Saturday, May 16, 2015

Russ on Reading: Derailing the Public Schools

Russ on Reading: Derailing the Public Schools:

 Derailing the Public Schools

 As yet we don’t know what caused the horrific crash of the Amtrak train in Philadelphia this week. Human error? Mechanical malfunction? Delayed technology? The crash happened less than 20 miles from my home on a stretch of track that I travel regularly into Philly or Washington. As a frequent traveler, I can assure one and all of something certain: our train infrastructure has been allowed to fall into ignominious disrepair. A trip on the train these days is like traveling through the pages of a history book detailing the once glorious system of public works in this country, which has then been allowed to fall into a mess of barely functional tracks, dilapidated train stations, rusting bridges and routine lengthy delays. Why has this happened? Why in the age of European and Japanese bullet trains, does it take longer to take the train from Philadelphia to Washington today than it did 50 years ago?

Adam Gopnick, writing in The New Yorker, has the answer I believe. In a piece called The Plot Against Trains, he says:

What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and you’ll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow.

That train that derailed travelled right past the crumbling hulk of the junior high school my mother attended. In fact in travelling through Philadelphia the train passed dozens of crumbling dilapidated schools that were once pointed to with pride by the citizens and civic leaders of my home town. At one time we were justly proud of the fine edifices we constructed for our children to go to school and at one time those buildings housed the very best that public education had to offer in this country.

What happened? Many things happened, of course. There was the Russ on Reading: Derailing the Public Schools: