoming the systemic notions of “what school is supposed to look like” including “what teaching is supposed to look like.” We are also aware that many people have experiential memory from their own schooling. They may even have recollections of elementary or high school teachers during their time as students. A collective public memory can be an asset in shaping a support for an enlightened and educated society; however, it can also sustain a status quo or worse, an attitude of what was “good enough for me back in the day” is “good enough for them today.”

By way of example, if you imagine for a moment what the standard American school classroom looked like in 1900, desks in rows, blackboard and teacher in front of a room of seated students, go ahead and conduct a Google search today for classroom and what will inevitably appear will be a room with desks, often in rows with the teacher at the head of room.

As former PreK-12 classroom teachers, we chose to push the boundaries of our imagination. Having experienced for ourselves what was, we have pursued a different imagery of what a classroom can be and it inspired our thinking in the design our own institutional learning space.

We also recognize that there is a national shortage of qualified educators, not only in the New England region, but also nationally. The Learning Policy Institute reports “an estimated teacher shortage of 300,000 new teachers by 2020, and by 2025, that number will increase to 316,000 annually.”

A Thomas response

Thomas College is leading the field of teacher preparation through the design of its three-year programs in Education, which are now being offered across our suite of early childhood, elementary and secondary programs. Students can earn a teaching degree and be recommended for certification in three years.

There is a need for practical answers to systemic challenges in the ways we approach contemporary teacher education, while we also need to incubate and support a new generation of teachers to serve a highly diverse population in a chronically under-compensated profession. Adjusted for inflation, the average salary for teachers was 2% lower in 2016–17 than in 1990–91, according to the National Council on Education Statistics.

If the author and essayist Jonathan Swift was correct in his definition that vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others, then a re-envisioning of teacher education requires a courageous imagination, a willingness to tinker with current ways of doing, and resources to support a shared vision.

In 2015, the Education faculty and senior administration at Thomas articulated a grant proposal that led to the Lunder Foundation committing $1.75 million to establish the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE) at the college. The Lunder Foundation, created by Peter and Paula Lunder in 1988, has a long history of investing in Maine, particularly in higher education, the arts and healthcare.

The Education faculty planned the physical design of the CIE to reflect an aesthetic, naturally lighted, uncluttered, adaptable, multiple-use learning space. All tables and chairs are on wheels. There is an area with comfortable overstuffed chairs, a coffee station, an aquarium with tropical fish, a deep sink and workspace and art materials shelving. There is no clock, however; while we recognize an institutional schedule, we want to model to our pre-service teachers that learning time should not be regulated by artificial means but by deep interest, authentic engagement and personal reflection.

The construction of the open concept learning space actualizes a philosophical idea that encourages teaching as a public activity. Classes are often held at the same time in two separate areas of the large learning space. Students are encouraged to use the space as a learning lab, meeting or study space. Faculty offices are intentionally situated at the perimeter of the center. An adjacent design center acts as a maker space, which houses, laptops, 3-D printers, microscopes, a telescope, and virtual-reality headsets that are integrated with standards-based curricular resources, educational gaming software, 360 cameras, robotics, science and art materials. A diverse collection of children’s and young adult literature is accessible to pre-service teachers. Faculty encourage student exploration of emerging educational technologies. Most recently, we are engaging them in immersive experiences with curricular applications of virtual reality, with the intent of providing access of worlds beyond the four walls of the traditional classroom.

Gaining STEAM

In 2016, the success of the CIE advanced the college’s strategic initiative to establish a School of Education. The faculty committed to a set of courses that encouraged student voice and choice in meeting learning objectives, along with programmatic integration of coursework in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering the Arts and Mathematics). We want our graduates to be able model student-centered learning, and we do this by guiding personal, authentic learning experiences. By requiring our Education majors to take coursework in Educational Game Design, we are putting into practice recent research that confirms that over “55 functions of the human learning experience” are being activated while students are involved in playing a game.

This year, Peter and Paula Lunder honored our efforts again with a $2.5 million gift toward Thomas College endowed scholarships and giving their name to our School of Education.

We do not have all the answers yet in the work of re-envisioning of teacher education; however, we want our graduates to be able to deliver curriculum and teach content in a way that reflects the reality of their students’ cultural, economic and technological futures. In recent years, we have seen a steady rise to nearly 95% of our graduating Education majors who obtain a teaching position within six months of commencement. A large percentage of those graduates choose to remain in Maine to begin their professional careers in teaching.

Our work is supported by the work of the CIE, which continues to serve as a key resource center, housed within the school of education and acts as the physical space where the faculty delivers innovative coursework in undergraduate and graduate programs. The CIE also collaborates with education and business-focused partners to extend professional development opportunities to PreK-12 classroom teachers and finally, the center provides a platform for faculty and students to showcase their work and action research in the areas of STEAM and emerging technologies.

As faculty, we are still seeking, striving and pursuing a model of teacher education that reflects the dynamic atmosphere of the classrooms that pre-service teachers will be entering, the schools they will be influencing, and the next generation of students they will be leading towards what may be possible to see.

Pamela Thompson is chair of the Lunder School of Education at Thomas College.


Third Cape Cod Canal road bridge too much

The Bourne Bridge and the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge

The Bourne Bridge and the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

’m glad that the Army Corps of Engineers decided against proposing a third bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, though some folks in the tourist trade liked the idea. The already overdeveloped and fragile Cape doesn’t need more cars funneled onto the long, narrow (and washing away) glacial moraine.

The corps does propose replacing the deteriorating Bourne and Sagamore bridges, which were built in the ‘30s. The new bridges would include four travel lanes, two added lanes for merging traffic, and – praise be to God! -- a median separating the on-Cape and off-Cape-bound traffic on each bridge. The lack of a median has added a certain frisson to driving over the New Deal era spans, especially as tank-like SUV’s, which always seem to be speeding, plow across.

Also encouraging is that there will be improved access for bike riders and pedestrians to enjoy the dramatic views of the world’s largest sea-level canal, with steep, wooded bluffs plunging down to it. The current structures would remain in service until the new bridges open to traffic.

The Cape needs more rail service (including railroad stations) as an alternative to cars. So I’m glad the quaint, vertical-lift railroad bridge, also put up in the ‘30s, at the western end of the canal, is not being torn down; it’s said to be in good condition.

Sarah Anderson: Of Mattel's vast pay gap and a model Iowa employer

This is the first Barbie, introduced by Mattel in 1959.

This is the first Barbie, introduced by Mattel in 1959.


Mattel executives say they’re worried about girls developing “self-limiting beliefs,” resulting in a “dream gap” with boys.

So the giant toymaker rolled out an extensive line of “Career Dolls,” including Barbie pilots, firefighters, and robotic engineers, to inspire its young patrons. But there’s one career you won’t find in this line: the typical working woman on the Mattel payroll.

That median employee would be an Indonesian factory worker who earned just $5,489 in 2018. By contrast, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz took home $18.7 million — 3,408 times more than his line workers.

Talk about a dream gap.

Mattel is just one of 50 U.S. corporations that paid their CEO more than 1,000 times more than their typical employee last year, according to a new Institute for Policy Studies report.

This doesn’t just impact foreign factory workers. Starbucks, Gap, Chipotle, Foot Locker, and Williams-Sonoma are all examples of companies where U.S.-based workers would have to labor for a full millennium to earn as much as their CEO did in one year.

No single mortal adds more than 1,000 times as much value to a company as any other employee. Corporate leaders seem to know this, because they avoid media questions about their pay gaps like the plague.

Recently, a Marketwatch reporter asked 11 companies to comment on their extremely wide pay disparities. Only three were brave enough to respond, and their excuses were embarrassingly lame.

A Mattel spokesperson pointed out that $5 million of the CEO’s $18.7 million take was a hiring bonus. Without that one-time payout, Mattel’s pay gap would’ve been a “mere” 2,496 to 1.

Chipotle’s PR department insisted that their CEO’s $33.5 million paycheck was perfectly in line with “his peer group.” All the other kids are doing it!

Walmart’s flack pivoted away from the CEO’s $23.6 million paycheck to boast about the company’s recently increased starting pay — a whopping $11 per hour. Despite this bounty, Walmart workers still somehow take home 1,076 times less than their CEO.

These gaps weren’t always the norm. Back in the 1950s, the ratio between CEO and typical worker pay was around 20 to 1.

In a recent op-ed in USA Today, 98-year-old entrepreneur and former Iowa congressman Berkley Bedell described the philosophy that guided him and many other business leaders back in that era.

Businesses “had to have a purpose grander than just piling up profits,” he wrote, and “I tried to live my business life from that perspective.”

As the CEO of the fishing tackle manufacturer Berkley, Bedell started a profit-sharing program that distributed 20 percent of the company’s earnings to workers. An employee recreation fund fostered team spirit and gave everyone on his payroll the chance to go on fishing trips or to ball games.

“I never paid myself more than four or five times what my employees were making,” he recalls. “I lived like my friends in my hometown of Spirit Lake, Iowa. I drove an older car, served as a Scoutmaster, and resided in a modest home. I had a good life.”

Yet today’s overpaid CEOs are unlikely to start sharing that good life — and the wealth that finances it — more equitably without public policies to prod them in this direction.

Some of Bedell’s proposals include putting workers on corporate boards and giving companies with modest pay gaps preferential treatment, such as lower tax rates and a leg up in government contracting.

These kinds of policies recognize the dignity and value in the labor of all employees — not just the guy in the corner office.

Sarah Anderson is a co-editor of at the Institute for Policy Studies and a co-author of the IPS report “Executive Excess: Making Corporations Pay for Big Pay Gaps’’.