Monday, April 26, 2010

Never Yet Tedious!

So this past Saturday's NYT has two articles that fascinated me enough to exhort you, my seven blog readers, to click through.

The first is this article about a convicted murderer in Utah who chose death by firing squad, a pre-2004 option for orchestrating your federally mandated demise. The interesting thing here is not that someone chose to be knocked off by four bullets to the heart, but the way the state has chosen to grant that wish. Five anonymous federal marshals, chosen by some unspecified internal process, dress in black and tote shotguns. They stand at a prescribed distance, aim for the chest, and, at a given signal, discharge their weapons. Four of them have bullets. One of them -no one knows who- has a blank.

This blank fascinates me. What, exactly, is the point? You've intended to kill; you've shouldered your gun; you've fired. The upshot, no matter what, is a dead murderer. So why does one of you need a blank? Or rather, why do all of you need a chance, no matter how slim, at innocence? It's like a funny game of reverse Russian roulette, only instead of death, the payload is clean hands. How odd we humans are, to mandate the presence of something -the blank- that has NO bona fide effect on the physical world, only a -dubious?- moral impact.

The second is this cover article (granted, below the fold, but you take what you can get) on the for-profit charter school management company, Imagine. I'm pretty profoundly conflicted about charter schools, as I've discussed elsewhere. The good ones can represent opportunity for disadvantaged students whose parents take the time and make the effort to enroll them.

On the other hand, separating out kids whose parents give a damn from kids whose parents don't further contributes to the shameful Balkanization of our educational system. Charter schools like to brag that they serve the same disadvantaged population that urban public schools do, but this in untrue. Economic disadvantage is not the sum of a person's identity, and there is a huge difference between a parent who enrolls her child in a charter and a parent who is passed out on the floor.

I am 100% NOT conflicted, however, when it comes to whether for-profit management of charters is a good idea. The answer is NO, people!!! As the NYT article details at some length. This would seem like a no brainer, but this being America, people will try and squeeze profit from anything.

They're already squeezing it from your Grandma: for-profit elder-care dominates the country. My SLP friends who work in for-profit nursing homes have told me horror stories about being pressured into taking on patients who weren't appropriate, providing compromised treatment, and even falsifying documentation at the behest of for-profit management. LET'S NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO OUR CHILDREN.

Oh NYT. May your print edition always be black and beauteous, and may your bureaus never shrink!


William McPirate said...

I favor separating the kids whose parents don't care from those whose parents do. I strongly dislike that our society has been forced to do this by location. It's going to happen anyway, we shouldn't have to move to different communities to do it. The only other option is to be rich and use private schools.

In this country, we believe that the government is out to get us, but private companies have our best interests at heart. Funny, huh?

Leif said...

You mention it questioningly, but apparently the blank does have an impact on the world : as far as I understand, it alleviates the guilt the executioners might (must ?) experience after killing a person. I just found out that this falls under the general label of "responsibility diffusion" and is similar to the separation of responsibilities of the participants in a lethal injection. Gruesome.