The Bother

Mar 30, 2011 by

Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s Inside WikiLeaks is an interesting read, to say the least.  Beyond all the tussles depicted within over the direction of the whistle-blowing website, the clashes over the security of the site and its servers, and the personal fallouts that led to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being locked out of his own brainchild, one major idea keeps Domscheit-Berg in the game of safe, secure conduit to whistle-blowers everywhere who want to reveal their secrets: that leaving the publication and dissemination of privileged information up to a precious few people – whether it’s those in charge of government or corporate security or Assange and whatever media people he makes deals with – runs counter to what we should be doing: fighting for “increased transparency and equal access to knowledge for all.”

With increased transparency and equal access, perhaps we wouldn’t be convinced that information such as what we actually pay as parents above and beyond what all our taxes go to in the public schools should be kept under wraps.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t understand where parents are coming from when they refuse to talk about the equipment fees, the charges for each field trip, the constant pleas from the parent-teacher organizations and the schools themselves to please contribute to their annual funds and their fundraisers for your child’s education.  On one level, it doesn’t seem like so much compared to, say, sending your child to a private school, where I’ve known people who have had to borrow from their children’s grandparents to pay tuition.  To kvetch about a few hundred for these extras when people are shelling out thousands seems downright ungrateful.   No matter what, you have to know that if you have children, you’re gonna be paying something.  Get over it and keep bringing your child to school on time before you get slapped with fines and a visit from a social worker.

Other possible reasons for not wanting to shed too much light on this may center on not wanting to kick a “system of schools” that is trying to get back on its feet after having been down for so long…or not wanting any of this to come down on teachers and administrators who are otherwise doing a good job…or not wanting your actions to come down on your kids’ heads.  We parents are enough of an embarrassment to our children as things go anyhow, even if agitating for more state funding towards public education is a goal that is anything but embarrassing.  Nobody wants to risk being the square peg here, because then no money may trickle down to us poor schlubs trying to keep our children from being ignorant.

Our biggest bother here is fear.

Problem is, no amount of begging, borrowing, and selling wrapping paper and chocolates out the wazoo is gonna bring back the French instruction that my son is no longer taking.   Bake sales, pizza sales, and fall and spring festivals won’t be bringing back pre-K 3 preschool programs you don’t have to shell out a few thousand for.  No matter how big a money blowout the parents’ art auction gala is, it won’t be putting art and music programs back into the schools during school hours anytime soon.  Those kinds of decisions still legally rest with the state.

Parents, don’t be afraid to fight for your childrens’ futures.  No amount of unofficial omerta is worth forfeiting that.  And leaving the discussion up to whenever it will be brought up by the media perpetuates the current state of affairs.


Update, 4/1: Comment on The Lens article about the school fees:

These fees are mostly illegal because they are mostly not for “a particular activity” and if they are, most parents are given the impression that the fees are mandatory for attendance. My partner and I have children at both Lusher and Hynes. All fees at these two schools are written and/or verbally communicated as mandatory during the application process. Furthermore, the description of items covered by the fees include mandatory items such as agendas, workbooks, student I.D.s, etc. I have refused to pay the fees for a number of years and our children have been harassed and ostracized by teachers and administrators for non-payment repeatedly. Other parents who have not paid have been intimidated and threatened into paying the fees. This has to stop. I even think that required uniforms should be provided by the school (or not required). Finally, though some schools show no “cushion” in their budgets, others have line items showing healthy reserves. For our family, our fees this year (if we would have paid them) would have totaled over $3,000. No thank you for free public education.


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