Sunday, April 27, 2014

#162 April 27,2014- Education as a Rallying Point

Class, Money, Education 
and Voting. . .
America has long been portrayed as a land of freedom and opportunity.  This is one of the reasons why we have attracted immigrants from so many places throughout our history.  Our high standard of living, and our relatively open society have been a magnet that has drawn people from all parts of the world.  Even in challenging economic times America has been a preferred destination for people struggling to survive in other places.  This has been true through history, and continues even into current times. 

At the same time, those who look realistically and carefully at our history, as well as our current situation, recognize that America isn't a perfect place.  Those who portray America as an exceptional place purely on the basis of our economic and political systems, ignore the realities that exist here.  America has benefited from a combination of many different things to achieve our status in the world.  Some  are physical like our geography, isolated from the conflicts of Europe, Africa and Asia by ocean barriers and distance, our natural resources, and the huge area our nation occupies.  Others are the result of events and actions around the world that allowed our nation to grow and mature with minimal interference from other world powers.  We have been very fortunate as a nation and our growth into a superpower has not been achieved purely by our own “virtues.”  A legacy that includes brutal oppression of those who disagree with the wealthy elite who control our nation. 

The bloody labor dispute of a hundred years ago continues to reverberate in contemporary political discourse.
By The New Yorker

Our history has been a constant struggle between the ideals that our nation is built on, and the reality that the people who hold power in America create for themselves.  While we would like to imagine that our the United States has avoided the inequities and injustices that prompted many of our citizens to immigrate to America, the reality is that our nation has fallen short of the vision that we hold so dearly.  We have seen different groups fight for a share of the "American Dream" and their battles have moved our nation closer to achieving our goals of "Liberty and Justice for All."  Yet, there is always a pushback from those who have acquired wealth and status using the existing social, political and economic systems that serve to benefit their interests. 

These cycles where we advance Progressive ideals and then see  Conservative efforts to return our society to its previous status have been a part of our history and the largest conflicts have a visible impact on our nation.  We are currently involved in a time period of historical implications.  The changes in attitudes, legislation and policies that were made during the 1960's and 1970's are being undone now, in the 2010's.  Some of the most noticeable are the changes in electoral policies, attacks on the regulatory powers of our government, and the undoing of important Civil Rights legislation.  Those who have significant power and wealth are fighting hard to maintain their status as the demographics and opinions of our nation shift. 

Their efforts are designed not only to defend their status, but to eliminate the potential for any significant change to occur in the immediate future.  The efforts are many, and impact almost all areas of our society, but there are some higher profile and more intense attempts that are easily observed.  The efforts to implement restrictive Voter ID laws that will give Conservatives a political advantage which can be used effectively to protect special interests.  Another example is the effort to destroy the power of labor by eliminating the ability of workers to organize effectively.  A third example is the effort to privatize many important services that have been provided by the public sector. 

The end result of these efforts is a society that caters to the needs of a smaller number of powerful citizens.  The impacts of these policies that began being implemented in the 1980's are being felt right now.  They are observable on a larger, societal scale.

After three decades of slow growth, median income in the U.S. trails that of Canada. Poor Americans now make less than the poor in several other...
The New York Times|By David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy

A new study by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern Universities finds that America's government policies reflect the wishes of the rich and of powerful interest groups, rather than the wishes of the majority of citizens.
Gawker|By Hamilton Nolan

They also have an impact on a personal level that affects a huge number of Americans.  Whether it influences our personal wealth, our health, our safety, or our future, the efforts to manipulate public thinking are catastrophic for anyone who isn't in the top percent of earners in America.

The connection has been "confirmed by many different studies by different investigators over different time periods."
Bill Moyers

They don't like paying taxes, and that's all that matters.
Mother Jones

New AFL-CIO report finds executive pay continues its upward trajectory as middle class wages remain stagnant

The obvious questions are these, if we live in a democracy why doesn't the majority vote and act in ways that will promote their own interests?  How can a small number of influential people (even with huge amounts of wealth) control a much larger number of people in a place where freedom and equality are supposed to be held in such esteem?

The simple answer is that we idealize the wealthy and strive to achieve the same status as they hold.  We often do this at our own expense, or at the expense of others who should be our allies in the fight for social justice.  We believe the hype about the "job-creators" and we allow ourselves to be mislead by media and advertising that promote an agenda that directly opposes our own interests.    

None of these money-making methods are productive, or praiseworthy, or suggestive of a meritocracy. Perhaps demeritocracy is more apt.

A California firm on behalf of an undisclosed client has bought nearly $2 million worth of air time from Sept. 1 to Nov. 3 in four Wisconsin markets.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Daniel Bice

Another thing that has allowed a minority of citizens to dominate the majority socially, politically and economically is the lack of a unifying force that citizens could rally around.  All of our efforts to advance the values of social justice have been focused on different subgroups or interests.  Labor has fought for the goals of labor and different demographic groups have fought to promote their own interests.  This has allowed for the strategy of "divide and conquer" to be used effectively.   There has rarely been a concerted effort by many groups to unify around the ideals of "Liberty and Justice for All."  We have come close at times, for example under the leadership of Dr. King during the Civil Rights movement, but eventually the movements fragment under the strain of internal and external pressure. 

The Wisconsin Uprising of 2011 had the potential to be an effort that could combine many different interests.  Yet, as we move further through time we see how the difficulty of incorporating multiple interests along with the constant attacks from our opponents weakens the power of a movement based on combating societal injustice. 

The Uprising needs to find a unifying issue that can take the effort to the next level and propel us to further action.  Education could be that issue.  It is important to labor, impacts every demographic group, and is an issue that lies at the very heart of the social justice movement.    

To truly improve education in Milwaukee, we must start with the assumption that poor children are no less deserving of a quality education than rich children. As such, the schools that privileged suburban parents demand for their children should be the yardstick we use to measure the adequacy of edu…

In order to realize the full potential of education we need to combat the message of education "reformers" and educate the public about the realities of what is needed to fully accomplish the goals of equitable and inclusive public education.  This means calling out the "reformers" and providing a real view of just what is being done to our public education system in the name of equity and opportunity. 

On Sunday, March 23, 2014 in a speech at Riverside Church in Manhattan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, faced with declining public opinion poll numbers, made nice to charter school companies and their wealthy...

In 1848, Sam Brannan ran up and down the streets of San Francisco yelling, ”Gold! There’s gold in the American River!” Brannan had no intention to dig for gold himself, of course. Just before he ma... 

NEW YORK (AP) — "Just Do It" has been a familiar Nike slogan for years, but some parents are wondering what it was doing on some of New York's Common Core standardized English tests.

The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats, but the Common Core is also roiling the party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide.
The New York Times|By Jonathan Martin

This means that educators need to step up and become active in promoting our profession and making education an issue that can unify the different aspects of the Progressive movement.  It has been a very difficult past 3 years, but educators are resilient and our cause is just.   

The effects of reform on the teaching profession.
Washington Post

The end of collective bargaining.|By Lee Enterprises

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Conservatives and others who oppose virtually everything that President Obama has done are continuing their crusade against the ACA.  They will find some way to spin this in a negative way, but I fail to see how providing ways for more people to access healthcare is bad for our nation.

About half of this is through the exchanges. The rest is via Medicaid and employer plans.
Mother Jones

A great way to send a message, and to support public schools.  Could something like this happen in Madison?

A grassroots effort to support schools grows into a sizable donation.|By Kristen Shill

The Bad . . .  Nothing that we haven't heard before, or that is shocking for people who have been paying attention.  The questions remain, what do WE do to make changes?

A nationwide study of racial disparity has been released.|By PolicyMic

The Ugly . . . With all of the publicity about mass shootings and gun violence in general, how is it that nothing seems to improve?  The answer lies in a couple of places, our nation's inability to combat a powerful gun lobby and the NRA is one.  The other is our reluctance to address the mental health needs of so many in our population.  Not everyone who commits a crime with a gun is mentally ill, however, an improvement in our treatment and support of those struggling with these illnesses could go a long way in creating a safer society for everyone. 

Welcome to America, the land of blue jeans, rock & roll, and sporadic meaningless mass murder.
Mother Jones
Medicaid expansion would mean millions more would get mental health care coverage.
Washington Post

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