Page 16 THE VILLADOM TIMES II • December 16, 2009 to the end of the Vietnam War, but we were also enabled to produce weapons, heavy equipment, and food that the whole world wanted and needed. At the expense of 32,000 dead Americans in Korea, 58,000 American dead in Indochina, and thousands killed in military-related accidents, the nation in general prospered as never before. Meanwhile, we shifted from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy in the 19th century and much of the 20th century. Now, in the 21st century, we’re shifting into a post-industrial economy where government is becoming the only safe industry. China just had to bail us out to the tune of $800 billion to keep things perking along, and the Chinese don’t loan money that they don’t expect back. They have already asked us to give back their pandas. Most light manufacturing – clothing, toys, electronics -- now takes place outside the United States. The auto industry is still struggling to deal with the fact that people whose kids have left home no longer want huge cars that break down all the time when they aren’t transporting us to vacations we no longer take because we can’t afford them in terms of money or energy. Detroit may be saved if they can develop hybrids and electric cars that save money and the atmosphere at the same time. If they don’t, whoever builds and sells these cars will capture the market once the Earth Day generation gets too old for bicycles. Here is what people who support school spending that is over the top don’t understand: Education that used to train a certain social class for national and world administrators – The Ivy League – may not be the education that is needed to cope with the new economy of the future, when almost everything smaller than an aircraft carrier is made somewhere else. The War on Islam may keep the military spending viable, but as awful as the Sept. 11 attacks were, you have to know these wretched people aren’t about to conquer the United States and probably don’t want to. They want us out of their part of the world so they can go on murdering one another in tribal feuds that are none of our business and won’t be prevented by trying to export our culture. We’re not going to stop that at any affordable cost, and it’s none of our business in any case. I think, also, that we are not needed or wanted to export our executive or technical ability to Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, or Singapore. The people who regularly trounce us in math and science, and who generally learn our languages when we never seem to bother to learn theirs, don’t need us to run their lives anymore, not that they ever did. American education has to re-focus, not on running the world, but on running America, or perhaps the Americas. There is still a need for some managerial skills in Central America and South America. Above all, there is a need for Americans who know how to make or fix things rather than trumping one another with our multiple diplomas – and tripping over our monolingualism. I’ve met many people who have a number of degrees. I’ve met few born here who could understand any languages other than English or a little bit of Spanish, knew anything about the cultures and histories of the countries they want to do business with, or could be made to understand that, during an economic crunch which could go on indefinitely, it’s more important to work at a job that actually exists, or cause one to exist, and live on what you earn, than it is to “go back to school” and get some degree that only qualifies you to work for the government in a non-functional job and help run up the deficit. Good schools are important even to people who don’t need them for their own kids because the kind of kids drawn to a school that offers classical string orchestra and four full years of German, Chinese, and Latin are the kind of kids who are civil and intelligent and, in the greatest number of cases, are no threat to anyone but themselves, even when their age and the expense of their upkeep prevents them from being much of an asset to the community for the time being. Many of them will be major assets in the future, once they get their hands out of our pockets. When I see them and talk to them, I’m almost always favorably impressed. They deserve good schools, and they don’t deserve to be blamed for the fact that some of their parents equate the big spending of everybody else’s money, along with their own, as the ticket to a future that no longer exists. Multiple degrees without professional licensing may no longer buy a secure economical future. Parents who know their kids are not eager readers or gifted mathematicians might be better served if they have the kid learn a skilled trade and gave him or her the $120,000 for four years of college as the down payment on a modest house. One way or another, let’s not blame the kids for what some people greeted with a sigh of relief and a near-equal number met with a sigh of despair. The kids didn’t ask for this, unless they were prompted to. The real message of this referendum – as in some of the school budget votes last April – was a cliché coming true. Once in awhile, every vote really does count. In the teeth of the economic gale, the taxpayers of Ridgewood, very slightly more than half of those who voted, just approved a $48 million school bond to renovate, and in some cases expand, all 10 of Ridgewood’s public schools. This was a very close vote: the yes voters came in at 2,119, the no voters at 2,057, which one resident calculated as a school expansion and renovation endorsement of seven-tenths of one per cent – a near miss or a close call depending on the voter’s point of view. Turnout was just over 25 percent, which indicates, among other things, that a lot of people still have trouble understanding that school budgets account for anywhere from two-thirds to three-quarters of their local property taxes. I know this because some of these same people show up at municipal government meetings and ask the people they vote for in the November election to do something about school spending. People are so fixated on the idea that “we live in a democracy” -- actually it’s a republic - that they think the November election ought to settle everything, when as far as school spending goes, it doesn’t settle anything at all. The school elections in April might settle something, but since the people who vote in them are generally strong supporters of the school system and partisans of one candidate or another, they don’t settle anything, either. The school vote shows a few glimmers of hope on the horizon. People still care about their children, and they still believe in education. That’s good twice: Love of family is a strong component of mental health and social stability, and the fact that people believe in and trust education means they have the intelligence and the adaptability to try to cope with whatever happens. So assuming that we are all part of the same community, the news is actually okay whether people voted for or against the $48 million bond. There is, however, a hidden problem. The reliance we place on education may be postulated on a misunderstanding not only of the present economic situation but also of the world’s long-range economic future. The generation that decided that all youngsters should finish high school and that all reasonably bright youngsters should finish college was the one that saw the Depression of the 1930s verge into World War II, then into the Cold War. Within the lifetime of a child born, let us say, in time to qualify for Social Security today while the program is still around, the German and Japanese industrial plants shifted from heavy-duty military production to bombcratered unemployment. Britain, once the world’s largest financial power, essentially went broke. Meanwhile, Russia and China were economically marginalized by the wasteful economic bungling of their own obtuse Marxism and the hostility of the NATO alliance and Japan and South Korea. The United States became the big player in the world economy even before the collapse of the Soviet Union left us as the world’s only superpower. We were stuck, it is true, with a peacetime draft that lasted from the Korean War Ridgewood’s bond vote: The 0.7 percent solution? Taking action Saint Catharine’s MOTHERS’ group recently collected 41 turkeys and nine packages of food for the Center for Food Action. Thanks to all who contributed. Saint Catharine’s is located in Glen Rock.