Monthly Archives: February 2011

Tell Me About the Good Old Days

It seems like at least once a day I hear a teacher or other adult say something that amounts to, or implies, “School was a lot better (or kids were a lot better) in the 60s/70s/80s/90s.”

We all know that we have a tendency to idealize the past. I was a student in the 80s and 90s, and I know schools had problems then. I know teachers worked hard, put in long hours, and were underpaid. Classes were large–there were 29 in my 5th grade class. Many kids had serious behavior and learning issues, even in my wealthy, high-performing suburban school system. School 20 years ago was NOT paradise.

But American public schools in 2011 are widely deemed to be failing. According to a lot of people I hear from, kids today aren’t ready for college or the job market. They can’t speak properly or write well. They have no self-contol, no sense of responsibility. All they care about is video games (or rap, or drugs, or gangs, or whatever). To hear many adults talk, most of America’s children are far inferior to the children of decades past, and the problem keeps getting worse.

Here’s my question, for people who have been around longer than I have: what is the cause of this decline? Assuming for the sake of argument that schools and kids were better “back in the day,” what changed? Is it NCLB? The recession? Budget cuts? Teacher or parent laziness? The internet? Cell phones? Divorce/single parent families? Alien force fields?

I sound sarcastic but I’m actually serious. If our schools really are in large part abject failures, more so than before–and many people think this is the case–what is the primary problem here?


Need some creative ideas!

I need some ideas of what would be the most cost-effective and practical way to deal with the fact that the majority of the things I own are currently 1000+ miles from my home.

Most of my worldly belongings are currently in a storage unit in Georgia.  I have a 5×10 foot space packed to the ceiling.  There is furniture (mostly inexpensive stuff), kitchen items like dishes, small appliances, pots and pans, and utensils; a lot of classroom stuff such as books, bins and boxes, pocket charts, games, puzzles, and so forth; my personal books; linens like towels and sheets; clothes and shoes that were too warm or otherwise not worth bringing to Abu Dhabi, and various photos, yearbooks, and other sentimental items like that.

These things have been there for almost 2 years now.  The storage place charges $53 per month.  I need to figure out the most economical way to a) get the sentimental, irreplaceable items to my place here in Massachusetts and b) either get the other things here or sell them.

Here’s what’s frustrating: most (but not all) of these things are not going to make me a lot of money if I sell them, but shipping them would not be especially cost-effective either.  Also, if I do not ship them here so that I can actually use them, we will at some point have to spend money to replace them, because they’re things we want or need.

For instance, I have a decent vacuum cleaner in storage.  It was used for about 2 years and I could maybe sell it for about $30, but buying the same one or one of similar quality new would be about $150-200, and shipping it would be a good $30-40 at least (if I were to just put it in a box and mail it).  Storing it isn’t free either.

Here are the options I have considered so far for dealing with this situation:

  1. Get full-service movers to go there, pack whatever needs packing, and drive the things to Massachusetts.  Based on quotes I’ve gotten from a couple of companies, this would cost $1500-2000.  It will take us a long time to save up that much money, and meanwhile we would still be paying $53 a month for storage.
  2. Drive the things in a Uhaul or some other rented truck.  Thing is, while more economical at first  glance, the costs add up quick.  There’s the rental itself, mileage, gas, airfare for me to get down there, at least two nights’ motel cost while packing it up and driving it, food, and my own time and effort to do all that moving and driving, including carrying everything up to our 3rd floor apartment when I got here.  Ben could possibly come with me but he doesn’t have a driver’s license yet, and that would be an extra airfare too.
  3. A variation on the Uhaul idea that I have thought of would be renting a minivan, SUV or pickup truck from a regular car rental company instead of a Uhaul and driving that with as much stuff in it as I could fit.  In that case though I wouldn’t be able to fit everything in the unit into the vehicle and would therefore have to figure out what to do with the stuff that didn’t fit, and the rental fees for one-way drives aren’t too reasonable (at least not the ones I’ve been able to find).
  4. Services where you pack a container yourself and they ship it (such as Pods): same problem.  When you add up the airfare, motel, and shipping charge, it gets to be almost as much as the full-service movers would charge. Plus the inconvenience of going down there, packing the thing up, and unpacking it when it arrives.  There’s also no space to put the container if they were to drop it off at our current apartment.
  5. I could go down there, spend a few days boxing up the stuff I really want that is shippable (i.e. not the furniture or anything else big) and send it MA via UPS or some other shipping service.  Then I would have to find some way to sell or otherwise get rid of the furniture and other things that are either too big or not worth shipping.  Here again there are a lot of costs to consider.  Airfare and car rental (or gas and motel if I drove down), a place to stay while I was there, boxes and packing materials since a lot of what is in the unit isn’t really ready to ship as it is, and of course the shipping cost. I have no idea how much it would be without going through the stuff first.
  6. Similar to #5: Drive our Honda Civic down, pack in as much as I can, and drive it back.  Somehow get rid of the other things–sell or donate or whatever.  A big issue with all of the ideas wherein I go there is time; I’d need between 3 and 7 days off to do that.  To save up the money and have the free days to do this it couldn’t be until late summer 2011 at the earliest.

Those are the only ways I can think of to handle this.  Does anyone have an obvious suggestion that I may have missed?  Like I said, there are certain things in there (yearbooks, photo albums, that kind of stuff) that I very much want to have back at some point, although it’s not urgent.  If it weren’t for those things, I would try to just sell or get rid of everything without even going down there.  That’s not an option though, so I have to deal with the situation as it is.

Please give me some ideas.  There must be something I haven’t thought of!