The Nerd Farmer Podcast: Finding My Voice, Literally

If you know me or have followed me for awhile here or elsewhere you realize my interests are varied. Obviously education is dear to me. I also love travel. I’m a political junky. I’ll talk soccer anytime, anyplace, with anyone. I view much of the world through the economic lens I developed in college (incentives, trade-offs, utility, etc). I think Americans would rather have a root canal sans anesthesia than reckon with matters of race. I’m also fascinated by the overlapping Venn Diagrams among those respective worlds: education, travel, politics, sports, economics, and race. I’ve touched on all of them in this space but have never waded as deep into the weeds as I’d like to.

Somewhere in my mom’s house is a Foss High School Yearbook where in 1997, I was named "Most likely to host their own radio talk show." My classmates were clairvoyant.

Over the next month I will be guest hosting the Move to Tacoma Podcast. Move to Tacoma is a website run my dear friend (also activist, realtor, connector-in-chief) Marguerite. I love the story of her website. She started it with good intentions: to help people looking to move to the city find info about the neighborhoods and community. However, she quickly found herself being pilloried for contributing to gentrification. Instead of getting defensive, she has made her website and show a place for tough and honest community conversations. It’s not even a show about real estate or housing anymore. It’s about a very real and very imperfect city and the people who live and work here.

I was a guest on her show late last year and enjoyed the experience. We had a spirited conversation about education, policing, race, and real estate, and we've been co-conspirators around these same matters ever since. In January, she asked me to guest-host her show for a run of episodes. I decided to do it and we’ll be pushing out episodes throughout the month of March. The first episode is up; my guests will include:

Melissa Santos, legislative reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune, talking about the current legislative session, the ongoing school funding lawsuit, and the state of local newspapers and local politics. It’s a very wonky conversation, but one that is important for our schools and community.

Dorian Waller, local political consultant and font of knowledge. We’ll talk about the upcoming municipal elections. Tacoma has four city council seats, two school board seats, and a mayor to decide on this fall, along with hiring a city manager. A lot of the usual names and faces are running, and Dorian has (flamethrower) hot takes on all of it.

Kenny Coble, a local book seller at King’s Books, burgeoning soccer fan, and soon-to-be author. Kenny is one of the most thoughtful folks I know. He’s active in the city arts scene and as a person of color, who can often pass for white, Kenny has very interesting thoughts on matters of race.

The Nerd Farmer Podcast is a go! At the end of my run hosting Move to Tacoma I'll be launching my own show. Nerd Farming is how I describe my teaching raison d'etre. As a humanities teacher, I am planting seeds of globally-aware and civically-engaged young people who will be my future neighbors, co-workers, and entrepreneurs. The podcast will be sponsored by Move to Tacoma and will be an interview show where I sit down with folks (who I think are smarter than me) and chop it up about their work and matters of justice. So far on deck we have:

The logo for the new podcast was created by a student.

The logo for the new podcast was created by a student.

 

Vanessa Hernandez, a dynamic lawyer from the ACLU. She and I will talk about civil liberties, issues involving law enforcement, immigration law, and where we could be heading under the new president. She spoke at the Teacher Town Hall we hosted last month, and I am insanely excited to kick-off the show off with her.

Claudia Rowe, an investigative reporter and education writer with the Seattle Times. She has written some of the most important investigative stories about education here in the Puget Sound over the last few years, including her blockbuster piece about racial bias in school discipline. She also recently published a book called The Spider and the Fly.

Pierce County Councilman Derek Young, a nerd among nerds, will discuss the importance of local politics and why you should stop worrying about Trump and start worrying about who is running for the state legislature. We’ll also touch on the upcoming mid-term elections and probably a bit about Clint Dempsey and the Sounders.

I’m also looking to nail down some folks to talk about the environmental issues and housing segregation. I will share about some upcoming work I may be doing in China and want to do an occasional roundtable with some of my favorite members of the local media. My goal is to use a local lens and local experts to talk about national issues. The examples may be Cascadia-centric, but the themes will be universal.

This is my next big project. After a twenty-four month whirlwind in which I represented my school and state, met with the President and Vice President, was interviewed by Bill Gates, and hosted the President of China in my classroom, I’m ready to build something. I’m ready to have some real conversations with great folks, and I invite you to join me.

Nathan Bowling

Republic of Cascadia