Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Values

On Christmas Day, the NY Times ran a story whose title really does give readers most of the necessary information in the article: "In Budget Crunch, Science Fairs Struggle to Survive." The article goes on to quote various educators worried about the impact of these cutbacks, but there aren't any real surprises.

But while the story is accurate in collecting and relaying the details, I'd argue that it is narrowly telling the story (granted, as good journalism often should). Even without a strained economy, science education--or indeed, education of any sort--has long played second fiddle to that Great American Obsession, sports. For much of the 20th century the two were able to coexist in something approaching harmony since there was plenty of money to go around. But even before the Great Recession of recent years, public schools have been faced with cutback after cutback, while both amateur and professional sports have gotten fatter and fatter, budgetarily speaking. I recall as a kid growing up in northern Ohio and listening to the radio on election nights as my family listened to the majority of school levies, most of which were asking for a pittance, go down to defeat.

Not so the public financing of stadiums, which the public seems to adopt with a certain slobberingly stupid zeal, as witnessed in these articles on the financing of the Florida Marlins baseball stadium, an attempt to finance a professional soccer team stadium in Portland, Oregon, a brief take on the return-on-investment for Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, and details and an opinion about the huge tax subsidies the city of New York granted in the construction of the new Yankees stadium. Comparing the amounts of public money that  these businesses receive to the amount that school boards meekly request is akin to comparing the size of an NFL lineman to that of a Pop Warner player: you're not in the same, um, ballpark.

And we're surprised at the decline in educational standards in this country? Right.

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