New America Foundation's Lindsey Tepe is a terrific new voice in D.C. policy circles. Lindsey is a Teach for America veteran who taught fifth and sixth grade in Chicago before getting hooked up with New America's highly respected education policy group. What has me over the top, though, is her decision to focus on Open Education Resources (OER). It is incredibly heartening to see someone with Lindsey's experience and talent promoting public awareness of OER, starting with the incredible Tidewater Community College Z-Degree breakthrough.

The education industry has many moving parts. Most of them will eventually be improved, transformed even, through the application of open practices and open resources. It's already starting to happen. It has to happen. But it is happening far too slowly. That is why we need more scholars and activists just like Lindsey, women and men who understand that this is a unique moment, this is a way, these are ideas that allow us to push on history's arc and bend it toward justice. The Tidewater Z-Degree story is about more than than Tidewater and more than Z-Degrees. It's about helping more leaders like Lindsey rise.

Here is a link to the winning three-minute short from the Why Open Education Matters video competition I helped organize during my service as a Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Education.  I'm quite proud of this video. It does a great job, as do the two runners-up and many others that were entered into the competition, to illuminate the promise inherent in Open Education Resources (OER).

The main reason I promoted this competition was to develop communications vehicles that could cut thru the clutter and noise and disinformation that serves to preserve the status quo.  As a government official I grew distressed -- even somewhat depressed -- over time when I could not get others to pay sufficient attention to the compelling arguments in favor of OER. I figured if we, or someone, could come up with some videos that make the case as obvious as it truly is then policymakers will have no other choice and will increasingly be embarrassed if they act as if they don't understand what OER is or why it matters.

The creation, use and continuous improvement of OER measurably strengthens the quality of teaching and learning and also makes it possible to redirect scarce financial resources toward more pressing educational needs. Those other needs include higher salaries for teachers, more effective professional development for teachers, access to digital devices and broadband for every student, improved counseling, home visits and a host of other interventions that are far more useful than closed, proprietary, old-fashioned textbooks or costly online resources with passwords that students or schools much regularly repurchase. When it comes to how we support student learning, public policy is at a crossroads. This video makes the stakes and the opportunity to think in new ways so apparent it can no longer be ignored.



One thing that gets me really excited is when someone demonstrates how leadership can happen in the age of the Internet. I don't know anyone who has illuminated this better than my friend, Larry Lessig. Rootstrikers is a case in point. Day after day I am blown away by Rootstrikers. It's a political jam session. The Rootstrikers crew continually experiments with new ways to engage and empower and position people to contest for power. The organization's reach sometimes exceeds its grasp. But but that is part of what makes it so cool.

Rootstrikers reminds me of what Silicon Valley was like in the early days of the personal computer revolution when it was much more heavily influenced by unconventional rebels who wanted to mount a frontal strike on our dominant culture, wanted to use technology to rock the boat, to unmask inequities, and model new ways of being that are more fair, inclusive and constructive.

Lessig and the Rootstrikers team are building a movement with that same rebellious flavor; an organization teaming with insanely great, amazing leaders of all stripes, backgrounds, shapes, sizes, pet peeves, obsessions, and furious dedications, including oftentimes plain rock ribbed old-fashioned patriots Americans who want to leave this country better than they found it. What's more, Larry is doing all this in the most impressive way possible; he's giving us a taste of what can happen when leaders respect and elevate others. It's the best type of leadership: the conscious construction of a new operating system for social change where the responsibility to lead is distributed among anyone willing to step up. That's such a fresh, welcome departure from the old, traditional model of leadership which is usually focused on some Big Daddy figure who eventually lets everyone down when she/he can't deliver what only a well-organized social movement can accomplish. Sometimes when something important is happening people miss out because no one told them. We sometimes miss the best parties because no one invited us, or we did not know what was happening right down the block. That's why I want to take a moment right now, right here, as I relaunch my personal blog, to invite everyone reading this to join Rootstrikers. We are determined to wrestle the soul of our country back from those who've bought and sold it on the cheap. It is going to be one hell of a fight. Won't you join us?

One of the best parts of the last five years was the chance I had to travel around the country and even around the world on occasion representing the Obama administration. I'd meet new people and learn new things. In most cases, I was expected to give a little speech or talk or appear on a panel or something like that. In some cases, the talks I delivered were at larger events, particularly when I was filling in for a more senior official. Some of my talks were recorded on camera or audio. I must confess that I feel a bit uncomfortable linking them here for all the usual reasons; I see things I wish I'd said better. I think of things I wish I'd said. Things like that. And also because these days I'm uncomfortable with the way I look. In recent years, keeping my weight down has been especially difficult. Seeing these videos reminds me of that challenge and will be, I hope, more motivating than depressing.

Either way, though, I want to assemble videos/audios of my recent talks in a single location, at least those I can find so I have made a start below. During my five years in the Obama administration I always tried to honor my obligation to engage in something called "message discipline." Like any presidential administration, when we spoke on behalf of the administration we had guidance on key message points that were to be communicated, talking points, things like that. I always tried hard to get those messages across in my own way but I must confess that from time to time I did something I always thought President Obama would like even though I never got a chance to talk with him directly about it.  That is, when making these talks I also often tried to push the envelope if and when I could, to move the conversation toward some of the more difficult issues, necessary challenges to special interests and to entrenched ways of doing things. It wasn't exactly a bully pulpit as there are just a few speakers at that level who can have that kind of influence. But it was for me a podium from which some ripples might be made and I did my best at that when I could.

Here is a short talk I gave near the start of the Obama administration:




This is an audio only webcast that I particuarly like, mostly because of the smart questions and exchanges with the interviewer, Rob Farrow, from the OER Research Hub:




Here's a talk I gave to at the annual meeting of the International Council for Open and Distance Education in Bali, Indonesia in 2011:


Here is a talk I gave at the Open Language Summit in 2011:


Here is a talk I gave in Barcelona, Spain, in 2010:


I'll add some more when I have a bit more time...

It's been nearly six years since I blogged regularly. But before I can get started again, I have to do something first. Which is to thank and acknowledge my (wo)mentor, role model, friend, and collaborator, former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter. I worked with Martha for nearly 10 years as a member and then president of her board when she served as Chancellor of the Foothill De-Anza Community College District. I watched her literally throw herself into that job. A woman on a mission. She was a whirlwind of energy, drive and commitment. Help students succeed. That was everything. She attracted and retained world-class faculty and staff with a uniquely effective management style. And she led our team as we built community support for the college district that led to two successful bond measures that together raised nearly $1 billion. Thanks to the careful planning process she led, the bond money has been spent brilliantly. The Foothill and De Anza campus learning environments are now truly extraordinary. They send a message that our community college students matter. Both campuses have been improved in ways that will benefit our community for decades to come.

Martha then invited me to join her in Washington, D.C. as her Senior Policy Advisor after President Obama nominated her to become Under Secretary of Education. It was the ride of my life. We had some success. More than most people know (and more about that later). We also ran into some brick walls. But one thing that was steadfast was the character of Martha Kanter. She often told me she thinks people should be judged not by how far they get in life but by how many others they bring with them. I'll never be able to thank her enough.

My cousin, sociologist Jeff Weintraub, just forwarded a highly informative post, must reading, excerpting the work of his friend, Lane Kenworthy. Both deserve praise for bringing scholarly attention to a topic that often gets ignored or denied here in Silicon Valley. Perhaps some facts will help. Couldn't hurt. Here are some excerpts of Weintraub's excerpts of Kenworthy's highly useful post:

Lane Kenworthy (Consider the Evidence) March 9, 2008 The Best Inequality Graph

Income inequality in the United States has been rising since the 1970s. What is the most effective way to succinctly convey this fact?

Here is my choice (a pdf version is available here)


The chart shows average inflation-adjusted incomes of the poorest 20%, middle 60%, and top 1% of households since the 1970s. The incomes include government transfers and subtract taxes. For the bulk of American households, incomes have increased moderately or minimally. For those at the top, by contrast, they have soared.

Read the Rest


From 1947 to 1973 [i.e., the quarter-century after WWII that looks to many people, in retrospect, like a "golden age" of continuous economic growth, increasingly pervasive affluence, and decreasing income inequality in all western societies--JW], incomes at each of these three levels grew at an annual rate of about 2.7%. That was approximately the same as - actually slightly faster than - the rate of growth of the economy as a whole; GDP per capita during that period grew at a rate of 2.5% per year.

Since 1973 incomes in the middle and lower portion of the distribution have increased much less rapidly: 0.8% per year at the 60th percentile, 0.5% per year at the 40th, and just 0.3% per year at the 20th. Is this because the economy as a whole has failed to grow? No. The annual growth rate of per capita GDP since 1973 has been 1.9%. Instead, it's because most of that economic growth has gone to those at the top of the distribution.

The dashed lines in the chart show what incomes at the 60th, 40th, and 20th percentiles would have looked like had they grown at the same 1.9%-per-year pace as the economy since 1973. The difference is striking. Incomes for a very large swath of the American population would be much higher - $15,000 to $30,000 higher - if economic growth since the mid-1970s had been distributed more equally.

One local fable shattered by these data is the prevalent myth that stock options did a lot to close the income gap over the last few decades. More recently, we're even hearing worried claims from area CEOs and even members of our local congressional delegation (Democrats!) that our middle class will suffer the most, and in very great numbers, if the recent long overdue federal reform mandating stock option expensing by corporations is not repealed. Reviewing the data, though, it looks like it must have been a pretty thin slice of the middle class that scooped up all those stock options despite some pretty misleading and self-serving claims.