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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There are so many important holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year that it’s easy to overlook December 10. But to me, that day’s especially important because it’s Emily Dickinson’s birthday!

I first came across Dickinson when I was a bookish girl who didn’t know how to fit in. Dickinson’s work spoke to me. But I also found her frightening.

Coffin: Boxing Story

Nov 26, 2014

When boxing was supreme, no athletic event, even the World Series, was bigger than a championship fight.

My father was a boxing fan, and he taught me how to lead with my left and keep my guard up. We listened to the big fights, like Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio. Ears pressed to the radio, the thud of the heavy blows could almost be felt across the airwaves.

When an uncle gave me and my twin brother boxing gloves, I thought my mother might knock HIM out.

I’ve often wondered why Thanksgiving means so much to us as a family. But we’ve always treasured this historic holiday about our founding as a nation, whereas for us Christmas is an uncomfortable combination of religion and consumerism.

Adrian: Talking Turkey

Nov 25, 2014

Ancient wisdom dictates that neither politics nor religion should be discussed in “polite” company. Unfortunately, polite or not, many of us just can’t seem to help it – especially during the holidays.

Beginning with Thanksgiving, just the right “primordial succotash” for delving into these forbidden topics is created – in a combination of friends, both new and old; family both wanted and tolerated; copious amounts of food; and of course an abundance of beverage. Many Thanksgiving dinners have gone awry because faith and the affairs of state simply could not be resisted.

By the time the passengers of the Mayflower finally got off the ship for good in March of 1621, they had been on the boat for seven months. They had boarded in early August ready to launch, but she was an old ship and kept springing leaks so it was a full month before they even set sail. In the meantime they were crammed together consuming their precious stores for the journey. After a treacherous crossing of the Atlantic, they landed on Cape Cod in early November.

The act of thanksgiving must be as old as human activity.  Neanderthals in their day must have felt thankful for successful hunts or for escaping maiming by wounded mastodons.  We Americans often think of it as an event started in 1621 by the surviving Plimoth Colony Puritans – half had died in the past year – in celebration of a successful Indian corn harvest.  The native Wampanoags had generously showed these surprising arrivals how to survive in the woods of the New World.  The pilgrims’ celebration was reenacted for almost 250 years afterward and on different dates in various parts of

Luskin: Not Shopping

Nov 24, 2014

Thanksgiving is the Big Holiday at our house, the one my kids attend with their partners in return to spending Christmas away. In addition to the traditional turkey, we have our own traditions, including a Big Project. This year, it’s augmenting a stonewall. And if weather permits, we’ll light up the night with a bonfire, burning all the brush accumulated over the year. The Thanksgiving feast is just one part of what’s turned into a house party that lasts most of a week and involves lots of meals, walks, Scrabble and talk.

Chief fiscal officer Steve Klein has concluded that the 2015 legislature will face an expected general fund shortfall of from $90 to 120 million dollars for Fiscal Year 2016.

Making the fiscal situation worse is a reduction in Federal Medicaid cost sharing, higher pay and fringe benefits under the Pay Act passed in May, and the pressing need for increasing contributions to pay for retired teacher health costs. Jim Reardon, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, said in August that he’s running out of one-time pots to raid.

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.