Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's a largely undisputed classic, despite its cover linking it to some nifty musical made years ago based on its contents .  I read the whole thing, chapter on argot and all - yes, I was and still am a book addict and a nerd - but I left my dog-eared copy at my parents' home, so I must rely on memory right now to conjure up the following speculation:

Jean Valjean is caught for stealing a loaf of bread and vanishes into the prisons of turn-of-the-nineteenth century France. He languishes there for a bit and is aided into escape by some aliens, who, instead of pulling him back into the world he knows, instead disorient him and plop him down into our time and place. Have things changed?  Let's see...

First, are all the children of the world being fed?
The Colorado Department of Education requested an additional $124,229 for the Start Smart Nutrition Program, which subsidizes the cost of breakfast at school for poor children, for the current budget year ending in June.
Because Republicans have regained the state House this year, the JBC is equally split for the first time in almost a decade. There have been a few 3-3 votes this year as the committee has considered budget items, but the one on school breakfasts raised eyebrows at the Capitol.
However, the request failed on a 3-3 party-line vote.
"As a family guy myself with children and grandchildren, I take a very strong responsibility to earn money to feed my own family," said Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, who voted against the request.
He said charities could step up if some families have difficulty paying the fees. way, way beyond that to take care of families in need," Lambert said. "Out here in El Paso County, for example, we have churches all over the place."
And what of justice for those trying to get their progeny out of their own dire straits? (link via Cliff)
An Ohio mother of two was sentenced to 10 days in jail and placed on three years probation after sending her kids to a school district in which they did not live. Kelly Williams-Bolar was sentenced by Judge Patricia Cosgrove on Tuesday and will begin serving her sentence immediately.
The jury deliberated for seven hours and the courtroom was packed as the sentence was handed down. She was convicted on two counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with Williams Bolar's father when they actually lived with her. The family lived in the housing projects in Akron, Ohio, and the father’s address was in nearby Copley Township.
Additionally, Williams-Bolar’s father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with a fourth-degree felony of grand theft, in which he and his daughter are charged with defrauding the school system for two years of educational services for their girls. The court determined that sending their children to the wrong school was worth $30,500 in tuition.
When I read about this case, a few thoughts went through my mind. First, it’s clear that the court is trying to make Kelly Williams-Bolar into an example. Even the judge in the case, Patricia Cosgrove, said that her sentence was appropriate ''so that others who think they might defraud the school system perhaps will think twice.''...
...A final interesting blow by Judge Cosgrove that reflects the experience of marginalized African Americans in the criminal justice system relates to Williams-Bolar’s quest to obtain a teaching degree. The single mother was in school studying to become a teacher so that she could create a better life for her girls. But that won’t happen for her family now, given that the judge has all but shut the door on her chance to fulfill her dream:
''Because of the felony conviction, you will not be allowed to get your teaching degree under Ohio law as it stands today,'' the judge said. ''The court's taking into consideration  that is also a punishment that you will have to serve.''
I can't help but feel that Valjean, despite the language barrier and the increased amounts of technological advances around that weren't here in his day, would have no problems dusting himself off and recognizing that this is the same old planet he has always known.  He would keep an eye out for Inspector Javert's descendants in his quest to try to give something back to at least one unfortunate family, an ailing Fantine whose children are in great need...because, after all this time, the needs are still there.

But even Valjean knows that he cannot help everybody, much as he might want to.

Update, 5:22 PM: The Big Man weighs in on the racial dimensions of the justice meted out for the Ohio mother.  So nice that the judge is willing to write a letter to the Ohio Board of Education advocating that Ms. Williams-Bolar not have her teaching license revoked...but what of her two daughters?

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