Of books and new ideas in education

Two new books that may not be on the radar screen of most people nor have received much notice in The New York Times Book Review have come to my attention in the period just before Labor Day when this is being written.Retired New Hampshire Episcopal clergyman Rick Stecker has written a book called “The Podium, The Pulpit and The Republicans,” which traces the move to the right by the Republican Party after the failed presidency of Richard Nixon, and especially after Gerald Ford chose Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president.It reviews what the author believes is a sophisticated and successful attempt to rebrand the right by such individuals as Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie and Phyllis Schlafly. It talks about how conservatism changed from libertarian, small-government and the approach of Barry Goldwater to a fight against populism, women’s rights and toward its definition of “family values” and shows how the religious right joined this effort over the issues of secularization of society and the disturbing growth of cults.The thesis of the book is that fundamentalist clerics brought with them expertise in the media and a new generation of politically engaged clergy.Statistically, the book reports that before Reagan’s presidency, there was a 50-50 chance of hearing words that invoke God in presidential speeches, but by the second President Bush’s final term, you could expect to hear it in 93.5 percent of national presidential addresses.The book offers a linguistic analysis of presidential debates of 2000, 2004 and 2008 and the invocation of religion by Republican candidates. In the book, the way Republicans view religion and Democrats view religion and, assumedly, God, is examined with the Republicans coming out in favor of a hierarchical God and “strict parent” where the Democrats consistently view the Almighty as a “nurturing parent.” From that, it generalizes to the basic philosophies of the parties and their view of social doctrines.For those who believe that God probably is not a member of either political party, this book will be intriguing. For those who are religious and find it difficult to stomach the use of religion in politics, it will also prove to be instructive.”The Podium, The Pulpit and The Republicans” is published by Praeger and can be viewed on the Barnes & Noble and Amazon websites where parts of the book can be read. It is worth the effort to find it.*****Another new book is written by three New Hampshire academics, Martin Bradley, Steve Painchaud and Robert Seidman, all present or former faculty members at Southern New Hampshire University. They have written “Saving Higher Education: The Integrated, Competency-Based Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree Program,” which recounts the interesting development of the three-year bachelor’s degree program at SNHU.In an era when colleges and universities are under pressure from the government, students and parents to keep the costs of education down, and all colleges are examining their delivery systems in light of these demands and the increasingly worrisome demographic of fewer high school graduates, the SNHU three-year program is a model worth discussing.Since SNHU does not charge more for the three-year program than the four, 25 percent of the cost of higher education is saved. Students in the three-year program tend to be more engaged and do better academically, and the program itself helps lift the academic level significantly.The SNHU program is 120 credits with six semesters that judges competencies and integrates the curriculum so that what is learned is the equivalent of a four-year program, and perhaps better, as the students work together and the different classes are integrated so that similar themes are addressed, regardless of the academic course in question.While there is less time in class, experience has shown that there may be more learning going on, the authors assert.Parents should read this book, college officials should read this book, educators in higher education and secondary education should read it and the authors should be congratulated for developing the program and also reporting on it.Speaking of SNHU, The Chronicle of Higher Education spotlighted the university in an Aug. 28 article, “Online Venture Energizes Vulnerable College.””With 7,000 online students, the university has grown into the second-largest online education provider in college-saturated New England, aiming to blow the University of Massachusetts out of the top spot. It recently began testing TV advertisements in national markets like Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, too, sensing that scandals tarring for-profit colleges have opened an opportunity for nonprofit competitors,” says the article.Southern New Hampshire’s online division is housed in Manchester’s Millyard and generates surpluses that are plowed back into the university to allow for new buildings, financial aid, improved programs and an exciting campus, the equivalent of what the endowment can do at those institutions with very large endowments.Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.