I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
February 08, 2017 - 10:09 a.m.
Just by chance I woke up an hour early this morning, good things or I wouldn't be able to write. Jane can't drive me to the train station today so I have to leave 45 minutes early. It's therapy day. I look forward to therapy day. I'd love to have a second one where I wouldn't work on my problems but just talk about all the things I can't talk about elsewhere.
I just remembered to add the Joe Crookston concert to my concert spreadsheet. A week into the month and it's the only live music I've been to. Is that possible? I did the community sing on Sunday but that doesn't count, that wasn't a performance, it was a participatory event. I'm going to have to go through my entries to see if I missed one.
It was miserable outside so I didn't leave the house. I've been doing that too much. I have mail waiting for me in my post office box. I'll get it tomorrow no matter what.
I made a super simple dinner yesterday and I bet I still enjoyed it more than most people enjoyed there. Roasting chicken and pouring barbecue sauce on it requires no prep other than preheating the oven and that's what I have. I add some garlic salt, MSG, and curry powder before I put it in the oven but that's just so I feel like I'm doing something. The roasted potatoes took a little more effort. I could have made baked potato and just popped that in the oven. The point is that it's easy to cook even if you are lazy and don't know how. Preparing your own food is cheaper and healthier. It is also fun.
Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the secretary of education yesterday, she's a strong advocate for school choice so today is a good day to write my long-planned entry on it. School choice can refer to more than one thing. The simplest and most popular version gives parents the option to choose which public school in their district their children attend. Some localities including most large cities also offer the choice of charter schools which are independently operated but funded by the government. One way that Ms. DeVos is an extremist is that she doesn't believe the government should even have an oversight role in charger schools; failing public schools should close but failing charter schools stay open. In Michigan, where she has a great deal of influence, the charter schools do terrible, their students performing poorly. DeVos goes further and advocates giving the parents vouchers that they can spend on any school including private and religious schools with no oversight at all. The money for the vouchers would be taken out of the public-school budgets.
I am not going to waste my breath preaching to the choir about the evils of the voucher system. I'm not going to even debate the virtues and flaws of charter schools. That's technical and I don't have the expertise needed. From what I've read it has a lot to do with execution; They work well in New York City where there is a great deal accountability and poorly in Michigan where they don't. I know there are those that question even that. Charter schools are accused of cooking the boots. My natural prejudice is against the privatization of government functions so I fight to keep an open mind.
What I want to discuss is the least controversial and most popular form of school choice, choosing which public school children go to. I'm guessing that most of the parents I know who have the opportunity are grateful for that. They do the research and work hard to find the best schools in their district for their children, whether it be a regular public school, a magnet school, or a charter school. They invest a great deal of time and effort choosing the right school because they know how important that is.
All that sounds great except it leaves out one thing the child has no choice in, his or her parents. My Gentle Readers are educated, resourceful, and most important of all dedicated to their children. Most of you have had parents that were the same way though I know there are exceptions and I admire those of you who overcame that handicap. But it is a handicap, a great many children have.
All the conscientious informed parents with the time and skills make sure to send their students to the best schools available. Who is left to go to the poorest schools? The children with the parents that don't have time to do the research, the children whose parents went to poor schools and don't know any better, and the parents that don't care. These are the very children that need the most from school, they aren't going to get educated at home. Their parents are not reading to them, taking them to libraries or museums. They are not simply giving them wisdom through every day talk. When I was waiting for the train to Irvington on Saturday I heard a father talking to his daughter. She was of preschool age, maybe kindergarten. He was explaining how the days are shorter in the winter and even got into daylight savings time. She paid rapt attention. I was going to go up to him and tell him how much I enjoyed watching him parenting but the train came then and we walked to different ends of it. That little girl has a leg up on so many children. It's hard to judge but I don't think they were well off at all but she has a good father.
Children growing up in poverty have heard far fewer words spoken by the time they reach school age than more affluent ones. They are starting way behind. They need better schools than the better off children to help close the gap. Instead as their parents don't know how to or don't have the time to or don't care to choose the best schools they attend the worst. Income inequality is the issue of the day but one of the big drivers of it is education starting from kindergarten and school choice is one of the causes of it. If students are assigned the parents with the skills and time will fight to make all schools better not just the one their child goes to.
This is politically unpopular, maybe impossible, because even the most unselfish people make an exception for their children, their children come first. Society might be better off but no one wants to sacrifice their own child's education even to help others less fortunate. I don't know what the solution is but one thing we can do is demand that all schools be good; that they are given the resources and leadership they need. Schools that serve the poor should not be the dumping ground for bad teachers. They should not be where new teachers start out. They should be where the best most experienced teachers are sent.
Another time I'll address the way, not the amount, we fund schools.
OK. I finished writing at 10:07. That's a victory! Now to post this and make bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Read about Robinson & Rohe - February 13, 2017
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