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

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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 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 Green Governor

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Then-Mayor Martin O’Malley at an Earth Day Planting at Gilmor Elementary in 2005

Before I came to work at WYPR, I worked at a documentary company called Soundprint.  While I was there, they were working on a series of stories about urban forests that delved into the unique environmental issues that cities face.  For the documentary Watershed 263, we attended an Earth Day planting ceremony at Gilmor Elementary in Baltimore.  Gilmor was one of a dozen schools in Baltimore that had converted their parking lot into a garden.  Things like parking lots and roads are terrible for the environment.  When it rains, the rain gathers up all the oil and other pollutants that have been sitting on the pavement and then whooshes it all into a storm-water drain.  That all ends up in the Chesapeake, of course, where it wreaks havoc.  A garden, on the other hand, keeps that water right there, and puts it to good use.  It’s a lot of fun for the kids, too, to get a day out of class to get their hands dirty and have a beautiful spot to play.

 The purpose of that whole long story was to tell you that on that day, then-Mayor Martin O’Malley was at that school, and ceremoniously planted the first flower in the soil.  I remember being impressed that he would find time in a busy schedule to visit a school, make a speech, plant a flower, and hang out with the kids for awhile.  I left with the feeling that he cared about the environment.

The impression I was left with would please the now Governor, and those who work to craft his image.  He has very purposefully cast himself as a “Green Governer“.  But what does that term really mean?  As the environmental crisis in the Bay and beyond seems to grow more urgent, how does the criteria for being an environmental politician change?  What is the gold standard in environmentalism for a politician?  What is the leading edge-and is O’Malley on it?

We’ll discuss this today with people who all care deeply and have devoted their lives to the environment.  Join us, to share your thoughts on what you would like to see happen in Maryland.

Poll: Do you think Governor Martin O’Malley is a Green Governor?

-Jessica

 

Here are some pictures courtesy of one of our guests today, Gerry Winegrad.  His descriptions are below:

 

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1.  brown bull headed catfish taken from the South River near Annapolis by USGS.  Nearly 2/3rds sampled had these cancerous tumors from water pollutants, most likely from stormwater runoff.
2.  BROWN TIDE KILLS 7,000 INNER HARBOR FISH   June 5, 2007 BALTIMORE — State environmental officials said a lack of oxygen killed thousands of fish in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor last weekend.  State program director Charles Poukish said the fish kill is  the result of an algae bloom or brown tide.  Poukish said the lack of dissolved oxygen is the result of a large bloom of microscopic algae. Recent warm water temperatures killed the algae and that depleted oxygen near the water‘s surface.   Massive fish kills also were reported in the Potomac during the summer and other kills in the Magothy and other rivers.
3.  rockfish with mycobactreiosis (chronic wasting disease).  A wasting disease that kills rockfish and can cause a severe skin infection in humans has spread to nearly three-quarters of the rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay, cradle of the mid-Atlantic’s most popular game fish.  The disease also sends a grim message about the entire bay ecosystem. The rockfish remains bay conservationists’ only success story — a species nearly wiped out, then revived by fishing limits.  But as the number of rockfish surged, the fish remained in a body of water too polluted to support the level of life it once did.

-Justin

1/23/08 Operation Safe Streets

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Marc has said for years that the best way to address drug and gang related violence in Baltimore is to get ex-offenders, those wise men who have been there and come back to tell the tale, to work in outreach with troubled communities.  But there has always seemed to be an institutional and government aversion towards giving money to people who have been in prison.  Maybe things just had to get really, really, really bad before that changed.In 2000, Chicago implemented a program that was developed at the University of Illnois School of Public Health in Chicago.  This program began in  West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. Police Beat 1115 was chosen as the first CeaseFirezone in large part because of the high number of shootings.  The idea was to send ex-offenders, faith leader, and other community members into those neighborhoods to offer conflict resolution, help kids get out of gangs, and whatever else it took to save a neighborhood. In the first year of CeaseFire, shootings in beat 1115 dropped by 67%.  In the past few years, CeaseFire has seen continuing success, which you can read about here.

Last year, Mayor Sheila Dixon and the Baltimore City Health Department brought Operation Safe Streets to Baltimore.  It is a program based on CeaseFire, and we’re hearing that the pilot neighborhood has seen a tremendous drop in homicides and shootings.  Today at one, we’ll talk with people from that community to learn more.

Join us….

-Jessica