May 26, 2004

Lesser of Two Lessers

Dick Day isn't either a genuine Republican or a particularly astute person; he's a manifestation of the dreaded "Soccer Mom" suburban Republican, voting mostly on contingency, rarely on principle.

The Pioneer Press editorial page isn't either very sensible or especially good. They're not as interesting as the Star/Tribune (in the sense that watching a Hyundai smack a shopping cart isn't as interesting as watching a chemical trail drive off a bridge), nor are they as good as...well, most blogs.

What do you get when you put the two together, in today's editorial?

It's like watching a battle of the minds between Anna Nicole Smith and Chris Krok.

The PiPress editorial starts:Last week, state Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, said in a television interview that public schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul "suck." Later, Day backpedaled slightly, telling a Pioneer Press reporter that he should have said the schools are "horrible or totally inadequate."Leave aside the simple fact that he's right, by whatever term he uses; rare enough for Dick Day, something that should be enouraged.

The political arena echoes with fighting words these days, at every level of government. Day and other elected leaders who shoot from the lip should learn to speak only when they can improve the silence.

"All you elected leaders be quiet until you can say something constructive!".

New flash, editorial writers - the schools in both cities do, er, need drastic improvement. How's that?

Yes, urban school districts have much room for improvement, with too-high dropout rates and too-low test scores. In that, sadly, they are not alone. Take Day's home district, for one example.

This year, 76 percent of Owatonna students passed the eighth-grade basic skills test; that means almost a quarter did not. Just 70.8 percent of impoverished, white students passed the test. That passing rate drops to an abysmal 42 percent for impoverished Latino students in the district. Statewide, almost 71 percent of eighth-graders passed; in St. Paul, just 43 percent did. These are not statistics to brag about, no matter where one lives and sends one's children to school.

In other words: Oh yeah, Dick? Your school sucks, too!
It would be easy to condemn the Owatonna School District for leaving behind Latino children, were judgments made on the basis of the quick snapshot described above. But what we don't know is where the children started from, and how much progress they have made. As much is not known about the urban schools, and certainly Day doesn't have all the facts.

We have all the facts we need - well, those of us whose kids go to the public schools do, anyway. The schools do suck - despite the best efforts of some excellent teachers and principals.

They suck because the Teachers Union has spent a couple generations turning teaching into an assembly-line job.

They suck because the educational Academy has used the public school system as its laboratory, and generations of kids as their guinea pigs, for decades of experiments in empirically-dubious but politically correct dogma.

They suck in the inner city because generations of Democrat/Liberal politicians have used welfare to create dependence among minorities - and used the inner cities as a place to warehouse those dependents. And the schools, de facto, are where the children of the product in the warehouse get watched every day.

Improve that silence, OK?

The state's education system would be the stronger if Day focused on ways to help public schools, particularly urban schools, rather than tearing them down. St. Paul Superintendent Pat Harvey wrote to Day, denouncing his comments as inaccurate and unfair. She also invited Day to call her with questions and concerns about St. Paul public schools.
Hopefully his concerns will be answered more thoroughly than mine have been over the years.

Or more courteously and thoroughly than those of, say, Posted by Mitch at May 26, 2004 07:57 AM


"All you elected leaders be quiet until you can say something constructive!".

Imagine if the same standard was used for some of the comments being made by members of the opposition party about events in Iraq.

Posted by: PJZ at May 26, 2004 08:22 AM