Monday, March 4, 2013

Les Miserables: The Brunswick School Department Production

We begin with this pithy and related quote, compliments of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.

It will become clear, as we often say, ‘in the fullness of time,’ why we opened with this thought, so don’t get your axle all knotted up.

You may recall that last year we wrote of “School Budget Libretto Tricks” here.  We sense a new musical drama will unfold before the town’s eyes this year.  MSMT will be offering Les Miserables this summer, but we expect a far more heart-rending version to play out on the civic stage before that summer theater production.

To ‘set the stage’ for the school department version, we thought we’d provide a figurative ‘overture’ for the multi-act drama about to unfold before our collective municipal eyes and ears.


(The below is excerpted from:


Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title, which can be translated from the French as The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims.

Upton Sinclair remarked that Hugo set forth the purpose of Les Misérables, "one of the half-dozen greatest novels of the world," in the Preface:[2]

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Toward the end of the novel, Hugo explains the work's overarching structure:

The book which the reader has before him at this moment is, from one end to the other, in its entirety and details ... a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day…

Hugo explained his ambitions for the novel to his Italian publisher:[9]

I don't know whether it will be read by everyone, but it is meant for everyone.  Social problems go beyond frontiers. Humankind's wounds, those huge sores that litter the world, do not stop at the blue and red lines drawn on maps. Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth, Les Miserables knocks at the door and says: "open up, I am here for you".


We think those notes provide a perfect glimpse of the melodrama we expect to unfold on the town stage, and we expect to see it happen in three acts.

ACT 1:  Various consultants, architects, and other ‘hired guns’ provide a detailed glimpse into the dungeons and hell-holes that ‘the children’ are subjected to in our primitive and crumbling schools.  Much wailing and gnashing of teeth is heard from senior administration officials and School Board members, who begin to practice their annual choral harmonies.  Off stage on the left, a forming march of Brunswick Community United schoolies is heard.

ACT 2:  Heavy hearts and despairing souls are seen in huge numbers at public budget events.  Wearing hair shirts and tattered garments, the dejected weep for the tortured souls in our school system, and proclaim that only a fiscal miracle can save the system from certain ruin, but they aren’t willing to beg for the miracle just now, and will continue to look for other ways out of the morass.

ACT 3:  After budget enactment, when no ‘firm figures’ were available to throw a monkey wrench into the works, figures somehow start coming together during the summer public inattention break.  Plans are made under the radar for a minimum of a $25-40 million bond issue referendum to put on the ballot in November, in an ultra-low turn out election that the schoolies can win handily.  Turnout approaches 10%.  After the election, the BCU exults over the huge support the town showed for brave action ‘beyond anything we had hoped for.’

We’ll close with Other Side’s corollary to the Mackinac quote we opened with:

There’s never enough money to repair or maintain the buildings you have, but there’s always enough money to tear them down and replace them.

And a visual to remind you of the schoolies in our midst.

Is it just our imagination, or do these look like piranhas?

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