Sunday, September 11, 2011

Issue #24- Sept. 11, 2011-- Remembering 9/11, Higher Costs for Higher Education, and More

Issue #24- September 11, 2011
In this issue:
*Remembering 9/11
*So many skilled people can have a huge impact
*More truths and 1/2 truths
*Higher(costing) education
*Union Building

Remembering 9/11…
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the attacks of 9/11.  It is important that we remember what happened.  It is important that we honor the bravery and sacrifices of citizens that day.  It is also important to recognize the suffering and pain caused by the actions of a few misguided and evil people. 
Nothing can ever undo the agony and hurt done that day.

At the same time it is vital that we are able to reflect on these events and carefully look at our nation's responses to them.  It is easy to get emotional when the footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers is shown.  It is easy to get emotional when you watch the interviews of the families and friends of citizens who died in the attacks.  It is easy to get so emotional that the events and losses of that day become something that blind us, and cause us to react in ways that do little to truly honor the memory of the damage done to our nation and our world by the terrorist mentality. 
Whenever any event happens to human beings there are multiple responses possible.  Responses vary based on the scale of the problem and whether the response is on a personal level or a larger scale (family, community, nation).  We constantly face things that are threatening or harmful to things that we value.  These challenges can be life threatening, life changing or sometimes simply inconvenient.  We can try to prevent them, but the reality of our world is that we are all vulnerable in so many ways. 

While the challenges may be inevitable, our response to them are what truly define us as individuals or groups.  Frederick Douglass was one of the leaders of the movement to abolish slavery in the United States and he often spoke about how to respond when a wrong is committed against a person or group.  In one of his most famous speeches he talked about reform and I think that it applies to how we respond to disasters, setbacks and challenges. 

"Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."
"This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others."
Frederick Douglass, 1857
Source: Douglass, Frederick. [1857] (1985). "The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies." Speech, Canandaigua, New York, August 3, 1857; collected in pamphlet by author. In The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. Volume 3: 1855-63. Edited by John W. Blassingame. New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 204.      

I take this statement to mean that we are engaged in a perpetual struggle to make the world a better place for all people.  Douglass was writing about a specific issue at a very unsettled time in our history.  However, his words can be a guide to our response to any negative event.  While Douglass speaks to a potential need for violence, I believe that we can take later movements as examples and emphasize non-violent resistance as an effective mode of protest and reform.  The struggle that we engage in is fought on many levels and in many ways, but always with the intent that we are working toward a greater good.      

It is defining this greater good that is problematic for society.  Religious, philosophical and other ethical beliefs come in to play and these can be distinctly different for individuals existing together in a civilized society.  The attacks of 9/11 were a turning point in our continuing struggle between the rights of citizens and the need for national security.

September 11th caused a response that has greatly impacted the world that we currently live in.   As time goes by, we can begin to get a new perspective on our national responses to the attacks.  In our efforts to honor and avenge this assault on our nation, we have in many ways done more to harm ourselves than we have done to preserve and protect our country.  Look at some of the costs of the last 10 years:
*Unfunded wars that have cost us many lives (and many more lives of citizens in the countries we are fighting in) weakened our economy, stretched our military to the breaking point and damaged our reputation around the world because of their dubious justification. 
*Laws that are supposed to protect us, but often undermine the rights of citizens.
*Anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric and feelings have increased.  These sentiments have also allowed for a climate that has been more and more anti-immigrant in tone.
*Increased distrust in government because of misinformation about our foreign policy. 

These costs have been borne largely by the middle and lower classes while the wealthy and corporations have profited from the involvement in foreign wars.  At the same time, we are still vulnerable in many ways to future attacks.  It seems so unfortunate that we, as a nation, seem unable to learn from our history and instead we repeat the mistakes of the past.

So, as we remember the losses of 9/11, we must work to move forward and to make the world a better place.  We must work to develop a more proactive foreign policy based on knowledge of the countries and cultures we interact with.  We must work to unify our nation and support each other instead of individualizing and compartmentalizing our struggles.  We are a union of many different people and many different cultures.  It is important to our nation's future that we reverse the trends that have accelerated after 9/11.  That would be the best memorial possible and a better protection for future generations than the policies we have been using.    

No One Can Do Everything, But
Everyone Can Do Something…
We have a strong movement with many different organizations involved.  With the large number of interests and organizations come the challenge of trying to coordinate our efforts.  In addition to this challenge we also face the reality that most of us are just "regular folks".  We are living in an historical time and don't have the benefit of hindsight to guide our choices.  Often people in this situation look for a leader who will steer the movement in the proper course.  Our history is full of these great individuals (Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Jones, etc.), but there is a danger in looking for a heroic leader.  Charles Willie, Moorehouse classmate of Rev. King, said, "By idolizing those whom we honor, we do a disservice both to them and to ourselves.  By exalting the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., into a legendary tale that is annually told, we fail to recognize his humanity- his personal and public struggles- that are similar to yours and mine.  By idolizing those whom we honor, we fail to realize that we could go and do likewise." 

Let's all try and remember that within each of us there is some skill, trait, or ability that we can use to help our movement succeed. 

One area that we need to be sure we don't overlook is making sure all voters have proper ID and are registered. 

We Hold These (half) Truths…
Taxes on corporations are too high- As a nation we continue to struggle with ways to be sure that the tax burden is shared equally.  While the comments after the article make it seem that the findings are incorrect the idea that 1/4 of the corporations who paid no tax had at least $250 million in assets is disturbing. 

National Republican leaders economic ideas and Governor Walker's budget will help our state-

But, it's not all bleak, remember our budget had a provision to make a special day to honor Ronald Reagan.

We Hold These Truths…
An idea that's time has come.

It was good to hear President Obama talk about creating jobs.  Now if we can just get everyone in government to remember that if more people are employed our tax revenue will increase and our budget situation will improve.

It was funny to read this and think about how many times we faced "tricks" like this from our Republican legislators over the past months.

Protests continue around the state and around the nation.

The Cost of Higher Education…
As the parent of two children who are just a few years away from their college years this issue hits home very hard.  It is even more disturbing when you realize that because we are a two teacher family we will be bringing home at least $520 a month less this year.  

Surging College Costs Price Out Middle Class

By Annalyn Censky  NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
"As the out-of-pocket costs of a college education go up faster than incomes, it's pricing low and medium income families out of a college education," said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of financial aid sites and
The crux of the problem: Tuition and fees at public universities, according to the College Board, have surged almost 130% over the last 20 years -- while middle class incomes have stagnated.
Tuition: In 1988, the average tuition and fees for a four-year public university rang in at about $2,800, adjusted for inflation. By 2008, that number had climbed about 130% to roughly $6,500 a year -- and that doesn't include books or room and board.
Income: If incomes had kept up with surging college costs, the typical American would be earning $77,000 a year. But in reality, it's nowhere near that.
In 2008 -- the latest data available -- the median income was $33,000. That means if you adjust for inflation, Americans in the middle actually earned $400 less than they did in 1988.
Financial aid: Meanwhile, the amount of federal aid available to individual students has also failed to keep up. Since 1992, the maximum available through government-subsidized student loans has remained at $23,000 for a four-year degree.
Facing that disparity, it's no wonder then that two other trends have emerged: Families are taking on unprecedented levels of debt or downgrading their child's education from a four-year, to a two-year, degree to cut costs.
Of those, Kantrowitz estimates that about half will still be repaying their loans in 20 years -- the traditional student loan period. And for many, that may very well mean they won't be able to buy a home, save for retirement or fund the next generation's education.
"They could still be paying back their own student loans, when their children are in college," he said.
On the flip side of this problem, some families are trying to limit their student debt by opting for two-year degrees.
According to the Department of Education, the portion of middle-income students that enrolled in four-year colleges has dropped, while their enrollment in 2-year colleges has risen, over the last decade.
Many of these students, who would otherwise qualify for four-year college, are getting fewer job skills at a time when employers are demanding just the opposite.
Economists speculate that one reason unemployment is so high is because the American workforce lacks the skills needed to fill the jobs that are open. As a result, companies may shift these jobs overseas, where wages are often cheaper.

As if this wasn't bad enough, in the latest "On Wisconsin", it was stated that tuition will rise another 5.5% this year.  So, my family's income declines by 5.8% and tuition goes up.  What happened to the dream of having your children be better off then you were?

What's Uplifting? Union Building!…
According to an article I read somewhere earlier this year, teaching is the 6th most depressing job in the U.S.  When you add to the existing stresses that educators already face things like the attacks on our wages, benefits and working conditions things seem even bleaker.  For example,

So, what's a depressed, stressed, overworked, underpaid educator to do.  Stick with your union and take pride in what you do.

Our unions give us a supportive place where people believe in public education, believe in the value of what we do for society and are willing to fight for what is right.  We need them to help protect and preserve our democracy.

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