The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 12, 2008


Questioning the Honor Roll project on the Green

Yes, at the Spring 2008 Town Meeting, $98,000 in Community Preservation Act funds was allocated for a new Veterans Honor Roll on the Town Green. But after reading about a recent meeting of the Honor Roll Committee in the August 29 issue of the Mosquito, I have concerns.

Levi-Wong Design Associates are discussing moving trees, leveling the hill and building multiple memorial plazas to foster “town connectivity.” Can our small Town Green handle stone retaining walls, granite benches and possible stone monuments or statues? Luckily, the committee has agreed not to build a linked system of memorials all around the perimeter of the Green.

The Honor Roll Committee, which includes Larry Bearfield, Ned Berube, Alan Cameron, Alan Carpenito, Greg Fairbank and Doug Stevenson, plans to hold an open meeting in late September or early October to solicit ideas for the project. Special invitations will go out to the Historical Commission, Planning Board, Town Center residents, First Religious Society Parish Committee, Pathways Committee and other town boards. All interested citizens will be encouraged to attend. This will be an opportunity to consider a range of possibilities.

At their meeting this week, the committee will have discussed the building materials to be used for the monument, as well as the paving materials for the proposed plaza or plazas.

All of us here in Carlisle want to honor our veterans, many of whom have fought for their country during wartime. We want to see the two to three hundred names placed on a new Honor Roll, constructed on the Town Green in time for the 2009 Memorial Day observance. The wooden Honor Rolls have deteriorated and need to be replaced, but do we need to replace them with grandiose, multi-memorial plazas? How about something more subdued and more in character with this small New England town? I urge us to keep it simple and connected to the look and historical feel of earlier times that so many of us wish to preserve.

Polonius redux

In the last few weeks, the number of male enhancement promotions trapped by the spam filter have been overwhelmed by balance sheet enhancement come-ons: debt consolidation, debt reduction, credit counseling, loan renegotiation, foreclosure postponement, and on and on. Even more than the news of the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the rising jobless rate, and ballooning government deficits, this single metric – let’s call it the spam topic index – speaks volumes about the state of affairs. Bright entrepreneurs are betting that matters have reached a tipping point for the middle class, so they are advertising how they can help.

Of course sex and money aren’t exactly new drivers for American business. And for sure business cycles can no more be repealed than the tides held back. But while we now talk about sexual matters, sometimes to the point of boredom, while we provide sex and moral education in our schools and churches, we can’t quite bring ourselves to do the same for finance. I guess we hope that kids will be taught at home – from the same adults who themselves are so good about spending less than they make, investing what they save, and delaying gratification. Well, maybe they will pick up money management skills in the locker room, or while chillin’ at the pizza joint.

Consider Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. A great school, believe me. CCHS is blessed with bright, caring, well-paid teachers, a student body with its share of the advantages in American life and then some, an engaged School Committee and supportive taxpayers. Yet CCHS offers not a single class on personal financial literacy. Forget about a personal finance requirement for graduation, the class doesn’t even exist as an elective. I double-checked with the Guidance Department. Not even a free collection of Ben Stein columns.

Lest you think I am about to launch into one of my Massachusetts-is-falling-behind rants, fear not. Only three states in the entire country require a personal finance course for high school graduation (Utah, Missouri and Tennessee). And these three appear to have added the requirement only quite recently.

Every two years the Jump$tart Coalition surveys high school seniors. In 2008 the Coalition surveyed over 6,800 seniors in 40 states. The 2008 survey results paint a picture of people unclear on fundamental concepts:

• Only 48% knew that paying only the minimum amount on a credit card (versus paying the balance in full) will result in more total finance charges;

• A mere 17% correctly answered that stocks are likely to yield higher returns than savings bonds, savings accounts and checking accounts over the next 18 years (there has never been an 18-year period in modern history when stocks didn’t yield more);

• 60% did not know that they could lose their health insurance if their parents became unemployed; and

• 64% think a house financed with a fixed rate mortgage is a bad hedge against a sudden increase in inflation.

Now consider that many of these 2008 high school seniors will eventually owe college student debt equivalent to several car loans, that many of these student loans are private, unsubsidized loans with floating interest rates, and that student loan debt is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. The mind reels.

I went to a college that required students to jump in a pool and swim 100 yards to graduate. The place didn’t want its alumni drowning. It seems to me we owe as much to the children in our communities: teaching them how to keep their heads above water financially for life.



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