Kafka and Kelley

Kelley Williams-Bolar may not be familiar with the literary works of Franz Kafka, but her life recently has been a Kafkaesque nightmare.

After serving 10 days in jail, convicted on a charge of falsifying residency documents, she faces 3 years probation and slave-duty to the State with 80 hours of “community service”. Why? She wanted her two daughters to attend a safer school than the one designated for her home in downtown Akron, Ohio. The area is riddled with crime mostly related to the illicit drug trade; police have recorded 12 break-ins at her residence.

Kelley’s father, Edward Williams, lives in suburban Akron. With Mr. Williams, who is also being charged in the affair, she conspired to declare his home a residence. This enabled her kids to attend school in the Copley-Fairlawn School District, offering more security and greater academic challenge. Or so they thought. The real challenge turned out to be “Kafkaesque bureaucracies”.

The least palatable way in which their plot might have been discovered is through an anonymous snitch. Just one disturbing aspect of government informants is their uncertain identity. Regardless, officials saw fit to hire a private detective, who videotaped Kelley bringing her kids to the school in the suburbs.

Armed with evidence the school district asked Kelley to pay $30,000, since she was not a local taxpayer, to provide four years of schooling. News reports indicate that Kelley refused to pay. (It is probable that she might not have been in a financial position to commit to such an obligation. If she were, it is likely that she would have chosen to live elsewhere.) The case went to court. Brian Poe, Superintendent of Schools was quoted as saying:

 “…you need to follow the law. If you choose to step outside of the law …you are going to have to face the consequences….”

Something about the case is troubling for many people in the area. Even the Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove seemed bothered by the process. Reportedly, she indicated that the prosecutor’s office refused to consider reduced misdemeanour charges.

Why so troubling? Could it be that the circumstances are “marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity….” as described by at least one dictionary’s definition of the term “Kafkaesque”?

Our protagonist is touched by the faceless menace of social engineering. The State has made it clear that it owns her life. Because it provides her with subsidized housing she is compelled to live in a crime-infested neighbourhood. The consequences of prohibition policies include a black market drug trade, with its attendant violence and corruption. The police owe a duty to protect the community at large but no such duty to any citizen in particular. Thus Kelley is victimized repeatedly by break-ins with no resolution; the only way to get personal attention from the “system” is by becoming a law-breaker. Toss in police-state tactics like civilian snitches and monitoring of her movements mixed with outrageously expensive tuition and it is hard not to feel disoriented and menaced.

This is a failed education system. There is no way that a privatized system could have evolved into such a conflict-ridden mess. Instead of profit motives you have bureaucratic consequences: conservative distrust, power lust and “command and control” policies. Consider Superintendent Poe’s remarks again.

Without profit motive there is no incentive for service and efficiency, no competition to provide the best education at the lowest possible price. Curriculum is supplied by politicians, bureaucrats and unionized teachers represented by thugs in national politics. Education is properly a local matter and policy should be focussed on shrinking the distance between parent and student on the one hand and school and teacher on the other.

Presidents and politicians propose programs and more spending. The solution is in abandoning the whole rotten public education system and moving toward full privatization.

©Copyright 2011 Edward Podritske

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