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Sad new world 

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a crisis afoot. Schools closing! Librarians losing their jobs! Think of the children! (You have to imagine that I’m bellowing this at you, and that I don’t have to break off every few seconds to cough as a result of what my doctor is calling my “spray cheese lung” for full effect.)

So maybe it’s just one fancy pants academically advanced school potentially closing, or at least cutting back its enrollment. It’s so hard to keep up when the parents of the academically advanced spawn attending the school throw a red-alert hissy usually reserved for when some sneaky SOB steals their spot in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. And maybe it’s just four librarians—along with 24 other positions—whose jobs are on the chopping block. Of course, if I have my information in order, and I usually don’t, the elimination of those four positions means San Luis Coastal Unified School District’s secondary schools will no longer employ a single accredited librarian.

Now everybody’s crying foul. The librarians are crying foul. Parents are crying foul. Small dogs in argyle sweaters are crying foul. District Superintendent Eric Prater is probably looking for a sherpa or panga boat to smuggle him out of the county.

Which seems, to me, just the slightest bit naïve. (Not the fleeing the county bit. Never stand between parents who want what’s best for their kid and whatever they happen to think is what’s best for their kid.) But the rest of it. The petitions. The whining. The finger-pointing. Because if Teach, the magnet school for academically accelerated fourth to sixth graders, doesn’t close, the district is looking at cuts to computer labs and special education programs. Either way you slice it, your kids are getting screwed. The best-case scenario, for parents petitioning to keep Teach open, is that they manage to shift the impact of insufficient funding onto someone else’s kid.

And you want to know a secret? District Superintendent Eric Prater is not a monster who hates kids. He probably doesn’t even eat academically accelerated children as part of his balanced breakfast. He’s simply fighting a battle in which there is no victory, only small concessions that gradually erode the quality of the education system. His enemy? Our own apathy. And given that he chose a career in education, I find it highly unlikely that the decision to close down an entire school would be a highlight of his career. Take it from someone who’s watched the doors to far too many newspapers close over the past decade.

But what choice have we left him?

The federal budget for 2013 allocates $672.9 billion for the Department of Defense, and a mere $71.9 billion for education. So your kids are gonna be real safe—if we can somehow manage to keep guns out of their schools—but you can’t feign surprise when Jane Junior just can’t compete on an international level with the kids whose countries make education a greater priority.

When I really think about it, it’s a wonder to me that anyone’s fighting for this smarty-pants school. Parents, if you really care about your kids, you’ll stop encouraging them to become over-achieving brainiacs. ’Cause after they’ve gone tens of thousands of dollars into debt financing their college education, they’re going to realize there are no jobs left and they have no means of paying off the mountain of debt they accrued with the best of intentions. And when that happens, they’re going to look for someone to blame.

Who better than the person who told them they could have it all, who fought for them to attend the academically advanced secondary school, who scrubbed lava stains off the kitchen cabinet for months so little Jane Junior could take first place in her school’s science fair?

Parents who value education: You’re selling your kids short. If you really want to prepare them for the future, teach them to be content with a minimum wage income. Give them lessons in settling for whatever comes their way. Teach them to hunt and cook the rats that will inevitably share their sub-code apartment complex. Burn books, and arrange mercy killings for their guardians, the unemployed librarians.

Because the world in which we prioritize ideas above money, in which the humanizing effects of art and literature better prepare you for the future, is gone. Gone the way of librarians and newspapers and affordable houses. Even gay puppets with stuffing for brains know there’s no practical application for a degree in English. Why not replace the subject altogether with a skill set that will assist your child in this sad new world: trench digging or toilet scrubbing, perhaps. Or, god forbid: blogging.

Shredder intends to survive this sad new world by imitating the Twinkie—oh, wait. Send wrappers to [email protected].

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