I’ve been reading a lot of candidate statements lately and, man, are we in trouble.
Not because of these people might get elected, but because they already are serving in the New Jersey Legislature.
Don’t these people think about what they write?
The candidates, especially the Republicans — but the Democrats and Independents are not immune, so get too happy — can’t get out of their own way as they condemn the state’s public schools.
Since the remedy du jour is school choice, the candidates present numerous therories about how that system should work .
The statement that sums up the whole debate was offered by a western Jersey Republican who said that parents and students should be able to attend school wherever they choose, no matter where they live.
Think about that a moment.
Say the family lives in Hunterdon County, and the school they choose for their child is in Morris County.
Since the legislator wants them to attend the school of their choice, but does not want the state to pay for transporting that student to school, one of the parents — we are using the GOP nuclear family model here, Mom, Dad, 2.3 children, and not the real-life model of a single parent, or of one parent who has three hour commute because the family wanted to have that five-bedroom home on five acres in the middle of horse country even though Dad still works in New Brunswick — will have to drive the child to school, and be able to pick them up after school.
That is unless Jeeves will be driving the lad to school in the Bentley.
Anyway, to make that school choice work, one parent and the student are on the road early, but this being Jersey, 78 is jammed by an unseen accident and 287 is clogged because there is a real accident on Route 80 that backs up traffic to Pennsylvania.
So the parent is late for work, and has to leave early to pick up their child, and the wear-and-tear on the four-year-old family sedan is driving it into the ground and everyone is really, really cranky because of the additional hours on the road, so the parents quits their job to become a fulltime chauffeur, or maybe tries to find a new one.
But this being the state where the unemployment rate is still over 9 percent despite the governor’s bullying, good luck with that.
So, let’s multiple that by a few thousand parents and kids.
And ignore the environmentalists who are pointing out with reason that all those cars on the road are filling the air with carcinogens.
What’s going on here?
This: Work suffers, people quit their jobs to bus kids to school in distant locales, the loss of income means the family cuts back, so they shop less and the local stores suffer and lay off workers. Or the family falls behind on their house payments and the bank takes it and they end up at the food pantry or homeless shelter. All in pursuit of the need to be free of those government shackles that forced the parents to send their chuildren to the school that they might have attended, or their grandparents might have built.
The hell with tradition, stability, community life, and all those taxpayers who for years supported the local school as the ideal place to educate local kids.
We need competition. It works for for businesses, so it must work for schools.
But put this into your competition model: A fourth grader, on the way to school to take the state ordered test that will determine whether she moves up to the fifth grade is bullied. The bigger girls don’t like her dress or her glasses or the fact that it’s Tuesday, so they take her lunch and rip up her English homework.
And she does poorly on the test.
Does that factor into the competition model?
Or how about this one, that actually happened in a small school district.
Normally the eighth graders perform above proficiency on the the state exam, but one year, they only perform at 96 percent. Parents storm the school board meeting demanding answers because their property values will drop if 13-year-olds are perceived to be less smart that those of the past.
Turns out it was one student with the flu. The test sample was so small one student could move percentage noticably.
Is that where we are headed? Kids as widgets?
And what happens if this choice/competition model succeeds?
Maybe the rest of the town stops supporting the local school because so many students are out competing it become a money pit. Maybe no one uses the library as much or the parks, or sits on a bench and watches the river flow.
Maybe the reason that brought humans to form groups, tribes, societies, governments, tears at the center.
And maybe the whole system breaks down.
That would achieve the goals of one candidate who said he wanted to get government out of education.
But something else would be lost.
The soul of ourselves.
Michael Stephen Daigle
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