raising money…

I feel for Mayor Nutter, I really do: there is no money and City Council simply won’t take on reforming the wage tax or real estate assessments and his own office can’t seem to make folks pay taxes. Few residents will accept service cuts of any sort, the loss of jobs depletes the wage tax kitty, and tax deadbeats create massive holes in the budget.

But charging for trash pick-up? My house of four, where we carefully recycle, where we collect batteries, light bulbs, and computer accessories to bring to the recycling center, where we compost as much as we can…each week we put out a single can of trash that’s not even full. Pretty much the only time we put out two is when I fill our second barrel with the trash and leaves that are blowing all over the street.

Meanwhile, the various landlords around me put out three to six packed barrels each week. Hardly seems fair that we’d all be charged the same thing, particularly when I’ll be the loser who actually pays the tax while the others will let it go.

(I understand that a weighted system would require an enforcement division that simply doesn’t exist).

Update: Ronnie Polaneczky says it all here.

How do you explain

Lucinda Williams to your kids, who’ve just begun to put the meaning of lyrics together. We’ve long listened to “Sweet Old World”, but this morning, as we made our way past Six Blocks Away, which they love, not least of all because while he may be heartbroken, he still works in a donut shop, and into the other songs — He Never Got Enough Love, Pineola — and I’m in the position of trying to explain what it means when “mama ran off” or “his very own gun” or “found him lyin’ in his bed.”

Still, better than listening to the Wiggles.


Friday afternoon, as I was sitting in a seminar pondering how I might write an editorial based upon my research, I failed to realize that Bob Herbert had a piece in that morning’s Times describing the need for new school buildings.

The only thing I might have added would have been a paragraph or two outlining the ways in which new schools could be used to re-make portions of the educational landscape and the inequality that characterizes American education. Why not guarantee federal funds to districts that want to use school construction to integrate communities or who want to erect multi-use buildings that can provide both education and jobs? Hard to imagine what such a bill would look like or how you’d close loopholes, but it seems like a decent way to address the issue of infrastructure, which as we all know, is forever crumbling.

Voice of an actual teacher

I liked this editorial/book review, as it stresses things that I find important about teaching (I’ve never read any of Newkirk’s books…I guess I need to). To wit,

What teachers need is each other. We need to be sharing and discussing student work, bolstering and supporting each other through the inevitable failures, collaborating in manageable small communities, inviting each other into our classrooms. We need to witness daily the great teaching that is already going on inside our buildings.

This idea of co-creation is the hoped-for change that will sustain me through the years beyond 2010: that teachers may one day wrest control of their work from others. If it happens, it will happen by bits and pieces, but it is the most important “good idea” I cling to in this time of very bad ones.

Teacher Colleges

From Zoe Heller’s vicious 2003 novel, What Was She Thinking:

Such do-gooding fantasies are not uncommon in comprehensive schools these days. Many of the younger teachers harbour secret hopes of “making a difference.” They have all seen the American films in which lovely young women tame inner-city thugs with recitations of Dylan Thomas. They, too, want to conquer their little charges’ hearts with poetry and compassion. When I was at teacher training college, there was none of this sort of thing. My fellow students and I never thought of raising self-esteem or making dreams come true. Our expectations did not go beyond guiding our prospective pupils thorugh the three Rs and providing them with some pointers on personal hygiene. Perhaps we were lacking in idealism. But, then, it strikes me as not coincidental that, in the same period that pedagogical ambitions have become so inflated and grandiose, the standards of basic literacy and numeracy have radically declined. We might not have fretted much about our children’s souls in the old days, but we did send them out into the world knowing how to do long division.

End of the world

Having read The Road last year, and having just finished Far North, I’ve been increasingly fearful as I read Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future . While McKibben does try and point out some of the ways that the world is not ending, the combination of globalization and agricultural specialization highlights the tenuous nature of our so-called advanced civilization…if the food in most American houses has traveled 1,500 miles to get there, what happens if this distribution network breaks? Maybe it’ll be less about 28 Days or the Machines than a Grapes of Wrath Style Dustbowl.

Happy thoughts on the night before everyone goes back to school.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I watched these books fly off the shelves at Colin’s book fair but hadn’t had a chance to read them yet. My nephew had two of them that I read in rapid succession this week…awesome stuff. Reminded me of this New Yorker article about the purpose of children’s literature, where Elizabeth Kolbert offers a split between permissive vs. protectionist visions of children’s literature. These books are on the far side of permissive — not unlike Calvin and Hobbes — I feel like I’d have to read them with my kids to ensure that some of the jokes or activities weren’t attempted.

(How do you acknowledge the hilarity of your kids’ comments without encouraging inappropriate language?)

Curriculum and commercialization

So there’s a great article in Sunday’s Times about how the new brain research is influencing early childhood education. I’m fascinated by this process, and not just because my son is in kindergarten.
One striking thing, though: each researcher has their own curriculum attached to their research. So…what’s the sequence? Do research, assess results, develop curriculum, sell it? Develop curriculum, do research, tweak curriculum, sell it? Even assuming that every researcher described here approaches each step with integrity, it just seems troubling that the end result of the research is a product that can be sold. I know that no one is getting rich here — or maybe they are — but in a world where “research-based” has become a selling point, how do we make sure that the “product” is free of commercial considerations?

On the other hand, I’d rather it was a researcher trying to bring their studies into a classroom then a textbook company…

Reminds of the time a vice principal came into my room and asked me where she could order the curriculum I was using. I snorted… she couldn’t understand that I spent much of my free time designing that curriculum, with my own skills and my own knowledge of my students, and with the help of feedback offered by my students. Isn’t that the best part of teaching?