urbanter

Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Ending KQED With Thrill, Perspective

 Stefan Norgaard is completing his capstone internship at National Public Radio (NPR – KQED San Francisco).  This is his final blog entry on the internship.  

            This is my final Urbanter Blog Entry for my quarter interning with National Public Radio (NPR-KQED) and I have been so thrilled with the experience.  Recently, I have enjoyed working with shows on topics ranging from new exhibits at the Oakland Museum of California Natural Sciences, to the regulation of e-cigarettes (as opposed to regular cigarettes), and the debate on women freezing their eggs to delay childbirth until later.  All of the topics took my academic knowledge in new directions, as I’d had little exposure to all three of these issues previously.  This last Friday afternoon, I worked on writing the background material for two exciting (and very different shows), one on Dr. Temple Grandin and her work on the autistic spectrum, and the other on Oakland Schools Superintendent Tony Smith and his upcoming resignation. 

            The preparatory research work I did for the Temple Grandin show taught me quite a bit about autism today.  Dr. Grandin, I soon discovered, is one of the leading successful autistic women in the workplace.  She has a high-functioning variety, but nonetheless continues to struggle with social interactions and other group settings.  Dr. Grandin has written a new book recently, and is touring nationally to discuss this book.  From the ranch country of northern Colorado, Dr. Grandin attributes a large amount of her successes with autism to a ranch lifestyle.  She has noticed lots of similar sensory responses in cows and humans, especially those with high-functioning autism.  Dr. Grandin also discussed how lucky she was to have been given intense attention from her parents, relatives, and schoolteachers, a technique that had been largely ignored when it comes to autism prevention and treatment but is now making a comeback.  I enjoyed learning about this new individual (whom I had previously never heard of) and the way she has become a public intellectual working on both animal sciences and also autism research. 

             I also enjoyed researching Tony Smith and the Oakland Unified Public School District.  Tony Smith will resign as Superintendent this coming June, and will leave Oakland for Chicago, citing family health issues.  Before Tony Smith leaves, however, he will talk to KQED Forum about his accomplishments.  I learned quite a bit about Tony Smith’s accomplishments in my research.  Tony Smith, himself a Bay Area native and longtime Oakland community activist, took the role of “Community School” to new levels, making the transition to community schools for all Oakland institutions.  Tony Smith was able to fix large budget gaps, raise test scores, and impose accountability standards, so many applaud his work, but he is not without his critics.  The charter school vs. public school debate will surely be mentioned in next Wednesday’s show, as will discussions of teachers’ unions and pensions. 

            The original research I did for both of these shows allowed me to learn about completely new topics of high importance.  Now and in the future, I can reference information about Temple Grandin or Tony Smith when I talk about the autistic spectrum or education policy at the Bay Area level.  Such an academic journey is the true joy of working for a place like KQED:  each and every day allows me to learn something new about the world, the Bay Area, or even myself. 

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