A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane victims

Nothing teaches kids that anarchy is not some harmless, intriguing theory like pictures of the devastation and lawlessness coming out of the tragic situation on the Gulf Coast. I never thought I would be explaining the difference between survival looting and truly criminal looting, but I do believe there is a difference.

I understand people with no access to cash or stores taking water or baby formula or food, all of which would be thrown out anyway, so long as they only take what they need and they offer payment for any goods taken after this horrifying mess is over.

But, as we discussed in class, there really is no such thing as a free lunch. When someone stated that the looters weren't really doing any harm because insurance would pay for the stores for their losses, I had to remind them that there is no such thing as a free lunch or indirect taxes (we were talking about the Stamp Act controversy during the Revolutionary period). Want to raise taxes on corporations? Fine, but expect those higher taxes to be passed on to us as higher prices for whatever it is that corporation makes. Want insurance to cover the cost of these payouts? Okay, but expect premiums to go up, because even if the insurance company posts record profits they will make the case that necessity forces them to do it.

We also had a good laugh about this one: Who would have thought a year ago that we would actually be GRATEFUL for gas to cost $2.70 instead of $3.00 a gallon? And by this time tomorrow, gas will probably be far more expensive than that. But, on a serious note, gas prices are small potatoes compared to losing everything you own or your loved ones to this storm or its aftermath.

We are already getting students from the disaster area enrolling in our schools. Our school is also planning collections for the victims. I am thinking about having my students challenge the students of one of my colleagues to see who can donate the most-- kids love competition.

In another class, we were talking about the genesis of the tradition of the separation between church and state, and one kid brought up the old saw about "There will be prayer in schools as long as there are tests." One kid said that he wished we could pray for the hurricane victims. I responded that I was finished with my discussion and we were now going to have some silence in which they could work or think. I walked back to my desk, and watched the heads bow and eyes close for a few minutes.

So sue me.

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