1/30/08 The Geography of Bliss

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Living in Baltimore, I can’t help but notice a lot of distinctly unhappy looking people  around town.  I know this is not exactly some kind of utopia, so is it reasonable to assume that people are, in general, happier elsewhere?

NPR Correspondent Eric Weiner will be joining us at 1pm today to discuss what he learned travelling the world purposefully seeking out happiness.  Check out his book The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World.

-Justin

1/29 Banished/Sundown Towns

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The saying, “Don’t let the sun go down on you in Forsyth County,” was a warning to African-Americans, in the early part of this century not to be in certain counties after dark. Forsyth County is just one of a number of counties which practiced a form of ethnic cleansing.

The story of these towns, and their ongoing legacy is told in the documentary Banished by filmmaker Marco Williams and the book Sundown Towns by James Loewen. Also taking part in the discussion is University of Maryland Law Professor Sherilynn Ifill.  Professor Ifill will host a post screening discussion of Banished at the University of Maryland Law Center on Thursday, January 31 at 5pm.

                                                                                                                                  -Marcus

P.S. To listen to Marc’s interview with Marco Williams, go here.

 

1/29/08 Marc’s thoughts on today’s show

PAYING KIDS TO DO WELL

Dr. Andres Alonso at noon

Paying kids to do well on tests?!?!?!?!?!?!?

My first visceral reaction was no way.  This is antithetical to what we all believe, that we should instill an intrinsic love of education. 

Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Schools, is going to spend a million dollars, in part to pay kids in the 11th and 12th grade who failed one of the High School Assessment tests, if they improve their scores on future tests.   They will receive up to $110.00, depending on how much their scores improve.  Money will also be used to pay students to tutor other students.

Some would argue, like Dan Rodricks, that middle and upper class families always bribe their kids with cash, dinner and objects of desire if they do well in school.  What is wrong with the city doing it for unmotivated kids also mired in poverty?

Others argue it is a quick fix and a bribe that hides real issue of why students don’t have an intrinsic love of learning and why they lose in our schools.

Is it a bad idea?  Looking forward to hearing what Dr. Alonso has to say.  Looking forward to what you have to say on air and on our blog.

 BANISHED

I was not amazed when I first heard that there was wholesale ethnic cleansing of African Americans from towns across America.  I was shocked when I found out that it occurred well into the depression era of the 1930’s.

One of our guests, Marco Williams, recently made the movie Banished.  It’s about the interactions of three Black families, who were descendents of the banished, and white people now living in those towns.  

The issue of the day will be to find out what relevance this has on our lives now.  The Germans paid reparations to the Jews who survived the camps, the US paid reparations to the Japanese Americans and the descendents of those interned in camps during World War II.  Should the US do the same for those who are the descendents of those African Americans ethnically cleansed from their homes?

Is it different because these are descendents of rather than the victims themselves?  Is monetary reparation the only possibility?  Does this give us as a society a chance for some reconciliation?  Is it just history, something for us to learn about and then let go?

What do you think?  Call in or write in at one, or comment on the blog.
Check with you later.

-Marc

1/29/08 Dr. Andres Alonso and paying kids to perform

Did your parents ever give you an incentive to perform well in school?  As in, raise your grades and we’ll raise your allowance?  Or, keep a certain GPA and we’ll take you on a vacation?  Mine did.  Freshman year of college my mom wouldn’t let me take my car to the campus first semester-and I wasn’t allowed to bring it second semester unless I got a certain GPA.  I worked pretty hard to make sure I hit that GPA mark–I needed my car to escape campus every once in awhile.

We all know that lots of parents do this.  But when the actual school system gets involved, we get very uncomfortable about the idea of learning having a cash/material reward system.  We want education to be pure-for students to be motivated by a love of learning-to learn for learning’s sake.  But do we need to do a reality check? Do we need to abandon our high ideals and take a look at what is really going on, and maybe adopt a method that stems from a harm-reduction philosophy? 

That’s what we’re talking about today at noon, with Dr. Andres Alonso, live and in studio.  Join us!

Poll:  What do you think about Dr. Andres Alonso’s idea that the school system pay students who improve their test scores?

-Jessica

1/28/08 Steve Larsen

At noon, a topic I know some of our listeners follow very closely… while some of you might just wonder how you’re going to pay a $450 BGE bill this month, which, by the way, is slightly less than the bill that arrived at my house last week.

Something for everyone, then: Steve Larsen, Chairman of the PSC (Public Service Commission, more info on both Steve individually and the PSC as a whole here) joins us to discuss the ongoing investigation into Maryland’s 1999 energy deregulation deal, that led to a 72% rate hike for more than 1 million BGE customers last year, and could be followed by higher increases soon.

If, indeed, consumers got a bad deal, what should/can be done now?  Should Maryland consider re-regulating?  How about seeking monetary compensation from Constellation Energy in court?  Last August, Illinois reached a one billion dollar settlement with a coalition of power suppliers over contentious rate hikes there.  Read one account of it, from EnergyBiz Magazine, here.  Please join us with your questions for Steve Larsen on the air at noon (866-661-9309 or thesteinershow@wypr.org) and don’t forget to post your thoughts here, as well.

-Justin

1/28/08 Black Conservatism

I remember in 2006 during the race for Maryland’s vacant senate seat, a hot debate being sparked on our show when a guest said, “Any black person who votes for a Democrat in this election is a patsy.”  Oh, the calls that came in for the rest of the hour-people were SO angry! 

While it was a comment that probably could have been worded in a much more intelligent way, what it implied was interesting.  The implication was that the Democratic party was taking the African American vote for granted by not supporting the candidacy of Kweisi Mfume-and that blacks should vote for the Republican candidate, Michael Steele, an African American.  Most of the callers were offended by the very suggestion that the Republican agenda had anything to offer black voters.

But according to statistics, more and more blacks are finding something about the Republican party to interest them. In 1972, fewer than 10 percent of African Americans identified themselves as conservative; today nearly 30 percent-11.2 million-do.  Those are the numbers presented by Christopher Alan Bracey in his new book, Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice. He points to the social issues that African Americans tend to be conservative on-abortion and gay marriage for example-and traces the history of politicla conservatism in the Black world.

Figures like Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell–what appeal did they find in conservative politics?  Why do they remain such polarizing figures?  Join us today to discuss.

-Jessica

P.S. Go here for information on Bracey’s event in Howard County this weekend!


 

1/24/07 Iraq, Oil, War, Politics, and Media…

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photo of an Iraq oil field fire by Ian Waldie

…Those are a few of the topics we’re planning to cover at 1pm today, focusing on the intersection of all of them.  We’ll look at recent developments in Iraq’s oil industry, and how it fits into the bigger picture of the Iraq War.  We’ll discuss why the presidential candidates and the media both seem to not be focusing on Iraq as much as they should be.

We’ll be talking with Ben Lando, UPI’s energy editor.  Check out an extensive archive of his articles here.  Ben also created The Iraq Oil Report, a website that tracks oil goings on in Iraq on a daily basis.

We’ll also be speaking with Antonia Juhasz, author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time. She is the Tarbell Fellow at Oil Change International and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Policy StudiesHere’s an archive of op-eds that she has written.

-Justin