Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Shouting Into The Void: A Letter To My Senator About Education

Old people such as myself that were raised to believe in the Constitution and the promise of equality under the law tend to cling to old beliefs, reluctant to shed them in the face of evidence of their uselessness. Taught by our parents and our teachers that we could rightly expect our government to represent us, we were also urged to act as if this were true, and to exercise the rights of free speech and petition to secure representation of our views.

White privilege has a big role to play here as most of our elected representatives looked like us and we had access to most of the perks of being the majority group in our society. The civil rights movement pointed out how unequal the U.S. really was, but those of us in the urban fringes (or in Maine, the whitest state in the nation) could pretend that those problems happened elsewhere. 

Except that the Watts riots happened right where my dad commuted to his job working for the Los Angeles school district.

My dad loved thumbing his nose at convention, and he was the one who taught me very early in life that white privilege was a thing and that I had it. It doesn't make you better than anyone, he would say, just luckier. He found the many PhDs in public education who insisted on being addressed as "Dr. __" hilarious and responded by calling all employees including janitors Dr., too.

This is a long way of introducing my recent reply from the odious Republican Senator Susan Collins who ostensibly "represents" me in Maine. I wrote to her voicing my concerns about the presumed nominee for Secretary of Education, a 1% big donor to the demagogue with bad hair's campaign who reportedly never sent her own children to public schools. Her prerogative, but it hardly qualifies her to lead the national public education effort. The nominee has also said that she supports public funding for religious schools like the right wing Christian ones that "educated" her own brood. 

This is a silver lining I have been glimpsing in the ominous cloud of nominees -- if we can get federal $$ for religious schools, I know a bunch of wise people I'd invite to teach at a Pagan religious school that taught children how to live with reverence for Mother Nature.

Here is my senator's craven reply, which erased any doubts I had about whether she would cozy up to the incoming regime of know-nothings:

Typical response from my elected "representative" in that it makes no effort to address my substantive issues, delivers a condescending lecture on how government supposedly works, and does not miss a chance to take a dig at the current officeholder on the (mistaken) presumption that I am a fan of Democrats. 

In reality my response to the nominee has been that the incoming administration would have to go far to select a Secretary of Education worse than former Democratic secretary Arne Duncan, but it appears that they have succeeded.

No Child Left Behind gutted public education as we had known it and lined the pockets of George W. Bush's cronies in the standardized testing sector. Charter school operators and other for-profit education corporations similarly flourished during the Obama administration. 

Meanwhile, poor kids still receive a poorly funded education while rich kids parents cough up the property taxes that make for what Jonathon Kozol described as "savage inequality"  in our public schools 25 YEARS AGO.

So why do I keep writing to my elected officials in the vain hope that they will hear me rather than the sweet sounds of cash falling into their coffers from the army of lobbyists that roam the halls of Congress?

Same reason I write this blog: to keep my head from exploding.

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