Lower Merion residents talk the talk; now it’s time to walk the walk

by Christopher Paslay


On November 4th, 2008, America voted for change.  We the people voted for Barack Obama, a man who wants to bring balance back to our country, who wants to level the playing field so all Americans can have an equal opportunity at achieving the American dream.


For many people, the appealing part about Obama is that he believes in change through an equitable allocation of resources.  He’s fighting for universal heath care, and his tax policy calls for a “redistribution of wealth”. 


In Montgomery County, according to CNN’s Election Center, 249,493 people pulled the lever for Obama—which was 60% of the county’s vote.  Lower Merion Township was a part of this vote.    


The irony is that these same Lower Merion residents who supported Obama and his principles of balance and redistribution are suddenly jumping ship when it comes to putting these ideas into action.  When the Lower Merion School District decided there needed to be a “redistricting” of students to balance attendance between its two high schools—Lower Merion and Harriton—these same residents cried foul. 


Redistribution stings when you’re the one being redistributed.  It’s okay to spread the wealth when it’s the other guy’s money—but when it’s time for you to anti-up and carry the load, things aren’t so rosy anymore. 


Here’s what I have to say to Lower Merion residents who are belly-aching over the school board’s decision to redistrict their sons and daughters: Stop crying and get over it.  You don’t know how lucky you are.  So your kid has to take a 30 minute bus ride?  Big deal.  Both Harriton and Lower Merion are excellent schools.  They are both very safe.


You think your child is facing a hardship?  You don’t know what a hardship is.  A good portion of the students I teach at Swenson Arts and Technology High School in Philadelphia take THREE buses to school.  Because students attend from all over the city, the commute for some of these kids is close to 90 minutes.  And it’s all public transportation.  Some of these kids are going through neighborhoods at 6:00 in the morning with REAL safety issues. 


And these Lower Merion residents are complaining because their child must travel 30 minutes on a FREE, SAFE, yellow school bus to an excellent school on the other side of town?  PLEASE!!  I took a 25 minute SEPTA trolley ride to school every day when I was a teenager.  It didn’t kill me.   


The most disgusting part is, some of these residents have the audacity to cry racism!  They claim they are being unfairly punished and singled out!  Their sons and daughters won’t be able to see all of their friends at their safe, clean, outstanding new school!  And boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo.


Yesterday, The Philadelphia Inquirer chimed-in on the issue in an editorial headlined, Lower Merion Redistricting: Over the line.  They concluded that, “Instead of rushing to implement redistricting in the fall, the board should go back to the drawing board and reassess the impact of this plan.”  Why?  Because the way the board came up with its boundary lines “seems arbitrary at best, and racially divisive at worst.” 


Racially divisive?  What can the Inquirer possible mean by this?  You can’t “redistrict” minorities?  Only rich white folks can bear the brunt of redistribution of resources? 


The farce is that nothing is actually being redistributed!  The students assigned to Harriton will be getting equally outstanding educations!


Accusations of “institutional racism” don’t sound very fair to me.  It sounds a lot like politicking for power, nothing like the “equal” and “balanced” vision of America Lower Merion residents voted for when they chose Barack Obama.  


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