Sunday, June 14, 2020

A (lockdown) date night. Finally!

Last night Andrew and I sat down together to watch a movie together. It's the first time we've sat down together on the couch to watch anything for six weeks. So ask me how online teaching is going...haha.

In his defense, he just finished up with a super intense "May-mester" course (150 minutes of class time every day for three weeks) that had been intended to be taught in person, but he suddenly found himself scrambling to get the entire course online (after scrambling to get the rest of his spring semester online). It was not fun and involved many, many late nights in a row.

But it's over now and he's teaching just a regular summer course now, which has given us some time to breathe. So, you know, we watched Just Mercy, which was actually not an easy watch and just made me feel really, really angry. Which is great because I had just watched Teach Us All the other night and that also left me feeling really, really angry.

Let's just say that I believe we could really use a systemic shift in this nation.

We could stand to stop believing that violence is the answer to everything. I would love to see the justice system modified to be more peaceful and I do believe that a big part of doing that would be to reduce the funding in our police departments since a lot of that funding goes toward weapons. And I really think that if spent fewer tax dollars locking people up and instead used that money to help people be able to function in society that we would see a reduction in crime.

How is it fair to release someone from jail/prison, with a scarlet letter emblazoned on their chest (or, you know, record), knowing that it will be very difficult for them to get a job or find an apartment or do anything in our society? They're often out only on probation/parole, a system that works against the poor (and perpetual rule-breakers), and are also often required to attend therapy—which they have to pay for.

I guess that almost sounds fair since they are the ones going to therapy, but if they don't go to their mandated therapy then they are in violation of their probation/parole and can be put back into jail/prison. So if you can't find a job because no one wants to hire you because you just got out of jail/prison and you have a bunch of fines you have to pay to the court system and/or as retribution and you have to pay for therapy...I just am not seeing how this isn't an endless cycle of misery for many people.

Let's look at Utah for a minute, where they spend an average of about $22,000 to house an inmate for a year (as of 2015). That could pay for 183 therapy sessions (at $120 per session; I have no clue what therapy costs and have always just assumed we are too poor for therapy, which, I mean, if it costs $120 per session, is not an incorrect assumption) for an individual. 183 therapy sessions per year is a lot of therapy (I think?) so let's whittle that number down to once a week for a grand total of $6240.

That leaves us $15,760 dollars left over to help our criminal citizen rehabilitate. What could we do with $15,760? I dunno. Like, we could send them to college or something? It's feasible. UVU suggests that the resident "sticker price" for a year of university is $17,494—they estimate $5,036 for tuition, $724 for books and things, $690 for "other fees," $7614 for housing, and $3430 for "other expenses."

Honestly, if you attend therapy every other week (with a few bonus sessions thrown in), you'll come in below the $22,000 you'd spend to keep someone in prison.

Why does no one blink when we take $22,000 of our tax money to incarcerate a person for a year but they cry foul whenever "free" tuition is suggested? We could be educating people—"Ethics and Values" was a required course when I attended UVU (back in its wee UVSC days) and it was a great course—and helping them find a passion (UVU offers trades as well as academic programs) and a way forward in their lives.

Like, honestly, wouldn't it be more beneficial to our community to say, "Look, you done screwed up. So, here's what we're going to do: you're going to attend therapy (don't worry; we're paying) and you're going to go to college (again; we'll pay for that). But you have to go."

I mean, like, maybe not for every criminal. Maybe sometimes people do need a little timeout. But I know many people who are just sitting in prison cells could really benefit from opportunities like this and perhaps we should be doing that. We could meet with these people in prisons and say, "Hey. You've been here for a while. Let's get some stepping stones in place for you to help you rebuild the kind of life you deserve." We could be helping people become better with our tax dollars instead of crippling them by largely having them waste time in prison and then tossing them out on the street with nothing and then expecting them to magically "be good" (without ever resorting to desperate measures).

It's just...not a great system. Probably. It's something we could look into.

Anyway, I've just been thinking a lot about systemic racism and poverty and how capitalism is the biggest scam ever and the poor state of our educational system's been a bit of a downer.

Our segregated schools are an issue as well. And I'm as guilty as anybody. These schools had me running for the hills the first few weeks we were here...which is why we're homeschooling now (if you remember that saga). I don't want my children learning in that kind of environment. I don't want them to be so strictly monitored like they were. I don't want them punished for things they didn't do. I want them to go on the kind of field trips we see the "rich, white" schools going on.

Our assigned schools aren't having the same experience as schools in other, more well-to-do places. And it's not the kids! The kids are just fine. They are just kids. It's beyond the kids. It's overcrowded/underfunded schools and emotional exhaustion from living in difficult situations and jaded teachers and...and...I don't even know what all it is. It's a big problem, though. The disparities we see between a good school and a poor school are ridiculous in a country with as much wealth as ours.

My kids have never attended an inner-city school in New York like the ones they showed in Teach Us All, but they did attend Eno Valley Elementary school (at least, Rachel did), which really is doing a bit better than the last time I checked on it. When she was there I think it was rated a 2 or 3 on; now it's a 5. But, those numbers are really hard to tell anything from because our local school has pretty good test scores but, uh, it's a big "no thanks" for the social environment there.

Anyway, Eno Valley is 67% black and 25% Hispanic. It's 5% white. 99% of the students are from low-income families (full disclosure: we contributed to those low-income statistics when we attended that school so no judgements on that income bracket from me). It was...just not great. I mean, just the whole school was just not great.

Easley was a dream in comparison. It's 17% black, 20% Hispanic, 54% white with 28% of students from low-income families. More wealthy, white families buy into that area. We were able to "lottery" in, thank goodness. But, like, shouldn't all schools just be like Easley? Not in racial demographics, necessarily, but in goodness?

I don't understand how schools that are 2.5 miles apart are as different as night and day. I don't understand why we wouldn't want to offer all children the same quality of education.

Our assigned elementary school is 18% black, 42% Hispanic, and 21% white. 59% are from low-income families. I...don't know why I didn't love the school more (because on paper it looked like it should have been a dream, like Easley) but I just don't think it's particularly well-run and they honestly don't have fabulous equipment (oh, boy—they had a "principal's message" and "PTA" message "stream" through the school's television system...or whatever...and it was horrible, just so bad, like I couldn't hear or see what was going on because the sound and picture were so garbled. The PTA was like, "Here's a *fizz, fizz, fizz* -owing the fiscal *fizz, fizz* of the *fizz* -2020 school *fizz*...") and...just...there are reasons we needed to homeschool this year (and in coming years, too, I guess because there is no way Rachel is making it to a 7:00 first period (Why, school district, do you think it is a good idea to send your high schoolers to school at 7:00 in the morning? Especially when they go to middle school at, like, 9:30?!)).

What do you want to bet that Ye Olde 70%-white-12%-Asian-7%-black-6%-Hispanic-and-6%-of-the student-population-falling-below-the-poverty-level School 3.5 miles away does not have the same technical difficulties?

I don't know what the solution is. I'm sure I'm perpetuating the problem by homeschooling my children instead of sending them in (though, I mean, our tax dollars are still funneling into that school so...that's good, I guess).

I just...I don't know how to fix anything. I don't see anything that I can do. I think there will have to be some top-down initiatives. We need a Big Plan put in place to even the playing field. I don't know what that big plan is, entirely. But changing how school funds are allocated (property taxes—really?) would be good start.

So that's my rant for this evening.

I wish that there was really something that I could do. I feel like we should be voting in people who can do these things but government simply seems to be too tied up never changing anything to ever actually get anything accomplished.

Also, I'm chuckling now as I've just looked up our school in Spanish Fork (which is 92% white, 4% Hispanic, 1% Asian, and 1% black, with only 8% of children from low-income families) and, um, they only score a 4 on GreatSchools and, uh, I would agree with that rating. That school had a lot of bells and whistles but, like, um...the administration was...not my cup of tea. So I can understand that rating (and it just goes to show that money isn't everything). But, honestly, Utah tends to underfund education by, like, a whole lot (Utah spends the very least per pupil (which in turn means their teachers aren't paid as well's this whole thing)).

1 comment:

  1. This article in the NYT:

    and there was another article I read and was astounded by. I will see if I can find it.