Old Ideas Won’t Win the Day

5 04 2011

Ben, the problem you have is that JJ is smarter than you. She is miles smarter than you, me and the next six people combined. JJ develops ideas and new thinking about life and education as she experiences them. You fall back on shopworn phrases — being taxed is having your money stolen, there’s nothing wrong with vouchers going to religious schools, JJ’s tone is elitist, etc. And you hide behind religion and deny its importance as it supports your argument.

The sad part of all of this is that JJ is not the one being injured. She’s a strong woman, capable of thinking about what you write without getting upset about it.

The people being injured are those who are stuck on the treadmill with you, rehashing old ideas which were never very good and have soured with time.

And those liberals, like me, who agree with you. At least in part. I think, once I get past the tax bluster and the vehement anti-public school rhetoric, you have a few points to make. And they will never make it into anything like a productive discussion. They are weighed down to the point of sinking under the old notions, the ones that are all about taking the tack that ends up supporting your politics, right or wrong. These ideas are not about learning and changing and growth. They are about making sure the other political wing is demonized.

Me? I’m a bleeding-heart liberal born and raised to value unions and everything government does to help those in need. I vote Democratic.

And yet I have wondered why teachers weren’t protesting in the streets until their rights and income were on the line. Public school has sucked for a very long time. Teachers complain about it as much as anyone. And yet. . .

I don’t see the same fights you do. I don’t see people still not acknowledging that charter schools are public school. Just as I don’t see homeschoolers contending that virtual schools will be the end of homeschooling as we know it. Maybe I don’t move in the right circles.

What I see are very wealthy people manipulating our system of government to get their way. Over and over again. Among their preferences, like you, is that they pay as little in taxes as possible. Now, they don’t spout off about theft. They hide behind the old chestnut that tax money in their hands will trickle down and all will prosper.  And they have the lobbyists and the clout and our collective taxes decrease along with the government’s ability to function properly.

Maybe some of them hope to starve the beast. You know that line. The impression I get is that they just don’t care. It isn’t changing anything in their life if my child doesn’t have access to a quality public school. At least in the short run. And that’s as far as they seem to look. Or they feel they will be safe, no matter what. Let them eat cake!

Try really seeing that middle class people and working people and poor people are constantly set against one another and feeding into that fight is just as wrong as starting it in the first place. Urging people to vote against their own interests, to battle over scraps, to encourage anger instead of  “doing unto others” as JJ advises, this is only helping those wealthy members of our society who are happy to fund the fight and pick up all the pieces while everyone is distracted.

We can do better than this. It will be very hard work and we may even need some help from an “elitist” or two. But we can do better.

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Monsters and Men in Morals of Money and School

3 04 2011

“There’s nothin’ worse than a monster
who thinks he’s right with God.”

–Firefly captain Malcolm Reynolds, episode 13,
seen on Netflix last night with Young Son

Closing the computer down for the night later, I spotted this in my feed reader:

“I guess all I want at this point in the debate
is a little intellectual and moral honesty.”

–Conservative Christian homeschool dad Ben Bennett,
Admit It, Liberals, You Hate School Choice

And this morning the Sunday NYT business section has just given me Cornell economics professor Robert H. Frank’s thoughts on gauging the pain of the middle class with The Toil Index:

Context matters because the brain requires a frame of reference to make any evaluative judgment.

Yep, just like a frame of reference to define the difference between monster and man.

Rising inequality has shifted the context that governs. . . the cost of achieving basic goals, like sending one’s children to a good school. School quality is an inherently relative concept, too, and good schools tend to be in more expensive neighborhoods.

The toil index rests on the positive link between a neighborhood’s average housing price and the quality of the school that serves it.

This link implies that the median family must outbid 50 percent of all parents to avoid sending its children to a below-average school. Families that failed to rent or buy a house near the median of the local price range would have to send their children to below-average schools. The only alternative to seeing their children fall behind is Read the rest of this entry »