Archive for June 2010

Education: Does Reform Mean Privatization?

June 22, 2010

I have been reading a lot lately about the Obama Administration and its pursuit of a Republican-esque agenda of privatization of public sector programs. First, it was HUD public housing (see my post, HUD For Sale,  here), and now, it is public education.

Because I am an independent school district employee and have children who attend public schools, I have found the administration’s desire and burgeoning efforts to privatize education quite alarming.

If you are involved in education, have children who are in school, or are simply concerned about the federal government’s continuing efforts to withdraw from the provision of many of the public programs and services that meet the needs of America’s citizens, you will want to read the articles and watch the video below.

The first article is the one that first made me aware of the fact that the government has set its sights on the privatization of public education. It is entitled “Obama’s Neoliberal Agenda For Education.” It is found in the May-June 2010 edition of the International Socialist Review.

A second article that I found to be very interesting was also found in the May-June edition of ISR. It is entitled “Disaster Education: The Education ‘Shock Doctrine'”.

Next, there is a series of three articles that are taken from a forthcoming book by the title of Education and the Crisis of Public Values. The articles are “Dumbing Down Teachers: Attacking Colleges of Education in the Name of Reform”, “Teachers Without Jobs and Education Without Hope: Beyond Bailouts and the Fetish of the Measurement Trap”, and “Chartering Disaster: Why Duncan’s Corporate-Based Schools Can’t Deliver an Education That Matters”. This series can be found on the truthout website here.

Finally, there was a Democracy Now! interview with former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch that helped with my understanding of the efforts to privatize our public schools. The interview was on the March 5, 2010 edition of DN! and is entitled “Leading Education Scholar Diane Ravitch: No Child Left Behind Has Left US Schools with Legacy of ‘Institutional Fraud.” In this interview Ravitch speaks about the Education Department’s policies and agenda that she once promoted. The interview can be found here.

We all want our children to be well-educated and prepared for lives of positive impact on society. We care about their futures. We care about our teachers. We care for students who struggle not only in school, but in their homes and neighborhoods, as well.

What happens with respect to our public schools – whether they remain a public institution or a private, free-market enterprise – will greatly affect the above concerns that we all have.

Thoughts From The Tenth Floor

June 10, 2010

For the past two summers I have spent my time between school years working with a construction company that is building a ten-story office building in our community. I work on the clean-up crew, sweeping floors, moving material, and occasionally, doing some light construction work.

The building is a pretty impressive structure. It is covered with granite from top to bottom. Even the loading dock is ringed with black and pink granite. There are several tremendous chandeliers hanging in the building and there will be expensive, ornate “stone” throughout the interior.

The tenth floor of the building will house the offices of the corporation that is building the building, as well as all of the corporation’s subsidiary companies. The lower floors will be leased out space.

The other day I learned two things about the building that stunned me and gave me pause to think about priorities. The first thing is that the electronically controlled blinds and curtains in all of the offices on the tenth floor will cost $275,000. The second thing is that the tenth floor mahogany floors, walls, doors, and trim, and the labor to install all of the “wood”, will cost a total of $4 million.

The man who owns the corporation is a self-made billionaire, having made his fortune primarily through banking and property development. He has every right to do with his money as he pleases, spending it on whatever he wants, and building the building as extravagantly as he chooses.

But, I couldn’t help wondering: “Isn’t this a bit self-indulgent?” Sure, it’s nice to be comfortable and to have nice, even very nice, offices, but in a world that has such devastating needs … really!

What could $4 million, the total cost of the “wood”, be spent on that would benefit people with great needs – education, health-care, housing, just to name a few – rather than on satisfying the wants and comfort of a reputable corporate executive?

Yes, it’s his money, but I’m just saying.

Hard Hat Encounters Re-Visited

June 1, 2010

Last summer I worked with a construction crew on the site of a new ten-story building in our area. I was one of two men on the clean-up crew, following the sheet-rockers around, picking up and disposing of debris. I also swept floors, stacked materials, cleaned out five gallon paint buckets, and cleaned the bathrooms, just to mention a few of the other things I did on site.

It was a lot of hard, hot work, but it was a great experience. Not only did it generate income for my family between school semesters, I had the opportunity to meet and get to know a lot of really good men. In fact, I posted several articles on this blog if you’d be interested in reading them. You can find them here and here.

In the morning I am going  to start my summer work with the same construction crew on the same construction site. I am not sure if I will be on the clean-up crew again. All I know is that the push is on to complete the project this summer and there may be some painting involved.

I’m also not sure about the number of hours I am going to work each week. Last summer I worked as many as 53 per week.

The work week may start off at forty hours but the foreman told me that as the project gets closer to completion we can expect to see longer days. Saturdays and Sundays may eventually be added to the schedule.

I am looking forward to seeing which of the men that I worked with last summer are still on the job. They were a great bunch of men who had different histories, stories, and experiences. Most of the men were young men with young families.

Working on the construction crew gave me a deep appreciation for men who work hard with their hands all day at hard labor, labor that often goes unrecognized and is mostly unappreciated by the general public.

And, I came to identify myself with those men, and countless numbers of other men and women like them in our nation, and around the world, who are the producers of almost everything that we eat, use,  live in, wear, watch, drive on, and possess.

I have come to see myself as being one of them … the working class