Thursday, June 19, 2008

This Week's LVW Col: Cirque Has Class

So here's a piece I would never have known about except that a loyal listener and reader works at Cirque and mentioned it - Cirque has a special school at its HQ for its show kids.

On a related note, 12-year-old "Love" star Kyle Stokely will be in the LVRocks.Com studio on Tuesday night to be interviewed for next week's "The Strip," which honors the second anniversary of "Love." We're also getting the show's artistic director, I believe. Should be fun. Join us from 7-8 pm PT at LVRocks.Com.

Also, check out the photo with the piece on the Web. I did NOT realize that my name was on the whiteboard behind the photo of the boy.

Cirque Has Class
Why the famed troupe holds the answer to fixing public education


Back when I first arrived in this city in 1996 to cover public education for the Review-Journal, the very notion of schools and Vegas elicited sardonic guffaws from people I knew in other cities.

They mocked the notion of children growing up in the shadow of Sin City and actually asked whether there were classrooms inside the casinos.

In the subsequent years, I’d learn that there are, in fact, very serious problems with the schools in Clark County. Beyond the abysmal test scores and high dropout rates, I’d discover trying to teach journalism at UNLV that a great number of students who earn Millennium Scholarships from the state for graduating with a B average are, nonetheless, functionally illiterate.

What I didn’t expect was to discover the ideal classroom—the answer to all these woes—on, of all places, the Las Vegas Strip.

Okay, technically, the ideal classroom is off the Strip, just south of McCarran Airport in a small, yellow-walled room overflowing with books and art projects and, most important of all, a sort of happiness and earnestness that accompanies real learning.

And the half-dozen boys who attend this school get to do so because they are full-time performers in Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles-scored production Love at the Mirage. In other words, they owe the very existence of the Strip a debt of gratitude.

Read the rest - and see that photo - HERE


Charles in Richmond, VA said...

While I agree that you have the quality of education in the schools that you have because of the funding level, the problem is that the public is not willing to increase the pay scale to attract more competent teachers if it means the current (possibly incompetent)teachers would get a pay raise.

If you doubled the number of teachers to shrink the class size to half, you would also have to build twice as many class rooms to accommodate them.

And you still haven't addressed the problem that much of what is learned in the class room must be reinforced at home. If the parents are illiterate, not checking homework, not pushing the student to excel, then its a roll of the dice how the student will turn out.

Sam Seaborn said...

As my presidential speechwriter character from West Wing once eloquently said: "Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet."

mike_ch said...

I was interested in this until the absolute end, which was just absolute BS. No, throwing around money wantonly on education doesn't get anything done. Go live in California, where every ballot has some large bond measure for schools that always gets passed (ditto bonds for roads) and the schools don't see any difference.

Are private schools really that rare in a city of 2 million people, a large handful of which live in gated communities for the wealthy? Seriously, how much is MGM-MIRAGE paying for this kind of coverage? I grew up in a small town north of San Francisco, and I spent my years up to age 12 in private schools with small classes of 8-10 students. It cost a fortune to be sure, but I can't imagine there's nothing at all like that here.

CCSD has problems, but it's not just about how much additional money you throw at the problem, it's about how you apply it. And before you blame the politicians, keep in mind that polling seems to show that people in Clark County, as well as Nevada in general, seem to believe that the entire fiscal burden of keeping up the community's services should be rested upon tourists.

mike_ch said...

(PS: Because I know you take this kind of stuff personally, I just want to mention that when I ask how much MGM pays for this kind of press, I don't mean to suggest any kind of bribery on your part. I think you honestly made a mistake when you write something like "In other words, they owe the very existence of the Strip a debt of gratitude."

Because really, the entire Nevada DOE owes the existence of the Strip a debt of gratitude. It's not like individuals are paying income tax to keep the state going, and as Terry Lanni loves to point out, gaming is tapped a fair bit harder than the other industries.)


No, Mike, why would I possibly take it professionally personally when the question is asked, "Seriously, how much is MGM-MIRAGE paying for this kind of coverage?" Of course I see it in some other context... what other context could a line like that possibly be seen in again???

Odd you don't ask me the same question when I note that they're building a hotel in China's ass or when I columnize about what a mistake it may have been to get into bed with Criss Angel.

No, why would I *possibly* take that the wrong way???

mike_ch said...


That post was typed out all very quickly whlie heading out the door and fueled on Diet Pepsi. The situation involving Nevada's schools and the state coffers are something important to me because, as I've said before, I've watched a lot of money be essentially flushed away with no improvements.

I realize that I went on a very different tone there than I intended, and came back to clarify what I meant. I meant to say that they couldn't pay for that kind of positive press, not to suggest that they actually had. There's a thin line, with a lot of importance, between those two concepts.

I owe you more than a hasty correction, so I apologize for what I wrote there, and I hope you don't begrudge me for that because I really didn't intend for that.