Good Parks and Schools

The United States confronts a moment of tremendous opportunity and urgency. For the first time in our nation’s history, we are confronted with the very real possibility that we will, through inaction or active disregard, fail to meet a global challenge head-on. For all of the progress our nation has made in expanding educational opportunity and achievement, there are countries far larger than ours that are advancing and improving at rates that surpass ours. If we hope to compete in, let alone win, in the global mind race, we cannot continue to leave so many Americans on the sidelines. American global competitiveness demands the full, active participation of every young person and his or her talents, regardless of location or circumstance of birth.

For Each and Every Child,” Equity and Excellence Commission

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Mr. Paulson’s gift was only one of a number of large donations to the city’s parks: $20 million was given to the High Line in late 2011, an additional $10 million to Central Park this month, and $40 million was pledged to build a field house in Brooklyn Bridge Park, though the plan was abandoned. The gifts have put New York’s green spaces on a par with hospitals, universities and cultural institutions as objects of philanthropy.

The largess has delighted city officials, who say it will ensure that New York’s signature parks have the resources to remain pristine while accommodating millions of visitors a year. But the donations have also highlighted the disparity between parks in Manhattan’s high-rent districts and those, like Flushing Meadows-Corona or Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, that are in less affluent communities. In those parks, conservancies and friends groups must struggle to raise any money at all.

New York Parks in Less Affluent Areas Lack Big Gifts,” Lisa W. Foderaro

I probably like juxtaposition too much, but when it comes to socioeconomic class, nothing works better. We tend to think about class in terms of individual income and wealth. Class, though, is also about neighborhoods and roads, parks and schools. The Reagan Era (which some might say is ending) tended to minimize this sort of wealth by demonizing government and celebrating the so-called competitive private markets.

We got lots of images of rich individuals over the last three or four decades but we have constantly grown poorer as a people as our roads, and neighborhoods, and parks and schools have been neglected. What’s interesting is that we may well be reading some sort of turning point where those rich individuals come to the (bleated) realization that their wealth is inseparable from our collective wealth. Keep your fingers crossed.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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