August 16th, 2012
Rationalization is like a parallel dimension, kind of like ours but different.
Over there in the county of Rationalization, seven school districts in one county make sense. Over there in the state of Rationalization, making apartheid laws that apply to only one county out of 95 is perfectly logical, and when that county has the highest African American population of any of the state’s largest metropolitan areas, well, that’s purely coincidental.
Over there, if you don’t like the real math, you make up equations that fit your solution.
As published in The Daily News, August 17, 2012, and in The Memphis News, August 18-24, 2012
WE ALL LOSE, 7-1.
While the suburbs cite the test performance of Memphis students as a primary reason to form their own systems, a closer examination reveals that they themselves seem to be lacking in a basic understanding of math.
In here, the subtraction of one school system from two leaves one. Out there, it creates seven.
In Memphis and the rest of the world, the square root of any quantity is a number that produces that quantity when multiplied by itself. In the small world of (your choice of Germantown, Collierville, Bartlett, Millington, Lakeland or Arlington), the square root of all problems is Memphis.
The laws of mathematics dictate that 110,000 students > 40,000 students, 70% of the population > 30% of the population, one of anything is stronger than that thing divided against itself, and the greater the division, the weaker the whole. The laws of Norris and Todd would have us believe that every one of those absolutes is absolutely reversible by applying special interest and raising one’s hand on the house and senate floor in Nashville.
We, the people of Shelby County, formed a commission representative of our entire population to address the problem of public education countywide and to come up with a long-range solution to serve all of our children and as a model going forward.
They, the people of the six suburban cities, all hired the same consultants, gave the consultants the solution, and the consultants constructed the problem accordingly.
That doesn’t add up. And that’s the problem.
If you think two school systems created friction, wait’ll you see seven with seven superintendents and seven boards. If you in Collierville felt united with your suburban neighbors in keeping the Dark Lord of Memphis out, wait’ll Germantown comes after your kids for their classrooms. Before you in Germantown celebrate your new schools by cracking open another wheel of Brie and a bottle of that splendid Pinot Grigio you just discovered, wait’ll Collierville, Bartlett, unincorporated Shelby County and all the rest come after the kids you’re claiming outside your borders. If you in Arlington, Lakeland and Lucy Millington thought you had little voice before, wait’ll you see how much less noise you can each make with one of the three tiniest bullhorns in this shouting match. If all of you think that the rest of us – that would be the 110,000 and the 70% – are going to give you the buildings at no cost and let you pick just the kids you want with no consequences, then you should start paying attention to the remedial math Mike Ritz has been trying to teach you.
This is the overriding equation – the money follows the kids, you all want the money, and when this communal handholding around the suburban campfire breaks into separate camps, you’re going to fight each other for the money.
We should have been fighting as one for the kids.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m hopeful the unified school board has learned that lesson.