Podcasts of the Week Ending April 14


The Memory Palace :: Jackie Mitchell

The story of the first woman to play on a professional baseball team, most famous for pitching in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees and striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Hidden Brain :: Radically Normal: How Gay Rights Activists Changed The Minds Of Their Opponents

The acceptance of LGBTQ people in the United States has improved radically in a short period of time.  Hidden Brain explores what brought about the change in attitudes, and questions why other groups discriminated against have not seen as much positive change.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Birdsong

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?  Perhaps because they have something important to say.

99% Invisible :: Froebel’s Gifts

The origins of kindergarten date to the late 18th-century when Friedrich Froebel came up with the idea of teaching young children through the structured use of educational toys.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Movie Review: High School (1968) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “H” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “H” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Harvard Beats Yale 29 to 29HeimaHelvetica, Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil, HillsboroughThe Historic Pubs of Dublin, and The Hollywood Librarian.

Title: High School
Release Date: May 1, 1968
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Production Company: Zipporah Films
Summary/Review:

Provocative filmmaker Frederick Wiseman brought his cameras to Northeast High School in Philadelphia for five weeks in March and April 1968. The result is an unnarrated, cinéma vérité glimpse into the lives of students, teachers, staff, and parents.

1968 is the height of the civil strife and the emergence of the youth culture of the 1960s, so that is definitely undergirding a lot of what we see on screen, although I think it can be overstated. One scene shows a conversation about former students wounded in Vietnam. The assasination of Martin Luther King, Jr. is mentioned in passing.  A teacher surveys a class of white students about their willingness to be part of an organization with black people (the higher the percentage of black members, the fewer hands go up).

But the majority of the film depicts what feels like the timeless aspects of high school.  The movie was filmed 5 years before I was born and 20 years before I attended high school, but a lot of it felt familiar.  There are no long-haired hippies at this school. Rebellion comes in the form of high hemlines, talking back to teachers, and attempting to avoid gym class.

Wiseman’s camera captures many instances of teachers attempting to assert their authority over the students.  Often this ends up devolving into absurdity.  A teacher howls louder and louder for students to display their hall passes while the students show increasing indifference to him.  A dean exclaims the absolute necessity for girls to wear a floor length gown to a formal even though she eventually admits that they are uncomfortable and difficult to walk in. There’s a least one “cool” teacher in the school, though, as she uses a recent song by Simon & Garfunkel to help illustrate the principles of poetry.

If you thought that parents arguing with teachers about their child’s grades was a recent thing, you will be convinced otherwise when the rubber-faced father of a girl named Rhona is animatedly insistent that his daughter should not be flunked. The same father later insults Rhona’s intelligence, though, and Rhona appears to agree with him.

The casual sexism at the school is perhaps the most alarming aspect of watching this movie 51 years later.  Again and again, the girls are instructed that they need to focus on their looks and demeanor. A teacher in what appears to be a fashion design class repeatedly refers to her students as having “heavy legs.” For a public school in a large Northeastern city, Northeast High School was also overwhelmingly white.  Only late in the film do we see a black student, who talks for an extended time in the classroom, while the other students listen.

I don’t think Northeast is an exam school like Boston Latin or the Stuyvesant High School in New York, but I do get the impression that it is more of an academically elite school than your typical high school.  One scene shows that the school had a space research program complete with a mock space capsule from which three students emerge after a 5-day simulated space flight.  Wiseman’s choice of an atypical school is not the only element of bias.  It’s clear that the 75 minutes selected from five weeks of filming focuses on conflict that pushes the message of high school as a place of arbitrary authoritarianism.  There is not a single scene in the entire film that just shows teenagers interacting with one another, an important aspect of any high school day. Stylistically, I like how Wiseman will focus the camera on a person’s hands as they speak or listen.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

There’s a throughline in the high school experience that I think many viewers can relate to.  On the other hand, this film is a document of a place and time. Some things we’ll be happy are in the past, such as the girls’ gym rompers that look like they were made out of canvas bags.  Other things I’m sad are gone, such as the distinctive accents that seem to be less and less prominent in America these days.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Watch the movie Eighth Grade, which while fictional, is a very honest depiction of school life in the 2010s.

Source: Kanopy

 


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 17


HUB History ::  The Curious Case of Phineas Gage

The fascinating story of the most famous brain injury.

Planet Money :: Rigging the Economy

Liberal-tarians agree!  The economy is rigged.

Planet Money ::  XXX-XX-XXX

The history of the Social Security number.

Afropop Worldwide :: Roots and Future: A History of UK Dance

Caribbean music traditions and US dance beats come together in the only place they can: the United Kingdom.  A history of jungle, garage, drum & bass, and grime.  This made very nostalgic for the dance tracks of yore.

Have You Heard? :: Strong: Lessons from the West Virginia Teachers Strike

Reporting from the West Virginia teachers strike, featuring interviews with many, many teachers.

Invisibilia :: The Other Real World

Using a reality talent show to counter Islamist extremism in Somalia.

BackStory :: Wherever Green is Worn: The Irish in America

Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes, the Molly Maguires, and other Irish Americans of lore.

Re:sound :: Analog

When I was a kid I recorded myself as the DJ of a “tape radio” station called WLTS, so I feel a kinship with Mark Talbot. Also a repeat of the Ways of Seeing story I highlighted last summer.

 

Book Review: When Grit Isn’t Enough by Linda F. Nathan


AuthorLinda F. Nathan
TitleWhen Grit Isn’t Enough 
Publication Info: Boston, Massachusetts : Beacon Press, 2017.
Summary/Review:

I received a free advanced reading copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Linda F. Nathan is an educator and founder of the Boston Arts Academy (BAA).  Like most public high schools in Boston, the student body of the BAA is largely children of color from low-income families, many of them immigrants or children of immigrants. Reflecting on her years as headmaster of the BAA, Nathan recalls her pride in promising students “college for all,” and was seemingly successful as the BAA has high graduation rates, high college acceptance rates, and a higher than usual rates of students going on to graduate college.  But she also questions whether high schools are properly preparing students for college, or if “college for all” is even the promise they should be making.

Much of her data who comes from former students who struggled to complete college and usually not because they couldn’t handle the academics.  Instead colleges create many barriers to students based on their race and socio-economic status that make it hard for her student to fit into the college culture, get the support they need, and keep on top of all the costs of attending college.  And yes, they make mistakes – failing to fill out a form, missing a meeting with a supervisor, not keeping the grade point average up – but while these things are just road bumps for more privileged students, they can end a college career for Nathan’s students and others like them.  Not only that, but low-income students are often left with crippling debts for the course they did take, but not able to transfer those credits.  Even community college, often presented as a good alternative or preparation for a four-year college, has it’s own problems and can be exploitative of low-income students.

Nathan also investigates the “no excuses” philosophy common in many charter schools that claim to be preparing poorer children of color for college.  While Nathan is very careful to withhold judgment of charter school teachers’ emphasis on strict discipline and rote behaviors, it’s hard not to read about what Nathan witnesses in this schools and not see it as abusive and ultimately more geared to the needs of adults than the education of children.  Again and again, Nathan reveals the idea of “grit” being used to pin any failures of children on their own character rather than question the reality of poverty, racism, and inequality.

Grit is Not Enough is important read for understanding the realities of public education today.  Nathan and her former students, as well as present-day students, are voices that need to be heard more in informing our nation’s public policy regarding education.

Favorite Passages:

Deeply held beliefs frequently go unchallenged in societies.  They are how we explain phenomena or culture or history. They are often false, yet persist.  I believe that these assumptions, or what I’ve come to call false promises, persist in public education because we hold so tightly to the American ideal of equality.  It is this belief that I and many Americans desperately want to be true.  It is this belief that we fight for.  But it is also this belief that we must fully unpack, deeply understand, and interrogate if we are to uphold our fragile democracy.” – p. 6

“It is the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ ethos to which so many generations of Americans adhere.  Yet data repeatedly show hoe poverty, social class, race, and parents’ educational attainment more directly influence an individual’s success and potential earnings than any individual effort. We clearly do no yet have a level playing field, but this belief is all but impossible to challenge. Whenever we hear of another bootstraps story, we want to generalize.  We disregard the fact that luck often plays a major role.  And in generalizing and celebrating the individual nature of success, we disregard the imperative to rethink social and economic policies that leave many behind.” – p. 8

“In middle- and upper-middle-class families, an invisible safety net typically surrounds young people planning to go on to college.  There is usually a family member or friend who will step in and remind a student about the intricacies of student loans and deadlines, or the m any requirements for staying registered once enrolled, or issues that can arise with housing.  However, if you are a lower-income student and you miss one or two e-mails or have a change in your adviser, you may find your dreams derailed.  It may be tempting to dismiss the examples above as ineptitude or carelessness on the part of individual students, but why must there be different rules, expectations, and outcomes for low-income versus middle- or upper-income students?” – p. 23

“If we allow an assumption like ‘race doesn’t matter’ to prevail, racial issues can be conveniently explained or excused as singular matters to be solved by individual intervention.  Singular responses allow us to avoid the actions needed for racial and socio-economic equity and a path toward a healthy and vibrant society and economy.” – p. 73-74

“What all the talk about grit seems to miss is the importance of putting children’s experience front and center.  In other words, when the emphasis on grit ends up as a stand-alone pedagogy, the context of student’ life and family circumstances is ignore.” – p.76

“We want to allow for growth mindsets in a way that might equalize the playing field, yet we continue to entrap so many of our young people with the assumption that if they just play by the rules, do the right things, they will be successful.  Achieving high test scores has become the only way to measure success or to prove that students have learned grit.  Equating better test results with healthy learning has reduced many schools to a narrow understanding of learning.” – p. 106

“Imagine if American high school students knew that they could study careers in music or finance in a vocational school as either an alternative or precursor to college.  Imagine if our community colleges could truly reinvent themselves and be places where students enter the allied health professions or even design professions.” – p. 133

“School can be the place where you practice how dreams are realized.  School can be where you can build a strong sense of self – an identity that you can belong to a special tribe, like artists, or change-makers, or mathematicians or inventors.  To ensure that schools incubate future dreams and dreamers, curriculum, structures, and pedagogy must encourage deep engagement both with teachers and with community members.  The walls between school and community can and should be permeable.” – p. 161

Recommended booksTinkering toward Utopia by David Tyack  and Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch

Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 3


WBUR News :: Rarely Heard Worcester Speech Shows Another Side Of MLK

Hear Martin Luther King speak in a more relaxed setting than most previously released King recordings, while talking about some familiar themes.

Have You Heard? :: Am I Next? School Shootings and Student Protests

Best of the Left :: The kids are alright and they are leading the way again (Parkland Shooting)

Two podcasts about school shootings and the brave teenage activists leading the way in opposition to gun violence.

Podcasts of the Week Ending January 6


Hub History :: Annexation Making Boston Bigger for 150 Years

Boston grew first by making new land in Back Bay and the South End.  Then it grew even more starting 150 years ago by adding surrounding communities of Roxbury, Dorchester, Brighton, West Roxbury, and Charlestown.  Find out how it all happened in this podcast.

Hang Up and Listen :: The 200 Seventh Graders Versus LeBron Edition

A whimsical year-end look at some sports conundrums such as how many seventh graders would you have to put on the court to defeat LeBron James playing solo.  Or, what would a NFL field or NBA court be like if they were built with the irregularities common in baseball stadiums.

Have You Heard :: Segrenomics

The long sad story of how inequality and segregation in education have long been the source of profit in the United States.

Slate’s Hit Parade :: The Silver Medalists Edition

A look back at some of the great songs that peaked at #2 on the pop charts with a special focus on “Shop Around” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Gos, and “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson.

All Songs Considered :: Ice Music: Building Instruments Out of Water

Bob Boilen interviews Norwegian musician Terje Isungset who shapes and plays instruments out of ice.

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 11


Mortified :: Kids Who Teach

Stories of kids becoming teachers, including a stunning musical defense of feminism.

Have You Heard? :: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Corporate Education Agenda

An explanation of why major corporations have become big players in education policy and what it means for the rest of us.

Planet Money :: Your Cell Phone’s A Snitch

What personal information is gathered by your cell phones, how it’s being used by law enforcement and others, and what rights do we have under the Constitution to privacy.

99% Invisible :: Dollhouses of St. Louis

The sad story of  St. Louis’ historic black neighborhood, The Ville, where old houses are being robbed of their bricks for resale to salvage operations.

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 7th


What I’m listening to and what you should be listening to.

Have You Heard? :: Divided by Design: Race, Neighborhoods, Wealth and Schools

A history of racial segregation in neighborhoods and schools that is still feeding inequality to this very day.

To the Best of Our Knowledge :: What is School For?

I was worried that this would be peppered with corporate reform ideology and myths, but actually has some interesting stories on teacher burnout, multicultural studies, and the importance of the humanities.

The Truth :: Brain Chemistry

A funny/poignant audio drama about the life of a brain in a jar in the future, starring Scott Adsit of 30 Rock.

Hit Parade :: The Great War Against the Single Edition

It’s a good thing that Hit Parade is published infrequently, because I think I’m going to post every episode here.  This is the story of how record companies from the 1960s to the 2000s tried to make people by the more expensive full albums in order to get a copy of a popular song.  Deeply fascinating, with lots of Casey Kassem cameos.

99% Invisible :: The Athletic Brassiere

The hidden story of the sports bra (nee, the “Jock Bra”) and how it helped transform women in sports.

Snap Judgment Presents: Spooked :: A Friend in the Forest 

The Snap Judgment spinoff podcasts tells creepy stories for the month of October, and this contemporary ghost story from Ireland is particularly eerie.

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 14


Late, but still worth listening to.  There’s a lot of terrific material this week, although to be fair several of my recommendations are repackaging previously released content, so think of this as a greatest hits package of greatest hits!

Best of the Left – The inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men

Several stories debunk the myths of poverty and ask why economists don’t ask the right questions about poverty.

Have You Heard – ‘I Quit’ – Teachers Are Leaving and They Want to Tell You Why

The stress and inequity of teaching in defunded and underesourced public schools is causing teachers to quit teaching, but some of them are prominently telling the world why they’re leaving in hopes of bringing positive change for future teachers, students, and schools.

StoryCorpsBetween June and September

Stories of Coney Island from people who kept the fun in the sun destination alive during its lowest points in the early 1990s.

Politically Re-Active – Street Heat w/ Congresswoman Barbara Lee & Linda Sarsour

Interviews with two amazing progressive leaders, both women of color, and their work fighting for social, racial, and economic justice.  I seriously had no idea that Linda Sarsour was so very Brooklyn.

BackStorySkin Deep: Whiteness in America

Slavery and segregation not only meant discriminating against black people, but also defining what it means to be white.  Three stories detail how the idea of whiteness played out in different periods of American history.

Re:SoundThe Smash the Binary Show

Three stories of the experiences of transgender persons, as well as an exploration of the “feminine” qualities of straight cis men.  I was particularly touched by the story of “The Accidental Gay Parents.”

 

 

 

#TryPod Day 8: Have You Heard?


All this month, I’ve heard about the campaign to spread the news of podcasts called TryPod.  As I am a voracious listener of podcasts (you can see the complete list of my current subscriptions and other recommendations on my podcast page), I figured I ought to participate while I can.  So I will post about one of my favorite podcasts every day for the last 9 days of March.

Education and the politics of public education are big issues for me so it won’t surprise you that I’m recommending the podcast Have You Heard?  Journalist Jennifer Berkshire (formerly EduShyster) and education historian Jack Schneider discuss the hot button topics of market based education solutions and the real world effects they have on students and communities.  Episodes are short and released infrequently but pack a powerful punch.  While waiting for the next episode, make sure to read Berkshire’s blog, also called Have You Heard?