An Introduction Complete With Easter Eggs
The Educated Reporter herself is a bit busy on a time-consuming project this week that will surely make the rest of us all the more educated. In the meantime, I will occupy the TER chair for the week. Who am I? I am an educated (at times, miseducated, perhaps) reporter from the smaller world of Baton Rouge, the state capital of the great independent state of Louisiana. I cover schools in this medium-sized city and have been doing so for the past nine years. I will be gathering into my virtual net various flotsam and jetsam drawn from my own work and from the greater education world at large. Enjoy.
First up, I had the good fortune last week to interview the lively, talkative and entertaining six-year-old Sunna Jones about her upcoming trip to the White House's annual Easter Egg Roll being held April 5, the day after Easter. It was a short feature with a picture. Here it is if you're interested: http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/89313547.html?showAll=y&c=y. Not being a D.C. native, I had never heard of this event until Sunna's mother, Erin, called us about the family's good fortune. Mother and daughter had been banking on going for months. They bought their plane ticket months before they actually learned they were indeed going. Sunna is all about meeting the first family and the first dog, Bo. I met them during a break at Sunna's public elementary school. Sunna was dressed up in a spring dress for her school pictures and was the definition of cute.
I didn't know anything about Easter Egg rolls before this assignment. So like all good reporters I went to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_rolling. It turns out the tradition goes back a long ways. You push an egg across a field with a long wooden spoon. The White House event also feature an Easter Egg hunt, which I'm much more familiar with. I remember narrowly losing an Easter Egg hunt held on my eighth birthday to John Carroll who traveled only via cartwheels, but had a sixth sense for where Easter Eggs were located. Damn him! Later as an adult, right out of college and broke, I dressed up as the Easter bunny for nouveau riche restauranteur Al Copeland (founder of Popeye's chicken) and his bratty kids. I got paid well, so I can't explain, though the suit was very hot. Al and his then third wife had an Easter Egg hunt and instead of candy, each egg had $20 bills inside. I should have ditched the bunny suit and started collecting eggs.
The Easter Egg Roll provides an interesting window into today's culture and education wars. The Obamas have shaken up this old tradition. They have opened up the event to gay-and-lesbian couples with children. The commemorative eggs are eco-friendly. Michelle Obama is pitching it as part of her efforts to combat childhood obesity, consequently lots of sports and running around. Here's the explanatory page, complete with a fun highlight reel of last year's event: http://www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll.
And instead of keeping it a D.C.-only event where families wait in line for hours to get tickets in the fashion of concert-goers of yore, the Obamas now have interested families sign up for an online lottery. Consequently, children from all 50 states are expected to attend this year. Absent a lottery, Sunna Jones wouldn't be going. Her mother was laid off last year from her job as a guidance counselor with the Los Angeles Unified school district and is now back living with family in her hometown of Baton Rouge. I can understand that some along the Potomac might miss their more exclusive purchase on this holiday fun-fest, but they should meet Sunna before they wax too nostalgic. This visit will be the highlight of this little girl's life for sometime and I for one am glad the event has been opened up so widely.
The move online, alas, has also, like a rock concert, given rise to scalping. Sunna's mother said she was tickets listed on Craigslist. The White House has tried to get resellers to stop, but this black market is probably here to stay.
In an attempt to assuage locals who felt left out last year, the Obamas have set aside about 3,000 of the almost 30,000 tickets for public schoolchildren in D.C. This has not gone down well with the private and parochial schools up that way. Here's a story from CNS news, a site affiliated with the liberal-bias-seeking Media Research Center: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/63267. Here we have in a nutshell, the voucher debate. Private school advocate note that their patrons pay taxes too and should be accorded the same benefits that accrue to public schools. But they neglect to point out that the public schools are specifically set up to provide for the education of all children, no matter what. Their books are open to the public that funds them. They are what is known as a public good -- an expensive, arguably underfunded one. As such, they have a strong argument to say they should be at the front of the line. Don't expect private school proponents to agree with me. But as someone who lost his own Easter Egg hunt, I got over it and have moved on. And if you ever have the good fortune to meet Sunna, I promise you won't begrudge her good fortune.