Monday, December 8, 2008

Papers and Public Schools

I spent some of this weekend reading the various newspapers my partner and I somehow get. We subscribe to the San Francisco Chronicle, which is not a very good paper, but is the best paper San Francisco offers, being as it the only daily and Sunday newspaper left in that city.

We get the West County Times, which, despite its names, covers the whole county we live in (Alameda), the rest of the state and, in fact, the world. We get that paper because two young men came to our house a few months ago selling subscriptions. For each subscription they sold, they got points and with enough points, our local PUBLIC high school got to fund important programs such as art, music and the library. You can’t just hand the students money for these programs. They are forbidden from accepting cash. You have to subscribe to one or more of the various newspapers who are sponsoring this fundraiser. So, to support our public schools beyond the support we provide through taxes, we signed up.

We get the New York Times Sunday edition from our neighbor. She subscribes, but never reads most of the sections and so gives those to us right away on Sunday morning. Then, when she is done with the magazine section and the front section, she brings that over, usually Sunday afternoon.

I like how we get the Chronicle and the NY Times. Supporting our local newspaper is important to me and I am sad that newspapers will soon be a thing of the past. The Christian Science Monitor, which I have subscribed to for years, will go on-line this April. Will I go on-line with it? I don’t know. I understand the financial pressure papers are under and certainly I want to save trees. But I like a newspaper. I like to sit in my backyard and read it, or take it on the subway. I like cutting articles out of it to send to my mother, who is not on-line and never will be.

Getting the NY Times from our neighbor feels like a small consistent example of being in community, which is also important to me and fortunately is not a thing of the past. In fact, with all that is going on in the economy, I think community is very much a thing of the present and the future if we are to survive at all.

I don’t like that our public school students have to hawk newspapers to insure that their public school provides a modicum of education. The young men that came to my door should be studying or playing sports or working to earn money for college or just hanging out. It is the job of grown-ups to provide them with a public school education – grown-ups who pay sufficient taxes for that which is public to truly be public. As I filled out my subscription to the West County Times, I explained my philosophy to these polite but puzzled young men. They have never known a truly public school. They told me they have raised money for their schools all their lives. I told them that wasn’t necessary and when they are adults, they have make sure public schools are paid for by taxes, levied in a fair and just way. I think my words hit some kind of cord because as they walked away, one said to the other, “Not having to do this—that would be amazing.”

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