Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best bet for Salem on June 3: Confluence @ Salem's First Congregational Church

Confluence: Willamette Valley LGBT Chorus performs

Pride & Praise

A choral celebration of who we are, praise for life, and the power of music to make you smile, help you heal, tap your feet, and rock out, all in one concert. The program ranges from the opening Buddhist mantra “Gate Gate” to “Somewhere” from Westside Story, and includes “I Want You to Know Who I Really Am,” “Gloria” from the Misa Criolla, “Acclamation” from The Gospel Mass, and Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There."

We will have a raffle for a weekend at the Wave Catcher condo in Waldport, convenient to Yachats and Newport. Tickets will be sold at all three concerts with the winner announced on Sunday, June 5. Tickets will also be available from chorus members. You need not be present to win. Go to http://www.wavecatcherbeachrentals.com/ for details.

Tickets (general admission seating):

Tickets are available in advance ($15 adults/$12 students & seniors) from chorus members or online at http://www.confluencechorus.org/. Or buy at the door ($18/$15).

Tickets purchased online up to noon on Sunday March 13 will be held at the ticket desk.

Times and Locations
  • Friday June 3, 7:30— Salem, First Congregational Church, 700 Marion St.
  • Saturday June 4, 7:30—Portland, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 1244 NE 39th Ave.
  • Sunday June 5, 4:30—Corvallis, UU Fellowship of Corvallis, 2945 NW Circle Blvd.
For directions and maps.

Confluence: Willamette Valley LGBT Chorus
Building Bridges Through Song

Like to sing? Ask any chorus member about how much fun they have singing with Confluence. Next term starts September 11.

On the S-K School Board Race results

This isn't intended as a concession -- if they find a ballot box somewhere stuffed with votes for me and I'm declared the winner, then that's fine. But, as this is written, it seems Jeff Faville will win the race for the Zone 2 seat on the Salem-Keizer School Board, so congratulations and good luck to him. I wanted to share a few thoughts with Jeff and everyone else interested in our schools. Which I would have hoped included everybody who lives in the district. But, judging from the terrible turnout for the just-ended election, that is not so.

So my first comment: we should drop the zone residency requirement that prevents qualified candidates from running for school board unless they live in one particular zone. The challenges schools face are fearsome; we cannot afford to limit candidate pools with district maps that put two high schools in some zones, no high schools in others, while families often enroll kids in schools outside their “home” zone anyway. I felt compelled to file in this election because no one else had. Luckily, we did have a contested race, but I don’t think it’s any insult to me or Jeff to say that we would have benefited from a wider, more diverse pool of candidates. Schools are where we should most discourage thinking about “my area” first. We need board member who think about what’s best for the whole district, not a particular area; we make policy at the whole district level, not the “zone” level. So we should allow candidates for all seats from the whole district too.

My second comment is that our greatest challenge is that the much-touted link between education and lifetime economic security has always been deceptive. That is, just like the rooster who likes to think that the sun comes up because the rooster crows, schools got used to thinking that they caused, rather than benefited from, the rising general wages and prosperity of the US economy, which covered a multitude of educational sins and mistaken beliefs about the schooling.

It is no coincidence that the broad critique of education as a system in crisis (epitomized by the “A Nation at Risk” grenade thrown during the first Reagan administration) came about a decade after the US lost its ability to control and limit the price of oil in 1970, far ahead of the conventionally understood schedule. Once the US could not control prices for oil and energy – in a country where our historic and unprecedented wealth depended more on abundant cheap energy than any other factor -- our economy began wrenching, painful changes. Where we had enjoyed steady growth rates, rising wages, and rising profit rates throughout the postwar era, we soon suffered a downward ratchet that was just as powerful. Few understood what had changed, but all experienced the discomfort of it.

And schools became a convenient scapegoat for that discomfort. Schools enjoyed undeserved credit for the booming postwar economy; now they get equally undeserved blame for the struggling state of the US economy. The reason this is crucial is that we appear to be embarked on an effort to destroy the best parts of our schools in an ill-advised effort to chase “achievement” scores on standardized tests in the hope that goosing those numbers upward will bring back the economy. And we will find out that, like King Canute at the seashore ordering out the tide, schools are simply not as powerful as we believed.

While schools are far from perfect, it’s critical not to blame schools and teachers for failing at what they never could do anyway -- even if, like the rooster, they used to like taking credit for it. The bottom line is that, when the pie is generally bigger, everyone gets a little more, and schools look pretty good, basking in the rosy glow of that prosperity. But when the economy contracts – as the US economy will likely do for years or decades to come – schools get interrogated under a much harsher light. Parental anxieties, particularly in the middle class, shoot to the fore. The whole “competition” language that dominates education discussions today is telling; the more uncertain and anxious parents feel about the world their children will inherit, the more they lash out at schools.

The key challenge for the Salem-Keizer district will be helping organize support for those programs and activities that define the difference between an educated person and a trained one, and helping everyone recognize the importance of helping students become successful as people, not just as economic units.