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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Road Apples, #67

It's Hot...Damn its hot outside. I'm talking "jungles of 'Nam" hot out there. Just when I relish in the warm weather and wonder why I ever want winter to come, days like this arrive and I long for something colder. This my life, in a microcosm.

Scranton School Performance - The Scranton Times has something of a final report card on the performance of area school districts in its Sunday edition today. NEPArtisan has some reaction to it that is no doubt very well thought out, and I'm not going to add much, save for this: I think the single most important element in the education of children isn't schools, teachers, sports or buildings; no the single most important element is parental involvement. Now I can't claim an awful lot of temporal success in life, but one thing I have done well so far is to help my daughters value learning. As a result, they are all very good students. When that happens in a household...when parents do things like read to children, when children see their parents read, when children have help with homework, when children see their parents use math to solve problems, when parents talk to children about current events...then I think children can be successful even in just about the worst of schools. Am I saying that schools and teachers are unimportant? Hell no. Growing up I had teachers that were nothing short of inspirational, but I don't think that a great teacher alone can't undo a toxic home environment.

School Funding - In the "if I were a School Board Director" department, when faced with the tough economic times that abound, I would be looking at all of the non-instructional costs associated with public schools. The top two things on my list:

1. Administrators and administrative costs
2. Sports

How bloated are school district administrations? Well judge for yourself here. I know that there are rules a-plenty to follow in operating a public school, but there are rules to follow everywhere. My employer's business is regulated by no less than the IRS, SEC, DOL, FINRA, and the state insurance regulators from all 50 states. The difference is that we don't have the luxury of simply raising taxes when our expenses get too high. Bottom line: I think most school district administrations need a top-to-bottom review to eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies so that more money goes to teaching kids and less money goes to bureaucrats.

As for sports, well I think they are a "nice to have" in education. Yes, students can learn about discipline and they can grow as individuals by participating in sports, but that kind of participation doesn't have to come at the taxpayers expense. What's more, sports really only benefit a small, small fraction of the students in a district. I don't know that most sports programs need to be eliminated, but I do think that the costs of running these programs should be levied against the students that benefit from them. Start baking those cupcakes.

Eating - In the "now for something completely different" department, I had been doing pretty good eating-wise over the past two weeks, but I make that "have" fallen back a bit over the past two days. As I've said before, weight loss is much more in your head than it is in your stomach, so I need to get my head screwed back on the right way so that I can get back on track.


J Curtis said...

The budget for education in the nation of France is smaller than New York City's. That says something about high priced, do nothing "administrators" here.

I'd keep sports though.

I've been going pretty much South Beach Diet recently and I can tell a difference.

Tom Borthwick said...

I agree that there's no substitute for parental involvement, but there tends to be very little districts can do about that.

I agree about cutting administration/sports bigtime. The amount of money spent on a football team is absurdly high.

Stephen Albert said...


For the record, I actually enjoy playing many's just that I don't think they are central to getting a good education. In fact you can argue that they hinder the educational process for many athletes and divert resources away from academics.

As for educational budgets, I think they need to be reviewed from top to bottom. If you can't directly tie a cost to educating children then I'd question why it has to be incurred.

Good luck with the diet. I don't actually diet myself...I just try not to eat like a pig and it more or less seems to help.



You are of course right about parental involvement, and that saddens me greatly. Children always end up paying for the stupidity of their parents, and no where is that more apparent than in their own education.

As for football, I think it should stay, provided of course that it pays for itself.

Anonymous said...


Careful- you just attacked athletics. Are you not aware that atheletics is the one true God? That is right, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost take a back seat when it comes to athletics for a lot of people.

I agree with you- you don't go to school to play sports. Sports are extra, and add on. That is why they are referred to as "extra-curricular" becasue they are not part of the curriculum. You go to school to learn and get an education. I believe that, but I am in the minority. For a lot of parents, academics is extra-curricular and princess and precious go to school to play sports.

Seconldy though, for many schools I believe athletics are actually cash cows- that is why they are so important to the school. Certain sports generate revenue for the school.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Steve, I forgot to leave my name in the above.

Father Dave Bechtel

Stephen Albert said...

Father Bechtel...

I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Now if a particular sport can generate revenue for the school, then I don't have a problem with it being offered...although it should still be a secondary undertaking to academics.

J Curtis said...

That is right, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost take a back seat when it comes to athletics for a lot of people

Do the words "Touchdown Jesus" come to mind? Ha!