Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Good School

Our local weekly newspaper ran a front-page article yesterday entitled "What's the Matter With XYZ?" ["XYZ" being the name of the elementary school the older kids attend. No, it's not the real name.] The school is a magnet school in our town. You don't get in by being anything special. You get in because you win a lottery. In years past, parents would camp out for up to a week at registration time to be first in line. So the lottery evens the playing field.

I have lots to complain about regarding the article. It's sloppy journalism, at best. There are factual errors. There are unattributed "facts" thrown in. And, for good measure, the reporter indicates that students are "arbitrarily" selected to attend. A powerful word "arbitrary." One initially thinks "whimsical." He meant "randomly," of course. Overall, letters to the editor are certainly in order. Including a hearty thanks for the choice of headline, as it left my oldest saying, "What's wrong with us?"

I lose perspective very easily on these things. I'm not losing it here. It's really not a big deal. What happened in a suburb of Baltimore, a wealthy enclave not unlike my own little suburb of San Francisco, is a big deal.

My best friend lives in that little suburb. She lives half a mile from the high school. And late Friday night, a bunch of suburban kids from that high school and a rival high school got together to settle some beef. And one wealthy suburban kid educated in the good public schools swung a bat at the head of another wealthy suburban kid educated in the good public schools. Life over for both kids. One is dead. The other is charged with first- and second-degree murder and so on.

We're not talking gang activity here, folks. We're talking group activity. We're talking about kids being kids. We're talking about the loss of a child. It's painful to watch it from afar. It's got to be doubly painful when it happens just down the street. When it's your kids' school that counselors are called in to visit. When you hope to God that your kid is in some way different from those 20 kids who showed up to fight it out on a Friday night. And when you fear there aren't enough differences to possibly save your kids in the future.

Here's the story from the Washington Post.

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