Thanks to the Sun for reporting on community plans to take the public presentation of Jack Kerouac and his literature to the next level in Lowell. The three initiatives being driven by the Cultural Organization of Lowell and its partners, including but not limited to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, Inc., the National Park Service, and UMass Lowell, are 1) expansion of the annual Kerouac literary festival (watch this blog for more on the 2010 event); creation of the “mother of all” Kerouac websites, to be based at UMass Lowell; and development of a physical facility named for Kerouac that will not only include exhibits and displays about the author, but also will serve as a community arts space where creativity will be nurtured and presented to the public in its various forms. Read the Sun article here and consider subscribing to the Sun if you appreciate the writing. Special acknowledgment to the Sun leadership for advancing this initiative.
The federal budget affects cities like Lowell that struggle to provide high levels of public service. Federal funds support many human services programs offered by Community Teamwork and other agencies, Community Development Block Grants, grants for law enforcement, research grants for Middlesex Community College and UMass Lowell, support for small businesses, etc., plus our National Park. When the budget gets squeezed in Washington, places like Lowell feel the pinch. Commentator Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, not a “flaming liberal,” says ending the “Bush tax cuts” will be a big help in getting federal finances under control. Alan Greenspan said the same thing on one of the Sunday morning TV talk shows yesterday. If the Republicans follow the lead of Conservatives in England and let taxes go up via the expiration of the Bush tax cuts , they will put maximum pressure on Democrats to make cuts in the federal budget to show they are equally serious about managing the public’s money. Read Zakaria’s column here, and look for Newsweek on your local newstand or consider subscribing.
To anyone who has been involved in public education in an urban setting for the past decade or two, today’s front-page story in the Globe reporting that students who frequently switch schools tend to do poorly in school is not exactly a revelation. I remember sitting in a school site council meeting at the Daley School at least eight years ago and having then Superintendent Karla Brooks Baehr tell us that 25% of the children who begin school in Lowell in September move out of the district by June. I found that number beyond belief, so when I got home I asked my son – then a sixth grader – how many students were in his class. He answered 24. I then asked how many had left since September (our conversation was in May). He rattled off six names – exactly 25% of his class. I became a believer.
Principals and teachers will tell you that if they could separate out the kids that they keep for their school’s full complement of grades (i.e., in a middle school, a student who arrives for fifth grade and stays until the end of eighth grade), those students’ test scores would be pretty good. But because of the constant influx of new students into the school – not from other schools within Lowell, but from other communities and countries – the student body is a moving target which is reflected in the poor scores.
Too often, the harshest critics of the public schools draw upon their own experience when they render their judgments and ignore the reality of today. In my eight years at St Margaret School in the 1960s, I don’t think we had six new students in the entire eight years, never mind in a single year. And all of the students in the class came from households with two parents, usually with one working and the other at home to care for the kids. The families of the student body were not wealthy, but everyone had a quiet place to do homework, a warm place to sleep and plenty of food on the table. But that’s not life today in an urban community. Kids arrive at school with all of society’s problems as baggage, but society expects the schools to overcome all of those problems and educate the kids. There’s certainly room for improvement in the public schools, but until we start addressing the problems that plague the kids outside the classroom, we’re not being serious about improving urban education.
If you are a Red Sox fan or just a plain old history buff, you should visit the Tewksbury Public Library this August. Every Wednesday for the entire month, the library will offer a discussion on the history of the Boston Red Sox… and admission if FREE. This upcoming week, Dick Johnson, Curator of the Sports Museum will be the featured guest. Johnson is an author and sports consultant. He wrote several highly successful Red Sox related books including “Red Sox Century” and “Ted Williams: A Portrait in Words and Picture”. WGBH TV, ESPN and the Museum of Science have all employed Johnson because of his vast knowledge about sports and baseball in particular.
Don’t hesitate on this one…Tewksbury Library officials expect a big turn out and strongly suggest advanced registration (seating is limited to 50).
The first discussion takes place at 6:30PM on August 4. You can register at the library’s Reference Desk or by calling 978-640-4490 ext 207.