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October 29th, 2006:

Yonkers School System- On the Rise?

The skinny on the Yonkers school system is that it is not very good. Yonkers, the fourth largest city in the state of New York, had trouble with their school system in the 70’s and 80’s due to battles about subsidized housing, (the full story is in the book Show Me A Hero by Lisa Belkin, handily highlighted on the side here)

However, a recent study of Yonkers students recently graduated suggests that the schools are better than their reputation.

From the Journal News:

A recently released survey of high school students who graduated in the spring echoes Delotch’s contentment and suggests that there is widespread student satisfaction with the city’s five public high schools. The 772 graduating seniors gave the public schools overwhelmingly positive marks on issues such as learning experiences, teachers’ high standards and demand for quality work.

On the question about the schools providing a safe environment, 89.5 percent of respondents approved of the district’s security while 84.5 percent said they felt academically prepared to go to college.

So either those students don’t know what they are talking about, or the reputation of Yonkers is wrong. (Doing a little more research, recent testing of Yonkers students show that Yonkers students outperform students from other large NY Cities (Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo) So things aren’t all bad, anyway.

The interesting thing from the Journal News article is that 23% of Yonkers children DON’T go to public schools– they attend private and parochial schools. That seems very high….

The Ethics of Shelter

I had a weird and interesting ethical dilemma today. (At least, it was a weird and interesting dilemma for me– perhaps for someone else, not so much.)

The weather was strange today. As aficionados of Winnie the Pooh might call it, it was A Very Blustery Day Torrential rain, gusts of wind, and tiny bouts of tremendous beauty.

So, while it was pouring, I was inside, warm and cosy. And then I heard a sound on the porch. I looked out, and there was a tough looking Latino guy and a 5 year old child. They did not see me. The guy was talking on his cell phone.

I suss out immediately that they are waiting out the rain.

I have a series of mixed responses to this: My first response is territorial, and not very charitable. Who are these strangers, and why are they on MY porch? Get them off. I’m not on their porch. And hey, I knew that it was going to rain, so I didn’t go walking around. Why didn’t they show the same foresight? I’m tempted to ask them to leave.

But then I start thinking– hey, I’m not using that part of the house– why shouldn’t they use it as a temporary shelter– they’re not harming anything. And besides, in Norse Mythology, the guys who show up at your door demanding shelter usually turn out to be Loki, Thor, and/or Odin and their friends, and woe betide them that do not turn themselves out hospitably. Perhaps I should offer them a beverage? Or perhaps a snack of some kind? I think we’ve got some Colombian candies….

Right around then I start thinking about how I would feel if there weren’t a kid involved, or if it was a gang of tough teenagers on my doorstep, drinking out of a paper bag, and I start to feel a little less charitable (Sorry Loki, all out of Mead! Have a can of whupass instead)

About this time, I look out again, and my ethical dilemma has (along with my mysterious guests) departed. But my weird thoughts have not.

I know that being charitable is good, but I generally like to do it on my terms, which is probably less than I ought. I do have a bit of a territorial nature, perhaps to my detriment. I guess my point is that I probably won’t be reaching Nirvana anytime soon.