Beer: Samuel Adams Cinder Bock
Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Source: 22 oz. bottle
Rating: *** (7.2 of 10)
Comments: The image of the goat on the label is wholly apropos as this beer has a kick. ”It smells and tastes like bacon!” I exclaimed to my friend Cra…
When Diane Ravitch speaks at the Memorial Church in Cambridge Thursday evening, she’ll be awfully close to enemy territory. Across the river in Boston, the two remaining candidates for mayor–state Rep. Marty Walsh and City Councilor-At-Large John Connolly, the latter a former charter school teacher–support many of the drastic changes and evaluation measures the renowned public education guru will be speaking out against.
The concept of so-called “education reform” has been squarely on the menu all throughout the race for City Hall. It’s come up in countless rhetorical pitches and proposals–screeds about lengthening the school day, cries to lift the cap on the number of charters. For his campaign, Connolly has gone whole pedagogical hog on schools, even presenting himself as the “Education Mayor.” As Ravitch would have it, though, such claims are utter bullshit. According to her, wannabe reformers like Connolly, the likes of whom argue that teachers and their unions must be reined in, have bought into a myth regarding why schools are in crisis.
“Our urban schools are in trouble because of concentrated poverty and racial segregation,”
Ravitch writes in her new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. “But public education as such is not ‘broken.’ Public education is in a crisis only so far as society is and only so far as this new narrative of crisis has destabilized it.”
As evidence of the false narrative driving the current ed reform movement–much of which, she notes, is fostered and funded by venture capital vultures and various other for-profit interests–Ravitch points to the Bay State, among other places. Specifically, she notes that in 2012, an international assessment test determined, “In eighth-grade mathematics … Students in four American states [including Massachusetts] ranked among the world’s highest-performing entities … Black students in Massachusetts received the same scores as students in Israel and Finland. Imagine that! It should have been a front-page story across the nation, but it was not.” As for how Commonwealth institutions fared by national standards; “In Massachusetts,” she writes, “the state with the nation’s highest-performing students as judged by federal tests, 80 percent of the state’s public schools were “failing” by [federal No Child Left Behind] standards in 2012.”
When schools fail by federal standards, moneyed charter entities and others have an easier time swooping in to pocket public dollars.
As such, Ravitch says the burden put on teachers these days is as if Congress “passed a law saying that every city in America should be crime-free.”
Nevertheless, both candidates for Boston mayor have made regular stump fodder out of skewering instructors. Connolly has taken money and support from corporate-affiliated anti-union groups like Stand For Children and Democrats For Education Reform–both of which Ravitch says have “names that are appealing and innocuous,” but that “exist in a giant echo chamber, listening and talking only to one another, dismissing the concerns of parents, teachers, and communities.”
By Reign of Error standards, Walsh, a former head of the Boston Building Trades who is often linked to labor groups, is hardly better than Connolly on education. On the trail, he’s proudly used his House vote in favor of the 2010 Education Reform Act–a move that allows administrators to bend teacher contracts in districts determined to be failing, and that outraged members of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. At the time, Senate President Therese Murray said, “The changes provided in this legislation strengthen the Commonwealth’s ability to compete for federal Race to the Top funding worth up to $250 million or more.” Ravitch, meanwhile, blasts blind adherence to such ridiculous mandates.
“Almost every state agreed to adopt [federal standards],” she writes, “even states with clearly superior standards like Massachusetts and Indiana, despite the fact that these new standards had never been field-tested anywhere. No one can say with certainty whether the [federal standards] will improve education, whether they will reduce or increase the achievement gaps among different groups, or how much it will cost to implement them.”
Reality aside–reformers who wish to make it easier to fire older teachers, for example, “cannot show any connection between tenure and academic performance,” writes Ravitch–both mayoral hopefuls are steadily pedaling down the path to school privatization. Chances are that neither Walsh nor Connolly will be able to catch her in Cambridge Thursday, but if they can make it, the candidates will hear not just criticism, but also some ideas for how
Boston can improve schools without compromising public education in the state where Horace Mann wrote the blueprint.
“Schools need freedom from burdensome and intrusive regulations that undermine professional autonomy,” says Ravitch. “They need the resources to meet the needs of the children they enroll. But they cannot improve if they are judged by flawed measures and continually at risk of closing because they do not meet an artificial goal created and imposed by legislators … It is time for parents, educators, and other concerned citizens to join together to strengthen our public schools and preserve them for future generations. The future of our democracy depends on it.”"
I want to make love to this article. It is a must read.
But Boston has changed tremendously since then. The city is growing rapidly, and getting younger. The new residents elbowing their way into town are choosing urban living — crowded, noisy, and exciting.
Boston can’t physically allow every resident and worker to drive around town like it’s Interstate 495. The roads couldn’t handle the traffic, and there aren’t enough parking spaces to go around. This is why the city has a hard cap on the number of public parking spaces allowed downtown, and why it expects many of the workers in newly built office towers to arrive by public transportation.
When it comes to new residential developments, though, City Hall is still largely grounded in the 1970s. It requires housing developers to build minimum levels of parking, regardless of whether building residents actually have cars to park.
Parking minimums aren’t policy, so much as they are a political toll that developers have to pay to win local approvals. And in Boston, nothing drives politically active neighborhood groups crazier than parking and traffic. They believe as an article of faith that new apartments and condominiums equal new cars, and demand that these new cars not compete for on-street parking with existing residents. So the cost of Boston development permits is paid in expensive, empty parking spaces.
City officials have gradually been letting the quantity of parking extracted from developers slip, to a ratio of three spaces for every four new housing units, and sometimes less. This is a level of parking far below what suburban communities demand from housing developers. Still, even in Boston, city policy assumes that all new housing developments create significant new parking headaches.
That assumption just doesn’t square with reality. Census data show that more than half of Boston residents currently take the T, bike, or walk to work. There are now 27,000 more car-free workers living in the city than there were a decade ago. This doesn’t mean that the Boston Redevelopment Authority should forcibly seize minivans from West Roxbury families. But it does mean that developers should be able to build car-free communities downtown and near transit. Building regulations should square with the way people actually live."
That means encouraging density and development in the neighborhoods, where “the financials” aren’t quite so enticing for developers. Forty percent of Boston’s children are concentrated in just two neighborhoods: Dorchester and Roxbury. Most live in single-parent households, and nearly half have at least one foreign-born parent. Immigrant families have always been a vibrant force in urban growth, but they needn’t be isolated in one district, where their concerns can be out of sight for much of the population.
There’s also no reason why families with children can’t live in dense neighborhoods of brownstones or even properly designed high-rises; Vancouver, Tokyo, and New York City do this well. We need more housing in Dorchester and Roxbury, but we also need more children in the South End, Brighton, and — why not? — the waterfront.
Happily, both finalists in this week’s mayoral election seem ready to address the demographic divide. “Boston is growing and attracting new people, but the high cost of living makes it hard for seniors and middle-class families to stay in the city they know and love,” said Marty Walsh on election night. John Connolly lamented that Boston’s children “are living in two different worlds” — one that is healthy and safe and one that is not. Both candidates have committed to improving the schools, and that ought to include new schools that can grow as they attract families to non-traditional neighborhoods.
The next mayor needs to nurture the growing appeal of Boston to newcomers — of all races and backgrounds, yes, but also of all ages. Boston is a wealthy city, but without lots of thriving families with children, it’s not as rich."
Image via flickr
Imagine a world where crosswalks don’t exist. Every crosswalk you know and love has been erased from the pavement.
That’s what it’s like for bicyclists in Massachusetts.
Under current Massachusetts law, a person riding a bicycle in a crosswalk has absolutely zero legal protection. Crosswalks are for pedestrians, period. For everyone else (bikes, motorcycles, cars) they do not exist.
Why does that matter? Because crosswalks are a shield from liability. If you get hit in one as a pedestrian, it’s pretty much automatically the driver’s fault. Even if they had a green light, the crosswalk still protects you.
Without that shield, a biker in a crosswalk is left just randomly crossing the street. If you get hit by a car in this scenario, there’s a good chance that it was your fault. Unprotected by those painted lines, you’re just some schmo who thought it would be a good idea to cross perpendicular to traffic.
In other states, bikers in crosswalks are recognized and given rights. For example, here’s an excerpt from RCW 46.61.755 from Washington State:
(2) Every person riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk or crosswalk must be granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to a pedestrian by this chapter.
That was easy, right? Unfortunately, similar legislation here in MA has repeatedly stalled. From what I understand, pedestrian advocacy groups have opposed anything that would put more bicyclists into crosswalks.
While I sympathize with their concern, something has to be done. Just think of the Southwest Corridor or the bike path on Memorial Drive, where cyclists are forced to stop, dismount, and walk every few minutes to make it across the many streets that intersect these major throughways. Does this really make sense? Of course not, but that’s the only legally protected way to cross.
I’m proud of my state, and everything it’s done to promote the rights of cyclists in the past few years. However, we still need to fill this gaping legal hole. My hope is that by bringing this unseen problem to enough peoples’ attention, we can come together, raise our voices, and call for change. Or at the very least it will inspire some of you to walk your bikes when crossing.
Note: The City of Somerville has come up with a clever way around this problem. By installing a bike path in between two crosswalks, they can provide a safe (and legal) crossing for bikes and pedestrians. Way to go Somerville!
Restore a ton of parkland currently cordoned by ramps.
Connect the Esplanade more closely to the city, increasing accessibility and safety.
Connect more of the street grid to Storrow Drive, easing access for all modes.
Save a boatload of money not rebuilding the $300 million separation structures.
Reduce construction nightmare that rebuilding the Storrow tunnel would entail.
What’s the catch? Well, it might take a little bit longer to drive to your destination via the same route you used in the past. On the other hand, you might also save a lot of time by not having to go around and around in loops on one-way streets. I know that some traffic engineers will be screaming that this represents a “downgrade” but they can take that attitude back to the 1950s where it came from. For the rest of us, this would represent an upgrade: a better city. Plus, $300 million saved! Heck maybe more. I suspect that any attempt to replace the Storrow tunnel will quickly turn into it’s own “little Big Dig” with rapidly inflating costs. That’s a lot of money that could be put into so many other, better, actual improvements. Like making the MBTA an attractive option for people who currently feel like they have no alternative but to drive along this way. How MassDOT approaches the impending dilemma of the Bowker Overpass and the related Storrow Drive tunnels will tell if they are really serious about their “GreenDOT” proposal or not."
But civic culture requires both space and cultivation. It does not happen on its own and, in fact, much of our commercial media and current politics thrives on making us all more fearful of each other, less trusting of those different from us, more insecure about our material well-being – dividing us into nervous isolation. We need space, time, events, and reminders that if “Boston Strong” means anything in the long run, it means finding ways to express and be glad about the fact that we’re all in this together.
That is why Open Streets events are ultimately about rejecting the paranoia. It’s about regaining the ability to walk down the street without assuming we’ll be mugged, to interact with others without assuming we’ll be cheated, to enjoy other people’s presence and voice. And it isn’t pushing too hard to say that this is part of what allows us to send our children to school without assuming they’ll be mistreated, to gather in community meetings without assuming they’ll end in violence, to see our changing demographics as simply a fact (or even as an opportunity) without assuming it’s a cause of alarm.
The power of Open Streets comes exactly from its positive simplicity. A stretch of reclaimed pavement, long enough for a real bike ride, with “activity nodes” spread along the way that make strolling worthwhile. It’s bigger than a block party, more diverse than an ethnic festival, more city-wide than a neighborhood play street, more spread out than a parade, and more organized than a spontaneous “happening.” It’s a place where people come together, to share with others, to enjoy the collective energy, to remember that our city is full of people who are both very different and quite the same as ourselves."
The Devil Came Up To Boston (by adamezragroup)
- William Russel to Return for the 50th
I mean, there are some signs pointing to it.
I mean, like, literally. Signs.
Please oh please let William Russell cameo next series. Ian is kind of Clara’s Boss.
- The Day of the DoctorOsgood/Zygon:*Hands over inhaler to the other Osgood, indicating to the viewer in a rather poetic and slightly subtle way that the humans and Zygons have come to an understanding and a peaceful truce will be formed, a beautiful piece of writing that would be analysed repeatedly for generations had it been written in a book a hundred years ago*... ...
"The Day of the Doctor shat all over the RTD era"
“Moffat just ruined the whole of seasons 1-4”
“great to know that Steven Moffat is arrogant...
Doctor Who changes and moves on. By late 1966 all of the original production team and cast had left. In 1969 the writers retconned the previous six...