Roar of the Crowd
I have yet to open my May issue because every time I see that cover, it shocks me. America’s Team?! How can you call any team that has never won a championship “America’s Team”? Please keep in mind that the firing of Wade Phillips was a bigger news story across America than the Texas Rangers’ losing in five games to San Francisco. Here are some of my suggestions for less controversial captions: “If at first you don’t succeed . . .” Or “Hey, look at these guys smiling!” Or next time, just give the Texanist the cover.
Does Bryan Curtis really expect me to forget my beloved Dallas Cowboys [“What Do You Think of the Rangers Now?” May 2011]? I like the Rangers and agree with Bryan that they are not done. However, before we bestow a moniker of this size—“America’s Team”—we need to make sure the boot fits. Instead of starting his piece with “My name is Bryan, and I am a Texas Rangers fan,” perhaps he should have stated, “My name is Bryan, and I am about to overstep.”
I attended my very first Rangers game in 1975 and vowed from that moment on that I would go to the ballpark as often as I could. Even if I wasn’t able to go to a game, I listened on the radio or watched them play on TV. Sure, you always want your team to win, but even through the losses, your love for the game prevails.
And you are correct. Nobody likes a “bandwagon-riding poseur” (your words). You say the Texas Rangers are an “AA meeting in spikes.” Now, that’s uncool! You and a lot of others paid a small fortune to attend playoff and World Series games, while most of the rest of us loyal fans could only watch on TV. You did deserve to get an obstructed-view seat! Since you were admittedly ashamed of being a Rangers fan and you now live in Brooklyn, my question to you is, have you become a Yankees fan? The word “traitor” comes to mind.
Ami Jo Ranton
What an exquisite, appreciative portrait Katy Vine wrote about the brilliant bird-lover Victor Emanuel [“The Birdman of Texas,” May 2011]. Her terrific scenes and descriptions really make his originality and passion come alive. I could feel him walking and talking, guiding us all through the whole piece. His friends would have added only two things: guacamole and peach pie. Thanks for reminding us of what a true “hero” can be. That word is getting so tired in the war zones these days.
Naomi Shihab Nye
Dollars and Sense
As someone educated in a two-room Texas schoolhouse until the eighth grade, with two teachers for ten grades (one also serving as principal), and whose graduating class in a larger Johnson County public high school consisted of fewer than thirty people, I consider Scott McCown’s recipe for Texas educational success to be overloaded with lard [“Night of the Living Ed,” May 2011]. It is not money that ensures educational success; it is dedication by both student and teacher.
More money can mean more teachers, but not better teachers. More is not better; better is better. That goes for students too. It is unproductive to waste resources on “students” who do not want to learn and who, if they socially graduate, will remain functionally illiterate by choice or on “teachers” acting as babysitters (or wardens) because they are capable of nothing else—or the atmosphere of the system allows nothing else.
When political correctness is eliminated from the system and both children and teachers are held to educational standards instead, the product and worth of the system will remarkably improve—whatever money is available to it.
Any discussion on how to maintain or improve our schools has to consider realities that are irrefutable. There is no correlation between dollar inputs and academic success. New Hampshire spends less per student than Washington, D.C. New Hampshire is in the top tier on graduation rates and test scores, while Washington, D.C., is in the bottom tier on both of those measures. Private schools have shown for decades that they can educate even the poorest of our kids for much less than public schools. We shouldn’t spend the state Rainy Day Fund until each school district spends its own rainy day fund first (estimated at a reported $12 billion statewide). In many other countries, the dollars follow the kids, private or public, giving those countries’ citizens both lower costs and better results (compare our declining test scores with even many Third World students’ scores).
With the country facing trillions in debt, there is simply not enough money for everyone’s wish list. Those states and locales that do the best to manage shrinking budgets will be the ones giving the taxpaying public the best value.
Several members on your expert panel suggested that Texas has systematically shortchanged education. Yes, Texas is tightfisted, even when it comes to schools: It is not a wealthy state. But it would be unfair to ignore the enormous increases in funding that Texas has already made.
From 1995 to 2009 Texas tripled spending on public schools, going from $18.1 billion to $54.6 billion. Some of the increase was because Texas opened hundreds of new schools and added almost 1.2 million students. But at the same time, spending per student has doubled, rising from $5,000 to $11,000.
And while it’s common to talk about a ratio of 22 students per teacher, across the state right now there are only 14.5 students per teacher. Since teachers are barely over 50 percent of staff, the ratio of students per full-time staff is only 7.3 to 1.
The steady increase in spending on students and teachers doesn’t square with Judge McCown’s insistence that there is a “plan . . . to destroy public education.” Instead of black-helicopter talk, we should concentrate on what works and what needs to be fixed, and base our funding decisions, however costly, on that.