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LJWorld.com weblogs New Ideas, New Possibilities

Why can't Lawrence and Kansas kids have what Kalamazoo, Michigan students have

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City of Edmonton photograph

City of Edmonton photograph by Lawrence Morgan

A new sports complex, or kids that can go to college?

It is all very strange. Lawrence worries about a sports complex instead of building small areas throughout the city with a football-soccer field, and some inside courts and games. The City Library is going to be in one place, instead of small, branch libraries, which could be throughout the city. The sports complex is being built, perhaps, by cronies of the city council. I don't know that for a fact, but it all sounds very odd and ill-informed to me. And it's being done with very little information coming out to the public.

But we, the public, have to know more about what's going on in much greater detail. Who are the developers? What are they getting paid, now and later? What's the rush for this sports complex? What are their ties, if any, to the City Council?

Meanwhile, this recent article from the New York Times says a great deal for a different approach:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/magazine/kalamazoo-mich-the-city-that-pays-for-college.html?_r=2

Instead of building sports complexes with questionable links to KU and to large developers, Kalamzoo, Michigan has a different approach entirely: use the money, plus private donations, to send all kids who graduate from high school to college.

Isn't that a better choice for Lawrence?

Or do we not care about people, just centrally located complexes whose financing information we do not have, even at this late date?

There would have to be changes. Ideally, all cities in Kansas would be able to send their graduates to a college or community college of their choice.

Of course, colleges would have to change, but they will have to change anyway. They can't keep on going the way they're going. Students can't afford the debt which college education (and even community college) places upon them. They don't need many of the courses which currently must be taken by all students.

The current chancellor of KU, whom I supported originally, has taken virtually no initiatives in terms of changing the curriculum or putting into effect digital classes at reduced rates. There is virtually no provision for older students to take classes they want to take. Again, there is virtually no support for the tremendous debt that students are taking on.

In my opinion, the Chancellor has to go at this point, to be replaced by someone who is very forward looking and thinking about the future. The Board of Regents also must change. The City Council must be honest with all the people of Lawrence.

People need to look at this article in the New York Times, this video from Edmonton, Alberta, and give their comments. It will be too late two or three years from now.

Comments

tange 1 year, 7 months ago

/ and I'd thot I'd be crucified in short order for characterizing organized sports as "fruitless"—after all, they only produce statistics, right?—unlike the good vibrations which concerts generate

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Pywacket 1 year, 7 months ago

While I agree wholeheartedly with much of the substance of your post, I think one detail needs clarification. Your comment,

"Instead of building sports complexes with questionable links to KU and to large developers, Kalamzoo, Michigan has a different approach entirely: use the money, plus private donations, to send all kids who graduate from high school to college,"

is misleading. The Kalamazoo Promise was launched and is funded ENTIRELY with private donations. The city didn't "approach" anything--nor has it spent its own money. So it wouldn't be fair to fault Lawrence for having less noble priorities than Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo would not have that program at all if not for the extremely wealthy, insistently anonymous big-ticket investors who (lucky for K'zoo) had ties to the city and chose to launch their generous program there.

As a Michigan native (I went to countless rock concerts at Wings Stadium, which is mentioned prominently in the article you cite), I have kept up with the progress of the Promise since it was first announced, several years before it was implemented. The city of K'zoo was and is (obviously) over the moon about the Promise, but, again, it would be unfair to credit them with spending funds more wisely than Lawrence does, as city funds have nothing to do with the program.

The money Lawrence wants to put into a sports complex (whether you think that a wise investment or not) is chump change next to the amount invested for the K'zoo promise. The only way a similar thing will happen here is if similar barons of industry (anonymous or otherwise) choose to pool their millions to launch such a project. It's not something a city like Lawrencecould handle with its modest access to funds.

It is certainly healthy to question where public revenues go and to champion the value of education and of making public amenities (such as the library) more accessible to people all over the city. Expressing these thoughts can be done without making unfair comparisons between two cities.

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oldbaldguy 1 year, 7 months ago

thoughtful article. i agree with getting rid of chancellor. why can't we get one who is a little younger and maybe more innovative?

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 7 months ago

I've always wondered how Lawrence could be a college town when we do not emphasize education or intellectual pursuits in general. It's like having a flagship university is just an excuse to play team sports. The top priority of the school board and the city commission seems to be sports. There isn't a store in town that doesn't have a Jayhawk or sell KU apparel. Following teams is great fun, but Lawrence has a tendency to go overboard. I read somewhere that Lawrencians like to play. The writer was right.

Team sports develop a sense of togetherness and loyalty. Team sports leave a lot of people on the benches or at home. Investment in lifetime sports would balance sports as a priority, but would still deemphasize intellectual pusuits.

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tange 1 year, 7 months ago

I've wondered what might be accomplished if we somehow were able to channel the resources and energy associated with otherwise fruitless (e.g.) grand stadium events into human development. Perhaps our political process would evolve beyond the foul-ridden, winner-take-all sporting event it has become.

/ rah rah rah hiss boo blah

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