Afraid of Losing It? Join Village Square!

If anyone needed further evidence that they should be part of Village Square, here is scientific proof: It can help stave off dementia.

Thats the conclusion of a study by a researcher with the Rush University Alzheimers Disease Center in Chicago. In following 1,600 older adults since 1997, researcher Robert Wilson and his team found that those who were most active in late life showed a 32 percent slower rate of decline than those who maintained an average level of mental activity. More tellingly, the least-active had a 48 percent faster fall into dementia.

The data he collected demonstrate that staying intellectually stimulated can help slow memory loss and lessen the onset of dementia. That is the reverse of the common theory that it is encroaching disease that causes cognitive inactivity. This adds to a growing body of research that concludes that keeping the brain busy with reading, writing and learning new things is the best way to stay mentally sharp into the 80s and beyond.

So, what does this have to do with Village Square at SPC? Well, Village Square is all about intellectual stimulation. The programs help attendees learn new things. They encourage participants to think and to engage in discussion about topical issues. That may lead to further reading and research to dig deeper into the topic being discussed. Ergo: Adios, dementia demons.

How to join Village Square? Its simple: Go to, and click the Village Square tab.

By David Klement, Executive Director

Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions

St. Petersburg College

Knight Foundation: Expanding civic engagement in Tallahassee with help from LocalWiki (and an enterprising retiree)

When The Village Square embarked on our hyper-local community engagement project called “Get Local” – funded by Knight Foundation through the Community Foundation of North Florida – we wanted to appeal to people who weren’t the usual ones who show up for local civic events. With deepening national partisanship increasingly playing out in local politics, hometown civic discussions have become angrier and therefore less attractive to the average nonpartisan citizen. And we think Tallahassee can hardly afford to lose what they have to offer. Read the whole article on the Knight Foundation blog.

FCATs heading out, Common Core moving in: What does it mean for Florida students?

Florida’s public schools have already begun phasing in the newly adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with kindergartners this school year, signaling an end to the FCATs within the next few years for students at all levels.  This news has many parents, educators and students rejoicing; however, others are skeptical and wonder if this isn’t just going to be continued standardized testing under a new acronym.  The only way to find out if students are learning what they’re expected to learn is to test them in some way, so testing will still exist.  However, supporters of the CCSS say these tests will be “tests worth teaching to.”

The CCSS is a K-12 state-led effort (not a government mandate) coordinated by the nation’s leading experts in education and developed in collaboration with teachers and school administrators “to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.”  The goal of the CCSS is to raise the bar in education nationwide, making our children better able to compete at the international level and providing consistent benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.  Could it really be true that Florida’s public education system may soon no longer have to suffer the burden of being in the lower ranks compared to its counterparts nationwide? 

How could Florida’s parents and educators not want this hope for our children?  Are there other issues within our public schools that will ultimately prevent these new standards from achieving all that they propose?  Check it out for yourself at The Village Square‘s discussion on the topic in our “Get Local” Florida section of our We the Wiki website. Feel free to add to it, too — additional sources, fact checks, even write an op-ed. Remember, the content of our Wiki is made greater by factual, civil, diverse contributions from people like you.  So, go ahead — check it out.  And if you’re a first-time user, be sure to check out the Tools & Tips page, too.  If you have trouble with the site using Internet Explorer, try switching over to Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Then you can switch over to the fully editable Tallahassee Wiki to take a look at the various schools around town and even add a page/info for your favorite school.  Just search the school or type of school you’re looking for to get started (here are our pages on elementary, middle, high, private and charter schools).

Florence Snyder: A Senator, The Bulldog and September 11th

Ft Lauderdale—As a writer of spy novels, Bob Graham is no threat to Ian Fleming. As a statesman, the former three-term U.S. Senator and two- term governor is the best of the best.

Graham’s novel, Keys to the Kingdom, is the hail-Mary pass of a dedicated public servant working way beyond the call of duty and well outside his comfort zone to provide the world with the unvarnished, uncensored truth about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Co-Chair of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11, Graham became convinced that the Saudi government has the blood of September 11th on its hands.

Specifically, the Saudis created a social and financial infrastructure stretching from Sarasota to San Diego which made it possible for the 19 hijackers —who had no fluency in English, no ties to America and no visible means of support—to live in anonymity amongst us as they prepared to shatter our domestic tranquility. Graham is chillingly persuasive in making the case that this infrastructure is still here and remains capable of unleashing new horrors on American soil. Read all »

“It’s Even Worse than it Looks” Solutions: Re-create a Public Square

I finally got the nerve up to read It’s Even Worse than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. It required nerve because it looks so bad that the idea that anything could be even worse than that, well… I’ll do a little reporting on some of the findings, starting with this:

“America also needs a concerted effort to ameliorate the impact of the partisan media. The country no longer has a public square where most Americans shared a common set of facts used to debate policy options with vigor, but with a basic acceptance of the legitimacy of others’ views. Little can be done to change the new business models, driven by technology and global economics, that make Fox News’s apprach a clear winner over the old network news apprach. But a semblance of a new public square, one that might never have the reach or audience of the old one, could be a model for civil discourse and intelligent, lively debate.”

Find our argument for why we think The Village Square fits the bill here (published February 2012 in the Tallahassee Democrat).

Village Square launch in St. Petersburg featuring Senator Bob Graham

Tallahassee Democrat: Village Square nonprofit expands to St. Pete

From today’s Tallahassee Democrat:

After six years in operation, The Village Square — a Tallahassee-based nonprofit that pushes for community engagement — is expanding Tuesday with the help of former Gov. Bob Graham.

The plan, which has developed over the past year, will make the St. Petersburg College in Pinellas County the location for the first offshoot of The Village Square. The organization draws from community members and aims to open dialogue about local, state and national matters that affect communities.

Liz Joyner, executive director of The Village Square Tallahassee, said she is excited about seeing the original idea expand to another city and practice the ability to talk about national issues. Read all »

Village Square Expands to St. Petersburg, Florida

May 21, 2012

St. Petersburg College launches bipartisan non-profit founded by Tallahassee leaders

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – May 21, 2012 – Tomorrow night, The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College becomes the first spinoff of Tallahassee-based nonprofit The Village Square as it hosts former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham.

The Village Square, founded by a group of Tallahassee leaders who enjoyed friendships despite their divergent political views, is dedicated to growing constructive, civil dialogue on matters of local, state and national importance. In its 6 years, the organization has hosted thousands of residents at over 50 programs on topics that range from Florida constitutional amendments to energy to the challenging intersection of faith and politics. The Village Square was the recipient of the highly nationally competitive Knight Community Information Challenge grant in 2009 awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to grow informed and engaged communities.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with St. Petersburg College as we grow beyond Tallahassee,” said The Village Square Board Co-chair, County Commissioner Bryan Desloge. “The College’s unique reach into their community is a great match for the neighborly spirit that has contributed to our success in Tallahassee.”

David Klement is the Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. He reflects on the launch, in planning for over a year: “I am honored to have the Institute chosen to be the first ‘clone’ of The Village Square Tallahassee. It is a powerful concept for raising the level of public discourse, and we are excited at the prospect of sharing it with the Pinellas County community. The success of The Village Square Tallahassee is proof that people really do want to have meaningful conversations about the pressing issues of the day in a non-partisan, non-hostile atmosphere.”

Governor Graham was chosen to kick off The Village Square in St. Petersburg because he epitomizes its spirit. He is regarded as one of the nation’s senior statesmen, respected on both sides of the political aisle for his collaborative leadership style and for his 38-year career of public service. He will speak Tuesday night on the topic of “Restoring Civics Education and Renewing Our Democracy.”

For more information about the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, go online to or call (727) 394-6933. For more information on The Village Square, go to, or call (850) 264-8785.


Maira Kalman: So Moved

This unique New York Times blog by Maira Kalman makes me tear up a bit every time I re-read it. America is such a Big Idea. And our country’s greatness really is fundamentally located in our communities, with our humble town hall or wherever it is we manage to make civic connections to our neighbors. We’re launching OUR TOWN this Thursday night because we believe it’s time to live up to that legacy of greatness. We hope you’ll join us for our first event on February 16th. We want you there so badly, we’re buying the pizza.

Ed Morrison: Civility grows the economy

Read the whole article HERE. Here’s a snip:

“Incivility destroys a community’s capacity to generate wealth.

Here’s why.

In a networked, knowledge-driven economy, collaboration drives wealth creation. And collaboration can only thrive in a stable environment of trust. The corrosion of our civil society –– the alarming growth of incivility and pervasive lying –– undercuts our economy’s productivity and our capacity to innovate.

Incivility — fraudulent concealment (“hiding the ball”), lying, manipulation, and associated behaviors — can work well to redistribute wealth. We see almost endless examples from MF Global to the subprime mess. Yet, these behaviors do not generate wealth. Indeed, they erode capitalism’s capacity to generate wealth. That’s why corruption slows economic growth and why trust is associated with higher rates of economic growth.”

Thanks to Tony for the heads up on this great article.

This morning… The Death Penalty: Evolving Issues in Florida

The Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights & the American Bar Association present:

The Death Penalty: Evolving Issues in Florida

A two-hour forum that will include participation by FSU President Emeritus, former Dean of the College of Law and former American Bar Association President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte; former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero; 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Janet Ferris (retired); 18th Judicial Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton (retired); Harry Shorstein, former Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney; Mike Minerva, CEO, Innocence Project of Florida and former 2nd Judicial Circuit Public Defender; Mark Olive, renowned capital case litigator, and Les Garringer, executive director of the Florida Innocence Commission and former Monroe County Judge.

When: Monday, November 14th from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Where: FSU College of Law Rotunda, 425 W. Jefferson St. (across from the Leon County Civic Center)

*sponsored in cooperation with The Constitution Project and The Village Square

News from the Village Square: November newsletter

Click here to read the newsletter.

The Crier: News from the Village Square

Click here to read our Souvenir Technology Glitch edition of our newsletter and learn all about next Tuesday night’s Dinner at the Square program!