Back of the Yards

Saturday I went to the Newberry Library, which graciously presented a free reading of the Kenneth Sawyer Goodman’s one-act play, Back of the Yards. 

Set in the 19th century, the didactic Back of the Yards’ dramatizes the question of “What should we do to help poor kids who’re getting into trouble with the law?” It’s a moralistic story which reminded me of Medieval morality plays. The acting was compelling even though it was a reading so they had the script in their hands.

Plot: A priest and policeman meet on the street and discuss what to do with troubled youth. The priest, who believes in training and offering services to the youth,  challenges the officer because the cops go easy on kids guilty of petty crimes. The kids then ignore any warnings and increase their offenses. A neighborhood woman then joins their conversation.

The play then goes to illustrate this argument when a neighborhood hoodlum is shot and dies in the hospital. After the woman goes off to console the vicim’s mother. The priest and cop continue their discussion when the woman’s son arrives with a bloody arm. Soon we learn that he was part of this incident and he plans to leave town to avoid arrest.

My Take: The play hasn’t lost its relevance — and sadly may never. The script was rather heavy-handed and plodding, but the acting rescued the story. While they performed the reading with the scripts in hand, they put a lot of emotion and professionalism into their work, thus keeping the audience interested.

Prior to the play, there were three speakers, long-winded all, who provided background. I’d say they all praised the playwright too much. If this was an example of his work, he’s not on par with the greats of his era.

Still who can criticize a free play with professional actors? Certainly, not me. I’m glad I went.

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Free College?

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I appreciate how stratospheric tuition costs can make higher education out of reach, unless a student is willing to take on massive debt. I blame colleges for the most part. They’ve allowed costs to spiral. They’ve added well paid administrators and programs, (while cutting salaries and benefits) for teachers, more and more of whom work part time because there are few full time positions.

Many politicians are calling for free college. I was with Bernie Sanders when he first proposed this, but I’ve given the issue further thought. I’m now for an alternative — or a few alternatives.

First of all I realize that in the US education is managed more by each state than by the federal government, so I think each state should decide how to provide affordable college options to its citizens. I think the Federal government can come up with some programs, but each state should take responsibility for its own citizens’ education.

For years, students who served in the military through the their service or will serve through the ROTC, get free education. It isn’t free since they do have to work for their education and if they don’t fulfill this obligation, they must pay back the tuition and fees.

A friend of me funded his medical school through a program which required that after graduation, he work in either a rural community or an urban prison.

What I think we should do is to replicate this program through other agencies. A state could find areas where there’s a need for employees. Students could either work part time in a government office while in school or could complete a couple years of work to pay off the money the state has spent on their schooling.

I also believe that since 4 year colleges have gotten so expensive that state governments should offer these programs via 2 years at a community college and 2 at a university. Also, I’d require that the colleges make the most of online education and cut back on extras such as building fancy dorms or state-of-the-art fitness centers. The cutbacks would be done on a school by school basis.

Another option would be for students to work as they do at College of the Ozarks. College of the Ozarks doesn’t charge tuition. Students are required to work for the college, e.g. caring for the landscape, working in an office

I think making higher education something you earn, rather than get for free is a better option. When you’re in college, you’re old enough to work as many do through the private sector, but most of these jobs don’t pay enough to pay all your tuition.  If we made the most of the idea of Work/Study, students would graduate with experience and education. Our state governments services could improve. States could update their antiquated websites (like we have in Illinois). They could offer better customer service so lines wouldn’t take hours at the DMV or other offices people commonly use.

While this is a rough idea, I think the general premise is well worth developing.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Smooth

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Chicago, Illinois

Each week Cee of Cee’s Photography challenges bloggers with a fun prompt. This week we’re to share photos highlighting texture. What textures will you share?

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New York, New York

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New York, New York

If you want to see more fun, smooth fotos, click here.

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