Friday, December 29, 2006

Governor Winter

Dr. Andy Mullins, the Co-Director of the Mississippi Teacher Corps, introduces Gov. William Winter and talks about the writing of the book "Measure of Our Days."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Future...

Had an interesting talk with my cousin Brian Stone over Christmas. Brian is an Assistant Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at Georgia Tech. I asked him what he thought would happen over the next 30 years. The answer: It doesn't look good.

In the next ten years he thinks there will be several more Katrina type storms.

In the next twenty years a significant food shortage, especially in Africa, which will result in mass starvation. This will fuel global conflict.

In the next thirty years, several rogue nations will have nukes and will have used them.

Happy New Year...

Photo of the Week

This is Dennis Shikwambi, my best friend while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia. This photo was taken at a party at his Grandmother's homestead. You can see the traditional huts in the background...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More Than A Woman...

From "The Office" (BBC Version), More Than A Woman followed by David "I sort of fused Flashdance with MC Hammer" Brent's interpretive dance:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

Links of the Week

I've written about The Wire previously. The fourth season, which ended this month, follows four kids through their eighth grade year in inner-city Baltimore. Here is an op/ed by a current Baltimore teacher that appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

The United States and torture.

Tchula is a small, Delta town. MTC has, in the past, placed teachers in Tchula, although it has been about five years. This story is a good example of the myriad of problems faced by a small, Delta town.

Does free will exist?

Our "leaders" can't tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite.

Peter Singer's article on poverty begins with this question: What is a human life worth?

The perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


The second application deadline (of four) for the Mississippi Teacher Corps was yesterday. For the first two deadlines we have received 477 applications total. At first glance it looks like about 30 of these are repeats so that gives us about 450 applications. So far, we are on pace to receive more than 800 applications for 25 spots.

Video of the Week

Gnarls Barkley, Crazy, Live, Top of the Pops

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week will be Peace Corps centric for the next month or so. I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1998 and 1999 as a secondary school teacher in rural Namibia. This is a photo of the sunset, taken from my doorstep, in the village of Tses (or, as the kids called it, T-Six). Every evening this was the view. The mountain in the distance is a dormant volcano...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Deb Raji on the Mississippi Teacher Corps

Here is first-year Deb Raji on the Mississippi Teacher Corps. Don't forget, the next application deadline is December 22nd. Apply online.

List of the Week: Best Michael Mann Films, Number One

"Last of the Mohicans." Like the other films on this list, the cinematography and music are outstanding. Every performance is well-done. Authentic all around. Great action and love story. There are several classic scenes, the best of which the run and escape. I couldn't find a clip of that on YouTube so here is another great scene:

List of the Week: Best Michael Mann Films, Number Two

Number two on the list is "Miami Vice." Came out this summer. I think a lot of people were expecting/wanted a "Charlie's Angels" type movie. Nope. Realistic as can be. No one even utters the words "Miami Vice," as no such department exists. The film is beautifully shot on digital, with a fantastic soundtrack. My favorite song from the movie is "One of These Mornings," by Moby.

The best scene from the movie is the trailer-park shootout:

List of the Week: Best Michael Mann Films, Number Three

List this week is of the three best Michael Mann films. Mann is one of my favorite directors.

Number three on the list is "Heat." "Heat" could have been a classic. Instead it is a near-miss. Pacino, who is my favorite actor, blows it. His performance is a little too hyper, a little too much "Scent of a Woman." Interesting note, they deleted a few scenes from the film of Pacino's character, Vincent Hanna, getting high on coke. Pacino crafted the performance around this, which, of course, explains why he is so hyper in some scenes. I don't know why they deleted the scenes, although my best guess is that the studios didn't want the "hero" of the film to be a cokehead. Anway, without that context the character of Hanna comes off as a little goofy in some scenes.

The second mistake is that DeNiro and Pacino are only in the film, together, for two minutes. Here is a three hour film, with the two best actors of their generation, and you only put them in one scene.

But the good far outweighs the bad. Music, cinematography, atmosphere are all outstanding. These are really the staples of any Michael Mann film. Performances, especially by Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, and DeNiro are great.

And, of course, the legendary bank robbery/shootout:

Monday, December 18, 2006

Links of the Week

20 years ago, a group of lions and cape buffalo were stranded on a 200 KM island in the Okavango Delta. The result: Super-Lions.

From the TED Talk series... Fascinating talk by Sir Ken Robinson on education. The video is about 20 minutes, but Robinson is both incredibly intelligent and very funny...

Drop out of high school, lose your driver's license.

Mississippians killed in Iraq.

David Pogue on Net Etiquette.

Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America, on recruiting.

The Mississippi Teacher Corps deadline is December 22nd. Apply online here.

Meet one of our first acceptees for next year's class: Chimaobi Amutah.

The N word...

The N Word Part Two...

Chaos Theory, a simple, yet completely addicting game. My high score is 123.

Best World Music of 2006. Toure's album is outstanding.

A Bi-Partisan commission has released a report on education with some fairly radical (for the U.S.) suggestions. Here's a quote from the NYT: Among other things, the report proposes starting school for most children at age 3, and requiring all students to pass board exams to graduate from high school, which for many would end after 10th grade. Students could then go to a community or technical college, or spend two years preparing for selective colleges and universities.

For you education policy wonks, here is a paper on certification. The study includes TFA. I hope to do a similar study about MTC at some point. Thanks to alum Chris Wilkens for the paper. First sentence: We use six years of data on student test performance to evaluate the effectiveness of certified, uncertified, and alternatively certified teachers in the New York City public schools.

Mississippi's prison population keeps growing, most of it drug related. We've had a thirty year "War on Drugs" and what do we have to show for it?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Kermit Evans

Here's an email from one of our alumni, Lauren (Glas) Zarandona, who still teaches in Hollandale, about Kermit Evans, the young man who died in Iraq.

I tried calling you last Saturday after Kermit's memorial service. It was incredibly emotional. His parents and wife accepted bronze stars in his memory. It was a beautiful addition to a service honoring an honest-to-goodness hero. After reading your most recent blog I wanted to let you know about my connection with him, a connection that started at the Simmons High career fair in 2004.

It was my first year teaching. As I wandered around the career fair, I met Kervin Evans, Mr. Evans' oldest son and an agricultural researcher. I invited him to speak to my 7th grade math classes that afternoon. He was honored and did an awesome job. My students finally realized that math is used beyond the classroom, even by people from Holandale. In his excitement, Kervin asked his wife to take a picture of us together. A few months later, Kermit returned home from his first tour in Iraq. He saw the picture and teased his brother about the "cute young woman in the picture." Shortly after that, Kermit came to a banquet for Ms. Young and presented her with a flag that was flown in Iraq. While everyone mingled, he approached me and teased me about the photo. He also shared his wedding photos with me.

Meeting both men was like meeting up with long-lost relatives. Maybe a connection to the Delta is all that it takes to make you family with those who owe it for who they are. They make their home your home.

But even while "at home," I often feel frustrated. I wish that I better understood what my students need and when; sometimes all that I can do is teach them math (just a small part of my job). Other times (very rarely), I can do more. I, like the Evans' men, can make them family. Those are the best moments, the moments that inspire me to keep teaching.

Adryon on the Mississippi Teacher Corps

Excerpt from our Teacher Spotlight series. Today is Adryon Wong. Adryon is one of our first-year teachers in the Mississippi Teacher Corps.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Myrlie Evers

Governor Winter on the dinner he held for Myrlie Evers, the wife of Medgar Evers:

Photo of the Week

This is a photo from my first year of teaching, 1998, in Namibia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. This is Aina Mukumangani, from the village of Engela, on the northern border of Namibia, about two miles from the Angolan border.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Public Schools versus Private Schools

Would you feel comfortable sending your children to public school in Mississippi today?

Racial Reconciliation

Former Mississippi Governor William Winter talked to the second-years on Saturday. Here is what he had to say about racial reconciliation (you can see more clips from the talk here and photos here).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

List of the Week: Top Four Erykah Badu Songs

My senior year at Amherst College I had a radio show on WAMH. I played R and B, mostly old-school as the early to mid-nineties were a terrible time for soul music. Really, there hadn't been much done since the 70's. The 80's and 90's were all about Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston and watered down Stevie Wonder. Great singers, but not much in the way of innovation. Then, around 1996 (I graduated in 97) some great neo-soul artists burst on the scene, people like D'Angelo, Tony Rich, Maxwell, and Erykah Badu. They set the stage for the late-90's explosion, headlined by Lauren Hill. This, in turn, set the stage for Alicia Keys, John Legend, India Arie, Joss Stone, and all the other emerging, great artists of today.

I remember finding Erykah Badu's first single, "Next Lifetime," amid the stacks of records in the WAMH station during senior year. So, in honor of Ms. Badu, here are my favorite Erykah Badu songs:

4. Your Precious Love. Erykah and D'Angelo cover the Marvin Gaye classic.

3. Tyrone. Originally ad-libbed live at a show in London.

2. Next Lifetime. I remember playing this over and over again during senior year.

1. In Love With You. From the "Mama's Gun" album. Five minutes and twenty-one seconds of perfection. Badu and Stephen Marley.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Links of the Week

Updated Mississippi Teacher Corps stuff:

Three Seniors, a documentary about three high school seniors that I am working on.

Governor Winter visited with Teacher Corps on Saturday. Photos here.

Second-year Ruth Kuhnau is an outstanding photographer.

MTC Wiki has been updated and organized.

Apply to Teacher Corps today. The next deadline is December 22nd.

Also, more on Kermit Evans, the Hollandale native and Simmons High graduate, who died in Iraq here.

Teen Pregnancy

Former Mississippi Governor William Winter talked to the second-years on Saturday. Here is what he had to say about teen pregnancy (you can see more clips from the talk here and photos here).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Erica on Findng Out She Was Pregnant

Erica talks about the first person she talked to when she found out she was pregnant, from the film I'm working on: Three Seniors.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

List of the Week: Best Mamet Quotes

David Mamet is one of favorite writers and directors.

He's famous for "Glengary Glen Ross" and "The Untouchables" but, in the last nine years, he has written and directed some fantastic, little-known, films:

The Spanish Prisoner, a suspense film about the oldest con on the books;

The Winslow Boy, a drama bout a boy accused of lying;

State and Main, a comedy about a movie production coming to a small, Vermont town;

Heist, a, you guessed it, heist film;

Spartan, an action movie about a Delta Force soldier trying to rescue the president's daughter.

The last two, Heist and Sparten, are my favorite. They are flawless films.

Here are the top quotes from those films:


1) Indicate you heard me.

2) In the city there is always a refelection, in the woods always a sound.

3) You wanted to go through the looking glass. How was it? Was it more fun than miniature golf?

4) You're gonna leave your life or you're gonna leave the information in this room.

5) Ain't nobody here but two people in green.

6) You need to set your motherfucker to "receive".

7) "One riot, one ranger," you ever heard that?


1) My motherfucker is so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him.

2) Bergman: Don't you want to hear my last words?

Joe: I just did.

3) Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money.

4) I don't want you as quiet as an ant pissing on cotton. I want you as quiet as an ant not even thinking about pissing on cotton.

5) Love makes the world go round. Love of gold.

6) I tried to imagine a fella smarter than myself. Then I tried to think, "what would he do?"

7) Cute as a pail full of kittens.

8) She could talk her way out of a sunburn.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Links of the Week

Mississippi. 1950. In the dark of night a knock at the door. Three white men. With guns. The Clarion-Ledger article here.

ACLU picks Mississippi for investment. I've found that a lot of Mississippians, even those leaning to the left, have a skewed view of the ACLU as an "evil organization." This "evil organization" plans to address such topics as: racial profiling; felony disenfranchisement; and unfair treatment of hurricane victims living in government mobile units. Full disclosure, growing up in Baltimore my mother worked for the ACLU and my father served on the Board.

Deregulation of the trucking industry leads to: a decrease in training; an increase in accidents; an increase in profits; and an increase in political donations to the Bush admin.

According to this survey, Bush is the worst President ever.

Those of you who keep up with the Mississippi Teacher Corps know that I am a big believer in open source Web 2.0 ideas like wikis and blogs. Basically, I'm a big believer in having the organization (in this case the Teacher Corps) be as transparent as possible. If it was up to me we'd post the budget on the website. Anyway, great article about: the possibilities of wikis and blogs for the various U.S. spy agencies; the outstanding results from the trial runs; and the opposition of middle management and the old guard.

Speaking of wikis, the MTC Wiki is growing...

Do schools need Superintendents?

In Mississippi, 18.4% of the teachers are male. MTC is about 50/50 each year.

Governor Winter to Address MTC

In what has become an annual occurrence, former Mississippi Governor William Winter will speak to the members of the Mississippi Teacher Corps on Saturday, December 9th as part of Dr. Andy Mullins’ Leadership class. Dr. Mullins, the Co-Director and Co-Creator of the Mississippi Teacher Corps, served as Special Assistant to the Governor from 1980 to 1984. Dr. Mullins was part of the fabled “Boys of Spring,” a group of young staff members pushing for educational reform. Gov. Winter’s signature act was the Mississippi Education Reform Act of 1982, which, among other things, created kindergarten for all Mississippi children. The Education Reform Act also opened the door for alternate-route teacher certification, which in turn, led to the creation of the Mississippi Teacher Corps in 1989.

“Year in and year out, Governor Winter is far and away everyone’s favorite speaker,” said Dr. Mullins. “We are honored that he takes time out of his busy schedule each year to come and spend time with the Teacher Corps students.”

Dr. Mullins recently published a book collecting Governor Winter’s most memorable speeches and writings, titled “The Measure of Our Days.” “The book has sold out of two printings,” said Dr. Mullins. “Governor Winter and I have been traveling all over the country doing signings and readings. It has been great to see old friends.”

William Winter served as Governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Mullins’ preface to “The Measure of Our Days.”

The noted author, David Halberstam, called William Winter his favorite politician and personal hero. In his dedication address for the William F. Winter Archives in and History Building on November 7, 2003, Halberstam said:

I believed for a long time that America would not be whole until Mississippi became part of it, and you [Winter] more than any other politician are the architect of the new Mississippi and the new America… What made you special as a politican was in the end something elemental in all of our best politicians-a faith in the nobility of ordinary people, and a belief that if spoken to with candor and decency, they can rise to the occasion. It is nothing less than the most basic premise of a working democracy. Have faith in the people and their better nature. You understood the importance in this state, of the special burden of the past, and the responsibility to the future and again and again in your decisions, and blended mercy and compassion and a sense of justice against the harsher pressures of immediate political necessities.