242 Oakland Avenue

Thanks for reading… again. BTW, here is a simple way to understand economics. I find fallacies being repeated so often, I decided somebody might be curious:


242 Oakland Avenue

I thought I’d touch on life in Oakland. Any followers of this column know I loved it there, but was glad to leave. In the first place I lived in Oakland, I had a room in the back of a house with access to the kitchen. I had an outdoor entrance and all the things it took to cook and keep clean. My landlady got a little too friendly to maintain my friendship with her husband so I moved to 242 Oakland Avenue.

My new home had an entry with a gas heater under a grate for the whole house. There were three bedrooms emanating from that entry and the adjoining living room. The woodwork was not painted. I think you could call it “Craftsman style.”

There was a crown molding that ran all the way around the little living room about a foot from the ceiling. Charlie Briggs’ monkey would swing from it to stay out of our reach (as if anyone but Charlie would want to touch it). If anyone ever looked like they should own a monkey, that was Charlie. He was from New England, not like an organ grinder, though. He did pottery with a gargoyle theme. It was kinda scary, like if you drank a beer out of it you might hallucinate. I talked to Charlie a few years ago. He was laying tile but despondent about a divorce. Poor guy.

We had to go through Charlie’s or Richard’s room to get to the bathroom. Richard Farrell’s room came right off the entry. Without your glasses you’d think he was Ginger Baker. He played drums too; still does. Charlie and Richard were still students at Arts and Crafts, the small art college I quit after my first year. It did a good job delaying adulthood, like college tends to do.

Richard was pretty lovable but he wasn’t perfect. He would crank up “War at Sea” on the TV in the middle of the night. Political correctness would not allow such narration these days. Actually, if you think about it, we might have to find a new way to consume food… with all our mouths taped shut. He would also practice drums. It helped get me ready for newborn babies. Most of us pooled our money and made evening meals together. Richard almost, but not quite, made me appreciate canned peas when he made squid and applesauce.

The house was uphill from the street and before the final approach up the front steps was a door into an 8 by 12 foot basement. Tony Bess lived there. His bed was in the crawl-space. He acted like a guru and taught teepee building at Laney College. I taught organic gardening there and Tom Ward, a neighbor from New York taught a wild edible plants class. Wow, it’s amazing to think how valuable those courses will be pretty soon.

The last roommate on the list is Bill Shepard. He was the heroin addict who lived in the attic. Like eminent surgery professor and morphine addict, William Halsted, of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Bill didn’t do all those bad things most junkies do. He came and went and didn’t share in the living expenses. He rebuilt Volkswagen engines for a living. He had a ladder nailed to the kitchen wall that went through a hatch to his attic room as long as the house. There was a little window at each end.

I had a pretty nice garden in the back. There were balconies rising above the garden and we would throw the surplus produce up to our neighbors in those apartments. When school was out Charlie and Richard were moving away. The neighbors in one apartment had us up for a huge farewell breakfast.

Things went downhill from there when the people from Boston moved in. I worked in Sausalito all week and hardly recognized the place when I got home. “But castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually.”

School Vouchers

School vouchers are a hot topic these days. Most conversations begin with the assumptions that the state has money and the state has kids.

The beginning comes way sooner than that. A man and a woman discover each other and are happiest when together. They get married. Biology continues to dominate and out pops a baby. The father feels responsible for the wife and baby so he provides for the mother’s needs so that she can do the same for the baby. As the baby grows it eats more than mother’s milk and becomes more independent from the mother and so shares time with the father as well. From his beginning he sees the examples of a father and mother. It’s natural.

Whether you believe God created the heavens and the earth or you think they just mysteriously materialized, it’s obviously the system that works best. Children with loving parents overwhelmingly grow up to contribute the most to a peaceful society.

People who like to be informed are fortunate to have this newspaper. Our statehouse representative and state senator generously chime in on state issues each week. Representative Shannan Latham brought up transparency in education. A school in Arizona has cameras in each classroom so parents can look in on the action, being much more involved with the raising of their children.

Senator Amanda Ragan says, “Iowa’s schools have traditionally made our state a place where people want to live, work and raise a family.”

But as was found out in Loudoun County, Virginia, the state has assumed a larger and larger role in raising a family. Remote learning forced parents to pay attention to classroom materials that didn’t line up with their beliefs. I would suggest they send their kids somewhere else. That’s where the voucher idea comes in.

In his later years, economist Milton Friedman was an enthusiastic advocate for school vouchers. But I always questioned that on the same grounds that Democrats are now. But in a different way. He was looking at it as a practical matter, trying to find a way for competition to improve education without leaving poor kids or the ones with lousy parents in the lurch.

I would go a step beyond Milton Friedman and say parents have the responsibility to educate their kids. To filter that education through coercive funding (taxes) takes it further away from the parents. Like Milton Friedman, Amanda Ragan is looking at education from a practical standpoint: Do what it takes to give all the kids a foundation for their start in life. But that foundation is undeniably built on theft. Do the ends justify the means?

Vouchers are needed because schools run by unions and politicians are epitomized by Ms. Ragan’s goals of reducing class size and widely available preschool. Do you remember your exceptional teachers or do you remember the size of your classes? As we hire more teachers in the quest of small class size, we delve further down the pool of teacher applicants. We have to hire less qualified teachers. Remember, unions are for teachers, not families. And politicians’ primary skill is getting elected, not preparing children for the future. That’s the parents’ job.

What is the purpose of more preschool anyway? Is it because parents are sub-par caregivers of their children? If it’s because two incomes are necessary for families these days, maybe we should question spending priorities instead of burdening taxpayers who chose not to have children.

As with the parents mentioned above, setting an example as a child grows, students see their education is paid for by someone else so its value is diminished. They become a part of a culture with a blurred sense of right and wrong.

Those parents who do not want their kids in public schools should not pay a dime into a school to educate other peoples’ kids while they have to pay for their own as well. It sets a bad example for the kids.

Wise words still relevant today

Winston Churchill. statement to William Griffen, editor of the New York Enquirer in August of 1936

“America should have minded her own business and stayed out of the World War. If you hadn’t entered the war the Allies would have made peace with Germany in the Spring of 1917. Had we made peace then there would have been no collapse in Russia followed by Communism, no breakdown in Italy followed by Fascism, and Germany would not have signed the Versailles Treaty, which has enthroned Nazism in Germany. If America had stayed out of the war, all these ‘isms’ wouldn’t to-day be sweeping the continent of Europe and breaking down parliamentary government, and if England had made peace early in 1917, it would have saved over one million British, French, American, and other lives.”