Separate St. Louis education is not equal

By Tom Murphy VII (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Old book bindings at the Merton College library, by Tom Murphy VIILicensed under Creative Commons
The racial division of St. Louis is clearly illustrated by young families in St. Louis. Young families close to having kids leave their brick bungelows in the city for homes nestled in suburban school districts. The usual targets are Lindbergh, Parkway, or Rockwood, the bigger, well-funded of the area. Brentwood, Kirkwood, Ladue, and Webster Groves, smaller, but still well-funded, also make the list.

The house hunt for these families goes something like this: 3 bedroom, maybe 4, 2 bathroom, big backyard for junior, 2 car garage. Older, charming cottage? Oh, yes! But only after we complete the St. Louis County lead-abatement program.

For the families who stay, their children mostly attend private schools or better-funded charter or magnet schools over the neighborhood schools. There are the families who choose to have their kids attend the neighborhood schools. But that’s just it. They have a choice.

Choice is a privilege many people forget they have. Others are acutely aware that they don’t have that privilege.

The other families who have to stay, usually their kids have to attend their neighborhood schools. They have to. There is no choice. They don’t get that privilege.

Why is this a problem? Public schools rely on property taxes for funding. If you live in, say, Ladue, your property taxes are higher than those of Webster Groves, and those are higher than those of Fenton, and those, while lower, generate more income than those property taxes in St. Louis City.

Here are some examples. These are actual property tax figures from 2015. All the homes used were approximately the same size:

Fenton:                   $7572.27
St. Louis City:         $8159.71
Webster Groves:     $9329.12
Ladue:                     $15,961.37

Ladue arguably comes out on top. St. Louis City is near the bottom, but population, household income, etc. affect paid property taxes thus affect school funding.

St. Louis City is pretty small. People usually work there and go home to the suburbs. Our night life isn’t huge. Many properties are vacant, or the families have trouble paying for groceries, so why would they be able to paid their annual taxes? Only property tax funding that gets paid gets paid to the schools.

Read more about how school funding’s reliance on property taxes fails children from NPR and how your own school stacks up. Find out how Brittany Packnett is tackling the education problem here in St. Louis from all angles.

There are children in our community not receiving the education the St. Louis community can afford. We are failing them. We are failing our future.

On top of the lack of funding, the SLPS students are being poisoned with IQ-robbing lead in the drinking water. This is all happening while the children a 20-minute drive away are getting decadence added to their Fiji-water education: the water fountain returns as a metaphor for division in St. Louis.

We treat city and county as separate. They are very unequal. It’s no wonder why education inequality thrives here.

My question is, why wouldn’t the people who can afford to donate to education want to donate somewhere where the funds can make a huge difference? Wouldn’t they want to be that kind of a hero?

Modern Parenting is Neglectful Parenting

There are lots of critics out there about raising kids. Usually, they’re all around you.

I even had the police called on me for child endangerment. I was getting gas at the local Mobil station and the pay-at-the-pump functionality was down at all the pumps. I pumped my gas, then went to pay for my gas inside. Kari at the time was 6.

Here is the scenario: The car was at the pump. She was buckled in her booster seat. I locked the doors. I could see her from 20 feet away in the gas station. It was 55 degrees outside. I was inside for 2 minutes. I know because I was anxious about getting to school that morning for the Science Center field trip.

I finish paying and walk outside and just then, a lady peers in and is shouting at Kari. This scares her because the lady is shouting at her.

I ask the lady what she is doing.
She said, “Oh, you’re mom! Well, MOM, I’m calling the police!”
I ask her, “What for?”
She said, “What for?!” and makes an exasperated noise
I roll my eyes and get in the car. I hear her on the phone with the police saying, “She’s getting away!”

Over the weekend Chris and I went to a baseball game with our neighbors from across the street. All of us spent our youth running around in the woods, playing with friends, and coming home at dinnertime. No one called the police.

Kari was playing in the front yard a few years ago, probably as a second grader, and a lady pulled in the driveway. I was in the garage cleaning, and I come out to greet the lady. She said, “Oh, I thought she was outside alone and I wanted to alert someone.” Kari and I both looked a little puzzled. Kari wasn’t near the street, so what was the issue? The lady was flustered by my response and drove on.

Another time, Kari was in the next aisle over in the grocery store grabbing something I had forgotten. She was 8. A lady asked her where her mom was and proceeded to grab her by the arm and walk her to me.

I remember at 7 going across the whole grocery store when my mom was at the checkout. I remember my mom running into the grocery store and locking me in the car when I was 8. I remember staying home alone for an hour or so when I was 10. No one bothered me. No one called the police.

The neighbors agreed with me that it must be this culture now. Kidnappings and awful things have always happened, just with the Internet, we hear about each and every incident now.

I wager to say modern parenting, where parents do everything and decide everything for the children, is neglectful. Children don’t learn how to handle themselves in society without parental input. Still at the college level I encounter students who need their parent to weigh in on any decisions and hear all too often, “I’ll have to ask my mom.” What a tragedy!

Can my kids not play alone in their own yard? Are you raising a ‘free-range’ kid? How should we raise independent kids?

Shooting Our Children

Guns are killing people, and most horrifically, children.

I’m not going to blame Columbine. I’m not going to blame the uneducated people in society. I’m not going to blame the people who join gangs. I’m not going to blame the media.

I’m blaming every single gun supporter.

The Constitution was written hundreds of years ago. Society has evolved. We no longer have to bare arms in order to protect our rebel selves from the oppression of a monarchy.

You use penicillin, toilets, and refrigeration. Let’s bring your views on gun control to this century too.

Children have tragically died because guns are in society. Children will continue to die because you encourage people to have guns in society.

No, I don’t want to hear bullshit about how this is such a small percentage of deaths and cancer or car accidents kill more children. Gun deaths are preventable deaths.

Here is a list of the children who have been injured or died this year due to guns being in our society.

If you’re with me, please speak out about guns in our society. The only way we can stop this is to continue to fight for appropriate gun control.

Still on the fence? Read more…

Gun Violence Archive

Eian, 3, gun fatality
Eian, 3, gun fatality

Boy, 6, fatally shoots toddler brother

Jamyla, 9, left, gun fatality
Jamyla, 9, left, gun fatality

Shots fired into home killing 9 year-old girl

Maykayla, 8, gun fatality
Maykayla, 8, gun fatality

Boy, 11, kills 8 year-old girl over puppies

Dalis, 3, gun fatality
Dalis, 3, gun fatality

D.C. 3 year-old fatally shot by child playing with gun

Girls Against the Grain

Women’s issues are always on my mind, and I am always eager to hear what other feminists (and opposers) have to say. My ears perked up a couple weeks ago when a story came on NPR about Marissa Mayer’s second maternity leave.

On a professional note, she did double the amount of paid maternity leave for Yahoo employees, yet she did away with telecommuting.  She also built a nursery next to her office to use with her four month-old son. Yes, she is a CEO of a very large company and arguably works more hours than the traditional full-time employee. But does her clout and wealth allow her certain benefits not afforded to other working moms? Yes. Does taking only a few weeks of maternity leave and working throughout set presidence for other women taking maternity leave? Unfortunately, yes.

While any woman should be able to do what is best for her personal situation, in this country, society groups women together when considering what women should do. It is as if we are incapable of making decisions for ourselves. We are judged for taking time off. We are judged for asking for flexible work schedules. We are judged for bringing our children to conferences or work. We are judged when our children get sick. We are judged constantly, regardless of what the laws state.

Unsurprisingly, men with children are rewarded in the workplace while women are reprimanded.

I loathe the whole lean in crap circulating right now. As if women cannot be multiple identities at once. We can work and be mothers if that is what we want to do. Marissa Mayer, as well as other women, should not be admonished by the public for only taking a few weeks of maternity leave. We, however, should recognize as a society our role in women’s issues, including paid maternity leave and support of working mothers.

Find out more:

Political Science Baby Ban

Managers avoid hiring women to avoid maternity leave

Phone Alone

Something Chris and I are at a disagreement on recently: whether or not Kari should have an iPhone. I don’t want to subscribe to parent peer pressure and I don’t want to lose my 9 year-old to some device.

Personally, I love it when my phone dies. There is an expectation people now have with the mainstreaming of smart phones: constant, instant contact. People feel they should be able to contact you whenever (no kidding, I’ve gotten calls at 12:30 am about surrendering a dog to the Rescue) and wherever (call, text, tweet, fb, etc.) and if they cannot, well, something seriously tragic must have happened.

Like any good academic, I agree and disagree with this story. I do agree that the principal should have taken a more open approach: kids are using this, talk to them about it, talk to them about the conversations had on these media, and counselors are available for discussions if your student desires.

What I don’t like is students so young using technology so frequently. I see so many people on campus walking together, but on their phones. I see people at lunch together, but on their phones. I see people driving AND on their phones!

Kari’s school district has a BYOD policy. This being:

Students in (omitted) schools have the opportunity to bring their own electronic devices into the classroom to support their learning.  The district has listened to students and their parents who shared that they would prefer students to use their own personal technology to assist with learning.

This is all wonderful and fine if students simply use their devices for the educational focus at the time, but, arguably, they don’t. Trust me, I have been in class with many students who would much rather shop J.Crew, play on Facebook, (insert distraction here) than pay attention.

Kari had an experience last year where the 2 other members of her group were making silly videos on their phones instead of doing group work. Kari was mad she got a poor grade on her assignment, and the teacher did not hear her concerns. Do devices enhance learning? Sure, but likely not for the learning outcomes intended for the day.

I’d much rather be real and present with the people in my life. Life is short. Sure, kids are on Instagram and the like, but what are they missing out on by casting their social net so wide? Cherish the people who are real and present in your life. Knowing tidbits about your 250 Facebook friends doesn’t mean you have 250 actual friends just as getting likes on your selfie doesn’t actually mean those people like you in real life.

No one’s life is as cool as it is online. “Killing it at doing the dishes,” or “Just saved $1.50 on shampoo! WINNING”, tweeted no one ever. We only share the most exciting moments in our lives or ones that might connect us socially to the masses. Tweet about the crazy long line at Starbucks? Yes. Instagram your supper? Totes. Post about your promotion? Of course! For many of my Facebook friends, I can recall if they have had a baby, moved to a new house, or gotten a promotion recently. That’s really it. I don’t really know them.

Maybe parents and schools should talk to their children about the social pressures that come with such contact, and how to handle such pressures. This is challenging as many adults don’t even have healthy device usage limits.

As for Kari and the phone, I still don’t think it’s time. The social pressures become ever-present with the adoption of social media and smart phones. I want her to feel freedom I hope she will appreciate later.

Rights and Responsibilities

For those of you who know me personally, you’ll find it no surprise about how affect I have been by this most recent massacre.  My favorite things in life include children and teaching and my strongest opinions are about gun control.

For those of you who do not know my daughter, Kari, she is 6, nearly 7.  She is beautiful, funny, intelligent, and one of my favorite people in the whole world.  She loves animals and wants to study their behavior.  Her favorite food is spaghetti and meatballs. Dancing and soccer make her top ten.

All of those children killed on Friday were 6 or 7.  All of them were exactly like Kari:  full of energy, fun and happiness.  I could not imagine.  I still hope to wake from this horrid reality of what is.  I cannot understand what constitutional right can overrule this wrong.

I will never in my life touch a gun.  I have no desire to touch an object that is specifically designed for ending another life.  To the argument is that shooting is a sport:  that may be.  Yet one cannot argue with the inherent design of a gun.  It is designed to kill.

Last night, Kari clung to me, scared to go to school today.  I explained to her that this likely wouldn’t happen at her school and Connecticut is very far away.  To that she replied, “Mom, guns are all over.”  Amazing how easily children figure out our biggest problems.

Pro-gun individuals are all about guns it seems regardless of the lives lost, statistics and the overall reality. See this report from the Onion. Pro-gun individuals’ biggest worry is not trusting the government or the police.  Yes, because we live in a third world war torn country where the issues in a democracy are best solved with brute force.  I honestly ask pro-gun people:  How many times in your life have you actually had an instance where you were oppressed or otherwise and a gun would have made that situation better?  Let me fill this in for you.  It’s a very minute portion and likely you’re not in it.

I am sick over this.  I cannot express enough how much I hate guns and the lack of gun control in our country and our overall total disregard for life.  We are an embarrassment.  Our children our being killed yet we still hold dear our “government-protected right to own a portable device that propels small masses of metal through the air at lethal rates of speed.”

Americans generally have always had a few things backwards forcing not participants to participate in their choices: smoking, drunk driving, guns, etc.  I live in one of the most dangerous cities in America.  Our news should just be called the obits.  I know about violence and how absolutely senseless crimes occur out of emotion.  When people have access to lethal weapons when in such emotional states, crimes occur.  Maybe you don’t run around shooting your gun, but, honestly, what practical reason do you have for carrying a gun? Don’t tell me it is for fantasized heroics. That doesn’t do it for me.

Please allow this tragic string of massacres and overall gun violence be a call to everyone to take an issue with gun control in America.

See more objective and rational information at


Has anyone ever been 6 years-old?

Read:  6 year-old sent to reform school for bringing a weapon to school

Note:  he wasn’t bringing a weapon, to him it was something new and cool to show off.

Has anyone ever been 6 years-old?!  The length of punishment is way too long and what is he really going to learn?!

Good Clean Fun

Poisoning doesnt just happen from injestion.
Poisoning can happen to anyone.

Created by a bunch of advertising agencies is this fear of germs Americans have.  We bleach everything.  We want stuff that says “Kills 99.9% of bacteria” and other vengeful antics we would only wish on germs.  Did anyone bother to read the warning labels on the back of those wonderful cleaners?  Many of them want lots of ventilation when in use.  Do not ingest or flush with water if in contact with skin or eyes.  Of course, there is the ever popular “Keep out of reach of children”, which, I have to ask, does mopping the floor and allowing my child to play on that freshly cleaned floor classify as “out of reach”?  How harmful are these cleaners which we entrust our family’s health?

Children. They’re ever curious and of course all chemicals should always be kept in a locked cabinet.  The concern here is what sort of residue from these harmful cleaners gets on their skin and in their mouths after cleaning surfaces.  One site I found listed the possible issues created by such common household cleaners.  Most of the poisoning occurs slowly.  Many household cleaner components contain chemicals that have been linked to an increased instance of asthma.

Pets. There have been pet poisonings with some of these chemicals.  Most kidney failure was linked to chemical use.  Children can sometimes let us know when they have something on them to be washed off, but babies and pets cannot.  Pets simply wind up cleaning themselves, and ingesting the chemical.

For more natural cleaners, try vinegar, baking soda, peroxide, and basic soap and water.  There are also some great natural cleaning tips and recipes here.