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Radix Journal

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Tag: Atlanta

Your Quality Versus Their Quantity

“Your deep souls,” said Lee (they were in the field), “hate change.  They see it as a distraction and a nuisance for anyone who cares about important things.”

The following is a selection from Tito Perdue’s novel Reuben, published this month by Washington Summit Publishers / Radix.

Purchase it at Amazon or directly from Radix.


“Your deep souls,” said Lee (they were in the field), “hate change. They see it as a distraction and a nuisance for anyone who cares about important things.”

The boy listened. All morning he had been breaking up clods of earth with his enormous hoe, until the noise of it had at last awakened Leland and pushed him out of bed. Still half-asleep, he emerged in a shirt and tie and pajama bottoms. He had managed to get into one of his shoes, and the other one, too. No use to call for breakfast, not since his wife had begun going down into Birmingham, there to fritter away full nine hours each day in an oatmeal-colored office building with antennae on the roof. Many times had he sought for her there, always to clap his hand over the muzzle of the telescope when he saw the quality of the people who drifted in and out of ken. Anyway, it would have killed him, he believed, to find his own beloved wife tethered to a desk and made to share in some of the preposterous activities that had grown so popular these last hundred years. (He could not remember whether she were engaged in public relations work for a consulting firm, or whether consultancy for a lobbying effort on behalf of advertising companies involved in public relations.) Today, his spyglass seemed especially drawn to some several tired-looking women who, most of them, or the best of them anyway, had far preferred to be at home on the farm. Just now he was examining a young woman of perhaps fifty, whose face and boredom without end told him all that he presently cared to know about this century and what it had come to. A milkmaid she might have been, a bee mistress, or tavern keeper’s daughter, any of which were better than this.

“It’s impossible,” he said, “to return the world to a previous period in history, and Toynbee says so, too. Nevertheless, that’s what I expect you to do.”

This time the boy expletived out loud in a kind of final exasperation and threw his hoe down.

“But I don’t expect you to do it all at once, good Lord no. Why a few more years of this”—he inclined his head in the direction of the city—“and they’ll come to you of their own choosing, demanding to be put to sleep.”

The child muttered a word or two and then, showing further signs of a resentment that Lee had not previously seen in him, began to extract the little green peas, which only moments ago he had been sowing, and began hurling them ferociously one by one at the horizon and the sun. Lee turned his gaze upon him. The older man still had more books and music to his credit than the boy could summon on his own behalf.

“Ingrate! Have you forgot your obligations to Judy, and to me?”
There were other peas visible along the row. Marching side by side with him, Lee continued his harangue as the boy went back to planting the little objects in the proper way.

“Yes. What we see here in America is the absolute triumph of quantity over quality. And that’s why your quality has to be larger than their quantity. Now, I want you to continue this row of peas all the way down to that low-lying series of hummocks yonder where seven of my ancestors lie dreaming.”
They both stopped and looked in that direction. As to how the boy was to accomplish all this and restore the ancient constitution, break the cities into towns, set up opera houses, and keep the wealth out of ignorant hands . . . It made Lee tired to think about it, but also glad that his own work was nearly finished now.

He spoke no further that day. Leaving the boy to his labors, Lee came inside and was well on his way to bed when, suddenly, he understood that winter had ended, bringing in its wake a long and tedious wait before it (winter, he meant to say) would agree to come back again. He did so dread it, the arrival of good weather and the sounds of noise as the usual low-grade people came bursting out of the city in order to contaminate with their persons the roadways and long-ago-lovely hills. He trembled for his wife and his books, but especially did he tremble for his monster, lest the people come and poke at him before his time had come. He knew them! Yea, and knew the hungers that drove the Democracy ever onward toward more perverted forms of music and television around the clock. Spring was coming in.

Because she had returned from the city with her usual cheerfulness curtailed, Lee strove to keep out of her way. But when at last it came to be ten o’clock and still he’d been given nothing to eat, that was when he went and knelt down next to her cot and tried to get some conversation out of her.

“Well!” he said.

She turned slowly and gazed at him.

“The garden is planted, almost. Assuming Reuben ever comes back from Atlanta.”

“Atlanta?”

“Why yes. I had to send him on a little mission, don’t you know.”

(He winked twice and nudged her where she lay.) “Nothing he can’t handle. Hell, I could almost do it myself. So. And how was your day?”

“Oh Lee, these people, they. . .”

“Yes, I know.”

“But they’re very polite.”

“Certainly they are! And well-dressed, too, I’ll ween.”

“Oh, Lee.”

“Ignorant of everything, but full of expertise—am I right? I did warn you.”

“They have relationships.”

“Jesus!”

“But they . . .”

“They don’t really like each other very much—is that what you want to say?”

“It’s so horrible, Lee.”

“Yes. Now my grandmother, to take one example, was an elderly woman, and yet she could have sliced to ribbons this whole generation with her pruning knife alone. Want some wine?”
He ran for it and after pouring himself a substantial drink, threw on some of his favorite music, nineteenth-century stuff, the twentieth’s only antidote.

Good with ladles and good with spoons, they reached, Lee and Judy, across the table to exchange samples of various things. Invigorated by that, Lee then shoved off, going from one piece of furniture to the next until in process of time, he came upon his favorite section of the house, a dark precinct with numbers of good books in it. It was here he had placed his best couch, a calming influence covered in cowhide. For him this was by far the best part of the day, a time of napping and digestion; he liked to lie there for an hour or so, scripting in his mind the dreams he planned to unfurl later on. Herself, the woman had found his grandmother’s glasses, an heirloom with gold frames and very thin lenses, and was sewing studiously in the almost insufficient light of the paraffin lamp. Would only she might turn a few degrees in his direction, then would he be able to spy upon her from his favorite angle; instead, the lamp began to sputter and then, finally, went out altogether, leaving them with nothing to do but to step forthwith into those same dreams prepared by him with so much foresight.

Reuben

from 24.95

By Tito Perdue

Under the tutelage of Lee Pefley, Reuben learned what must be done. And when the time came, he left Alabama and took up the task of conquering the world, or at least the Occidental share of it. This novel is a chronicling of Reuben’s necessary, great, and terrible deeds. 

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Mo’ Snow Days, Mo’ Problems

This was Tuesday, the 28th of January, 2014. As I marveled at the novelty of witnessing a teenager taking in her first snow, the city of Atlanta crept into the first stages of a quickly escalating, snow-induced cardiac arrest. A mere two hours later, Atlanta came to a complete and utter halt frozen in time like some poor, naïve animal suspended in mid-gait amidst an overwhelming and instant freeze. The whole city, stretching nearly a hundred miles from north to south and east to west, lapsed into a Code Blue in front of our collective eyes and died without nary a person, organization, or government to fix the situation.

How Public Education Woes Shut Down the City of Atlanta

In a non-descript public high school building somewhere in Atlanta, I stared outside between two rectangular slits as snow gracefully fell beyond the meager windows. With noon approaching, the African American students, whom I service, continued to grow more and more antsy every minute they found themselves stuck inside the drab, off-white, cement block rooms, except for one young lady from Ghana who had never seen snow before. I watched her and mirrored her grin in my own as she smiled ear to ear admiring the rare precipitation with delight. No word from county whether dismissal would come early today. As parents slowly trickled to the school alleviating teachers of wound-up students one-by-one, I had long since given up on instruction for the day, Hamlet Act II, Scene i and Julius Caesar Act I, Scene ii as the docket demanded.

This was Tuesday, the 28th of January, 2014. As I marveled at the novelty of witnessing a teenager taking in her first snow, the city of Atlanta crept into the first stages of a quickly escalating, snow-induced cardiac arrest. A mere two hours later, Atlanta came to a complete and utter halt frozen in time like some poor, naïve animal suspended in mid-gait amidst an overwhelming and instant freeze. The whole city, stretching nearly a hundred miles from north to south and east to west, lapsed into a Code Blue in front of our collective eyes and died without nary a person, organization, or government to fix the situation. Mother Nature balked at the helpless humans who had tempted the fates of weather and once again lost. For outsiders and denizens of oft cold and snowy regions of the globe, this predicament seems outrageous beyond comprehension, a city grinding to a halt over two to three inches of snow; however, outside of mere governmental oversight and incompetency that plagues multicultural cities, a far greater dilemma set the precedent for the early afternoon shutdown: our terrible education woes, in particular, our EOCT (End of Course Test) scores.

Many articles have been published the last few days that accurately describe both the chaos and the preceding narrative that allowed this mess to occur. One of the more popular articles floating around Facebook the last few days was this article How Hothlanta Happened (Again) which describes in eight reasons how this disaster happened (again) referring to Atlanta Snowpocalypse of 2011. Reason #4 of 8, which explains how two-to-three inches of snow brought the city to a grinding halt, states,

And then something happened, and nothing happened in response. No one freaked out when winter storm advisories were announced. No cancellations were made, and the city and GDOT had nothing ready, and no capacity to catch up once they were behind. The city and state play a game of chicken with winter weather. The usual tactic is to call everything off, cancel everything early, and risk ridicule for the sake of not having people trapped on the roads for ten hours. This is usually done with the luxury of a night to prepare.

One facet of this quagmire is, as the latter selection points out, Georgia Department of Transportation’s complete lack of preparedness for this type of winter weather. The other side of this quagmire is why no cancellations were made in regards to public facilities, especially the schools. For the adults of the city, corporations and businesses had the final say on shutting down; however, governmental facilities, which education is merely a branch, are decided by the counties themselves. Herein lies the reason why the one o’clock gridlock happened. The schools were reluctant to shut down, and when they collectively decided to do so, the timing, along with the weather, effectively crippled the city.

Apparently, businesses and corporations were waiting to see whether the schools would shut down early or make it to the usual end of the day. When the metro schools did begin to close, corporations and businesses knew there was going to be a mass exodus of parents in relation to this early dismal, and timed their own closings with that of the schools. Most of the school systems in metropolitan Atlanta did not call off school on this fateful day, and early dismal announcements did not begin until around noon to 1pm. As a result, approximately three million people left work for the day and the schools began early dismal at the same time. So imagine 6pm rush hour moved earlier to 1pm, add snow and ice to the mix, and, lastly, consider school dismissal which entails thousands of busses ferrying students all across the county, etc. The result has made Atlanta the laughing stock of the nation at present. The following is a picture chronicling the time, the traffic gridlock, and the total shut down of the city on Google Maps.

Here is where most mainstream news sources will cease their journalistic endeavors. Why were the various metropolitan boards of education so reluctant to cancel school for January 28th the day before and thereby saving themselves the hassle? The answer is test scores, specifically the EOCT (End of Course Test) scores. According to the 2012-2014 Georgia Assessment Calendar on the Georgia Department of Education website, the Spring EOCT administration begins April 28 and continues to June 6, 2014. For teachers, these EOCT scores can make or break you. Most teachers spend the entirety of the year teaching in preparation for their respective tests eschewing whole parts of the curriculum and certain Common Core standards that are historically less manifest on the EOCT. There is so much scrutiny for teachers to close the racial gap between blacks and Hispanics at the bottom and Asians and whites at the top that the whole system now revolves around these scores. These scores have become so important that many school systems in Georgia (and around the country) are beginning to tinker with, and hopefully fully integrate in the future, Merit-Based-Pay to encourage older teachers to retire and encourage younger teachers to really “go the extra mile.” The new salary system would effectively determine your income based upon your test scores and percentage gains.

The following image is a composite of EOCT test score results from Winter of 2007 to Winter of 2012 arranged by racial demographic. The scores account for Winter EOCT retakes (i.e. W07) and Spring EOCT first takes (i.e. S08). This data comes from the Georgia Department of Education website and is entitled TESTING BRIEF: Georgia End of Course Test (EOCT) Winter Administration, November 26, 2012 – January, 4th, 2013. The numbers for each seasonal administration represent the percentage of students who “Meets” or “Exceeds” the standard. This basically means the percentage of students who passed the test for each respective course.

The EOCT scores for each subject illuminate the gap that the nation wants to pretend does not exist. This gap is the proverbial elephant in the room for educational systems across the country.

Therefore, metropolitan boards of education need students in seats every-single-day to receive that precious instructional time in the lead-up to the EOCT testing days at the end of Spring semester. After the cheating scandals and the failure of other artificial means to boost test scores, the attention of the nation and the federal government at large continues to scrutinize, analyze, and audit every move sub-standard, low achieving districts make. This is why Atlanta Public Schools, Clayton County, DeKalb County, Fulton County, and Gwinnett County schools, among others, did not cancel school the day before. That is, these school systems could not afford to lose the one day of instruction their students desperately need to increase the EOCT scores, and, thus, close the racial gap. As a result, all waited until the transportation and weather quandary was beyond them and absolute chaos ensued.

The weather fiasco is effectively kicking the schools systems of Atlanta while they are already down. Being on the inside of the public education system, I can vouch for the terror and animosity teachers have for EOCT’s. Not only is the scrutiny of the federal government at play concerning these test scores, but also massive amounts of funding for schools, as well. Percentages gained by the current administration, whether on the respective boards of education or of the schools themselves, serve to enhance the prestige of those in charge as well as increase credibility for determining funds for the near future. Therefore, when scores, funding, and careers are all at stake, superintendents, boards of education, and administrators will continue to tempt the fates in these kinds of scenarios.

As adversity reigned upon the city that day, white folks the city over did what white folks often do in times of need: help one another until the crisis is resolved. I will now refer you to the following articles: The Silver Lining Of Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse 2014, Storm victims find snow angels on social media, or this Facebook page. Obviously, whites weren’t the only ones helping others on this day, but, funny enough, you can’t find any pictures of diversity lending a helping hand.

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