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.
We shouldn’t treat our desserts like vegetables – pretty obvious concept when I think about it – but putting it into practice can be difficult. I realized this the other day when I was eating a bland, crumbly cookie from a package that had passed its prime about a week earlier. It wasn’t great, but it was a cookie, and I didn’t see any other cookies around, so it seemed sensible to finish it.
The University of Chicago Press recently published a gorgeous book about architecture, with compelling text and spectacular photos. It’s entitled The Library, A World History. It takes us from the ruins of libraries of antiquity through the cloisters of medieval libraries, past the “angels [and] frescoes” of 18th-century Baroque and Rococo libraries, around the iron stacks and gaslights of 19th century libraries, into the “concrete and steel” of 20th century libraries, and finally, through libraries in the emerging “electronic age.”
Last month Generator, a new maker space in downtown Burlington, opened its doors to the public. Housed in the basement of the old Memorial Auditorium, it sported a clean, open floor plan, lots of tools for jewelry making and wood working, and some very high tech machines including a 3D printer and a laser cutter.
We moved to Vermont at the end of June six years ago and enjoyed every hour of the sublime summer, followed by a glorious fall and a very long white winter. After that, it was no longer beautiful. It was, in fact, devoid of any hint of loveliness – unless one was a newt whose future was tied to mud.
I had heard plenty about Vermont’s infamous mud season. But I had no clear understanding of just how long a drippy day can be, not to mention a week of such days. Nor of what it’s like driving on a dirt road that in mud season demanded skills I didn’t possess.
Two weeks ago, when the long winter was still holding onto Vermont with its icy fingers, I wondered if there’d be much of a maple sugaring season at all this year. But now that we’ve had several days of thawing weather and spring seems like something more than an abstract possibility, I’ve started to see steam issuing from sugarhouses across central Vermont, and that’s a good sign!
For many Vermonters, the worry about running out of food is a monthly problem. Most families living on food stamps (now called the supplemental nutrition assistance program or SNAP) run out of food by the third or fourth week of every month. There are food shelves and other places they can turn to, but their anxiety about getting enough food takes a heavy toll.
I recently found myself where I never dreamed of being at age 43: in an orthodontist’s chair getting my retainers adjusted.
This almost didn’t come to pass. Sometime after graduating from college, I decided that I had also graduated from wearing the two retainers that I had popped into my mouth every night for a decade. I unceremoniously shoved them to the back of my dresser and declared that I was the boss of my teeth now.
As we plowed our way into April this year, it seemed like everyone I met at the grocery store – whether a millennial or an octogenarian - was saying essentially the same thing: “Wow. This winter was like the ones we had when I was a kid - with amazing snow and cold.” And I was perfectly happy to have it so, largely because I enjoy skiing, but also because I believe it will reduce the number of pests in the garden this summer.
The Vermont legislature is considering a bill that would replace Vermont’s local school boards with larger, consolidated, regional control. The potential for either educational benefits or cost savings is hotly debated. But one thing is clear from public reaction: if passed, it would create polarization and push-back for years to come.
If we’re serious about making systemic change in Vermont education, mandates aren’t the answer. What we need is an authentic, heart-to-heart conversation.
There’s been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the Common Core State Standards for education. These are math and English skills that our students should be able to master at each grade level and are designed to position our graduates to compete more successfully with their counterparts around the world.