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Eve Pearlman: The way we were

Submitted by on 1, March 19, 2010 – 5:00 am4 Comments

Photo by Jan Watten

Despite last week’s rainstorms, it sure does feel like spring has sprung in Alameda. Doesn’t it seem that way? The magnolias are all pink and white, the orange poppies are starting to bloom, and the blue marguerites are making their little composite flowers with yellow centers.

One piece of good news is that last weekend’s Alameda Little League opening day ceremonies came and went without a single drop of rain. Though I can’t help but wonder why the parade and speeches have to take so ever-loving long? And I have this other baseball question, this one about the ‘mercy rule,’ which ends a team’s at-bat after they score five runs. Why is it that there’s no mercy rule in the game’s final inning, when it is so often late and dark and cold over there at Rittler Park and when, it can certainly be argued, there is the most need for mercy for the young boys at play?

And while I’m asking, here’s another burr under my saddle: Why does the grand, old American axiom, ‘you get what you pay for,’ apply to the private sector but not the public? With public schools, there seems to be a line of thinking that runs, ‘make do with less’ or ‘run-down facilities are fine’ or ‘just deal with it.’

While ‘less is more’ may well be an appropriate guiding principle in the area of jewelry or cosmetics, it doesn’t always make sense when we’re talking about children and education. For example, would a baseball coach say ‘less is more’ to infield practice? To teaching young athletes when to throw to second base and when to throw to first?

But for some part of the populace, it seems to be just a-okay to provide an increasingly barebones education, one of the lowest on-campus adult-child ratios in the nation, and ever-diminishing support for learning math and English and science and social studies.

We seem to be perfectly capable of recognizing that if you put more money into a home remodel or a computer you will get better service or product. We recognize that of course money matters when shopping for a car or in the quality of beef you buy for dinner. But somehow, when it comes to schools, some people seem to come round to asking questions like, “Why do they need?” “Why must we pay?” “Why must we care?”  Some seem to lose sight of the big picture: education matters profoundly to the future of our community; it is the cornerstone of society; without strong schools available to all we become increasingly lawless and uncivilized.

And yes, I know, the school funding mechanisms allowed by Proposition 13 are far, far from perfect. They are unfair in myriad ways—but starving public schools makes no sense at all.  When did we as a society stop recognizing that we are all responsible for all of us? That we are our brothers’ keepers? How is it that every major religion, including the United States’ dominant Christianity, acknowledges our collective obligation to the poor, to children, and yet so many become so bitter when it comes to funding the very institutions that serve the children of Alameda.

Do those faith-based mandates somehow evaporate when we look to our own pocketbooks? Aren’t those exactly the moments when it is incumbent on us to remember our duty to others—to children who cannot possibly pay for their schools on their own? What happened to our concern for fates other than our own?

Eve Pearlman offers her take on Alameda’s stories, big and small, every Friday on The Island. Contact her at eve@theislandofalameda.com.


  • Mark Irons says:

    Eve, there is s saying which goes “that’s baseball”. As a veteran of seven years of Little League and Babe Ruth, I not only miss it, I even miss the sixth inning that never ends. Wait until you son plays at a level beyond the five run rule. The ball field is one of the greatest places ever for building community in my experience as a citizen of this town. As at weddings and funerals you may not talk politics or religion right away, but it’s a great place to get to know ones neighbor and sidle up slowly to the finer points of Alameda living.

    No matter what the outcome, when the election is over the adage “that’s baseball” will no doubt be apropos.

  • The Flying Wedge says:

    I say, let’s have a riot outside the statehouse for the children. How long are we going to put up with callous, ambitious, condescending politicians that milk our parental concern for votes and then banish our loyalty to the chain-gang of mailing lists and funding requests???

  • Hale Foote says:

    Amen. Keep funding education.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    Eve, you are SO right: we get what we pay for:

    bad roads, bad schools, transit service cuts, and inexperienced legislators who are on the take, under the influence of lobbyists, or too busy campaigning as ideologues to govern well.

    The sooner we free ourselves from Ronald Reagan’s “wisdom” that “government is the enemy,” the sooner we will be able to resurrect California from its failed state.

    Maybe it won’t be too late?

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