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Down the memory hole

Heres a line from 1984 Chapter 3:

This, thought Winston, was the most frightening aspect of the Party regime, that it could obliterate memory

This is just as more recent governments have done in areas of both greater and lesser overall importance, such as the now-vanished school-building inventory binder of the Vermont Education Department.

Now, the official party line is that no such notebook exists or ever existed, although education department attorney Robert Reedy while arguing in a Vermont State House hearing on school construction costs about a score of years ago, that the notebook didnt exist any more because the legislature had denied the department the funds to maintain it (not a verbatim quote, but close enough).

The subject had come up because my role at the hearing was to compare historic square footage per pupil with more recent construction projects. I cited a number of then-new examples wherein, even though enrollments had already begun their continuing decline, new building programs were proliferating everywhere. Invariably the result was a lot more square footage (and therefore higher facilities costs) per pupil than had been the norm in the recent past. This fact still remains the norm across the nation as recent building surveys in the trade magazine School Planning and Management illustrate.

You can run this analysis for yourself, I testified at the hearing. Just get your local building capacity and square footage from the education departments notebook and compare it with your enrollment and projections. The reply: Dont call us, said attorney Reedy. We couldnt afford to maintain the notebook. (Again, not a word-for-word quote but close.)

One of the benchmarks by which citizens and taxpayers could evaluate the legitimacy of school construction proposals was destroyed by the decision to memory-hole Spencers three-ring binder. By accident? I doubt it.

More next week.

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