thumb_topic_31098This is a companion post to the more extensive version on MyHillTop (an intranet platform at Worcester Academy). This post is meant to facilitate the flow of discussion across classes and involvingIMG_0183 other faculty members (for example, Mr. Jason Epstein, the Academy’s CIO, visited my American Government class today and help lead us through an interesting discussion of the issues involved). In other words, I want to open it up by inviting students and faculty to discuss this topic here.

We are looking at the controversy re: national security versus the 1st and 4th Amendments. Are men like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden “whistle blowers”, “patriots,” “traitors”? Do the issues they raise about the power of agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) point to problems so far from the world of the founders that they relegate the constitutional safeguards re: the abuse of power obsolete? Or is the Constitution a “living document” that can and should be adapted to the realities of the digital age and post-9-11 America?

Essential Question: Do the constitutional safeguards still work in the digital age?

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Background Information:
Alexander Hamilton founded the newspaper, New York Evening Post in 1801– he saw the role of the press as a form of checks and balances. A quote from the article linked below on the role of the press: The central role of information in American society harks back to a fundamental belief held by the framers of the U.S. Constitution: that a well-informed people is the strongest guardian of its own liberties. The framers embodied that assumption in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which provides in part that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” A corollary to this clause is that the press functions as a watchdog over government actions and calls attention to official misdeeds and violations of individual rights.

The concept of the 4th Estate -
From Wikipedia:

The estates of the realm were the broad social orders of the hierarchically conceived society, recognized in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period in Christian Europe. They are sometimes distinguished as the three estates: the clergy, the nobility, and commoners, and are often referred to by medieval ranking of importance as the First, Second, and Third Estates respectively.

In the scheme, the ministry has been ordained, which was necessary to ordain the royalty and nobility, who settled privileges on the more prestigious commoners, or burghers. The term “Fourth Estate” emerged later, in reference to forces outside the established power structure, and is now most commonly used in reference to the independent press or media.

Watergate, Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein/ Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers/ famous examples of the press checking the power of the government


The National Security State? the evolution of national security state – Eisenhower to the Patriot Act





The 5th Estate? Julian Assange – Edward Snowden – James Risen; they claim that in a digital age internet citizen-activists need to play the role that the press once did.
 What do folks think? What do you think of the ideas and actions of
Julian Assange and Edward Snowden?
And, then ultimately, what do you think about our essential question:
Do the constitutional safeguards still work in the digital age?
A feature in iPhones that allows Apple to track your movements:-2

Guest Appearance in Mrs. Herlihy’s AP World

Much of the information presented here comes from John Reader’s book, Africa: A Biography of the Continent and The Henry Louis Gates video series, The Wonders of Africa. It is intended for Mrs. Herlihy’s AP World students . Thanks for inviting me to your class Mrs. Herlihy. Best of luck to the students taking the AP exam.

For similar points about the Middle East, see the Open Gates series called Beyond “Us” and “Them”: Debunking Stereotypes of the Middle East from 2008-2009 (click here). For a video of a musical idea I’ve been working on, see my recording of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” on tenor saxophone (click here).

Robert D. Austin and  Carl Stormer of the Harvard Business School published “Miles Davis: Kind of Blue” in 2008. The abstract reads:
[The study] examines how successful companies can “jump to the next S-curve” through an analogy to the life’s work of Miles Davis, especially his paradigm-shattering Kind of Blue album in 1959. Students consider how and why Davis, who had already proven he was tops in his field, created a new disruptive innovation in the field of jazz, in the process creating the most commercially successful jazz album of all time. The case also delves deeply into the creative process, and Davis’s creative leadership and ability to cultivate talent (such as that of saxophonist John Coltrane)-many of the great jazz musicians of the 20th century came out of the informal “Miles Davis University.”
In a review for Harvard Business School’s “Working Knowledge,” an on-line journal, Martha Legace bulleted the key points:
  • With Kind of Blue, Miles Davis radically detached from his comfortable but fairly safe career to craft a more interesting future.
  • Simplicity was essential to the success of Kind of Blue. Simplicity empowered and freed Davis’s players to improvise and create without requiring them to put their technical mastery on show.
  • As a manager of musicians, Davis sometimes provoked. Yet during his lifetime many benefited from their stint at “Miles University.”
Animated music can help illustrate the shift to a more simplistic style and Davis’s break with the past–points one and two above.  Compare “So What,” the most famous song on the Kind of Blue album, with Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation.”


You probably notice some big differences. The first piece (“So What”) is much simpler than the second (“Confirmation”). The first piece involved fewer notes and a slower tempo. The horns played two notes over and over. Fewer and simpler chord progressions mark the real breakthrough, however.

Chords are written as letters above the notes, such a C, for a C-major chord. Chords provide the harmony or harmonic structure. The Charlie Parker song had constant chord changes, which forced Parker–the alto saxophonist–to play different notes to match-up with the chords. Parker was a lightening-fast horn player; as the leading figure in the older, Be Bop jazz style, he could more than keep up with so many chord changes. Miles slowed it down and simplified–this led to different sounding solos by the musicians in his band. By simplifying, soloists like tenor saxophone great John Coltrane could try out new ideas while soloing over the simplified chord patterns and structures found throughout the Kind of Blue album. Miles, Coltrane and the other players on the Kind of Blue recording session inspired decades of emulation and musical exploration. It’s still one of the top-selling jazz recordings (more than 50 years after it was released).

Can these same principles be applied to education? If the chords are seen as units of instruction or assessments (tests, papers, projects, etc.) is it a case of “less is more”? Would fewer shifts from assignment to assignment allow for better quality work on the part of students? Deeper? Original? Would simplified structure (basic guidelines, but with room for individual expression–like the soloists in Miles Davis’s band) allow for a more innovative educational process and/or atmosphere? Granted, teaching and learning are not the same as playing in a jazz band. But there does seem to be much that educators can learn from Miles Davis and the shift he made in the early-1960s toward a new, simpler innovative style of jazz.

The City Dark/Part Two ?

April 16th, 2013/ 7:45-8:45 PM  Warner Theater/Morse Field

Weather Permitting


Building on the program of January 17th ( a screening and discussion of the film, City Dark) The Open Gates program will team up again with Mike Carroll, the Director of Sustainabilty, and Worcester Academy Astronomy instructor, Drew Tanzosh. We will begin with a brief introduction in Warner Theater, followed by a walk to Morse Field (glow-sticks for everybody). Mr. Tanzosh will present a mini-class on Astronomy. In order to dramatize the theme of the film, City Dark, we hope to shut off as many of the lights on campus between 7:15 and 7:30 as possible–Morse Field will be dark during the astronomy portion of the program.

Life in the City:

Exploring Urban Issues


Half the world’s population now lives in cities—and this is only increasing in the wake of a worldwide urban migration. Despite the problems usually associated with the city—higher crime rates, poverty, pollution–Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, author of the Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier, claims that “cities are our best and brightest hope.” The 2012-2013 Open Gates lecture series will explore a variety of urban issues, with a special focus on the City of Worcester.

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Kerry Spitzer and Anne Bowman

October 18, 2012 (7-8 pm, Warner Theatre)


Kerry Spitzer is a Ph.D. student at MIT in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Her research focuses on affordable housing policy and incarceration in the United States. Prior to coming to MIT, Kerry worked for over four years in New York City government. As a budget and policy analyst at the NYC Independent Budget Office she authored reports on the city’s juvenile justice system, jails, and supportive housing programs. Prior to her work at IBO, she was a project manager at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development in the Inclusionary Housing Program. In addition, she has conducted research for the NYC Department of Homeless Services and Department of Corrections on the population of individuals who cycle between the jail and shelter system. She has also worked for the Supportive Housing Network of New York and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where she co-authored an article on Latino small business (click here). She holds a Masters in Public Administration from NYU Wagner and a Bachelors in Government from Cornell University.

A recent graduate of the Master’s Program at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, Anne Bowman joined the housing development group of Heartland Alliance, an anti-poverty organization in Chicago, in 2011. During her time at MIT, Anne focused her studies on the relationship between design and community development, an interest that culminated in her Master’s thesis, which examined the ways universities are looking at the design and development of their edges—and beyond—in new and innovative ways. She found Clark University in Worcester and Trinity College in Hartford – her two main case studies – to provide many lessons for institutions and cities everywhere. Anne’s current work as Associate Director of Real Estate Development at Heartland continues to bring design and development together through the planning and building of affordable housing. She is currently working on the redevelopment of a 35-acre public housing development in Chicago, a community center, and an apartment building for 37 families in Milwaukee. Prior to attending MIT and joining Heartland, Anne was an architect at Torti Gallas and Partners: Architects of Community, a firm in Washington, DC focused on creating buildings and plans that contribute to the cities and towns of which they are a part, physically, socially, and economically. Anne also received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Notre Dame and is a licensed architect.

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The City Dark

Thursday, January 17th 2013. From 6:30 to 8 PM in Warner Theater

Big cities run 24/7,  supported by artificial lighting. Does this pose health risks? Does it matter that people in cities seldom see the night sky? Filmmaker Ian Cheney thinks that it does.

THE CITY DARK is a new feature documentary from filmmaker Ian Cheney (KING CORN, THE GREENING OF SOUTHIE) chronicling the disappearance of darkness and the extinction of the starry night sky. The film won awards in the Documentary Competition at SXSW Film Festival in March 2011.

We will screen and then discuss this film. Michael Carroll, Worcester Academy’s Director of Sustainabilty, and Dr. John Murnane, Director of the Open Gates program, will co-host this event.

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The City Dark/Part Two ?

Monday, March 4th 2013. 7-8 PM  Warner Theater/Morse Field


Building on the discuss and the program of Jan 17th, The Open Gates program will team up again with Mike Carroll the Director of Sustainabilty and Worcester Academy Astronomy instructor, Drew Tanzosh. We will begin with a brief introduction in Warner Theater, followed by a walk to Morse Field (glow-sticks for everybody) where Mr. Tanzosh will present a mini-class in Astronomy. In order to dramatize the theme of the film, City Dark, we hope to shut off as many of the light on campus between 7:15 and 7:30 as possible–Morse Field will dark during the astronomy portion of the program.

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Worcester in 2020 by David Forsberg


David Forsberg will sketch out major changes and initiatives to revitalize and modernize the city of Worcester–past, present and future. As former President of the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) and a leader in the development and revitalization of Worcester, he brings a unique hands-on perspective. He will put the future of the city into a historical context and outline some of the major projects designed to improve life in the city of Worcester over the next 10 years.

For More on the Open Gates program click here.

Rebecca Cypess

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Warner Theater

7-8 PM

A former adjunct faculty member of the Yale Department of Music and Yale School of Music and lecturer at Southern Connecticut State University, Rebecca Cypess joined the faculty of the New England Conservatory in the fall of 2008 upon completing her doctorate in musicology at Yale. Cypess publishes regularly in scholarly journals, with articles and reviews in Early Music, the Journal of Musicology, the Galpin Society Journal, the International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Early Music America, and Encyclopedia Britannica. She has presented papers at meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Renaissance Society of America, the American Musical Instrument Society, and the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music. Although her primary area of research is 17th-century music, she has also written and lectured on ethnomusicological issues in the American Jewish community, and she has an essay due to be published soon on John Adams’s opera Doctor Atomic. She is currently writing her first book, which deals with the negotiation of time and the preservation of memory in Italian instrumental music between 1615 and 1630. She has a B.A. in Music History and Performance, Cornell University. M. Mus. in Harpsichord Performance, Royal College of Music. M.A. in Bible, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva University. M.A. M.Phil., and Ph.D. in Music History, Yale University.

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