Saturday, February 18, 2012

Educational ideas

When reading about impending changes in governance to Kansas City Missouri Public Schools, I have the feeling of living in an autocratic, benevolent dictatorial-esque State. What I read are reports of what “the authorities” may do. Should we remove the adjective “public” from this school saga? It’s certainly not a debate at this point, since the saga removes citizens from the potential discussion.
And yet, Kansas City is unique in my view. We have administrative entities like City Hall with a very safe model for governing. Our police are governed from Jefferson City via a local “oversight board”. Our local economy and culture is steered by a few notable families.

Kansas City does not govern itself in the civic sense. Perhaps democracy is irrelevant here as things seem to be going OK for the majority. Perhaps the time for good, educational ideas has passed us by over the last decades. Kansas City’s East-ish side will see a further erosion of community when the schools close and the children dispersed; bussed to neighboring district schools in a way that reminds me of the desegregation daily migrations that I saw as a kid in the Philly area in the 60s.

This is an area of stark contrasts to me:

Johnson County loveliness…

Mission Hill majesty…

Agrarian landscapes but 30 minutes from downtown…

…and an area of Kansas City some (not me) call the Urban Core…

Due to our lack of governance, a systemic reality in the way this City steers itself (or rather cannot), due to the Bosnia-like map of homogeneous ink-spotted enclaves, and the influential families that benevolently steer when it suits them, someone should be ordering the ¾ inch marine grade plywood today for the “boarding-up” that seems inevitable this summer; this coming summer when the heat dims our judgment, when school’s out, when we forget for a while, when teachers are out of the picture.

Any enlightened ideas about education need a reality upon which to layer them, discuss them, try them. People who desire to contribute time, talent, treasure must have a place to take them. In the meantime, we’ll read dispatches from Jefferson City, for there is no "place" here.

Here’s an idea. In my opinion, the true Captains of the USS Kansas City are the influential notable top-tier families in the area. We all know the surnames. Perhaps they could hold a conference or two, among themselves first, to determine a few enlightened ways forward. These families already imbue our city with cultural and economic, philanthropic goodness. It may sound awkward to read, but we’re a very Downton-Abbey’d town. I don’t watch the PBS series because I lived it as an expat in England. We’ll be OK if those who make this place OK, ensure its continued OK-ness, are OK with collectively examining the lack-of-OK-ness on the East Side of the Estate.

Suggested reading, as an educational idea, is a book by Mary Anne Evans (pen name George Eliot) called "Middlemarch; a study of provincial life".

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