UK’s Prof. Michael Slater on Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, and A Christmas Carol

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-host Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Mary Connaughton talk with Prof. Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, and the world’s foremost expert on Charles Dickens and his works. They discuss some of the main elements of Dickens’ brilliant, prolific, and complicated life, as the 19th century’s most influential, best-selling writer of memorable works, from Oliver Twist to Great Expectations. Professor Slater describes Dickens’ early childhood, having been separated from his family, who were incarcerated in debtors’ prison, and how this heart-wrenching experience inspired his writing as an instrument of social reform. Prof. Slater concludes with a reading from A Christmas Carol, a tale of ghostly salvation which was enormously influential in shaping our popular conceptions of this holiday, and in drawing attention to the need for greater charity.

Stories of the Week: In Kentucky, the state Supreme Court struck down a law that established a tax credit, the Education Opportunity Account Act, that would have helped families cover private school tuition. They’re the backbone of modern classrooms, helping to record school attendance, discipline, assignments, administering exams for hundreds of millions of students – but how much do we know about Learning Management Systems (LMS)?


Professor Michael Slater, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, is a Fellow of Birkbeck College, University of London, and Emeritus Professor in its Department of English and Humanities. He is the world’s foremost scholar of Charles Dickens and his works. Professor Slater is a past President of the International Dickens Fellowship and of the Dickens Society of America, and former editor of ‘The Dickensian’. His internationally-acclaimed books include the biography Charles DickensThe Great Charles Dickens Scandal, and Dickens on America & The Americans. He has taught and lectured in the U.S., across Europe, Australasia, and the Far East. He earned his B.A. and Ph.D. from Oxford University.


The next episode will air on Weds., January 4th, with Prof. Roosevelt Montás, Director of the Freedom and Citizenship Program at Columbia University, and the author of the book, Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation.

Tweet of the Week:

News Links:

The Vital, Hidden Role That Learning Management Systems Play In The Education Market

Kentucky Supreme Court Strikes Down Tax Credits to Pay Private School Tuition

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[00:00:00] Cara: Happy Holidays. Learning Curve. Happy holidays, my friend Gerard Robinson. Should I say ? I know you don’t watch. Yes, we would. I was just talking about it. The best game. Ever, I think probably of any game ever played. That’s just my opinion. Gerard . Um, was, I was telling you before we got on just about the absolute drama, I had to say I was, as you know, my family all but two of us were actually in Buenos Aires for the World Cup.

[00:00:32] So I was simultaneously as I said to you, afraid that my husband might just, I don’t know what was going to happen to him, but it wasn’t gonna be good as the game went. You know, double overtime and penalty shot shootout, which was just horrible. I kept texting members of my family saying, I don’t know why I care about this so much.

[00:00:51] I can’t explain why I care about the outcome of this game so much. And then my anxiety shifted after the beautiful win to making sure my [00:01:00] children were going to be safe in the um, mayhem. of what came. And I do have to say they are home safely. Thank goodness. they are back with me. We are all very happy to be together.

[00:01:11] And my 13 year old daughter over lunch looked at me and said, mommy, I crowd surfed

[00:01:21] It was in a mosh pit. I said, don’t ever, I don’t ever wanna hear that again.

[00:01:28] How are you doing

[00:01:29] GR: Doing well beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia is nice and cool today. I’ve got several friends who called me about the game, and I would always mention, guess what? I know someone who not only is involved, has family there. And so I lived the vicariously through you.

[00:01:43] And from everything that I’ve read, it was, I think, the first win since 86 for you guys. Yeah, that’s right. but such a, just a much needed push to national. Pride, national grit. And we just don’t have a na well, I [00:02:00] guess the closest for us are the Olympics, but soccer, it’s a public religion. Yeah. With a social move.

[00:02:06] Cara: Yeah. And you watch these men and women’s soccer teams, I mean, we already know that the US women are on fire. They’re so good. But I think this men’s team really, we’re gonna watch out for them for the next World Cup, and I will be very, To rally around our country with these guys, should they make it to a final.

[00:02:24] And I think the squad has potential cuz you know, I’m such a seasoned soccer football critic, Gerard. But anyway,

[00:02:32] GR: Hey, one of your many talents.

[00:02:34] Cara: Yeah. Right, right, right. My husband would, disagree. He would be like you never watched the local teams with me. But anyway. Oh, oh, . Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:02:43] We’ve got a couple stories to get to Gerard and mine makes me sad, I have to say. So I’m like, let’s just get it out of the way. This one from the 74th that the Kentucky Supreme Court strikes down tax credits to pay for private school tuition. That is [00:03:00] the title of this article. It was actually, What I would say, tax credits to pay for education scholarship accounts, which is how the law was written.

[00:03:08] And they were going to have in Kentucky I worked very closely with Andy Vandiver there, who shout out to Andy. Hardworking person. Just really saw the legislation through, was working really hard on this implementation. So we will see what happens, but it doesn’t look good because they’re leaning.

[00:03:27] a state statute that says that money can’t be diverted. And this is in my non-legal understanding, different from Espinoza because this isn’t just sort of like you’re giving money to one type of private school and not another. This is. , you can’t do anything. So we’ll see.

[00:03:45] where it lands, but I don’t think it’s gonna land any further anywhere else other than where it has, at least for the foreseeable future in Kentucky. It’s sad, it’s a sad day for the many Kentucky families that had already signed up to use what [00:04:00] they were calling education opportunity accounts.

[00:04:02] And it’s just a, a really sad day gerard. I think we’re gonna continue to see these programs have favor with parents and continue to pass in states, but a sad day for Kentucky and , I’m thinking of our friends there and wishing them all the best right now.

[00:04:17] What do you think?

[00:04:18] GR: This is my 30th year in the parental choice. The arguments used in, you know, the early 1990s are pretty similar to today. While we know that a tax credit isn’t a voucher some of the same language is still used, they’re taking money away from public education. This case as with North Carolina when it’s.

[00:04:37] Tax credit program was found unconstitutional, several years ago. Is just something that our lawyers on our side of the fence, and when I say our side of the fence, it’s not the private school side of the fence, it’s the side of the fence of thinking about how to use public law. And public policy creatively to help families.

[00:04:55] And so I’m sure our friends who are at S P N type[00:05:00] legal Institutes will find a way to address this. It is a sad day. It is, a time for Christmas. And so some of those families right now have been handed coal. But once the families, the attorneys and others rally around and legislature comes back together, I’m sure we’ll be able to find diamonds in.

[00:05:17] Cara: I love your optimism. You’re thinking about technology this week. Are you not?

[00:05:22] GR: I am, and so mine is from Forbes Derek Newton, and the title is The Vital Hidden Role that Learning Management Systems play in the Education Marketplace. Now, initially I said hidden role. I mean, Learning. Management systems have been around a long time, much longer than a pandemic.

[00:05:41] In fact, they go back really to the 1960s and seventies. There were universities using learning management system via I B M partnerships in the seventies and during the nineties. There were large urban school systems during the same, but now I haven’t a better idea what Derek is saying.

[00:05:58] When we think about Canvas, and I’m gonna [00:06:00] use Canvas I work at the University of Virginia. I teach a course every spring. In fact, I taught one this past fall and we use Canvas. And when we, like most universities across the country, We’re working from home. Canvas was our platform and right now, canvas, at least markets itself as the world’s number one teaching and learning software.

[00:06:21] Derek identifies that. They’re one of many. He also mentioned Moodle, who I frankly I was not aware of before then, and doing some research on them. , they’ve got 316 plus. Million users worldwide, 1.8 billion course enrollment. You know what? They’ve got 41 million courses in 42 languages. And when you start walking down the line of the other organizations who are involved like Blackboard or one like Power School or Schoolology, you realize that this is a growing segment.

[00:06:51] And so what Derrick means by hidden is that most teachers and students K-12 and higher ed, we know how to use the system. But guess what? There’s gotta be a [00:07:00] technology in. To help bridge the gap. So, according to Derek, a learning management system it is a dashboard or an operating system of technology that enables classrooms and schools to talk to each other and to work better.

[00:07:15] And when you think about learning management systems today, it’s just not classroom work, you know? School attendance school discipline school assignments. I even think about one example from a few years ago when the DC pre-owned choice program was in place still is, and they were trying to figure out how do we make sure that more Hispanic families are aware that the program enrollment period is open?

[00:07:43] And so there are a couple of scholars here at the University of Virginia partnered. a sperm very similar to this, but much smaller. And they started using handheld devices, texts uh, in other forms of communication to partner between the school. and the family, and they saw a 50% increase in a number of [00:08:00] Latino families who actually applied for the program.

[00:08:03] So there are a number of ways that we use it. The one thing that I take away from this article is the role of the entrepreneur and the role of the startup and the role of the for-profit company in education. Now we know there’s some people in our segment who believe that for-profit companies, Well, they’re the devil and they have no role to play.

[00:08:22] Well, here’s a perfect example right now of the opposite school systems across the country are using L lms with for-profit companies to help them do everything from a working with teachers to get a quicker assessment on what students have learned, didn’t learn, and then provide instructions and a pathway for the teachers to say, Hey, what do I need to do?

[00:08:43] to reach the goals that we have set for our schools, either professionally, individually, or school-wide. So it was an interesting article. It’s one worth reading. I learned about new companies, but really the big takeaway from me is the learning management system is more important than we think.

[00:08:59] [00:09:00] And I’m so glad the entrepreneurs are in the work.

[00:09:02] Cara: I couldn’t agree more. Gerard, I have to say, as a former board chair and a current board chair, We have a lot of conversations about LMSs just at the board level in thinking about, you know, from a board perspective, it’s more about like, how much can you invest and, what do families need, especially in, in a private school context.

[00:09:23] Like how are you gonna continue to give families the things they need so they will want to be here which in some cases is ease of use, but from another perspective, of course, it’s all about teaching and learning and equip. Teachers with the real-time information they need, et cetera.

[00:09:39] These are, as the article said, hidden in really important platforms. I also think that there wasn’t enough talk. During the pandemic and all of the money that flowed down to schools, I heard very little about investments. maybe they were out there. I’m saying I didn’t hear much about it. From [00:10:00] my perspective, investments in learning management systems and upgrading learning and making them, making them more user friendly.

[00:10:06] Aligning them in a way, you know, because to me that was a, a one time use of funds. That’s a, Term investment for a long term gain sort of thing. And we know that especially a lot of large school districts that rely on learning management systems, they can get probably outdated more quickly than many folks understand.

[00:10:26] And with you, I think the technology is changing. I think we can see it in other arenas and there are gonna be applications for learning management systems that come out. of other worlds. Right. I even think about to some extent the platforms that e s A providers are using to help parents navigate, opportunities.

[00:10:45] Mm-hmm. , that’s a type of, of management system in, in and of itself. And, I’m with you on the growing opportunities and the entrepreneurs that are taking over because I have to tell you, it’s commonplace now when people, when I’m at a conference or something for people [00:11:00] to pull me aside. find me in an airport and say like, Hey, do you do work with X?

[00:11:05] Let me tell you about my new system. Let me tell you about my new app. Let me tell. And many of them are really, cool ideas. we’re in a new moment with these things and could all be for the benefit of schools. We can harness some of this knowledge and power, and to your point, really make these things more user friendly for, parents, for kids, and for teachers, for the end users.

[00:11:25] So, it’s a great one, Gerard, and thank you for the point about for-profits because maybe we should start just making a point about all of the for-profit companies that school districts and schools need to contract with just to get the work done. Maybe, maybe we should just make that a running point on this show.

[00:11:39] What do you think? Here, here, here, . All right, Gerard, in the holiday spirit, we are gonna be speaking next with Professor Michael Slater. He. An expert, the foremost expert on Charles Dickens and Gerard, I’m sorry to say, you know, I do have to bow out, but you [00:12:00] are going to be handling this interview with the lovely Mary Connaughton of Pioneer Institute, so they’ll be back, dear listeners, right after this.

[00:12:47] Mary: Welcome to this portion of the learning curve. Today we are thrilled to talk with Professor Michael Slater. Professor Slater is a member of the most excellent order of the British Empire, is a fellow of Birbeck [00:13:00] College, university of London, and emeritus professor in its department of English and Humanities.

[00:13:06] He is the world’s foremost scholar of Charles Dickens and his. Professor Slater is a past president of the International Dickens Fellowship and of the Dickens Society of America and former editor of the Dickensian. His internationally acclaimed books include the biography, Charles Dickens, the Great Charles Dickens Scandal, and Dickens on America and the Americans.

[00:13:34] He has taught and lectured in the US across. Australasia and the Far East. He earned his BA in PhD from Oxford University. Professor Slater, welcome to the show,

[00:13:49] GR: Professor Slater. You’re an accomplished scholar and the definitive biographer of Charles Dickens, the 19th Century’s most influential bestselling writer and author of a [00:14:00] Christmas Carol, would you briefly share with our listeners some of the main elements of Dickens, brilliant, prolific, and complicated.

[00:14:08] That the general public and students should know more about.

[00:14:11] Michael Slater: Well, I think probably they should know more about his active philanthropy. For example the enormous amount of time that he devoted to running uranium cottage. This was the home for a homeless women. It’s often mistakenly called a Home for fallen women, but was actually a home for homeless women, which was financed by his friend the Millionaires Angela Bird Coots.

[00:14:41] But very actively run by Dickens. Who would Have management meetings frequently would interview all the women who were to be received into the home check on their progress, et cetera, et cetera, took up an enormous amount of his time. And I think this isn’t [00:15:00] so generally known.

[00:15:01] Professor say

[00:15:02] Mary: that is not generally known to my knowledge. So thank you for sharing that.

[00:15:07] Michael Slater: often, it’s often mistakenly called the Home for Fallen Women as though it was only for prostitutes, but in fact it was called the Home for Homeless Women. And as I say, it was financed by this millionaires friend of his and it was servants who’d been dismissed and had nowhere to go.

[00:15:26] For instance, it wasn’t only for prostitutes, so it should be properly called the home for homeless women. And he devoted enormous amount of time to it, attending committee meetings every week interviewing applicants for admission to the home, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:15:44] Mary: Professor Slater when Dickens was young, his father and entire family, except for himself, were thrown into Marcia Sea Debtor’s prison.

[00:15:53] This heart-wrenching separation ignited an overwhelming drive to succeed and [00:16:00] great sensitivity to the plight of the poor and those on the margins of society. Could you talk about how this early childhood experience later informed his writings, which would so profoundly impact the conscience of Victorian England?

[00:16:16] Michael Slater: Well, yes. I mean, most obviously with a novel like Oliver Twist the child who’s born in workhouse or another child, heroin , little Nell These draw directly on Dickens’ experience. And later on in the novel Little Dorrit, which is actually set in the Marshall Sea Prison.

[00:16:37] So he’s drawing very directly on his experience.

[00:16:41] having, you know, an enormous effect, of course on the conscience of Victorian England as we say.

[00:16:47] GR: To move a little further with that, in terms of your idea about influence on England, he’s also had an influence on generations of novelists and school children around the world. And when you think of [00:17:00] some of the named characters in his book, , you’ve come to mind.

[00:17:03] People like Oliver Twist Mr. Bumble Pip, you got David Copperfield, tiny Tim Ebenezer, Scrooge. A lot of the books really are talking about the full spectrum of human nature from vice to virtue. Would you talk to our listeners about a couple of these dynamic literary characters, how Dickens created them and what they should teach us about the human condition

[00:17:26] Michael Slater: today?

[00:17:27] GR: . So let’s take an Oliver Twist or a tiny Tim. These are two that stick out to me. What do you think was behind Dickens idea, not only to create them, but to give them the type of humanness.

[00:17:41] That

[00:17:41] Michael Slater: we come to know, I think Dickens is Pity, as it were for his younger self. He felt intense pity for , the terrible period of his childhood when his parents were in a debtor prison. He was in lodgings and he was working in the blacking factory. I think [00:18:00] this childhood experience of, loss of status loss of schooling parents in prison and so forth.

[00:18:07] I think this Obviously had a most profound effect on him and would’ve been responsible for his deep concern for the suffering of children especially in in industrial of, Victorian England.

[00:18:21] Mary: Okay. Professor Slater, full and fair disclosure here in the eighth grade, I played the role of Mr.

[00:18:28] Bum. In the school play, because I think I had the deepest voice of anyone in the class at the time. I have a warm spot in my heart for that particular character, but the early , 19th century literary figures, sir Walter Scott. Washington Irving and Charles Dickens were enormously influential in shaping our popular conceptions of English and American Christmas traditions, including celebrating, feasting, singing, and of course giving.

[00:18:59] Mm-hmm. , [00:19:00] could you share with us a Christmas Carol’s role in helping to find our understanding and practice of this holiday?

[00:19:08] Michael Slater: Well, the a Christmas Carol had an enormous effect, I mean, tremendous sales. And I think it was Zachary who said that it was like a, gift to the whole nation.

[00:19:20] And people reading it wanted to rush out and do good and so forth. It had an enormous effect. is that what you are asking about?

[00:19:29] Mary: Yes. I even the term Merry Christmas, was that somehow linked back to Charles Dickens and how we actually give gifts? I mean, leading up to his writings Christmas was celebrated one way or perhaps not even celebrated to the extent it was subsequent to his writings.

[00:19:47] So did his writings. How did they influence that? What do you think made the people. changed the perception of the holiday and how, it should be celebr.

[00:19:55] Michael Slater: I think probably it was the Cratchit family and [00:20:00] the figure of, tiny Tim, the crippled child and so on and Scrooge’s change of heart. This sort of it changed Christmas from being, a, a kind of Big family celebration to something that was much more concerned.

[00:20:15] Well, it was that as well, but it was concerned also with the poor and with reaching out to people outside the family circle. I think Dickens had the big influence in that way.

[00:20:27] GR: When you think about a Christmas carol, it’s really a tale at some level about ghostly salvation. And I wanna read a, couple of quotes and this is from Jacob Marley.

[00:20:39] I wear the chain and I forge in life. I think I made a link by link and yard by yard. I gerd it on my own free will and of my own free will. I will wear it. It is pattern strange to you. [00:21:00] Would you talk about how Dickens used Marley’s ghosts to shame and guide Scrooge toward enlightenment and redemption?

[00:21:07] Michael Slater: Well, Marley’s Ghost operates on Scrooge, as it were by the two great tragic emotions of pity and fear. He makes scrooge fearful of the terrible. Suffering in the afterlife that Maori is obviously having to go through. And Mali arouses his pity by showing him the vision of all the poor people starving in the street that he sees.

[00:21:35] And then the struggles of the ratchet family and all the, terrible impact of poverty on family life. So it’s the, great tragic emotions of pity and fear. I think that fear comes in at the end when Scrooge is shown the, the ragged children, the girl and the boy who represent want who are [00:22:00] a tremendous danger to society.

[00:22:02] And Scrooge is warned that if nothing is done about this situation well, basically Dickens is talking about revolution such as there had been in France and of course people were scared to death of the idea of revolution in England in the way that it is been in France.

[00:22:18] GR: . Thank you.

[00:22:19] Mary: professor, , you refer to the Girl Want and the boy. who is Ignorance and written on his faces, doom on his brow. Can you discuss in a little more detail Dicken’s role as a social reform. and how he used his novels to draw attention to the suffering of poor children in his appeal for greater human charity.

[00:22:44] At the time, you know, children, Mr. Bumble Selling Boys, as we saw in all of her twist trying to find homes for them. . , can you talk a little bit more? The suffering of poor children and how, he really impacted people’s views [00:23:00] of how they should be treat. .

[00:23:01] Michael Slater: Well, I think he’d been horrified by two government reports about the employment of children in industry children working terribly long hours in appalling conditions, in factories and so on.

[00:23:15] And also the employment of children in mind. There’d been two very, very shocking government reports about the employment of children in factories and in mines. And these had a huge impact on Dickens and were led very directly, I think, to the Christmas Carol, he said he was thinking of writing something called an appeal to the public on behalf of the working man’s child.

[00:23:40] And he was going to publish that an appeal. And then he had the brilliant idea of the Christmas Carol which he said would come down with. Much more power than any pamphlet that he could write his story. Which of course did have this enormous effect with the figure of tiny Tim the crippled poor [00:24:00] child standing for all the child victims of Victorian England.

[00:24:04] Mary: Thank you, professor Slater. one more question. the, novella a Christmas. I think had more renditions or more movies made or plays done on it than I think it’s in the top four of any story ever written behind, I think Cinderella and a couple others. Is part of that, do you think the optimism.

[00:24:28] At the end of the story when Ebenezer Scrooge, transforms into a new person, do you think that is, what has captured people over, the years that

[00:24:39] Michael Slater: this was written? Oh, yes. I think definitely it’s one of the very strong elements in it that we all feel that we can be a better person as it were.

[00:24:48] THK the Dickens’s great rival novelist admired it tremendously. He, said it, it seemed to. A blessing really to the nation and to every man and woman who [00:25:00] read it, a personal kindness. It had this sort of very direct effect on people. Again, I think it was Zachary who said he, wanted to rush out and give money to people, poor people in the street and so forth.

[00:25:11] Mary: I, I agree. I think, that feeling when, he buys the Turkey and is running through the street is just. , stays with you for a long time. And, and we all wake up and, , feel better about our own lives and things that we can do to help others tough situations.

[00:25:26] , professor Slater, can you please read a favorite paragraph length passage from one of your works, or, from a Christmas Carol to close out the I.

[00:25:35] Michael Slater: I thought the best thing to do would be to read the wonderful beginning of a Christmas Carol.

[00:25:42] Mary: That would be terrific.

[00:25:44] Michael Slater: So this is stage one of the Christmas Carol Marley’s ghost. Marley was dead to begin with. There is no doubt, whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the [00:26:00] Clark, the Undertaker under Chief Mourner. Scrooge signed it and Scrooge’s name was good upon change for anything.

[00:26:08] He chose to put his hand. old Marley was as dead as a doornail mind. I don’t mean to say that I know of my own knowledge what there is particularly dead about a doornail. I might have been inclined myself to regard a coffin nail as the deadest piece of iron manger in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the sime, and my unhallowed hands shall not.

[00:26:34] Or the country’s done for you will therefore permit me to repeat emphatically that Maori was as dead as a doornail. Scrooge knew he was dead. Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator.

[00:26:56] His so assign his soul residual [00:27:00] ity, his soul friend and soul mourn. and even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral and solemnized it with an undoubted bargain.

[00:27:17] Mary: We greatly appreciate your marks and of course we wish you a very merry

[00:27:21] Michael Slater: Christmas and I wish you one too.

[00:27:24] Thank you very.

[00:27:25] Cara: I know that was a wonderful interview, Gerard and Mary Gerard. You know that I was gonna help you close out this show before. Had to sound off. This week’s tweet of the week is from our friend, friend of the show, former guest on the show, Margarite Rosa, who always keeps us grounded in the data, in the numbers.

[00:27:45] And she says, quote, every district’s data tells a different story. Some spend more on magnet schools, some have legacy programs, really fancy jazz programs. Each district has to open the books, take a look and see if they wanna address [00:28:00] some of those patterns. And hmm, I bet when she says open the books charge, she probably means they need to also show stakeholders, parents, community members, et cetera, all the things that are on the books all about transparency and understanding where the money is going.

[00:28:17] Gerard. Next week, we are gonna be back actually in a couple weeks jar, because we’re taking a little holiday break, right? We’re gonna take a little holiday break. We’re gonna be back though with Roosevelt Montas. He’s the director of the Freedom and Citizenship Program at Columbia University. Gerard, I know you celebrate Christmas as do I, and so I am going to wish you.

[00:28:40] a very merry Christmas. I hope you have well deserved time with your family. I dare you to eat something unhealthy and enjoy

[00:28:48] GR: it. , .

[00:28:50] Cara: I’ve already had a lot of Christmas quickies today and we’ll be back. And to our listeners no matter how you’re celebrating or what you’re celebrating a very happy, [00:29:00] healthy, safe, joyful holiday season to.

[00:29:04] GR: I agree. And to all of our guests who’ve been on for this year of 2022, thank you so much for carving out a slice of time to share your ideas, your humor, your questions and really your ideas with our audience, and Merry Christmas to you as well. And to those of the uh, other two, Abrahamic. Who will be celebrating Wish you well and to everyone who is interested in having one thing for Christmas.

[00:29:31] And I won’t sing the Mariah Carey version. Oh, do it On is all I want for Christmas is for us to find common ground to be common people with a

[00:29:40] Cara: goal, a men. And I was only giggling in the background because our producer, Micaela is putting little heart Christmas, Santa emojis everywhere and it was good stuff.

[00:29:50] That is a wonderful sentiment. Gerard, thank you very much. I’ll be thinking of you and can’t wait to talk again in the new year. Take care. [00:30:00] Okay,

[00:30:01] GR: here we come. 2023. Woohoo.

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 Boston University professor, Robert Pinsky discusses his memoir Jersey Breaks: Becoming an American Poet; the enduring influence of sacred texts like the Psalms; and the wide cultural significance of classic poets like Homer and Shakespeare.

U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Hilary Crow on K-12 Civics Education

U.S. Chamber Foundation VP, Hilary Crow discusses the state of K-12 civics, emphasizing the Chamber Foundation’s role in addressing America’s wide civic education deficits. Crow highlights a recent national civics survey, alarming civic literacy gaps, and links between political unrest and our nation’s educational shortcomings in K-12 civics.

UCLA’s Ronald Mellor on Tacitus, Roman Emperors, & Despotism

Dr. Mellor delves into the enduring influence of Tacitus, the great Roman historian, on both America’s Founding Fathers and contemporary understanding of politics and government. He discusses Tacitus's insights on the early Roman emperors, unchecked authority, moral judgment of leadership, and the decline of the Roman Republic, as well as ancient lessons for modern governance.

Tufts Prof. Elizabeth Setren on METCO’s Proven Results

Prof. Setren discusses her recent study of METCO, a pioneering voluntary school desegregation program under which Massachusetts students in Boston and Springfield are bused to surrounding suburban districts. She discusses METCO's history, the academic performance of students in the program, enrollment challenges, long-term benefits, and disparities among students.

Pulitzer Winner Joan Hedrick on Harriet Beecher Stowe & Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Prof. Hedrick discusses Harriet Beecher Stowe's wide literary influence on U.S. history. From her abolitionist activism to the publication of international bestseller Uncle Tom's Cabin, they explore Stowe's New England upbringing, anti-slavery convictions, and lasting impact on American literature and social reform in the 19th century.

Dr. Adrian Mims on The Calculus Project & STEM

Dr. Mims navigates through the contentious "math wars" and underscores the pivotal role of Algebra I as a gateway to higher math. He also evaluates the negative impact of Common Core math standards, and proposes strategies to combat pandemic-induced learning setbacks and bridge the gap in math proficiency between American students and their international counterparts.

Yale University Pulitzer Winner Beverly Gage on J. Edgar Hoover & the FBI

Yale Prof. Beverly Gage, author of "G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American," delves into the enigmatic life and career of J. Edgar Hoover, tracing his formative years in Washington, D.C., his rise to prominence as director of the FBI, and his enduring influence on American law enforcement and politics.

UK U-Warwick’s Benjamin Smith on Mexico’s Cartels & Drug Trade

Prof. Benjamin Smith, author of The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade, provides insights into various aspects of the Mexican drug trade, including its historical context and the evolution of illicit drug products over time. He discusses key cartels and their methods, the impact of the drug trade on Mexico's murder rates, the immense financial scale of the trade, its effect on Mexico and the U.S., and the challenges law enforcement face in combating it. Smith explores the relationship among Mexican cartels, other foreign countries, and the illicit drug market in the U.S.

DFER-MA’s Mary Tamer on MCAS & Teacher Strikes

Mary Tamer focuses on the historic impact of the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act on the commonwealth’s students’ high achievement on national and international measures. She explores the politics of the Massachusetts Teachers Association advocating against the MCAS test as a graduation requirement. In closing, Ms. Tamer also discusses the rise of teacher strikes and their implications for education reform in the Bay State.

U-TN’s Robert Norrell on Booker T. Washington & Voc-Tech

Prof. Robert Norrell explores Booker T. Washington's early life in slavery, his transformative leadership at Tuskegee Institute amidst Jim Crow racism, and his advocacy for vocational education as a means for racial uplift. He also discusses Washington’s 1901 autobiography, Up From Slavery; his controversial White House dinner with President Theodore Roosevelt; and his often overlooked legacy following the activism of the 1960s Civil Rights era.

BC’s Dr. Matthias von Davier on TIMSS & K-12 Global STEM

Dr. von Davier explores his educational background and its influence on directing TIMSS & PIRLS, shedding light on psychometrics and standardized testing. He discusses the shift in education policy's focus, the global education data landscape, and the pandemic's effects on K-12 education around the world. Dr. von Davier addresses the alarming decline in U.S. educational performance, emphasizing the urgency to bridge achievement gaps. Drawing from international experiences, he highlights global examples for American policymakers from higher-performing countries, emphasizing the crucial links between education, skills, and innovation on the global economy.

ExcelinEd’s Dr. Cara Candal on National School Choice Week

Dr. Candal delves into the evolving landscape of K-12 education in the U.S., examining the expansion of private school choice programs post- U.S. Supreme Court decisions, changing political dynamics around charter schools, strategies of the national school choice movement in low-performing states, the role of parent-driven models during the pandemic, the significance of voc-tech education, and addressing underperformance and achievement gaps.