Peter Fish Case: Making the case for books over bombs

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One could make the argument that choosing books over bombs would stop of a lot of the intolerance that seems to amp up the bomb culture. After all, if the population is largely comprised of knuckle-dragging mouth breathers, then bombing things is just what you do. But we don't make the argument that books are more important than bombs; it's actually quite the opposite. We live in a bomb-first, educate-later society. All you have to do is take a look at our public school system and you'll see it firsthand.

I've spoken with teachers here locally that have said they are thankful for what they have here. But when you venture outside the immediate area things change swiftly. For instance, according to U.S. Census figures for 2015, Vermont spends a little over $18,700 per pupil. Conversely, Utah spends a little over $6,700 per pupil. Where would you want to raise a kid? When the talking point gets thrown around about people having the same access to education, well, seeing those numbers do you still believe that to be true? Vermont outspends Utah nearly three to one. I guess that's to be expected; Utah's state motto is "Industry" while Vermont's is "Freedom and Unity."

When I was in school, the budgets were always hotly contested and voted in. I always understood the taxpayer who would complain about their personal taxes skyrocketing because of school budgets. But at the end of the day, they also understood that having smart people running the country was also a wise investment. So while it was painful to pay a little extra, it was understood that you got what you paid for.

I didn't care for school when I was going, but the extracurricular things that schools offered kept me engaged in the process. Photography, sports, and the arts, all of those things were offered, whether we took full advantage of them or not. Things like that have been getting chopped from the budget left and right. They aren't replaced with alternatives and they most certainly won't get folded back into the next budget cycle. What's happening to public education on the whole is a crying shame.

So we know the issues around public education, but how do we fix it? Well first things first, be an engaged member of your community, which means voting at every election! That is probably the best thing you can do. Ask the question of any elected official you can find, "what do we do to fix public education?" We could also reintroduce those open trade classes into schools (here in Brattleboro we have an awesome system with the Windham Regional Career Center). Not every kid will fit into that traditional school model, but things like trade school programs will help them find their niche. Perhaps if we stopped treating every kid like a number, that could help as well. If we look into the eyes of these kids today and look back at what we had as little as 20 years ago, it truly is the difference between breathing deeply and taking your air in through a straw. It's not acceptable anymore. Things have to change.

We are willing to build bombs for millions of dollars but not invest back into our education system. Yet people like Betsy DeVos keep pressing the Orange Menace's agenda of discrimination and shortsightedness. This woman doesn't want to improve the system, she wants it running so lean it dies on the vine. But none of this should surprise you; after all, this current administration can afford to send their own children to the best schools while Mr. and Mrs.Working Stiff are forced to work with a failing system that isn't going to get any money to fix it anytime soon. Again, we are fortunate to live where we live, but that said, we could use a little improvement too.

Idly sitting around waiting for change is no longer an option. We need to get engaged into what is happening. Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

You know where I learned that? School! What the hell is up with that?

Peter "Fish" Case is a man with an opinion. He offers up a weekly podcast discussion that can be heard at www.theearspoon.com. Questions, complements and complaints can be sent to him at fish@theearspoon.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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