I just posted a comment in the Comments thread to Bill H’s post on Michigan from Tuesday, and on a whim, because these issues hit a nerve for me, I’m reposting my comment as a full post here:
I love this post. It hits upon a few of my obsessions, but especially these two: The lack of metropolitan-area public transportation (the complete absence of it or the utter inadequacy of it) in so many large metro areas in this country, and the local (rather than state or federal) funding of public education.
The public-transportation issue is just so in-your-face stunning in southeastern Michigan. Detroit, for idiotic it’s-the-Motor-City reasons, is the only large Rustbelt city that has no rapid-transit system. The most obvious—and I mean, it’s really, really obvious—way to revive Detroit and turn southeastern Michigan back into a thriving region is a system of fast, reliable, reasonably comfortable regional public transportation. A sort-of diamond-shaped system running from Detroit to Ann Arbor to Lansing to Flint, through Pontiac, and back to Detroit would work miracles in a lot of people’s lives. Add on a tail that runs from Detroit south through an area known as Downriver (which is mostly so-called working-class white) to Toledo, and ….
Michigan’s a surprisingly pretty state—lakes, rivers, tributaries galore—and it’s very green (literally). It has large expanses of beautiful beaches. It has two major public research universities and good regional state university system that includes a large one in Detroit. It should not be a state in decline.
As for one of Bill’s larger points—this country’s obsession with complete local control over really important, basic government functions, and states’ rights to violate individuals’ rights at will—this plays a huge role in this country’s loss of economic competitiveness and its loss international esteem. In no other democracy or advanced economy in the world do parents have to obsess about what school district this or that prospective home is in. Does anyone think that, say, Canadians or Germans or Australians or the French worry about school districts? Has anyone in this country stopped to think of why they don’t?
Nice post, Bill.
One thing Bill mentioned that I didn’t discuss in my comment is that Michigan (like several other states) tends to vote Democratic for president but Republican for government and state legislators. That’s very largely a function of the fact that in modern times most states elect their statewide officeholders—governor, attorney general, etc.—in non-presidential-election years, and the drop-off in the number of Democrats who vote in those elections is dramatic.
So ALEC controls most state governments.
Yes, in France, parents DO worry about school districts, and have never stopped complaining in the 40 years I’ve lived here. This, however, tends to prove your point, because the the French have constantly been trying to decentralize public school administration and control.
Somehow, we have to fight back what has become accepted as the norm of life: individualism.
The promotion of the individual over community has served the selfish very well. It has undermined our government’s ability to function such that the solutions allow an individual to live life with reduced risk.
The thought that acting communally can simultaneously promote the individual has been so beaten down that it appears to be an impossible thought. It has been the promotion of mistrust which unfortunately now has real examples to point to as proof by those promoting such . But the proof is only there because of the slow degradation of government function such that the results of government function is blatantly corrupt and obviously self serving thus confirming that acting communally only leads to less of a secure life. IE: no efficient rail/people movers.
Trust is the dark matter that secures a minimal risky life and we’re destroying it daily. Michigan’s handling of Detroit, Walker in Wis., now the TPP as the latest grand scale selfish accomplishment are all proof.
It really is a dilemma for us as only working communally can we achieve what we all want; a life lived with less risk.
that all may be true but this country was founded on the idea of separation of powers…not just within the federal government, but between he federal government and the states.
i am glad to see the federal government enforcing human rights. not so glad to see the federal government destroying human rights (homeland security, jail on say so of government official).
and as far as i can tell, federal ownership (via federal grants) of local schools has been worse for kids (no child left behind. teach to the test) than leaving the local folks to solve their own problems… as by say offering high quality education without all the bells and whistles of “good schools” not of course that many local school are free of state interference, or very good at managing their own situation..
still, one should be careful of a “love the federal government, hate the states” revolutionary slogan.
Obviously, Daniel, you are a Communist.
“i am glad to see the federal government enforcing human rights. not so glad to see the federal government destroying human rights (homeland security, jail on say so of government official).”
Ooookay. Apparently you missed part about it being state and local police, prosecutors and court systems that routinely violate basic civil and human rights—and that it’s the federal government, almost entirely via Supreme Court states’-rights fabrications, plus a notorious 1996 federal statute that the Supreme court has interpreted to remove habeas jurisdiction of federal courts regarding state-court criminal convictions, that has invited these wholesale violations of civil and human rights.
You’re dreaming, Dale. You’re so gullible and naïve.
i guess you are dreaming too, being so incapable of following an argument that differs in the slightest from yours.
i am well aware of the states violation of human rights. i am also apparently aware of what you are not: the federal violation of human rights.
so let me try it again: don’t rush from Scylla into Charybdis.
Four years in Paris and six in Madrid. The idea that parents aren’t thinking very hard about their kids education when choosing a place to reside in these metros is naive. I agree that school funding is not a prime consideration, but parents’ perceptions about who Odette’s classmates are likely to be is thought through just as carefully as in Michigan.
I believe the thrust of my post which Bev refers to; no amount of thought would have resolved the issue of “who Odette’s classmates are likely to be is thought through just as carefully” would have resolved the issue in Michigan. Black citizens were blocked economically and legally from getting the issue resolved solely through prejudice. It is also not the first time the courts have made the wrong decision.
Funding is an issue in Detroit as the city is landlocked by borders. While the city supplies >50% of the Michigan GDP, it does not collect in taxes from the state for the services it provides. Michigan took the unprecedented step of cutting revenue sharing with the city helping to speed the city to bankruptcy sooner as cash flow was the issue here.
Am I missing your point here?
I think you may be missing Eric’s point. He was responding to “in no other country…” That may not have been the point of your whole essay, but it is what you said… or what Beverly said (it’s hard to tell, punctuation being what it is.)
i missed a turn. I thought Run/Beverly’s point was that we need to end decentralization of schools and embrace one size fits all Federal control of schools, which is what you say the French are trying to get riid of. ??
I agree with you about the insane worship of “individual pfreedom.” But I think we need to be careful about rushing to its opposite. Surely we can find a way to give people some actual freedom, and sense of freedom, in their own affairs, while pointing out the advantages of cooperative behavior… and the dangers of it…. when that is actually the best way to preserve freedom short of giving every predator of great wealth license to poison the rest of us.
The problem I was talking about, Eric, was the actual quality of the education, which in this country is determined mainly by the amount of funding for each school district, which in turn is determined by the amount of property taxes each municipality collects. That, I believe, is a situation unique to this country among modern democracies worldwide.
I don’t know what effect who Odette’s classmates are has in determining the quality of Odette’s education and her prospects for getting into the Sorbonne or, say, Harvard, but the wild variance in funding of one school as opposed to another is not, as I understand it, something that Odette’s parents need worry about.
Farrar Richardson’s comment, above, is informative in that it suggests that in France, the problem is not funding variations from one school district to another but instead that local public school administration and control of each school district is a problem because of differences in culture from local area to another. In this country, most parents of kids in low-income school districts, and the kids themselves, would kill to have the funding that upscale school districts have.