Can public schools suspend students who go away for a weekend and aren’t able to arrange a COVID test?

Keeping a child from attending public school is a crime. Parents can be arrested and imprisoned for obstructing a child’s access. See, for example, “The Story Behind Kamala Harris’ Truancy Program” (NPR):

In 2019, HuffPost reporter Molly Redden wrote about the families affected by this truancy program, including a Black mother named Cheree Peoples, who was arrested in April of 2013. She came on the show to help explain why this program, which initially launched without much criticism, ended up becoming so controversial, and why it disproportionately affected families of color. Here’s the extended cut of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Cheree is a mother in California, and her daughter has a chronic illness. Her name is Shayla, and she has sickle cell anemia, a really painful genetic disease that causes lots of complications. It’s pretty typical for people who live with this disability to miss a lot of school if they’re children. As her daughter missed a lot of school for valid medical reasons, Cheree and the school were in a dispute about how to accommodate and account for those absences.

She was in her house one morning, and the police showed up and handcuffed her. She had time to put on a jacket over her pajamas. And when she was walked by the police out of her apartment where she lived with her daughter, there were news cameras waiting, and she was booked by the police. What she said to me was that she was shocked. She was really floored. And she said to me, “You’d swear I’d killed somebody.” It felt to her like a really excessive show of force for what was essentially a misunderstanding between her and her child’s school.

[Harris] fought for this law, which raised the financial penalty and made it a criminal misdemeanor for parents, up to a year in jail, when their children missed at least 10 percent of school time.

Here in Lincoln, Massachusetts, soon to be home to the nation’s most expensive (per student) public school building, the school bureaucrats decided that students could be excluded from the building (i.e., suspended) if they went away for a Saturday overnight in another state, e.g., neighboring New Hampshire or Vermont, and did not have a negative PCR COVID-19 test result to show. As with the former state governor’s order (one of 69), the test had to be taken within 72 hours of returning to Maskachusetts. So, in a twist that only students of the absurd can appreciate, it was legal to be tested for COVID-19 on Thursday evening in MA as a way of determining if someone was going to acquire COVID by traveling on Saturday morning and returning Sunday evening.

Although the school had a fully remote option, a student kicked out of school for quarantine could not transition into the fully remote option for the period of suspension.

The governor’s order was eventually dropped, replaced by an “advisory”. The school, however, continued with their requirement that, essentially, students be tested prior to departure for weekend excursions. They’d been running a “pool testing” program at the school as well, but the pool test could not be used to meet the travel requirement. So a student who was going to go to Vermont for the weekend would end up needing two COVID-19 tests in the week prior (to see if the student acquired COVID-19 in Vermont?).

Not every family can get organized for these tests nor afford them (we spent a month without insurance and we got billed $750 per child for a test at a “doc in a box” urgent care center). Perhaps a test goes awry and a result is never returned. For whatever reason, a child may end up over the border into another state (almost any of which actually have experienced far less COVID-19 than Maskachusetts; Florida, for example, adjusted for population over 65 is at roughly 1/3rd the MA death rate) and later have no test result to show. Why is it legal to deny this child an education for a two-week quarantine period?

#BecausePublicHealth? Maybe that was a good answer when the governor’s travel order was still in place. Now that the technocrats have rescinded their order, however, what is the school’s justification for denying education to children, a criminal offense if parents had done it?

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Jew-hatred in the Boston suburbs (school administrators of color to the rescue)

A parent at the Lincoln-Sudbury (Maskachusetts) high school received the following email:

Dear LS Students. Families, and Staff,

It is with profound dismay and disappointment that this past Friday a student reported seeing a swastika scraped into the back of a seat. Today administrators are addressing students in each of the classes who meet in that classroom about what was found to seek additional information and to offer support. Any students feeling in need of counsel due to this incident are encouraged to reach out to their counselors and/or Associate Principal.

It is without question that our society and schools should and can be free of hate symbols of any kind. LS stands for caring and cooperative relationships, respect for human differences and the importance of community. For this to happen when we have only recently been experiencing such joy at the opportunity to be back in school in person on the eve of a memorial day remembering those who died while acting in the service of our country adds greater salt to the wound.

For all who are feeling pained by this incident, be assured that we are way better than this incident might suggest. I have seen it in the many acts of caring and kindness extended toward each other and on the behalf of those needing aid. We stand together in support of the religious freedom of all our students, families and staff to be absent of bias, harassment, and hate.

In deep regard,

Bella Wong

A student who is upset at seeing a symbol of racial hatred will be comforted by talking to a likely white school administrator who made the affirmative decision to work in a nearly all-white town. (Mx. Wong him/her/zir/theirself previously chose to work in the all-white town of Wellesley, MA.)

What about the school bureaucrat herself? From diverseharvard.org:

Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions.

As a person of color I cannot help but have thought about this throughout my life.

What does a “person of color” look like?

(from MetroWest Daily News, 2013)

Meanwhile, just to our south… “Elementary school project about Hitler causes controversy in New Jersey town” (ABC):

Maugham Elementary School in Tenafly says it is now investigating after teachers allowed a student to write a biography glorifying Adolf Hitler. … The assignment included that student dressing up as Hitler as well. “It’s appalling, it should’ve been stopped the minute this girl [c]ame to school,” resident Shimon Avrahami said.

A strong female (“girl”) taking the role of the 1938 TIME Man of the Year is not cause for celebration on the grounds of escaping gender norms?

From the 5-year-old’s kindergarten operation:

Celebrating Pride Month

Please join us in recognizing and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community! As beautifully stated by our neighbors LexPride, “Every year we celebrate Pride month in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York. Led by transgender women of color, the Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the LGBTQIA+ rights movement. It helped energize the ongoing pursuit of equality.

While we celebrate with festivities, Pride month is also a time to recognize the impact that LGBTQIA+ people have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally. We honor members of the community who have been lost to HIV/AIDS and hate crimes. And we fight against oppression to make a better world for all.”

LexPride is run by the righteous of Lexington, Maskachusetts, previously featured in Our faith calls us to affirm Black Lives Matter…

Circling back to Lincoln-Sudbury, a follow-up email from Cara Endyke Doran, LS School Committee Chairperson:

It is with profound disappointment that I confirm there was an anti-Semitic symbol found in one of our classrooms. The School Committee was briefed and the LS administration is investigating the incident. The administration has sent a statement to our families and students acknowledging the incident and underscoring that this behavior will not be tolerated. Our associate principals addressed the incident with students affirming our promise to combat intolerance.

At Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, we stand against discrimination and hate in all its forms. We celebrate the dignity of all individuals in our community and are committed to advancing equity and inclusion. Respecting human differences is one of our core values. L-S is “a place that values diversity in style and substance. Human difference includes all forms of diversity, such as racial, ethnic, religious, familial, economic, and sexual orientation. In addition, L-S honors differences of opinion and differences in learning styles.”

Due to open meeting laws, we must discuss this issue in an open forum. We will be addressing this incident during our upcoming school committee meeting.

Economic diversity is good, but an apartment building where people can live without paying $20,000 per year in property tax is bad.

And then another email from Bella Wong, the “person of color”:

I am writing to follow up on my message earlier this week about the discovery of a swastika in school. An investigation has been completed which included interviewing all students seated in the vicinity of where the swastika was found. Most students interviewed did not see the marking and none had any knowledge of how the swastika was created. The only students who saw the marking was the one who reported seeing it and the ones that student told what had been seen. We commend the student who initially saw it and recognized the need to report it immediately to a teacher.

Administrators tried to recreate what it would have taken to create the marking and found that it could not have been done without being observed if in class. Due to COVID restrictions students do not have free access to classroom space when not scheduled to be in that space. It is therefore entirely possible the marking was created at a much earlier time and only discovered at this time. If anyone has other information that could be helpful to determine how the marking was created please let an Associate Principal or myself know. … I reiterate that hate symbols in school are unacceptable. Thank you to all our students who responded promptly to our request to be interviewed. Thank you to Chief Nix, Town Manager Hayes, and religious and secular community members for your outreach and offers of assistance.

A stated LS core value is to respect human differences. I would like to say that at LS we also stand for the celebration of human differences. Differences enirches [sic] our lives, it inspires where sameness dulls. … To our students, families, and staff I have the utmost faith in all of you and all of us to be able to improve upon our interactions with one another in order for all voices and persuasions to be more freely and respectfully expressed.

I wonder how this “person of color” feels about hearing from “all voices and persuasions” regarding politics? Would it enrich Mx. Wong’s life to hear from someone who says “all lives matter” or that he/she/ze/they thought that Donald Trump was a better choice for president than Joe Biden?

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Public school priorities

From our local education officials, who previously decided to build the most expensive (per student) school ever constructed in the United States ($250,000 per town-resident student, about $110 million for 440 K-8 students).

The May 20 Lincoln (PreK-8) School Committee meeting will focus on strategic priorities for the present school year. The highest priority for the District, aside from keeping our schools open during the pandemic, was professional learning on anti-racism across the district. At next Thursday evening’s School Committee meeting, members of the Lincoln Public Schools Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group (LAAG) will present their findings from surveys, focus groups, and an “equity audit.” LAAG includes 22 students, faculty, administrators, community representatives, and School Committee members. Their report outlines recommendations to be included in a multi-year District action plan. Please save the date.

(If anti-racism is priority #2, how far down the list is quality of education? We may never know! One thing that we do know is that quality of education for gifted students was not even on the list in Maskachusetts, going back to before coronaplague. See “Is Massachusetts failing its brightest kids?” (January 2020): Nearly every other state has a definition of giftedness, and 32 states require districts to identify and/or serve gifted students, according to the state report. In contrast, Massachusetts eliminated its specialized licensing of teachers for advanced learners because of the lack of instructors seeking the certification. Just 69 of the state’s 1,872 schools reported having a talented and gifted program in a 2015-16 survey conducted by the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. In the most recent survey of state policies and practices for gifted students, conducted in 2014-15 by two national organizations focused on gifted education, Massachusetts was one of nine states that didn’t even respond to the survey.)

The school’s email system adds the following signature, in red font, to every email from a 6th grade teacher:

Lincoln Public Schools are united in standing with those who are calling out ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country and calling for acknowledgement of humanity in one another. This is not just an issue for black and brown people, but an issue that impacts all of our futures. We must:

  • Listen to each other, showing compassion and empathy
  • Never turn our backs on senseless brutality
  • Continue to denounce injustices
  • Unify our voices to create systemic change

During this painful time, let us work together to be a light to break the darkness that silence can bring. Let us facilitate education, healing, connection, and let us support each other and our communities. Every one of us needs to be part of the solution and we must work together to ensure that there is justice for all.

My favorite part of the above is that the school stands with “those who are calling out ingrained racism”. They’re not standing with those who are doing something about ingrained racism. So they stand with a white person who puts a Black Lives Matter sign on his/her/zir/their lawn in an all-white 2-acre-minimum-zoned suburb. They don’t stand with a white person who moves to a town with Black and Brown neighbors (anyone in our town who wanted to do this would pocket $1 million, the difference in value between a house here and a house in a diverse community).

What are the priorities for schools in the town (Jupiter, Florida) where we’re moving in August? The school system is run by Palm Beach County:

The Gifted Education Program provides appropriate instruction for eligible students by delivering effective and innovative strategies beyond the basic curriculum. The program is designed to challenge and empower students to produce quality work and to become productive citizens while protecting and nurturing their unique characteristics.

The State of Florida defines a gifted student as “one who has superior intellectual development and is capable of high performance.” Schools have an obligation to identify and provide services for gifted students.

Palm Beach County School District currently universally screens second-grade students for gifted with the CogAT in 33 schools. … Students identified as being eligible to receive gifted services each have an Educational Plan (EP) that is developed to foster both their strengths and areas of need.

Should we abandon all hope that Floridians, despite the influx of the righteous from New York and Maskachusetts, will see the anti-racism light? No! “Palm Beach County school board’s new core principles call for equity, ‘dismantling racism’” (May 4, 2021):

Palm Beach County public schools are poised to adopt a new set of core principles this week declaring a heightened commitment to combating racism and ensuring equity for all students.

School board members have drafted new mission and vision statements and, for the first time, an “equity statement” underscoring the school district’s dedication to “dismantling racism and other systems of oppression and inequity.”

The move reflects the district’s effort to join the growing number of companies and government agencies publicly signaling their support for racial justice in the wake of the protests last year over the police killing of George Floyd.

Children of color make up the vast majority of students in the county’s public and charter schools. Of the 189,000 students, 36% are Hispanic, 29% are white, 28% are Black and 3% are Asian.

The centrality of George Floyd is interesting. He was killed by one government agency (the Minneapolis Police Department) and the solution is not for government agencies to have less power, smaller budgets, and a more focused mission, but rather for government agencies to have more power, bigger budgets, and a more complex and varied mission.

George Floyd is also central here. An email to the town mailing list from yesterday:

I’m a 5th grader at the Lincoln Public School.

I’d like to invite everyone to please join me in commemorating the death
of George Floyd one year after his death. *I’m coordinating students,
families and the community to come to Pierce Park and form a big heart
holding cards that we will be disseminating. The formation will be captured
via aerial photo, with the help of our Fire and Police Departments.

We will have a brief vigil with speakers – especially from the children of
Lincoln, and 9:30min of silence to reflect.

The event details are:
Layers of Love
Tuesday, May 25th
*Pierce Park *
4:30 – 5:30pm

Who will be brave enough to show up and read from “Sex Money & Drugs” off the Blockbleeders album by the rap group of which George Floyd was briefly a member?

Related:

  • “Surprise: Florida and Texas Excel in Math and Reading Scores” (New York Times, October 2015): Florida and Texas look worse than they deserve to because they’re educating a more disadvantaged group of students than most states are. … With the [demographic] adjustments, Texas jumps all the way to third in the 2013 state ranking, and Florida to fourth.
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Irrational for Americans to work unless above-median income can be earned

As we celebrate Tax Day (updated date for coronapanic) and you add up what you’re paying to the Feds and states, it might cheer you up to look back to this 2019 article from a former Senator and a former top executive at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Wall Street Journal article on income inequality:

Official measures of income inequality, the numbers being debated, are profoundly distorted by what the Census Bureau chooses to count as household income.

The published census data for 2017 portray the top quintile of households as having almost 17 times as much income as the bottom quintile. But this picture is false. The measure fails to account for the one-third of all household income paid in federal, state and local taxes. Since households in the top income quintile pay almost two-thirds of all taxes, ignoring the earned income lost to taxes substantially overstates inequality.

The Census Bureau also fails to count $1.9 trillion in annual public transfer payments to American households. The bureau ignores transfer payments from some 95 federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, which make up more than 40% of federal spending, along with dozens of state and local programs. Government transfers provide 89% of all resources available to the bottom income quintile of households and more than half of the total resources available to the second quintile.

Today government redistributes sufficient resources to elevate the average household in the bottom quintile to a net income, after transfers and taxes, of $50,901—well within the range of American middle-class earnings. The average household in the second quintile is only slightly better off than the average bottom-quintile household. The average second-quintile household receives only 9.4% more, even though it earns more than six times as much income, it has more than twice the proportion of its prime working-age individuals employed, and they work twice as many hours a week on average. The average middle-income household is only 32% better off than the average bottom-quintile households despite earning more than 13 times as much, having 2.5 times as many of prime working-age individuals employed and working more than twice as many hours a week.

Condensed version of the above: Your spending power will be roughly the same if you don’t work at all (and therefore don’t have to file tax returns, extensions, estimated tax, etc.) than if you work full time, unless you are a high-skill worker who can command a wage that is well above the median. The article includes a chart from 2017, before all of the Coronawelfare was ladled on top:

Note the flat shape of the “Net income” (i.e., spending power) curve until one is in the top 20 percent. The old sourpusses who wrote the article conclude with a scolding tone:

America already redistributes enough income to compress the income difference between the top and bottom quintiles from 60 to 1 in earned income down to 3.8 to 1 in income received. If 3.8 to 1 is too large an income differential, those who favor more redistribution need to explain to the bottom 60% of income-earning households why they should keep working when they could get almost as much from riding in the wagon as they get now from pulling it.

But, as Cicero noted more than 2000 years ago, “The cash that comes from selling your labour is vulgar and unacceptable for a gentleman … for wages are effectively the bonds of slavery.” Maybe the fact that we’ve created the world’s largest group of humans who don’t work is a feature, not a bug?

(Separately, I don’t see how the above calculation can be done accurately. Many of our brothers, sisters, and binary resisters who receive free housing and/or reduced rent are in private-sector apartment buildings that have been ordered by local governments to provide free or reduced rent. The rent subsidy is reflected in higher rents paid by market-rate tenants, not in a local government’s budget.)

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Why aren’t Florida schools run from 11-5:30?

Happy First Day of Spring!

In Florida, though, it will feel more like what we in Maskachusetts call “summer”. This gives rise to the dumbest question you will hear all season…

Elementary school in Miami is 8:35 am to 3:05 pm. Given that school buildings are air-conditioned, why not run the schools from 11-5:30 so that the kids can do outdoor stuff during the comparatively cool morning?

Instead of children running around on a soccer field during the hottest time of day, they could be enjoying sports during the most comfortable time of day and enjoying taxpayer-funded A/C during the hottest hours.

Obviously this is a bad idea, but why?

An iPhone snapshot from the Cirrus SR20, flying up the Miami Beach shoreline in January 2021. This proves my hedge fund manager friend’s adage regarding how it is impossible to lose money on a real estate investment: “They’re not making any more condos.”

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Do we need neutral and reliable credential tests for high school and college graduates?

Coronapanic has shut down America’s schools and/or turned them into pale online shadows of their former selves. It is now exactly one year since unionized public schools in Maskachusetts shut down, for example, and they’re not back to fully open. Many colleges remain shut.

Our MIT ground school moved from a three-day in-person class to a five-day online class. We have an objective measurement of student learning: the FAA knowledge test and/or the practice tests offered by companies such as King. Educational outcomes as measured by these tests were lower compared to when the class was in person. Apparently it is not compelling to stare at a screen for hour after hours.

Given that nobody can tell who has learned what anymore, could this be the time to develop and market neutral third-party assessments. From “Universities and Economic Growth”:

I once asked a group of professors at Makerere University in Uganda “How come more people fail the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer test than your most advanced computer science course?” It would seem that the answer is that the MCSE, which tests the ability to do basic Windows administration, is graded by an impartial computer system.

For young people who want to prove that, contrary to appearances, they actually learned something during the Age of Panic and Shutdown, why not a test of the stuff that high schools and/or colleges are supposed to teach?

For high schools, I guess one could argue that we already have AP tests. But not every high school student takes AP classes. The book Academically Adrift describes the use of the Collegiate Learning Assessment. New York State has the Regents exams. Perhaps these could be adapted for nationwide use?

Readers: What do you think? Has the shutdown produced enough uncertainty that this old idea can thrive?

The Southside elementary school in Sarasota, which my local source says is the place that you’d want your kids to go (NYT says Florida schools are generally more effective than the U.S. average).

Will there be a nationwide high school achievement test in place by the time these 5th graders get their diplomas?

Related:

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Modern poetry in our public schools

From a friend who snoops on high schoolers’ remote skool:

My daughter was assigned to study the seminal work “The Hill We Climb” by the titan of American poetry, Amanda Gorman.
Teacher: What does she mean by “a force that would shatter our nation”
Chorus of students: The Truuuuump preeeesideeeeeency…..
Teacher: Great!!! What do you think she means by “the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light”?
Chorus of students: The Biiiiideeeen administraaaaaatiooooon…
Teacher: Oh my God, you guys, you are geniuses! You can all be poets because you mastered literary tools!!!

This focus on American 21st century poetry got me thinking about what would happen if our public schools introduced the works of the greatest living American poet, Kanye West. Suppose that “Gold Digger” were the subject of a class. What would happen when teachers and/or students then said “the n-word” or actually quoted the n-word while analyzing Kanye West’s popular opus? If it is a public school and subject to what’s left of the First Amendment, can teachers be fired and students expelled for their speech? In Western Frogland (Quebec), the answer is “yes”. Here’s a teacher who got axed in a similar situation: Quebec literary works (!) that used the n-word: “Montreal North teacher fired after using N-word repeatedly in class”.

Readers: What do you think? If we accept that rap songs are great poetry (which I do) and that they contain some words that some people don’t like, can they be studied in K-12 without the teachers being fired?

Lyrics from Google (uncensored for some reason, but I’ve bowdlerized them):

She take my money when I’m in need
Yeah, she’s a triflin’ friend indeed
Oh, she’s a gold digger
Way over town, that digs on me
Now, I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger
(When I’m in need) But she ain’t messin’ with no broke n****
(She give me money) Now, I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger
(When I’m in need) But she ain’t messin’ with no broke n****

….

Eighteen years, eighteen years
She got one of your kids, got you for eighteen years
I know somebody payin’ child support for one of his kids
His baby mama car and crib is bigger than his
You will see him on TV any given Sunday
Win the Super Bowl and drive off in a Hyundai
She was supposed to buy your shorty Tyco with your money
She went to the doctor, got lipo with your money
She walkin’ around lookin’ like Michael with your money
Shoulda got that insured, Geico for your money
If you ain’t no punk
Holla, “We want prenup! We want prenup!” (Yeah!)
It’s somethin’ that you need to have
‘Cause when she leave yo’ ass, she gon’ leave with half
Eighteen years, eighteen years
And on the 18th birthday he found out it wasn’t his?

Related:

  • “Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries Divorce Timeline”: “Perhaps the most notable thing about their drawn-out divorce — which was settled Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court — was that it lasted seven times longer than their 72-day marriage.” (Kardashian sued third husband Kanye West just recently, using the same lawyer who represented her in the lawsuit against Kris Humphries.)
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Why can’t schools reopen with willing teachers?

For nearly every Black Lives Matter sign in the U.S. we have a Black child whose school remains closed due to coronapanic. Almost every other enterprise in the U.S. that was legally allowed to continue operating managed to continue operating and/or reopen after a governor-ordered closure. Some workers left due to the perceived risk and other workers were hired.

Nearly every grocery store that was open in 2019 remains open in 2021, for example. Presumably some “team members” left to avoid being exposed to hundreds or thousands of customers each day, but a subset retreating into bunkers didn’t shut down any store. (And, actually, now that we think about it, was there a tidal wave of death that swept away America’s grocery store workers? If not, why is it too dangerous to teach in a classroom?) Airlines, similarly, did not have trouble retaining enough pilots and flight attendants to continue operating all the flights that they wanted to operate. (Counterintuitively, this turned out to be hygienic: “US airline employees report lower rate of COVID-19 infection than public”) American flight schools have similarly kept going. Some instructors decided that they they didn’t want to share cramped 4-seater cabins with potentially plagued students. They sat in home bunkers (unpaid) while the CFIs who weren’t as worried about Covid for whatever reason have been in the trainers for additional hours (and being paid for additional hours) with students.

Why hasn’t anyone proposed having schools reopen with whatever teachers wish to teach? Maybe the would be a subset of the 2019 teachers plus some new-hires. There is no shortage of Americans who seek to collect a government paycheck, right?

In the earlier phase of coronapanic, one possible answer was that governors and/or public health bureaucrats wanted the schools closed “to protect the community.” But that’s not true anymore. Now we have governors and public health bureaucrats saying that schools are safe to open (the science has changed?) and the only obstacle is that unionized teachers refuse to teach. In any other unionized enterprise, when some or all workers refuse to work, the employer has the right to hire replacement workers for the duration of the refusal. Why can’t public schools hire replacement workers as necessary?

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College degree vs. education

I enjoyed a new translation of Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, a standard work of Brazilian literature (published 1881 by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis). The protagonist becomes enamored of a cash-oriented local gal, who demands continuous infusions of costly gifts in exchange for continued romantic and sexual favors. The father decides to preserve the family fortune by sending the protagonist back to the Old Country:

And so it was that I disembarked in Lisbon and traveled on to Coimbra. The university awaited me with its many demanding subjects; I studied them in a very mediocre fashion, and yet I still graduated with a bachelor’s degree; they bestowed this upon me with due solemnity after the required number of years had passed; it was a beautiful ceremony that filled me with pride and nostalgia—mainly nostalgia. In Coimbra I had become famous as a reveler; a profligate, superficial, riotous, insolent student, much given to love affairs, a romantic in practice and a liberal in theory, living according to a pure faith in a pair of dark eyes and a written constitution. On the day when the university credited me, on parchment, with a knowledge that had certainly not put down any deep roots in my brain, I admit that I felt in a way cheated, although proud too. Let me explain: the diploma was a letter of manumission; it gave me freedom, but it also gave me responsibility. I put it to one side, left the banks of the Mondego, and came away feeling distinctly sad, but already filled with an impulse, a curiosity, a desire to elbow others aside, to influence people, to enjoy myself, to live—in short, to prolong university life for the foreseeable future . . .

Some other items from the book…

The author might not have supported the idea of depriving young people of a year of education/work/exercise/social life in order to preserve 82-year-olds from coronavirus:

A bachelor who breathes his last at the age of sixty-four is hardly the stuff of tragedy,

Death from disease was as arbitrary then as now:

My weeping father embraced me. “Your mother isn’t long for this world,” he said. For it wasn’t her rheumatism that was killing her now, but a cancer of the stomach. The poor woman was suffering horribly, because cancer is indifferent to the virtues of the person thus afflicted; when it gnaws, it gnaws; its job is to gnaw.

How could such a sweet, gentle, saintly creature, who had never caused anyone to shed a sad tear, how could this loving mother, immaculate wife, die like this, tortured and gnawed at by the tenacious teeth of a pitiless illness?

A viral epidemic (yellow fever) deprived the protagonist of a fiancée:

I never could understand the need for that epidemic, still less that particular death. Indeed, it struck me as even more absurd than all the other deaths. Quincas Borba, however, explained to me that epidemics were useful to the species, albeit disastrous for certain individuals. He pointed out that no matter how horrific the spectacle may be, there was one advantage of great importance: the survival of the greater number.

The author wouldn’t be surprised at our politicians who come to believe their own fables:

When I was born, Napoleon was in the full pomp of his glory and power; as emperor, he was the object of universal wonderment. My father—who, in persuading others of our noble origins, had ended up persuading himself of them—harbored a purely mental loathing for him.

Would Machado have selected an innumerate 78-year-old to lead a “scientific” assault on coronavirus?

Fifty is the age of wisdom and of government.

People fought over inheritance back then, as now:

We did finally divide up the inheritance, but we parted on very bad terms. And it pained me greatly to fall out with Sabina. We had always been such good friends, had shared childish games and childish squabbles, the laughter and tears of adult life, had often fraternally shared the bread of joy and sadness, like the good brother and sister we were. But now we had fallen out. Just as Marcela’s beauty had vanished with the smallpox.

Being born into poverty wasn’t good:

She was the illegitimate daughter of a cathedral sacristan and a woman who sold homemade cakes and pastries. She lost her father when she was ten years old. By then she was already grating coconut for culinary purposes and performing whatever other tasks were compatible with her age. At fifteen or sixteen she married a tailor, who died of consumption soon after, leaving her with a daughter. Widowed and little more than a girl herself, she was left to care for her two-year-old daughter and her mother, who, by then, was worn out with hard work. Three mouths to feed.

“So one day, the cathedral sacristan, while serving at mass, saw entering the church the lady who was to be his collaborator in the life of Dona Plácida. He saw her on subsequent days, for weeks on end; he liked her, complimented her, trod on her foot while lighting the candles on the altars on holy days. She liked him too, they became close, and fell in love. From such a conjuncture of idle passions sprang Dona Plácida. One assumes that Dona Plácida could not yet speak when she was born, but if she could, she might well have said to the authors of her days: ‘Here I am. Why did you call me?’ And the sacristan and his good lady would naturally have answered: ‘We called you so that you could burn your fingers on the stove, ruin your eyes with sewing by candlelight, eat badly or not at all, trudge back and forth, cooking and cleaning, getting sick and then better, only to get sick again and better again, sometimes sad, sometimes desperate, at others resigned, but always with a cooking pot in your hand and your eyes on your needlework, until one day you end up in the gutter or in hospital. That’s why we called you, in a moment of kindness.’”

On financial prudence:

He was often reproached for being stingy, and not without reason; but stinginess is simply the exaggeration of a virtue, and virtues should be like budgets: better to have a surplus than a deficit.

Will Machado be canceled for not including any LGBTQIA+ characters in his 19th century work? The biography at the end suggests that he might be safe. His paternal grandparents were “mulattos and freed slaves.”

My favorite part of Brazil, Iguazu Falls (2003, taken from the Argentina side):

Related:

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Has educational TV (Sesame Street) been discredited?

My friend is fully recovered from COVID-19 (previous post). As part of his twin passions for minimum effort parenting and ensuring that his children go to an elite university (just like mom and dad!), he has been parking the 3-year-old in front of Sesame Street. I said that I admired his dedication to making sure that the child got to see Dr. Bill Cosby, but that the kid would be bored catatonic by anything from PBS:

Educational PBS TV was a creation of marijuana-fogged urban elites of the 1960s and 70s. I would think that it has been totally discredited by now. Learning the alphabet over and over again? How does that help a child who can learn it in 20 minutes once old enough? Shaun the Sheep is good for kids 3+ in my opinion and there is plenty of mental challenge in following a narrative story.

So… that’s the question for today. Has the idea that children can learn useful stuff about arithmetic, reading, etc. from a TV show such as Sesame Street been discredited or not? “It may be educational, but what is that TV show really teaching your preschooler?” implies that there might be some education, but that children learn to be aggressive as well. “Why TV toddlers are lost for words: Educational programmes do not help young children develop language” (Daily Mail, 2014)

(Our kids watch about 20 minutes of TV per day, on average, and content is selected purely for entertainment value, e.g., the movie Soul on which their cousin worked as an animator. What can be learned from Soul? Not history! A character refers to Charles Drew as the inventor of blood transfusions when, in fact, successful human blood transfusions were developed 100+ years prior to Dr. Charles Drew’s work in blood banking. (There is no mention of Dr. Charles Drew’s colleague, Dr. Jill Biden, MD.))

From SeaWorld Orlando, February 2020:

(The park is open right now, but warns visitors:

Exposure to COVID-19 is an inherent risk in any public location where people are present; we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit.

“inherent risk”? Even with “protective masks”? Those are fighting words here in Massachusetts!)

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