Coming home from work Wednesday, pulling off downhill parallel parking with ease, some ten-year-olds on cool bikes accost me as I get out of my car.
“Do you want to buy a C-Book so we can buy a new teacher?”
“A new teacher?!”
“Yeah, and we don’t have any gym stuff, either.”
“Huh. What’s a C-Book? Can I see one?”
One of them digs into his backpack and shows me a sample coupon book for restaurants I don’t eat at and places I don’t shop, entertainment I don’t find entertaining and services I don’t need.
I wonder how much of that will go toward the cost of an educator and basketballs.
“What school you from?”
I know very little about the Minneapolis school system, but one of ’em says something ending in Montessori. Now… having done a little research, apparently there are public Montessori schools in the Twin Cities, but I didn’t see one that sounded like what he said in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, and I doubted these kids trucked in from the ‘burbs on their bikes. Which makes me think “private school.” Which makes me think WTF are private school kids doing fundraising the second week of class for a new teacher? Argh. Or even public school students, should that be the case.
I know education suffers everywhere, but turning kids into sales reps while making money for third parties is appalling. I wouldn’t even be buying a product—I’d be purchasing the opportunity to feel compelled to buy other products.
If I could give them money directly, I would have considered it. But my own memories of shoving glossy magazines of overpriced chocolate in front of people who couldn’t afford it and didn’t want any chocolate haunts. Or how my brother playing football in fourth grade was required to sell $200 worth of similar coupon books (at $20 apiece), this after an activity and equipment fee of at least $40 and I’m sure much more. Or how I was expected to sell $5 West Fargo Packer window stickers for varsity basketball, propagating a class spirit I found hollow and jingoistic (and by not selling the stickers, I was a poor sport, a bad team player and all-around lazy—did I think I was better than everyone else, or what?).
So how are kids supposed to raise money for these programs? both the extracurricular and should-be-established? I don’t know. Maybe funding education through taxes in the first place? Oh, but that would be a burden, wouldn’t it.
I told the boys I didn’t have the right change, which was true. I lied and said I didn’t have a checkbook. One of them suggested we go down to the gas station a couple blocks away and I said I didn’t feel like it. Their crushed yet smart enough to be skeptical faces sunk and sneered as they pedaled away.
Then I felt guilty, went into my apartment, and immediately fired up my computer. Upon receiving an email from Howard Dean asking me to donate money to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who is currently the target of a massive Republican smear campaign in ever-the-neighbor South Dakota, I did. And I do this a lot—I donate money over the Internet to progressive politics and friends raising money for neat causes.
I don’t have money to throw around, truly I don’t. And I’m not pulling a “check me out in all my righteous fund-giving despite crushing debt” handclap. I just wonder what it means. Just simply that? A wondering what it will mean if everyone who is “poor” like “me” shuts up, sucks it up, and drops $7 here, $25 there?
Or if it only means what it is, which is me feeling helpless in the shadow of Big Problems but too shy to volunteer time (which usually involves telephone work or canvassing people for money in person, neither of which I could ever do) so I give of myself what I can. Or what it means to do this impersonally. Over the Internet. To not see the light shine in these kids’ eyes, to feel guilty and had to feel good about myself (it’s guilty-making either way) then throw away the C-Book five minutes later.
msp.evidence has gotten positive feedback, including a link on Peter S. Scholtes’ TC Old-School Hip Hop Page, a fine (and growing) compilation of local hip hop photos, fliers and stories throughout the decades. I feel pretty cool. And speaking of such things, coming up on Riverside from the 19th Avenue bridge, deep in the brutal-brilliant mess of DJ Shadow’s “Blood on the Motorway,” I saw this and my heart screamed (shot from standing in the middle of the busy street)
I moved to four tens at work. Working seven to five Monday through Thursday ain’t easy—I have between five and six hours to myself after work before going to bed. That’s not much. But the three-day weekends are seductive superfine—a tradeoff I may find well worth the weekday drag. Yep.
Lastly, a show flier outside the Hard Times Cafe.
I’ll probably go to hell for liking it… but it’s my dad’s birthday today, too (Happy B-day, Pa!), so it made me smile.