Podcasts of the Week Ending February 2nd


It’s all Boston politics this week!

Radio Boston :: In Boston, Is This A New Era For Criminal Justice?

For the first time in Boston’s history, all of the top law enforcement officials are people of color.  Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross and Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins discuss how they will address criminal justice in Boston.

We Need Some Milk :: Bak 2 School w/ Kristin Johnson

An interview with one of Boston’s top parent activists for public education.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 17


Sidedoor :: That Brunch in the Forest

Myths and reality of Native Americans and the “first Thanksgiving.”

All Songs Considered :: How the Beatles Made “The White Album”

The story behind the Beatles strangest album.

30 for 30 :: Rickey Won’t Quit

The great Rickey Henderson plays one last season in professional baseball for an independent minor league team.

The Anthropocene Reviewed :: Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad

Fascinating stories from the Soviet Union trace the origin of the classic video game Tetris and its unrecognized designer, and the people of Leningrad who protected a seed bank against Nazi invasion.

Have You Heard? :: Closing Time: In a Gentrifying City, are Some Students Expendable

A must-listen story of the effort to close, privatize, and segregate Boston Public Schools.

 

Podcasts of the Week for July 21st


Hit Parade :: The Deadbeat Club, Part 2

This examination of the late 80s output of the two great bands of Athens, GA – R.E.M. and B-52s – fills me with painful nostalgia.

Have You Heard? :: The Problem with Fear-Based School Reform

Do schools work better when they’re “run like a business” and teachers and administrators are forced to work in a culture of fear where they’re expected to get results or else?  Or do we recognize the nurturing mission of schools and support reforms lead by educators who know the children best? And how much of so-called “education reform” is rooted in anti-labor sentiment anyway?  These questions and more are discussed on “Have You Heard?”

WBUR News :: Faneuil Hall, School Assignments

Boston’s ongoing history of inequality and racism are addressed in two current stories about Faneuil Hall, a building named for a slaveholder, and the lack of quality education for the city’s most vulnerable communities.

BackStory :: The Melting Pot

Stories of assimilation of immigrants, Native Americans, and hyphenated-Americans throughout our history.

Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston


If you’re reading this and live in the city of Boston, I implore you to vote in the City of Boston Preliminary Election on September 26th, 2017.  Preliminary elections are notorious for low turnout meaning a handful of people get to decide who will represent our city, and they usually don’t reflect the full range of ideology within the city.  There are four candidates running for mayor of Boston, and the two who receive the most votes will advance to the general election in November.  If you live in Districts 1, 2, 7, & 9, you will also have a preliminary election for City Council, again with the top two vote recipients advancing to November’s general election.  Please commit yourself to voting on Tuesday and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to vote as well.  You can find your polling location online at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx.

Okay, if I’ve convinced you to vote, you may be wondering who you should vote for.  I’d like to encourage you to vote for Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston.  Tito is a lifelong resident of Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood and since 2011 he has served on the City Council as the representative of District 7 (all of Roxbury, parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway neighborhoods).  I’ve come to know him in recent years primarily through being active with Boston Public School parents and students to defend against three consecutive years of severe budget cuts from the Walsh administration and the threats of corporate education reform organizations, and advance a just and equitable model of public education.  As Chair of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Education, Tito frequently meets and works with parents and students of Boston Public Schools.  He recognizes the good work that BPS teachers and students are already doing, at a time when it is fashionable to attack public education as failing.  He understands that schools will get better only if every school and every student receive equitable resources and we address problems due to poverty, inequality, and physical and mental health.

As you might imagine, education is one of the key issues on Tito’s platform.  But he is also very concerned with housing.  If you’ve tried to rent or buy a home in Boston in the past couple of decades you know it’s an extremely competitive housing market where an increasing demand for a static supply of housing stock has forced rents and mortgages through the roof.  Members of Boston’s working and middle classes are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to live in the city.  And when new housing is built, developers inevitably target it to high-end buyers.  Tito is committed to making housing economically viable for all by increasing the number of truly affordable housing units.

Of course it’s easy to make promise that look great on a webpage, but there’s something about Tito that sets him apart from other candidates: he is truly a representative of the people who listens to them and works to resolve their problems.  A couple of years ago, Boston was selected as a candidate to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.  I had mixed feelings on the issue myself.  On the one hand I enjoy the Olympics and it would be a treat to have it in our great city, but on the other hand I know that the cost of the Olympics can be economically devastating to the host city.  Although the supporters of the bid promised that no public funding would be used for the Olympics, many citizens were concerned about the lack of transparency around the contents of the actual bid documents.  Tito was initially supportive of Boston 2024 but listened to the growing concern of his constituents and filed a subpoena forcing the Boston 2024 organizers to release the full, unredacted bid.  As feared, the bid put Boston on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, and that was before any inevitable cost overruns.  This is just one instance of Tito listening to his constituents, acting on their concerns, and working toward greater transparency and equity in Boston government.

If you’re still not convinced to vote for Tito, perhaps you just really like Marty Walsh and see no reason to change mayors, I’m going to ask you to still go ahead and vote for Tito Jackson in the preliminary election on Tuesday.  I honestly think that Marty Walsh will be a better mayor if he faces a strong challenge from Tito, and has to defend his past decisions and plans for the future, and learns to be a better leader by listening to what Tito and his supporters have to say.  If after six weeks of intense campaigning and debates, you’re still not convinced that Tito would make a better mayor, go ahead and vote for Walsh in November.  But I think the more that people get to see and hear Tito Jackson and how he is speaking for the everyday people of Boston, the more you’re going to want to vote for him.

Vote NO on Massachusetts Question #2, UPDATE


Last night I witnessed the Boston School Committee vote unanimously in favor of a resolution to oppose the Massachusetts ballot question #2 which proposes to expand charter schools in the Commonwealth by 12 every year for perpetuity while offering no additional education funding.  The Boston School Committee is one of 164 school committees (and counting) across Massachusetts who have come out against question #2.  None has come out in favor of it.  While the BSC is appointed by the elected mayor of Boston, the rest of these school committees are directly elected representatives of the people.  They join other elected officials in city councils (including Boston), Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and even  Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a strong supporter of charter schools, in voicing the people’s’ opposition to this reckless initiative.  The point is not that charter schools are bad – their value for good or evil is not relevant to this debate – but that the fiscal irresponsibility of introducing 12 new schools each year with no funding will devastate municipal budgets and ultimately harm all children regardless of where they go to school. Please join them in standing up to the big-money interests campaigning for this measure by voting No on #2 on November 8th (and then getting together on November 9th to fight for better funding for all of our schools). Remember to tell your friends and if you want to get more involved you can volunteer with Save our Public Schools and/or make a donation.

Here’s an updated list of articles. opinion pieces, and videos expressing the urgency of voting No on 2. The first post listed is the best, concise summary if you’re short on time, but they’re all worth reading and sharing with your friends and on social media.


 

BPS Student Walkout


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

Cc8iZUmWIAAboo9
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.


Update (3/8/16)

News coverage of the 3500 heroes who participated in the walkout:

Walk-In and Rally for Boston Public Schools


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.

If there’s any coverage I missed, post a link in the comments.

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:

2u7bzeq

 

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