The Three Musketeers

It’s a longish post on a short article that shows the convoluted world we live in, but indulge me here, on this rainy day in Baton Rouge.

The Three Musketeers

Today’s headline is “Grant Writers Eye School Prize,” with the sub-head of “Education Team Seeks Federal Award.” It’s written by our Advocate’s Will Sentell of our Capitol News Bureau, right here in Baton Rouge.
Well, then, Sentell leads off with “Louisiana’s bid for a $250 million education prize is being led by a pair of 20-somethings with lofty credentials.” And just two days ago a certain Michael Topton, Excutive Director of Teach for America’s South Louisiana division, was saying right in our Advocate that “we’re going to win $175 million”! Now, that is a $75 million dollar discrepency which is unexplained. No matter – it’s a Race to the Top! On to our Grant Writers! One of whom, a scion of Topton’s Teach for America, says “we have a very strong accountability system” here – yes? And so what’s with the $75 million dollar difference between Director and Scion? Beats me. Sentell is equally baffled I guess; so inquistive of the discrepency he didn’t even bother to ask anyone about it
One of the brilliant is Chris Meyer. He just “finished a year … assigned to US Secretary of Defense … and travelled to 30 countries.” Hmm, lofty indeed, what with all that flying around the globe with the go-to man on the military to learn how to … seek federal prizes for local education. Let’s see: 30 countries in 365 days. That’s about one new country every 10 days. With a day flying from one to another, and time to check into the hotel and grab a bite to eat, that’s 8 or 9 days in each country. About as much time as I spent in France, visiting the wonders of Calais, Lille, Reims and Dijon, bastions of le ancine regime before it was all centralized in Paris. No word as to whether it was to one country and back to the US, and then out again, so I can’t quite calculate how many hours Meyer spent aloft earning credentials. But say it was 45 seven hour flights. If it was 30 round trips it would be 60 flights. Say he went to Belgium and Holland on the same trip, that would mean 2 countries for one round trip. So, 45 flights it is. That’s 315 hours in the air right there, some seven full work weeks up very high, very lofty, earning credentials like you can’t believe. For the sake of convenience I’ll cut it to 300 hours, 15 given to the few countries you can reach from Washington in less than 4 hours flying time – so few that it is 2: Canada and Bermuda. Well, maybe Cuba, too, but I doubt Gates would have gone there. It would have made the news I’m sure, like when Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans went to Cuba to learn Cuban Politics. Now, to and fro the airports of the world – say 1 hour each way. That’s another 90 hours, or two weeks on the road. He’s quoted as saying, roughly, since there are no quote marks in the article, “a year shadowing Gates taught {me}how to have a ‘laser focus’ on big issues without getting bogged down in mundane matters.” Yes, the big issue of the clouds from 300 hours in the air and two hours every ten days in freeway traffic to airports rather than the mundane detail of where exactly that prize money is coming from. How far back in the shadows behind the Mr. Secretary Meyer was is not said, but it was probably in a dark recess.
Now, yes, the mundane detail of where that $250,000,000 is coming from apparently does not cross young Meyer’s mind. Nor apparently the minds of anyone else on the team they … well in the lead sentence it’s “led” and in a later paragraphette (that’s frencheze for the almost bullet pointed powerpoint presentation of the article) he was “part” of. Part of or led? Beats me. No matter.
But, the money – follow the money — it’s from Louisiana actually. There’s no way that it can’t be. Somehow the federal government extracted $250,000,000 from us to put up for prize money for us to win. Somewhere, buried in the tens of thousands of big picture tax code pages there are uncountable mundane provisions extracting the cash before it lands in the mush pot of the General Budget of the United States. So, now we are “competing” for our own money and Meyer is part/leader of the team to get it back. That is good, I suppose, and if only Meyer would explain that, after a hard day “meeting with state education officials,” “getting feedback” before knuckling down and “writing again” the 100 page grant plea, no, um, proposal to get our own money right back here in Louisiana where it started from, I’d be a bit more comfortable knowing he’s on the job. But think about it – every dollar went from Baton Rouge to Washington and back again (maybe, if we win). Why, those dollars almost had as much air time as Meyer! Of course, if we don’t win, then our kids will stay in bad schools, and some other state’s kids will get better schools, which is of course as fair and equitable under the law as you can get.
The other savant is Jacob Landry, whose lofty credentials include a year studying French Politics. Mon dieu. Nothing so applicable to getting federal money than French Politics (FP for short here.) Why, France’s provinces are mere administrative districts, and have all the clout of a dog catcher district when it comes to extracting French tax money out of the government in Paris. Which is what Louisiana is turning into as every single tax dollar from here goes to Washington before we can win it back as prize money. But what part of FP did he really study? Did he work with the Socialist party? Did he study the methods and means of the French Communist Party? Or did he work on learning the nuances of Jean-Marie LePen’s “rightist” National Socialists? Those are your three basic French political parties: the left socialists, the center socialists and the right socialists. What a buffet of public options! Anyway, did he study the upcoming corruption trial of the former president Jacques Chirac? That could be useful in our own Louisiana corruption cases, I guess. Did he study the part of FP that keeps a French Empire going subrosa in Tahiti, Martinique, French Guiana (which just the other day made French President Sarkozy an Amazon President seeking tax prize money from the United States for preserving a part of France that Landry probably didn’t go to.) Or was it France’s “non” to Canada’s claim to the two small islands that are a part of France but inconveniently located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 3,500 miles from the Eiffel Tower?
Did he study the abject surrender of France to the National Socialists (aka Nazis) back in 1941 or the mush headed surrender of Vichy which sent “only” 80,000 Jews to their deaths? Did he study their raping of the old French Empire, like Algeria and Viet Nam? Or the even older French Empire’s assualt on Europe circa 1790-1815 from which Louisiana gets its vaunted Napoleonic Code? Perhaps it was the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Republics which were interrupted by kings and emperors and a blood orgy or two before arriving at this, the Fifth French Republic?
Did he study the effective medical care cost cutting practiced there by allowing some 11,000 French elderly to die during a heat wave some years back? Or how about the way that French students, so much closer to his own age and experience, go on strike (I.e. refuse to learn) or burn cars (very bad for climate change I’d guess) at the drop of a hat? Or did he learn about the socialist FP that has kept unemployment in Franch hovering between 9% and 12% for decades? One wonders what wonders of FP could be applied here. Ah, yes, Louis XIV – le e’tat c’est moi – the state is me.
Or was it the folly of government spending so exemplified by Marie Antoinette who built a fake peasant village outside Le Petite Trianon because she did not like the real peasant villages not far from Le Grand Trianon, which was itself a “small” palace on the grounds of the big issue of Versailles? You know, the big picture — which it has to be since the Palace of Versailles is One Quarter Mile Long! Ah, Landry lives in New Orleans – no word, understandably, of whether he lives near the perfect model of Le Petite Trianon on St. Charles Avenue in that city. Still, the question remains: What earthly connection to getting back our own tax money from the feds can any knowledge of French Politics have?
Ah, it is also reported by Sentell that Landry also taught “elementary language arts” for two whole years (or 180 days + 180 days or less than one whole year of days,) in Hawaii! There he was absolutely (dumb)struck by the “incredible injustice” of low income students stuck in troubled schools which, Sentell tells us, was a “revolutionary experience” for our Savant en gare. That’s French for, loosely, “genius at the gate.” Language arts? Would that be English? Or grant writing? Or the part of FP that tries to outlaw English? Or the Hawaiian for “which way to the beach?”? That Mr. Landry had to suffer the ravages of the inner city of Waikiki to learn about the morass students are stuck in here in Baton Rouge, and then travel to France to learn how to deal with it, is rather odd when he could have gone to our very French city of Nouvelle Orleans and learned all about how disfunctionally corrupt and craven education systems are sticking it to the kids. And stuck? Why, let my students go – with vouchers of their own tax money to the school of their parent’s choice. Quelle simple! How simple.
Now Landry, our Advocate says, “disputes criticism from the Louisiana School Boards Association” – which, in a bit of mundane detail viewing, points out that when the money runs out: then what? And they have been at it a bit longer, one would hope and presume, then the newly arrived Landry, who is also quoted at the end of the piece that his age “is something” he’s “kind of sensitive about.” Sorry to bring it up, Landry.
Ah, says Le Savant Landry — “what needs to be sustained is not the money – It is whatever you have built with that money.” Certainly so. Who could argue with building on success? What success we have had with the Federal Department of Education set up in 1978 by Jimmy Carter (way back before Landry was even born!) It has been pumping untold billions of bucks into the schools so that in teachable “revolutionary experience” moments Landry can discover that students are still Meyered, (uh oh, language art moment) mired, um, stuck, in such garbage bags of schools that now, today, 30 years later, at this moment, he is earning $70,000 a year (says Sentell), on a team with, say 10 other $70,000 a year guys, (or $700,000 or so, plus benefits) so that each and every chosen school among “up to 130” (leaving some schools unprized apparently) can “win a prize” of $500,000 apiece of their own money! Why, sacre bleu! What a deal! Of course, it’s so convoluted that even the parsing of the article must be.
And he’s a special adviser to John Pastorek, our Highest Local Mucky Muck in the school system forced to bleat at the federal trough of our local money. And after a year teaching at a horrendous school in New Orleans, after Hawaii and French Politics furthered his education, he said “it made it easy to accept Pastorek’s offer for a job.” My my, did Pastorek just wander through the list of teachers and choose him? Or did Landry seek out and cajole and apply for the prize of a $70,000 a year job? Or was it just the $70,000 that made it easy to accept? Not clear from our Advocate’s reportage.
Landry, following le grand advice du nous grande dame Michelle Obama, “wanted to be in public service” so he could “make a huge impact.” Well he certainly is. Not as large as a cruise missile’s that perhaps Meyer learned about in the shadow of Le Secretaire Monsieur Gates du Defense (Which also happens to be the name of the skyscraper district of Paris – Le Defense, odd enough for a socialist country to call its business district that.) But still, large enough. For after all, he is working diligently solving the problems of the horrendous schools of Louisiana, which both he and Meyer are products of – Shreveport and Jennings. Schools suffering for a “decade at least,” — and probably longer since federal education prize money started to be handed out by Jimmy Carter – have been Le Merde, as Sentell alludes to. Meaning that while our daring duo were in elementary and high school, as they themselves where getting the horrendous education that they revolutionarily discovered impacting in far off lands like Hawaii, which though, being Meyered, um, sorry, mired in, they could not see at home in their very own school. Quelle surprise what can be learned in Hawaii and Paris about Jennings and Shreveport!
Now here, after my arty language of deconstruction of this mush is a bit of odd language art factoids: Hawaiian, as Landry no doubt learned in Waikiki, uses the most vowels in its words of any langauge on earth, and Czech, which he probably doesn’t know, and the language of my heritage, uses the least (according to Guiness Records and Ripley) — and so my final question is what is vowel filled Hawaiian for “Vy jsi strc prst skrz krk”? The English is: You are shoving your finger down my throat. Ah, but, then we must not say that Meyers, Landry and Sentell, our three musketeers of today, learned men all, are anything like the cake eaters that Marie Antoinette faced when French Politics got a little out of hand when the poor peasants realized that they were applying to Louis XVI for their own money so that they might buy the cake to feed themselves. Sort of like Tea Party Americans are gathering in the streets this very hour somewhere in America for a “revolutionary” “big picture” “impact” on American politics. No, Le Trois Savant en Gare are making an impact on our society equal to what Marie Antoineete herself did to France, which no one seems to ever get out of French Political studie – you can’t tax the people into oblivion and say you are helping them. It just can’t be done.
Still, would I mind if Landry and Meyers were paid $70,000 of my money so that they might figure out a way to extract ourselves away from the federal trough of our own money handed out as a royal prize and just keep it here in the first place? No. I would not.
But in the final analysis the headline should read: “Grant Writers Eye Our Own Money.” But I am not a journalist, as Sentell is, no doubt, qualified to be. In fact, I can’t even write like him. I’m not mush headed enough. Nor can I say mush like Landry and Meyer. I’m just the entrepreneurial author of two books who does not work well with teams because I have a flair for the language art called, mundanely, sarcasm. And that I learned studying Czech Politics with my relatives in Prague in the Czech langauge, as they taught me the greatest of all “revolutionary impact” statements about Federal Prize Money: They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work, and on Tuesday they give us sausage. Then there was a Tea Party in Wenceslaus Square to overthrow the Socialists that was as peaceful as our own Tea Parties. Which got me to thinking about the namesake of that square, St. Wenceslaus, the Good King Wenceslaus of the Christmas Carol, which leads me to take what few bucks I have left after taxes and head out to shop in an effort to prop up our economy.

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