Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pensacola Quality of Life

That distressing "quality of life" survey we mentioned the other day gets the Full Monty in Sunday's Pensacola News Journal. There's even a lengthy pdf file you can download that summarizes the survey results, including the apparent wording of the questions themselves.

Reporter Rebekah Allen asks on the front page, "Is Paradise Lost?" She goes through a few shallow circles of hell in search of an answer, quizzing politicians, retired military men, and bartenders, among others. No teachers, though.

The editorial board, sounding a little like a candidate for president, proclaims "It's Time for A Change." Then it offers a somewhat weird laundry list of suggestions that ranges from the sublime (city-county consolidation and mandatory recycling) to the mundane ("move the sand and gravel off the port") to the downright harsh (retirees "need to be a percentage of our makeup, not a majority.") No suggestions for improving public education, however.

Carlton Proctor takes up the cudgels to argue for a "franchise fee" to fund the Chamber of Commerce in its economic development efforts. He doesn't mention the schools, either.

Even Mark O'Brien got in on today's act, peering backwards into his own private hell to reminisce about the hostile reaction he received from a certain city pooh-bah thirty years ago when a much younger O'Brien suggested in print that putting a sewer plant in the middle of downtown wasn't a very good idea. "Guess what?" Mark asks rhetorically. The pooh-bah is still "a mover and shaker."

Of course, Mark doesn't mention that particular idiot by name. That would be too un-Pensacola. But you can be sure it wasn't a teacher.

The odd thing in all of this hoopla-la, if you get our drift, is that more than two thirds of all respondents to the survey found the quality of Pensacola public schools is "poor." Fifty-seven percent expect the quality of schools to deteriorate over the next five years. Fully one-half of those surveyed say it's likely they'll move away in the next five years because of "poor educational opportunities" for themselves or their children. Yet, no one at the newspaper seems to think that's important enough to address with suggested solutions.

Education is the cornerstone of success, as some school, somewhere, proclaims as the theme of its graduation ceremony every year. It's a cliche, but it's true. Without good schools no city in the world -- certainly none that we know of -- has successfully attracted job-creating industries, large numbers of young adults, or the kind of leaders Quint Studer, the News Journal, the Chamber of Commerce, and others who are wringing their hands over the "quality of life" survey say they want.

Pensacola public schools are for the most part miserable institutions. If the city movers and shakers really want change, that's the place to start.

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