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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Melwood Park, Prince George's County, Maryland, open house tours

Melwood Park open house tours:

This unique dwelling was visited by George Washington on several occasions and the British Army camped here during their march to Washington, D.C. in August 1814, during the War of 1812.

Address:  “Melwood Park” - 10908 Old Marlboro Pike, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772

Date:  Saturday, August 18 and Saturday, August 25, Saturday, September 8 and Saturday, September 15

Time:  Two tours will be given on each day, the first at 12:00 pm and the second at 2:30 pm

Contact:  Michael Vallen -

                                - He is working on getting a phone line set up to receive calls about these tours, however at this point email is the best way to contact him.

Additional Info:  - Parking is available on site if needed, however we are also looking into the possibility of parking at the park located next door. 

 - Water and restrooms will also be available on site. 

 - He is asking for something small, 
perhaps a $5 donation to go towards the building fund.

 “Melwood Park” website with additional information and building history can be found:  

Melwood Park,  listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, is an unusual surviving example of early Prince George's County architecture. It was constructed ca. 1750 by the prominent Digges family, and is quite large and finely detailed for that period. Dwellings of this early settlement period in Prince George's County were generally smaller, more impermanent and of vernacular, rather than a more academically inspired Georgian style as seen at Melwood park. Few exhibited the architectural detailing of Melwood Park which reflects the wealth and social status of the Digges family. The fact that it has survived relatively intact is even more rare. Once the
"mansion house" of a large tobacco plantation, Melwood Park was reduced to a small tenant farm over the past hundred years or so. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Prince George's County should explore creative change in the public school system

               After reading today's Washington Post story on Rocketship Charter Schools success in California, my thoughts naturally turned to Prince George's County.[1] One could easily imagine inviting the charter school here, but I wonder why the public school system itself could not find a way to think creatively and, in consultation with community and parents, try out a similar program at a few existing public schools in the county.

               Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that "Rocketship has been noted for producing high scores on standardized tests with pupils who are predominantly Latino and poor. The schools combine tutor-led computer instruction with face-to-face teaching and get many teachers from Teach for America."[2] Wouldn't it be exciting to report the same for the Prince George's County School System?

               The novel model combines “face-to-face” education in a specific place (what used to be called “school”) with online instruction in “hybrid” educational product. This novel system differs from "blended learning" because the computers are not actually “blended” with face-to-face instruction in the same classroom.[3]

               In the autumn of 2013, Milwaukee is planning to establish K-5 charter schools would serve up to 500 students each for a total enrollment of 4,000 students by 2017. This of course will bring added pressure on its existing school system. An unintended outcome would be to funnel motivated parents to spend the time to find the charter schools, leaving the struggling unsupported behind in the compromised public school system.

               Prince George's County needs to explore creative changes for the future good of the public school system while at the same time supporting its mission of excellence.  

[1] Lyndsey Layton. 2012. Is a charter school chain called Rocketship ready to soar across America? © 1996-2012 The Washington Post. [accessed July 30, 2012]
[2] Erin Richards. 2012. California-based Rocketship Education launching charter schools in Milwaukee. © Copyright 2009- 2012, Journal Sentinel, Inc. [accessed July 30, 2012]
[3] Jonathan Schorr and Deborah McGriff. 2011. Future Schools. Copyright © 2011 President & Fellows of Harvard College. [accessed July 30, 2012]

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Prince George's County public school system

               The Prince George's County public school system traces its roots back to the aftermath of the Civil War and the 1864 Maryland Constitution. Under the first school board president and first superintendent, Dr. John Bayne of Salubria, OxonHill, Maryland, and local control was established in order to meet the specific needs and preferences of the population. The governance of the education system was separated from general governance of the County with a focus on lay oversight concentrating on policy making. Day to day operations relied on a professional superintendent for management.

               The public responsibility to educate its young in order to ensure their ability to participate fully in the workforce of tomorrow is a constant challenge for Prince George's County, Maryland. Unlike in Washington, D.C., where the Mayor has direct authority over the city’s school system, or in, say, Philadelphia, where the Mayor appoints two members to a five-member school system authority, in Prince George’s County, the executive has no control over the county’s schools beyond allocating funds.

                In essence, the management is patterned on corporate boards of directors with a chief executive officer.[1]  The democratic representation of all citizens through at-large elections, however, is missing. The election by specific district reinforces the parochial interference that is an on-going characterization of the school system.

               According to the Maryland state department of education, 41 percent of Prince George’s County’s schools have been identified as schools in need of improvement.[2] There is an obvious need for change in how the school system is administered at the highest level - the school board. And yet we have had a series of school boards so it would follow that it is not the specific personalities as much as the system of the independent school board itself that may be at the root of the challenges and problems. A well-worn cliché tells us that repeatedly doing the same thing while expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.    

               Perhaps it is time to have a public conversation about holding a county executive and his team responsible and moving the school system into the county executive's office. This idea comes with significant risk, of course, especially in light of recent illegal activities and pay for play antics of past years, however, given the school systems budget comes from the County Council and the County Executive, it seems a natural consideration to hold them accountable directly instead of injecting yet another layer of self interest into the mix. Let's see if we can stop going the same thing over and over again, and stop being constantly surprised that we get the same results over and over again.

[1] Deborah Land. 2002. Local School Boards Under Review: Their Role and Effectiveness
in Relation to Students’ Academic Achievement. Johns Hopkins [accessed July 29, 2012]
[2] George Barnette. 2012. Maryland No. 1 in School Rankings although Baltimore and Prince George’s lag. [accessed July 29, 2012]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Prince Georges County (Maryland) Executive Rushern L. Baker, III visits USDA-ARS BARC and NAL

Prince Georges County (Maryland) Executive Rushern L. Baker, III and many of the county’s senior officials were treated to an expertly led information gathering visit and tour of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) and the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) on June 20.  For several of the county visitors, it was their first official visit to these landmark Beltsville institutions located in Prince George's County. One singularly impressed senior official was overheard to say that he had just discovered a couple of the county’s best kept secrets.

And how appropriate that this high-level group of county officials should chose 2012 for their visit, this year marking 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a watershed act of congress which among other things “established [within] … the United States a Department of Agriculture, the general designs and duties of which shall be to acquire and to diffuse among the people of the United States useful information on subjects connected with agriculture in the most general and comprehensive sense of that word, and to procure, propagate, and distribute among the people new and valuable seeds and plants.”

Those poignant words all but echoed from the walls of the NAL’s Abraham Lincoln Building as NAL Director Simon Liu led the visitors through a lively Power Point presentation of how the Library carries out the founding vision some 150 year on.  Dr. Liu discussed the NAL collection of more than 3.5 million items covering every aspect of agriculture and related sciences. The depth and richness of the collection make it unequaled, he would say, with many materials available nowhere else in the world. NAL's collection fills over 48 miles of shelves, making it one of the largest agricultural collections in the world.

Today, NAL covers scholarly agricultural literature comprehensively. Its purpose is to ensure the collection represents the content and diversity of the world's agricultural literature.  NAL has expanded its capacity to meet researchers and the general public's demand for electronic and digital agricultural information. NAL will remain on the leading edge of modern Information Technology in the days and years ahead.

After the NAL visit, County Executive Baker and his group boarded a BARC bio-fuel bus for an information-laden tour through some of BARC’s 7,000 acres.  BARC Director Joseph Spence would provide fast-paced commentary and instruction. While pointing out highlights along the way, Dr. Spence would explain that BARC is the largest and most diversified agricultural research complex in the world.

Beltsville's record of accomplishments and ongoing programs, he would say, make BARC a world leader in agriculture research. Its international reputation attracts thousands of visitors each year from the United States and abroad.
Beltsville Area research touches on all of these national topics and needs:
  • Ensure high-quality safe food and other agricultural products
  • Assess the nutritional needs of Americans
  • Sustain a competitive agricultural economy
  • Enhance the natural resource base and the environment
  • Provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole
Want to see more? Here is some recently published Beltsville research stories culled from Agricultural Research, the Department of Agriculture's science magazine:

And last, and after Dr. Spence had completed a final stop at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (largest of its kind in the United States), it was back to NAL for a final quick visit to the NAL Special Collections. What’s special? Well, there are rare books, manuscript collections, nursery and seed trade catalogs, photographs, and posters from the 1500s to the present and more. Interested in some agricultural musings by Presidents Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln? You’ve come to the right place. Materials cover a variety of agricultural subjects including horticulture, entomology, poultry sciences, natural history, and are not limited to domestic publications.

story by Jim Butcher, NARA-B