Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The New School Debate Gets ... Turgid

Madeline K. (a.k.a. "Karen") Carter has a very long post on NC Conservative in which she alleges many things about Watauga County education, including the following:

1. "...the supposed terrible shape of the existing Watauga High School." "Supposed"? According to Carter, the "supposed" bad shape of the school is "propaganda" spread by public and school officials (unnamed) and "the controlled and politically correct media."

2. While she attaches a condemnatory "supposed" to bad conditions at the high school, Carter is very happy to attribute a happy-face to other hearsay: "The last renovation, I am told, was very nice, and friends told me it looked like a brand new building."

3. "Watauga County has consistently and generously given to their school system, which has grown into a sacred and bloated cow...." "Consistently and generously" is the sort of exaggeration that throws everything else in this sentence -- let alone the whole long screed -- into serious doubt. Maybe the schools ARE a sacred cow. I tend to hold sacred the concept of public education, it's true, and consider deeply unAmerican the drive to privatize access to education. But "bloated" does not accurately describe the school system we're familiar with.

4. Despite Carter's protestations, we CAN tell the difference between policy differences and personal attacks on public officials. While Carter herself has largely avoided personal attacks, preferring rather to delve deeply into the rhetoric of victimization (see # 1 above), her chief cohort in opposition to a new high school cannot resist personal attacks on public officials, alleging or implying outright graft, double-dealing, and personal profit.

5. Carter seems mad at the world, and we can relate to that. One possible source of that anger is decades old ... the consolidation movement that closed the old Cove Creek High School and brought every rural child into Boone for schooling. We totally agree that consolidation was a bad thing, with hateful consequences for rural cultures all across the country. Far better would have been the careful nurturing of all local community schools, but it would have happened only with an expenditure of public money that would begger what is now being proposed for a new Watauga High School. To maintain "separate but equal" educational facilities was considered cost prohibitive back then, which is why schools consolidated (under the guidance of some of the most conservative public officials in the history of the Republic). Can you imagine the cost of equal physical plants, equal athletic programs, equal computer training, equal music programs, equal everything else? We would have supported that, but Ms. Carter wouldn't have ... considering her anti-tax position today.

6. Carter is also right about this: Watauga County is held in the grip of "a narrow-minded tourism, resort, and second home economy." No doubt about that. But the county also started down this path decades ago, greased along those particular skids not a little bit by very powerful LOCAL elites who profited enormously by turning the county toward tourism, resort, and second-home development. Those big development forces -- big-money guys and those who serve them -- are clearly lined up in support of a new high school. But then Carter herself lines up with those same arrogant elites when it suits her ... as in fighting any development rules that might actually put a stop to some of the abuses of "a narrow-minded tourism, resort, and second home economy." But that irony is lost on Ms. Carter.

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