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Jan 31, 2017

Returning to the Trump country

We are packing our bags and flying to a country that is living through some of the extraordinary times. I read the news with some disbelief, just like many others. I’ve got a comment on Facebook from a good friend – “Do you actually know who won the elections?” And d yet in a way, I feel fortunate. This feels like a historic moment for the US and for the world, and there is nothing like bearing witness to history. The long-simmering divide, the deepest American conflict finally came to the forefront. Of course, we have lived in the States for over 20 years. But it has never been so unpredictable, so open to history as it is now.

I know the breed of conservative populism, I know many of the people who voted for Trump and continue to vote for Putin. I know the beast. It has a human face, not unlike mine and yours. I feel its pain and its anxiety, and deeply comprehend its error. I empathize with its temptation to imagine the non-existent golden past, to claw back into isolation and warmth of the nationalistic pride. Making America great again? Russia rising from its knees? And whatever else they say in Hungary, Greece, Great Britain, everywhere. Those deeply mistaken, unfortunate, powerful, dangerous collective minds. How do we talk to them? What does it take to convince them that there is place for them in the future?

These are the extraordinary times. America is the place to be right now.

Jan 13, 2017

Thinking ahead

My mind is mainly preoccupied with things to finish at HSE, but there is definitely an active Sac State department somewhere in my head, too. The rational part of it insists – calm down, wait, you cannot really do much planning without understanding of the organization’s culture and history. There is only so much you can get from reading and form the conversations at the interview day. There is always a deeper, contextual truth about a place; it is the very grid of the assumed normality, the way thing work here. You can only learn that by being there for a few weeks. Yet the impatient, adolescent part of the brain is churning out ideas; it does not care if they will turn out to be silly.

For example, I am thinking, how can we use our location in the state’s capital city? For example, can we develop a media product that would grade state and federal politicians and officials on their statements on education? You know, how they like to rank and grade schools, teacher ed programs, and universities. So why don’t we do the same to them? We can ask a simple question – how much of what they say is grounded in research? We call it the Sac State Report, or the Sac State Scorecard. Something like that should not be too expensive to produce, and it can eventually grow into a brand. A couple of capable grad students under faculty supervision could actually review the literature; it is not as hard anymore as it used to be. However, we would need a more or less rigorous methodology.

Here is another idea. There are not that many contests, prize competitions in education. Those existing already tend to be grandiose (Like the Reimagine Education, the Xprize, etc.) What do you think about setting up one for regular folks, not your high-tech startups, but for educators with ideas? If we could get enough response, it is a fairly inexpensive way of raising out profile. Anyone wants to help thinking about either of the two?

I am planning on having a systematic way of talking to faculty and staff within the College: Usually, the most important questions and even most solutions are already there, in the collective mind. My job is to listen, and to fish them out. In the meanwhile, between asking the estimates for moving companies, and looking for an apartment, I can’t help but indulge in groundless fantasies. It is actually fun, I recommend anyone - think without knowing anything about the constraints and limitations, think context-free.

Calling to Sac State’s COE faculty, students, and staff. What do you think is the next big move for the College? Where should we go from here? Reply with comments for this blog, or email me privately at