Life in the Triangle

In 1999, my wife Kathy and I moved to The Triangle Area of North Carolina from California. Interesting area, the Triangle. Here are some of our experiences.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Competing with Father

We had one of those "Father-Daughter" dances this week here in the Triangle. You know the type - Dad's getting the opportunity to connect with their daughters - often in an age where Dad's too busy trying to hold onto his job, and the girls are too wrapped up in a digital world at the expense of quality time with Dad. From the News & Observer:

The 12th annual Father-Daughter Dance was a sequined study in contrasts, part high school prom, part wedding reception, part disco romp. The event ... was intended to give fathers and daughters an opportunity to spend an evening together.

But since it was held in a church one week before Valentine's Day, it had the additional mission of modeling for girls what courtship, chivalry and dating are supposed to look like.

"It's a good opportunity for girls to get a standard," said Gerry Hubbell, a member of Millbrook and one of the organizers. "It sets a bar."

For the dads, that meant being on their best behavior. Nearly all the men wore jackets and ties, or even tuxedos and corsages. They opened the door for their daughters, indulged them at the reception tables with all the cookies, M&Ms and popcorn they could eat, and generally allowed them to be princesses for the evening.

That's great and all that dads can get together with their kids for a few hours of father-daughter time. What's distressing is to consider it "setting the bar as a model of what courtship, chivalry, and dating are supposed to look like."

How many young men could come close to such a standard? So let's say these girls start dating, some as early as thirteen. If they were to compare the boys' attitudes and behaviors to those of their fathers, the kids are in for a big awakening.

I'm not against the holding of get together events for dads and kids, and I'm certainly OK with girls spending quality time with their fathers. What I'm uncomfortable with is to present the occasion as some sort of "bar" or "standard" against which the girls' future dates are supposed to look like.

So guys, if you're reading this - beware of your first few dates with girls who may have attended events such as these with "dear old Dad." You may be expected to act like a prince.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Wake vs Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Policies for Disadvantaged Families

Much has been said in recent months about which policy is better at assisting disadvantaged students in the county school system: Wake County School System (WCPSS) with its reassignment program based on family income and a heavy reliance on bussing at the cost of fractured communities in the name of diversity, or Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) with its increased spending on education for the academic needs of low-income students, and community based schools which help to foster community harmony.

Reassignment vs better spending

The Sunday (02/08/2009) edition of The News & Observer has a front page article Whose Schools Work Better? subtitled "Wake disperses low-income students with busing; Charlotte gives high-poverty schools extra money."

The article seems swayed towards having the reader believe that Wake County's solution is better. Consider the graphics within the paper edition of the article:

  1. Even though WCPSS exceeds CMS in passing math or reading EOGs by 9.4% overall, the bar graph illustrates that the difference for black students was only 1.8% higher for WCPSS, and for low-income students only 1.3% higher for WCPSS. The difference for Hispanic students was actually 0.4% lower for WCPSS. As the article states, "[T]here's little difference in how minority and low-income students are doing in either school district."
  2. In the "By the Numbers" table, funding from the county for WCPSS is 90% of the county funding for CMS; an indicator that Mecklenburg County is spending more for education.
  3. Even though WCPSS has 18% fewer bus riders than CMS in the table, and CMS spends 20% more per student for bussing than WCPSS, the bussing cost per mile is 4% greater for WCPSS.
  4. The table also tries to show WCPSS superiority by claiming greater SAT scores by only 5% and high school graduation rates greater by 18%.
  5. That the article tries to demonstrate the benefits of the WCPSS diversity policy by illustrating in the circle graph that the number of schools with a passing rate of state exams above 60 percent is 83% for WCPSS vs 46.5% of CMS schools is debatable.

Other numbers to look at

Whether or not The News & Observer's article sufficiently justifies which, between reassignment or greater spending in high poverty neighborhood schools, is the better method, there are other numbers that can be telling.

It may seem that one indicator of which is the better way to educate our children is to look at the job rates between the counties. After all, what do our educated kids do after leaving the school system? They get jobs, of course. Granted many who graduate from school may go off to college in another state, and some who leave school may get jobs out of state or may even remain unemployed.

According to the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina, the employment rates for this past December for Mecklenburg County was 91.7%. The county had a labor force of 447,953 in December, and 410,948 of them had jobs.

Wake County, on the other hand, had a labor force of 439,480 and 412,468 of them were employed. This rate of 93.9% represents a difference of only 2.2 percentage points from Mecklenburg.


The school systems and their families may never agree on the best way to educate the next generation of future salaried employees and wage earners in Wake and Mecklenburg Counties. Is reassignment in the name of diversity better than spending more in high-poverty schools? Who can tell. But numbers can be revealing.

Let's "Do the Math," as they say, shall we?