Category Archives: Kansas City

Mayor James takes risks on KC schools

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star writes that Mayor Sly James is betting his future on the schools, as he vies to take control of the troubled district while the state considers a takeover. The columnist strikes a down note, noting that James is a Marine and a lawyer by training, not a school administrator (Is that necessarily a bad thing, considering many administrators’ track record in this district?). He can’t eliminate urban poverty and give every child a good home.

All that is true. If James gets the control he wants, it’s on him. He owns it. And it’s hard to see how even the most successful singular leader can make a major turnaround in just a few years. Nevertheless, without having followed every twist and turn of this latest crisis in the district, I like the fact that James wants to take control. To assume responsibility. It would be hard to do any worse than the current state of affairs.

The only question is, could the state do any better? That’s a matter of speculation at this point. A state takeover signals just how dire the situation is, and may offer some relief from local bickering over problems and solutions. Yet, we shouldn’t forget that management from above and layers of bureaucracy has helped create the mess seen today.

When state and federal policymakers want to “help” local school districts by “giving” them money, locals must remember there are always strings attached. That’s just common sense. Yet education types everywhere hoot and howl whenever someone attempts to micromanage them or restrict them. Usually it’s the same people who constantly clamor for more state and federal “aid.” Resources without responsibility, say some public education backers.

Do they also not expect that in the bizarre world of public education where human resource decision-making is so regimented and restrained, the inevitable alternative is micromanagement of personnel? Autonomy without accountability, cry the teachers unions. Myriad tests and measurements, and a battery of mind-numbing, soul-sucking regulation are the impotent, annoying substitutes for this refusal within public education to accept responsibility or accountability.

In the interest of local control, a mayoral takeover at the city level is probably superior to an education department takeover at the state level, in theory. Again, I don’t know all the specifics of the current situation, and I don’t know Sly James or what his learning curve would be like. But if he can convince DESE and others that he’s the man with a plan, then more power to him.

As for what he should do if and when that happens – or what the state or anybody else should do – that’s another discussion for another day. For starters, every student, parent, and especially every public educator can start by adopting James’s attitude when it comes to education: It’s on me.


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Filed under Education, Kansas City

IHOP comes under fire

That headline was written with no pun intended, btw. But the IHOP worship center in south KCMO is being sued by the IHOP pancake chain for trademark infringement. This article by Donald Bradley in the Kansas City Star – linked to by the Drudge Report tonight – has some of the details. Frankly, I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner. It would seems the restaurant corporation has at least a decent case, though I’m unfamiliar with the details of trademark law.

I read all the comments on the Star’s website, and some are quite critical of IHOP and its members. There are also a few IHOP defenders making their points and offering thoughts. Yes, there’s the question of the trademark dispute, but there’s also the question of IHOP itself and the nature of its essence. Like most things, simple characterizations one way or the other do not accurately portray the real nature of this issue.

I grew up in South KCMO before IHOP was around. I swam at the Red Bridge YMCA, played baseball at 3&2 near the Grandview triangle, attended church at Colonial Presbyterian Church at 95th and Wornall. It’s not a perfect place but in many ways its a pretty good one. Places always change, and this part of town has changed, is changing, and will continue to change in the near future. IHOP seems to be part of that.

IHOP no doubt sees its mission as a global one and a spiritual one. But IHOP lives in the temporal world, and has a street address. It has bills to pay, floors to clean and neighbors to live with. For the locals, and particularly those who lived in the area before IHOP arrived, it is the practical things that define this new resident and whether its presence is a welcome or unwelcome one.

Spoken or otherwise, there are questions and answers that will determine these matters. Are its members kind and courteous? Are they honest and responsible? Do they treat the place and its people with respect? As religious people, are they thoughtful and temperate, or superstitious and fanatic? The IHOP family must first and always seek to love its neighbors.

I’ve known a number of IHOP folks over the years, including several I regard with affection and respect. To a modest degree, I’ve had some contact with the extended Bickle family, and, as it’s said, have “known people who know” the Bickles well. I’ve personally been to IHOP on a handful of occassions, mostly several years ago, usually to sit in the prayer room and read a bit of my Bible, and to pray and think and take in some of the music. I’m something of a night owl, so it was nice having a place open 24/7 where I could go and do that.

However, I do think there is at least potentially something to the general notion that IHOP is trafficking in the strange and sensational (a topic I have started to write about and will try to publish on later), and that its followers have developed a certain set of psycho-social distinctions, not all of them positive (though I would not call it a cult, as one or two commenters on the Star’s website did). I say this even though, let me repeat, that I know and care for some who have been involved with IHOP at one time or another.

There are all sorts of groups out there, with all kinds of beliefs and practices. Here in America, that sort of thing flourishes, and always has. The one thing they all have in common, however, is an opportunity and obligation to do what is in their ability to be good neighboors. It’s up to IHOP to determine what that means, both as local residents and responsible members of the business community.

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Filed under Christianity, Kansas City