Hermits Rock

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Today Morning Edition did a story on public schools in Wisconsin asking for corporate sponsorship ‘by selling naming rights for buildings. The superintendant mentioned that they weren’t yet seeking fast food sponsorships for cafeterias because they “are considering how this would impact their nutrition education” (implying that if there were no conflict, Subway lunchroom might be the place where my daughter eats her PBJ’s… and, Subway is the least of all possible evils).

“It is easier to strike a marketing deal than ask citizen’s to pay more in taxes,” opened Steve Inskeep. “75-80% of the population do not have children in public schools [... and,] it’s hard to ask people to pay for something that they don’t benefit from,” observed one of the interviewed.

This kind of attitude (not the selling our children into corporate brianwashing but the selfish if-I-don’t-directly-benefit-in-tangible-ways-from-what-I-give-to-society) can only mean that we will soon no longer exist as a nation. Part of civic participation is recognizing and realizing that we are in society, that, in fact, doctors and lawyers and CEOs (oh my!) didn’t make it to the top on their chutzpah (in the very American connotation of the word and not the Hebrew/Yiddish meaning), talent and brilliance alone. That in deed we plant and water and weed and do not often see the results. This blindness though is not because something positive isn’t happening but precisely because something positive is happening: children are growing up; going to school; getting educated; leaving the parental home; contributing to society; giving back.

Our gay neighbors may never experience the benefit of our daughter’s education in the same way that we will (and, since they seem, despite pressure from both sets of parents, rather uninterested in the adventure of parenting, part of their taxes pays, and will always pay, for something that personally does not benefit them) but to the extent that she will one day be able to engage them in conversation, will one day make them a purple construction paper card, bake them cookies, make them laugh, they will, albeit tangentially and in soft ways, benefit from these taxes. What is more, they benefit from them because the better the school district, the more their in-town house will appreciate—and maybe one day they will actually have a return on the investment they made in renovating their house into the most expensive on the block.

My father- and mother-in-love only completed high school. Yet, because they went to a quality public school, the likes of which are rather impossible to find in this day and age, they are both highly literate—reading two to three books a month, defying the NEA’s Reading at Risk. Okay, neither of them read Delillo, Pynchon, John Asbury, or Jorie Graham. But, Twain, Browning, Frost, Austen and an array of pulitzer prize winning historians and biographers pass through their hands constantly.

I am not necessarily saddened by the superintendent selling buildings and desks to corporations, but that this is being done because of a sense that people who “don’t directly benefit” from the good shouldn’t have to pay. I am saddened because we have gutted public education by siphoning money, teachers, students and parent involvement away from the public good and into private schools. I am saddened because few seem to think about the public good.

But, since education is one of those things where people will say… yes, you care because you now have a child… or, yes, I care because I have a child and that is why I am sending them to private education. How many people do I know that purposefully buy in unincorporated areas because they do not have to pay city taxes… but reserve the right to complain about city services… city services they burden!



you suck for sticking that song in my head.

That said, it’s a good rant. There’s a lot of rhetoric about education being the way to fill a life. I can understand a Libertarian view that says make private all education because that requires all people to care more about the education their children are getting (our mouths are where our monies are, in other words), but this super’s statement isn’t Libertarian—it’s expedient, an effort in taking the path of least resistance. That’s cheap and it sells those Wisconsin kids (and communities) short.

(And while I can understand Libertarians, their arguments about education are completely unrealistic, based on a vision of society that’s completely untenable and sad.)

ooh, don’t get me started on this issue. how does anyone not benefit from having educated fellow citizens? would they rather that other people’s children be picking vegetables and working in sweatshops than being deliberately socialized and civilized?
i admit that i am speaking as the child of public-school teachers, but hasten to add i would have said the same thing before having a child.

I’m torn here. I hate commercialization and I’m onboard with the sentiment that people ought to invest in society. What bothers me about the system, however, is that instead of raising teacher salaries, most of the tax money goes to things like buses, gyms, cafeterias, computers, etc. What I would be interested in seeing is having corporate sponsors stick a big ad on all the school buses, plaster the cafeteria with their posters, and only have Nike gear in the gym such that all of those kinds of things are paid for. All of a sudden, instead of raising taxes you can keep them where they are and have all that money go to teacher salaries and enhancement workshops, etc.

What about higher ed? Wouldn’t it be great if instead of spending the majority of alumni money on sports programs if you could just call it the Cingular Arena and give away more academic scholarships instead?

Re 5: What, you think that education’s not also the structures that make it up, including the buses, buildings, and computer accessories? I’d never be someone to downplay teacher salaries, but to support education is to support both/and not either/or. No matter how well your teachers are paid, students won’t learn if they’re hungry because their cafeteria is lousy. Learning happens within environment, not independent of it. Public funding of public education ought always to take this into account. Moreover, branding the structures of the school because that’s one way to pay for school is an incredibly lousy and sketchily unethical idea. Advertising to children—branding, however you want to frame it—should not be encouraged. There’ve been enough studies to point out that kids don’t understand what they see when they see advertising that we all should be deeply suspicious of those who want to promote ed by way of selling stuff to kids.

system language breaks down… it’s only “the system” because the public isn’t invested and involved… the public doesn’t know their councilpersons, their superintendents, their school board…

and that is precisely the problem… we are not civically engaged in the nitty gritty details of maintaining a healthy polis…

what is more, without society as a whole recognizing the importance of teachers, in real ways, no matter how much money is given to education teacher salary will always be pitiful.

sorry, wrong facts...these are correct

"Over the past twenty years, according to the report, (in the Chronicle) average faculty salaries have increased just 0.25 percent when adjusted for inflation. Medical doctors have enjoyed a substantial 34-percent increase. Lawyers' average salaries have risen 18 percent, while engineers and architects have seen their salaries rise 5 percent."

but, now i’m rambling…

While I understand the idea of a learning environment, I grew up in countries where kids mostly walked to school and it was only for half a day. Most of them, like my step-brothers, end up being much more well educated than myself.

I understand, however, the realities of an typical American urban setting where one school serves a huge area where walking is not only very dangerous but made impossible by distance. I understand that a lot of families have both parents working until five and that sending them home at noon would only exacerbate the latch-key problem. I’m just saying we need to realize why we have this need for a “learning environment” that includes mass transit and a meal.

I’m also saying that corporate sponsorship and taxation don’t have to be exclusive. Large school disctricts spend tens of thousands of dollars on bus purchases, maintenance, and gasoline. Kids might see the ads on the bus when they first get on the bus, but they will see even more ads looking out the window on their way to school. And if the money saved on buses could be reinvested in better teacher salaries, the damage done by bus ads would be GREATLY made up for by having higher quality teachers in the classroom.

Is it really a proposition of belief to say “children are our future”? Could it not be argued that children are in fact a manifestation of the future in the present? In which case, belief doesn’t matter, right?

I am not sure that your argument holds, Bryan, to wit: “Good teachers benefit students more than advertisements hurt them.” I see the two as mutually exclusive. Good teachers benefit kids. Advertising harms them. I can’t allow the harm for the sake of a questionable thesis that one offsets the other.

Oh, and rural districts bus, too, further than urban ones. And many rural ones are consolidating such that they sometimes bus kids for hours to school and back.

Now, if you want to question whether kids would pay attention to ads on the bus—that’s another argument altogether. I remember what I was like on the bus….

re:the rhetoric of whitney, i see your point. they aren’t our future. they are, in fact, especially for those with kids, a very real present, with very real and present demands.

and, to say that you believe they are the future is somewhat akin to saying tomorrow is another day. yes, indeed it is another day. good for you… you are also the future.

however, none of this is going to get the song out of your mind!!

teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside

isn’t advertsing largely creating a feeling and working in “subliminal” sorts of ways… so that when you are driving down the road you don’t notice the auntie jane’s vegan tofu shoppee but those golden arches really make your mouth water? and, so, it doesn’t really matter whether kids pay attention to the ads or not, just that they see them so that when they are at the store this is what they buy?

One might even question whether one who says, “I believe that children are our future,” truly does believe it. Because to make the statement is to call into question the very fact that children are, in fact, our future. But if children weren’t our future, then what, pray tell, would our future be? Cats? Bonobos? Cockroaches? To claim such a belief is to imply that there is a question about the veracity of that belief.

To that I say: Kevin Costner.

i think the cockroach is looking more and more like our inevitable future… should our strategery fail and the axis of evil-doers, with their ideology of hate (NK and Iran) obtain nucular weaponry…

speaking of ideology of hate (and I think we might’ve already babbled on about this)... what is an ideology of hate?

re: 12. True dat, and the problem with kids, the younger they are, the harder it is for them to dissociate desires and to gauge rhetorical intent. An 8-year old can’t say, “I see that Cheeto-eating cheetah, and I know he is trying to sell me air-puffed cruncy stuff, and therefore should not be trusted” in the same way that, say, a 13 year old can. And even can be 13yos suspect…. This is a brain-development issue, in other words.

But the real question, anyway, is whether you believe the cockroaches are our future? And if so, are you prepared to

teach them well, and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside?

(Another question: Inside what do they possess beauty?)

i know, i almost asked if we were going to autopsy these kids to show them this beauty… but i restrained myself… till your question

maybe it just means you’re supposed to show them the beauty while you’re inside (a school building?) rather than outside?

Alternately, it’s this: whatever beauty it is they possess, they don’t possess it outdoors.

No, the real question is, “is our children learning?”

Which, even were it grammatical, is a stupid question too. How did his handlers let him say that’s “the real question”? Of course it’s not the real question. To learn is a fact of children’s being. So it’s not “Is they,” it’s “What is they?” and it’s also “How is they?”

I’ve been considering the possibility lately that his handlers is stupid as well.

well, couldn’t one also say… that we are not just homo faber and homo ludens, but also homo sapiens and by definition homo studiosus... though few are homo philologus (especially those who profess philologia)

and, now i’ve made an ass of myself

I’ve heard The Golden Ass is a pretty good story. I’ve not read it, though.

it’s more of a stringing together of stories. it also contains one of the better known versions of the cupid and psyche myth.

it’s also one of the first “road” novels, being that the narrator is traveling on business when he is turned into an ass and then proceeds to travel accompanied by an assortment of owners/abusers… were it not for the already mature protagonist, this would be one of the first bildungsromans as well. then again, novel, road novel, bildungsroman are all very, very imprecise terms invented at least a millenia after it was written. though, the best term would be picaresque. it was highly influential from the 14th century (Boccaccio) all the way through to the 18th (Voltaire)... even when the renaissance and baroque authors such as Rabelais, Gracian, the anonymous author of the Lazarillo, Cervantes, Quevedo and the many, many authors of episodic novelas were being disparaged, because of its status as a latin text, it remained in vogue.

It’s quite bawdy at times… of course, Midsummer Night’s Dream Bottom is an adaptation of Lucius.

It actually sort of provides a “worldly” counterpoint to Augustine’s “spiritual autobiography”... being that the main character is very, very given over to the flesh and through the journey becomes a priest of some sort and renounces the flesh.

speaking of augustine... it’s really, really long. and possible riddled with solecisms, but i gotta go pack… hope you all have a great weekend.