Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sorting Through Confusion on School Facilities


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The American tradition is longer up to code - facility decisions shift further to the state.
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Doug Thompson had a good one today about the disparate subjects of school facilities funding and President Bush vis-a-vi the U.S. Attorney story and other matters. Doug is a liberal, but is sadly spot-on in his take on the unfortunate subject of George W. Bush. In the school facilites matter, Thompson is clearly in the current mainstream- and why not since he is a player in the media machine that now defines "mainstream"?

Alas, I once again find myself in the position of genteel contrarian. In these troubled times people's base assumptions are so far shifted away from those that produced our Western Civilization that one who still reasons from them is but a voice crying in the wilderness. You see, logic and reason do little good when the other fellows are operating from such a different starting point. I sit here as an outsider, a fact made all the odder because from 500 A.D. to a generation ago the base assumptions that I held were considered the mainstream, and those in vougue in this difficult generation would have been considered wicked in all senses, tyrannical in some sense, and seditious in others.

The base assumptions in question did not change because somebody lost an intellectual agrument. They did not change, for the most part, because the weight of the evidence changed. They changed because of the emergence of mass media and its domination by those who held base assumptions at variance with Western tradition. With the gaurgantuan amplification that electronic media provided, the other side did not have to win the argument with us by force of logic or intellect. They simply overwhelmed us with volume. Indeed, much of the population was unaware a debate was even occuring. It was just that they no longer spoke much to their neighbors, they spent far more time listening to strangers on a telebision set, at it was from those strangers that they unconsciously got their ideas. A famous general once noted that "Quantity has a quality all of its own".

But I say all that to set up my points on the school facilities issue. I needed to start with that because the base assumptions about what is "good" are at issue....

(continued- click SATURDAY below and scroll down for rest of article)

3 Comments:

Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

1) This whole process was driven by the fallacious idea that courts can order legislatures to spend money.

This is all being done in response to a court order which even two of the justices say is over-stepping the court's authority. The legislature just happened to have this money available to buy their way out of a fight with the courts without a tax increase. It is a lot easier to keep money you should give back than to ask someone for more money. To their shame, the legislature ran from the fight that many know in their hearts they should have fought.

The idea of separation of powers, and that the legislative branch should control the purse strings, is the long held base assumption which I hold. I also hold to the idea that the courts are supposed to interpret the legislatures intent, but it is up to the legislature itself to determine what "adequate" spending levels are, or what adequate facilites are for that matter.

The new base assumption is that the legislature is obligated to do whatever the courts tell them ought to be done. Again, no one bested us with logic or reason to explain why we should throw away longstanding-Western tradition for this new concept of Judgeocracy. You simply had a media that pounded home the message that the legislature was acting in an "unconstitutional" manner if they did not acquiese to drinking whatever snake oil the cross-dressing determiners of "justice" on the court were pushing.

2) The idea that pooring money into new faclities will significantly improve education is fallacious.

Most judges don't know jack-cheese about what needs to be done to improve education. I do, because I was a public school teacher for 12 years. Here proponents of throwing state money at facilities confuse cause and effect. In communities where education is not highly valued, schools will tend to be run down. But fixing the symptom by giving them an expensive and shiney knew building does absolutley nothing to address the real issue- that too few people in the community care. At least they don't care about fancy facilities.

That leads one to Thompson's position that "
If a district's patrons don't consider it worthwhile to pick up their share of a half-billion dollars, then they simply declare that their district does not deserve to live. Those who are waiting for a better deal are begging for consolidation."

The position has some merit, but sending 1,000 children that don't care into a new school district where they do will only drag down the new district. That distirct might well be unwilling to vote for the next millage increase that Thompson sees as "mandatory". Should we then close down THAT district? You see, one must address the root cause of the problem if you wish to solve it.

Or maybe its not a problem. Maybe its called FREEDOM. The trouble with freedom you see, is that other people might not value things that you think they should value to the same degree you would like them to. Maybe they value shiney new school buildings less. Maybe they even value education less. I view that as unfortunate, but I am not their masters. As such, it is not my (or the goverment's) business to attempt to force them to place what I consider to be the "proper" value on things. Let each community decide that, and allow people the freedom to live in the community they want to live in. That is as far as justice can go. Will it ensure that all schools meet your definition of what they ought to be? No, it only ensures your neighbor freedom from your efforts to meddle with their lives.

Each classroom I taught in would have what the educrats would describe as "substandard" facilites. Some years there was fantastic education going on in those rooms. Sometimes it was poor. The reason was not the condition of the facilites, nor was much of the reason the teacher, but it was the atitudes, values, and habits of the students. It was the amount of discipline that the administration was willing to enforce.

Those things mattered more than the new buidling. One school I taught at had bad facilites, and was a bad school. the superintendent got a big millage passed with the help of local media who were completely one-sided in their reporting. They now have new facilities, but they are still a bad school. The facilites did not change the underlying problem.

The problem was and is that the minority of parents most willing to throw a fit when their ill-behaved children ruin the learning environment for everyone are the ones who have de-facto control over the school. This is because the administration of the school has the same attitude as the legislature when to comes to fighting a just fight over going with the flow. It is easier to rebuke your employees, the teachers, whose job you control, than to stand up to the trouble makers.

So the problem is not facilities, but attitudes, values, and behaviors, along with discipline for those who don't display the proper ones. But our permissive culture recoils at the prospect of disciplining children. So they just lash out with your checkbook- throwing money at this thing or that, hoping there is a way to fix it without fighting the good (but hard) fights God has given us to fight.

Such thinking is at variance with what Proverbs says about raising children, but once again the Westen traditions have been thrown out without the reasons ever being examined. When did we ever actually decide "we need to throw out these assumptions about education in favor of believing the problem is a lack of money"? We never did. It is not a position that my opponents can defend with either logic or reason, yet here I am on the outside looking in, simply for believing what gentlemen in the Western tradition have always believed.

continued....

9:28 AM, March 10, 2007  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:04 AM, March 10, 2007  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

3) The program assumes it is OK for the government to redistribute wealth. It presumes that taking money from people who earned it and giving it to people to whom it does not belong is OK if you are "the government". This turns democracy into three wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

The money is to be made available on a sliding scale. The less money in the community, the more money they can get. The most prosperous communities can't get any. They must fund the mandated "improvements" from their own pockets or "they deserve to be consolidated".

These prosperous communities are all located in NWA, while the rest of the state is eligible for the money. But didn't the courts just rule that legislators could not use GIF money for local improvement projects because the constitution says the laws they pass must apply to all the state equally? It seems that by using income, the rest of the state has found a way to side-step this provision and plunder their "neighbors" to the north and west. What is perplexing is the number of legislators even from those regions that not only let it pass without comment, but actually sign off on the deal!

"But those rich people in the NW have got the money" some protest. Exactly. They have it because it is theirs. It is not yours. It is not ok for you to take it simply because you have less. Using the government as your middle-man to do the dirty work is no less a theft. Such a lax view of property rights is at variance with the Biblical admonitions not to steal and not to covet.

One hundred years ago everyone knew this to be true. Today, men of education and intelligence stare at me with blank incomprehension when I endeavor to make the point. They stare at me like a pig staring at a wristwatch. It simply does not compute. Their minds have been manipulated too far in the other direction, and the effort required to break free of their conditioning is another of those good fights for which they have no stomach. After all, the reward of victory is to be considered "an extremist" who is "out of touch".


4) Spending the $843 million instead of giving it back to those who earned it is assumed to be the right thing to do. And our population has become so accustomed to this thinking, that the government cannot afford to "lose" the money, that they think they are being well-treated by the paltry give backs that our leaders offer us. The whole thing reminds me of a huge steak dinner where we are paying the tab, but only get the basket of crackers on the table and are glad for it. The main topic of dinner conversation was how to enlarge their appetites that they might eat even more next go-round.

Sir Thomas More was said to be "a man for all seasons", but I fear even he would be at odds with the spirit of these times. All seasons perhaps, but not all times. The hour is late, and the Sun is sinking in the West.

10:06 AM, March 10, 2007  

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