Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How About Living Our Values?

Lunch with CB today was one long rant, much of it about the people who should be on our side, who talk a good game, but who turn around and stand smack in the way of everything when pressed.

Example 1 (mine): TST BOCES can only build or repair buildings if all nine districts agree. Eight of the nine, including the one that cannot raise money except from donors, have agreed to a minor HVAC/safety renovation. Which one hasn't? Can you guess? It's the one that advertises itself as in love with its own equity. It has the nerve to cry poverty in the face of reducing its own tax rate and paying its superintendent downstate wages. One board member even said in public, "But if we do this, we can't pay for the things our parents want." As if BOCES kids don't have parents. Or aren't that district's kids.

Example 2 (hers): Another district, known for its squishily progressive board, decided to cut Head Start because they didn't want to be "limited" to helping poor kids.

Example 3 (mine): Some of the loudest voices against solar farms in Dryden are coming from the people who are typically loudest about climate change. Because, apparently, if we can afford to put panels on our roof, so can you. Meanwhile, Republicans in Lansing are crowing about and taking credit for their new solar initiative.

Example 4 (hers): A principal complained that Head Start kids in the building ("your kids") were noisy. CB suggested that he get to know those kids and their families, who were actually his kids and their families. Even if they were poor.

We could have gone on all day. The homeless: Help them, but house them far away. Drug addicts, ditto. Section 8 housing: It's important, but it's icky.

I look forward to reading Richard V. Reeves's book, The Dream Hoarders. A Brit at the Brookings Institution, Reeves was struck by the fact that, in his words,
[Americans] protect our neighborhoods, we hoard housing wealth, we also monopolize selective higher education and then we hand out internships and work opportunities on the basis of the social network – people we know in the neighborhood or meet on the tennis courts. And so to that extent we are kind of hoarding those things that should be more widely available.
And this is how it happens: We pretend that we don't have a class system, we don't admit to (or even begin to apprehend) our own privilege, and we turn a blind eye to our communities, except for those residents whose lives are like ours. We run for office without having any sense of where we actually live. We talk about needing a new message as though a message is all we need or all that matters.

There is something refreshing about communities that don't lie about who they are. I've written before about the racism of Ithaca, but people find it hard to believe that a place that talks so much about values would fail to live up to them.

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