What are we thinking?

Our director of schools has interpreted data collected about public preferences for a single high school as a clear indication that people desire a common experience. (See R. Neal's post below for link to full article)

I have another interpretation. People’s preferences for a single high school indicate a confused sense of nostalgia and a failure of leadership.

Nostalgia: People’s visions of a small-town high-school life are really less about having a single high-school that unifies than having a school small enough that they are truly known as people. Cheering on a town’s single football team against "foreign" rivals (from just down the road) is, quite frankly, a shallow way to build a shallow sense of community. Strong community spirit comes from pride in a community’s choices…in this case, we have a chance to be proud of how we plan for every young citizen to have a great education.

Arguably, the best feature of public schools is that students come into close contact with ideas, identities, abilities, and beliefs that are different from their own (this feature is much harder to come by in private schools). This close contact challenges students to either defend their ways of thinking and being in the world or to change their ways of thinking and being in the world. Course content gives them the tools and practice they need to think through these challenges. In a word, this is education.

Large secondary schools do not allow for this close contact. Rather, stereotypes and narrow thinking are encouraged as students must spend their time simply trying to carve out a space for themselves amid the masses.

Failure of leadership: There is nothing surprising in data showing that people are resistant to and fear change and that people will choose the option that proposes the least amount of change. It is easy for us to sacrifice (other) people’s homes to cobble on to a high school we're afraid of changing in any meaningful way. It is hard to think through new ways of educating our children.

Great leadership helps us imagine new ways of moving forward and helps us not be afraid of change.

Where is our great leadership?

Money, not vision or leaderhsip

I don't think football pride or small-town nostalgia is behind the decision to stick with one high school. I think it boils down to money. New high schools are extremely expensive to build and run. With the city already investing in high-profile projects like the new city hall, civic arts center, county library and park system, it might not be feasible to put in the money for a brand new high school. I think that's the same reason they don't want to move the school to another location.

I do agree, however, that discussions of facilities should not be the primary driver of school strategy. We should let programs drive the discussion. This is Maryville City, and people are not allergic to taxes the way they are in the Blount County hinterlands.

Elrod- I am going to go out

Elrod- I am going to go out on a limb here and say I doubt that the majority of the BV readers are familiar with your writings the way those of us from the 'other' blog are. That said, you know I seldom disagree with you. Now I must. Sort of. Somewhat at least.

We, out here in the cheap seats are not allergic to taxes. It is a matter of just how the money is spent that gets us all het up. Since you city dwellers pay both city and county taxes it would be swell if you all were as concerned as we are about how and why the county money gets spent.

One point five million? (link...)

Here is one for 45K (link...)

Who knows how much (if any) this one will total when it is all said and done (link...)

From the hinterlands

Elrod,
As Thomas Paine so eloquently stated, "If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revnues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute."
As a life long Blount Countian who has resided within Murrville City for years, I find this quotation from one of our founding fathers a rather fitting response to your post. I would address this issue further, but unfortunately my eyes are burning due to my lergik racshun to the thought of more taxes.

Hinterland?

Well said.

Elrod, if you want to help people forward, you shouldn't be in the business of calling them backward.

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