Thursday, August 23, 2012

Teachers, schools, and the economic crisis

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are   created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

What caused the current  economic crisis ? 
 In 2008- 2009 we suffered the looting of the U.S. economy by major banks and finance capital.  The  looting produced our current economic crisis, crashed the world economy, and caused the massive cutbacks we presently suffer in schools, in public pensions, in employment of police, fire, the bankrupting of cities and the cuts to health care and the social safety net.
Did police, fire fighters, nurses, teachers cause this crisis.  No.
Did pensioners cause this crisis ? No.
 Now, we need to stimulate the economy to end this unnecessary depression.  Paul Krugman says it well in End This Depression Now, (2102). 
“Disasters do happen- history is replete with floods and famines, earthquakes, and tsunamis.  What makes this disaster so terrible-what should make you angry- is that none of this need be happening.  There has been no plague of locusts; we have not lost our technological know-how; America and Europe should be richer, not poorer, than they were five years ago.
Nor is the nature of this disaster mysterious.  In the Great Depression leaders had an excuse; nobody really understood what was happening or how to fix it.  Today’s leaders don’t have that excuse. We have both the knowledge and the tools to end this suffering.”  Krugman.

Government should get the money for economic stimulation  from those who caused the crisis-  the bankers and finance capital through a financial transaction tax.  We should use such a tax rather than giving the banks bail outs.  And, stop scapegoating pensioners, public sector workers and immigrants.

Why Choosing Democracy? In 2009 in the book, Choosing Democracy: A practical guide to multicultural education, I argued,
Our society and our schools are in rapid transition from the old to the new.  New global business and corporations have propelled our nation into a worldwide market, a place of economic and social instability.  Meanwhile our governmental structures and schools remain pretty much as they were in the 1950s. The gap between the private, corporate society—growing, dynamic, unstable, starkly unequal—and the public institutions—underfunded, criticized, and under attack—grows each day. Yet the private sector of the  society depends on the public sector to provide roads, schools, fire departments, water and electricity systems (infrastructure), educated workers, and domestic order.
            We in the United States have created one of the most free and democratic societies in human history, but at great cost to Native Americans, African slaves, and many immigrant workers. Though far from perfect, we nonetheless offer our citizens more freedom and self-governance, and a higher standard of living, than is found in most of the world. At the same time we rank about 37th in the world in health care and life span.  Today  we stand in danger of losing our  cherished freedom, democracy, and standard of living  to chaotic and uncertain global conflicts, terrorism,  the economic crisis, competition and to domestic prejudice and intolerance.
Times are changing. In 2010, the U.S. college graduation rate ranked 34th. out of the 34 countries in the OECD survey . In 2010, the U.S. high school graduation rate ranked 21st. out of the 26 countries in the OECD survey. OECD is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. ( the advanced, industrialized countries.)
In 2011, the average Canadian citizen was wealthier than the average U.S. citizen, and all residents of Canada have government insured health care.
Taxes and California Schools.  
   In August of 2012, California public schools are in crisis- and they are getting worse. This is a direct result of massive budget cuts imposed by the legislature and the governor in the last four years.  Total per pupil expenditure is down by over $1,000 per student.
The result- massive class size increases.  Your students are in often classes too large for learning.  Supplementary services such as tutoring and art classes have been eliminated.  Over 14,000 teachers have been dismissed, and thousands more face lay offs this fall.
 As a teacher, if you are able to  find a job,  you have an important role to play in the decisions about the future of your students and ultimately about the future of our nation. Schools and teachers promote either equality or they promote  inequality.   Schools, whether public or private, can teach and support democratic values or they reinforce authoritarian, anti democratic values and increase the hostile divisions in our society.  Teachers in most schools have the power to to construct  classrooms as communities of learners where students learn to develop a democratic life.
            We need to learn to live and work together, to at least tolerate one another, or we may yet tear our society apart. Public schools are the one institution in which we nearly all participate, and where we need to teach young people tolerance, cooperation, and the skills of  living and working together. Teaching is where we touch the future. In schools we have an opportunity to teach the coming generations to preserve and extend the United States as an experiment in building a democratic community. The task is far from over, and victory for democracy is far from certain.

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