On Saturday we went to the Franklin Park Zoo to celebrate lion brothers Dinari and Kamaia’s seventh birthday. We missed the cake, but we saw the lions lounging in the sun. We also saw the newborn Nigerian Dwarf Goat, Chewbacca, and the dramatic flapping wings of a flying condor.
25 years ago the students, teachers, families, and alumni of my high school – a small Catholic school in Greenwich, CT – were informed that as of June 1991, the school would no longer exist. The decision was made by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport as a cost-cutting measure due to declining enrollment. In the weeks prior to the announcement the Diocese floated the idea of consolidating my high school with another school in the diocese, thus pitting one school against the other as to which one would get to stay open, as well as making other claims that made many question the Diocese’s commitment to education.
I was graduating that spring and disappointed that I effectively would have no alma mater. The stakes were higher for students in the lower grades, especially the Juniors who would have to attend another school for their final year. And so, these students organized a walk-out. I don’t know how much effect this protest had on the Diocese, but I do know that a sympathetic reporter from the local newspaper covered the walk out and it was given top billing in the newspaper, above news of the Gulf War.
All this is preamble to a sense of déjà vu, I’m getting as today students from across Boston Public Schools will walk out of class today and march on the Massachusetts State House to protest the state and city government’s continued cutting of school budgets. Like the protest at my school 25 years ago, this originates completely from those effected most, the students, originating with students at Snowden International School at Copley. And in this case the stakes are much higher:
- This is not 1 school, but 120 schools that will be affected
- This is not a private organization paring back their commitment to education, but the moral and legal obligation of the government to provide equitable funds and resources towards public education for every child
- Schools are losing teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors, and other staff.
- Classes and programs such Advance Placement courses, foreign language instruction, and physical education
- Life-changing programs like Diploma Plus at Charlestown High School are being cut completely
- Extra-curricular programs, sports, and enrichment programs are being slashed
- A complete list of what will be cut is available from Krissy Cabbage: http://krissycabbage.blogspot.com/2016/03/why-bpswalkout.html
I’m proud of the students at our high schools for taking direct action and stepping out in protest today. Among other ways of showing support I’ve signed this online petition and encourage other Boston adults to do so as well. I hope that our children’s voices will be heard today, and like the local newspaper did at my high school 25 years ago, the local Boston media will cover this event.
Unfortunately, there is considerable bias in the Boston media when it comes to public education as they news generally sides with the politicians and corporate “philanthropists” pushing education reforms that lead to underfunded schools and pitting schools against one another for resources. If the media acknowledges opposition to what’s happening to our schools at all, it is to say that the Massachusetts Teachers Association is fighting for their union members. A recent Boston Globe column declared that teachers are vastly overpaid with generous time off and should considering voluntarily slashing their pay to save the school budget. Columns of this ilk are published with regularity, but the voices of teachers – real human beings with jobs include working nights, weekends & summers not faceless unions – parents, and students are rarely represented in the media.
In meetings and protests I’ve attended for Boston Public Schools in recent years, it is always the students who’ve impressed me the most. They are eloquent in portraying the real effects of budget cuts and corporate education reform on their lives and education. They are activists not by choice but by necessity. They are the leaders of our movement and I hope and pray that their voices will be acknowledged before it is too late.
News coverage of the 3500 heroes who participated in the walkout:
Yesterday morning, I was one of hundreds of Bostonians who gathered together to rally against cuts at Boston Public Schools and deliver a message to Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker to support our public schools. The Walk-In and Rally was organized by the Boston Education Justice Alliance and coincided with a national movement to oppose budget cuts and privatization efforts for public education. You can sign the petition to stop budget cuts at MoveOn.
At Boston City Hall we heard parents, grandparents, teachers, school nurses, religious leaders, concerned citizens, and students speak about the effects of slashed budgets on our schools. As always, the students are the most inspiring and the real leaders of this cause. About half the group “walked-in” to City Hall to deliver a petition to the Mayor’s office (sadly, Walsh did not make team to speak with them). Then we marched down the streets to Massachusetts State House. I didn’t have time to join the action at the State House, but there was another rally within and presentation of a petition to the governor. Like Walsh, Baker declined to meet with his constituents. As student K’Damse McGee was quoted in the Boston Globe article, maybe he’s scared?
Below is some news coverage and then some photos I took of the event.
- Bay State Banner (also worth reading this story about how cuts will end the Diploma Plus program at Charlestown High School)
- Boston Globe
- Another Boston Globe article
- CBS Boston
- Public School Mama
If there’s any coverage I missed, post a link in the comments.
Passing word along again about the ongoing effort to protect public education in Boston by making sure that all schools are equitably provided the funding and resources to carry out the mission of educating children that underlies our democracy.
Students, parents, families, educators, and other concerned members of the community (which really could and should be everyone who lives or works in the city) are gathering to protest the most recent cuts to the budgets of Boston Public Schools at Mayor Marty Walsh’s State of the City Address at Symphony Hall.
Here are the details for meeting up:
DATE: Tuesday, January 19, 2016
LOCATION: Intersection of Westland Ave and Mass Ave Under BSO sign
Dress warm, bring signs, and come prepared to make the mayor and the media hear our voices.
Sunday is the birthday of early American leader Benjamin Franklin, born in Boston on January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705]. Come learn more about this Son of Boston on a Boston By Foot tour lead by knowledgeable Boston By Foot guides (including yours truly). The tour visits sites associated with Ben Franklin’s life in Boston from his birth in a house on Milk Street until the age of 17 when he ran away from his home town after a falling-out with his older brother. This tour is unique in that since Franklin spent much of his long life elsewhere – Philadelphia, London, and Paris for starters – the sites often offer a launch point for talking about Franklin’s varied careers in printing, science, invention, postal services, public service and as a founder of our nation.
The tour meets in the public park at the corner of Washington and School Streets by the Irish Famine Memorial and Borders Book Store. The cost is $15 per person ($5 for Boston By Foot members) and the 90-minute walking tour departs at 2 pm on Sunday, January 17th, 2016. Buy tickets online or pay cash in person.
Official tour description:
Celebrate and learn the life of Benjamin Franklin by walking among the sites of his homes and haunts in Colonial Boston. In his day, Benjamin Franklin was America’s greatest scientist, inventor, diplomat, humorist, statesman, and entrepreneur. Ben was born in Boston, came of age in Philadelphia, and was the darling of Paris. From his many inventions, creation of civic, philanthropic, and educational institutions, to his his roles in the founding of America, his legacy is immeasurable.
On another solo visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I completed touring the Art of Europe galleries, traveling through 17th-century Dutch and Flemish, gaudy 18th-century French decorative art, 19th-century art deemed worthy by the Academy, and finally Impressionism and post-Impressionism.
Then I took the guided tour of the Art of the Americas wing, learning more about old favorites and some new surprises. I’ll probably work my way more methodically through those galleries on my next visit. Before departing I stopped in the Made in the Americas exhibition which was mostly decorative arts and textiles and seemed less interesting than similar exhibits at the Peabody Essex Museum. And I finished with the delightful Musical Instruments collection. I wish I could hear a concert on those instruments.
We spent the day after Thanksgiving at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. There were a number of art and music activities for the day to engage the senses, but the kids were content to make their usual round of visits to the farm animals, taking a hay ride, and then a hike up the Drumlin.
It was a perfect day for it!
To celebrate my birthday on Wednesday, I played hooky from work and paid another visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This time I was accompanied by my lovely wife Susan!
As aficionados of Dutch Golden Age art, we made our way first to the special exhibit Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer. The name is misleading as there is only one work by Vermeer and a handful by Rembrandt. This is not a bad thing as a number of their contemporaries painted some excellent scenes of of 17th-century Dutch life. Jan Steen stood out as a favorite of mine. Art was unusually popular among all income levels in the Netherlands of that era, although not usually art as fine as that on exhibit. The exhibit is arranged to show art depicting the upper, middle, and lower classes each within their own gallery, with a fourth gallery collecting works that show the different classes interacting. Sebastian Smee has a great review of the exhibit in today’s Boston Globe that focuses on the social effect of the exhibit.
Photography was not allowed in the exhibit, so below is a list of my favorite works in the exhibit:
- Jan Steen – Portrait of Jacoba Maria van Wassenaer (1654-1683), known as ‘The Poultry Yard’ (1660).
- Frans Hals – Regents of the St Elizabeth Hospital of Haarlem (1641)
- Pieter de Hooch- The Courtyard of a House in Delft (1658)
- Rembrandt van Rijn – The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633)
- Quiringh Gerritsz van Brekelenkam – The Tailor’s Workshop (1661)
- Jan Steen – Peasants Merrymaking Outside an Inn (1645-50)
- Jacob Ochtervelt – Street Musicians at the Door (1665)
If you look at these paintings on your computer, make sure to zoom in on all the tiny details. The curators on the audio guide were particularly ecstatic about the brushwork.
After finishing that exhibit, Susan picked out a small but spiffy exhibit of American ceramics from the 20th century and then we wondered among the Art of the Americas gallery where we stumbled on a few surprises.
The Casey Overpass is over and past. The elevated highway structure that darkened the skies over Forest Hills and divided a neighborhood (literally and figuratively) for more than 60 years is gone. I wrote several times about the multi-year process that went into the plan to remove the highway and replace it with an at-grade city street, improvements for walking, biking, and transit, and public space, but had doubts that it would ever really happen. So when the big machinery arrived this spring and began dismantling the overpass, it was a delight to watch them in action. Even more so was the dramatic change that occurred in the Forest Hills area as the sunlight was able to shine on the area and views of the Boston skyline and nearby wooded parkscapes opened up.
There’s a lot more work to be done to complete the Casey Arborway Project, and I expect the construction period won’t always be fun, but I look forward to the continuing transformation of Forest Hills from a place where cars just drive through, to a place where people live, work, shop, dine, and play.
Here are some photos I took over the course of the year showing the demolition.
I made my third visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to slowly explore the art collections, gallery by gallery, piece by piece. You can see my first and second trips on this blog. On this visit I decided to focus on the Art of Europe galleries. I started out on level 1, which turned out not to always be European, nor even “art,” but the was fine. In fact I saw several wonderful exhibitions. The Kunstkammer Gallery honors the “cabinets of curiosity” that flourished in 17th century Europe and were the root of modern museums. The collections included hand-crafted automatons with videos that showed them working! Pastoral to Pop shows the rapid change in British prints and drawings over the course of the 20th century. And my favorite of all, Unfinished Stories is an absolutely delightful collection of found photographs grouped together by themes. You’ll never look at your family snapshots the same way.
On the second level, I explored the Italian Renaissance art gallery and learned about Maiolica, the brightly colored Italian tin-glazed pottery. I then joined a highlights tour of the Art of Europe which took us from a 12th-century Catalan chapel through the works of the Impressionists. It was an informative hour. I was able to return to the medieval and Renaissance galleries on my own for a more in-depth exploration, but then my time ran out, so the rest of the Art of Europe galleries on the second level await my return.
I’m not someone you will often find at a college football game, but I got free tickets from work (full disclosure: my employer has a football team) and my son enjoys going to sporting events of any kind. So on September 26, Peter & I made our way to Harvard Stadium to see the Crimson take on Brown. A few years back, we saw Harvard run up the score in a torrential downpour against Holy Cross. For this game, the weather was crisp and clear, a perfect autumn night, but Harvard still ran up the score.
I may not be a big fan of football, but I love historic sporting venues and seeing a game in Harvard Stadium is a treat (when it’s not raining). It was also nice to be there when a lot of other fans were present for the atmosphere, including a large number of students who we first saw having a rowdy tailgate in the parking area. Unfortunately, with the score 37-0 at halftime, most of the other spectators departed, making it feel very lonely in the cavernous stadium. After the game, kids were invited on the field and Peter got autographs from a couple of Harvard players which was pretty cool.
Maybe I’ll do this again in another three years.
This Sunday I will be leading a Boston By Foot Tour of the Month of Cambridge Common, both the park and the neighborhood surrounding it which includes churches, collegiate campuses, and family homes. It’s fun and chock full of history! Buy tickets online at Boston By Foot, and meet us at the Harvard MBTA Red Line station/Out of Town News in Harvard Square before 2 pm!
Founded in 1631, Cambridge Common Park was once the common pasture for Old Cambridge. Later it served as an encampment for the Continental Army. Today it’s home to playgrounds and ballfields, surrounded by historic houses, churches, and buildings of Harvard University. We’ll explore nearly 400 years of history & architecture on our loop of Cambridge Common.
The fifth annual JP Music Festival took place at Pinebank Field on September 13. Too my shame, I missed the first four festivals, but I took the kids to a few hours on Saturday afternoon. Sadly, the kids weren’t too interested. My son was completely bored, my daughter was having fun but mostly because she enjoyed tackling me. We did get ice cream from the JP Licks tent and the kids enjoyed a bunch o’bacon from The Bacon Truck.
The performances are impressively organized with acts coming on to stage with very little break in-between. If you didn’t like what you heard, just wait a few minutes and someone else would be on stage. In the short three hours we were there I must’ve seen 8 different acts ranging from jazz to punk to Afro-Latin percussion to dance. Highlights for me include Junko Ogawa‘s song about a caterpillar, the punk saxophone of Fur Purse, and the young dancers of the Tony Williams Ballet Youth Ensemble pretty much stole the show.
The Freedom Trail may be the most hackneyed of Boston tourist destinations, but it’s still worth it for a resident to take a walk on it every so often. And taking my children on the walk for the first time, I got to see it through their eyes. Plus, there are always some surprises, like a pop-up concert by the Handel and Haydn Society at King’s Chapel (which entranced my daughter).
This last week of summer in which there is no school and no camp, I’m taking my children to be tourists in their own home town. When I asked them what they wanted to do, they both agreed that they wanted to go on a whale watch. This made me cringe because I’ve been on whale watches twice in my life and found the experience underwhelming.
Well, third times a charm, because in addition to enjoying a cruise with two enthusiastic children, we saw a lot of whales! We saw a mother humpback whale and her calf, and even witnessed them nursing. We saw a whale practicing “kick feeding” a practice unique to the humpbacks of the Gulf of Maine, and it turned out to be the whale who invented this type of feeding. We saw her calf imitating her, and it was very cute. We also saw minke whales and a blue shark.
I think what made it extra special is that on the long journey back to port, the naturalist came through the ship to talk about the whales we witnessed, showed us pictures, and had the kids flip through binders to see if they could help identify the whales by the patterns on their flukes. We took the New England Aquarium Whale Watch through Boston Harbor Cruises. I highly recommend it.
Join me and several other talented Boston By Foot walking tour guides as we lead a special Tour of the Month of Roxbury Highlands. The tour begins at 2 pm on Sunday, August 30 at Roxbury Crossing station on the MBTA Orange Line.
We start in the Stony Brook valley and work our way uphill and through history to the top of Fort Hill, passing through Roxbury’s colonial town center at Eliot Square along the way. Learn how Roxbury went from early colonial settlement to strategic military location to bucolic suburb to immigration destination to one of Boston’s densest neighborhoods. See Roxbury Highlands continue to transform with ongoing restoration and new construction.
The full description of the tour is on the Boston By Foot website where you can also pre-order tickets!
The Roxbury Highlands tour explores a remarkable neighborhood. Our tour travels through the center of colonial Roxbury: Eliot Square, where the First Church proudly stands as the oldest wooden church in Boston. The Highlands flourished in the mid-19th century as a garden suburb with many pear and apple orchards. There was even an apple named after the area – the Roxbury Russet. We will see wonderful Greek Revival and Victorian houses along our route and discuss some of the amazing individuals who called this area home including Edward Everett Hale – author of The Man Without a Country, and Louis Prang – who printed the first Christmas cards in America. Finally, we finish on top of the hill at the Roxbury Standpipe, in a lovely park which occupies the location of the Roxbury High Fort. Come explore with us!
More photos from the 2007 tour to whet your whistle for Sunday.