Mike Martin

Commentator

Mike Martin is a writer and educator who works for Montpelier Public Schools.

Martin: All Are Welcome

Apr 24, 2017

When I was a kid, I learned in school that the United States was the best country in the world because we were a melting pot. No matter where you came from, no matter your color, creed, or bank account, you could come here, learn English, work hard, and become an American.

A little while ago during our family dinner, my wife told our youngest son, Theo, that he was really smart, and I remember being surprised at his response. “I’m not smart, Mom, he said, I’m just good at getting good grades.”

Supported by the Vermont Arts Council, students from 35 Vermont high schools will recite poems tonight at the Barre Opera House for the semifinals of the 2016 Vermont Poetry Out Loud Competition.

With some debate audiences cheering candidates who call each other liars and losers, it’s funny to think that last year’s pundits’ predicted that this campaign season would be a dull dynasty duel between the Houses of Bush & Clinton. Many experts, caught off guard, just keep repeating that voters are angry, which has led to unexpected success for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And while this may be true, I think analysts are missing the point: anger isn’t the only thing these “populist insurgencies” have in common – voters for both campaigns want to bring back The American Dream.

Martin: Fraternité

Nov 16, 2015

My wife, Magali, is from Paris, so in the wake of last weekend’s terrorist attacks, our thoughts naturally leapt first to our family and friends who still live there. We also felt deeply for our former neighbors in Paris - one attack took place just a few steps away from our old apartment.

Vermont is the small state with big ideas. Think of Bernie Sanders, Ben & Jerry’s, or even John Deere… But when it comes to big ideas that still have a big impact, it’s hard to beat John Dewey, who was born in Burlington 156 years ago today. His progressive ideas about the individual learner, school, and democracy are still relevant today—and we’re still working to live up to the humanist ideals he set forth.

Everywhere you look nowadays, you can see how technology and globalization are reshaping our society. From smartphones, to outsourcing, to the new sharing economy, these changes are coming so fast, it’s often hard to plan for what’s next. For instance, the top-ranked futurist Thomas Frey predicts that half of all current jobs will disappear by 2030.

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If you live in Vermont, you probably like small. We don’t have mega-malls and 4-lane highways. We tend to like swimming holes, microbreweries, and family farms. So it’s only natural that we like small schools too. After all, small schools seem to evoke close-knit communities and life in a simpler time.

There is a democratic institution that now only exists in the U.S. and Canada. It is an elected body that typically convenes once or twice a month and fulfills legislative, judicial, and executive functions. Its members receive little or no remuneration, but take calls around dinner time from concerned constituents. Its members also answer policy questions in the produce aisle, receive taxpayer tirades on street corners, and reassure worried parents in the bleachers at baseball games. Of all the elected officials that exist, these are the most accessible.

Michael Martin

By now you’ve probably at least heard of the book, Wonder by RJ Palacio. It tells the story of Auggie, a boy with facial deformities due to a rare genetic disorder, who loves his dog, Star Wars, and Xbox, just like most kids his age. But his appearance makes him the target of bullying, even as he makes new friends and tries to fit in at school.

Courtesy, Montpelier High School

When I was a child, recess was a cathartic explosion of energy. The jungle gym was a steel web silhouetted against the sky where we would climb, hoist, and stretch, before eventually jumping or falling off. The monkey bars, true to their name, were the domain of the most nimble and brawny of us. The merry-go-round inspired screams of joy, fear, and sometimes pain when it would eject passengers or leave hangers-on semi-trampled as it accelerated.

At this year's VPR's annual Commentators Brunch event for our Broadcasters Club members, VPR commentators gave brief readings on the common theme, "Lost And Found". This prompted some to reflect on surprising discoveries and others to consider missed opportunities and times past.

Martin: Autumn Leaves

Nov 1, 2013
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It's hard to not think about autumn leaves if you live in Vermont. After all, every fall our hills and valleys fairly explode with color, creating what a French journalist recently referred to as our little state's "natural fireworks".

When you see Vermont's ridges aflame on a sunny day with the yellows and reds of elders, ash, cherry, and maples, it's also hard to not think of the lyrics of the song "Autumn Leaves" by Johnny Mercer, The falling leaves drift by my window / The autumn leaves of red and gold / I see your lips, the summer kisses / The sunburned hands I used to hold.

Martin: Guns in Schools

Mar 24, 2013
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A few weeks ago, I noticed this unbelievable headline in my Google news feed: Montpelier School Board decides to arm some individuals in schools. No way! I thought to myself, no way can this be true... After all, I know the new Montpelier High School Principal, Adam Bunting, and he's a warm, thoughtful, dedicated educator. I just can't imagine him working with a pistol-packing staff. I mean, I picture Adam working in a free-hugs zone, not a free-fire zone.

http://www.vpr.net//audio/programs/56/2013/03/Martin-0310 Metaphors.mp3

Martin: Epiphany

Jan 4, 2013