The Jackson Herald
February 16, 2000
Senate should seek
to fix details
Now that the governor's education reform bill has passed out
of the House, the real debate begins. While we like most parts
of the legislation - the increased accountability and emphasis
on parental input - we hope the Senate will be able to answer
a lot of questions about funding in the bill. Some education
leaders say the bill will cause massive property tax increases
to meet new mandates, but the governor says that isn't true.
So it is now up to the Senate to hash out that question, among
others. One of the key controversies in the bill, abolishing
teacher tenure, appears to be settled. While tenure would be
abolished, school leaders would have to give a written reason
for firing a teacher. Many speculate that such a mandate would
force administrators to do a much more careful evaluation of
teachers, which is a good thing for all involved.
But the Senate could take that one step further and allow all
school employee evaluations to be open for public inspection.
Currently, even evaluations for superintendents are closed to
the public. But in this era of more accountability, the public
should be allowed to see how superintendents, administrators
and teachers are being evaluated. The governor said last week
he supported such a proposal, although it is not currently in
Another change the Senate could make is to level the funding
for our brightest students. Gifted and challenge programs are
woefully ignored by the education establishment. State funding
formulas are heavily weighted toward those at the bottom of the
academic ladder and there are a multitude of programs for children
with various "disabilities." There is only one program
for "intellectually gifted" students and it barely
receives additional funding based on state formulas. But the
reality is that public schools cannot solve all the social problems
a child brings to school no matter how many social service programs
it creates. In the attempt to do so, politicians have diverted
resources away from other children and have failed to adequately
fund programs to challenge our brightest kids. That should be
We like the overall thrust of the governor's bill, but as the
saying goes, "the devil is in the details."
And so it is now up to the Senate to work on those details to
make sure the massive 152 page bill doesn't fix one problem,
while creating two new problems.
February 16, 2000
I have a suspicion that there is some direct correlation between
the decline of public education and the rise of pro wrassling.
(Don't dare call it "wrestling" - that would insult
the real sport.)
I'm amazed, even shocked, by the number of people who consider
wrassling as entertainment. Normal people. Church-going people.
Hard-working people. Even those who should know better.
Frankly, I don't get it. Pro wrassling appeals to the lowest
common denominator of human existence. It's a cultural debasement
so inane that it makes roller derby look like grand opera.
In a word, wrassling is pure, undiluted schlock.
So imagine my surprise when I read that Syn, Harsh, Izzay Blackwell,
T-Bone and other wrasslers were going to be a major part of the
annual Commerce City Lights Festival in June. And get this -
the "superstar" event will be held in the Commerce
High School gym.
I wonder how the school's real wrestlers, those boys who work
and sweat in that gym, feel about having their home venue turned
into a sideshow for freaks. Undoubtedly, that show will bring
in more people in one night than CHS wrestlers brought in all
I thought the Commerce City Lights Festival was to honor the
country music legacy of Bill Anderson, who wrote the famous "City
Lights" song while working as a DJ in Commerce. Country
music was a big part of the area's culture long before today's
"pop country" was cool. So it makes sense to honor
that tradition with an annual event.
But tying that event to wrassling and putting the word "festival"
on it gives all festivals a bad name. It's one thing for private
enterprise to exploit the public's appetite for violence by calling
wrassling "entertainment" and charging people to watch.
P.T. Barnum said there was a sucker born every minute, and if
people are willing to pay hard currency to watch large men in
tights do a fake fight, then let the cash registers ring.
But for a town to adopt such schlock as part of a local cultural
event, even housing it in a public school, is beyond belief.
Now, I know Mr. Anderson and others want to raise some money
from these events toward building a center for performing arts
at Commerce High School. That's a worthy cause. All too often,
the arts get shortchanged in our schools due to competing demands
from other areas. And while few people actually make a living
from artistic pursuits, the arts bring a depth to education that
is impossible to get from any other activity.
I don't say that as some kind of cultural snob. An occasional
art or music event can fill my empty cultural cup for several
years at a stretch. I like a good play now and again, especially
if it's done by a local school where the kids work hard and bring
enthusiasm to the project. And while I could probably tell the
difference between a Picasso and a Rembrandt, it's not something
my life revolves around.
But even though I have an average appreciation of the arts, I'm
not sure the end justifies the means in this case. Wrassling
is not a performing art, no matter what some hucksters may tell
The truth is, if a community has to stage pro wrassling to raise
money for a performing arts center, then that community probably
doesn't need such a center in the first place. How can we say
that we appreciate real performing arts while staging a wrassling
Perhaps someone can make sense of all this for me. Why do we
need to stage low culture in order to pay for real culture?
Why do we have to stage fake entertainment to pay for real entertainment?
I don't get it. I just don't get it.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.