Dan Carsen

Dan Carsen


Dan Carsen is our health and science reporter. He’s been a science teacher, a teacher trainer, a newspaper reporter, a radio commentator, and an editor at an educational publishing house. His writing and reporting have won numerous regional and national awards. His outside interests include basketball, sailing, percussion, raptors, and seeking REM brainwaves.

NPR’s Joe Palca Takes On Jargon And The Politics Of Science

NPR’s nationally known science correspondent Joe Palca is in Birmingham helping UAB celebrate the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. He stopped by WBHM, where sometimes-science-reporter and full-time-geek Dan Carsen jumped at the chance for an interview. They cover research bias, education, and science illiteracy, but Joe starts by explaining why he does what he does.

She Brought Water to the Freedom Riders: “I Couldn’t Let It Pass”

There’s a new national monument to the “Freedom Riders, the civil rights activists – black and white – who challenged segregation by riding buses across the South. In 1961, a mob set one of those buses on fire and beat some of the riders. But there’s a lesser-known wrinkle to the story: a little white girl, whose family feared the Ku Klux Klan, brought water to the injured passengers.

Alabama GOP Leader on Trump, Protests and More

There’s been no shortage of controversy about President Donald Trump’s first days in office, but the Republican grass roots of Alabama generally support what he’s done so far. So we checked in with state Republican party chair Terry Lathan to get her perspective.

Birmingham Board of Education Denies Two Charter School Applications

After hours of heated speeches, the Birmingham school board unanimously denied two applications for church-backed charter schools Tuesday night. The board itself was unified, but there are clearly real divisions in the community over how best to educate the city’s students.

Community Paramedic Cuts Costs, Keeps People Out of Ambulances

It’s been said emergency responders’ jobs are 10 percent terror, 90 percent boredom. But there’s a new approach that uses their time more efficiently while improving community health and saving money. It’s called “community paramedicine.”

Many Schools Moving To Active Responses To Gunmen

The recent attack at Ohio State University is the latest to raise a troubling question: how should schools prepare for dangerous intruders? Many districts are moving away from the standard “lockdown” to more active responses that include fighting back, even against gunmen. But some security experts question that guidance. Joe Hendry is not one of them. […]

“Alabama Unity Rally” Peaceful but Fiercely Anti-Trump

Recent anti-Donald Trump rallies around the nation have been marred by violence. Some feared that would happen in Birmingham, especially after social-media threats. But Saturday night, though hundreds protested, no one got hurt. That’s not to say emotions weren’t high.

A Conversation with “Mr. Fred,” 86-Year-Old Learning to Read

Fred Oliver of Birmingham is 86 and a world traveler. He served in the Korean War, spent time in Japan, and has held more jobs than he can count. He loves to visit far-off places, but as we reported yesterday, his latest odyssey is close to home, at the Literacy Council of Central Alabama: he’s learning to read and write.

Fighting Adult Illiteracy, One Reader at a Time

Imagine not being able to read an email from your family. Or a job application. Or medication labels. How about a simple road sign? Adult illiteracy is a complex, stubborn problem. Based on conservative estimates, in the five-county area around Birmingham alone, there are more than 90,000 adults who have trouble reading and writing. There are almost as many reasons as there are people.

What Can Finland Teach Alabama About Education?

Several decades ago, Finland’s education system was considered mediocre. But starting around 2001, it came to be regarded as a powerhouse, usually at or near the top of the world’s nations on internationally normed tests. How? And can those strategies work in Alabama?

Education Activists Seek to Rescind Hire of Ala. Superintendent

About three dozen people organized by education advocate Larry Lee have signed on to be plaintiffs in pending legal action intended to rescind the hiring of Alabama Superintendent Michael Sentance.

Roy Moore Trial Ends; Fate of State Chief Justice Unknown

Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was on trial himself today in Montgomery. He’s accused of ordering probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

Birmingham School Board Ousts Superintendent

After a heated meeting Thursday night, the Birmingham school board surprised many by voting six to three to fire the district’s Superintendent. Kelley Castlin-Gacutan, more often called “Dr. G,” had held the position for 14 months.

From CIA to United Way: Weld for B’ham on Diverse Agencies

This week, CIA Director John Brennan met with Birmingham City School students as part of a self-described crusade to make the agency more diverse. That’s one story in the latest Weld For Birmingham. Editor Nick Patterson joins us most Thursdays to discuss Weld’s top stories. He tells WBHM’s Dan Carsen about Brennan’s visit, and about Weld’s cover story on the United Way and area nonprofit groups.

Weld for B’ham on Living Beyond the Headlines, West of I-65

When you hear “Ensley,” or “Brighton,” or “West End,” what comes to mind? Many people who work, live, and raise families on the west side of Birmingham want you to know there’s more to life there than the crime and other problems that fill so many news reports.

An ITT Teacher on the Human Side of Today’s Shutdown

ITT Technical Institutes are part of a national chain of for-profit colleges with three campuses in Alabama, including one in Bessemer. Or, they were. The Indiana-based company shut down all their campuses across the country today.

Study of School District Borders Shows US, AL Economic Segregation

A wide body of research shows that students in poor school districts face real disadvantages. But the way the U.S. funds schools creates pockets of poverty right next to enclaves of wealth.

Randall Woodfin to Run for Mayor of Birmingham

The assistant city attorney’s campaign is set to officially kick off Saturday morning at the North Birmingham Recreation Center, close to where he went to elementary school.

State Board Taps Consultant for New Schools Chief

It took repeated tries, but today the state school board named Michael Sentance, a consultant and former Massachusetts Secretary of Education, its choice to be new Alabama Superintendent.

Lyrical Skill, Lofty Aspirations: The Monastery

Their inspirations include modern rappers but also go all the way back to A Tribe Called Quest, Jimi Hendrix, and actual monks. They’re The Monastery, a duo making their mark on Alabama’s growing rap scene with intricate lyrics they hope will entertain and enlighten.

Judge Dismisses Alabama’s Suit Against U.S. Over Refugees

A federal judge has dismissed Alabama’s lawsuit against the U.S. over potential Syrian refugee resettlement.

JeffCo Schools Personnel Director Faces Federal Child-Porn Charges

The legal picture for Jefferson County Schools’ jailed human resources director has become even darker. Brett William Kirkham already faces charges that include having sex with a student. Now he faces federal child-pornography charges too. Joyce White Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, today announced the indictment against Kirkham, a longtime area […]

Judge Puts Temporary Hold on Abortion Restrictions

Two new Alabama laws restricting abortions were set to go into effect next month, but yesterday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson blocked them, at least for now. In the latest chapter of a long-running legal battle, an Alabama law banning a procedure called “dilation and evacuation” and one banning clinics within 2,000 feet of K-8 […]

The Junction: Stories from Ensley, Alabama — Holy Family Cristo Rey High School

Fair or not, the words “Ensley” and “success” don’t often appear together in local media reports. But tucked among vacant buildings and weedy lots a few feet from an Interstate, there’s a high school with a college acceptance rate most suburban schools would envy. For the latest chapter of “The Junction: Stories from Ensley, Alabama,” education reporter Dan Carsen talks with the people making it happen to find out how this school works.

WBHM’s “On The Line” Talk Show Tackles Uneven Birmingham Revival

Walk around downtown Birmingham and there’s an energy you wouldn’t have felt a few years ago. Residents are moving to new lofts and apartments. Restaurants and retailers are opening. People do yoga at Railroad Park or take in a ballgame at Region’s Field. They’re visible signs of a Birmingham revival. But that revival is uneven. Talk to some in neighborhoods away from Downtown and they’ll say “revival” doesn’t mean much to them. No fancy lofts, just abandoned homes and potholed roads that never seem to be fixed. And all this takes place against the backdrop of Birmingham’s racial history, with investment, by-and-large, coming from whites in a city that’s been majority black for a generation.

Birmingham Revitalization: The View from a City School

You could call schools the glue of a community. They’re starting points for friendships and networks, and they affect property values and economic development. For our series on revitalization in Birmingham, WBHM’s Dan Carsen returns to a redeveloping neighborhood to see how that’s playing out in the local school.

Firm Releases Vestavia Hills HS Rebranding Package

After controversy over a mascot and team-name some call racist, a marketing firm has released its “rebranding package” for Vestavia Hills High School.

Gov. Bentley Signs Two Bills Restricting Abortion

Governor Robert Bentley has signed two bills that could make it much harder for women to get abortions in Alabama, but legal challenges loom.

New Rebel Logo Part of Vestavia Rebranding

A sports-marketing firm yesterday presented the Vestavia Hills school board with an update that included a new rebel logo. Tensions over the system’s Rebel Man mascot and the name “Rebels” flared up last year. The school board has since ditched the mascot but kept the name. But the system’s rebranding process is ongoing.

School Funding In Alabama: A View From Sumter County

In more affluent districts, local property tax revenue makes a big difference for schools. But in rural Sumter County, which is mostly farms and timberland, there isn’t much to tax. It’s also hard to raise rates on what is there.

Ala. Legislature Passes Ed Budget, Teacher Pay Raise

The Alabama state legislature today approved an education budget and a teacher pay raise. Conference committees approved the measures Thursday afternoon and Governor Robert Bentley has indicated his support. Assuming he signs the legislation, teachers and other educators making less than $75,000 per year, plus all principals and assistant principals, will get a four percent raise in fiscal […]

Sen. Cam Ward On Bill to Thwart Inappropriate Teacher-Student Contact

Recent reports have referred to Alabama as “ground zero” for incidents of teacher-student sex. Whether that’s fair or not, most agree there’s a serious problem. So state senator Cam Ward of Alabaster has sponsored a bill to mandate an hour of training for educators on appropriate teacher-student interaction in the age of social media.