What A Difference A Day Makes…

SOPA/PIPA Protest in NYC Yesterday

Andrew Dallos captured this at a SOPA/PIPA Protest in NYC Yesterday

As I write this post, ProPublica’s timely Where Do Your Members of Congress Stand on SOPA and PIPA? reports that there are now 122 legislators opposing SOPA/PIPA. Ars Technica notes that both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are backing away from PIPA. Even so, Firedog Lake’s David Dayen explains why Democrats aren’t shying away from SOPA/PIPA as much as their colleagues across the aisle. Daily Kos is a bit more vehement in its assessment of a lesson that seems lost on the Democratic party.

Coming Clean About Congressional Support for SOPA: SOPA Track

As 2011 neared its end, regrettable government representatives sponsoring SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) revealed, in no uncertain terms, their astounding ignorance when discussing the matter. Stunned citizens watched as clueless politicians proudly boasted of not being technology experts. It was much akin to being told that a ignorant group of people in charge of making medical decisions for the populace was arrogantly pleased that it knew nothing about even the most rudimentary practices of first aid despite having any number of doctors willing explain basic concepts.

The word frightening doesn’t even begin to frame this conceptual conundrum.

Thankfully, while happily smacking the lovable hornet’s nest known as the internet, Representatives, Senators, and SOPA supporting industries unwittingly got much more than they bargained for in the way of protest. The rush to ram SOPA into law was temporarily halted. Take time to visit SOPA Track (a wonderful project supported by Sunlight Labs) where you can find your local Representatives and Senators and keep track of their SOPA related support.

For more information, visit BoingBoing‘s SOPA-tagged posts and learn why calling your elected officials is absolutely necessary.

Happy GNU Year!


Welcome to 2010!

Up until now I’ve been so wrapped up in my new job that I’ve been too busy to post much of anything else. I have to prove my mettle and it has taken a great deal of my time. That said, I haven’t given up blogging. In fact, one of my resolutions for this year is to get back in the habit of blogging something each day. I know, from experience, that the process of searching and sharing helps me keep my mental toolbox of ideas well-stocked and ready for action.

To kick off the process, I’m going to suggest that all of my friends resolve to learn about, support, and use GNU resources when possible. By supporting GNU, we foster an intellectual environment that recognizes the importance of the freedom to

  • run a program, for any purpose
  • study how a program works, and adapt it to one’s needs
  • redistribute copies of a program so as to help others and
  • improve a program, and release improvements to the public, so that everyone benefits.

Note that I am NOT advocating the practice of pirating software. I am, however, suggesting that everyone use already existing, great, FREE software like that available on the GNU site.

Have a great year!

Freedom is Never Free: Understanding Veterans Day

DF-SC-84-11899It began with the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. Yes, today is Veterans Day. Do your students understand the significance of this day? Do they understand what it mean to truly pay respect to veterans? What are some of the ways veterans are (and should be) honored in our society today?

Encourage your pupils to stop and think about the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving in America’s Armed Forces. They deserve our respect and students should know why. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs contains educational resources designed to help teachers discuss the importance this day.

It’s never too late to learn.

Related resources:

Power to the People: Celebrate Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day. Does this matter to your students? Do they know their rights? How informed are they about their liberties? On September 17th, 1787, attendees at the U.S. Constitutional Convention made history by signing the one of the most important documents in the world. Now, some 222 years later, America proudly recognizes the ratification of the United States Constitution (as well as all individuals who’ve become citizens by either coming of age or through the process of naturalization).

The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States. Even after more than two centuries, its effects on our nation are profound. This innovative document defines the three main branches of our government. Given the fact that upcoming debates on public issues center on interpretations of the Constitution (for example, disagreements over health care reform and the Tenth Amendment), educators should help pupils discover, explore, and respect its power.

Integrate a little technology: listen to a digital audio recitation of the Constitution as read by David P. Currie, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of University of Chicago Law School.

Essential questions related to this topic:

  • What’s the best/worst way in which the Constitution has been interpreted?
  • Is the Constitution the best means of resolving the struggle between security and liberty? Explain your answer.
  • What (if anything) is the most important reason to understand or support the continued use of the Constitution?
  • Is it possible to improve the Constitution or is such an idea preposterous? If not, why not? If yes, why and how?
  • What’s the best evidence of the power of the Constitution?
  • What is the most good the Constitution has done for any individual in the history of our nation?
  • Is any portion of the Constitution weak?
  • What is the single, most important right insured by the Constitution?
  • What is the most compelling reason to deny and/or suspend an individual’s or group’s rights as guaranteed by the Constitution? Should these rights ever be suspended?
  • Which individual is the epitome of the ideals expressed in the Constitution (i.e., who is a role model for the ideals expressed in the document)?
  • How can/could the Constitution be reworded so as to express the same (or even more noble) ideals for a larger audience?

Related links:

Celebrate Independence Day, Know Your Rights

Well, I’m back in Georgia now. I’m glad to be home as life here in the South (or, at least, the portion of it where I reside) is a little more relaxed, a little more peaceful than the hustle and bustle that suffuses our nation’s capitol. That said, I can’t help wondering what it’s like in Washington, DC today. I imagine it’s hot and crowded with lots of traffic. People are probably poring over all those wonderful monuments to liberty. After all, today is an important day there and everywhere else in this great land of ours.


July the 4th is one of many U.S. holidays that many Americans cherish and enjoy. However, it’s a day that holds a special place in the hearts of many of our citizens. It’s a day of barbecue, fireworks, and the nationwide celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. July the 4th is also an excellent day for learning. Thanks to technology we can easily access, read, revisit, and reflect upon the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Why not revisit the bold proclamation that heralded our nation’s freedom and see why it was aptly referred to as the Declaration of Independence? Why not get reacquainted with the amendments that limit the powers of the federal government and protect the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors on United States territory? Today is more than just a day to fly a flag, grill a burger, and watch fireworks. Today is the day that we remember the birth of a nation dedicated to providing its citizens with fair treatment, equal opportunities, and the freedoms enshrined in and protected by our Constitution.

Informed citizens are the best citizens. Be the best citizen you can be. Get a refresher as to why the concept of checks and balances is still an important foundation upon which our liberty rests. A careful review of the importance of the separation of powers is a prudent means of correcting dangerous aspirations that ambitious office-holders may be contemplating. We place trust in those we vote into political office. We have the power–more importantly, the responsibility–to insure that our elected officials safeguard our liberties. Celebrate independence and freedom but, more importantly, preserve and practice these ideals.


Related links:



March 16th is Freedom of Information (FOI) Day. It’s an annual event that takes place on the birthday of James Madison, the 4th president of our nation. Madison, in addition to being the Father of the Constitution, was also an outspoken advocate for openness in government. Although the  Freedom of Information Act won’t celebrate its birthday until July the 4th, the FOI Act is worth remembering. Devised by Sen. John Moss and signed into law in 1966 by Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson, the history of the FOIA and the manner in which it gives Americans the right to access the records of federal agencies is worth exploring. Make a point to read Michael Lemov’s article about Sen. Moss and his tireless efforts to make government accountable to its citizens.

Next, celebrate Sunshine Week. How? Drop by the National Security Archives and look at the most recent publications. The site is an independent, non-governmental research institute and library located at the George Washington University, where it collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the FOIA. The Archive also serves as a repository of government records on many topics that deal with national security policies of the United States (not to mention intelligence and economic concerns).

Essential questions (as described by Grant P. Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding by Design) are the “big ideas” wrapped up in questions that humans continue to ponder over the course of a lifetime. Such questions lack easy answers. They can be used to engage students and encourage them to seriously ponder the core or the essence of a topic being studied. Essential questions are extremely useful in revealing what pupils think about a topic. A few such questions related to the topic of the FOIA include:

  • What are the most important skills for understanding what information should or should not be shared?
  • Who, in our government, is the best judge of what should or should not be divulged to the general public?
  • How do we know when we should keep information from the public?
  • What is the most important reason why information may not be released by our government?
  • How do we know we can trust our government?

Related links: