Commentary Series

Mon-Thurs 8:50 a.m. and 5:50 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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For the past two decades, one of the highlights for kindergarten through third grade kids at the Plainfield, New Hampshire elementary school – and one of the biggest banes of some parents – is a research assignment called Project Sleuth.

For kindergartners it starts out relatively simple and easy: they research themselves, reporting on their heights, weights, favorite foods, and past-times.

I saw a car parked on School Street in Montpelier not far from the library. It had a bumper sticker that said, “I [heart] Bacon.” I smiled. Imagine a person putting that bumper sticker on his car because he’s so enamored with Francis Bacon!

In the ‘80s, after footloose travel and a stint living in Greece, I decided to get a career and enrolled in a masters program in library science. In my final semester I took a class that introduced us to the latest trend in libraries - computers! When the guy sitting next to me said hello, I felt I’d seen him before.

They say truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But this doesn’t mean certain truths aren’t verifiable. Much depends on the granularity and scope of a statement.

Troubled times lead to grand schemes.

Recently, pundits like David Brooks of The New York Times have called for a new national history to be taught in schools as a way preserving American unity.

Here we are, one day before Christmas, four days past Hanukkah, and three days into winter, with about a week to go before the start of the New Year. It’s a time of transitions, passages, and renewal.

Adrian: Stability

Dec 20, 2017

In addition to their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Benedictine Monks apparently take a fourth vow, the so-called Vow of Stability. I’m no expert in the intricacies of Catholic Monastic Orders, far from it, but the Internet tells me that when a brother takes a Vow of Stability, he promises to remain in the original monastic community he has entered for the rest of his life. In other words, he promises to build the community that he has, rather than move on at some to point to seek new, potentially more promising opportunities.

The so-called tax reform law reminds me of a nightmarish revision of Robin Hood, with the Sheriff of Nottingham skillfully manipulating the good citizens of Sherwood into believing his rapacious policies will actually benefit them.

Vogel: Jerusalem

Dec 19, 2017

I’ve traveled to Israel since 1970 and taught in business programs in both Tel Aviv and Palestine. During the last four decades, many of us have seen dreams of peace soar and then plummet. So I’m with those who’d welcome a new and different approach. But President Trump’s notion of a bold new solution is like a fire chief deciding that since water's been ineffective in fighting this forest fire, let’s try gasoline.

Education may be essential to growing healthy minds and satisfying lives, but when it comes to changing behavior it falls far short.

In physics, centripetal forces propel objects toward the center and centrifugal forces drive them away. And today, our societies and communities are engaged in an epic battle between these two opposing forces.

Mares: Critical Thinking

Dec 15, 2017

For 20 years, my license plate read THINK as an injunction to both my students and the general public.

Every year the people of Iceland enjoy a phenomenon called the Christmas Book Flood. And while I appreciate the image of books flowing through Icelandic fjords, I hasten to add that this isn’t a natural phenomenon. It’s the publishing industry’s response to the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, so that people may stay up late into the night reading… usually with chocolate.

I did not grow up attending holiday bazaars, but after thirty years in Vermont I’ve come to appreciate these local markets that seem to come with the season. It’s a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages and the German immigrants who brought the Christmas markets with them to the US – and before that to tenth century Middle Eastern bazaars.

I’m a volunteer for Everybody Wins, a reading program for elementary school children. And recently, I was reading with a nine year old third grader in the library of the school near where I live when an announcement came over the loud speakers that we were in a lock down and to find a secure space.

I just biked after the first snow on our family’s electric cargo bike, and I’m planning to continue to ride through the winter with my kids.

Many nonprofit organizations exist to bridge the gap between what government provides its citizens and what citizens really need. So, as our government has reduced funding over the years for cultural needs like public art accessibility, and not increased funding to deal with crises like the opioid epidemic, nonprofit organizations have stepped in to provide those services.

It was a warm April afternoon in nineteen ninety nine when I first heard about the Columbine massacre in which two Columbine shooters killed thirteen before taking their own lives. I was about to teach a yoga class and my yoga training hadn’t prepared me for how to respond to an event like this. So my students and I simply sat on our mats and talked.

Recently, The Washington Post published an Op Ed piece by Alexander Pyron, an evolutionary biologist at George Washington University, titled “We Don’t Need To Save Endangered Species.” The author argued that extinction is both natural and unimportant and that humans should take care of themselves, trusting Earth to correct any arrogant mistakes over deep time.

Recent news about sexual harassment and violence have lit up every point in the political heavens. The most discussed stories touch mainstream Democrats, like Harvey Weinstein; conservatives like Roger Ailes; left-liberals, like Al Franken and John Conyers; and nominally Republican President Donald Trump, himself.

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