Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sweet and Sour

The Grosse Pointe Public Schools had put a $50 million bond issue on the ballot; it was voted on February 25. The public rejected it by a 70 percent majority. The bonds would have paid for a fiber-optic network serving the several institutions within the district; purchased computers, laptops, and tablets; and would have in addition beefed up security using cybernetics. Owners of houses like ours—which is sort of average in this district—would have paid about $230 per annum more in property taxes.

The pro-bond lawn signs said “Tech Yes,” thus causing the mind to echo back “Heck Yes.” Good slogan that. The anti-bond forces said “Heck No,” “Vote No,” or spelled it out: “Vote No on School Tax Levy.” Around here the “Tech Yes” signs were significantly more numerous, but in the vote last Tuesday the antis won a decisive victory.

Brigitte and I failed to vote; there was, you might say, some interference. But we liked the outcome. Mind you, we admire our school system here. It is one of the highest ranked district across the state, indeed across the nation. In 2009, for instance, Grosse Pointe South high school ranked in the top 2 percent of high schools academically. The district serves one of the wealthiest communities in the Detroit Metro area. What that means is that the average student probably already owns at least one computer, laptop, or tablet. And as South lets out on school day afternoons, it is dangerous to cross Kercheval at Fisher (next to our Library), because the masses of students crossing the intersection, ignoring the lights, are all staring at smartphones. The outcome of this vote, therefore, was sweet; but it felt sour.

The sour taste comes from the fact that our educational powers that be still think that genuine advance in education can be achieved by buying it—by buying things and systems. The same process is underway massively in all kinds of other communities. Buy the cyber and you’re buying the future wealth of your children. That part doesn’t taste good. And, sure enough, the District, recovering from the shock of Tech No, is planning somehow to fund this achievement of primacy in education by funding it out of current revenues. Some things, of course will have to be delayed (maintenance on hundred-year old buildings) and by eliminating extras. What extras are still left? The “sour” comes from contemplating the substitutions that lie ahead. History? English lit?  

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