Field notes: car crashes into school and other educational issues.
My email crackled early the other morning, a message from a friend who monitors the Police band on his CB*:
Police and fire department as well as Rescue squad are enroute to the new Junior Senior school as someone did not want to be late for class and drove into the building. Police report it as" car vs. building"…
A few minutes later, another email, from a parent:
As I was driving my son to school this morning 3 police cars were speeding up to the high school doing at least 45 to 50 mph around the curves up the avenue. Thank God nobody was run over. Nothing is more important than the safety of the people along that road. So much for the walking school bus idea.
Ah, yes, the walking school bus. An idea that seems to be sweeping the nation, conquering the obesity problem, saving gas-guzzling millions—not here. We’ve been discussing it for a couple of years. I was pulled aside in the bank a couple of weeks ago. “I heard you’re for the walking school bus,” said the woman, an African American mother of six. It was not a question. “Don’t you know about the perverts?” That too was not a question.
A few days later, I received an email from a local real estate broker. It had a “busing” subject line and began “What a nasty winter afternoon!” I could guess where this was going, but I was wrong:
As an FYI, I support kids walking to school—I walked to St. Mary's and then used the City Trolley in High School (Which, by the way, I paid for out of my own money, since my parents believed that if I didn't want to walk, I had to pay.)
If you haven't already checked it out, I would encourage you to check out the website NeighborHood Watchdog, a site I have used for housing purposes. It was set up by John Walsh, the father whose child was abducted, and who then went on to launch America's Most Wanted.
Sadly, our town is chock full of Sex Offenders of all levels. Type in any address and any route to one of the schools and then be surprised! by how many RSOs a child would have to pass to get to their respective school.
And then of course, because society is much more complicated than when an older kid walked me to school, there are I'm sure, liability issues the walking school bus "operator" for lack of a better word, would be open too.
Teasing out the zeitgeist of a particular time and place isn’t easy—just ask Mitt.
I watch the presidential primaries these days with a new insight about the meaning of the old saw, “You couldn’t be elected dog catcher.” Yes, the saying suggests that the lowliest of jobs requires community support. But it also means that that support comes from somewhere too deep for just anyone to grasp. Teasing out the zeitgeist of a particular time and place isn’t easy—just ask Mitt. I have watched the easiest of questions to a community group turn complicated because of a left-field comment—or seen a crowd’s confusion clarified by a deft turn of phrase, as was done at a school board meeting when a grandparent whose grandson had sprained his ankle in our school’s actual left field implored the audience to get the kids off “this field of screams.”
Will the car stuck in the side of the school building derail the walking school bus idea? Perhaps. But the bigger question, for policymakers, is, Should it? Do cop cars speeding to the scene suggest a problem? What about those Registered Sex Offenders? What should someone in the state capitol–or the nation’s capitol–make of this?
Or the ivory tower?
The other day Jay Greene called attention to a note that a research colleague of his had gotten from his child’s second-grade teacher after the colleague published a study about teacher pay. “How do you sleep at night?” the teacher wrote. As Greene points out,
The teacher was just engaged in bullying, a practice that schools say they are trying to discourage. And part of the bullying is the not so subtle reminder that the teacher has [the researcher’s] children all day. Parents are (at least partially) compelled to send their children to the care of adults who may threaten you if you say things they dislike.
Perhaps the most annoying habit of the educational institution I experience is its arrogance. It is an arrogance of power, the source of which may just as easily come from local bullies as distant ones.
Greene singles out “the teacher unions and their advocates, like Diane Ravitch and Valerie Strauss, [who] encourage strident views and confrontational tactics that make unprofessional behavior far more likely.” And he is right, as far as he goes. The protective cocoon that shields educators from responsibility for their educational actions—or lack thereof—can just as easily originate in the knot of friends and family who control local elections, by word-of-mouth, as from state and federal policymakers ruled by special interests. We will take this conundrum up in a future post discussing an amazing Koret Task Force proposal described by Grover Whitehurst in the new Education Next (hint: “let the dollars follow the child”). How do you get authentic democracy? Better yet: how do you get it to deliver an excellent education?
For now where I live, the big educational question is, What do we do with that car stuck in the side of the school building?
*Update: Though the car apparently sideswiped another car in the the parking lot, then jumped the curb and careened across a wide sidewalk before crashing into the teachers' lounge, no one was hurt. The vehicle has been towed away, insurance companies summoned, and an emergency meeting of the board facilities committee called for Monday. In the meantime, another email just arrived: an angry high schooler just kicked in a safety-glass window, but he said it had nothing to do with school.
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
May 16, 2013
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