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Hit and run 

When I was a wee mite, knee-high to a grasshopper, an ugly duckling of sorts, I dreamed of being an Olympic athlete. It was a far-fetched sort of goal, but what’s the beauty in dreaming in reasonable measures? To the credit of my family, teachers, and mentors, no one tried to strip me of this fancy, not even when I took up the javelin in junior high and stood a reasonable chance of depriving a competitor of an eye. It’s been a decade or more since I put down that dream, regretfully, and I still miss it. It was the shining carrot at the end of every workline, the thing I pushed myself toward.

Every kid deserves that carrot. Which is why California’s Senate Bill 1456 fills me with the sort of horror I usually reserve for bar tabs and people who talk in movie theaters. The idea underlying the bill is that kids entering community college would be given an assessment test, assigned a student plan and coursework based on the results of that test, and punished if they deviate from the assessment-based workload. Basically, we’re going to grind them into tiny molds and ship them down a conveyor belt toward a job they don’t have the luxury of choosing for themselves.

And here I thought the purpose of community college was to give kids some time to breathe and figure out their passions and strengths. Saying we can no longer afford that is like saying we can no longer afford education. Which is bollocks, considering that our country annually pays more than $500 billion to the military to blow shit up in foreign countries. You’d think we could afford to invest at least one-fifth as much in our nation’s youth—currently we spend less than one-tenth as much—but apparently that’s too much to ask. Sorry, kids.

Hell, most of the people actually making these decisions are probably rich enough to send their kids to whatever university they want—including the ones that allow for frivolities like exploring different academic and career paths and taking classes that interest them. Why should they care that this bill disproportionately affects poor kids? That students receiving financial assistance who take extra classes outside of their 110-unit Student Education Plan would be punished by paying full-price for additional units?

“But Shredder,” the practical and soulless among you will argue, “we’re just trying to prepare them for a realistic career path that will get them through college as quickly and inexpensively as possible.”

What happened to the days when we told kids they could be rocket scientists? When we promised them the moon, and a rocket to get them there? Is that why NASA grounded the shuttle?

Today’s kids don’t need more brutal realism crammed down their throats. They’re entering one of the worst job markets in nearly a century. They’ve busted ass their entire lives to get into a good college, then busted ass to pay their way through college as government financing for education declined, and now they’re being told to go back to the minimum wage jobs they held in high school and college and to resign themselves to living at their parents’ house until the economy rebounds. They don’t need to be told their dreams of becoming a rocket scientist are unreasonable. The American Dream has already failed them; they don’t need the education system to give up on them as well. They don’t need to be crushed into a mold based on some government-sponsored assessment test.

As if the death of public education and youthful dreams weren’t enough, today’s kids also apparently need to be worried that they’re going to get broadsided by a San Luis Obispo police officer. At least, that’s what almost happened at 11:30 p.m., Thursday, April 12, at the intersection of Higuera and Broad Streets—or so I’ve heard.

A cop turning left from Higuera onto Broad Street nearly ran over a female pedestrian who had the right of way because he was looking down at his computer when the light turned green. She had to jump out of his path to avoid being hit, and he drove away without bothering to check on her welfare.

I’m curious as to why it’s dangerous for me to talk on my cell phone while driving, but it’s perfectly legal for Capt. Gun Down Pedestrians to play on his dashboard computer while driving. I’m also curious—given that anyone else would undeniably be ticketed for nearly running down a pedestrian—as to who is going to punish this officer for his behavior. Clearly, he’s not going to police himself, given that the decent thing to do would have been to return to the scene and apologize and make sure the pedestrian suffered no injuries. I’m not sure I want someone who would just drive away from the scene “serving and protecting” in my neighborhood. In fact, I’m quite confident that I’d prefer Officer No Honor to keep his distance. But I’m sure Chief of Police Steve Gesell is looking into it. I mean, he’s stepped up his patrol of homeless people sleeping in their cars on public streets. Good job, Steve; I sure feel safer! So I’m sure he’s going to do everything in his power to determine the identity of the reckless driver in his employ and mete out the appropriate punishment. In the meantime, though, pedestrians would be well advised to take Ludacris’ sage words to heart: “move bitch, get out the way. Get out the way bitch, get out the way.”

Shredder’s not an Olympian, but someone has to be. Send childhood dreams to [email protected].


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