What is the Future for Public Schools in Boston?

Once again, Massachusetts public schools are ranked the the best in the nation. This may be surprising to many based on the constant political rhetoric that public schools in Massachusetts are a “disaster.”  One of the major issues is the great gap in achievement between low-income students and their more affluent peers.  For me and many others, the obvious solution to this problem is to look at what is making schools succeed in more prosperous communities and apply the same type of resources, facilities, and teacher support to schools in impoverished communities.  By working to make education equitable across class and racial lines and through other programs to address poverty, we believe these gaps can be narrowed significantly.  Unfortunately, this goal is undermined by the efforts of our governor, mayor, corporate philanthropic organizations and those who support them to take drastic measures to “fix” public schools and  perhaps replace them outright. Worse, the proponents of this type of corporate education reform often seem to have ulterior motives at odds with the goals of creating equitable schools or alleviating poverty.

Some of the challenges to creating equitable public education in Boston and Massachusetts include:

  • Annual cuts to city education budget as well as cuts to education funding statewide.
  • School closures, usually in the poorest communities
  • Continued emphasis on frequent testing which takes up learning time with testing and test preparation which leads to “teaching to the test” (not to mention profiting companies that publish the test and preparation materials)
  • Using test results to justify “high stakes” measures such as firing teachers and closing schools
  • Funneling public money into privately-run charter schools at the expense of local school districts
  • The Boston Compact plan for unified enrollment which doesn’t seem to reflect any constituents’ desires for improving schools and has been funded by out-of-state interests

Thursday night the Boston Education Justice Alliance is hosting a Town Hall for parents, teaches, students and concerned citizens to discuss these issues and how we can create just and equitable public education in the city.  I encourage you to attend.  Here is a flyer and I’ve included links to the websites of the organizations involved:



I don’t get to write on education issues as often as I’d like to as by the time I get my thoughts together it’s usually no longer topical, but if you want to keep up with the issues I encourage you to follow the websites, blogs, and Twitter accounts of the many people and organizations below.  There is an incredible amount of passion, knowledge, and creativity behind this campaign.

Boston/Massachusetts Organizations and Blogs

National Organizations and Blogs

Boston/Massachusetts People and Organizations To Follow on Twitter

@AnEducationBlog, @bledwine, @BostonActivist, @BostonEdJustice, @bmadeloni, @BPSNightmare, @BSACbuzz, @caren4btunity, @ckollett, @clanghoff1, @ClayHarper, @ColumWhyte, @CPC_BPS, @dembinskis, @DowntownSchools, @dunneteach, @Fara1, @girlact75, @GoogieBaba, @Hcinjp, @jessicatang4btu, @johnflerner, @JonathanCohn, @jshoreboston, @kathoderaytube, @KeepTheCapMass, @KrissyCabbage, @mattwbennet, @mauraotoole, @NaamaGoldstein1, @parentImperfect, @Quality1st4BPS, @RWwatchMA, @StopTheCompact, @TracyNovick,@wheresmyporsche

National People and Organizations to Follow on Twitter

@alfiekohn, @AnthonyCody, @BadassTeachersA, @Dems4PublicEd, @DianeRavitch, @Edu_Historian,@EduShyster, @ESQPolitics,  @jerseyjazzman,  @lacetothetop,  @NEPCtweet, @StevenSinger3



The Podcast Revolution?

I’ve been surprised about the recent declarations that podcasts are the next big thing ever since the success of “Serial” (discussed at length in the latest podcast episode of To The Best of Our Knowledge).  Mainly this is because I’ve been listening to podcasts obsessively for the past ten years.  And I don’t mean this in a hipster “I did it before it was cool” way, I just assumed that lots of people were already listening to podcasts, even before I discovered them.

Anyhow, if you happen to be new to podcasts, here is my updated list of favorite podcasts.  (Ironically, I listened to the first episode of “Serial” and wasn’t interested in the rest of the series.  Maybe I’ll check out the next series).

Feel free to share your favorite podcasts in the comments.

Related posts:

Left Ahead Podcasts on Transportation

One of the local blogs I read regularly – Marry in Massachusetts – is written by a man who also participates in the Left Ahead podcast.  I don’t listen to this podcast regularly but I did download the latest two episodes since they deal with an issue near and dear to my heart: public transportation.  The first episode interviews Massachusetts Lt. Governor Tim Murray and the second is a talk with former Governor Mike Dukakis, two leaders who seem to get the importance of public transportation.  I highly recommend listening to these two podcasts.

Link of the Day Reaches 500

Today I posted my 500th link in my link of the day series on delicious.  The story that gets the honor is this article about Harvard refusing Googles terms for book scanning in hopes of preserving open access to the scanned works.   I started Link of the Day on February 25th as a cleaner and easier way of sharing news articles and blog posts than my previous method of making posts here.  If you read in RSS, I remind you to stop by the Panorama of the Mountains blog to check out the delicious links in the sidebar.  You may also subscribe to my delicious feed at http://delicious.com/Othemts.

Podcasts Always Come in Threes

Three more episodes of podcasts worth listening too:

  • Disgustingly Adorable” – Colonial Williamsburg: Past & Present covers the annual spring lambing, a big event for Phi Pi fans. Previous sheeplore: Fuzzy Pigs and Out Like a Lamb.
  • News from Lake Wobegon” – A Prairie Home Companion is a classic radio show, although it’s a bit tired these days. I’ve heard about all the Guy Noir and Ketchup ads I care to hear. Luckily there’s a podcast just for the best part, Garrison Keillor’s monologue. The one for May 3, 2008 is particularly good with a reflection on why Christianity is hard and the great line, “Gas costs more than beer. Don’t drive, drink.”
  • The Beauty and Challenge of Being Catholic: Hearing the Faithful” – An episode of APM: Speaking the Faith I learned about via Dirty Catholic. This a great selection of interviews from a cross-section of American Catholics. More interviews and transcripts at the website

Ixnay on the Inklays

I’ve decided to can the Link of the Day posts. For one reason, I find it burdensome to find time to format the post to my liking so they sit there for days until I finally get around to it and the links are no longer “fresh.” Second, I rarely made comments on the links as I intended which makes for boring, unimaginative posts.

I will continue to share links, so if you like what I have to reccomend you can see my last 10 links in the del.icio.us sidebar. That’s right, if you’re reading Panorama of the Mountains through a feed reader you’re going to have to come in to read the links. You can also subscribe to my bookmarks at http://feeds.delicious.com/rss/Othemts.

While you’re looking at the sidebar, you’ll notice that the blogroll has grown. I deleted nine bookmarks, mostly because they haven’t been updated in a long time, and added twenty-something more so you can see exactly what blogs and news sites I’m reading every day.


library links for 19 February 2008

To start things off today a fun Sesame Street clip, “No Cookies in the Library” (via the new WorldCat Blog):

And now a couple of links about reading and writing:

links of the day for 15 February 2008

links of the day for Valentine’s Day

I’m late on this, but love is enduring.

Happy VD to everyone!

links of the day for 12 February 2008

And for once, most of the links are actually from today.

  • Memories of Shea: The Great Gatsby (Loge 13, 12/10/08) – The Mets’ little-known literary link.
  • American Insanity: Killer Commutes by Paul Dorn (Bike Commute Tips Blog, 2/11/08) – I could have written this paragraph – “As a survivor of a suburban childhood, I will never mow a lawn again, let alone pay for the “privilege” of yardwork with car payments and fuel bills. I’m happy to enjoy parks maintained by union-scale professional municipal gardeners.”
  • Three articles on an Open Access proposal at Harvard University:
  • More on Open Access from Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog (2/12/08): A Quartet of Open Access Arguments
  • Why does the U.S. Have An Electoral College by Joe Miller (FactCheck.org, 2/12/08 – I did not know this: “The winner-take-all system is not federally mandated; states are free to allocate their electoral votes as they wish.”
  • Airbrushing Ronald Reagan by John J. Pitney, Jr. (Britannica Blog, 2/12/08) – apparently Reagan wasn’t Reaganesque.
  • Courts Endow Corporations with Unalienable Rights by Jeffery Kaplan (AlterNet, 2/12/08) -“The founding principle of our country is right in the Declaration of Independence: all people are ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.’ It is not for judges to decide who is and who is not a human being.Nor should the courts play Creator by endowing legal constructs like corporations with human rights. Our constitutional rights exist to prevent large, powerful institutions — whether governments, corporations, or other entities — from oppressing us humans.”

library links of the day

I’m so far behind on these “of the day” posts.  I’ll start this one off with a fun clip from the Star Trek animated series:

via Librarian In Black

And now the links, focusing mainly on Library 2.0, library humor, and all of the above.

election links of the day for 7 February 2008

Here’s a special edition of links of the day to follow-up on Sooper Dooper Tuesday.  I was kind of bummed that a) candidates I liked policy-wise (Kucinich then Edwards) dropped out before I could voted and b) that voters of my state went for a right-wing corporatist and Mitt Romney.  One thing I miss about living in Virginia is that I was able to vote for candidates in all the parties.  In Massachusetts, I temporarily became a Democrat and voted for Obama as he’s seems the best of the who’s left although I’m not really enthused by any of the candidates.

Lenten links of the day for 6 February 2008

It’s Ash Wednesday again, and time to begin Lent.  Like last year I plan to read a number of books on religious themes throughout Lent.  Unlike last year, I will post the book reviews as I go along instead of just one big post at the end of Lent.

I have some other plans of fasting, prayer and charity for Lent I’m keeping between me and God for now, but here are some interesting links for Lent:

Here’s hoping and praying that Lent is good for all!

links of the day for 31 January 2008


  • Must We Fear Adolescent Sexuality? (Feministing, 1/24/08) – “”basically that adolescent sexuality is dramatized in one country (good ol’ U.S. of A.) and normalized in the other. Parents in the Netherlands repeatedly expressed believing that love between teens is very possible, whereas American parents scoffed at it.”
  • One Bush Left Behind (Greg Palast, 1/29/08) – “Of course, there’s an effective alternative to Mr. Bush’s plan – which won’t cost a penny more. Simply turn it upside down. Let’s give each millionaire in America a $20 bill, and every poor child $287,000.”
  • The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Independent (Easily Distracted, 1/29/08) – “I tend to look at politics the same way Jane Jacobs looked at cities, as something that grows organically out of experience and usage. The strong party or movement loyalist looks at politics the way that Le Corbusier looked at cities: as a thing to be built by rigid principles, and damn people if they’re too stupid or recalcitrant to live in the city of tomorrow the way that they’re supposed to.”
  • The Last Article On The Traveler/Tourist Distinction You’ll Ever Read (Brave New Traveler, 1/30/08) – “The whole point of travel is to pursue the meaning behind the milieu: to discover oneself in the mirror of the Other. Travel isn’t dictated by fad or tradition, but by curiosity. It is internally directed. Fixation on the role or material affairs only distracts from issues of real importance. We are all tourists. We learn by doing. Our knowledge comes by the fine art of making our screw-ups something beautiful. And unless you’re willing to go down roads unfamiliar to the cowards and cynics, the art never arrives. It is upon these are the roads where we are made travelers.”


Today is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Explorer 1, the United States’ response to Sputnik, which also carried out important scientific research discovering the van Allen radiation belts:

  • Scientific American podcast Science Talk (1/30/08) – “Carl Raggio, formerly of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks about the efforts to launch Explorer 1, the first US satellite, which went into orbit on January 31st, 1958, exactly 50 years ago this week.”
  • 50 years after Explorer 1 (Bad Astronomy, 1/31/08)

Free Stuff:

links of the day for 24 January 2008

links of the day for 23 January 2008

  • Origami spaceplane to launch from space station (Pink Tentacle, 1/16/08) – from the cool but otherwise pointless file.
  • Kaplan’s Korner, or How Yo La Tengo got their name – my favorite band, my favorite team, a tribute to Ralph Kiner, and Ed Kranepool! Who could ask for more?
  • While you can (Hoarded Ordinaries, 1/23/08) – Lorianne gives some love to the big Shell sign on Magazine Street in Cambridge.
  • First black lesbian mayor in Cambridge (Feministing, 1/23/08) – speaking of Cambridge, the city elected the first black lesbian mayor in US history last week, Denis Simmons. I’m only in Cambridge like every day and this is the first I’ve heard the news, which shows you how clueless I am. On the other hand, it’s nice that we’ve reached a point in our culture where this isn’t seen as big news (or worse, a scandal).
  • 25 Yiddish Words You Should Know (List of the Day, 1/23/08) – it’s always good to know a bisel Yiddish.

Library Links of the Day for 22 January 2008

links of the day for 22 January 2008

  • Ramak Fazel: 49 State Capitols An exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, NYC – one man travels to all but one of the US state capitol buildings and documented the experience in photographs and postcards. Sounds like an exhibit worth seeing if I had a chance to be in New York prior to March 8th.
  • A cool poster of Boston neighborhoods – a definite delight for fans of maps and Boston (via Universal Hub).
  • Their House to Yours, via the Trash by Susan Dominus (New York Times, 1/18/08) – the fascinating story of people who scavenge discarded books and resell them on the streets and at the Strand bookstore. “Is there any other industry in which such high-quality goods regularly make their way to consumers via a trash bin? Stand in the bookselling line at the Strand and the store starts to feel less like a dusty bastion of erudition and more like a messy, mulchy place where old ideas struggle to find new life.” I believe I read a book by Iain Sinclair where he talked about the life of book vendors on the streets in London that sounds like a similar lifestyle to these New Yorkers.
  • As gentrification spreads, rich, poor seek a balance by David Abel (Boston Globe, 1/20/08) – rich newcomers to Boston neighborhoods decide they can’t have longstanding homeless shelters near their homes and businesses. Yuppies make me sick.
  • WBUR’s Here and Now (1/21/08) has an interview with the mayor of a town in Louisiana who had the telephone exchange off 666 changed because of requests from Christian citizens (opens in Real Player). I’m amused by this since my telephone exchange in Somerville (alluded to by Robin Young as a “town near Boston”) was 666 for 9 years. Interestingly enough I’ve been told it originated as the first letters of MONument referring to the Bunker Hill Monument in nearby Charlestown.
  • Today Might Have Been Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 79th Birthday by Anna Clark (Isak, 1/21/08) – in a great article Anna wonders what it would be like if MLK were still alive and offers some profound reflections on his real legacy regarding economic justice and US militarism.
  • What the Birds in the Park Think of Us (Francesco Explains it All, 1/21/08) – this just made me laugh.