Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service

Ethan Peritz’s Jumpstart Address

On May 7, Ethan Peritz, A13, delivered a speech at Jumpstart’s Scribbles to Novels, a fundraiser promoting the importance of literacy and and the power of written word. In his address, he details his three years of experience with Jumpstart, as well as the important lessons that he has learned by virtue of working with the educational nonprofit.

Jumpstart is the only national supplemental program that uses the power of community and adult-child relationships to help children from low-income neighborhoods learn the important language and literacy skills needed to succeed in both academics and the everyday. The Tufts chapter of Jumpstart is operated out of Tisch College, and works with preschool children in Somerville and Chinatown. Within the short three years Ethan worked with Jumpstart, he was able to bring the Tufts Jumpstart team back to Chinatown for the first time in ten years. What’s more is that he was so successful in redeveloping this expansion that Tufts will be bringing a new team there this coming fall.

Recounting his initial experience with the program, Ethan describes how his first student spat in his face when he asked him to discuss the book they were given to read. Unfazed, Ethan later discovered that his student suffered from PTSD due to the 2008 Haitian earthquake, and realized that he needed to figure out a way for the two to connect on a deeper level. The winning approach: beat-boxing.

Ethan recalls,  “I [first] entered Jumpstart because I was ‘good with kids.’ I stayed because I actually connected with one. I learned that the core of teaching is creating a context, a context for these kids to take responsibility for their own learning – from going from being children to being students. That’s what Jumpstart does, and that’s what I’m going to do my entire life.”

Check out Ethan’s speech in the video below:

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School’s in Session!

It may be summer, but that doesn’t mean that minds are not a-churning on the hill! Aside from students in the always enlightening Tufts Summer Session courses, the hill is bustling with students taking part in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies. The Institute is an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar that brings together advanced graduate students, faculty, and practitioners from diverse fields of study. For those wishing to take part in the Institute outside the class, one of their main lecturers, Peter Levine, has taken to the blogosphere to give us an insider’s peek into his summer course. Check out a snippet from his lecture on Roberto Unger:

Here is a little fable (mine, not Unger’s) that illustrates how his theoretical position relates to everyday civic efforts:

A group of middle class students has volunteered to serve meals at a homeless shelter. They love the experience. During the reflection session later, one remarks, “Serving the homeless was so great! I hope that shelter will still be open in 50 years, so my grandchildren can serve.”

A progressive educator cries, “No! Our goal must be to end homelessness. You need to think about root causes, not just serve free food once a week. What are the fundamental causes of homelessness?” Chastened, the students do serious research and determine that homelessness results from poverty, which, in turn, is a byproduct of late capitalism.

They are trying to figure out what to do about capitalism when Roberto Mangabeira Unger happens to walk by. “No!” cries Unger. “You are assuming that the link between poverty and homelessness is natural or inevitable. You have seen patterns in our limited experience and have derived ‘lawlike tendencies or deep-seated economic, organizational, and psychological constraints’ from the data; these now limit your imaginations. We human beings have made the social world and we can change any part of it–not only the parts that you have identified as deep structures, but also any of the other elements or links.

“Your ‘confining assumptions … impoverish [your] sense of the alternative concrete institutional forms democracies and markets can take.’ By focusing on the biggest and most intractable factors, you guarantee defeat, whereas any part of the picture could be changed. It would be possible to have a capitalist society with poverty but no shortage of homes. What if we got rid of all zoning rules and rent control but gave everyone a voucher for rent? What if public buildings were retrofitted to allow people to sleep comfortably in them at night? What if some houses were shared, like ZipCars, and homeless people occupied the temporarily empty ones? What if …?

Peter Levine is the Research Director of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and Director of their CIRCLE oranization, The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement. For more of his lectures, check out his blog on the Tufts Roundtable Commons.

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Interview with President Monaco

Ever wonder how President Monaco takes his tea (spoiler alert: he doesn’t like tea) or what it’s like to live in Gifford House? Before his first commencement here at Tufts on Sunday, check out this “Interview with President Monaco” and get a glimpse into the life of Tony Monaco and his first year at Tufts:

Note: Though recently posted, this video was filmed earlier this year.

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Commencement 2012 Online

You may be on campus this Sunday for commencement or you may be cheering on your friends and family from afar. Either way, you can get an inside look at the day by following Tufts Commencement 2012 online. We’d love to have you join the conversation, so check out how you can take part:

  • Twitter: We’ll be live tweeting from @TuftsLive, so follow along from early morning preparation to the procession, the awarding of honorary degrees, and the commencement address. Use the hashtag #Tufts2012 to let us know what you’re up to.
  •  Web: Watch the live streamed ceremony at commencement.tufts.edu, where you will also find the @TuftsLive and #Tufts2012 feeds, so you’ll be sure to not miss a thing.
  • Instagram: We love photos! If you’re on campus, snap some pictures and tag them #Tufts or #Tufts2012. We’ll be capturing some shots too, so be sure to check them out (username: TuftsUniversity)
  • Facebook: We’ve been getting ready for commencement, and will have tons more photos to share just after the ceremony ends.
  • Foursquare: Check into Tufts University Commencement 2012 on Foursquare, include a shout out about graduation, and you’ll earn the Hats Off Badge.

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From a Dream to Reality: The Tufts Education Society

Watch and listen as Ryan Clapp’s dream of an organization at Tufts focused on public education, discussions, educational networking and education advocacy becomes a reality! During his time at Tufts, Ryan worked hard to create the Tufts Education Society to bring together students interested in education, and to maximize the opportunities and resources Tufts already had, while establishing new ones.

See how the Tufts Education Society grew from one student’s idea to an officially recognized student group on campus:



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Traveling the World While on the Phone

You never know where in the world Peter Levine might be when you’re on the phone with him. The director of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has an office in Tisch College on the Medford Campus, but he has recently found himself wandering the streets of faraway countries.

How? In an effort to not distract himself with email or other tasks during a call, he has turned to Google Streetview. He shares his recent discovery on his blog.

Activities that fill enough of my brain that I am not tempted by distractions like email. My latest habit is to zoom to some exotic place on the Google world map, open the Streetview function, and go walking or driving along.

The rest of his blog regularly features items on youth engagement and civic renewal.

CIRCLE and Peter Levine can be found on Twitter @CivicYouth, @PeterLevine and at http://www.civicyouth.org/.

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Text Your Teacher?

Imagine if, in high school, you had the option of communicating with your teachers through text messages. Though the idea may raise some questions, Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE and research director of the Tisch College of Citizenship, spent some time with OneVille, a community research and action project in Somerville, Massachusetts, discussing tools to foster communication between high school students and their community. Together they went over the pros and cons of the application of this idea in an alternative school for students who had been expelled from, or opted out of, the main public school:

They  used Google Voice as the texting service, which meant that the messages were archived. Having an archive creates advantages for the students and teachers (they can go back and see what they wrote), and it enables research. It may also have some disadvantages. Among other things, it creates a record that may have to be disclosed to parents under certain circumstances.

We reviewed anonymized transcripts of teachers texting students to wake them up; students disclosing health problems and depression to teachers (and explicitly preferring to communicate by text as opposed to voice); and a traditionally angry teenager thanking his teacher by text. Clearly, the medium affected relationships and power hierarchies, although not necessarily in a uniform way. Whether the changes were educationally beneficial is one big question. Another question is what would happen if the experiment moved from a small, alternative school to a regular high school in which each teacher briefly meets more than 100 kids every day?

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President Bacow: Under the Roof Tribute Video

Tufts President Lawrence Bacow was recently awarded the Under the Roof Leadership award for his work with the Somerville Homeless Coalition. This tribute video, presented by the Homeless Coalition, honors Bacow for his commitment to community service and active citizenship. As both an individual and the leader of the Tufts community, Bacow has taken a personal investment in getting involved in causes like the Homeless Coalition, and his initiative has inspired many others to do the same. Bacow explains the importance of the cause:

One way of measuring the justness of a society is [looking at] how it treats the most vulnerable among us…I think it’s important that we reach out, that we don’t turn a blind eye — that we try and engage, and that we try and help. And I am proud of what the university has been able to do to support the Homeless Coalition.”

Here’s the video honoring Bacow’s contribution:

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