As You See It: Nov. 28, 2008

I was encouraged to read about the mayor's ideas on cleaning up Santa Cruz. Here are a few more: Design a major event to signal the city's transformation. Full Story
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James Anderson Merritt

Fairfield, CA

#24 Nov 28, 2008
I was a PCS parent for a year, during which my son got an excellent education; although we ultimately decided that another school was an overall better fit for him, I have nothing but good things to say about PCS' academic effectiveness. I believe that the year my son spent there gave him an excellent foundation for later success in high school and ultimate admission to UC Berkeley.

mbj writes the truth about PCS admissions as my family and I experienced it. If charter schools got the full measure of per-pupil funding that regular schools do, they wouldn't have to so strongly encourage parents to kick down additional "tuition," but there is absolutely no requirement to provide the school with any money. The parental time commitment is, as mbj says, crucial to student success, as well as PCS' own improvement; speaking from experience, it is not just a reasonable thing to require, but also a sensible thing.

The deck is so clearly stacked against PCS and other charter schools, and yet huge crowds of people can still be found to pile on the criticism of those institutions, even when they deliver excellent results, as PCS consistently does. I have never understood that type of thinking. If you want to give loyal support to public schools, fine. Go right ahead. But you don't have to run down and try to extinguish well-meaning (and successful!) alternatives. If the only way for the public schools to survive is to stamp out any and all alternatives, that's the sign of a collectivist dictatorship, and we really shouldn't tolerate that kind of thing in this country: too many who came before us died to prevent the proliferation of such approaches, and it dishonors their memory and their sacrifices to embrace the tactics of our old enemies now.
James Anderson Merritt

Fairfield, CA

#25 Nov 28, 2008
RobtZ wrote:
Why is quality public education something that we have to ration in this land of million dollar houses?
Because anything provided through conscripted resources and central planning is always, invariably, rationed sooner or later.

If you had asked "why is quality education something we have to ration," I would have answered that the supply problem could easily be solved by privatizing the education system. This would, I believe, result in more of the public getting an actual education than they do now. But you asked about "quality PUBLIC education," meaning that you were really asking why the current, inherently flawed approach can't seem to deliver the goods and whether it can be fixed. It's similar to the question that voters ask about the dismal results of our two-party electoral system, just before they go into the voting booth and endorse a candidate from one of the big-two parties, despite the presence of third-party and independent candidates for the same offices. It's not that those other candidates are worse than the "big two." It's that the voters usually don't even know or care about the alternatives. Their minds reside in the two-party box, upon which the media and other shapers of public opinion keep a tight lid. Just so, the people who complain about the dismal state of "public education" seem incapable of even entertaining the idea that "quality education available to the public" and "the public education system" are not at all the same thing.
RobtZ

Napa, CA

#26 Nov 28, 2008
I don't think it is public education per se. Where I went to high school, which was a Midwest suburb that was about 90% Republican, people took great pride in the quality of public libraries and public education. I benefited as a consequence. I was under the impression that the reason that these facilities were good in an upper-middle-class suburb was because of the property tax revenues that were invested in social infrastructure. In this same suburb, houses cost a little bit less than they do in Santa Cruz, yet the schools still rank very high nationally. So I stand by my original question: why is it that a community with such wealth cannot support decent libraries, schools, etc? Even PCS has very poor facilities compared to the average midwestern high school building, especially science facilities. I'm afraid the schools are deliberately run into the ground to force privatization.
Andy

South San Francisco, CA

#27 Nov 28, 2008
disabuser wrote:
Would you rather have a school board of interested parent or a school board elected through the political power of interested teacher's unions? The later is the dominant force in school boards throughout the state with some rare exceptions. That explains why publics schools real main constituency are its adult government employees. And they are not just the dominant force in local school governance, they are probably the most power political force in state politics.
Why then is CA 46th in per pupil spending among our 50 states? Seems to me anti-tax folks, corporations, and wealthy individuals have had a far greater say in CA spending priorities than teachers, parents, students, and others who make up our school communities.

“I will now use my Lirpa”

Since: Aug 08

Washington DC

#28 Nov 28, 2008
RobtZ wrote:
I don't think it is public education per se. Where I went to high school, which was a Midwest suburb that was about 90% Republican, people took great pride in the quality of public libraries and public education. I benefited as a consequence. I was under the impression that the reason that these facilities were good in an upper-middle-class suburb was because of the property tax revenues that were invested in social infrastructure. In this same suburb, houses cost a little bit less than they do in Santa Cruz, yet the schools still rank very high nationally. So I stand by my original question: why is it that a community with such wealth cannot support decent libraries, schools, etc? Even PCS has very poor facilities compared to the average midwestern high school building, especially science facilities. I'm afraid the schools are deliberately run into the ground to force privatization.
They are run so poorly here because of the Liberal Forced Diversity Agenda. Progressive Education. SPIT! Foreced Diversity. SPIT! The whole poor Miguel syndrome they have here in this county is pathetic and criminal. The Christian values and education system of the mid-west and the east coast is flushed down the drain here in Santa Cruz. When a school such as PCS excels then those who WILL NOT do as good complain and put down those who do excel and succeed. My children went to several progressive schools and pre-schools and did not learn squat. I wondered why they would not teach the basics and wondered why the trouble maker was the one who got all the attention not the students who stood out academically. I put them in a conservative Christian right wing school and they immediately started to read and do math at a second grade level. Wow, they were in Kindergarten! The trouble makers are booted and the responsibility lay on the parents to straighten their children up. Applaud!

Making the county school system be the baby sitters for the migrant farm workers schildren is also criminal. Why cant Driscolls and McCormics pay for their employees childrens education? Why should we?
RobtA

United States

#29 Nov 28, 2008
Privatization of education is, of course, a theme that libertarians (and many others) hold fondly. But I would like to see some real evidence, based on a compatible theory. Yes, I know that I am weasel-wording.

Everything is rationed, save for those few things (such as air) that are still the vanishing commons. Paying for something is simply a way of rationing according to ability to pay, or according to ability to persuade others to pay for you. The latter reason is why colleges have football teams taking up classroom space and resources that might have gone to science labs: the teams can persuade more people to pony up money than can science students. And, I might add, the science students are supposedly there for the later benefit of private industry.

It's just that the private industry that runs beer and car ads during college football games is more willing to spend money, in expectation of return, than virtually any company located (say) in Silicon Valley.

The problem with education, be it paid from public coffers or via private tuition, is that there is no clear theory regarding who benefits. I claim that if I study (say) C++ programming, it is of virtually no benefit to me personally. It is only of value if someone wishes to hire me to use it. If not, all the C++ expertise in the world is of no avail. Might as well burn the software manuals to keep my hands warm (indirect reference to La Boheme, for you opera goers).

You might say that the knowledge gives me a competitive advantage. Relative to what? As long is there is a large and increasing supply of competitors, my hypothetical education is of no benefit to me.(Disclosure: I do not program, and have no interest in PCS).

Knowing something, or someone, is of value to me only if others do not have it. That is why the "best" schools are also the ones that are most exclusive, carefully limiting quantity of output. Whether or not the best and brightest are chosen to go there is irrelevant (look how many of our politicans went to, say, Yale). The determining factor, among those who are adequately good, is whether the educational output is intentionally made scarcer. The exclusive schools are almost always private, or run by a cabal. Thus, I claim, privatization increases scarcity rather than remedying it, and that is by intent.

That does not mean I stand up for public education. I am just offering an observation.
RobtZ

Napa, CA

#30 Nov 28, 2008
The idea for universal public education was a product of the same Eighteenth Century Enlightenment that spawned the American Revolution (or more accurately, war of independence). Universal public education was a reaction to the entrenched class system of England. The idea is that your parents' class should not dictate your educational opportunities.

Put in slightly more modern, relevant (albeit extreme) terms, why shouldn't a child of crackheads who is bright, hard-working, and productive be afforded the same opportunity at PCS as a child of real estate agents? Why should the parent's attitude, economic circumstances, etc, limit this child? Or the child of a single parent who works two jobs just to pay the rent? Having a litmus test on the parents runs counter to the idea of universal education being society's great equalizer.

From a slightly more mercenary perspective, the more kids properly educated, the fewer that will grown up to stick a shiv in my ribs and relieve me of my wallet.
James Anderson Merritt

Fairfield, CA

#31 Nov 28, 2008
RobtZ wrote:
I don't think it is public education per se. Where I went to high school, which was a Midwest suburb that was about 90% Republican, people took great pride in the quality of public libraries and public education. I benefited as a consequence. I was under the impression that the reason that these facilities were good in an upper-middle-class suburb was because of the property tax revenues that were invested in social infrastructure. In this same suburb, houses cost a little bit less than they do in Santa Cruz, yet the schools still rank very high nationally. So I stand by my original question: why is it that a community with such wealth cannot support decent libraries, schools, etc? Even PCS has very poor facilities compared to the average midwestern high school building, especially science facilities. I'm afraid the schools are deliberately run into the ground to force privatization.
No, the fact that the schools are being run into the ground will eventually lead to privatization, but I don't think that such a result is pat of anyone's secret, bizarro-fabian plan.

You put your finger on something in your posting, and then went on to draw an unwarranted conclusion from it: the people in your suburb took pride in the infrastructure they were providing. They felt a sense of ownership, control, and investment. Very likely, the schools were owned and controlled by local school boards, and the primary funding source was local property taxes. I'd be surprised to learn that funding and curriculum marching orders came from a central regional or statewide authority.

Anyway, the wrong conclusion to draw is that "more money necessarily equals better results." Instead, more parental involvement and feeling of investment is the more reliable ingredient for success, and this is something that PCS understands very well.

I think a better question to ask is "why does a substandard education cost so much around here?" Although some of the answer lies in the over-inflated prices of local housing, I think the lion's share of the blame must be laid at the doorstep of the socialized education system. A key problem is the centralized control, especially of funding, which is concentrated in Sacramento. Not only parents, but also local school officials, are rendered impotent and must put up with policy and funding decisions that come from far away. The teachers' unions have an easier time getting their way when they can concentrate lobbying activities in the capitol neighborhood in Sacramento, instead of having to contend individually with hundreds of school boards throughout the State.

Although the school system of your youth was still technically socialized, it was closer to decentralized, free-market autonomy than school systems enjoy today. In my opinion, what you liked about "the old days" had less to do with the virtue of the "public education" model than it did with the closer resemblance of school systems of yore to free enterprise and voluntary charity. It is the difference between a community garden that is supported by local civic mindedness, and a government-run farm in an economy where nobody but the State can own the land or the produce.
James Anderson Merritt

Fairfield, CA

#32 Nov 28, 2008
RobtA wrote, "Everything is rationed, save for those few things (such as air) that are still the vanishing commons."

I disagree. Yes, resources may be finite, and it may be impossible for everyone at any given time to have enough of resource x or the products made from it. But "rationing" isn't the same as the distribution patterns that come out of voluntary trade between people, i.e., the free market.

RobtA suggests that education may not be valuable unless it gives someone something that another person doesn't have, and from this, he concludes that privatization of education would tend to increase its scarcity. Yet privatization of computers made ever more of them available to ever more people at ever lower prices. Privatization of the food supply has made much of the world fat -- even in impoverished and developing nations! We can cite example after example, in which private producers, participating in a free market, have created abundance. Unless RobtA is right about the value of education, I don't see any reason that free-market forces can't produce similar improvement in the availability of education.

So is RobtA right? I think not so much. Education that helps a person cope and keep up with the world, provide for his or her own needs and those of any dependents, and generally comprehend and appreciate existence, can be imparted to EVERYONE without diminishing the value of anyone else's similar education. We are all born with different talents and potentials. A proper education enables people to recognize and develop their individual grab-bags of qualities, and to keep learning for life. But even in the case where one seeks an ability or skill that will provide a competitive edge -- something that few or no others may have -- the free market rewards providers (and consumers) of education related to premium occupations. If industry needs more C++ programmers, for instance, the offered salaries for those programmers will rise, justifying someone's investment in education to become qualified for the job. With more and more people clamoring for training in C++, more and more qualified instructors will be encouraged to share their knowledge with paying students. Far from promoting scarcity of knowledge, the free market forces operating on the employment market and the education market will impel participants to spread the knowledge around.

People try to corner markets, whether it is for diamonds, pork-bellies, or education. But usually, they can only be successful by relying on government to restrict competition, erecting barriers to entry. In a privatized education environment, in which government cannot dictate the terms of participation for either providers or consumers, people might try to create exclusivity and scarcity, but they'll only be able to do that by establishing a "brand" and convincing people that other brands are inferior. For people who value a name-brand and want to purchase no other alternative, scarcity may exist at times, or in particular situations. But people who value QUALITY will be able to get what they need and more from "store-brand" or "generic" providers. I have seen this happen in market segment after market segment. It will happen in education, as in so many other service industries.
hmm

Santa Cruz, CA

#33 Nov 29, 2008
Hey Cherie Mietz...just so you know Petsmart does not sell rabbits. Once a month they have a rabbit rescue come in to adopt out rabbits. Another person who doesn't check their facts before they write a published letter.

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