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William Brown: Override passage recognizes value of community investment in education

To the editor:

Ironically, the Oscar Wilde quote (“Nowadays, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”) put forth in Adam Fisher’s guest column Thursday applies to the writer more than he would likely care to admit. With checkbook in hand, he is calculating prices (though focusing clearly on the superficial — uniforms, crosswalks and grass length) while not considering value at all.

Many people who live in a community take for granted the underlying value that this experience provides them and complain about the costs of each piece. We recently heard one of our local politicians rant about how we really didn’t need world languages in our schools (though he seems to be unaware of the fact that most colleges will not admit students without at least two years of a foreign language under their belts). The deficit between state funding and our capped property tax has put Northampton schools in a state of crisis that goes far deeper than the window dressing described so dismissively in this column.

Class sizes have risen significantly, curriculum development time has been cut, teachers have been cut and the trend is ever downward.

Those who understand the price of living in a community without grasping the value will balk at the idea of stepping up and saving our schools. There is a mistaken sense that our “quality of life” is self-realized and that we’ve all arrived where we are by our own, individual efforts, and not as a result of our place in a community. This is a trend that we are seeing on a national level, as well as in our local communities.

As much as we might like to assume that the innate gifts of our children are enough to propel them to the dean’s list, this does not happen without the value provided by the first 13 years of education in a community that cares about its kids.

Because we have an amazing teaching staff in our local schools, many (who chose not to look to closely) have been fooled into thinking that everything is OK. But the seams are strained and popping and, once they split, the costs to pull it all back together is much higher than that approved in the override vote.

I celebrate the approval of the override as a victory of the “us” over the “me” philosophy of community, and a recognition of true value that is provided by community.

William Brown


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