Joe Maller.com

Thoughts on “An Education on Good Education”

Rather than IM the hell out of Marjorie about her latest column, “An Education on Good Education” I thought I’d put my thoughts down here and link it (and digg her too).

This is one of those columns where Marjorie was on fire, there are too many good quotes to pull them all, but here are some of my favorites:

Remember the column I did, back in the Pleistocene era, making fun of parents who obsessed about getting their kids into the 92nd Street Y preschool? This is the column where I eat that column. …

But: I now understand the fear that one’s child won’t get a good education if one doesn’t go to the mat for it.

I would add that your child won’t get a good education relying only on school, which I’m pretty sure Marjorie would agree with.

But when your 4-year-old tells you, The most important thing about school is no matter how hard someone hits you, it’s wrong to hit back, you know she’s going somewhere else for kindergarten.

WTF is our children learning?

Josie is a few months older than Lila, and so she missed the Dept. of Ed cutoff regarding which year. Ironically, or something, had Josie gone to private school, which use a different calendar, they would have been in the same year.

We reapplied to The Neighborhood School. It had been my first choice last year, with the small size, progressive philosophy and mixed-age classrooms I liked in the school Josie got into, but with higher test scores and a long-established and well-respected principal. Last year, Josie’s name wasn’t picked in the lottery. (The school is kept balanced deliberately by race, reflecting roughly the same demographic breakdown as the neighborhood: something like 31% white, 21% black, 32% Latino and 18% Asian.)

First, there is some seriously questionable selection going on with these “Lotteries.” I’m not going to go into accusations I can’t backup, but a significant increase in transparency would be a good thing for all the schools.

Second, racial quotas: I don’t like them, but in this case it’s almost amusing how badly they’ve played out. This is the year the September 11th Baby Boom lands in public school Pre-K. The population of four year-olds in New York City has ballooned, with most born sometime after May 2002. I find it deeply poetic that humanity’s innate reaction to death and carnage is babies.

In our neighborhood, the population demographic has fully inverted. The progeny of the hipsters and young, formerly childless couples who lived in the East Village don’t fit the Department of Ed’s out-of-date demographic. The result is that Neighborhood School, everyone’s first choice, got that demograpic. Earth School probably got close to the demographic “ideal” since it’s usually the number-two choice (despite having an upside-down picture of their namesake planet in their science room).

Which brings us to our school, East Village Community School. The Pre-K classes are overwhelmingly white and female. As racial and class boundaries seem to track closely in our rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, the DOE’s imposed diversity program will likely cause a drastic upending the funding balance between this group of schools. My biggest hope is that they don’t break things more by trying to fix these new imbalances.


Five years later.

Last week a friend at the playground said something about visiting relatives who wanted to watch some TV show about September 11th. He was working downtown in 2001, and went to twenty-five funerals. I didn’t go to any. Everyone I knew, even those who worked in the towers, got out. Each year I skim over the lists of victims, wondering if there was anyone I’d lost touch with who was killed in the attacks. There’s always someone with my first name, or my wife’s or my childrens’. It’s something about having been here, the knowledge that everything I love could have been taken away that day, and how important it is to remember and honor those who weren’t so lucky.

I watched some of the video that never gets played anymore. Looked at a few pictures and re-read my own posts from previous September 11ths; 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. Otherwise I’ve avoided the media as much as possible, I have a lot of thoughts about what this day has become, but those have no place in my head today. It’s still fresh for me.

This morning I took Noemi to her first toddler gymnastics class — lots of things are starting today. Out our front window I’m pretty sure I saw the President’s helicopter crossing the East River towards Ground Zero. The only bells I got to hear were those marking the Flight 11 at 8:46 am. I knelt down and watched Noemi through watery eyes while the traffic kept rushing up First Avenue. Not that many people stopped.

A lot has changed in five years. Both my daughters were born. Dozens of other children became a part of our lives, almost all of them born into this post-September 11th world. Friends married and divorced, new friends came into our lives, some old friends drifted away. Some passed on. Some things were built and others fell apart. More was learned than forgotton.

I’m planning on walking by several fire stations after Noemi naps, shaking hands and saying thanks. Today isn’t just another day, and won’t be for a very long time.

Love, and let those you love know it.


Department of the Board of Education?

The official New York City Department of Education website is schools.nyc.gov.

Several websites and email addresses belonging to the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) still use an acronym presumably leftover from their days as the NYC Board of Ed (NYCBOE). It’s easy to see why this is a problem when shown side-by-side in lowercase:

nycboe.net (half-working url for Department of Education)
nycdoe.net (half-working eChalk site)

How much email has been lost because of that little letter-flip?

The old website for the NYC Department of Education, nycenet.edu redirects to schools.nyc.gov.


Third very hot day: Things start breaking

It’s New York City’s third day in a row where the temperatures haven’t gone below 95°F and we’re starting to see some trouble. Not a blackout, but evidence that the system is straining.

Con Ed has problems on the East Side

>Con Ed tells Eyewitness News that three feeders are out in both the Madison Square and Kips Bay networks. It believes at least one of the inoperable feeders in each network should be back around noon.

>Kips Bay has 12 feeders altogether. Madison Square has 24.

>There are no voltage reductions in place because of the problems, but Con Ed is asking for extra conservation between 5th Avenue and the East River from 14th Street to 40th Street on the East Side.

>Con Ed says it was manhole fires that damaged the feeders, and that the company is in constant communication with the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

Power problems in NYC

>Con Edison asked New York residents and businesses between 40th Street and 14th Street from Fifth Avenue to the East River to shut off any unused or unnecessary appliances. The area is largely residential.

That would be our neighborhood. The 14th St Y is dark and has signs in the doors reading “Closed to conserve power.” Stores on First Ave north of 14th St are running without AC and most have their lights off. Several traffic lights north of 16th St are on low-power mode (1st Ave flashing yellow, cross-streets flashing red).

I’ll post more if I find anything out.

**Update** I just walked from our apartment at 14th and First to the office on 20th just west of Fifth. Not much evidence of anything past Second Ave. All the stores on Fifth were open, Park Ave and even Irving Place seemed completely normal.


Entertainment industry tax credits are working

Dave sent me a link to Bid to Lure Films Works So Well, It’s Nearly Broke, which is an exceptionally lazy piece of reporting.

But the good news for the city’s film industry is a mixed blessing for the city’s treasury. In 13 months, the city has exhausted the $50 million it had allotted for four years’ worth of tax credits for the industry, while the state has used up most of the $125 million it has allotted over five years. It is not clear if new business spurred by the program is making up the difference.

And being the New York Times, they didn’t see fit to, you know, do any actual reporting or fact-checking.

Otherwise, after two minutes of Googling and a search on the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance site, they might have learned that January 2006 NYS tax revenues were up 18.6% over the previous January with personal income tax revenue up a remarkable 28.3%. (page 2 of the January 2006 Tax Collections PDF)

One hopes our elected public servants do better than to trust the Times’ lazy reporting at face-value. Cutting the tax credits would just screw everything up again.

This is the Laffer Curve in action, again. Lower taxes lead to increased tax revenues.


NYC Free Speech Rally Friday at Noon

There will be a rally supporting Denmark and Freedom of Speech and Expression in NYC today (Friday) at noon. Rallies are planned for other cities as well. The Danish Consulate is at One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, (2nd Ave @ 47th St.). Snarksmith got the ball rolling on this.

If you haven’t yet read MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism, cosigned by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salmon Rushdie and 10 others, please do so now. Note how many of the cosignatories have been forced to live under constant police protection. These are dark times.

Two quotes from Edmund Burke:

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”


Forty-eight degrees

2006 02 15 Weather

The weather forecast for today shows a forty degree drop over the course of the day. That’s nuts, but Saturday’s forecast low is even crazier. 65° to 17° in 24 hours? (In Celsius, that’s 18° to -8°) The snow from Sunday’s big snowstorm has pretty much melted away just in time for more winter.

Temperature extremes like this make me think of the expansion of railroad rails in heat, and, for whatever reason, an algebra problem from my first math class in college. Oh, and the temperature of the Moon ranges about 500° F during a Lunar day, I never realized how hot it got there, though it would only affect your feet since there’s no atmosphere.



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