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It takes about 15 minutes to drive from Edgewood to Alamo Heights in San Antonio, Texas. Yet the schools in each neighborhood are worlds apart.

Play is a foundational element of a child’s life. Yet, how much is play embraced inside schools? My guests today, Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle, argue play is the fundamental energy of learning. And schools need to embrace play much more than they currently do to support child development.

For Pasi and William, screen time and the educational reform movement that emphasizes standardized tests have reduced the amount of time children are allowed to play in school.

Pasi Sahlberg is a professor of education policy at the Gonski Institute for Education of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He is a globally renowned educator, author, speaker, and scholar, and one of the world’s most respected authorities on educational improvement.

William Doyle is New York Times bestselling author and TV producer.  Since 2015 he has served as a Fulbright Scholar, a Scholar in Residence and lecturer on media and education at the University of Eastern Finland, and as advisor to the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland

Their new co-written book is called Let the Children Play, which was published by Oxford University Press earlier this year.

Over 500 people were murdered in Chicago last year. Most of these murders were concentrated in a few historically black neighborhoods on the West and South sides of the city. And most of the victims were under 30 years old.

For many people listening to this show in the comfort of their home or car or while at the gym, it’s probably difficult to grasp what such a high rate of murder and violence does not only to those involved but also to the wider community.

In some of these Chicago neighborhoods, the impacts from violence have been compounded by a raft of school closures. A WBEZ Chicago report found since 2002 over 70,000 children – “the vast majority of them black — have seen their schools closed or all staff in them fired.” In 2013 alone, 50 schools were closed, which was the largest intentional mass school closing in recent history.

My guest today is Tio Hardiman, president and founder of Violence Interrupters, Incorporated and an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice. Tio is on the front lines of conflict resolution, restorative justice practices, and community organizing. He has seen what violence does to a community and the way it impacts and is impacted by schools. In our conversation, we talk about the history of violence in Chicago and what this means for children today.

Teachers are striking across America. From Arizona to Oklahoma to West Virginia, teachers are not simply demanding higher pay. They are also demanding better learning conditions for students and better working conditions for all state employees. And they are succeeding.

Many of these industrial workplace actions are taking place in states that have passed right-to-work laws, meaning workers cannot be compelled to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. The strikes are also happening in the states that Trump won in 2016. So what does this mean for public education generally and the 2020 US presidential election?

My guest today is Eric Blanc, the author of the new book Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics (Verso 2019). Eric is a journalist and a former high school teacher and has followed the on-the-ground developments of the Los Angeles, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Denver, and Oakland public education strikes.

Citation: Blanc, Eric, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 161, podcast audio, July 1, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/blanc/

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Religion in American public schools is a hot-button issue. Can prayers be said in public schools? What about in extracurricular activities? Can states provide funds to religious schools? And if parents don’t vaccinate their children for religious reasons but send them to public schools, what can the State do?

These questions don’t have easy answers and the US constitution offers little help. The Establishment clause of the First Amendment of the constitution, for instance, forbids Congress from making laws in support of religion but also protects the free exercise of religion. Finding the right balance isn’t always straightforward.

My guest today is Martha McCarthy. She is the Presidential Professor at Loyola Marymount University and the Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. Together with Suzanne Eckes and Janet Decker, Professor McCarthy has recently published Legal Rights of School Leaders, Teachers, and Students(Pearson, 2019).

Today’s episode of FreshEd was put together in collaboration with the Education Law Association.

Citation: McCarthy, Martha, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 159, podcast audio, June 17, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/mccarthy/

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