Commentary Series

Weekdays 7:55 a.m. and 5:55 p.m. Sundays at 10.55 a.m.

More than 50 commentators provide perspective and opinion about current events, topics of interest, and often showcase the work of writers and storytellers.  The VPR Commentary Series is produced by Betty Smith-Mastaler.

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Krupp: Garden Review

Nov 21, 2014

2014 was a bumper year for tomatoes in my garden, and most of my vegetables grew with abandon. Believe it or not, I'm still eating lettuce and other greens from my cold-frame as well as kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli from my community garden plot. I cover the cold-frame to protect the plants from freezing rain and cold to extend the growing season. The vegetables that struggled the most were eggplants and peppers due to the cooler than normal temperature - but we had a good berry year.

Curriculum reform can work, but it requires the right conditions. I’m reminded of a school whose history department developed a 9th grade world history course. Research and planning took two years. Would they follow a narrative or go by topic? What readings would work for their students? What historical skills to stress? How would they assess?

They field tested in Year Three: introducing segments of the proposed course into the existing 9 th grade course. Planners got regular feedback from students and teachers, which led to further analysis, discussion, and revision.

Doyle: Arts in Education

Nov 20, 2014

When I worked as a high school English teacher, a favorite poem to share with students was “Among School Children,” by William Butler Yeats. It’s complex, dealing with everything from the loss of innocence, to the relationship between human experience and art. And it famously ends this way:

O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer
Are you the leaf, the blossom, or the bole
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Two of the greatest pieces of prose in English were written by the same person less than sixteen months apart: The Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. That’s the speech with that magnificent final sentence beginning, “With malice toward none, . . ..”

As November ends, I’m declaring the end to another season of not learning how to mountain bike. I’ve tried. I’ve tried for three years now, drawn by sunny days to explore beautiful trails in and around Barre’s quarries. Although “Mountain” is an overstatement... I don’t bike down steep trails. Or over rocks. Which can be challenging in a quarry.

Everyone tells me I’ll get the hang of mountain biking once I stop looking at the obstacles I’m trying to avoid, and start looking at where I want to go.

Profound, I think. Then I clip a tree and go down in a heap.

Mares: To Play Or Not

Nov 18, 2014

The Vermont state high school football championships are now history for another year – leaving fields and stadiums around the region echoing from shouts of victory and groans of defeat.

Professional football remains the most popular spectator sport in America. But clouds are appearing on the sport's horizon.

Averyt: A Real Place

Nov 18, 2014

I had a friend once who called Vermont a pretend state. He said that the state tourist office plants the meadows with wildflowers in spring, hires cows who moo on cue, infuse the Green Mountains with chlorophyll every summer and cart snow in from Canada to blanket the winter hillsides.

With the weather turning cold, and Thanksgiving coming ever closer, I think about apple pie.

We've taken the kids apple picking. We've filled more brown bags with apples than we can reasonably eat all winter.

I laugh at how acculturated I have become to these New England ways, which for our children and for my husband are second nature. They themselves are “American as apple pie.”

Sadly, my mother-in-law’s health has declined and she isn't aware of much these days. But recently, while going through boxes stored in our attic, I came across a photo of her taken in the late 1950s. Her smile was radiant and her eyes were bright. I showed it to my husband. “Wow,” he said. “That must have been taken before her nose job.”

If a quirky friend announced her plan to visit Vermont’s 251 towns and record in scrupulous detail the history, politics, geology, literary life, eccentric residents, strange animal skirmishes, plagues and religious life of each one - well, you’d likely be skeptical . But back in 1860, Abby Hemenway one of Vermont’s most persevering and idiosyncratic women, published the first volume of what would become the celebrated Vermont Historical Gazetteer.