Friday, August 26, 2011

Please Stop Telling Me Our Schools Suck

Apparently yet another report has come out showing that the middle and high schools here in Y-town are terrible. I think I've run through all the stages of grief about local public schools at this point, but then I find myself just feeling pissed today -- pissed that we now live in a world where we test the hell out of kids (acting as if these scores some how let us objectively rank and compare schools) so that districts like mine look like shit. And then we act like it is the school district's fault. I'm pretty sure that we know better, that we know that we don't really even need to waste all those weeks (and money) testing kids (my then 3 rd grader had 3 weeks of standardized testing last year!). All we really need to do is look at the socioeconomic profile. The darker and poorer the district, the "worse" they are (on these tests).

Okay, you and I know this and that is not my point anyway. My point is that I'm pissed that we trot these tests out and it feels like I (as a privileged parent) am supposed to look at the results and pull my not-brown and not-poor kids out...because I can. The whole message to parents is "run if you can." But run where? The subtext seems to be if I have a good student and the means, I'm mortgaging the kid's future by not pulling them. The message to parents like me seems to be: "it's okay, we know you like the idea of public schools but of course you can't endanger the future of your little snowflake..." Here you go privileged people, a signed hall pass getting you out the gym class the rest of the schmucks have to take.

I'm also pissed because a district can try with all its might to create a counter narrative (value of diversity, rich music program, community partnerships, etc.), but the scores will undercut those messages every time. And then they will excuse families that leave "because the public schools are so bad."

Suck it up, people. Public is public. We all have a stake (admittedly not to the same extent) in the schools -- whether or not we have kids, whether or not our kids go to public school. Get in the game. To that end, I'm going to lobby for the newly proposed state law mandating that parents get time off to attend their kids school meetings be expanded to allow ALL employees up to 8 hours of paid hours per month to put into the schools. It would be a start.

Hints at what is to come...

As E and I were headed out the door for an appointment early one morning this week, she stopped and looked me up and down....

"Why are you wearing a dress?"

"I'm going in to work today."

Scoff. (It is a kind of dramatic exhale...often accompanied by an eye roll.)

"I would never wear a dress to work. I probably wouldn't even wear a skirt."

"I'm not sure what you are objecting to, it is probably the easiest thing I could have put on... one piece, not even a zipper, and it is kind of like wearing pajamas to work, actually."

"Well, the colors are good, if only it was a shirt or something."

"Well you could wear leggings with it and call it a tunic..."


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Eats

Farmers' market season is here and here is what we are cooking...

E has always loved cucumbers. We got a cold soup at Zingerman's once that was lovely and we recreated it at home. I made it again last night. The other kids swirling around the house wouldn't even try it, so E and I happily ate all of it yesterday and today.

Cold Cucumber Soup

4 medium cukes, peeled and seeded
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped

Whir up 3 of the cukes and buttermilk in the food processor and transfer to a large bowl. Grate the last cuke and add it along with all the other ingredients to the bowl. Stir well. Chill for a while.

Heirloom Tomato, Feta, and Mint salad

4-6 heirloom tomatoes (ideally a mixture of red, green, yellow, striped, black, etc.)
1/4 of fist-sized red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons of fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup of feta, crumbled
juice of 1 lemon
drizzle of olive oil

I like to cut my tomatoes into wedges. You can take the bite out of the onions by tossing them in very hot water for a minute. Gently mix everything together and let it sit/marinate for 30 minutes or so.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cottage Trip 2011

The kids and I headed up to the UP for the end of July/early August. We celebrated Owen's 9th birthday with homemade apple pie and black walnut ice cream, spent a million hours on the beach and in warm Lake Michigan, saw a double rainbow, and went adventuring.

In Marquette we checked out the art fair, got turned away from Presque Isle park because an agitated young bull moose had taken up occupancy for the day, swam in Superior, and got ice cream at Jilbert's. The high point of the trip, however, was turning around to check out a sculpture garden called Lakenenland. The kids were asleep at this point, Emma rallied to take in a bit of it, but mostly, just my dad and I got to enjoy it. The park is free, whimsical, and political -- a damn fine combination, in my book. Plenty of social and political ideas inspired the art, but apparently the artist/owner of the land has had some run-ins with local authorities and for them, the artist had posted a "no trespassing" sign.

The other great adventure was a return trip to Grand Marais to climb the log slide/dune in Pictured Rocks and otherwise explore this beautiful area of beaches, dunes, rocks, and waterfalls.