Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Faith Works 9-23-06
Jeff Gill

A Lively Night Among the Dead

Next Friday evening, Sept. 29 at 6:00 pm, drop by one of Licking County’s great historic documents, artistic achievements, and path-breaking social innovations.
That would be Cedar Hill Cemetery, out Rt. 79 going north on Newark’s edge.
Founded here just after 1850, the national "rural cemetery" movement began less than twenty years before with Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston, the absolute epicenter of art and culture for America in those days. The idea of an idyllic, attractive setting for meditation and strolling among the monuments and mausoleums of the departed gave birth to parks in cities like Central Park in New York, the national park movement, and pretty much all of what we now call landscape architecture.
Our local story nicely echoes the national account. Newark had a cemetery just west of downtown, past Fourth St. north of Main. The city grew and the burials were relocated to Sixth St., where the Licking County Historical Society now has a home, our hosts for next Friday.
Only a mound marks this spot, which received committals from around 1812 to 1850. Once again, the growing city meant it was time to move the necropolis, and longtime civic leader Israel Dille, who had promoted the development of Courthouse Square as a "botanical garden," can be seen maneuvering to press Newark to try something grand.
Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Baltimore: all had tried the arcadian experiment. Sculpted grounds along with stately sculpture in a secluded, peaceful spot were a rest from the bustle of the newly industrialized cities, and a tonic for reflection and prayer. Could Newark create such a spot, and get the citizenry behind it as a central, civic cemetery?
Well, Israel Dille had helped create our modern courthouse area, our first arboretum, and the pioneer public school board, so this was but a small challenge. Going bankrupt trying to bring the first railroads through town did keep him from investing personally in the project, but his likely role is confirmed by the fact that he was given the largest lot at the top of the highest spot on Cedar Hill.
If you’ve been there, and don’t recall a large, imposing Dille marker, don’t worry. You’re not going blind. He has no stone, no inscription.
Would you like to know why? Come join us on Friday where your faithful scrivener will portray . . . oh, you’d figured that out already, hadn’t you?
The Licking County Historical Society asks visitors to arrive at the Gothic Chapel inside the gates at 6:00 pm, where a brief talk will precede a hike (dress accordingly!) to meet a few of the permanent residents, dramatically portrayed, near their places of repose. Guests are asked to contribute $5.00, and society members are free; you may call 345-4898 for more info.
We promise you’ll leave knowing a bit more about life and faith and death and more, and we also promise . . . that you’ll get to leave!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; share your tales of memorials and cemeteries to knapsack77@gmail.com.
Notes From My Knapsack 9-24-06
Jeff Gill

Nothing Can Compare To a Teacher

Adjusting for inflation is a tricky question, especially over long periods of time. Fluctuations in the value of currency, the money supply, and commodity values mean that there is no one percentage per annum you can tidily apply.
People who write historical fiction, and journalists of many sorts use a web site you can go fiddle with yourself, at "www.westegg.com/inflation." See what you think.
I bring up this web site because I used it for an interesting comparison recently, checking a dollar amount from 150 years ago and more and asking what that sum would be in today’s dollars. The result was a surprise even when I expected it.
My comments last week brought some email chiding me for supporting our "unbearable" taxes in Ohio today, and commenting that teachers in the public school system are very highly paid – the implication being, overpaid.
As to the first point, may I point back (and my mom always said that was rude, but oh well) that the oft cited "Ohio has the third worst tax climate" is from a foundation that, aside from opposition to pretty much any tax whatsoever as far as I can tell from their website (look at the fine print on Blackwell’s ads to find it), has made a qualitative claim sound quantitative.
In other words, they did a survey asking businesses how they felt about how sales taxes were collected, and Ohio firms think they have to remit more often than other states, and we were the third most complained about. Are we the third most taxed state? Nope, not even close; we’re about in the middle by most measures.
Medicaid and other growing governmental obligations cannot grow much more as a percent of the state budget, and I hope Ted Strickland has the vertebrae to address that concern. We shouldn’t pay much more as a percent of our total income in taxes than we do. This household, the Lovely Wife tells me, is pushing 35% when you add local, property, state, sales, and federal income taxes together and divide by our gross income.
But this household will still vote for the Licking Park District levy because we need to nail down some green space purchases while we still can, and Rich Niccum and the gang with LPD does miracles on a miniscule budget, and I trust them to use the levy proceeds the way they promise.
As for teacher salary, if you’ve read me over the years, you know my next point. I grabbed the records for our first official school board, Newark City Schools (God bless Israel Dille!), and looked at their early years.
First, may I point out a regular gripe this scribe throws out: we educate many more, much more, of our total population of children than we used to. There were throwaway kids in the so-called "good ol’ days," and there aren’t any more. That creates certain challenges, and they cost money those challenges do, but don’t tell me we should go back to educating the easy half of all children.
In 1855, they estimated that Newark had 1,000 kids. They were very pleased that they had 820 enrolled, and that 540 of them made it to class any given day. That’s nearly a one-half attendance average. Yep, good ol’ days.
Too far back? In1865, 1,400 kids counted in the district, but still only 1,178 on the books, and a mere 629 average in class each day. 1875? 2,927 souls about, but only 1,563 names on the register, and 1,037 was an average day in the classroom. And1880 took Newark to 3,379 youth noted in the census, but 1,812 checked into the school system and 1,213 made it to school most days. That’s getting close to only a third in school.
In each of those years, the number of weeks in session were comparable to today, the class size was only a bit larger at 30 . . . and remember, only the more biddable third were sitting there.
But here’s the remarkable fact. If you plug the average teacher salary for1849 of $2,057 into the westegg.com/inflation calculator webpage – it gives you the result of $43,887.14 in 2005 dollars.
That’s right: the average teacher salary back when we started doing state mandated public schooling in Ohio is basically the same today. If you keep comparing through 1900, we actually are paying our teachers less in 2005 than we paid them then, and that’s to educate over 94% (the state mandated minimum attendance average).
And that’s why we have so many adults even now in Licking County without a high school degree. I’m glad we’re trying to give a basic education to everyone today, but we just can’t punish teachers and administrators for not getting that task done on less money. It just doesn’t add up.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he obviously has a thing for teachers and rangers, which is probably why he married someone who’s been both. Counter his statistics with a data dump to knapsack77@gmail.com.