Podcasts of the Week Ending January 30


Have You Heard? ::  Reopening a Can of Worms

A deep dive into the debate over sending children back to school during the pandemic.

Lost Massachusetts :: The Lost Corner: AKA Hells Acre, The Oblong, Etc.

I’ve always been fascinated with “The Oblong” on the CT-NY border but had not known of the lawless settlement that once was in the corner of Massachusetts.

The Memory Palace :: The Stone

Long before the fears of a “9/11 Mosque” were stoked by prejudiced Americans, another fear of an outsiders’ religion manifested in protests and violence over a stone for the Washington Monument.

Radiolab :: Smile My Ass

Candid Camera created “reality television” by redefining how we viewed reality itself.

What Next :: Did the Media Fail the Trump Years?

Yes.

 

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Two Weeks Ending August 15


I subscribe to too many podcasts while simultaneously having less time to listen to them. Forgive the interlude as I catch you up on two weeks of podcasts.

Brattle Film Podcast :: Behind the Scenes on Boston Movies

The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge had a great series on Boston Movies and all four podcasts are worth listening to, but I particularly liked this final podcast where they interview on-set dresser Adam Roffman about the behind-the-scenes production of movies in Boston and how they’ve changed over time.

Fresh Air :: Jeffrey Toobin On The ‘Tragedy’ Of The Mueller Report

How the Democrats were out-maneuvered by the Trump administration allowing him to get away with obstruction of justice.

Radiolab :: Uncounted

An episode on voting rights focuses on the District of Columbia’s non-voting delegate to Congress and the movement to lower the voting age to 16.

This American Life :: Nice White Parents

A public middle school in Brooklyn with a predominately non-white student body deals with an unexpected influx of white students and the effects that of white parents involvement in the school operations.  This is the first episode of Chana Joffe-Walt’s series called Nice White Parents that is both fascinating in its exploration of the changes at one school over time and cringe-inducing by the careless and clueless behavior of white parents (and the school districts who cater to their interests).  I particularly like that Joffe-Walt asks tough questions and doesn’t let people get away without answering them.

Have You Heard :: Pandemics Pods: Parents, Privilege, Power, and Politics

Speaking of Nice White Parents, you may have heard of the latest trend of “pandemic pods” where parents pool together funds to hire a teacher or tutor to educate a small group of students at home instead of returning to school during the Covid-19 pandemic. This podcast explains the devastating effects this latest form of “white flight” will have and how it opens the doors to the worst offerings of disaster capitalists.

99% Invisible :: Policing the Open Road

A century ago, the rise of the automobile as a predominant form of transportation led to an increase of policing to enforce road rules. The changes lead to a vast increase in ordinary peoples’ interaction with the police, increased police power and professionalization, and even the loss of Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizures.

Throughline :: Reframing History: The Litter Myth

In the 1950s, industry leaders organized to create Keep America Beautiful that produced public service announcements against littering. The seemingly benign ads had the effect of transferring responsibility for the environment from industries that made disposable single-use packaging to the personal responsibility of consumers. This conflict in how to deal with environmental issues persists to this day, and corporations still rely on “greenwashing” to make them look environmentally responsible.

Code Switch :: Kamala, Joe, And The Fissures In The Base

If you listen to pundits, and the Democrats 2020 presidential candidate, you might come to believe that Black Americans are a monolithic voting bloc.  This myth is dispelled in Code Switch where the diversity of opinions and conflicts even within Black families over politics are strong.

Decoder Ring :: Mystery of the Mullet

The mullet hairstyle, short in front and long in back, is worn by a diversity of people ranging from macho men in rural communities to lesbian women, from hockey players to heavy metal heads. But the Oxford English Dictionary traces the use of the term “mullet” only to 1994, surprisingly late for a hairstyle identified with the 1980s.  Willa Paskin investigates this linguistic mystery.  Personally, I never heard the term mullet until the late 1990s and had heard them called short-longs prior to mullet gaining popularity.


RUNNING TALLY OF PODCAST OF THE WEEK APPEARANCES

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 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.

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.


 

Massachusetts Voters, Please Vote NO on Question #2


If you read this blog and live in Massachusetts and are not already aware, there is a ballot initiative question when we vote on November 8th regarding the expansion of charter schools in the Commonwealth by up to 12 new schools per year. The initiative offers no means for paying for this expansion so it would inevitably result in further defunding existing public schools and school closures.

So far, 120 school committees, 8 city councils,  the Massachusetts Democratic Party, The Massachusetts Municipal Association, and the NAACP have come out in opposition to this ballot initiative.  Even people who are big supporters of charter schools, such as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, believe that this particular initiative is fiscally irresponsible, and are voting no.

As usual, other people who are far more informed and eloquent than I am are better about writing about this issue, so I encourage you to read these articles that explain why the ballot initiative is bad for Massachusetts and who is behind funding it.  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.


Having read all that, I hope you will join me in voting No on 2 on November 8th.  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.

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

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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:

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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