Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Truth, justice, and the Brunswick way

(Please accept our apologies, Superperson.)


“The Best Lobster Roll in Maine.”

“Save up to 70%!”

“Prices may never be lower!”

“Among the best schools in the state.”

“Rates may never be this low again.”

You’re probably familiar with these classics; but have you ever paused to examine their premises with a little critical thought?

One of our favorite examples of the genre is the auto insurance business, currently saturating us with TV ads like this: “People who switched to Depressive saved an average of $543 a year.”  An hour later, along comes another ad: “People who switched to 18th Century saved an average of $521 a year.”

We’re pretty lucky here at Other Side; our annual auto insurance bill is under $1,000.  So we’re thinking that if we just switch our carrier twice, our bill will be down to $0 a year!

That is how it works, isn’t it?  Or are we missing something?

Oh, we’re missing something, pilgrim.  The unanswered question is just how much those who didn’t switch saved by staying with their current insurance company!  But you probably don’t think about that when you’re being dazzled by the on-screen theatrics.

This approach to ‘advertising’ has inspired us to pose a few questions to our readers, especially as you watch school budget theatrics here in Perfect.

First, though, let’s test your thinking with these questions:

- Do you have your car serviced at the shop that charges the most for their services?

- Do you grocery shop at the store that charges more than the others?

- Do you believe you manage your finances better than your neighbors and friends if you spend more for groceries and utilities than they do?  Do you brag to them about spending more, or do they brag to you that they spend more?

Now that we’ve got you thinking, try these:

- How can you find out if Brunswick has excellent schools?

- Ask the salesperson who is showing you homes for sale in town.

- Ask the owner of the house you’re thinking of buying.

- Ask a school board member or school administration staff.

- A well known Real Estate agent asserts that people who move to Brunswick moved here “because of our excellent schools.”

- What reason do the people who decided not to move here give?

- What do the people who move out of town, freeing up a place for others to buy, give as their reason?

- If you asked a Real Estate salesperson in Freeport, or Bath, or Topsham whether people move to their towns “because of the excellent schools,” what would they say?

- If you asked any of these sales-people how they know the schools in their town are excellent, how would they answer?

- Would they say because school officials tell them so?

- Would they say that parents who live in town tell them so?

- How many parents do you think would admit they send their kids to less than wonderful schools if you asked?

- How does one know that our schools are excellent?

- Is it because our teachers are so good, even though we scrupulously avoid rating them or monitoring their performance, because we’ve been told any method for doing so is flawed and unfair?  And the teachers unions have copious data to prove it?

- Is it because of teacher influence on student improvement, even though we refuse to measure such things for the same reasons?

- Is it because of student scores on standardized tests, even though we’ve been warned over and over that such tests are unreliable and can’t be trusted, and that they force teachers to ‘teach to the test,’ rather than focus on learning?

- Why is it that when student scores improve on these tests, even if only marginally, it’s cause for great jubilation, but if scores decline or stay flat, they shouldn’t be used to judge the quality of our schools?

- Is there objective evidence for deciding which towns have the best schools and the best teachers?  That is, other than citing spending and the rate at which its increases as objective evidence?

- If your schools are excellent, what rate of increase in spending is required to keep them excellent, and what rate of increase would render them less than excellent?

In case you’d like to see what kind of data does exist for ranking schools in the state, we direct you here:

2011-12 AYP Results and Explanatory Material

Be sure to read the entire page so you understand what “CIPS” and “monitor” and “making AYP” mean.  Once you have that in your grasp, you can go here for ratings for schools in the state:

2011-12 AYP Status by School

When you do, you’ll see data for the current school year and the prior school year.  You may have to find a way to enlarge the view; try right clicking, or whatever works on the application that opens the table for you.

One more thing: remember, we’re being told our schools are excellent in the present tense, just as we were last year, and that unless we provide whatever they demand in the way of increased funding and higher property taxes, they will no longer be excellent.

We’ll leave it to you to detect the crossover points.  And then you can make your public declaration of how much more you are willing to pay next year, and then how much more the year after that, etc. 

Just like those at Brunswick Community United have declined to do with their signs and their petition.  Apparently, they can’t ‘imagine’ how much more they are willing to ‘invest.’

End Note:  For those of you who missed the message in our opening, let us explain:

“The Best Lobster Roll in Maine.”

- Says who, and by what measure?

“Save up to 70%!”

- ‘up to 70%’ includes everything from 0% on up.

“Prices may never be lower!”

- or they may be lower later; who knows?

“Among the best schools in the state.”

- could you define ‘among,’ please?  And who says what ‘best’ is?

“Rates may never be this low again.”

- but given the cyclic nature of things, they very likely will be in the future.  Or, please come in and get this higher rate while we’re plugging it.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Poppycock: You wasted a lot of words demonstrating you can only prove a positive not a negative.