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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Disservice of Public Education (2007)


We presuppose a lot when we talk about public education.  To inform, to educate, and to pay for the education itself by means of taxation is the usual picture that we conjure up.  In fact, those are some of the main purposes imbued into our public educational system.  The problem is that these purposes are never totally fulfilled.  Rather, they are only realized insofar as their purposes serve those of public opinion and the upper class, by which I mean those in the highest tax brackets.  The system is loaded with exceptions to the rule and many examples may be found in what we are taught is not what we should exercise.  We are educated to think critically of others, except for our teachers, administrators, and curricula.  We are even fed the lie of fair and equal when our schools are anything but.  All things considered, it’s amazing that this system still stands despite these numerous contradictions.
Speaking of which, it might be prudent of us to look at the very best of places to start, that being the very heart of the ideology itself.  Contemplate these words for a moment: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” (U.S. Constitution: Amendment I)  Here lies the heart and mother of oddities and pietisms.  We were taught this in school.  We might have even done a class project in which we divided all of these amendments up among the class and thereafter made some sort of presentation, but we have enshrined these words and have left them void of exercise.  
Speech is, furthermore, more than just words.  Speech is the expression of ideas which can be either verbal or nonverbal.  “Fuck you!” and the “birdie” are both one and the same.  Yet, because these are offensive to the majority, the minority must adhere to the other’s standards and relinquish their right to express themselves freely.  So, from day one, we are taught in our schools to dance to the song of the ruling class and accept everything that is acknowledged by them as, “normal”, while the rest is considered radical, dangerous, or wrong.
Think about it though.  What do we really learn in school if it’s not to exercise our freedoms?  That can be surmised by: be on time; raise your hand when you want to speak; refrain from using bad language; beepers, cell phones, hats, baggy clothing and so much more isn’t allowed because it is “gang related”.  If we’re taught anything in school it is to accept what we are told despite the contradictions presented in what we are taught.  The land of the free indeed!  
It seems to me that public education teaches the student how to function in a society of rank and file, and certainly not to think critically of their teachers, school administrators, or curricula.  The problems with all of these are that some teachers are poorly trained, administrators are more concerned with attendance and adherence to school policy than anything else, and that the information being taught sometimes isn’t true or accurate.
It’s kinda funny to think of some of our books as inaccurate, but even telling half a truth would be a fallacy in it of itself.  Today’s historical textbooks, unfortunately, do no service to the actual event, unless of course this part of history conforms to socially acceptable opinions of history.  A prime example of this is Helen Keller.  Most people know of her, a girl who was born blind and deaf and learned to read and write with the help of her teacher Anne Sullivan.  Some can even recall the scene depicted in some books and movies where she puts two and two together and realizes that the symbol for “water” was connected to the water being held in her hand.  All of the common motifs valued by western society are represented here; overcoming difficulties, struggle, and perseverance. 
More surprising than what Helen Keller did is what she’s not famous for, most notable among these:
…that Helen Keller was a radical socialist.  She joined the Socialist party of Massachusetts in 1909…After the Russian Revolution, she sang the praises of the new communist nation…Through research she learned that blindness was not distributed randomly throughout the population but was concentrated in the lower class…[furthermore] Keller’s research was not just book learning: “I have visited sweatshops, factories, crowded slums.  If I could not see it, I could smell it.” (Loewen 21-22)
It would be rhetorical of me to ask you why we don’t know this of Helen Keller when it is very plain to see that her accomplishments, though great and many, do not fall in line with traditional “free societal” values, specifically, democracy.  Perhaps this is why we pay her lip service but discredit her life’s work by omitting it.  
The interesting thing about omitting facts which aren’t supportive of “free society” ideologies is that those are the only consistencies between differing school districts in the U.S.  The provocative thing about which is that “unlike virtually every other industrialized country, the United States has no national curriculum and no agency that services the development of classroom materials.  Each of the nation’s 15,367 school districts is a kingdom unto itself…with the power to decide what its students will be taught.” (Kantrowitz and Wingert 59)  This means that twin girls going to different schools in different school districts learn from two different curricula.
The inequalities only increase from here.  Suppose those two girls attended two different school districts where the property values were also different.  This now means that not only are they learning from two different curricula but that one of these curricula is better funded than the other.  This is because our American “schools receive funds from three governmental sources – about 10 percent from the federal government, and depending on the allocation within each state, about 40 percent from the state, and 50 percent from property taxes in each district within the state.” (Eitzen and Zinn 472)  The long and short of which is that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.  By funding schools through property taxes we ensure that the price of an education between a rich neighborhood and a poor one is as different as night and day.  “In New York City, per pupil spending of $10,500 is half the $21,000 per student in the Long Island suburb of Manhasset.” (Kozol 23-24)  Therefore, children attending nice schools in affluent neighborhoods have better chances of going to expensive universities.  Not only that, but they are also the only ones who have parents which can afford such schools.

So, unless I’m part of the affluent rich upper white class, I honestly can’t see why we should have public schooling at all.  Nor can I see that these purposes fulfill their aims.  The schools don’t allow the students to criticize anything, except for what is presented to them formally in a class.  The schools don’t teach the whole truth except for when it serves their traditional free societal values and perspectives.  The schools are largely supported by property taxes which further ensure the lines of stratification are not crossed.  The schools just don’t work.  Albeit that this is simply my opinion, if the purposes of public education are to inform without prejudice, educate without bias, and be paid for with tax dollars fairly, then they only do half the job, and a half assed job in any school only ensures an “F”.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Let

Let the wind always find your back,
And the sun ever warm your face;
Your heart find its heart's desire, 
Never far to chase.

May your strengths flow like the river,
Your nights never shiver.
Your horse's hooves always fall true,
Let her never throw a shoe.

Yet, if your day turns bleak,
never retreat!
Let come what may. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Strangers

Words hollered harshly happen fairly quick,
the mean green eyes let silver tongues flick.
The plain pain plays from the heart, not the lips.
We speak how we think.
We think how we speak.
The mirror reflects the moon when the mind does not fleet.

Monday, February 13, 2012

thin as air

I reach out to you, but all I grasp is air. Like a glint in the eye, you're here, then there, finally gone. Like the lies in between, your smiles and your pleas, forget that you even mean the world to me.  Here you come and there you go sweet, bright-eyed girl.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Encounter with a Dead Neighbor

You must bear in mind that I’m not crazy. I had lived a perfectly normal life until the day after John died. I suppose this will take a minute to explain but that’s no problem for me now. I have all the time in the world.

John died yesterday at almost this exact hour. He was at the pinnacle of physical health. The man could flip himself and land in the exact spot he had just stood. Nothing short than amazing can really suffice when describing the guy. The fact that he didn’t make the U.S. swim team at the age of 56, amazed me. Only because the person who had beaten him by no more than the breadth of a hair was Michael Phelps. John even told me about surfing down waves which were bigger than six story houses.

Yet it was the way the guy talked sometimes that made you think. He had a way of reasoning things which were only true insofar as they were publicly accepted. Reasoning by means of good honest virtue and moral values was something that he would overlook. His logic, though sound, just felt wrong. It was the same feeling you got when you heard about insurance companies which terminated their obligations to terminally ill people; human F#@%^*! beings. The same type of companies which would sometimes shift entire parts of their operations across borders lines to save pennies on the dollar.

What John did left you with the feeling that something immoral had taken place. When something wrong is done, there’s an effect; a feeling that something has been set awry. It is as if the tiniest of pigments in a picture became the negative of itself and then spread its contrary influences throughout the photo; eventually coming back full circle. Everyone knows what it feels like to do something wrong.

Yet John would do things which, just the same, felt wrong. Sure, he’d reason this way and that and you really could see how his argument would stack up. But, it just felt off; like you yourself were somehow tainted by the act.

You can imagine my further amazement when John knocked on my door; not but five minutes ago. As I’ve said: John died yesterday, so, to see him at my door was nothing less than a dumbfoundingly amazing experience. When I had finally broken through with the shock of it all I managed but one sentence:

“You’re dead.”

“Yes, I know. But I must have a chat with you my friend, please have a seat.”

I somehow managed to remember how to walk and stumbled over to the couch. I caught my breath and looked again. There he sat next to me, someone who had always been so far away from me was now sitting at my very feet.

“You’re dead.” I repeated.

“Yes lad, we’ve established that already. You might want to start with the questions: I’m afraid time is not a luxury here.”

“Why are you here?”
John stood up from the couch and I saw the very two eyes which had looked at me this entire time flash.

“I’m here because this has to be done.”

My heart started to race again. I looked at him looming above me; time stopped. As I exhaled one more time, “I don’t understand.” was what trickled from my lips.

“It’s like this lad: everyone brings it upon themselves; all the consequences of their actions. Ya see, it's like this: I had thought of myself as an individual, and was, at least in some way. The thing about it was that I was only an individual as far as I was concerned, I almost always overlooked the entirety of the big picture."

"I still don't understand. What's that got to do with me?"

"Good question neighbor! Well, there's basically three different ways. Number one: you bring it on yourself; which normally culminates in an untimely death, or an unfavorable one. Let's see, the second one was: an accident; usually the product of someone's ill deeds. Or, the third way: it's just your time to go."

"So what happened to you?"

"Number one. I had spent my former life finding ways to justify my ill deeds. I stood idly by and watched coworkers fired for minor and trivial reasons and never stood up for them. I walked apathetically by the homeless, did my best to pay as little of my taxes as was possible, I argued against welfare programs and much more because I wanted as much of my money for myself. And why not? I earned it! Neveryoumind about the countless people working the enumerable jobs that helped me on my way. I owe them nothing. The Mexican factory worker who assembled my car for a substandard wage. The fast food employee who has no health insurance, retirement plan, or vacation time. Let them worry about those problems," he roared. "These are not my problems!"

His anger and outrage then subsided and he sat back down and looked at me with all the remorse and regret of a man who realized too little too late the error of his ways. "I spent my life believing that I owed nothing to anybody, that my life was my own product."

A tear ran down his cheek and I watched the dead repent. "But it isn't so. I could have never done the great things in my life without the workings, both seen and not, of others who are less fortunate than myself. I never realized how empty a place this would be without those who clean my house, prepare my food, pick my fruits and vegetables. The seemingly trivial acts and jobs of the masses which had propelled me to such heights and gain such achievements. I never even gave them an acknowledgement or a sincere thanks."

His eyes flashed one last time and looked deep into my own soul and grinned a most deep and foreboding smile. "You knew of my affairs, didn't you? You heard me reason this way and that and allowed yourself to do nothing. In a way, you are just as responsible for my ill doings because you never stood up for what was right and just. And so; have allowed me to take advantage of the world and bend it to my advantage." My breathing stopped. "You heard how I had kept thousands of dollars from the government and asked, 'How?' My heart stopped. "You did nothing when those who needed money asked for it." The world went dark and the final words I heard were my last. "Your inaction has caused far more damage to this world than mine have because more people in this world do nothing than those who do something. You have brought this end upon yourself."

And so I passed from this world into the next. Not because I sinned, but because I didn't stop the sinner. I've given my words to a demon who's agreed to pass them on, only because it gave him a laugh. He scoffed asking me if I thought this would change anything. In hindsight of my life and the history of my former world, I suppose it won't.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poor Sorrow

The poor half-wit, the miserable whelp.
To 've been here so long and not 've felt.
He's drowned everyday, never learns from mistakes.
Day in and night out, at the bottom spirit lakes.
After tens of millennia, it's never come to pass.
Sorrow's never taken a swimming class.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CEO

My mind is awash of those, my ilk.
Branded and polished by seamless guilt.
I look to keep my stores quite full,
with actions that are not all too cruel.
He asked for a mile and I gave him an inch,
then whisked him to jail in a clever pinch.
My name is the same but my faces are many.
Righteous are those who avoid my company.