Page 16 THE VILLADOM TIMES II • February 4, 2009 unanimously to buy the 7.4 acres of woodland with the assistance of $1 million from Bergen County, but they concurred even before the vote that putting millions more into building more sports fields was not going to happen, at least in the foreseeable future. This was a tough call, because a lot of nice people offered some of their own money for the project, but it was the only possible choice. Love of sports would spend us all broke if we didn’t take a step back and consider two serious matters: The purpose of adolescence in a pre-industrial society is to acquire enough of an education to acquire a job. That is, students need to learn to read, write, and do enough math to qualify for whatever may be available, and learn enough history so they can watch their rights gradually disappearing as the government encroaches more and more on the lives and finances of responsible people. Athletics are an enjoyable diversion. They are not, and should not be, the reason that people attend school. The continued attack on what is left of the woodlands of Northwest Bergen County and the gradual replacement of grass and ferns and wildflowers with asphalt in terms of ground-cover is already contributing to flooding problems every time there is a heavy rain. Trees absorb more rainwater than grass does, and grass absorbs more water that Astroturf. These things need to be considered. Successful parents eventually learn that letting the peer group and the impulse to spend yourself popular have to be confronted and destroyed before the impulses take the kid down with them. I had this out with my own kids time and again: “How come I can’t go to such-and-such expensive place like so-and-so rich friend?” “How come so-and-so can’t speak French and German and Italian and you can?” I must admit that my daughter, the family’s academic superstar, was more trouble in this regard than my son. Girls seem to thrive on the fiscal intimidation of their peers. I might add here that since the schools started French much too late and did not offer German or Italian, I may actually have given them something more valuable than a ski trip. Kids are not equipped to chart their own destinies because they do not know what it is like in the world of employment, or even or upper-level academics. Nominal adults need to muster the courage to teach them. I have seen some colleges take students with undistinguished but plausible academic records because of stellar sports achievements. I have seen a great many more colleges trip over themselves recruiting students who know three or four languages – assuming that one of them is English -- or those who are string musicians or state and national math competitors. I met a couple of guys who went to Harvard based on football. They did not do much useful with their lives afterwards, but of course if they had not gone to Harvard they might have been unemployable outside the service industry. The delay of any more sports-field construction until the economic clouds roll by and a re-emphasis on reading would be a good place to remind kids why they are in school. A couple of years down the road, people who actually know useful skills will be able to find work again. The day of “suits” who exist to shift papers from one side of a desk to the other without actually reading them or understanding them may have gone the way of the dinosaur. The schools would be a good place to start cost-cutting, Giving anybody the chop in this kind of economy is cruel and unusual, and could worsen the situation by throwing more people onto public support, so I can’t recommend it. What I would recommend is that we not replace assistants to other assistants once they leave voluntarily, examine how many extracurricular activities are really important, and draw a line in the sand between the sports programs and the academic programs. A lot of people get into teaching “soft” subjects because they love to coach and find teaching academic subjects somewhat tolerable. In the tutoring operation I run as a sideline following the catastrophic collapse of my “day job” the same year my home-schooled daughter started Princeton, the same problem comes up over and over: Guys who love sports cannot or will not read and cannot decipher the SAT passages, and they lack even the most basic knowledge of the realities behind history. The same names come up over and over. Coach This and Coach That. My son is almost 30, and some of these guys were his teachers too, but it was his terrible father who taught him how to read and introduced him to a few books he enjoyed. Math departments have the opposite problem. Math is such a rare skill in our society that most people who are good at it can get college or private-sector jobs. There are good math teachers in high school. There are not as many as we think. The two young women who tutor math for some of the students I tutor in verbal and writing skills can generally drive up SAT math scores 100 points or more simply by finding out which basics the school failed to explain or which misunderstandings the schools failed to correct. One person’s score went up 160 points after eight lessons. His “teacher” was 18 years old at the time. Another guy’s score went up 140 points after six lessons. Both got into their target schools, and a number of others. They had somewhat similar results on the verbal SATs. Taxpayers might look at just what the school systems are worth, not as a fashion show or a sports arena, but as a venue for academic performance. A super school no longer guarantees super job. Bankrupting families and communities to foster that delusion is not intelligent. We need to figure out which classes are vital and let the others slide when the teachers retire. Don’t even think about bonded expansion until the clouds lift. Patch the roof if it leaks, and lock up that sports equipment for the duration. This is serious. The word is out: Thrift is in. The delusion that high-rollers can spend themselves rich or spend themselves popular or spend their kids a high IQ or good study habits may have been the first casualty of the present economic situation. We had all better hope so. Most of us cannot afford these delusions, and if we cannot afford them ourselves, we cannot afford to have others inflict them on us. The meetings of local governing bodies I attend are redolent with cost-cutting. Commendably, this sometimes begins at home. In Wyckoff, the four members of the township committee present, three Republicans and one Democrat, decided by mutual consent that they would waive the stipend money set aside to cover any travel or entertaining mandated by their positions as the township’s elected leaders, and pay their expenses out of their own pockets. They chewed it over a little, but there was no agonizing, and there was a complete absence of theatrics or partisan dissent. Waiving the stipend saved the taxpayers $20,000 in the 2009 budget. Good move. A few days later in Allendale, there was a similar commitment to cost-cutting. The borough administration and the Allendale Library share the same building, with a simple wall and door between the two sections. Some months ago, Allendale received a mandate to add a room with lock-down capacity to the administrative section, and budgeted $150,000 for an expansion onto the rear lawn of both buildings to add some extra space. Unfortunately, the contractors’ bids on Allendale’s expansion specifications came in way over the stipulated amount. The bids specifications were offered again. Again, they came in too high. The borough council decided with the advice and consent of the mayor and borough officials to take over a small office room used by the library and convert that room into the state-mandated lock-down office at a very substantial saving of taxpayer money. The library board was not happy about this, and appears to have seen the move as an encroachment. Council members agreed that since the entire building is jointly owned, a certain spirit of cooperation is essential. One hopes to see some understanding of the absolute need for cooperation in the teeth of tough times. Allendale pulled off an absolute tour de force of negotiation as revealed at the same meeting. The road department workers agreed to a contract where the hard-working people at the beginning stages of their careers received a substantial increase, but experienced workers who make twice as much were willing to settle for a much smaller increase. Anybody who has had to deal with unions knows that both sides behaved wisely on this one, and that things like this do not happen very often and deserve recognition and respect. Even Ridgewood, bastion of noblesse oblige where concerns about taxpayer money were once considered pedestrian and vulgar, recently told the various sports groups not to expect the Schedler Property to be turned into sports fields in the near future. The Ridgewood Council voted Saving what we can while we can save it Ridgewood Heavenly sounds The Seniors at Presentation were delighted to hear the harp being played by Penny McCulloch of Ridgewood at their last meeting in the Community Room. She performed on three of her harps varying in size. It was beautiful to hear as well as educational to learn about the history of the harp.