Saturday, July 25, 2009

Drilling and testing

4LAKids: Sunday, July 26, 2009
In This Issue:
CALIFORNIA BUDGET DEAL (almost!) CLOSES $26 BILLION GAP – No drilling, No stealing from local gas taxes – but plenty of begging, borrowing & stealing
DAE'VON BAILEY 2003 - 2009
ONLINE SCHOOLS APPROVED IN ROWLAND HEIGHTS: The Rowland Unified board Tuesday approved a middle and high school that will exist almost entirely Online
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
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4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.

On Friday the Lege passed the wretched budget. They blinked over the issues where the counties and cities might sue. They backed away from "Drill Baby, Drill"-ing …but not missing a chance to double an entendre: they drilled us all.

They certainly drilled education, pre, K-12 and higher. They drilled poor children and their families who need health care. They drilled recipients of home health care. They drilled the cities and counties …just not as bad as they threatened to. Furloughed state workers will get additional opportunities to do some chillin' in the next year - while the Gübernator and the Lege keep on drillin'.

But taxes were not raised. Unless you actually figure out that getting less government services over less days from less employees at less offices and parks for the same tax rates as ever actually equals a tax increase. Thankfully that kind of economic reasoning escapes us. We went to public schools where the standards, we are told, are low.

NOWHERE IN THE STATE CONSTITUTION does it say: "The Big Five shall retire to a secret room and come up with the state budget".

In the meshugas over the budget process and the resultant call for a constitutional convention maybe we Californians should first think unconventionally …and get rid of the unconstitutional?

The idea, seemingly set in the granite and marble of the Capitol itself - that The Big Five write the state budget all by themselves is only two budget cycles old …and failed miserably both times. Will the third time be the charm - or are we out? 'Failed miserably' is Pollyannaish overstatement - California hasn't had a budget that passes the 'sniff test' of balance in recent memory …certainly not in Schwarzenegger Administration or the last few years of the Davis.

The concept of The Big Five retiring incommunicado without consulting with the rest of the legislature was dreamt-up by the last Big Five (only one of whom remains) to expedite the process of the '07-08 budget -- an infamous moment of expedience at the expense of democracy.

"We'll eliminate the middlemen and cut to the chase."

The middlemen/muddlemen - being the elected representatives of the people. That the Small 116 (the assembly and the senate minus the minority and majority leadership) go along makes them complicit.

• July 17, 2007, a day that coincides roughly with the advent of the "Let the Big Five Do It Plan", was the last day California had a balanced cash flow with equal receipts and expenses.
• Cash flow reflects actual money being actually raised and spent; a budget is just a plan.
• And the '07-08 Budget, if you'll recall, was rejected by Wall Street and returned to Sacramento marked NSF.

The result is an all-chase disaster movie. And the children/taxpayers/voters/citizenry of the state are the hapless pushcart vendor stacking produce at the side of the road as the heroes and bad guys barrel down in a screech of tires and a flood of testosterone. I come from Hollywood: No one ever saved a bad script in post production.

PUNDIT-PROVOCATEUR DAN WALTERS - Dean of the Sacramento Reporters - opened his SacBee column Wednesday: "Were California a corporation, rather than a state, its officers would be playing tiddlywinks with Bernie Madoff in the federal slammer, having engaged in years of hide-the-pea accounting tricks, under-the-table loans and other gimmicks to cover up the state's perpetual operating deficits."

(Madoff brings to mind Michael Millken. Read on, he appears later in this issue of 4LAKids.)

The Lege and the Gübernator didn't see the global economic collapse coming. But they did build their house o' cards in the Sacramento floodplain …and they haven't done a thing to bolster the levees in years. We can blame it on Props 13 and 98 and term limits, safe seats and the 2/3rds rule. Or we can blame ourselves for bad decision making in the ballot box. Because, gentle readers: We the People voted for the Lege and the Gov and those things.

Throwing all the metaphors into the blender: Our elected representatives failed to learn the First Law of Economics learned by every preschooler and kept-at-home-kid with a bubble wand and bottle of soap solution: Every Bubble Bursts.

ELSEWHERE (in DC) our President allowed himself to get drawn off topic (about healthcare) and weighed in and said aloud what we all were thinking but knew better than to say vis a vis racial profiling in Cambridge Mass.

"I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts" …."the Cambridge police acted stupidly…" Hard words to work into truly presidential thinking. Suddenly the media criticism of "too much Obama a lot of the time" rings true.

Off topic, distracted, backtracking and retracting. Suddenly "No drama Obama" is playing like bad improv. I had thought Joe Biden spoke my lines.

OBAMA AGAIN, ON FRIDAY, at a press event about education reform: “In too many places we have no way, at least no good way, of distinguishing good teachers from bad ones,” [schools need to] “use data effectively to reward effective teachers, to support teachers who are struggling and, when necessary, to replace teachers who aren’t up to the job.”

Education reform isn't about good teachers v. bad teachers, it's about outcomes. Barack Obama, one of the great communicators/ rhetoricians of the age, needs to raise the rhetoric above "good" and "bad" teachers if we are ever to get anywhere -- and for the very reason that the argument isn't just semantic and that outcomes are not test scores or data collection. Data are bits and bytes, waypoints and milestones. Outcomes are productive young people well on the road of lifelong leaning.

WE ARE FRUSTRATED IN L.A. AND CALIFORNIA because we are laying off presumed-good-until-proven-otherwise teachers based exclusively on (a lack of) seniority. Yet there are folks in teacher jail suspected of criminal activity with guaranteed employment. As there are apparently folks in teacher jail for the political high-crime-and-misdemeanor of falling afoul of the Partnership for LA Schools.

• Are all teachers who didn't have seniority on June 30 "bad teachers" …or just unemployed?
• Are teachers who are suspected of wrongdoing but innocent-until-proven-guilty "good" or "bad"?
• Are teachers who don't fit in at PLAS "bad"? Someone at 200 N. Spring Street thinks so.

Ms. Roisterdoister teaches fourth grade in an inner city school. Her students enterrd her class in September averaging one year below grade level and not knowing their multiplication tables. In the course of the year she gets them caught up so they can master the third grade curriculum and they learn their multiplication tables …all thirty-some odd of them -- 70% English language learners, 86% free and reduced lunch. In May they take the CST and most of them are below basic because they haven't mastered the fourth grade standards - they can multiply but division is beyond them. Are those kids failures? Is Ms. R a bad teacher because she didn't teach them two years of stuff in one year in her overcrowded underfunded classroom?

Mr. Veeblefetzer down the hall at the same school is teaching a similar fourth grade class and follows the fourth grade script and teaches the fourth grade curriculum to the kids that didn't master the third grade content - teaching to the test rather than the child. His kids will do better is the CST because they have a familiarity with the test questions. They are informed multiple choosers even though they really can't read and certainly can't divide. How can they? …they can't multiply. Is Mr. V a good teacher? Does he deserve his job more than does Ms. R? Does he deserve merit pay for following the script?

The Roiserdoister-Veeblefetzer Dilemma is very real, only the names are funny. We must come to grips with this - both classes are behind where they should be. And so are most similar classrooms in most inner city schools in most cities in the country.

Data isn't the answer, it's an indicator. The carrot of merit pay or the stick of removal or replacement are not the answers. Whether school districts are governed by boards of ed or mayors of cities is a distraction. Supporting teachers who are struggling is part of the answer - as is identifying lessons learned and best practice; we are not doing enough of any of it!

LAST WEEK THE LONG BEACH BOARD OF ED put a parcel tax on the November ballot; last week the LAUSD Board of Ed went on vacation.

Onward relentlessly! - smf

CALIFORNIA BUDGET DEAL (almost!) CLOSES $26 BILLION GAP – No drilling, No stealing from local gas taxes – but plenty of begging, borrowing & stealing

Published: July 24, 2009 — LOS ANGELES — After several days of nearly endless debate, California lawmakers on Friday signed off on a budget deal that closes a $26 billion gap and shores up state finances, for now.

The budget, an agreement made earlier in the week in near secrecy among party leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, contains more than $15 billion in cuts to services, but spares local governments from serving as unwilling cash machines for the state's general fund, and discards a plan to drill for oil off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Legislation mirroring the deal cobbled together by the leaders was approved by the State Senate early Friday morning after an original failure to get the two-thirds vote needed to pass.

State Assembly members settled midafternoon on a final deal that no longer contained a nearly $1 billion reserve from earlier versions, but also discarded plans to take gasoline tax revenues away from local governments, a plan that had enraged mayors and county leaders and invited lawsuits.

Mr. Schwarznegger, a Republican, will sign the document next week.

"It's not an easy budget; it's a tough budget; but it's a necessary budget," he said in a news conference immediately after the deal was sealed.

The budget contains a vast array of spending cuts that will soon be felt throughout the state. The K-12 education budget, which also includes community colleges, lost $6.1 billion from its roughly $58 billion base, and higher education took a $2 billion hit.

The state will save $1.3 billion by furloughing state workers three days out of the month. Medicaid took a $1.3 billion cut, not including a $129 million trim to the state's program that insures children whose families make too much for them to receive Medicaid.

There were accounting tricks, like $1.2 billion that will be saved in a one-time deferment of state worker paychecks for one day, moving them into the next fiscal year.

The Senate had signed off on measures to move about $4.7 billion of local government monies into the state's fund.

But now the state will borrow about $2 billion from local governments, which has to be repaid within three years, and which those governments can borrow against in the short term.

There will also be a $1.7 billion shift from local redevelopment agencies into state funds, which is likely to anger local governments, who were placated by the return of other money. The money previously planned to come from localities will now be made up by dipping into a nearly $1 billion planned reserve.

"In no way should this be misconstrued as kicking the can down the road," said the Assembly speaker, Karen Bass, in prepared remarks. "Where local government, and the communities we serve are concerned, it's more like we're throwing a hand grenade out of the foxhole."

The Assembly rejected a revenue-raising measure to drill for oil off Santa Barbara, blowing another $100 million hole in the plan that is likely to be compensated for in line-item vetoes made by the governor.

The state's nebulous way of managing its budget negotiations, as well as other oddities of its fiscal situation, are almost certain to be taken on by outside groups this year who wish to change the state's tax system and perhaps its entire Constitution.



Published: Friday, July 24, 2009 at 4:03 a.m.

Highlights of details of the agreement between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the four legislative leaders to close California's $26.3 billion budget deficit:


• Cuts $6 billion from K-12 schools and community colleges over two years.
• Cuts nearly $3 billion from the University of California and California State University systems. Although the federal stimulus program fills some of the gap, the depth of the cuts will mean higher student fees, fewer students and furloughs for employees.
• Cuts $1.3 billion from Medi-Cal, the state's health-care program for the poor; most of the savings would be through a proposal to bill the federal government for more money. In February, the state eliminated adult dental and eye care for recipients, a move that is being challenged in court.
• Saves $1.3 billion by retaining three unpaid furlough days a month for state workers, which is the equivalent of a 14 percent pay cut.
• Includes $1.2 billion in unallocated cuts to the state Department of Corrections.
• Cuts $528 million from CalWORKS, state's welfare-to-work program, partly by increasing sanctions for families that fail to meet work requirements. Schwarzenegger had proposed eliminating the program entirely.
• Cuts $124 million from Healthy Families, a program that provides health insurance for 930,000 low-income children. Lawmakers hope nonprofit groups, foundations and other organizations can fill in some of the losses. The program already has stopped accepting new applicants, the first time it has done so in its 12-year history.
• Cuts $226 million from state's in-home supportive services program for the frail and disabled. The governor initially proposed removing 90 percent of the 440,000 people enrolled in the program, but the budget compromise will eliminate care only for those who are more independent and able to do their own cooking and cleaning. It also includes Schwarzenegger's proposal to require fingerprinting of caregivers and most recipients, and would require caregivers to undergo background checks.
• Cuts about $8 million from state parks, allowing the majority of state parks, beaches and attractions to stay open. Some parks are likely to close, based on popularity and use.


• Borrows about $2 billion from local governments' property tax revenue, money that would have to be repaid with interest in three years. As a concession to angry city and county officials, the deal would prioritize repayment of the so-called Proposition 1A money after schools and bondholders are paid.
• Takes $1 billion in redevelopment money from local governments.
• Takes $1 billion in transportation funding from local governments.
• Speeds up collection of 2010 personal income and corporate taxes to bring in revenue earlier than anticipated.
• Sells off part of the State Compensation Insurance Fund, which the administration values at $1 billion. The fund is a quasi-governmental agency that is the state's largest writer of workers' compensation insurance.
• Allows limited expansion of oil drilling off Santa Barbara County, which the governor's office says will generate $100 million in the current fiscal year.
• Eliminates the Integrated Waste Management Board and the Board of Geologists and Geophysicists, which Schwarzenegger had targeted as wasteful and unnecessary.
• Gives school districts option of cutting the school year by five days.
• Defers state employee paychecks by one day for a savings on paper of $1.2 billion, which has been criticized by some as a gimmick. Instead of being issued on June 30, 2010, the paychecks would be issued on July 1, the start of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
• Gives governor authority to pursue the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds and about 10 state-owned office buildings as a potential revenue source in future years. The California Public Utilities Commission Building in San Francisco and the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in Los Angeles are among those that will be considered for sale.
• Rejects Schwarzenegger's proposal for a surcharge on homeowner insurance policies, which would have boosted funding for emergency services. The surcharge would have averaged about $48 a year per homeowner.

Related NY Times Topics: CALIFORNIA BUDGET CRISIS (2008-09)

DAE'VON BAILEY 2003 - 2009
by smf for 4LALAKids

The Village That it Takes To Raise A Child failed 6 year old Dae'von Bailey last week. Dae'von died - apparently abused - already the subject of over a dozen child abuse complaints made to child welfare and the police.
Complaints made, investigations completed, reports filed. A whole lot of people failed Dae'von, his parents, family members, the child welfare system, social workers, the police, the community. At six Dae'von probably was a kindergartener entering the first grade - if he was teachers and nurses and school staff at his school should've had him on their radar screen.

The Times article describes Dae'vons quet neighborhood of stucco houses and tree lined streets, a community not in the gang crosshairs. Dae'von had a chance.

He has five surviving siblings, a younger sister at five and four older kids - all now in protective custody. One would like to believe that with the attention his brothers and sisters now have a better chance. It would be nice to believe that; it would be nice to be able to believe that.

But the Times article that is Dae'vons obituary tells of fourteen children in LA County who died last year after their cases were reviewed by the system.

Dae'von's anagished neighbor says "Man, they killed that boy." Man, we killed that boy - with program cuts and case overload and bad decisions and failure to communicate and outright utter complete ineptitude.

At six Dae'von Bailey is dead; he won't get any older than that.

LA Times: SOUTH L.A. BOY DIED AFTER PREVIOUS REPORTS OF ABUSE, by Hector Becerra and Garrett Therolf July 25, 2009

ONLINE SCHOOLS APPROVED IN ROWLAND HEIGHTS: The Rowland Unified board Tuesday approved a middle and high school that will exist almost entirely Online
Corina Knoll - LA Times/LA Now Blog
1:46 PM | July 22, 2009

Updated 7:51 p.m. [LA Times]: An earlier version of this posting, as well as its headline, stated incorrectly that the online school was the first created in the state. The earlier post also failed to mention that middle school grades would be included.

•• smf: 4LAKids did not post earlier versions of this story because we knew the 'first in the state claim' to be incorrect.

•• more smf: THE PLAYERS, THE SCORECARD & CONNECT THE DOTS/FOLLOW THE MONEY: iQ Academy – a private/for-profit cooperation - is a brand of KC Distance Learning, KC Distance Learning, Inc. operates as a subsidiary of Knowledge Learning Corp – a wholly-Owned Subsidiary of Knowledge Universe, Inc.

•• Former LAUSD Board President/former California Charter Schools Association President Caprice Young is the President and CEO of KC Distance Learning and was formerly Vice President of Business Development and Alliances of Knowledge Universe.

•• Former Junk Bond King Michael Milken is Co-Founder and Chairman of Knowledge Universe

The virtual campus, a charter school that will be known as iQ Academy California-Los Angeles, will operate out of Rowland Heights and will be open to students in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

"In our mission statement for our district we talk about being innovative," said school board President Robert Hidalgo, who is also a high school history teacher. "A charter school is technically still a public school, but it is kind of a laboratory for experimentation. We saw that as an opportunity to be cutting edge and to be a pioneer in the online-virtual world."

Full-time students will be given a laptop and access to wireless Internet and will be able meet with their teachers via webcasts or in person.

Those who attend a traditional brick-and-mortar high school can still utilize iQ Academy for supplemental classes or summer school. Parents will also be able to log on and look over their child's progress.

A downside is that students will experience a limited social life because they aren't physically going to school. But Hidalgo said the academy will offer networking opportunities to make up for that.

"Initially, I was a little bit apprehensive, only because you don't have that face-to-face experience," he said. "But after I saw some of the demonstrations and did some more research on it, I began to realize that kids learn in different environments. This is more of a self-paced, interactive type of school that might better accommodate some students."

Lisa McClure, director of iQ Academy, said a virtual high school is an easy concept to grasp for the current generation. "Many school districts have already dabbled in online learning, and teachers coming out of universities now have taken courses online so they're totally tuned into this," she said.

McClure said she expects about 500 students to enroll for the fall season, which will begin Sept. 8. The academy has opened schools in eight other states.

Complete Article from 4LAKidsNews ...with dots to connect!


●●smf: Telling the story of education and the lives of children doesn't limit ones subject much; it isn't all about politics and pedagogy and the budget …about adults behaving like adults. Sometimes, at its best, it's about children behaving like children should: exploring their own imaginations - a world where the only limits are adulthood and mortality, two imposters with the same dark face.

In this essay Chabon explores the darkness under the bed and in the woods - places sometimes visited by Barrie and The Brothers Grimm, by Sedak and Roald Dahl and others Chabon names; imaginary places inhabited by and populated by real children with magical reality. Always the child of the sixties I remember that Neil Young told us (at nineteen) "You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain - though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon".

Children in their imagining relive the very moment that first make us a human - when we took the gift of fire and of language and stood guard against the night. When we looked beyond the light of the fire and told stories about the unknown beyond. With education the reach of the light of the fire has expanded, we adults can see and name the dangers and explain almost all the way back to The Big Bang. But we'll never know it all - and the brightest smallest lights among us can imagine their-and-our-way into-and-out-of the dark. For this we must give praise and encouragement. ¡Onward!

THE WILDERNESS OF CHILDHOOD By Michael Chabon - This essay is from the July 16 New York Review of Books and The Last Word in this Week's (July 31, 2009) The Week Magazine and will appear in Chabon's forthcoming collection of essays: Manhood for Amateurs.

When I was growing up, our house backed onto woods, a thin two-acre remnant of a once-mighty wilderness. This was in a Maryland city where the enlightened planners had provided a number of such lingering swaths of green. They were tame as can be, our woods, and yet at night they still filled with unfathomable shadows. In the winter they lay deep in snow and seemed to absorb, to swallow whole, all the ordinary noises of your body and your world. Scary things could still be imagined to take place in those woods. It was the place into which the bad boys fled after they egged your windows on Halloween and left your pumpkins pulped in the driveway. There were no Indians in those woods, but there had been once. We learned about them in school. Patuxent Indians, they'd been called. Swift, straight-shooting, silent as deer. Gone but for their lovely place names: Patapsco, Wicomico, Patuxent.

A minor but undeniable aura of romance was attached to the history of Maryland, my home state: refugee Catholic Englishmen, cavaliers in ringlets and ruffs, pirates, battles, the sack of Washington, "The Star-Spangled Banner," Harriet Tubman, Antietam. And when you went out into those woods behind our house, you could feel all that history, those battles and dramas and romances, those stories. You could work it into your games, your imaginings, your lonely flights from the turmoil or torpor of your life at home. My friends and I spent hours there, braves, crusaders, commandos, blues and grays.
Little Bookroom / Go Slow England

But the Wilderness of Childhood, as any kid could attest who grew up, like my father, on the streets of Flatbush in the Forties, had nothing to do with trees or nature. I could lose myself on vacant lots and playgrounds, in the alleyway behind the Wawa, in the neighbors' yards, on the sidewalks. Anywhere, in short, I could reach on my bicycle, a 1970 Schwinn Typhoon, Coke-can red with a banana seat, a sissy bar, and ape-hanger handlebars. On it I covered the neighborhood in a regular route for half a mile in every direction. I knew the locations of all my classmates' houses, the number of pets and siblings they had, the brand of popsicle they served, the potential dangerousness of their fathers.

Matt Groening once did a great Life in Hell strip that took the form of a map of Bongo's neighborhood. At one end of a street that wound among yards and houses stood Bongo, the little one-eared rabbit boy. At the other stood his mother, about to blow her stack—Bongo was late for dinner again. Between mother and son lay the hazards—labeled angry dogs, roving gang of hooligans, girl with a crush on bongo—of any journey through the Wilderness: deadly animals, antagonistic humans, lures and snares. It captured perfectly the mental maps of their worlds that children endlessly revise and refine. Childhood is a branch of cartography.

Most great stories of adventure, from The Hobbit to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, come furnished with a map. That's because every story of adventure is in part the story of a landscape, of the interrelationship between human beings (or Hobbits, as the case may be) and topography. Every adventure story is conceivable only with reference to the particular set of geographical features that in each case sets the course, literally, of the tale. But I think there is another, deeper reason for the reliable presence of maps in the pages, or on the endpapers, of an adventure story, whether that story is imaginatively or factually true. We have this idea of armchair traveling, of the reader who seeks in the pages of a ripping yarn or a memoir of polar exploration the kind of heroism and danger, in unknown, half-legendary lands, that he or she could never hope to find in life.

This is a mistaken notion, in my view. People read stories of adventure—and write them—because they have themselves been adventurers. Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map—marked here there be tygers and mean kid with air rifle—that he or she has been able to construct out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime reading, and the accumulated local lore of the neighborhood children.

A striking feature of literature for children is the number of stories, many of them classics of the genre, that feature the adventures of a child, more often a group of children, acting in a world where adults, particularly parents, are completely or effectively out of the picture. Think of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Railway Children, or Charles Schulz's Peanuts. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy presents a chilling version of this world in its depiction of Cittàgazze, a city whose adults have all been stolen away. Then there is the very rich vein of children's literature featuring ordinary contemporary children navigating and adventuring through a contemporary, nonfantastical world that is nonetheless beyond the direct influence of adults, at least some of the time. I'm thinking of the Encyclopedia Brown books, the Great Brain books, the Henry Reed and Homer Price books, the stories of the Mad Scientists' Club, a fair share of the early works of Beverly Cleary.

As a kid, I was extremely fond of a series of biographies, largely fictional, I'm sure, that dramatized the lives of famous Americans—Washington, Jefferson, Kit Carson, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Daniel Boone—when they were children. (Boys, for the most part, though I do remember reading one about Clara Barton.) One element that was almost universal in these stories was the vast amounts of time the famous historical boys were alleged to have spent wandering with bosom companions, with friendly Indian boys or a devoted slave, through the once-mighty wilderness, the Wilderness of Childhood, entirely free of adult supervision.

Though the wilderness available to me had shrunk to a mere green scrap of its former enormousness, though so much about childhood had changed in the years between the days of young George Washington's adventuring on his side of the Potomac and my own suburban exploits on mine, there was still a connectedness there, a continuum of childhood. Eighteenth-century Virginia, twentieth-century Maryland, tenth-century Britain, Narnia, Neverland, Prydain—it was all the same Wilderness. Those legendary wanderings of Boone and Carson and young Daniel Beard (the father of the Boy Scouts of America), those games of war and exploration I read about, those frightening encounters with genuine menace, far from the help or interference of mother and father, seemed to me at the time—and I think this is my key point—absolutely familiar to me.

The thing that strikes me now when I think about the Wilderness of Childhood is the incredible degree of freedom my parents gave me to adventure there. A very grave, very significant shift in our idea of childhood has occurred since then. The Wilderness of Childhood is gone; the days of adventure are past. The land ruled by children, to which a kid might exile himself for at least some portion of every day from the neighboring kingdom of adulthood, has in large part been taken over, co-opted, colonized, and finally absorbed by the neighbors.

The traveler soon learns that the only way to come to know a city, to form a mental map of it, however provisional, and begin to find his or her own way around it is to visit it alone, preferably on foot, and then become as lost as one possibly can. I have been to Chicago maybe a half-dozen times in my life, on book tours, and yet I still don't know my North Shore from my North Side, because every time I've visited, I have been picked up and driven around, and taken to see the sights by someone far more versed than I in the city's wonders and hazards. State Street, Halsted Street, the Loop—to me it's all a vast jumbled lot of stage sets and backdrops passing by the window of a car.

This is the kind of door-to-door, all-encompassing escort service that we adults have contrived to provide for our children. We schedule their encounters for them, driving them to and from one another's houses so they never get a chance to discover the unexplored lands between. If they are lucky, we send them out to play in the backyard, where they can be safely fenced in and even, in extreme cases, monitored with security cameras. When my family and I moved onto our street in Berkeley, the family next door included a nine-year-old girl; in the house two doors down the other way, there was a nine-year-old boy, her exact contemporary and, like her, a lifelong resident of the street. They had never met.

The sandlots and creek beds, the alleys and woodlands have been abandoned in favor of a system of reservations—Chuck E. Cheese, the Jungle, the Discovery Zone: jolly internment centers mapped and planned by adults with no blank spots aside from doors marked staff only. When children roller-skate or ride their bikes, they go forth armored as for battle, and their parents typically stand nearby.

There are reasons for all of this. The helmeting and monitoring, the corralling of children into certified zones of safety, is in part the product of the Consumer Reports mentality, the generally increased consciousness, in America, of safety and danger. To this one might add the growing demands of insurance actuarials and the national pastime of torts. But the primary reason for this curtailing of adventure, this closing off of Wilderness, is the increased anxiety we all feel over the abduction of children by strangers; we fear the wolves in the Wilderness. This is not a rational fear; in 1999, for example, according to the Justice Department, the number of abductions by strangers in the United States was 115. Such crimes have always occurred at about the same rate; being a child is exactly no more and no less dangerous than it ever was. What has changed is that the horror is so much better known. At times it seems as if parents are being deliberately encouraged to fear for their children's lives, though only a cynic would suggest there was money to be made in doing so.

The endangerment of children—that persistent theme of our lives, arts, and literature over the past twenty years—resonates so strongly because, as parents, as members of preceding generations, we look at the poisoned legacy of modern industrial society and its ills, at the world of strife and radioactivity, climatological disaster, overpopulation, and commodification, and feel guilty. As the national feeling of guilt over the extermination of the Indians led to the creation of a kind of cult of the Indian, so our children have become cult objects to us, too precious to be risked. At the same time they have become fetishes, the objects of an unhealthy and diseased fixation. And once something is fetishized, capitalism steps in and finds a way to sell it.

What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children's imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it—nowhere that I was willing to let her go. Should I send my children out to play?

There is a small grocery store around the corner, not over two hundred yards from our front door. Can I let her ride there alone to experience the singular pleasure of buying herself an ice cream on a hot summer day and eating it on the sidewalk, alone with her thoughts? Soon after she learned to ride, we went out together after dinner, she on her bike, with me following along at a safe distance behind. What struck me at once on that lovely summer evening, as we wandered the streets of our lovely residential neighborhood at that after-dinner hour that had once represented the peak moment, the magic hour of my own childhood, was that we didn't encounter a single other child.

Even if I do send them out, will there be anyone to play with?

Art is a form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted—not taught—to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?

● Chabon is the author of: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), Wonder Boys (1995) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Summerland (2002) & The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007)

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
Friday, July 24, 2009 10:04 PM
By Molly Peterson |

CALIFORNIA THREATENED WITH LOSS OF FUNDS IF IT DOESN'T USE TEST SCORES IN EVALUATING TEACHERS: U.S. education secretary is expected to withhold millions of dollars in education stimulus money if the state doesn't comply with his demand.
Friday, July 24, 2009 9:16 AM
By Jason Felch and Jason Song From the Los Angeles Times

Friday, July 24, 2009 8:01 AM

Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:14 PM

Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:14 PM
Shane Goldmacher in LA Times LANow Blog

Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:13 PM
LATimes LANow Blog -- Phil Willon at L.A. City Hall

Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:13 PM
By Sean Cavanagh and Catherine Gewertz | EdWeek

Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:12 PM
By Michele McNeil EdWeek |

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:29 AM

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 9:55 AM
Howard Blume | LA Times LANow Blog

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:30 PM
By Kevin Butler, Staff Writer | Long Beach Press-Telegram

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:13 PM
By Katy Murphy and Theresa Harrington | MediaNews staff | San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 9:57 PM
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer | Redlands Daily Facts [LA Newspaper Group]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 9:45 PM
The Daily Breeze | from staff reports

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 3:29 PM
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER | News Analysis| New York Times

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 3:24 PM
by Miles Nevin | Report Card | Long Beach Post

A KEY TEST FOR L.A.’s COMMUNITY COLLEGES: Two institutions are on probation for failing to conduct 'program review.' Though that sounds like a minor administrative matter, it helps schools answer a big question: Do our programs work?
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:14 AM
Editorial From the Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:15 AM
Pierce College president announces resignation By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:13 AM
By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

“HOUSTON, WE HAVE A BUDGET” …unfortunately it’s one for California
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 7:44 AM
LA Times: ‘The plan is not yet formally released’ …but they have a chart of the cuts (kids’ health insurance) & a chart of the not cuts (kids’ health insurance not eliminated!).

…what he could teach Antonio Villaraigosa, Ramon Cortines and 121 slow learners in Sacramento – what he could teach us all if we only listened. by Leonie Haimson Executive Director, Class Size Matters in The Huffington Post

The news that didn't fit from July 26

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD. He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee and the BOC on the Board of Education Facilities Committee. He is the president of his neighborhood council. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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