Freaky Friday

Just when I didn’t think this teacher furlough situation could get any more surreal, I noticed this sentence at the end of a Honolulu Advertiser story:

“Meanwhile, an estimated 2,200 school cafeteria workers, custodians and others not covered by the furlough agreement were expected to be at work today at their deserted campuses.”

That’s right. There’s no school, but the cafeteria workers are showing up anyway. That’s how well-thought out this government response to the economic downturn has been.

I wish I had not wandered into the fever swamp of the Advertiser’s comments sections. Readers are bristling with rage, posting nasty comments about—believe it or not—the lousy parents of Hawaii’s schoolchildren! Especially the ones who showed up today at the Capitol Building to protest the furloughs. Why, those people are the worst parents of all! Example:

“Hahaha!!!! Yup, all these parents can show up for a rally at the Capital [sic] but can’t stay at home to watch or teach their kids!!! Some parents really thing [sic] the school system is a baby sitting center!!!!”

In fact, such comments are so frequent, and so similarly worded, one wonders if some of our furloughed HSTA members aren’t spending their day off at their keyboards, trying to redirect public outrage:

Here’s “johnhonolulu:

    “I don’t think that two less days a month will do damage to these kids. It is just absurd to think that two days will do damage to them. What about kids that get sick a lot? Did they become irreparably dumb by their absences? I think not. These parents just want US to pay to keep their kids in school so that they can sit down and watch their soap opera and munch on bon bons. To them it’s the school’s job to teach their children. Their job is complain and whine when they don’t get their way.”

And here’s “Madalion:”

    “Do we really think 17 days of less class time is going to make the kids less smart or less successful? Check out the latest top 40 movers and shakers of the future under 40 years old on 5 of the top 6 people, making billions, do not have a college degree. Although school makes a different, that doesn’t determine your child’s success. …
    “These parents are not protesting for the kids. They are protesting for their own agenda, which is to have somone [sic] else watch their kids while they are out doing their own things.
    “So stop the ‘no school is bad for my kids cr*%’. It’s more like ‘I need the school to be opened so I don’t have to watch them’”

Yet another comment demanded that, instead of complaining, these parents try writing a check to keep the schools open. Really! [Update: After posting this blog item, I rediscovered this particular comment, from mizthang. In full, it also repeated much of the language as the other anti-parent screeds.]

I should know better than to feed the trolls, but the anti-parent sentiment in the comments was surprising. Some people have apparently forgotten basic facts of how this government-run school system is structured. All citizens pay for it, parents and non-parents alike, through compulsory taxation. All schoolchildren are required, by law, to attend the state’s schools, or show proof that they are being educated elsewhere. This is the public’s end of a bargain between it and the government. The government’s end of the bargain is to actually deliver that education.

Instead, we get Furlough Fridays.

One of the philosophical arguments for state-run schools is that education is too big a need, too important a need, to be left to the vagaries of the free market or private enterprise. State government would provide equality, so that poor communities would get schools that are just as good as those in wealthy communities. State government would provide “schools second to none,” to quote countless Hawaii governors and school superintendents.

Every working citizen got their salary dinged for their taxes today. Every public school student would’ve been ready to show up for class today. We’re doing our part. Where are you, DOE? Where are you, HSTA? Where’s your end of the bargain?