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<August 2014>


How grandma got hooked on heroin
Cynthia Scudo was a mother and a grandmother who worked full-time. But behind her all-American image was a dark secret that could have killed her.

Alarming increase in near-collisions
New statistics from the FAA show a sharp increase in near-collisions of passenger planes. CNN's Rene Marsh reports.

Vanessa Williams hit with tax lien
The IRS filed a tax lien against Vanessa Williams, saying the singer-actress owes the federal government $369,249 for her 2011 earnings.

Current Weather Conditions In Guthrie, OK
Clear, and 80 ° F. For more details?


Misty Copeland makes a point of sharing her art with unlikely ballet fans


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GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight:  Classical dancer Misty Copeland is only the second African-American woman ever to reach the level of soloist at American Ballet Theatre and the first in 20 years.

She recently performed here at the Kennedy Center in Washington.  And while she was here, she sat down with us to share the story of her rise from poverty to the spotlight and her desire to open the world of ballet to all economic backgrounds and races.

She began by reading from her new memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina.”  In it, she recounts the evening she danced the title role in Stravinsky’s “Dance of the Firebird.”

MISTY COPELAND, Author: “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina”: Outside, the largest crowd I have ever seen waits.  Prominent members of the African-American community and trailblazers in the world of dance who have seldom received their due are here tonight, but I know I will also dance for those who aren’t here, who pass the Metropolitan Opera House, but cannot imagine what goes on inside.

They may be poor, like I have been; insecure, like I have been; misunderstood, like I have been.  I will be dancing for them, too.  I run onto the stage and feel myself transform.  As I approach center, my flock parts, leaving me to stand alone.  There’s a brief second of silence before the audience erupts into applause once more, clapping so loudly I can barely hear the music.  And so it begins.

I’m Misty Copeland.  And I’m a soloist with American Ballet Theatre.

I didn’t come from a background that would’ve introduced me to this world in any way.  I didn’t come from a family with money.  I had no knowledge of the ballet world.  I had never heard classical music before.

But I think, above all of that, just starting at 13 and only training for four years before I was accepted into American Ballet Theatre, America’s national ballet company, I think is the most unlikely of it all.

I took a free ballet class at a Boys and Girls Club surrounded by other kids that had similar backgrounds to me that were all older.  And I was selected to come to my teacher’s school on a full scholarship.  It was the first time in my life that that had been presented to me, that I had no limits and that I could dream.  That wasn’t something I grew up in my home atmosphere having.

I remember the first time I sat on the stage at the Metropolitan Opera House.  I was 19 years old, still struggling to find my place in ABT’s Corps de Ballet.  I traced the marley floor with my pointe shoes, and imagine myself on the stage, not as a member of the corps, but as a principal dancer.  It felt right.  It felt like a promise.  Some day, somehow, it was going to happen for me.

The ballet world, I don’t think is an art form that is quick to change or to adjust or evolve.  ABT and most classical companies are about kind of following this slow and steady process of proving yourself and moving up through the ranks.  And because I was so able and capable of mimicking and doing movements that I had never done before, I could just see it and imitate it, choreographers wanted to work with me.

You just have to be given the opportunity and just give everything to it and dive into it and really commit to these roles, which, with these opportunities I have been given, with Firebird and Swanilda, Gamzatti, all of these parts that I really just — I took care with all of them because I have so much respect for this art form.

The ballet world, I think, is so similar to theater and drama, and you’re becoming a character.  I mean, it’s not you out there on the stage.  You know, there is no role called Misty that I am playing.  We’re portraying a character.  And even if you are in the Corps de Ballet, you know, why can’t there be a beige swan, a brown swan, a black swan out there?

So I understand the importance of me having a voice and exposing people beyond the typical ballet world to this art form.  I think it saved my life.  And I want to introduce it to more people.  And coming full circle, that’s something that I’m trying to do now, is to give back to those communities through Boys and Girls Clubs, being an alum.

To invite people into my world as it’s happening, I think, is really amazing.  To have grown men that have never seen a ballet in their life look at me and see a woman that they can relate to, someone who looks like their sister, their daughter, their mother, and to say, well, I’m going to put my child in that because they can see themselves through you, I think it’s creating a completely different path for these people that never saw themselves in this world.

And to watch me still growing in it and on my path, I think, is really powerful.

GWEN IFILL: Misty Copeland will be performing with the American Ballet Theatre next month in Australia.

The post Misty Copeland makes a point of sharing her art with unlikely ballet fans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Massachusetts mayor says her city feeling effects of immigrant surge

Judith Kennedy is the mayor of Lynn, Massachusetts.

Judith Kennedy is the mayor of Lynn, Massachusetts.

Lynn, Massachusetts is 1,500 miles from the U.S. border with Mexico, but the old factory city has found itself strained because of the recent surge of Central American minors into the country.

Mayor Judith Kennedy, who spoke at a press conference hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies this morning in Washington, is on a mission to ask for federal action as Lynn schools struggle to handle a rising tide of Central American students. Kennedy said that the minors in her city are coming from Guatemala, primarily the San Marcos region, and are sent to live with relatives in Lynn after they have been processed in San Antonio.

“When I talk to Immigration Customs Enforcement, they mention how they have reduced detention costs by resettling 80 percent of the migrants,” said Kennedy. “But those 80 percent are going to places like Lynn that bear the costs.”

According to Kennedy, in the 2010 to 2011 school year, the Lynn school system had 54 Central American students enrolled. As of the 2013-2014 school year, she said there were 538 in the schools.

Almost all the new students are illiterate in both Spanish and English, she said, making their education more difficult while costing the district hundreds of more dollars per student. In addition, the law requires students to be vaccinated before attending public school and the city-provided vaccinations have seen a massive uptick in demand and cost to operate.

“It’s gotten to the point where the school system is overwhelmed, our Health Department is overwhelmed, the city’s budget is being sustainably altered in order to accommodate in the school department,” Kennedy said.

Lynn has the fifth largest school system in Massachusetts and has seen its school population swell by eight percent as it admits more migrant children. Officials in Lynn also say they have been forced to admit students who they say are clearly over the ages of 17 and 18 but have no birth certificates or documentation besides those given by federal immigration officials. “We have no ability to directly confront a student about their age, per the (Department of Justice) guidelines we cannot ask them for verification of their age,” said Kennedy.

The Mayor said she is asking for lawmakers in Washington to ease the strain on Lynn and cities like it. “I don’t know if it means more financial aid to provide for these students, or having surrounding districts pick up the slack. I’m not a policy-maker but something needs to be done.”

Hear more voices from the immigration debate. PBS NewsHour has invited an immigration judge, a border patrol officer, an immigration lawyer and an Arizona rancher to give a personal account from their front-seat view of the clash over the recent influx of migrants from Central America. Watch these conversations in the playlist below:

The post Massachusetts mayor says her city feeling effects of immigrant surge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Can online courses replace a campus education?


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GWEN IFILL: Next tonight: another in our series on Rethinking College.

Are the ivory towers of higher education delivering their product, the much sought-after sheepskin, in an old-fashioned and inefficient way? We look at online technologies that could change colleges and universities.

Hari Sreenivasan is back with that.

They’re handwriting on a tablet, so a white board that can handwrite on a tablet.

HARI SREENIVASAN: When Anant Agarwal, a professor of computer science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, decided in 2011 to offer his circuits and electronics course online for free, he was amazed by the response.

ANANT AGARWAL, CEO, edX: I had over 150,000 students taking it from 162 countries.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And while the vast majority of students eventually dropped out, the sheer number of students who passed the course was remarkable.

ANANT AGARWAL: Of 155,000 students that took the course, about 5 percent passed the course and earned a certificate. So that was about 7,200. That is a big number. If I were to teach on campus twice a year, both in the spring and fall semesters, I would have to teach for about 40 years before I could teach 7,200 students.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, just three years later, Agarwal’s overall online venture reaches 2.5 million students from every country in the world.

With help from Harvard and MIT, the computer science professor founded edX, a nonprofit learning destination with a staff of more than 100.

ANANT AGARWAL: Learners from all over the world can come in and take these great courses for free. And the courses from the great universities like Berkeley from California, or Harvard and MIT, or Tsinghua from China, or IIT Bombay, the Australian National University.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Massive open online courses, nicknamed MOOCs, initially generated huge expectations. Many hoped they would make higher education more affordable and accessible to students around the globe.

NARRATOR: Imagine taking a class with 100,000 or more students.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But the format has met with criticism from some professors, who say computers cannot equal the quality of in-person teaching.

SHYAM SHARMA, Stony Brook University: We want to know what you think.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Shyam Sharma is an assistant professor at writing at Stony Brook University in New York.

SHYAM SHARMA: In our discipline, the objective of students learning is not to basically learn the content of the discipline, but instead to use the content as a context to engage in intellectual discussions, to develop their positions, intellectual positions, to debate and argue and develop critical thinking skills. And that oftentimes requires the expertise and guidance and mentoring and close connection, one-on-one support to the students.

HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the concerns that the existing academia has about quality is, is delivering information equal to educating someone?

ANANT AGARWAL: So educating someone doesn’t mean just consume a set of information.

It’s not about just watching the video and just listening to it. We have interactivity. We have problem sets and exercises that students engage with. They get feedback. And so they get to try things out and experiment with things.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier this summer, the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, a group funded in part by teachers unions, created this video highly critical of MOOCs.

NARRATOR: So far, MOOCs equals failure.

Professor Lillian Taiz is president of the California Faculty Association.

LILLIAN TAIZ, President, California Faculty Association: I think every single faculty member in our system worries all the time that these products come into our system making all kinds of claims, they’re going to be cheaper, they’re going to be quicker, they’re going to move people in and out faster, but nowhere in the conversation is there a discussion about the quality of the education that they are helping us provide for our students.

ANANT AGARWAL: I really believe that we can transform education both in quality and scale and access.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Despite all his online teaching success, Agarwal agrees with critics who say online courses are no replacement for classroom instruction. He says edX can be an effective supplement.

Agarwal points to universities that use the edX platform on campus, an approach called blended learning.

ANANT AGARWAL: It doesn’t replace the campus. We really believe that, ultimately, the right model for learning is a blended model, where you blend the best of online and the best of in-person.

Students watch the videos and then do a lot of interactive exercises online. And then they work in groups with the professor. And the professors answer questions and help the students and really help them learn the material. And so this is a form of blending, where you are blending the online with the in-person, to very good results.

BRIAN WHITE, University of Massachusetts Boston: There are different interpretations.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Professor Brian White agrees. White, who has taught biology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston for 15 years, decided last fall to replace his lectures with edX instruction.

BRIAN WHITE: I didn’t give a single lecture on any of this material. All these sort of lectures that were sacred to me that I set up for all these years were not necessary.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Instead, white used edX’s intro to biology class with lectures by MIT Professor Eric Lander, a world-renowned scientist and leader of the Human Genome Project. White says online lectures made it easy for his students to learn the material.

BRIAN WHITE: They really like the ability to stop and rewind and watch at their own pace, to do the equivalent of saying, can you say that again? Can you say that again? Can you say that again? Can you skip over that boring part?

HARI SREENIVASAN: That allowed White to focus his time in class getting students to truly understand the lesson. He added his own materials and spliced edX content to best fit his course.

BRIAN WHITE: I used the MOOCs lectures to show the students what they needed to do to come to class prepared, and then in class, rather than just telling them information, what I was able to do is take them the next step, so show them how to use it, fill in any cracks, deal with students’ individual issues.

To the extent that I can be replaced by a videotape, fine, replace that part of me with a videotape and leave me to do what I do best, which is to work with students.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Unlike White, many faculty are uncomfortable with the idea of handing over lectures to another professor, and see it as a way college administrators could cut costs in the future by reducing the number of professors on campus.

LILLIAN TAIZ: Budget cuts across the country here in California particularly have really created a crisis in public higher education. And it has been tempting on the part of our boards of trustees and our administrators to look around for cheap silver bullets.

And there is the notion that MOOCs and online will provide that cheap silver bullet. But there is no silver bullet for higher education and education in general. You have to invest in it. You have to really understand that it is labor-intensive.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Professors, institutions and online course designers all agree that online learning is likely to play an important role in the future of higher education.

GWEN IFILL: We will continue Rethinking College tomorrow, as Hari looks at the reinvention of the City Colleges of Chicago.

And, online, you can read about the Department of Education’s plan rating how effective and affordable the country’s colleges really are. See what that could mean for students and financial aid.

The post Can online courses replace a campus education? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.