Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Give Us All Some Breaks

I've talked about my admiration for The Oxford American a few times before on this blog and on Humid City. I am in awe of its history, of the content and contemporary talent it's been able to amass over the years, of how it has become the Southern magazine that has been able to rise above the trials of scrambling for another publisher, the tribulations of having had a substantial amount of money embezzled out from under it by a former employee, and the hassles of having to relocate to Conway, Arkansas (as a former boyfriend's magnet from Conway once proclaimed, the OA's home these past few years is "halfway between Pickles Gap and Toad Suck," which could be construed as being pretty damn hillbilly Southern - don't strain your ears too hard listening for the banjos).

Problem is, I think, after all this time, OA editor Marc Smirnoff needs a break from writing the editorials in his own magazine. A big break. Just before this year's Southern Music Issue, too many of his blatherings of late have left me with a feeling that he was simply rambling in a head-scratching way. What was the point? At least the music issue kept him fairly focused...and then this takedown of Garden and Gun magazine comes down the pike. There's a degree to which it was written to reassure himself of the rightness of the mission he embarked on in founding the OA in the first place - and I don't dispute the rightness of that mission - but I do question the vitriol Smirnoff pours into his diatribes against G&G, throwing in references to its larger-than-OA's subscription numbers and its luring Roy Blount Jr. away from his regular column in the OA, then circling back to a salient, important point about glossy, good-looking magazines like G&G leaving the thorny subject of race out of their focus on surface matters and a literal whitewashing of what the South is really like. It all makes me grateful that Smirnoff only really vents his spleen like this in print once every 20 years - and it saddens me that it takes his being vehemently against something to light writing fires like this under his butt. At least the content of OA overall hasn't suffered...

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Via Twitter, something else to think about:

Andre Perry
finished up meeting with technology leader who flatly said there is too much politics and drama in for to include his child

 Let's first get one thing straight: if you become a parent, and you care, there's going to be a certain amount of politics and drama involved in damn near anything you do for your children, whether it's which school you will have them attend, which extracurricular activities they'll be involved in, even - to a certain extent - which friends they have. It's why any decision to even have a child should not be taken lightly.

Now that that's out of the way, let's discuss perception vs. reality...and not just in New Orleans public ed, though the decision by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to back diverting public money to vouchers for private schools is bad enough

While I was up in New York celebrating my grandfather's 90th birthday, my grandma, a longtime teaching veteran in her neighborhood public school, was appalled at the massive, splashy teacher ratings article published in the Rupert Murdoch-run New York Post this past Saturday that was erroneous and mean-spirited. Check the criticism of it here and the stuff the numbers don't say. My husband took one look at the numbers and, statistician and high school alumnus that he is, assumed that the standardized test scores students got were attributed to their homeroom teachers, which, in lots of cases, are not the teachers doing most of the instruction for the tests. Also, if all you've been teaching as a public school instructor is English, what's the point of giving you a math score? These teacher numbers ending up saying little more than, "You teachers are the bad people ruining our schools, and even if these numbers are completely, utterly wrong, at least they will be on record and someone will deny you a job shaping young minds because of them."

Grandma had a few questions about charter schools for me and how they operate in New Orleans. I had to tell her about the charters' semi-autonomy and how it doesn't help them pay for things like busing kids to their schools. I'm glad I hadn't heard about Lafayette Parish's lunch program payment woes before I talked with her. The trends in public education right now are for the state to assume less responsibility for educating the children that live here, and that usually means the few dollars that were going to education in the first place are being cut to fractions of cents. When even Leslie Jacobs is questioning the ultimate efficacy of voucher programs, not to mention whether voucher students will be subject to the same state testing despite their private school attendance, one has to wonder.

So yes, there is a lot of drama and politics involved in public education these days, because so many want to fix it so damned badly. If Bobby Jindal and the lege in Baton Rouge have their way, even more drama and politics above and beyond tuition payments and possible beefs with teachers and administrators over the direction of your child's education and well-being will be seeping into the private schools. 

I wonder how that tech leader Andre Perry spoke to will like them apples?

1 comment:

Dave said...

OA's one of the few magazines I still read, mainly because of the music issue and the New Orleans writers. I must confess that I don't read Smirnoff at all and haven't in a while. It hasn't affected my enjoyment of the rest...