A gathering spot for warriors fighting for their special-needs children
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
It was a video & photo shoot of a large highway/bridge project, and I was escorted around all day by the site manager, a nice older guy who'd had a 30-year career managing big projects. During the hours we were together, I asked a lot of questions, including questions about whether the company had benefited from Obama's stimulus plan, the so-called "shovel-ready" projects grants. This is what he told me.
"It started out good," he said. "We bid on this big bridge project and won the bid. But to get the job, we had to agree to a whole new set of rules on who we had to hire, how many of each type of person we had to hire, what we had to pay them, etc.
"It was a big problem for us to find the workers matching the description we were given. We simply could not find enough people with the skills we needed who were also willing to work on a very hard job in tough conditions.
"There are plenty of people out there who are willing to do this job, but we couldn't use those people, we had to use the people the government wanted us to use. So we worked at it and spent a lot of money chasing down applicants until, finally, we had a full crew. And that lasted about a day. By the second day, some of the workers who had shown up the first day decided 'the hell with it, this is too hard,' and they simply did not come back. By the end of the first week, we no longer had enough manpower to get the work done."
See, this is where the so-called Obama Stimulus runs off the rails. Using public monies to create infrastructure--fine, I'm all for that. But telling the construction companies how to do the work--micromanaging their operations and saddling them with wholly unrealistic rules and using racial quotas to further a social agenda---well, now you've just taken a good premise and strangled it.
The irony is, nearly every construction worker I meet on these shoots is a member of a minority group. Usually Hispanic, but with a good mix of blacks. The government didn't need to introduce more diversity into this population of workers, because frankly, the hard-labor jobs within the construction trade are so unpleasant that people with better options tend not to take them.
But try telling that to the pointy-headed progressive do-gooders who controlled the purse strings in this particular case. No, they were out to create jobs AND make new opportunities for people of color! Only they forgot one important thing--the second part of that whole lead-a-horse-to-water parable.
You can't make the horse drink, and you can't make people work at an admittedly nasty job when the alternative is getting a small but livable allowance from the government.
Take away the allowance, though, and now those bridges get built. Is this so hard to figure out?
I wouldn't want one of those jobs. I would do almost anything to avoid it. But I wouldn't go on welfare to avoid it--I would show up, every day, and work.
As for the too many people who would go on welfare to avoid it--well, we need to stop worrying so much about those people, and spend more time worrying about bridges, schools, crooked bankers, whether or not global warming is real, and many other pressing priorities.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
When someone drops out of high school, overeats, or fails to exercise, you tell us that their behavior is only "human." But if a conservative or libertarian objects to paying taxes to help people who make these choices, you get angry. Question: Why are you so forgiving of people with irresponsible lifestyles, but so outraged by people who don't want to pay taxes to help people with irresponsible lifestyles? This seems morally perverse. If you're going to single anyone out for condemnation, it should be the person who behaves irresponsibly in the first place, not the complete stranger who asks, "How is this my fault?"
It's tempting to insist, "We're all sinners." But the hard fact is that there's a lot of variance in the population. People with extremely responsible lifestyles are just as human as anyone else. They're not gods, just mortals who do the right thing. We should hold them up as role models, instead of attacking them if they complain that they're taxed enough already.
In Chicago, where Rahm Emmanuel is trying to hold low-SES parents accountable for their childrens' school performance and behavior, the parents have spoken: No Way.
And this story holds an important lesson for us as we go into the final phase of redistricting.
With Emmanuel's blessing, a well-regarded charter school has been fining parents $5 per violation for their kids' transgressions, including dress code violations and breaking school rules.This policy inspired several hundred parents to march on CPS headquarters, claiming the school was forcing them to "take food off their tables" and endure other profound hardships.
This is what happens when you put conditions on what was previously a no-strings-attached entitlement. When you move somebody's government cheese.
The parents could have responded by imposing appropriate discipline at home, stopping the fines by insisting their children comply with the charter's well-publicized rules, but instead they chose to take a stand AGAINST accountability, AGAINST high standards, AGAINST, in fact, their own childrens' best interests.
The problem of parents who can't be persuaded to send their children to school ready and willing to learn is so racially and politically charged that in none of the voluminous discussions about SES on this forum have any of the 04W or Southside commenters been willing to go anywhere near it.
"Those parents" are indefensible, so instead, some of our intellectually dishonest and self-serving neighbors are continuously trying to redirect the conversation to how "privileged" we are in our "enclaves" and accusing us of not caring about children on the wrong side of some street.
Give them their due: the apologists for all these failing parents are loud and persistent, like a really bad case of tinnitus.
And pretty soon this political football is going to the BOE and City Council, where it will get kicked all over the lot, Errol Davis's reasonableness notwithstanding. Did you read the Tweets yesterday? Politicians and BOE members can hardly wait for Errol Davis to give them a plan so they can have their way with it.
I want you to remember this:
All the parents who could not be bothered to dress their kids appropriately, help with homework or impose discipline at home nevertheless had plenty of time and energy to rally at Chicago Public School HQ today for their right not to be held accountable.
These are the people whose values we reject, wherever they happen to live. And a great many of them live right here.
When the 04Wers and Kirkwooders and others decide they actually want to take on the problem of uninvolved parents, that's when they can come to us and ask us to make sacrifices to help their schools get better. Not until then.
Oh, you can try to force us to do it--and maybe Mr. Davis will cave or the BOE/Council will strongarm him. But you haven't thought of one thing--if and when that happens, we will just build a charter school here in our little "enclave."
We'll secure public funds; we'll make it better than any school APS runs right now--even SPARK or MES.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
This is a true story.
Monday, December 26, 2011
So your nothing-but-trouble relative, who spent the last decade runnin' a numbers game, finally brings ruin upon the whole family.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The bureaucrats who stonewalled us and got the district sued have a particular blend of arrogance and sense-of-entitlement that is oh so very North Korea, only blacker. So you're in for a big disappointment if you expect redistricting to be handled professionally and sanely.
Errol Davis is a righteous dude, but our Board of Ed is a formidable opponent to anyone wishing to do good in this school district. Our BOE reps are really just Costco-sized versions of APS bureaucrats--Now! Even MORE arrogance! And with EXTRA BONUS senses of entitlement! (Because, after all, they rationalize, they were elected by their (now deeply regretful) constituents).
The District is going to use numbers it creates (or finesses) to persuade you that there is NO OTHER CHOICE than to bus your kids away from schools that YOU have made into good schools----
----and INTO schools that can NEVER be made into good schools because there is a critical mass of parents and children in those neighborhoods who cannot and will not allow excellence to occur.
The neighborhoods APS wants to send your kids to have been infected by a self-loathing urban "culture" which considers assimilation and achievement via hard work to be "lame."
This culture accepts as a norm the one-parent household; accepts as a norm the casual use of vicious and sexually-charged language (the vernacular of its "musicians" and "entertainers") by children, and simultaneously blames its hardships on, and expects to feed from, the hands of others. What passes for a "value system" in these neighborhoods is something you wouldn't want to get on your shoe, which is why you live here and not there.
Houses can be renovated, streets can be spruced up. But neither APS nor anyone else can fix the adults in many Atlanta neighborhoods; people whose children come to school not to learn but to disrupt learning.
APS makes a serious effort to help the children--as serious as its limited capabilities will allow-- but it is a clumsy, hapless whale swimming against the tide.
But--notice the whale segue!--here comes the legacy of the disgraced and departed Bev Hall.
Hall discovered that if she manipulated test cohorts, she could achieve illusory gains on the supposedly "fair" NAEP tests that she could then trumpet as her the legitimate fruit of her own hard work.
Hall's proteges at APS now realize they have the same opportunity. "Why, if we move a bunch of kids from SPARK to Hope-Hill," they reason, "we will have amazing jumps in test scores, and the children will be much easier to police.
You've got to admit it--they're right. If SPARK children were bused to Hope-Hill, the school's test scores would rise, and the percentage of little-thugs-from-thug-parents would be diluted, perhaps even to a level where teaching and learning could occur.
So, you--the parents at SPARK--now have an opportunity to do what APS could never in a million years do, and that is dilute the percentage of low-achieving and bad-behaving kids in APS's second-tier schools. Isn't that why you had children in the first place? So your offpsring could sacrifice their futures in order to buoy the children of low-achieving, deeply resentful parents and buoy the fortunes of low-achieving, deeply resentful APS bureaucrats?
What? No? You didn't have that in mind? Where's your civic-mindedness? How could you be so callous? What about the concept that you must do what Brenda Muhammed says is "in the best interest of ALL the children of Atlanta?"
One's heart breaks for the children of no-account parents. Good people everywhere want to help those kids, even as we deplore the disastrous decision-making that leads to poverty-stricken one-parent households with absent, deadbeat dads.
But you didn't cause the cancer that is inner-city black culture and you are not responsible for fixing it. You want to help? Help with time and money. Not by handing your kids over to amateur--and amateurish--social engineers masquerading as school officials.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
What Cecily Harsch-Kinnane and other progressive do-gooders want to sell you is the idea that diversity, by itself, is always a virtue, and that you cannot possibly get too much of it.
Monday, December 5, 2011
I love the "What I've Learned" feature in Esquire. You get the benefit of the accumulated wisdom of some very smart people like Regis Philbin and some people who have figured a few things out via some hard knocks (like Tim Allen).
Or the "Ask Jimmy the Bartender" feature in Mens Health--same thing. Great advice!
Recently, David Brooks of the New York Times did a series of columns on life lessons from folks who have lived a good long while. Excellent reading!
The point is, it's always less painful to learn something from somebody else's mistakes if you can.
So here, for your benefit, is what we have learned from our mistakes with APS:
1. Put on your headphones and listen to your iPod.
When you go to a meeting with APS people, you're going to be told over and over again what a great job they are doing and how they are using data-driven best practices and how they are on the upswing and how things are continuously improving. Put on your headphones and ignore this crap, because it's just a spiel Bevvy Hall told everyone to tell to parents.
Hall believed in the old football adage that the best defense is a great offense. So by always going on the offensive--always telling parents things were great and getting better all the time! --Bev was able to prevent APS from undergoing any real scrutiny for nearly all of her tenure. Until, of course, she left office utterly disgraced...
2. Don't worry about asking nicely, because it doesn't matter.
There are a great many people I know who really believe that if you ask a municipal employee to do their job better in a really nice tone and with your practiced empathy on full display you'll be able to persuade them not to hate your privileged ass and actually do the job they were hired to do in a halfway-competent manner.
I probably believed that at one point. But I now know it's a sucker bet, and it never works.
3. If you really want something done, there's only one way to do it, and that's to get a lawyer.
APS is condescending-to-openly-hostile to parents--you're the paper and APS is the scissors. But lawyers are the rock. So bring the rock with you. Trust me on that.
My prediction is that this whole redistricting thing will end up a bonanza for lawyers, and the communities with the best lawyers will win. I hope I'm wrong. But just in case, I want to find the Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger of lawyers.
My first thought when I heard there would have to be a major redistricting plan to accommodate the mini-baby-boom in Midtown was this:
We’re going to have to let our BOE make a big decision, and as sure as the sun comes up in the East, they’re going to screw it up.
Our BOE: individually, they're about the least talented group you’ll come across, but cumulatively—that’s where they really work their magic. Because cumulatively, they can’t agree on how to turn on a light switch. Cumulatively, they make the Supercommittee (you know, the one that never had a chance of reaching a deal on the U.S. budget) look like a model of cooperation and compromise.
We didn’t need (or pay much attention to the thought of electing) a smart, talented BOE last election day because we had Bevvy Hall, and she looked to the world (and to Atlantans) like the real deal. By that same token, the BOE members we have today probably thought getting a slot on the BOE would be an easy gig; nothing much to do but stand back and bask in the shared glory of Bevvy’s accomplishments.
But then, of course, it all turned to shit, and our BOE panicked, blew the investigation into the cheating scandal, disintegrated into Board of Ed Fight Club, got into a lawsuit, nearly got tossed out of office by Gov. Deal, and now...here we are. A BOE you wouldn’t trust to grade a second-period spelling test (I’m not sure all of them can spell) and we have to let them make the biggest decision in Midtown in the last 15 years.
Again: oh, fuck.
But as you play out the various scenarios that are likely to occur (and all the scenarios I can imagine have the BOE making a series of stupid decisions, resulting in more catastrophic damage to our system and neighborhood), it is comforting to remember this one thing:
You can get a divorce.
You can secede from this union. (You have to be careful saying that around here, because if you’re not, pretty soon you’re ringed by tattooed young men in pickup trucks shouting some sort of rebel yell, but yes, you can secede).
You can tell APS to go eff itself. (See illustration. Now, work into a sentence).
You can start a charter school or start a movement to force-convert existing schools into charter schools.
Now, if you do that, APS is going to FREAK OUT.
They are going to pull out all the stops to block you.
They realize that if you win, it’s the beginning of a process that ends with them dead or irrelevant in a few years.
And like any bureaucracy, they’ll fight with all their might to avoid that.
But who is going to say to us (and our lawyers): no, you cannot have a great school in your own neighborhood. You must continue to use subpar schools wherever APS tells you to go, because the greater collective good is better served if you and your children suffer and are shortchanged.
I can’t believe that would really happen. Not in post-racial Obamamerica. But even if it does happen, we can appeal.
Remember the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes where the Kathy Bates character doesn't mind smashing up her own car because "I'm older, and I have better insurance."
Well, we're more affluent and we can afford better lawyers. We'll win in the end.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
You're seeing APS stripped naked now in stark fluorescent lighting. Pretty scary, isn't it? The budget mess, the OIT debacle, the running-aground of the SpEd program....oh, and the lying, cheating, lawbreaking administrators.