Monday, May 7, 2012

Guns and Butter

Just loosely following along the DISD superintendent forum via twitter, I came across something Mayor Mike might've said (how can you really know for sure when citing twitter?).  He "wants us to get mad as hell and not take it anymore."  Unfortunately, the city is broke (sort of).  But schools are something any city HAS to have in order to 1) cultivate local talent and 2) attract families back towards the city.  Schools and our kids are something we have to invest in.  Accept it.  As Fareed Zakaria tweeted the other day:

A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year. 

That's college tuition, but the point stands for any level of education.  You have to spend, on teachers, facilities, etc.  The return on that investment is two-fold, an educated person can be more productive.  They add far more to the economy and society as adults than they "usurped" as children/students.  And they are also less of a drain.  Birth rates drop for the educated (particularly for teens and the uninsured).  And as Zakaria's tweet points out, keeping inmates is rather expensive.

So if we have to invest in our children, how do we do that without money?  Furthermore, how do we do that if we're trying to build more highways as well?  Billions for road building, billions for education.  I'm guessing we can do one or the other.  

But think about this...

If we were able to cobble together money for both 'guns' (highways) and 'butter' (schools), we'd be investing in students while also spending on highways to make the city less desirable, less attractive, and less livable for them.  They would very likely end up moving to other cities once their sufficiently educated.  Look at NYC as a burgeoning startup mecca.  Why?  It's attractive to millennials, it's opportunistic, it's inherently collaborative, and it's easy to get around.  They're literally building their city for the next generation.  

 Inner city highways disconnect more than the interconnect. And disconnection leads to disinvestment.  So why are we investing in that?  The Keynesian highways as economic development model is a mindset pervasive from the 1930s to 1980s.  To which, we are just now reaping what we had sown by way of increased infrastructural burden and a gutted tax base.  In other words, precisely why our cities and public schools are dysfunctional.

If we're stuck in an antiquated mindset, would we teach in schools the same way?  Would we pretend the internet and technology doesn't exist?