Wednesday Vignette – blurred vision and jumbled priorities

Just got home from witnessing a school board meeting, where an enormous amount of energy and emotion was expelled over whether to push for a construction bond this November, or postpone it to next May. With over a billion dollars needed to make a dent in decades of deferred maintenance and skipped upgrades – either way, quite frankly, the money would come too late. In Portland’s case, the past few months have unearthed lead in the drinking water, lead in the paint, radon, mold, leaky roofs, seismic shortcomings – you name it.


In the national news, our fair city’s schools have been compared to Flint, MI – which is a fair assessment, I suppose – at least as far as the snowballing of the public goes. But, what baffles me is that this is such a big deal to so many. Old school buildings have issues – everyone knows that… right? What I feel is far more damaging is the sinister truth of what goes on on the inside of the ailing buildings – something that is continuously sanctioned by a lame administration and ditto school board. There are staggering differences in course offerings, enrichments, instructional time, electives, and opportunities – varying from school to school throughout the district. Now, THIS would be something worthy of a major, public hissy-fit. Yet, though we may protest, there is a kind of laissez-faire aura surrounding the powers that be. And, although great strides toward fairer deals and increased educational equity were made via the work of the DBRAC committee these past two years, all those advances currently seem to have taken a backseat to the more tangible facilities issues of lead, mold, and radon.


Do I not agree that a bond is needed? Well, of course I do – it is desperately needed. In fact, we probably need about five of them, portioned out in bitesized chunks, acceptable to a primarily childless voting public. But I find it baffling, and not so little disturbing, that deferred maintenance takes political precedence over the continued, sanctioned sacrifice  of generations of kids, and neglect of their educational opportunities. The logic behind that – to me – is a tough one to grasp. The blurred priorities as evidenced by our board, reminded me of some photos I took this past summer, in a hot, humid greenhouse, where both glasses and camera lens fogged up instantly. Try as I might, I could not see clearly. That day, it took stepping out of the situation, cooling off, and taking a new look with refreshed eyes, to see clearly again. I imagine this is what needs to happen here too. Diffusion, distortion and disparity is, quite honestly, the last thing our kiddos need. Wouldn’t you agree?


About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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23 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – blurred vision and jumbled priorities

  1. FlowerAlley says:

    A clear vision is essential . So much to do. Never enough money… At least you are not in NC.

  2. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I recognize cool plants from Rare Plant Research. People with eyes to see potential through the blur can make a difference, one growing thing at a time. Keep up the good work!

  3. Evan Bean says:

    Buildings are better for politics. The people in charge can say, “Look at the shiny new buildings we built for the children.” It’s easier to scare the public with issues like mold, lead, and radon, and then fix those problems so they can say they did something. Not that those aren’t problems that need to be fixed, but they’re easier to fix and people feel more satisfaction in spending money on a building they can see than the intangible and hard-to-quantify results of improving the actual education of the students. It’s a sad and frustrating situation. I’m wishing more and more that the United States would adopt an education model like Finland’s. Well, there’s my two cents and here’s my WV:

  4. Alison says:

    I think Evan got it right. Buildings take priority because they have a physical presence people can point to. It’s not right, but it’s how politicians think. Improving education is too amorphous and intangible. I worry about the future for American students too.

    Here’s my WV, it’s a couple of different views of a cactus flower:

    • annamadeit says:

      He is most definitely right. Anyone can get upset over neglected buildings, but when it comes to scrutinizing one’s own privilege, things get sticky and eyes averted.

  5. How did it get this bad? Have the schools in Portland ever been good? Granted my attention to these things has never been huge (being part of the childless group) but I’ve never lived anywhere with such a pathetic school system, at least that I heard about.

    Unfortunately I don’t think my WV is the answer to any of these questions.

    • annamadeit says:

      I’m sure Oregon had great schools once upon a time. I would say the current decline is largely due to the passing of Measure 5, about 25 years ago. That was a travesty that the schools have never recovered from, and it rendered school districts in urban areas (of which Portland is the biggest) completely shafted. Add to that a few recessions, endless budget cuts…. and there you have it. What we have to contend with now, is decades worth of deferred maintenance and neglect. And, of course, when all these brick schools were built, no one knew this area is on schedule for the next big earthquake. This made me happy to see today – you go kids!!! 🙂

  6. Laurin Lindsey says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words….sending positive thoughts and energy across the miles!

  7. Kris P says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the quality of our school systems as the current presidential campaign drags on. As I society, I fear we’re failing to teach critical thinking skills. Your concerns are well-placed. I have an odd-ball WV this week:

    • annamadeit says:

      I think the fact that schools are – to a large part – under State mandates rather than Federal, makes them highly variable from state to state. Which renders the idea of a silver bullet impossible. I think increased poverty overall, a shrinking middle class, and ever-decreasing funding has had a huge impact. School isn’t just school anymore. It has had to take on the roles of counselor, food pantry, health care provider, after care provider, social worker, and so on. Without truly corresponding increases in budgets. As evident by the high levels of education in wealthier districts, there is nothing wrong with the education, per se. What is lacking is the ability to receive instruction without enough funding to provide a proper shoring up of wrap-around social services that will help the massive number of kids who don’t have families that can provide all the extras. And, what I just wrote is only part of the problem. It is maddeningly complex, and I have no good answers. Which is frustrating, too.

  8. My Grandpa used to brag about attending Benson High School and how it prepared him for his career as an ironworker boss. It’s sad to see how things have changed in the Portland school district. Keep fighting the good fight.

    Here’s my WV:

    • annamadeit says:

      A lot of Benson graduates brag about Benson – for good reason. And, I’m happy to say that it is still a great school. Although today, they staged a fake lockdown to prevent their students to join in with the kids from Lincoln, who staged a walk-out in protest of last night’s Board-vote to table the Bond until the May election. This made me so mad – they made up some story about a nearby shooting, and locked the doors. What they should have done, is seen it for the stellar opportunity it was for civic engagement, teenage empowerment, and the chance for two schools from two opposite sides of the river, to join forces and march on the District headquarters with a joint goal. Instead, they chose to lie to the kids, and lock them in the building. I’m beyond upset. What an insult to their intelligence… 😦 Here is footage from the Lincoln walk-out. So proud of them!

      • annamadeit says:

        Learned yesterday that the lockdown was ordered from the District headquarters – not from the Benson admins. This restored my faith in the Benson leaders (I have always thought they are great, and was completely thrown by this perceived lunacy), but of course opens up another serious concern; Who is this Pinhead Interim Sup, and what’s his deal??? Mind boggling…

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