Progressive Education and "The Road to Peace"
On Tuesday, January 26th, we attended a Mentor Chamber of Commerce Luncheon in which Mr. Matthew Miller, Superintendent of the Mentor Schools, gave his annual "State of the Schools" address. Appropriately, the luncheon and the speech took place at Mentor High School inside of the Paradigm which is a 16,000 square foot professional development center built by funds from the Straight A Fund Grant that the Mentor Schools received from the State of Ohio. Before the address, we talked about the area's diversity with the administrative staff of the Mentor Schools and learned that quite a few people have immigrated there from Croatia over the years and a significant percentage of them are enrolled in the ESL classes offered by the district. We also said hello to several new members of the Mentor Chamber of Commerce including Mr. Brian McCloskey and Mr. Bill Dennison of "Second Sole Mentor" which is one place to go if a runner, walker, or someone who stays on their feet a lot needs a pair of shoes. We told them that we might well be a client in the near future. During his address, Mr. Miller reviewed the accomplishments of the school district over the past year. It seems that test scores are excellent and there are a lot of promising programs for the students to utilize. We believe that Mr. Miller made a wise move when gave a lot of his allotted time to the students, themselves, in order that they could speak about the particular programs and what they have meant to them personally. It seems that the district is making fine use of the "blended learning" approach to education that Wikipedia defined as "a formal education program in which a student learns at least part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path or pace." Along these lines, one student talked about of studying "The Kite Runner" through a blended learning approach and how this enriched the experience. Another student talked about his involvement with the "Second Chance House" project in which a house badly in need of repairs was acquired by the district for the CTE Construction Management class to restore with the work being documented by the Interactive Media Class. From what we learned, the electrical elements have been completed so the project is halfway done and when the house is in top-notch condition it will be sold and the money used to purchase another house for restoration. We talked personally to Mr. Jack Lynch, a sophomore who is taking "AP Seminar" in which current events are studied and different points-of-view are expressed. Mr. Lynch told us that among the subjects discussed thus far are immigration, Isis, and gay marriage. The class meets for an hour five days a week and every two weeks or so the students are required to turn in a report which is good for the development of their English/writing skills. Mr. Lynch likes this class a lot and feels that not only will it help prepare him for college but it will help him function in life after his formal education has been completed. Towards the end of the presentation, Mr. Miller mentioned that some students will go directly into the United States Armed Forces immediately after high school graduation so for the past three years an annual tribute has been given on their behalf. Accordingly, we got two meet two of the veterans who have helped to organize this affair who were Mr. Doug Koman and Mr. Bob Zonneville. Sadly, a third, Mr. Bud Spreng recently passed but he was given the appropriate acknowledgement. Mr. Zonneville, now age 91, rose from his chair and spoke for a few minutes about how much he admired the young people of today. Mr. Zonneville, by the way, enrolled in Lakeland Community College at age 85 and received his degree in business at age 88 making him the eldest graduate of that institution. He credits part of his success to his fellow students who were many years his junior because they helped him master the computer and supported him all the way. As Mr. Zonneville saw things, he may have been part of the "greatest generation" but he believed that each generation after that was just as great in their own way. On Tuesday night we went to the Union Club of Cleveland for a Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) program titled "Iran and the U.S.: The Road to Peace" featuring Dr. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Research Scholar at Princeton University and former Iranian Ambassador to Germany, who authored the book "Iran and the United States: An Insider's View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace" which was published in 2015 and on sale at the CCWA table. During his presentation, Dr. Mousavian came down firmly on the side of the controversial U.S./Iran nuclear agreement which he termed "the most comprehensive deal ever on proliferation" and reviewed the turbulent history of U.S./Iran relations. He then indicated that the agreement might hopefully represent a turning point for both countries and better relations were possible if the diplomacy on display during the process of crafting that treaty would continue to be exercised; the leaders of the U.S. and Iran focused on their commonalities/mutual interests instead of their differences; mutual respect was observed; and the often bellicose dialogue used by United States leaders and the U.S. media regarding Iran were toned down. Along these lines, Dr. Mousavian praised President Obama and, particularly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry but indicated that he was concerned about who might win the 2016 U.S. Presidential election because several candidates have indicated their desire to re-negotiate if not entirely scuttle the nuclear deal. He suggested that economic endeavors might be in the mutual interests of both countries. "Business is a good thing for confidence building," said Dr. Mousavian. We asked if more immigration between the two countries or at least the encouragement of travel for visitation/relationship building would be a positive step and Dr. Mousavian believed that it definitely would be. He recalled that in 2011 he wrote, along with Mr. William Miller the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, an Op-Ed piece for the "Christian Science Monitor" on the positive effects of civilian diplomacy because there are many possible bridges that could be built in the areas of business, academia, arts, and culture. Plus, it would be great if the youth of both countries can be brought together. He mentioned that he wrote about this very thing in his book. As we mentioned earlier, well-educated people have differing views on United States/Iranian relations, especially surrounding the nuclear treaty and this was apparent during the Q and A which was a bit contentious at times but the discourse always maintained civility. As for us, we established or re-established several relationship there by arriving early and visiting with people such as Ms. Mary Stevenson with whom we shared a table at the 2015 CCWA banquet where former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar was the guest speaker. Ms. Stevenson is very actively involved with COAR Peace Mission which, as its website says, seeks to "promote justice, community, and peace in El Salvador through the support of effective programs in health education and welfare which assist children and others..." We spent a lot of time talking with Mr.Christopher Davis, a CSU student working on his second degree in Spanish. He is also currently studying Arabic. Mr. Davis seemed liked a very committed person who had worked for the late U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes as well as former U.S. Senator John Glenn. Eventually, he would like to move to Washington, D.C. and pursue a career in foreign affairs. We greeted Mr. James Collins, a new member of the CCWA who used to volunteer at the United Nations in New York City where he was chair of an NGO committee on aging. We spied a couple who looked familiar and it turned out that they were Mr. Eduardo and Ms. Lina Bigornia who both know Ms. Margaret W. Wong through their mutual attendance at St. Dominic Church in Shaker Heights. And then there was Mr. Tom Lyon who came to this event with his friend, Dr. Mohammad Assar who immigrated to the United States from Iran. Both Mr. Lyon and Dr. Assar work as engineers at ArcelorMittal Cleveland. Mr. Lyon is not a member of CCWA but he chose to accompany his friend to this gathering because he believed that U.S./Iran relations are very important and he wanted to learn more about this topic. We certainly wish that more people were as conscientious and socially concerned as Mr. Lyon as well as the staff and the membership of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs. Written by: Michael Patterson Community Liaison, Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.