Behind the Curtain at TMM

'St. Patrick Eats Bagels'

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!

I was talking to one of our Mocha Moms, Jolene Ivey, who is in her spare time (!) a state representative to the Maryland legislature. I told her how much I enjoyed St. Patrick's Day when I covered the legislature, years ago. Everybody had their own twist on it. One state senator handed out buttons saying "St. Patrick Eats Bagels." Another used to put a piece of lettuce in his jacket pocket, like a pocket square (okay, maybe you had to be there for that one).

It made me wonder whether other holidays that now feel very ethnically specific, like Cinco de Mayo or Juneteenth, will one day become just like St. Pat's, or even Columbus Day — a day to dip into another culture without apology or regret (not even Columbus Day does that because, let's face it, for many Native Americans, it's a day of mourning, the beginning of the end of their cultures as they knew them).

A rocky start to the morning

Why lie? We were kicked out of our regular studio, 4B, because of technical problems (now fixed). We had to do the show from 3A — not my usual spot. If I sound a little different — and not just because I'm getting over a cold — that might be why. Different mics really do generate a different sound.

This morning was also rocky because we expected to have a second guest for our conversation about the alternative school in Atlanta, APS-CEP Partnership School (Atlanta Public Schools-Community Education Partners, for short). Apparently, many parents are complaining that the school does a poor job of educating students who have been moved out of regular schools because of behavior problems. We talked to a parent, whose son is enrolled at the school, and a lawyer for the ACLU, which is representing the parents in a class action lawsuit against both the school and the Atlanta school district. The school is publicly funded, but privately operated (one reason we were interested: "privatization" is one tool school districts have been employing to try to bring more innovative solutions to ongoing education challenges).

The questions here are: is Atlanta getting its money's worth, and are the standards and practices acceptable?

Some of the parents strongly suggest the answer to both questions is no.

Anyway, we thought we would have both sides on the program; apparently there was a miscommunication about time because the school spokesman was not where we needed him to be when we planned to talk to him, but we did get a statement from CEP with talking points. We'll figure out whether, or how, we can get a representative from CEP on the show later this week.

A crowded week

The fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, most notably. As with many of our NPR programs, we will have more to say on that subject later this week.

Other stories we are working on: a conversation about Sen. Barack Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a prominent African-American minister out of Chicago, who is retiring from his prominent pulpit. But not before having words from one of his more incendiary sermons become an issue. We hope to talk with clergy of various backgrounds about how they are reacting to this controversy; we also expect to have a couple of visits with newsmakers, past and present.

And, one more thing: Margaret Seltzer, author of the fake gang memoir Love and Consequences. We're still trying to piece together that puzzle, so we reached out to someone Seltzer mentioned in her interview with us. The Rev. James Jones, Jr., talked to Margaret as her book was coming out. SHE told me that he kind of gave her a blessing in writing the book, but Jones says he had no idea who she really was.

There's a lesson in all this, but I think we're still piecing together exactly what the lesson is. More on that soon, we hope.

And, thanks to those who have been writing to add your piece to the puzzle.

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