Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's a little known fact that newspapermen have been competing for centuries to see who can publish an editorial of such vacuity that the reader is left with the exact same amount of knowledge about a subject that he had when he began reading. (I will use the male pronoun throughout this article, as is the tradition in the newspaper business; women being a source of revenue, but suspect).

Of course, there are rules and traditions, controversies and feuds. All great endeavors are thus. As a college student, Thomas Jefferson once killed a man before he could publish an essay on the rhythmic nature of tides in the Williamsburg Gazette. This act established Jefferson as a "go-getter" and set him up for a life in politics.

The trick in the endeavor is not leave the reader dumber than when he began - a Goldberg as it is known today - nor to give him even one interesting tidbit to which he could say to himself "I did not know that." It is harder than it may seem, as the average reader is a font of a lack of knowledge. As easy as it may be to impress a college teacher thusly, your man on the street is much harder to not educate.

As long as the competition has gone on, day after day, editorial after editorial it is semi-surprising that the achievement has been obtained by Jack Wilson of the Register Guard, a paper printed in the bucolic burg of Eugene. While he didn't write the editorial, he had the foresight to have it published, which wins him the prize, much like a producer taking home an academy award for Best Picture. The actual author is Douglas Vaughan of the Lutheran board for higher education and ministries.

The article in question is, of course, too boring to read in it entirety. As you would expect, it makes outlandish claims and does not even begin to back them up. It posits nostrums without explanations. It hints at allegations. It ends with a sentence that does not make sense. It has nothing, which means it has it all.

The topic is accountability in the schools, or, to be precise, the lack there of.

Accountability is truly the No. 1 crisis facing public education today.

How do we know this? Well, it seems that the United States' children so not do well on test scores compared with their international cohort. It is clear that what is needed is accountability. You need further examples?
The Civic Stadium debacle is a prime example of the continuing mismanagement of public resources. Another is this year’s University of Oregon’s salary increases, in defiance of common sense.

It is a clear fact that the mismanagement of pubic resources in the form of unused stadia and raises to university educators have depressed the nation's school children preventing them from excelling in standardized testing. The inability of so-called responsible adults to sell property in a timely manner and deny educators raises is our number one problem.

Still another stumbling block for accountability is the political shell game so skillfully managed under so-called grass-root organizations such as Stand for Children and Strong for Schools. Such organizations serve merely as window dressing for collective bargaining.

Not is not possible to actually derive a point from that sentence, but it seems ominous. The reader is left to infer his own inference, which is a nifty trick, as it provides the reader with the experience of feeling like he is thinking, without actually informing him of anything. At best a reader could say to himself, "I bet I know what I think he means by that."

Of course any editorial must, by definition, offer some sort of solution to the problem it has raised, in this case accountability.
Oregon must embrace major changes, too numerous to detail here. However, some future changes need to include full support for many more charter schools, creative incentives for home-schooling and additional opportunities for parochial schooling.

The greatest change must come in our public system from top to bottom. We need term limits for school board members and state representatives, regardless of party. New laws are needed to end the cozy monopoly enjoyed by members of the school board, collective bargaining teams and politicians at the direct expense of public education.

Nothing can remain off the table — including the unsustainable mounting cost of PERS, as well as the over-the-top cost of Cadillac health insurance benefits and compensation. All these will have to be changed.

Charter schools, home-schooling, parochial schools, new laws, cutting retirement and health benefits for teachers. There are your ideas for ending the crisis of accountability.

Accountability begins with everyone when the realities of public education are seen for what they truly are — an abysmal failure of oversight.

There, aren't you exactly the same as you were before you read that? Congratulations Jack Wilson, of the Register Guard, you go-getter you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We've got a long way to go

“I’m still trying to figure it out,” said Pete McCarthy, a pinstripe-suited lawyer who represents a financial services firm, studying the protesters on his way to work. “What are they saying, ‘People Instead of Profits’. What does it mean?”