(Readers: Please note the blog is constructed as a story. While not all chapters are linked, after reading a few recent entries, you might want to start at the beginning. More about the blog and about the author. )

Scene:  JC, Greenie and Jordan continuing conversation about higher education.  Start of conversation entry #80.

Greenie:  “What’s the real issue here?  Busing, separate but equal, quality 010414_1635_16StudentsL2.jpgneighborhood schools, or something else?”

JC:  “I’m confused too, Jordan.  What is the real issue?  And what do we need to do to address it?”

Jordan:  “Now we are getting someplace.  As a society we are great at treating symptoms and lousy at addressing the underlying causes.”

JC:  “OK, great Mr. Philosopher, explain to us mortals what you’re talking about.”

Greenie:  “Specifically related to schools or busing or education or whatever.  More to the point, please.”

Jordan:  “My view is the only sure-fire way out of poverty is education.”

122813_1403_12ThePoundD1.jpg JC:  “Agreed.”

Jordan:  “I also believe, based on many years empirical data in this country, and worldwide, that a  public-school system can deliver a high-quality education.”

Greenie:  “I agree.  We are all products of public primary and secondary schools.  And JC and I, unlike you Jordan, attended public universities for our advanced degrees.”

Jordan:  “I taught at a public university…or at least I was an adjunct.  So there.”

JC:  “Now that we have the public/private school backgrounds out of the way, what about recreating a credible, quality public-school system for K-12?  Make that K thru college.”

Jordan:  “I think that’s a good way to frame the issue?  ‘What’s required to recreate a credible, quality public-school system?’  I would add one element…affordability.  The system needs to be affordable for taxpayers and affordable for participants, especially at the college level.”

Greenie:  “Making it affordable is critical.  Have you checked tuition at some public universities?”

JC:  “Tuition rivals some middle-line private schools.”

Greenie:  “Jordan, are you suggesting we cut back on or even eliminate charters and private schools?”

Jordan:  “You know my feelings about charter schools.  Despite all the rhetoric, charters are a diversion of public tax dollars to the private sector.  Using tax dollar to fund charters is part of a long-term strategy to erode and eventually eliminate public schools.”

JC:  “Whoa, Jordan.  What about private schools?”

Jordan:  “If people want to pay for private schools, including parochial schools, I’m OK.  But…and this is an important but…”

Greenie:  “…no vouchers?”

Jordan:  “You got it.  You want to send your kid to private school?  OK but so subsidy from taxpayers.”

JC:  “What about home schooling?”

Jordan:  “I’m opposed to that as well.  As we talked about, parents can do all the home schooling they want after regular school hours.  If little Johnnie is as bright as the parents claim, then little Johnnie can soak all the information he wants after regular school hours.  Kids need to be exposed to more diversity, not less diversity.  Bright kids need to learn how to deal with others who aren’t as gifted.”

JC:  “Alright, what’s next?”

Jordan:  “The only way public schools are going to work effectively is to start with schools in the neighborhood.  Neighborhood schools allow kids to develop an emotional bond to the school.”

Greenie:  “Neighborhood schools mean no busing for most students.”

JC:  “What if the neighborhood has a high crime rate.  How are the kids going to get to school?”

Jordan:  “Here’s where society has an obligation.  We…collective we…have to protect the kids going to/from school.”

JC:  “I need to ask a question again about cost.  Who’s going to pay for all this?  I know the question sounds so Republican-like but who is going to pay for this?”

Greenie:  “Good question, JC.”

Jordan:  “It is a good question and a great lead-in to finding a solution.”

JC:  “…and that solution is?”

Jordan:  “A holistic approach to calculating cost.”

Greenie:  “Jordan, sounds like another abstract idea.  Washington have your brain muddied?”

Jordan:  “The approach might appear abstract but the approach is sound, and realistic.  To me using a holistic approach to cost is the only way we…again, collective we…are ever going to start making progress toward rebuilding a quality education system.”

JC:  “Why do you say that?”

122813_2140_15Education4.jpgJordan:  “A holistic approach allows all cost increases and all cost decreases to be combined.  Without a holistic approach, usually only a portion of the issue is addressed.”

Greenie:  “A holistic is an Interesting idea, but I need an example.  Still too abstract.”

Jordan:  “Alright.  Take the idea of what we’ve been discussing — credible, quality neighborhood schools.  What are the extra costs to achieve the goal?”

JC:  “More security in some neighborhoods.  Higher teacher pay.  Maybe rehabbing some schools.”

Jordan:  “What about the savings?”

Greenie:  “Fewer buses, less fuel, fewer bus drivers, more time before and after school for education and activities and probably lower crime.  And, eventually more productive members of society.”

Jordan:  “Take crime.  How much it cost to incarcerate someone?”

JC:  “How much does it cost to keep someone in prison for a year?  Don’t know.”

Jordan:  “Try $40-50,000 per year.”

JC:  “So over a 5-year period, the cost is $200-$250k.  Over a 10-year period, the cost MIT-logoto society is say $400-$500k.  So if we send someone away for five years, it’s the same cost as an undergraduate education at Harvard or MIT?  And that’s without any financial help from the school. I never thought about it that way.”

Greenie:  “You mean as a society we have a choice – send someone to prison for 5 years or pay full tuition, room, board, books and everything else for someone to attend Harvard or MIT?”

JC:  “I’ll take paying for someone to go Harvard.”

Jordan:  “I’ll take MIT.”

Greenie:  “We figured that.”

Jordan:  “Anyway, now you are beginning to see how the choices we make as a society affect us in different ways.  A holistic approach attempts to consider all implications of a decision, not just a few parts.”

Greenie:  “For the same cost to taxpayers, we can put someone in prison for 5 years and teach him or her few, if any, skills that are useful upon exiting or send someone to school and end up with a great education.  Duh.  Seems simple enough to me.”

Jordan:  “Let’s be realistic.  Not everyone who goes to prison comes out as totally untrained.  And not everyone who goes to prison is smart enough to attend university.  But many people are and as a society we are wasting that potential.”

JC:  “Interesting approach. Spend money in one area and avoid spending money in another area.  How are we going to get that point across?  So many politicians and voters focus on today and 10-second sound bites and not focus on the longer term.”

Jordan:  “What segment of society is affected most by lack of quality, credible neighborhood schools?”

Greenie:  “The black community, I guess.  But the issue really applies to a larger portion of society.”

JC:  “Greenie, you’re right.  Jordan has been outlining a program to help the black community get off the bottom rung of the economic ladder.”

Greenie:  “Is this holistic cost approach part of that program?”

Jordan:  “Implied but not overtly detailed.”  Maybe it should be.”

JC:  “Jordan, you used one word to summarize the program.”

Greenie:  “What word was that?”

JC:  “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Aretha-aretha-franklin-27121751-1280-1024Greenie:  “You don’t sing like Aretha but its a great one-word tag line.  A two-word tag line might be “Holistic R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Jordan:  “Holistic respect is going to some explaining.  But it does capture the essence of the issue.”

JC:  “Holistic respect doesn’t ring, as they say.  Let’s have lunch and see how it sounds after some food.”