Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Hot school

Here's more cannon fodder for people with this bumper sticker.

Today was the first full day of classes at the Maryland high school where my wife teaches. The school is mostly un-air-conditioned, and the temperature inside the buildings reached as high as 85 degrees according to her indoor thermometer. Three students fainted or nearly fainted, and one was taken to the hospital after a 911 call. My wife (who teaches in the only room in the school without either windows or an air-conditioning unit) was so physically exhausted by the heat that she spent her last class period trying not to throw up, and she could not drive herself home.

You can blame this on funding for schools, I guess, or you could chalk it up as one reason why Houston is worth it. It may be hot and humid in Texas, but Texans would never think of sending students and teachers into an un-air-conditioned, poorly ventilated school during the heat of summer and expect these to be optimal conditions for learning.

Collective Improvisation:
Um, I wonder whether the schools along the Rio Grande are that nice.

Schools in Southern Indiana weren't fully air conditioned until the early Nineties. It costs *a lot* of money, and old people were not willing to pay (possibly because many of them are, actually, on the verge of being priced out of their homes--others are simply miserly).

The solution isn't really air conditioning, or rather, it isn't *just* air conditioning. People were building buildings for hundreds--nay, thousands--of years before air-con was an issue. The solution is to have buildings built with the expectation that sometimes you may want to have a breeze. Bring back the transom, says I!

(The long-term solution, of course, is the siesta. But that's not possible in the modern bussed school district....)

Posted by Blogger P.M., Teaching Assistant on 8/31/2004 08:25:00 PM : Permalink  

I only half-seriously offer Texas schools as paragons of excellence in this regard.

You're right that to air-condition a school costs money, and money for education is not inexhaustible. But one of the bumper sticker's points is that how we spend our money reflects our societal priorities. As expensive as it would be to outfit schools with air-conditioning (or transoms), it is not the most expensive public spending project I can conceive. I'm certain that the Pentagon is air-conditioned, for instance, and still has plenty of money left over for making the military's technology even more immeasurably superior to any standing army's in the world than it already is.

I also don't think the argument from the past is very compelling here. People built buildings without indoor plumbing for hundreds of years, too, but that doesn't make it an extravagance now. Schools were built (and still are in some places) without fire safety standards for a long time, but this doesn't mean schools that have them are indulgent.

I concede that I may be allowing my personal concern for my wife's well-being at work to fuel this particular rant, but that's not something I feel bad about. Nor do I feel bad about enthusiastically endorsing your call for a national siesta!

Posted by Blogger Caleb McDaniel on 8/31/2004 10:17:00 PM : Permalink  

That's true about indoor plumbing, but that's much easier and cheaper than the air-con argument. And, as I understand it, school building modernization would cost 100+ bn if we took it seriously--this being an argument for cutting the defense budget from its current, ridiculous levels, of course.

The problem with the bumper sticker is that the local (and state) governments generally fund education, while the feds buy bombers. Of course, the feds could fund the schools, but I can't quite understand why liberals want Ted Stevens (or Robert Byrd) passing his judgment on all funding measures. (Funding equalization is another matter entirely. When wealthy and predominantly White schools hold bake sales, they can earn more than poor schools get to buy textbooks for a year. That is hardly just.)

I will admit that I used to think the bumper sticker was foolish, but the present unjustifiable defense budgets have forced me to reverse my position.

The Pentagon actually isn't as nice as you think, although there are some very nice parts. It is, however, air-conditioned, and the hot dog and hamburger stand in the middle of the pentagon is fantastic. I wonder if they've changed the name, though--it used to be "Ground Zero."

Posted by Blogger P.M., Teaching Assistant on 9/01/2004 12:04:00 AM : Permalink  

Hey P.M. -- Caleb's wife here. Your point about schools being funded by local and state governments is right on. That's what makes Bush's plan (No Child Left Behind) to control what every school in the nation does so wrong (and really not very Republican, either). He punishes them by taking away their funding, which isn't necessarily his to begin with. Rod Paige wrote an editorial in the Baltimore Sun pledging not to "throw money at problems" in schools anymore. I wonder if HIS office has air conditioning.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 9/01/2004 06:53:00 PM : Permalink  

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