Saturday, February 19, 2005

Me wants some a' dat, too!

The scene: A devastated community in a midwestern state.

The action: A tsunami-like phenomenon has savaged the town, focusing its entire malevolence on the children.

Solution: Compassion. From friends, neighbors and, most importantly, taxpayers.


"In the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, I am proud to say that compassion and generosity is the core of the people of this great nation. As a collective, we have raised enough resources to rebuild that devastating destruction three times over.

"But residents, we have an impending collapse of our own, right here in Leslie. We need to address it with as much generosity as we did for the victims of Dec. 26, 2004.

"Our victims are our children. With the education cuts looming on our district's horizon, our children's education could lack the fundamentals to produce future leaders."

There are so many morally repulsive things distilled into these three paragraphs that the mind is almost unable to absorb it at one sitting. For example, does anybody in Leslie notice that the tsunami all the way around the world actually snuffed out the lives of almost two hundred thousand people? Including school-aged children? Or is the modern American civil posture -- begging money from taxpayers -- sufficient rejoinder to any criticism on moral grounds? Perhaps the most shocking thing about this mini-editorial from a reader is the casual dismissal of the natural disaster as merely a lead-in to the self-satisfied tone of the request. It is possible that the unthinking might use the tsunami as merely a distant, unusual natural occurrence -- after all, we don't really know very many people who were affected. But, to employ this disaster as a lead-in to a demand for money is revolting. Note the use of the word "collective." What possible intellectual freight is this word intended to carry? "As a collective, we"? Who's a collective? The U.S. taxpayers whose contributions were not asked for? Okay. U.S. taxpayers made a contribution. But what of private contributors? "Private tsunami relief donations have topped $400 million, compared to the U.S. government's $350 million in financial aid."

So, the "collective" was outshone by private contributors. I suppose our editorialist understands, however, that she is unlikely to receive much from private donors to save her children. Hence, presumably, the need to create a metaphorical relationship between the Leslie schools and the "collective." You would think that describing the United States, however glancingly, in a manner reminiscent of the Soviet Union might not be the best way to warm up to one's readers.

Our writer has studied the NEA playbook well. The purpose of education, you see, is not to educate children, not to imbue them with knowledge from the past. No. education is a much more scientific enterprise than that. Education is all about "produc[ing] future leaders." What, one inquires, is the relationship between those educated and our "future leaders"? Do all the educated become leaders? Do leaders become leaders whether they were required to use No. 2 pencils in art rather than high-quality HB quality pencils? Can leadership be taught at all? I can recall kids from my grammar school who were lackluster students, noncontributing in sports, extra-curricular activities and generally nondescript who grew up to be community leaders. How did that happen? Further, these kids (and I) were in classes of 50 (in one case 55) students. How did it transpire that classrooms that large produced anything other than criminals and hacks?

This putative rationale for secondary education and the massive, tsunami-relief-like cash that our writer requests must be provided: "Cutting or reducing remedial academic programs such as Reading Recovery is an obvious injustice that takes from students the basic skill of reading. How far and how frustrated and behind is that child going to feel as he/she progresses through the grades? Better yet, if he/she progresses? "The same can be said for the advanced placement classes at the high school. These minds need to be stimulated, or the alternative is boredom. And there lies a whole new set of problems, which can only serve to threaten a student's progression toward college." That just about covers the educational rainbow: smart kids need money and not-so-smart kids need money. Of course, the kids don't get any of this money. They get to "feel" that they are progressing and "stimulated." While our writer doesn't say, I'm certain that her tsunami-like request for cash will not line the pockets of the students. Rather, I'm quite sure that the money will go to salaries for teachers. It's pathetic in a way. The educational establishment will scruple at nothing, not even human tragedy, to push their demand for more money.

And of course, we can be sure that the "professionals" in teaching will see that the money is well-spent.


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