Powerless

Sometime early Sunday morning, my house lost power.  So did my town.  So did my school in the next town over.  It’s now Tuesday morning, and some parts of town have power back, but most of the town is still troubled.  And last I heard, school was still down.

My school is working on delivering content and instruction by internet, but we’re certainly not able to provide the kind of face-to-face instruction we’re used to providing.  It’s a challenge.

In the meantime, I and my neighbors have been commiserating about the nature of our houses and their ramshackle collection of services and capabilities. THis one’s house is warm because of extra insulation. That one has heat because there’s an old gas furnace with a mechanical rheostat.  My house is cold because I have a gas furnace, but the rheostat is electric.  BUT, I have an old gas-powered water heater, so I have hot water.  No one has a gas stove, so we’re borrowing one another’s grills to heat water and cook meat.  All of us are wearing extra layers and hats.

A lot of this came about because it’s been unseasonably warm for October, but then we got hit by a freak snowstorm.  It’s been astonishing — moderately sized young trees have snapped horizontally  right across the trunk, because the leaves have held the snow up, instead of the bare branches letting it fall to the ground.  Other trees have cracked along the ratchet lines, losing large limbs and major sub-trunks. As they fell, these branches took out power and communications lines, and blocked roads.  Out of ninety transformer stations in the state of Connecticut, allegedly forty-one failed.

My home city is large, and I imagine that we’re on a priority list to get power back.  My school is in a small town, and we’re not last in line — but we’re not first, either.  Day by day, I’ve been informed by our head of school that we have no power still, and we won’t have school tomorrow.  Two days out so far… and we may lose the week.

I wondered aloud a year ago about what kinds of disruptions it takes for a school or a school system to collapse, and for parents and teachers to take other roads to learning and education.  A lot of it was in the then-context of the Central Falls, RI, decision to shut down their high school and try to remake it.  What have we heard about since then?  Not so much nationally.  And we know that most education systems are granfaloonish in style, rather than karassic.

I hardly think my school is going to go out of business or shut down for not being physically open for a week.  Please don’t think that. It’s not on my agenda at all.  But I do wonder at moments like these, what it takes for a school or a school system to collapse. At what point do parents decide on an alternate education model en masse, and teachers similarly decide to seek alternate income sources?  What does it take for a school to collapse?

It’s a question a lot more schools should ask.

2 comments

  1. When the system no longer serves the accepted cultural expectations. For example, my school is a private, day, college-prep school even though we try to dispel the myth that graduation from our institution guarantees acceptance into an ivy league one. However, that is the expectation of those in our community. If that didn’t happen, they wouldn’t spend 25k+ for the diploma.

    On a grander scale, I think its starting to happen in the public arena. Our system “educates” kids based on a model that hasn’t been relevant since the 1950’s post-war boom. Makes me think we’ll have an easy time converting our public schools into state prisons.

    • You may be right, J.

      I was talking with a recent college graduate, and also remembering one of my own cousins from a few years ago. Both of them are struggling with paying off the massive debts incurred from going to college, and come from families of moderate means. The recent graduate spoke of another friend of hers, with a degree in English literature. That person is so deep in debt that she cannot not work, nor can she leave the state without having a much higher salary than she has now. None of them can abandon the debts because the material purchased with that debt — the learning they acquired, no matter how useful or trivial — can’t be repossessed. All three effectively are blocked from getting married — because their spouses would inherit the debt. If they die, their children( if they had any) inherit the debt — as do their parents as next of kin. This is ghastly (Don’t we have something in our Constitution that prevents that kind of multi-generational debt slavery?).

      One of my college professors, meanwhile, incurred only $6000.00 worth of debt in the late 1960s, which she was done paying back by the early 1970s. That gave her the freedom to pursue advanced work a little later on, and get married, and have kids, and build up a retirement account for herself.

      Something, somewhere, has gone drastically wrong.

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