Sunday, September 29, 2013

Issue #132- Economics, Politics and Education

Flawed Economics, 
Flawed Politics. . .
We continue to be told that conservative fiscal policies are the best way to promote a healthy economy.  Yet, the people telling us that are the ones who profit from the policies that are enacted.  The illusion that the wealthiest of Americans need protections while the poorest simply need to work harder is harmful to our nation socially, economically and politically.  Conservative financial policies are set up to do one thing, preserve the status quo that allows the wealthy to maintain their elite status.     

Our nation is founded on the principles that all of us are equal and are entitled to equal opportunity.  While these ideals have been unequally promoted over the years, the message is one that we should strive to achieve.  Governmental protections, legislation and regulation are some of the major driving forces in promoting opportunity for all.  This may scare some people who feel that government is incompetent and invasive, but the reality is that without a strong governmental influence we see increased segregation and stratification in all aspects of our lives.  Despite conservative claims to the contrary, most of our major positive steps towards equality have come through government interventions.  

We have had an ongoing conflict in our nation to find the proper balance between local governmental control and a stronger national government.  At times we have leaned in both directions and have seen the benefits and drawbacks of having one level of government be dominant.  One of the major drawbacks in centralizing power is that it allows a small number of people to dictate their ideas on the majority.  The Tea Party and extreme conservative political leadership are a great example of this phenomena in America.   

The current drive to cut government, eliminate safety nets and ease regulation of business are not going to improve conditions for most of us.  Here in Wisconsin, where we "enjoy" a climate dominated by conservative policies, this is becoming crystal clear.  

Wisconsinites are gearing up for another bitter gubernatorial campaign in 2014.  During this political contest we will hear how positive and powerful the conservative ideology claims to be.  We can only hope that whoever runs in opposition to Governor Walker is able to be equally forceful in promoting a different way of governing.  This message must be truthful, forceful and articulated clearly.  The numbers and reality demonstrate that we are currently on the wrong path, but it is up to progressives and Democrats to make the case to the majority of the people.     

As this article states, it is vital that the people show up in 2014.  If we don't we will see another 4 years of failed policies and controversy.  It is interesting to hear Senator Ron Johnson essentially admit that he was elected by fewer people than Senator Baldwin was.  While he may claim that the additional 800,000 voters who cast ballots in the election that gave Baldwin her seat were ignorant, that's a pretty bold, and insulting assumption to make.    

Flawed Education Policies
Economics isn't the only place where we see a struggle between competing ideologies.  The topics may be different, but the themes are the same.  It boils down to a continuing push by those with wealth and power to consolidate, maintain and expand their supremacy.

School "reformers" use the language of freedom and choice.  They point to statistics that demonstrate the failures of public education.  They blame educators, and especially educator's unions.  Unions that, while certainly not perfect, often are the only real defense against the implementation of destructive "reforms".   

Yet, they offer little in the way of reforms that will actually help students who are not succeeding.

The struggle is very real, and its outcome is extremely significant for all of us.  How all of our children are educated should matter to everyone.  While we do need innovative and creative new educational methods to reach today's students, we should be listening to the trained professionals who work IN our schools.  Unfortunately, we seem committed to trying "reforms" proposed from so called experts who are far to often extremely distant from actual classrooms. 

Social Justice…
As we continue the struggle to promote positive resolutions to our societal challenges and to protect key elements of our society like public schools and safety nets we can't allow our society to simply return to the conditions that existed previously.  Our goals in the current conflicts must be to not only hold on to what we have, but to build a stronger future for all citizens. 

We have engaged in an Uprising that has been very active since 2011.  An uprising that has exposed some unpleasant and ugly truths about our society.  Things that we wanted to believe had been "cured" still exist and need to be addressed.  If we are going to force our schools to be "Data Driven" then we should also make sure that we hold all aspects of our society to the same standards.  However, we can do better than those who force educators to view students as "data".  We can strive to understand the individuals behind the numbers and the history that has created the current realities that our fellow citizens face.  

America in 2013 is a place of tremendous potential, but we need to work to make sure that we are moving towards achieving that potential.  It is too early to talk about a legacy, but instead should think of these ideals as goals we are currently working to achieve.   

"So, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which many dismissed as the wails of the young and disaffected without clear objectives, clear leaders or a clear political agenda, may, in the end, have a rather clear legacy: ingraining in the national conscience the idea that our extreme levels of inequality are politically untenable and morally unacceptable, and that eventually the 99 percent will demand better."

There will be significant pushback from those interested in maintaining power and the status quo.  This is true around the world, around the U.S. and here in Wisconsin.

The conflicts of 2013 are not new conflicts.  They are variations on themes that have been ongoing throughout our history.  Just like the conflicts are recurring, so too are the solutions that pull people up.  One of the most important of these potential solutions is the effort to find common ground between groups and to build relationships that will unite people, not divide them. 

Too often, we see groups and individuals who share common interests engaging in conflict while others profit from the divisions.  Examples of this are easy to find.  One clear example comes from a book about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to Northern cities by Isabel Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns).  As the migrants arrived in Northern cities they were met with hostility and discrimination, yet, as Wilkerson states, "They were essentially the same people except for the color of their skin, and many of them arrived into these anonymous receiving stations at around the same time, one set against the other and unable to see the commonality of their mutual plight.  Thus these violent clashes bore the futility of Greek tragedy."

If we are to achieve success in our struggles, we need to avoid becoming another legacy of tragedy.  We must learn from our history.  We must put aside some of the differences that only serve to perpetuate conflict that lead to continued strife, and we must work together to build a better future based on the founding principles of our nation.  

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