I just stopped reading an article about halfway through by a pro-choice (school choice, that is) advocate because he claimed that public schools for all is only a good idea for central government. It's just easier. That's the problem, however. There is nothing easy about educating EVERY child. The writer figured we'd all look back on the debate someday and be upset that anyone would have wanted a system that kept sending kids to neighborhood schools that were underperforming. The point is that these schools are NOT underperforming: all schools pretty much perform to what is expected. Voucher, choice, public, and private. The reality is that fifty years from now, everyone is going to wonder how we managed to create such a mess and will be trying to re-institute a free, public, liberal-arts education for all.

If a neighborhood school is bad, the neighborhood is bad. When I worked in Menomonee Falls, a blue-collar town outside of Milwaukee, the administrators would ask us teachers every year how we were planning on getting the kids to perform up to the standards of Brookfield, a white-collar suburb just to the south. So we had meetings, plans, and interventions. We got rid of homework because it counted against some kids. We tested a lot and did a lot of surveys. The answer, of course, was simple: either move the school to Brookfield or get the Brookfield students to attend MFHS.

School choice espouses the idea that location of the school matters more than location of the student. I don't mean physical location, exactly. Philosophy or religion or whatever they're selling. But it's the students in the school that matter the most. In Milwaukee, we have our one gem of a high school, and it's not in a great neighborhood. It's always been kind of a choice school. Rufus King has been the top high school in the city since the forced integration and magnet school experiment that preceded school choice by twenty years. Why is this school good? Well, you have to test in, as it's a school for academically-talented students. Sure, they let some others in, too, but the idea was to put all of Milwaukee's best students in one building. So, what happened to the other MPS high schools? I'm sure you can figure that out. They all tried specialize in order to attract other top students. I went to Marshall, which had journalism, media, language immersion, and cafeteria brawls as the specialties. We had basically the same teachers, just as intelligent as the ones at King.


The schools that want government money to run a voucher school are either going to end up like King or like Marshall. Marshall is closed today, as far as I can tell, because the neighborhood got a little worse, the languages left for another school, charter schools littered the area, and what was left was a student body that did not want to be there.

I want to see something work, don't get me wrong. Our country has tried the nearly impossible task of forced education on all its citizens. To what purpose? I say it's because we all have the right and opportunity to learn about and understand the big issues in the world. I tried so hard to get kids to buy into that, but most just wanted to pass a class and go make a living. If that's the end goal, then shut the schools down and open factories with decent wages. In fact, just turn the schools into factories. But don't say that just moving the kid to another building will fix everything. It never has and never will. Parents and kids need to buy into what is being taught as something that is important to them. Half of the kids in our country back in the 1940s did not see a high school diploma as being important, so why is it so important today if it takes pushing and prodding and mothering and moving schools to do it? If a free public education is not really the goal, then let's just say it and find out how to create an alternative.

Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Only In Florida: Millionaire Stealing From Kmart
    Where else would a guy who owns an $8 million private island and a Real World House decide to steal from Kmart? Nowhere else. Only in Florida. I thought that it was uniquely Florida when three guys walked right into a Walmart and stole the arcade claw machine, loading it into their pickup truck as if they were going to service it. But those guys were probably unemployed or at least poor, so it was just a badly-hatched plan. So was the plan to buy items at Kmart and then return different items in the boxes. But the Kmart plan was devised by a guy with enough capital to purchase an $8 million island, so it's even more odd.

    With how easily the man was caught, I have to assume he was not a career store scammer. There's no way that someone who tries to steal $300 from Kmart (minus the value of the items that were returned in the boxes) has pulled it off enough to become a millionaire.

    Maybe he figured he'd be safe once on his own island. He could use his new Keurig every morning as he watched the sunrise over the ocean. I assume his new island didn't have a basketball court, since that's the item he stuffed into the coffee maker box when it was returned.

    Normally, people who become millionaires don't steal small stuff, unless it's lots of small stuff, like fraudulent billing of patients of your healthcare company. I wonder if this man can plead the 5th and get out of any responsibility for stealing from Kmart. Perhaps that's all it takes to get away with stealing when you're rich; I wouldn't know.

    Anyhow, no man is an island entire of himself. He needs stuff, even if he is technically living on a private island. I suppose the monthly mortgage on an $8 million island might get a little steep. At 20% down on a 30-year loan, the island would run $30,260 a month. That's probably about what an average Kmart sells in a month. I'm kidding, I think. This guy was probably just strapped for cash after having spent over $1.5 million on a down payment, so he needed some necessities, like a Keurig coffee machine.
  • Followed Home in Jacksonville
    A neighbor was recently followed home by a white SUV, and the comments on Nextdoor were all over the place. I think there are several angles to consider here, even though most of the people commenting were fairly single-minded in how they saw the situation.

    Call the Police
    Most reactions were that of calling the police. This was 1:30 in the morning, and a man was being followed all the way to his home, and when the man turned away, he was also followed right up to the point he entered a 24-hour gas station. One comment was to call the police while being followed. That's good advice, so long as you weren't drinking at your friend's house until 1:30, which I have to assume was the case. When the police show up to help you out, the white SUV will be long gone, and you'll be asked to exit the vehicle for a little test.

    Back in Milwaukee, my car got broken into while I was at a friend's house. We yelled at the kids as they tried to hotwire the car, and then called the police as they ran away. We'd been drinking a little bit, so it was surprising that the cops got the car fully hotwired for me and sent me on my way, broken back window and all. That was 20 years ago and in Milwaukee (Beer Capital of America). I don't expect any breaks like this in Jacksonville, so my advice would be to do exactly what this guy did if you've had a couple of drinks.

    Ask The Police
    Another theory is that the car was an undercover police car "running tags." These folks suggested the man call the police and ask. The problem is that since following someone around and running the tags is probably illegal, even if that was happening, I doubt it would be confirmed. Therefore, asking the police would not get a definitive answer.

    I've personally seen this happen, back in suburban Milwaukee. Cruisers would be at a stop light behind a car and on a laptop. Even though it was considered to be against the rules, it probably happened all the time when those computers were first installed. I think this behavior has been cracked down on to some extent, but an officer might still follow a car with a broken tail light just to see if the driver seems to be swaying around in his lanes, especially at 1:30am.

    Be Relieved
    One neighbor, to the consternation of most other neighbors, said that there was no proof the occupants of the car were up to no good. It's certainly true that no obvious crime occurred, even if most of us would consider following someone at 1:30am to be unacceptable, criminal-like behavior. If nothing else, the intent was to frighten the man. Whether it was a criminal, a cop, or a concerned citizen, when you follow someone all the way home at that hour, you want to frighten the person (or sneak up behind him). Georgia has a stalking law that might be applicable here, but I did not see one for Florida, where stalking is more about "a person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks" someone else. That means that criminals can legally stalk a dozen potential victims each day and never be breaking any law.

    Man or Woman, Do This
    If this kind of thing happens to you, it might seem to make sense to get home. The problem here is that you are leading someone to your house, even if they bail. They might now assume you work a late shift. Maybe they were following you to seek revenge for cutting them off, and they'll tag your garage door later on. And maybe, they'll be faster to the weapon than you.

    Therefore, it's recommended that you lead them back out of your neighborhood, just like the man in the story did. Take them to a public place and call the cops. If you're a little intoxicated, maybe wake up a dozen friends and round up the posse. I'd try to get to a public place where I know there are obvious cameras mounted. Even when you get somewhere more public, it's probably not a good idea to reach for your gun or tire iron right away. At least fake dial and talk on your phone before you get out of the car. You could probably hit the old panic button on the car, too, since noise tends to ward off criminals. At least I'd do some of that stuff before I decide to escalate the situation.