Schooling, fish

 

Before I came to work at High Country News, I lived in San Francisco, a beautiful city of sometimes ugly contrasts, one involving education. In wealthy, cosmopolitan San Francisco, public schools are a horror.

There are many reasons why S.F. schools have largely stunk for three decades, but one of them involves settlement of a 1978 federal discrimination lawsuit. Under the settlement, S.F. schools — which had been egregiously segregated, with black students receiving abysmal educations — were integrated, which is a good thing. But under the settlement (or consent decree), kids were bused across the city, willy-nilly, so schools met racial caps.

Improvements in education, meanwhile, became an afterthought. A 1997 article I edited explained the judicial involvement this way: “(W)hile the court continued to monitor the situation and as children continued to do poorly in school, the consent decree was tinkered with time and again. Eventually, the decree specified what programs would go in which schools, who would be hired to run the programs, where those employees would be put, and what would be done if and when the programs and associated people didn’t work.”

By the time my son was ready to attend school a few years later, a lawsuit by Chinese-American parents — who alleged racial caps discriminated against their high-performing children — had technically ended the court-micromanaged strewing of kids across the city. Still, a computer formula assigned your kid to a school, which might or might not be anywhere near your home, and the assignments still seemed to correlate to someone’s notion of diversity nirvana. And, by and large, the schools still stunk, particularly for the African-American kids the lawsuit was meant to help.

If you wonder what San Francisco schools have to do with High Country News, take a look at “Salmon Justice,” Ken Olsen’s in-depth look at U.S. District Judge Jim Redden and a long-running lawsuit that deals with salmon restoration in the Snake/Columbia River Basin. Clearly, the federal government has pushed the legal envelope for years, refusing to offer up anything close to a legitimate plan for saving endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead. As a result, Redden has given clear and justified warning: If the Bush administration doesn’t put forward a viable salmon restoration plan, he may take “more dramatic actions.”

The administration’s behavior in this case — including, especially, its absurd contention that man-made dams are part of the natural environment — has been reprehensible. On the emotional level, it would be satisfying to see Redden slap the feds down, take control of the Columbia/Snake hydroelectric system, and require the breaching of a few fish-killing dams, to boot.

Just the same, I hope Redden’s measured warning alerts the relevant federal agencies (and the interest groups suing them) to a hard reality: Salmon may not thrive any better in courtrooms than schoolchildren, and judicial control can be onerous for both sides of a lawsuit. Yes, if the Bush administration continues to drag its administrative feet, Redden must take control of the river. I suspect it would be a lot better for the fish, though, if the federal government decided — at long last — to follow good science and established law, so he doesn’t have to.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DISTRICT MANAGER
    The San Juan Islands Conservation District is seeking applicants for the District Manager position. The position is open until filled and application plus cover letter...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Time Arts, a Bozeman-based nonprofit, is seeking an Executive Director. MTA advocates for and produces public artworks that advance social & environmental justice in...
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -