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The Contrarian: Keep Jersey Strong, Not Just A WoW Slogan

—by , January 10, 2012

The education budget in New Jersey is as austere as the sincerity of innovation the budget is treated with. If necessity is the mother of invention, the very real need to come up with an education system that run efficiently without a comfortable amount of monetary lubricant is being overlooked in lieu of missing the cash. Education as an extension of the federal government that creates the illusion that we are absolved from responsibility at the micro levels at which these macro level issues are most felt.

It needs to stop. Unless we are willing to continue to blame the higher-ups while our systems grow exponentially ill-equipped to reach objectives in periods of austerity, the education system must be renovated to accommodate its function. If not, as a nation we will grow exponentially less equipped to compete and to grow in any real sense. That is a promise, and not a threat.

From the top down, the government does what it does and cannot ensure the development and prosperity of its seeds on the individual and local level. Whether or not you (yes, you!) believe that what the government does is in the best interest of the people, whatever that means, this must be acknowledged. For the same reasons that people can get away with smoking joints in their backyard or riding out unemployment benefits for years beyond qualification, the government cannot always present the goods on a silver platter, in a Big Mac wrapper cooked to code.

We love our Big Macs and we love the idea of free, pre-packaged liberty. Try going totalitarian, and see how you like their cooking; you'll be fed exactly what they think you need, and you won't know the difference to complain, except for living or living in detainment.

In spite of the economic downturn, programs and incentives have been implemented to improve the operation and quality of education in New Jersey public schools and those across the country. New Jersey's “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act,” enacted last September, is a well-intentioned piece of legislation (the most stringent in the country) meant to enforce the active participation of schools in the prevention and address of bullying and harassment on and off the playground. However, although it explicitly outlines what is expected from the schools to constitute compliance, it does little to address the issue of how these expectations are to be fulfilled.

For example, one requirement outlined in the Act's 18 pages is that every school must appoint an “anti-bullying specialist” to investigate complaints, which must be reported by the school principal within 24 hours of the incident. Said complaints must have a detailed report of the incident, and are to be made publicly accessible. Along the same thread, the Act requires that teachers and faculty receive specialized training to recognize and address signs of bullying, knowledge which then allows them to properly work this material into the curriculum.

“With what money?” you might ask. While little can be accurately determined thus far, the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act” might seem a bit ambitious for a state already up in arms about an education budget stripped past necessity. Presented in the face of a discouraging lack of resources, rather than inspiring resilience, these incentives, writ from the same hands that had taketh away, are rendered ineffective and even damaging for its initially insurmountable execution. Why? Because we are holding the U.S. government responsible for our American Dream.

When I wrote about the Act back in September, I found fault with the idea that the government was not providing additional resources to fund the compliance of the public school system with their requirements; money would be needed to source the proper research and utilities, and the lack of guidance was setting up schools for failure in an endeavor that means to make schools a better environment for learning and growth.

I hold to what I said, because I do believe that is the direction this legislation will be moving in. But it is my hope that this will not be true, and that the energy spent on bitching and floundering for the lack of actually trying to come up with a plan will turn into the resolve and greatness that New Jersey prides itself upon. We tear up our highways with the "Jersey Slide," chide out-of-staters for their lack of driving skills, and know where we can speed and know where we can't. Nothing stops us when we are on the road with somewhere to go, and that should translate into the resourcefulness required to implement incentives in education, with or without the money.

The “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act” is by no means the most comprehensive piece of education legislation, but it is the most demanding. It demands and expects cooperation from a state strong enough to deliver. What can be viewed as irresponsibility on the part of the government, leaving New Jersey's public schools to their own devices, might in fact be faith, not unfounded. And cutting funds to education, which can also be viewed as irresponsibility, might have only occurred because they knew our children are more important than whining.

It is a nod to the whole "For the people, by the people" nonsense that calls upon the American citizen to haul the best of the solid, precious weight of liberty.

Yanno, or not.

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