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Blue Review Writers Talk the Talk on Education

POSTED BY  ON THU, FEB 21, 2013 AT 3:28

The second issue of The Blue Review, Boise Weekly’s partnership publication with Boise State, hit stands this week, dissecting the topic of education with a combination of academic precision and alt-weekly sass.

Last night, Feb. 20, some of the folks behind The Blue Review gathered at the Alaska Center for a discussion and forum on the articles in the sophomore issue.

To open the forum, Blue Review Editor Nathaniel Hoffman read briefly from a book of essays called The University of Tomorrowland by Jerry Farber. Farber described his vision of Jetsons/Metropolis-style university the size of a city enclosed in a glass dome with defenses against “enemy missiles.”

Hoffman said he opened with that to contrast how education is actually being disrupted by technology.

The first writer to discuss his piece in The Blue Review was Chris Blanchard, who spoke about his article “Make or Buy? The software developer shortage that isn’t,” a scathing condemnation of Idaho’s attempts to dump money into educating software designers.

“I lived in Seattle and know what a real software economy looks like,” he said. “This isn’t it.”

Blanchard said the numbers show that regions that have top-notch education for software engineers but not genuine software economies simply bleed new graduates to other markets, and that in Idaho, software engineers account for 2.18 jobs per thousand in the state, compared to Washington’s 12.48.

Blanchard said that if Idaho is serious about developing a software economy, the most important thing it could do is to stop referring to itself as a “rural” and “agricultural” state, things that don’t appeal to the wired generation, and to conceptually urbanize.

Blanchard acknowledged that his thesis is likely to be contentious, considering the folk wisdom that the future is all about tech. He was correct—his presentation generated much discussion.

The next speaker, who wasn’t published in the Blue Review, was Ross Perkins. Perkins spoke about the growth of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, a sort of distance-learning program that allows hundreds of thousands of people to take part in courses offered by marquee universities, and what the availability of those courses means for institutions like Boise State. As MOOCs are still developing, much of what Perkins discussed was theoretical.

One member of the audience took issue with MOOCs being part of a perceptual shift aligning education solely with job training. Others expressed concern with the idea of classrooms without actual facetime with teachers.

Perkins said that the reality was that colleges often hire experts in science fields that have never taken a single course in education, so the reality is that a good online course can be infinitely preferable to a bad professor.

The final speaker was Tad Conner, who dissected a federal study and a series of state talking points on the efficacy of merit pay for teachers.

Afterwards, the discussion continued into the evening next door at The Crux.

See the article in the Boise Weekly.

Read The Blue Review.

Local, Simple, Fresh

local_simple_fresh_cover copy“Just eat local” has emerged as the mantra of a spiritual quest for simple living and healthier food. Local, Simple, Fresh considers the economics and ethics of farm-to-fork within 100 miles. Topics include organic ranching, vanishing cropland, craft beers, local wines, public markets, potato pundits, urban worms and the politics of farm subsidies. Full color with maps, charts, art, and photography.

Quintessential Boise

Quintessential BoiseQuintessential Boise offers a five-star system for understanding authentic streetscapes. Searching for the Boise in Boise—for the elements that define our city, making Boise unique—the book is a primer on architecture that works.

Idaho Landscapes: La Cultura Mexicana

La Cultura MexicanaThis special issue tells the immigrant story of tells the story of pioneers neglected in textbooks, of horsemen who invented the cowboy, of indignities and discrimination, of triumph and assimilation, of artists transplanting tradition, of people yearning to become Idahoans in the mainstream of American life.Lavishly illustrated with more than 100 color photographs.   Topics include music, cowboys, immigration, labor problems, heath care, birthday traditions, and the day of dead.

Urban West Revisited

Urban West RevisitedUrban West Revisited offers a solid primer on challenges faced by elected officials in 10 midsized western cities hit hard by the Great Recession: Boise, Idaho; Eugene and Salem, Oregon; Modesto, California; Pueblo, Colorado; Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Tacoma and Spokane, Washington; and Tempe, Arizona.

The Blue Review Goes to Press: An Article from the Boise Weekly

Posted by George Prentice on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 12:17 PM

UPDATE: The timing couldn’t be better. The morning after the latest (and most contentious) presidential debate and five days before the final face-off, The Blue Review—popular scholarship in the public interest—hit newsstands this morning.

Additionally, The Blue Review’s website, Facebook and Twitter went live today, offering more context on the inaugural’s theme of presidential politics.

Look for The Blue Review, to be published quarterly, inside the current edition of Boise Weekly and check out the Blue Review website here.


Offering scholarship, fact-driven analysis and dissemination of the subjects of our times, editors and contributors are anxiously awaiting Wednesday’s unveiling of The Blue Review, published by the Boise State University College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs, which will be inserted in the new edition of Boise Weekly.

The inaugural hard-copy edition of The Blue Review will offer an expertly timed look at all things political—local, regional and national.

The first issue will showcase the work of writers and scholars that “are necessarily different from the voices you will hear in the mainstream media. They aim to inform and explain, reminding us of our shared history and its relevance to our future.”

The issue includes:

Church of Romney: Mormons in the shadow of a candidate, by Dr. Ross Peterson of Utah State
The Obama/Romney Amendments: The Constitution, war making and foreign affairs, by Dr. David Adler of Boise State
The Obama Effect: A racial Rorschach test, by Dr. Jill Bill of Boise State
Casting Into the Green Hole: Environmentalists and candidates fail to speak the same language, by Rick Johnson
Red Tide Rising: Fears from the 1950s haunt Obama in 2012, by Dr. Todd Shallat of Boise State


Coping with the Great Recession

From Boise Weekly, George Prentice, 05/02/12

Down and Out

The problem started with a hammer. In fact, way too many hammers. The soundtrack of the economically flush times, only a decade ago, was the incessant noise of hammers echoing across the Treasure Valley. Simply put, we built too many homes.

“A lot of people think that the Boise economy was buttressed by software and Micron and all the rest,” said Todd Shallat, director of Boise State’s Center for Idaho History and Politics. “But what the economy is really all about is how the Treasure Valley went crazy with construction.”

Shallat and a team of students, scholars, editors and civic leaders have spent the better part of a year chronicling what went wrong in what many pundits have called “the great recession.” Their findings have been compiled in Down and Out in Ada County.

“A year ago, for a previous publication, we examined Boise’s sprawl problem,” said Shallat. “In many ways, we lead the nation in our severity of sprawl and that, in turn, led us to a great deal of unsustainable housing stock.”

Shallat and his team are convinced that when an economic recovery finally settles in (but he doesn’t expect that happening anytime soon), the analysis will show that while Idahoans continued to build too many houses, they spent too little time or energy on public infrastructure.

“This is what we call a ‘structural recession,’ unlike anything we had before,” he said. “Even after unemployment recovers, we will have a structural weakness in the Ada County recovery. And it has everything to do with bad planning.”

When asked if the Treasure Valley’s governmental entities were prepared to correct the course, Shallat took a long breath and exhaled a long, “Noooooooooooo.”

“That’s part of the problem. There’s too many of them,” said Shallat, who rattled off a laundry list of local governments. “You can’t even get all the agencies in one room.”

As Shallat’s team researched the book, experts ushered in to brief the would-be authors on how Ada County got so down and out. Social service providers, civic planners and law enforcement all weighed in.

“[Ada County] Sheriff Gary Raney shocked the heck out of me,” said Dennis O’Dell, 61, a 16-year veteran of the National Security Agency and one of the student authors of Down and Out in Ada County. “Raney said that there were 250 people at the Ada County Jail when he was first elected. Today, he said, there are more than 1,000 people behind bars and 750 of them shouldn’t be there.”

O’Dell’s contribution to Down and Out in Ada County is a chapter on how the recession has tipped the balance of justice, in particular decreased funding to Idaho Legal Aid Service.

“In the good years, they could serve one out of five people that applied for assistance,” said O’Dell. “Today they can probably only serve one out of 18 eligible clients.”

O’Dell said an increasing number of legal aid offices have limited their hours and too many positions remain unfilled.

“I looked at their organization chart,” said O’Dell. “There were so many spots that said vacant, vacant, vacant.”

Laurie Rodgers, 31, another of the book’s authors, set her sights on education. She’s poised to pick up her bachelor’s of science degree in sociology at Boise State’s commencement on Saturday, May 12, and she’s anxious to begin work on a master’s in community and regional planning, also at Boise State.

“Of course, education was my choice,” said Rodgers. “I took a long, hard look at public education in the Boise and Meridian school districts.”

The Independent School District of Boise and the Meridian Joint School District No. 2 comprise approximately 20 percent of the state’s total K-12 enrollment, a total of more than 65,500 students. Rodgers’ primary focus was on recent supplemental levy elections in both districts.

“Last year’s ‘no’ vote in Meridian was so devastating,” she said. “The right-wing media spun that issue and their argument had little to do with education.”

Rodgers said the argument against the 2011 levy was daunting–with homeowners stretching every dollar they had in a bad economy, opponents convinced many Meridian residents that they simply couldn’t afford to vote “yes.” Ultimately, the Meridian district came back to its citizens and asked them to approve a scaled-back supplemental levy in February, which passed.

“But Meridian is scraping by. I just don’t know how they’re going to get through the next couple of years,” said Rodgers.

On the flip side, Rodgers said a well-managed supplemental levy campaign in Boise passed overwhelmingly because of what she wrote was a “qualitative and quantitative difference in how each district chose to portray its budget outlook.” While Meridian chose to highlight a “detailed story of each cut the school board chose, the Boise School District accented the accomplishments they’ve made despite cuts.”

“[Boise] had great success,” said Rodgers. “Especially considering our current economic circumstance.”

Down and Out also includes an apples-to-apples comparison between the current downturn and 1982.

“We were in the midst of an oil crisis, high unemployment and, of course, high inflation, or as they used to call it at the time, ‘stagflation,'” said Daniel Gans, referring to the slang of when inflation and unemployment skyrocket while economic growth slows to a crawl.

Gans, 30, who will also graduate from Boise State on May 12, was a newborn in 1982 but he was tutored on Boise’s last great recession by the man who served as mayor for the City of Trees from 1974-1986: Richard Eardley.

“Mayor Eardley told me, ‘We learned to live with less,'” said Gans. “The sudden loss of revenue caught Boise off guard.”

Gans’ chronicle of the ’82 recession included the reduction of 200 teachers in one year from the Boise School District, the elimination of 100 courses at Boise State and significant cuts to public safety.

“Boise had to close down a fire station and lay off firefighters and police officers,” said Gans. “And it took us a long time to recover. By 1990, we still had fewer firefighters employed in Boise than there were in 1978.”

Eardley said the times were incredibly difficult, but, he said, “We kept the city alive.”

Eardley’s 2012 counterpart, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, also contributed to Down and Out. Along withLisa McGrath, an attorney who specializes in new media law, and Landis Rossi, executive director of Catholic Charities of Idaho, Bieter was asked to offer his thoughts on how Boise might avoid the austerity seen in 1982. One of his comments rang familiar:

“We cannot continue to rely so heavily on housing construction, an industry and a market that may never regain their former vigor,” wrote Bieter.

While Down and Out documents how the Treasure Valley copes with its current great recession, it also includes a surprise or two.

“For instance, our local food economy is much, much bigger than people think,” said Shallat. “The wine industry, the beer industry. It’s big. And guess what? That will be the topic of our next book. You can look for that next year.”

Urban West Revisited Offers Timely Look at Uncertain Times


You can’t fight City Hall, but you can strive to better understand the challenges facing those tasked with providing municipal services in an ever-changing political landscape. To that end, the College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs (SSPA) at Boise State University has released the second book in its Idaho Metropolitan Research Series.

Titled “Urban West Revisited: Governing Cities in Uncertain Times,” the book is a revision of an acclaimed 1990s study, updated and colorfully illustrated with more than 200 graphics and photos. The softbound volume sells for $29.95.

“Urban West Revisited” offers a solid primer on challenges faced by elected officials in 10 midsized western cities hit hard by the Great Recession: Boise, Idaho; Eugene and Salem, Ore.; Modesto, Calif.; Pueblo, Colo.; Reno, Nev.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Tacoma and Spokane, Wash.; and Tempe, Ariz. The book explores their common problems and illustrates hard-fought solutions in difficult times.

The Idaho Metropolitan Research Series illustrates a commitment to good scholarship, accessibly written and colorfully presented.

“Our new primer on city governments is especially timely,” said SSPA Dean Melissa Lavitt. “Written for policy makers, students and the general public, it shows how cities have responded to the challenge of lost revenue during our current recession. It offers hope that Boise and its peer communities can learn to think beyond the current crisis, to govern smartly and to cope.”

“Urban West Revisited” is masterfully written by Stephanie Witt, professor of public policy and administration, and James Weatherby, emeritus associate professor of public policy.

Topics covered include city governance, influences and trends in city administration, the history of municipalities and government, tax limitations and the impact of policies, among others. Timelines, tables and illustrations combine with text to educate readers about the day-to-day governance that affects so much of their lives.

Ten Places Where Immigrants Left Their Mark

Get out of your car, grab guidebook and really see Boise, historian says – ‘ Ethnic Landmarks ‘ features 10 spots in Boise where immigrants left their mark

Idaho Statesman, The (Boise, ID) – Friday, January 26, 2007

Ethnic LandmarksTodd Shallat, the city historian, would like more people to tour Downtown Boise the way he does: from the ground up.

Shallat walks Boise’s city center instead of driving whenever possible. And he’s encouraging others to do so, as well, to appreciate the small vestiges of Boise’s past that are hidden in the alleys or painted in fading ink on the city’s buildings.

“There’s nothing more basic and nothing more green than cruising through your neighborhood at three miles an hour on your feet,” Shallat said. “It’s not only good for your lungs — it’s good for your community.”

With this concept in mind, Shallat has written a guidebook for City Hall called ” Ethnic Landmarks ,” the first in a series aimed at showing people around the city at a walk.

When Boise was a young city, he notes, almost nobody drove.

“Walking shaped the way people interacted, and it created a city of ethnic enclaves that have been depleted today,” Shallat said.

Ethnic Landmarks ” features ten spots in Boise where immigrants left their mark — such as the Star Hotel, a Basque boardinghouse from 1903 to 1975, and O’Farrell’s Cabin, a one-room cottonwood structure that was the site of Boise’s first Catholic Mass. A section on Chinatown shows a 1908 parade of Chinese residents with a large cloth dragon on 7th Street. Only a few buildings from the old Chinatown survive today.

The walking guidebook series one day will include books on Rose Hill, Warm Springs, South Boise and the North End.

Through encouraging Boise residents to take a closer look at their neighborhoods, city leaders hope to educate them as Boise planners manage the city’s enormous population growth. They’re looking for ways to integrate automobiles and pedestrians into the landscape and to create neighborhoods where residents are diverse in age, income and background.

The point “is not to get rid of the auto, but to open up as many ways of transit through the city as possible,” Shallat said. “Walking, biking, mass transit, walking through alleys.”

How you get around really does make a difference in how you see the city, said Rich Harris, who owns the Downtown store Bandanna Running and Walking. Harris rides his bike to work every day and sees more of Boise that way, he said.

“I don’t always take the same way to work; I’ll go down a different block just to see what’s going on,” he said. “You could never do that in a car.”

If residents walk, businesses that cater to pedestrians will follow, Shallat said. Those businesses might include a corner store that sells a gallon of milk.

By creating this place, Boise can avoid the fate of places that have been ruined by sprawl and have made walking impossible, Shallat said.

“I’m a child of the suburbs; it was dreadful,” said Shallat, who grew up in California. “The only place we got together and congregated was the parking lot in front of the liquor store.”

Shallat, a history teacher who is director of the Center for Idaho History and Politics at Boise State University, takes his BSU students on walking tours of the city’s alleys to see the backs of the old buildings, some of them still bearing painted-on signs from almost a century ago. He wants to make sure students don’t take those aspects of the city for granted.

“All the qualities that make Boise unique — the river, the rim, the Foothills, the train depot, its North End, its tree-lined streets … I would like to see those things preserved,” Shallat said.

Ethnic Landmarks ” is available at the mayor’s office for $10 or at local bookstores such as Trip Taylor Bookseller on 10th Street.

Quintessential Boise is Essential Reading

What gives Boise its individuality? – ” Quintessential Boise ” offers an architectural and anecdotal tour of what makes Boise, Boise

Idaho Statesman, The (Boise, ID) – Sunday, April 18, 2010

Author: BETHANN STEWART ; bstewart@ ; Bethann Stewart: 377-6393
© 2010 Idaho Statesman

Quintessential BoiseWith renowned Boise architect Charles Hummel and Idaho Statesman columnist Tim Woodward as guides, ” Quintessential Boise : An Architectural Journey” takes readers on tours of neighborhoods to identify what makes the city unique.

It’s not a book just about architecture but the chemistry and history of Boise, overlapping the past and the present, the high tech and the low brow.

Hummel chose the places that define the city for him. Some of them would never be mentioned in a typical homage – for example, Edwards Boise Stadium 22 on Overland Road, in all its neon glory.

“You can’t ignore it,” Hummel said. “It’s considered throwaway architecture, but it has weight. It’s a great public space.”

Quintessential Boise ” also contains a visual treasure trove. Digital technology helps bring the historical black-and-white photos to life with new clarity. They share the pages with stunning color photos and photo cutouts in a pop-art style layout by Adele Thomsen.

The paintings of local places by Karen Woods and Bob Neal feature prominently in the mix.

How people use those places and how well those places fit the needs of people is the book’s central theme. A rating system of the fundamentals of place – identity, scale, utility, consistency and impact – helps readers better understand this relationship.

The theme is intended to arouse curiosity and entice readers to make their own decisions about whether a place means something to them or not, Hummel said.

The book is divided into the familiar Boise neighborhoods, plus some areas “beyond” Boise, such as Lucky Peak State Park and the Meridian Speedway.

“The book celebrates not only our history and examples of good architecture, but quirky little places and sights that few would expect to find in a book about architecture,” said Woodward, a Boise native. “That was largely Charles’ doing, and his choices made me see and appreciate Boise with new eyes.”

The book was the brainchild of Boise State University history professor Todd Shallat, director of Boise State’s Center for Idaho History and Politics. He wrote many of the chapters.

He envisioned the book unfolding as a conversation.

“Boise’s pretty cool, but you have to learn how to look at it to appreciate it for what it is,” Shallat said. “With appreciation comes understanding.”

Local writer and journalist Jeanne Huff also contributed.

This is the first publication of Boise State University’s College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs Idaho Metropolitan Research Series.

“First of all, I want people to enjoy it,” Hummel said.