Emeritus Faculty Association #113 January-February 2006
Friday, February 3, Javits Seminar Room, Melville Library E2340, 10.30 am.
After our customary informal half-hour over coffee, fruit, and pastries, courtesy of the Provost's Office, Jeffrey Segal Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department will talk about the supreme court and the current nomination. His areas of interest include judicial decision making and federal judicial appointments. He received is B.A. from SUNY Albany (1978) and his Masters (1980) and Ph.D. (1983) from Michigan State University. He joined the Stony Brook faculty in 1982. He is author or coauthor of fifty scholarly articles and seven books, including most recently, The Supreme Court in the American Legal System (2005, Cambridge), with Harold Spaeth and Sara Benesh, and Advice and Consent: The Politics of Judicial Appointments (2005, Oxford), with Lee Epstein. He has twice won the Wadsworth Award for the book or article, 10 years or older, that has had a lasting impression on the field of law and courts.
(1) In the absence of Caroline Levine, Leon Sokoloff announced that the Hospital Auxiliary holiday greeting cards are now available from the gift shop in the hospital 5th floor. These are based on images from their photo contest and are $10 for each box of 10.
(2) Andy Colver distributed information on his New Directions Community-Based Research Institute. He would like to involve professors to work with area school districts and civic associations on affordable housing and other projects in order to improve their communities. You can contact Andy via our members list or through the cbr website: here
Paul Kumpel, former director of undergraduate education in the math dept, then introduced our speaker, Irwin Kra, past chair of the Mathematics Department, and Dean of Physical Sciences and Mathematics, now Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus (for bio see December newsletter). The talk was entitled "The Silent Crisis: Math Education in our Country's Public High Schools". Irwin first outlined the problem, using various statistics. Scores on international math tests show US students close to the bottom by 12 grade (24th out of 29 countries measured 1999-2003); 63% of employers and 65% of professors say US students are underprepared; Average teacher salary is only $44k and beginning salary $30k in 2002; 40% of math teachers lack a major or a minor in math related fields, 40% of new teachers quit in 5 years, etc. etc.
In Germany, a poor showing in international math scores (although not this bad) in 1999-2003 prompted a national debate, a crash funding program, and a significant improvement. But here nothing comparable. The claim that Europeans merely do rote learning while the US teaches individual initiative and problem solving was raised in the audience and rated as just a poor excuse (though couched in somewhat stronger language). By contrast, the USSR sputnik launch in the 1950's had indeed provoked a national soul searching in the US, and through the National Defense and Education act produced a whole new cadre of math and science PhD's, of which a certain James Simons was the first. He now having resolved his former impecunious condition satisfactorily, in 2004 he founded Math for America (MfA), a new enterprise dedicated to improving mathematics instruction in the schools, and installed Irwin as executive director. The non-profit organization seeks to demonstrate success by funding pilot projects, and then persuading corporations, congress, and the unions to go and do likewise. On the board are such luminaries as Phil Griffiths, member and former head of the Institute of Advanced Studies, Charles Vest, former president of MIT, and Randy Weingarten president of the UFT, not to mention our own Alan Tucker and David Eisenbud. The flagship effort is the Newton Fellowship program, funded at $25M. This trains mathematically-talented individuals not having teacher certification to become outstanding high school math teachers by supporting them in the early years of their careers with higher education, mentoring, extra remuneration and full medical insurance. The program currently operates in New York City and is endorsed by the New York City Department of Education. MfA will appoint over 180 Newton Fellows in NYC between 2004 and 2008. Although the main problem outlined at the outset of course stems from levels K - 12, the program focuses on high school students because it wants to produce early results to convince the powers that be. The ultimate goal would be a national program in which 20% of math teachers would be at the new level. In the steady state this would cost $1.5B to $2B per year but would be repaid by the resulting improvement in the economy.
For more information on the programs of MfA, click
Irwin concluded his talk by dispaying the MfA logo, a summation of terms which are odd fractions of odd powers of (-1) , all multiplied by 4. He then requested his audience to evaluate it in the limit as the number of terms goes to infinity. This marks the first time that the Emeritus faculty has been given a homework assignment. (The series itself is in fact the well known Maclaurin series for arctan(1), and hence the sum, multiplied by 4, is pi ).
News of emeriti activities:
Yassin El-Ayouty, is giving talks December 6 and 13 to the Academy of Jewish Studies, Temple Emanuel, Great Neck, on "Gaza what next?". Before his retirement Yassin taught courses at Stony Brook in politics of conflict in the Middle East and Africa . Born in Eqypt, he has been associated with Temple Emanuel as an honorary member since 1975. At present, he is special counsel to the NYC law firm of Spector and Feldman LLP and is the founder and president of "Sunglow-Global Training in the Rule of Law", a corporation which undertakes training of judges and lawyers throughout the world and especially in Middle East and Muslim countries. He is sometimes to be seen at our regu;lar meetings. and may be contacted at the email address in our members list on this website.
David Smith, also sometimes to be seen at Emeritus meetings, has organized an exhibition on the second floor space above Hickey-Smith Realtors (opposite the trestle at the Stony Brook LIRR station) of paintings of the Avalon Park and Preserve. The artist describes it as as a labor of love reflecting an acquaintanceship with the property spanning 30 years. The series of 13 works is available for viewing from 2-5pm every day from the opening reception Sunday December 11.