Letter from the Editor: November 2009

November 2009

We don’t usually plan an issue with the aim of tackling major societal themes, but two seem to dominate this month: education and religion. We knew that education was going to be part of the mix when we set about gathering data on the 30 public and private schools that ended up in “Multiple Choice,” our  high schools package. But as the rest of issue came together, the tendrils of both topics found their way into almost every section. For starters, a number of the schools on our big list are religious-affiliated—which should come as no surprise in a town with such a deep history of Catholic education. However, our list goes well beyond the usual suspects to include a number of public schools giving the private institutions (whether religious-affiliated or not) a real run for the money. And yes, money plays an unavoidably large role in how and where kids get their secondary education—whether that means tuition, students searching for financial aid, or school districts pouring tax dollars back into their facilities. The good news is that Greater Cincinnati has a surplus of excellent high schools staffed by dedicated teachers striving to challenge kids and give them a springboard into the 21st century. And as thorough as our own reporting is, it behooves me to point out that not every good school in the area is on our list. That’s not because we don’t think they’re good; they are. Whether you’re a harried parent or an inquisitive 8th grader, we urge you to use this list as a starting point, and remember that the real education lies in the journey, not the destination.

Maybe it goes without saying, but Cincinnatians follow their high school football teams with religious fervor. Which is why it seemed only natural to focus our attention on the local powerhouse with perhaps the most fanatical fans  the Elder Panthers. Contributing editor Jack Heffron (Elder ’75) spent months trailing wide receiver Tim O’Conner and quarterback Mark Miller in an effort to capture what it takes to be a high school football player in a town obsessed with high school football. Answer: Passion, commitment, and in the Panthers case, purple blood coursing through your veins. Traveling down an entirely different vein, last summer Linda Vaccariello spent the day with 70 paleontologists (led by UC professor Arnie Miller) at the Creation Museum. To say that it was an educational experience would be understating it; to say that it was a religious experience would be overstating it. But somehow, in the rooms where the dinosaurs and dragons mingle with Adam and Eve, there the twain did meet.

Our dual themes pop up in a few other places: Julie Irwin Zimmerman’s report on the financial pressures affecting Hebrew Union College; Brent Donaldson’s interview with the national legal director of American Atheists; and Kathy Y. Wilson’s deconstruction of Issue 9, the streetcar amendment, which we’ll be voting on this month. Trying to understand the politics behind what she describes as a classic Cincinnati fracas is, if nothing else, an act of faith in the extreme. God help us all.

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