Friday, July 25, 2014

Community Spirit TBBoB Part III (Dear Katie V2 #23)

The community spirit -the very heart of the National game- was cut out when minor league players became the properties of major league clubs.

A newsclip from the Oregonian shown in the Battered Bastards of Baseball

Dear Katie,

A few years ago, a friend of mine worked as an adult volunteer at a Vacation Bible School at a church in the town that I teach.  Needing to stop by school that summer day, I took a ride over to the church to say "Hi".  I met up with my friend preparing some outdoor activity for the kids, when the horde of kids came out of the church building.  Quickly about 10 kids came running my way shrieking, "Mr. Cullen!".  They gave me "high fives".  They asked how I was doing.  Some of the kids were campers, others were high school counselors who I hadn't seen in several years.  My friend just laughed and said, "It's like you're a rock star."

This is the last in my series about the Netflix documentary I watched called The Battered Bastards of Baseball.  One point the series drove home was that professional baseball, a kids game played by adults, was no longer about the enjoyment of the fans, but had a corporate structure in order to max out profits.  No longer did minor league teams exist for to provide entertainment for their local area.  They existed to develop talent for the major league team with no care about the overall talent they were presenting on the field.  

Baseball has changed.  I am a huge Mets fans, but growing up I appreciated going to Yankee Stadium more than Shea.  Not because the Yankees were the better team at the time, but because at Shea, if you didn't have a field level ticket, you couldn't get past the gate to get signatures of the players before the game.  At Yankee Stadium, no barrier existed.  In fact, from the upper level seats our parents could afford, we would make our way down to empty field level seats to watch the game.  No one stopped us.  If the patrons of the seats showed up, we were kindly asked to move by ushers (often directing us to other seats).  It is no longer the case in Yankee Stadium.  Major League Baseball has made a statement, only money allows you to have access.  

The entertainment for the masses 
has come under the ownership of the elite 
where the Dollar is King.

At one time, a town's public school was the jewel of the town.  Look at some school in your area built before 1950.  You will notice decorative stone work, large majestic staircases, and sometimes quotes from famous people carved into walls.  The level of importance of the endeavor that took place within its walls and the pride a town took in its schools were clearly evident.  Today schools look like office buildings and bids for construction and repairs are won by the lowest bidder (by law).  The school becomes just another building and almost all decisions are made to keep things on the cheap.  

Does a culture who has money as its ultimate bottom line in decision making 
really have a culture? 

As your Aunt always says, "You have to be willing to spend the money to get quality."

And that leads me to a divisive subject, tenure.

Here is one benefit of tenure for the town, 
it helps enhance an atmosphere of stability for a town
 in a nation that has become more and more transient.

In history, I discuss the issue of succession and that governments throughout history have tried to maintain smooth transitions because stability leads to successful nations.  Tenure provides that stability as it keeps teachers put instead of moving from town to town for "career advancement".  I have taught many sets of siblings over the years and I have built a reputation.  Some teachers who have been there longer have taught two generations.  There is a degree of comfort for both students and parents when the school year begins.  They know what to expect.  I remember looking forward to having some of the teachers your Mom would come and tell me about.  I remember my principal and math teacher (they were married) living a few blocks away from me.  Your grandparents were reassured that we were in a safe place because there wasn't much turn over of staff from year to year.  And on a Saturday in May of every year, we would make our way to Washington School to the annual P.T.A. Fair and see several of our teachers roaming around and volunteering their time.  It was always a thrill when I played sports to see one or more of my teachers cheering me on.

The teachers weren't just public servants to my hometown, 
drawing a salary from local property taxes,
but they were vital parts of the community.

And as you become a teacher, do not become one who "sticks to the letter of the contract".  Even if you do not live in the town for which you work, you ARE a member of its community and your goal should be to improve that community.  And the community should recognize you as vital member in making it thrive.

Sadly, many today want to integrate corporate ideas and believe budget scalping are the solutions to improving public education.  I always find it amazing how the small, blue collar town I grew up in could build 3 majestic structures for their children's education about 100 years ago, and today, with a population that earns more in real dollars would not be willing to do duplicate that beauty.  How can we ask students to use their imagination and creativity when they all what they see around them is cold, clinical cubicles of buildings, hallways, and classrooms.

Here is a picture I took of your cousin several years ago in front of my old middle school.  You can see the original design of the original building but notice the large front entrance was covered with concrete and a mural painted over it (when your mother and I attended, there was no mural).  In order to gain some bathrooms on each floor, they rid the building of the grand staircase that beckoned students to come learn.  Instead of a separate gym and auditorium they combined the two with a rubberized floor that was awful for basketball and a rectangular room without stationary seats that was awful for acoustics and site lines for the stage.  It wasn't like there wasn't enough land to build, these renovations were just the cheapest option.  That was almost 40 years ago.  In the past 10 years, they built another school where an older one once stood.  You can see, it is brick like the old building without the decorative stonework (new building to the right)

I hear there are a lot of convenience stores chains and restaurant chains crowding downtown now.

As a student of history, I can say what a culture values, or not, speaks volumes about who they are.

To Community Spirit!

Uncle Kevin

PS I LOVED the town I grew up in, and only use it based on the richness of my experiences, not to single them out in some sort of vendetta, but provide a non-theoretical example of a problem I believe is endemic in our nation today

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