Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Fortunate Sons

In my travels through the Northeast, I have witnessed some interesting characteristics about this part of the country.
1. Many cultures collaborating peacefully (many people from countries in Europe)
2. Almost everyone is laid back (Some shop employees in Bar Harbor were a little rude)
3. Very little poverty (No shortage of money from residents or tourists)
4. After speaking to a few people in a Vermont town, there are open conversations about our corrupt government. (Many want a grass roots revolution to occur in the streets)
5. Many people living simple lives (some towns took me back 50-75 years)

I don't know what is is about certain areas of the country. I could live here.
While we were in Deer Isle, Maine, we stopped by many houses that had art studio's. Yes, the artists that live there have open tours of their houses that are also their studios. It's kind of like an art studio every 100 yards or so driving through the mountains. Many artists displayed their work in their studio and also had a place where you could watch them work. We stopped in to a water color painters house and had some good conversations. Her name was Christine York. She used water colors as her medium to paint rocks and other landscapes. Her work was awesome. Her son was also an artist. He used different metals to form creative large scale scuptures. I asked Christine about the school system in her area... how many kids in the school system, where were the schools, did they have appropriate tools for education? This area was quite destitute. All that we passed were artist studio's and Lobstermen. You could tell if a Lobsterman lived in a house by all of the Lobster pots in their front yard. Any way, She went on to tell me that they had a great school system in Deer Isle, almost every student went to an Ivy League College after graduation, they had the best sports teams, wonderful facilities, and any type of educating tool available to them. She went on to explain how the property taxes of the wealthy pay for the schools. These people don't even live in Deer Isle, Maine. They own 10 million dollor summer homes that they are living in for maybe a month, pay huge property taxes, and the area they live in prospers. Pretty cool. Without these wealthy people, this area would be in ruins.
Going on trips like these, reminds me of how small I really am. It also reminds me of how many different people we share this world with. Check out more pictures from my trip at


Becky said...

Oh how narrow a view you got of Maine's educational system. The sad part of the picture that is that Maine may belong to only wealthy people some day, and the real people of Maine will have been taxed out of these homes and properties. There are two Maines....coastal and inland...I would hate to think that the education that places our students at the top of the list nationally is credited to "flatlanders" Maine people have an independent spirit and the forsight to finance the tools the Maine Learning Technology Initiative.

Jim Burke said...

Ahhhhh . . .I have to concur with Becky . . .I'm afraid that you have an extremely skewed view of life in Maine and the advantages of having rich people from away bring wealth to the communities. Listen, I love this State, being a native son, but during my lifetime the poor have become poorer and the sense of community has eroded greatly.

For one example, when I was young, most any mill worker could afford a cottage at the lake or shore. Now it is an impossibility for the vast majority of us. Prices have soared due the pressures of the rich, so that locals very seldom are able to afford such a "luxury" . . .and those who already might own such property, need to sell because of the high property taxes which come from increased evaluation due to market pressure from rich people hundreds of miles away. Or they simply sell in order to survive.

Of course, this story is true through much of the country. Poor people vacating prime spots so that the rich can put up their upscale second and third homes.

And yes, Becky is correct that there are "two" maines. Move away from the coastal areas to see some real poverty. It might be hidden from your view, but it is pervasive in this State.

Having said this, I do think we have some very caring and polite citizens who know how to "make do" and work hard. There are many in my community (inland, in the hills) who work 2 or 3 job just to subsist. But my point is that in many cases they have been priced out of the market.

Most communities, particularly inland, have been decimated by factory closings, as companies have attempted to survive by going to places, such as China, where there is even cheaper labor.

Maine is presently attempting to become part of the "new" economy. Part of strategy is to create citizens who are empowered by 21st Century skills. The Laptop Initiative which is encouraging 1-to-1 laptops for grades 7-12 is part of this vision. But more importantly, we are working to re-create education where children are engaged in processes that will give them a "leg-up" in competing for good paying jobs. Just recently Maine joined the Parnership for 21st Century skills ( ) in order to increase our focus in this area.

In short, it is not nearly as idyllic as you might think, but we are looking with hope to the future.


Western Maine MLTI/eMINTS Trainer/Mentor

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with Becky and Jim. I was born & brought up on Deer Isle, and the picture they paint of Maine's real estate problems and educational system is far more true-to-life than the image you seem to have received from Ms. York. Maine's natives can no longer afford the land they've lived on for generations, and most of those "from away" definately are not quite that generous with their money. Also, most importantly, the lobstering community is definately not the humble and welcoming recipient of benevolent tourists which you imagine. These "fortuntate sons," as you call them, represent an entirely different culture from anywhere else in the world I have ever been, and I would even dare to say that you must live here to understand it.