Sojourner's Blog

June 20, 2011

Americana Game Photos

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:56 am

Photos of the Americana Game by SDS
San Francisco State, 1968

Laying out the American Game

Laying Out the American Game

Students Playing the Americana Game

Students playing the American Game

Students Playing the Americana Game

Question Authority and You End Up in Jail

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Americana Game Schema and Plan

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:53 am

AMERICANA GAME SCHEMATIC PLAN

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 1. Socialization.

Everyone starts at Mainline, Section 1. Our sardonic view of growing up in the 1950s and early 60s, the lies, myths, distortions, materialist values and corrupt politics.

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 2. High School.

Our view of high school from a point of view somewhat different from that of the school principal and PTA.

[CHANCE] RACE Flip a card to learn if you’re white, Black, or Latino.

* Congratulations! You’re white, continue up the Mainline.
* Congratulations! You’re Black/Latino. Take the Ghetto path.

[CHOICE #1] on the Mainline. Choose a path:

1. Continue up the Mainline to college.
2. Drop out and join the Working Class path (start at the sign with the green balloon).

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 3. College.

Our opinion of our college experience from a point of quite at odds with that of the administration — our critique of college life and the role that the university plays in society.

[CHOICE #2] on the Mainline. Choose a path:

1. Be a docile student. Follow the Career path to Middle-Class life.
2. Become a student rebel activist. Continue up the Mainline.
3. Fuck the whole thing. Take the Drop Out path.

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 4. Student Activism

Re-cap of recent political struggles on campus (anti-ROTC, demand for Third World studies, Vietnam & draft protests, student rights, etc). Police & arrests on campus, etc. Administration suppression of free speech & thought, etc. Critiques of liberal Democratic Party politics.

[CHOICE #3] on the Mainline. Choose a path:

1. Continue on as a post-college political activist/organizer
2. Reform the system from within. Cross-over to the Middle Class path.

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 5. Activist/Organizer

[CHANCE] DRAFT. Now that you’re out of college and your student deferment has expired, flip a card to learn if you’ve been drafted.

* Greetings! Uncle Sam wants you. Go to the Induction Center. (Sign with the red balloon)
* Congrats! You escaped the draft! Continue on up the Mainline.

Life as a radical political activist/organizer. Triumphs and heartbreaks. Problems, choices and strategies.

[CHANCE] FATE.

* Sorry, you’ve been assassinated by the cops. Thanks for playing the Americana Game.
* Sorry, you’ve been falsely imprisoned. Go directly to jail.
* Lucky you! Continue on organizing and struggling.

Radical organizer/activist continued. Meetings, protests, building grass- roots political power.

BLACK/LATINO (GHETTO) PATH.

[CHANCE] DRAFT. Now that you’re 18 and out of high school, flip a card to learn if you’ve been drafted.

* Greetings! Uncle Sam wants you. Go to the Induction Center. (Sign with the red balloon)
* Congrats! You escaped the draft! Continue along the Ghetto line.

BLACK/LATINO (GHETTO) PATH, Section 1. Life in the Ghetto.

Life in the ghetto. Poverty. Racism and discrimination in employment & housing. Police repression. “Urban renewal” (AKA “Negro removal”). “Job training” programs leading directly to the Army.

[CHANCE] DRUGS.

* You’ve gotten hooked on smack. Turn down the Junkie path.
* You’ve avoided addiction/alcoholism, continue along the Ghetto line.

JUNKIE PATH. The “high life.”

Life as an addict — miserable and short. Where’s all this skag coming from anyway, and who’s getting rich? Effect on your family. Jail. No help or treatment for junkies or other society rejects. Death in an alley with a needle in your arm. Thanks for playing the Americana Game.

BLACK/LATINO (GHETTO) PATH, Section 2. Struggling for a better life.

Racism on the job, tokenism, last-hired-first-fired. Black/Latino in a white middle-class.

[CHOICE] Choose a path:

1. Affluence, acceptance, accommodation. Turn right down the Lackey Line.
2. Resistance & change. Turn left up the Resistance Line.

LACKEY PATH. Selling your soul for a home in the suburbs.

Becoming the “first of your race to …” Ahhh, the joys of power and affluence, leaving the old neighborhood (and family) behind (way behind). Life as an Oreo.

RESISTANCE PATH, SECTION 1. Struggling for change.

Fighting for justice, issues great and small. Cops. Repression. Urban uprisings.

[CHANCE] FATE.

* Sorry, you were killed by cops in a revolt. Thanks for playing the Americana Game.
* Sorry, you’ve been sentenced to 20 years. Go directly to jail.
* Lucky you! Continue struggling.

RESISTANCE PATH, SECTION 2. Building a better world.

Continuing the struggle. Community organizing, building political power. Victories and defeats large and small. La luta continua.

INDUCTION CENTER (Red balloon).

[CHOICE] Induction.

1. Step across the line. Continue up the Army line.
2. Refuse induction. Go directly to jail.

ARMY PATH, SECTION 1. Basic Training

The misery and abuse of basic training, and the political indoctrination and socialization that underlies it. “The spirit of the bayonet is to kill” (whoever we tell you to kill). Smedley Butler quote.

[CHANCE] ORDERS TO…

* You’ve been assigned to Europe. Take the Garrison path.
* Oh, goody! You’ve being sent to Vietnam. Continue ahead.

GARRISON PATH. You’re in the Army now.

Life in the service outside of Vietnam. The world-wide political-economic role of U.S. military. Maintaining the global corporate order.

Congratulations! You’ve served your country well (or at least the corporate rulers thereof) and gotten a “good” discharge. As a newly discharged veteran, we welcome you to life in the Unemployment line. Go to Choice #1 on the Working Class line (the sign with the green balloon).

ARMY PATH, SECTION 2. Vietnam.

Vietnam! Vietnam! Lies. War. Racism. Drugs. The politics behind the war. Our noble “allies.” Who dies, who gets rich.

[CHANCE] FATE.

* That boy on a bicycle turned out to be a young guerrilla with a grenade. You didn’t survive. Thanks for playing the Americana Game.

* That carelessly-aimed napalm bomb almost missed you. Proceed on ahead to the V.A. Hospital.

* Congratulations! You survived (at least physically). As a newly discharged veteran, we welcome you to life in the Unemployment line. Go to Choice #1 on the Working Class line (the sign with the green balloon).

ARMY PATH, SECTION 3. V.A. Hospital.

How the government really treats its wounded heroes.

WORKING CLASS PATH

(Note: “Working Class” & “Middle Class” were very generalized distinctions of income-level, workplace power, and overall life-style.)

Start at the sign with the green balloon, after passing Draft Chance or finishing Army service).

[CHOICE] #1 on the Working Class line. Work or don’t.

1. Get a job. Continue along the Working Class line.
2. Drop out. Turn down the Hippy Path.

WORKING CLASS PATH, SECTION 1.

Life as a blue-collar or service worker. Low wages, lack of dignity & respect, speed-up & layoffs. What’s this talk about a union, aren’t they all rackets run by gangsters and reds?

[CHOICE] #2 on the Working Class line.

1. Join the union & go on strike. Continue up the Working Class path.
2. Become a scab. Take the path to the right.

WORKING CLASS PATH, SECTION 2. On Strike.

Why strike? Life on the strike line. Scabs & cops. Trying to survive without an income. -The union bosses sell you out.

[CHOICE] #3 on the Working Class line.

1. Fight on against both corporate and union bosses. Continue up the Working Class path.
2. “You can’t fight City Hall.” Turn right down the AFL Line

WORKING CLASS PATH, SECTION 3. Defying the Bosses

Rank & file activism against both the corporate and union bosses. Organizing a caucus. Snitches & stool pigeons. Struggling for union democracy. Wildcat strike. A long hard road ahead.

SCAB LINE

Turning your back on your friends and co-workers for material rewards. Learning new words like “Schmuck.”

AFL LINE

Acquiescing and copping out. Feathering your own nest. Dead end, thanks for playing the Americana Game.

HIPPY PATH, Section 1. Turn on, tune in, drop out.

Life on the Streets in the Summer of Love. Who needs money when you have love and pot? Living free off the grid ain’t so easy. Life as a free-spirit artist/writer/performer. Now you know why they call them “pigs.” Hippy capitalism, dealing dope.

[CHOICE]

1. Continue down the Hippy path
2. Cross over to political resistance & organizing (blue balloon)

HIPPY PATH, Section 2. Coming Down is Such a Bummer

Syphilis and the Free Clinic. Love turns to violence at Altamont Pass. Uh- oh, you smoked all the pot you were supposed to sell on consignment, your dealer is going to be pissed.

[CHANCE]

* You were warned about sharing needles. Welcome to the Hepatitis ward.
* This urban scene’s a drag. Off to a commune in the country.

HIPPY PATH, Section 3. Country living, commune style.

Hey, bean sprouts or pot, this farm work is hard. What’s the difference between a collective committee and a boss? Parents/pastors/teachers tried to mind-fuck/control you — now that you’re free, you have a guru.

MIDDLE CLASS PATH, Section 1. Grinding out the Degree.

Student careerism, kissing the ass of the professor class. Don’t make waves. It’s not what you know but the contacts you cultivate. Student government as career enhancement.

[CHANCE] DRAFT. Oh, shit! You’ve graduated and your student deferment has expired, flip a card to learn if you’ve been drafted.

* Greetings! Uncle Sam wants you. Go to the Induction Center. (Sign with the red balloon)
* Congrats! You escaped the draft! Continue up the Middle Class line.

MIDDLE CLASS PATH, Section 2. Anesthetize, fit in, sell out.

A functionary in a gray flannel suit. Life in the suburbs, bland, boring, and banal. Building that career, conscience and creativity not required.

[CHOICE] Choose your poison.

1. Corporate manager. Take the money line.
2. Government service. Take the bureaucrat line.

MIDDLE CLASS PATH, Section 3. Corporate manager, the money line.

Money money money, self self self. Climbing the corporate ladder. Middle management.

MIDDLE CLASS PATH, Section 4. Government bureaucracy line.

A cog in the wheels of power, you turn and turn and turn without a care of what the machine is producing. Keep the trains running on time and you’ll be safe and secure (though not rich).

May 27, 2011

Creative Campus Tactics

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 9:15 pm

The effectiveness of Nonviolent direct-action protest tactics are measured by how well they:

  • Communicate political ideas
  • Generate discussion (and media coverage) of the issues
  • Involve new people in activity
  • Increase the commitment & understanding of participants
  • Cause a visible reaction from authorities
  • Win some positive change

By those measures, over the past year some of our most successful tactics were creative uses of nonviolence beyond the standard post-rally march around campus or occupation/sit-in. For example, the Wheeler Hall ledge sit-in at U.C. Berkeley that resulted in charges against demonstrators being dropped Protesters on Ledge at UC Berkeley, S.F. Chronicle, March 4, 2011).

Symbolic Building Closures

Buy a roll or two of yellow Caution tape and prepare some official-looking signs (including some that can be stuck in a flower-bed or grassy area) that say something like: “This building closed in order to pay for tax cuts & subsidies for [name of corporation or wealthy individual]” If possible pick a company or person associated with the school’s governing body. For example, for the UC system multi millionaire Regent Blum and his ITT Tech empire of tax-payer-funded for-profit diploma mills. Or an energy company receiving subsidies and tax breaks, or some other name that makes a political point.

Just before classes begin in the morning, post the “closed” signs on (and in front of) an appropriate classroom building, and string up the caution tape across the doors and wherever else you can (bushes, pillars, windows, bike-racks, whatever). Distribute flyers explaining the symbolic action to students as they arrive. Of course, they’ll break the tape to get into class (or you break it for them) and that provides good symbolism for us — students tearing down the barriers and stepping on the tape to get to class. So long as the signs and Caution tape that is not barring entrances remains up it continues to be a powerful visual.

A note on snitches. If you find the building heavily guarded before you arrive in the morning, you probably have a snitch in your committee. That’s a good thing, it shows they’re taking you seriously. Don’t over-react. The power of nonviolent resistance lies in tactics that don’t require secrecy. Simply go to another building that’s not guarded. Cops are good at fighting, and if they see violence they’ll chase after it, but absent some clear threat of danger to themselves or others they’re not agile because they can’t move from their posts until the chain of command orders them to. So quick-moving nonviolent protesters can stay ahead of them.

May 24, 2011

Re-Imagining Campus Protest Rallies

Now that the school year is winding down, it’s a good time to  look back, evaluate, and start laying plans for the Fall.

The campus protest rally with a handful of fiery speakers and  some mass chanting is a staple of protest  politics — a traditional method of expressing  opposition and anger. But as we’ve seen this past year, when it’s  repeated over and over with the same speakers, the same rhetoric,  the and same slogans its effectiveness diminishes and the number  of participants declines.

It’s now clear that the campaign to defend and reform public  higher education is going to be a long hard road. A struggle that  can only be won by building a broad-based mass movement. Mass  movements don’t just happen, they are built by committed activists. But as a general rule, most people don’t become  politically active from listening to speeches, reading websites &  leaflets, or receiving emails & tweets. Organizations and  movements are built by conversations and involving people in  activities — activities that are more substantive  than listening to rally speakers or shouting slogans in a group  chant.

Creativity is a pillar of nonviolent direct action. We  need to apply some creative thinking to the traditional campus  protest rally so as to more effectively involve people in active  participation. For example:

Speak-Out Circles. One technique that proved useful  during the long student strike at S.F. State in 1968 was to  occasionally replace the noon rally with speak-out circles.  Instead of making the usual speeches, we called on people to form  small circles of 6-12 where everyone was encouraged to discuss  the issues. Pre-assigned circle-leaders spread out, raised their  hands, and shouted “form a circle on me.” When folk gathered  around, the leader asked: “Well, what do you think about  [whatever]?” and encouraged dialog. Dialog and discussion were  the keys, not the typical “I’m-the-expert-you-listen-to-me” mode  of speakers/teachers to passive audiences & classes. When done  successfully, speak-out circles allowed strike supporters to  discuss and debate with uninvolved students and opponents.

Inevitably, some circles didn’t jell and dissipated, but  others became lively, loud, and argumentative and attracted more  and more people to gather around. (Yes, encouraging those who  disagreed with us to speak was part of the method.) When a lively  circle became too large, and people were becoming frustrated  because they wanted to contribute their opinions and weren’t  getting an opportunity, a new leader pulled some away to start a  new circle — “Let’s start a new circle over  here!” On our best day, we once built up from an initial 3 to  eventually 11 circles all going at once. The entire lawn in front  of the cafeteria (now the student union) was a bubbling ferment  of ideas and passion and involvement.

Speak-out circles were most effective when something  particularly controversial had just occurred (usually by us) and  people were already buzzing, but they could be used at any time.  More students were moved to support the strike from their  participation in the ferment of those circles than from our  typical we-speak-you-listen rallies. And organizers used them to  spot potential activists for longer conversations, personal  invitations to committee meetings, and so on.

Big Post-Its Campaign. Today we can buy pads of easel- size Post-Its made from newsprint paper. They’re used at meetings  where ideas are written down large and stuck up on the walls.  Instead of a typical noon protest rally, how about bringing out  some big Post-It pads and a bucket of Sharpies and ask people to  write down their own ideas on the issues and post them up on the  walls and glass of nearby buildings. Have cadre prepared to start  it off with some well thought out provocative statements and be  the first to post them up. Be sure to date each statement,  photograph them, and put them up on the internet to share with  other schools (that way they won’t be lost if the administration  orders them torn down).

Use rolls of Blue Tape to reinforce the paper’s sticky back so  that the Post-Its stay up even on concrete walls (brick walls  usually won’t work even with tape). Using Blue Tape is important  because it’s designed to not damage underlying surfaces. Our core  message is that the power-elites are trying to destroy public  higher-education and we don’t want to make it easy for them to  divert the discussion by accusing us of vandalizing school  buildings.

(For those of you with an interest in ancient history, look up  “Big Character Posters” which were powerfully used in the Chinese  Democracy Movement of the mid-1970s until the government  suppressed them.)

We used to say “If you don’t like the history they’re teaching  you, go out and make some of your own.” If these ideas from an  old geezer find no favor in your eyes, create some of your own,  because we all need to start thinking out of the box.

November 17, 2010

“Glee” and Education Inequalities

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 6:18 pm

The other day I saw a TV show about a high school glee club. It was imaginative and amusing entertainment, but as I looked at that fictional school with its full-time credentialed teachers, plentiful enrichment programs, a magnificent fully-equipped auditorium, and club rehearsal spaces replete with fine instruments and sophisticated electronics, I couldn’t help but think of a letter I received earlier this year from a parent whose children attend an all-Black, overwhelmingly-poor school. Here is a portion of what she wrote:

I started working on the Pen or Pencil Initiative at XXXX
High School in October, 2009. I usually go to the school
once a week to work with the students. What I found at XXXX
High School has been unbelievable.

First of all the facilities are some of the worst I have
ever seen. The bathrooms were filthy. I walked in to the
bathroom and had to immediately turn around and walk out.
The students told me that they did not use the bathrooms
because they were in such bad shape. A lot of the toilets
did not flush. Stalls are missing. Some of the sinks did
not work, or were leaking so badly that they had to
disconnect them.

There was no hot water, and in some cases no water at all in
the bathroom so that the children could wash their hands. In
some cases, there was no toilet tissue. So I concluded that
the “students could not wash their hands or wash their
booties”. The students told me that they would “hold” it all
day or call their parents to come sign them out of school,
take them home to use the bathroom, and then bring them back
to the school. In my opinion, it is not an environment
conducive to learning and growing for high school youth. It
is rather a very thuggish environment.

For Martin Luther King Day of Service, the Pen or Pencil
students and myself led a volunteer effort to repair and
sanitize the bathrooms (I paid for this), and then have the
volunteers clean, scrub, and paint all the bathrooms at XXXX
High School. Although the bathrooms were cleaned and
repaired on MLK Day, I do not know if the school has been
able to maintain them. The staff has said that they do not
have cleaning supplies, and with no hot water, it is not
easy to keep them clean. Also, on MLK day, we attempted to
steam-clean the carpet. It too was and is filthy. However,
with no hot water and 200 volunteers we could not get much
done.

Besides the facilities, I also discovered that the students
do not have textbooks. They have a few books in the
classroom, dated between 1984 and 1992 with most of them
torn and many pages missing, (not enough so that each child
can have one) and the students do not take any texbooks home
to do homework. My understanding is that they do not have
homework. (I personally have not seen a student with a
textbook).

The students have complained to me that they want to learn
and get a good education, but they feel that they are not
being taught by the teachers. The students have expressed
regrets about not learning very much at school. They have
also complained that the teachers are absent from school at
lot, and they get sent to the gym to sit until the class
period is over.

Additionally, there are very few computers in the classrooms
or the library that work. Probably, between 3 and 5 in the
library, and maybe 8 to 12 in computer-discover class. Some
students were assigned to this class, who are now being sent
home during that class period because there are not ample
computers.

Lack of ample textbooks, lack of ample computers — how are
children to learn?

The students have told me that they do not have enough
teachers for their required courses so they must spend a lot
of time in the gym and/or in PE for 2 class periods a day.
(One ninth-grader told me that she has only 2 academic
classes a day; the other time she must spend in the gym
either in PE or just sitting in the gym. Many of the
students in the 11th and 12th grade go home between 12 and 2
every day because they do not have any classes to go to.
Some of these same children are not passing the state
required test, and almost half of the senior class is not
graduating because they have not passed the required test.
Nevertheless, they are scheduled to end their school day at
12 noon every school day.

No music, no art, no band, no foreign languages, (at one
time, no English 1, because of a long-term teacher vacancy).
They do not have study periods or library periods or
activity periods.

There is no in-school suspension, and children are being
suspended from school on a regular basis.

Yes, I do know that “Glee” is Hollywood fiction, but I also know that real-life schools in affluent, predominantly-white districts across the country DO have full-time credentialed teachers, clean toilets, adequate books and computers, libraries, music, art, and other enrichment programs. And that all too many urban and rural schools serving overwhelmingly nonwhite or non-affluent communities do NOT have adequate facilities, equipment, supplies, books, or computers. I stand by the principle that equal access to a quality education is a fundamental human right, a right that increasing numbers of American children are being denied. It is not enough to just protest budget-cuts and tuition-hikes if we are not at the same time forcefully demanding an end to educational inequalities that are crippling our democracy and dividing our population into the haves and have-nots of the future.

The real safeguard of democracy is education.” ~FDR

June 17, 2010

Keep the “Public” in Public Higher-Education

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:46 pm
Tags: , ,

Cuts & Hikes. Education leaders tell us that devastating budget cuts are “necessary” because of the current economic crisis. But they’ve been cutting budgets and raising tuition for decades — in good times as well as bad.

  • For example, during the economic boom years 1998-2008, “State spending per student enrolled at the University of California has declined by about one-third.” [1]
  • In 1960, the “Master Plan for Education mandated, that all qualified students be able to attend a public collegetuition free. But for decades they’ve been circumventing that requirement by calling student payments “fees” rather than “tuition.” For example, between 2000 and 2008 tuition (fees) at UC and CSU more than doubled. [2]
  • In 1960, student fees at UC and CSU were roughly $150. This school year (2010) at UC they’re $11,000 (a 7000% increase), and at CSU they’re $4,900 (a 3200% increase).
  • “Economic crisis” is a political smoke-screen. To restore higher-education funding and lower student tuition back to 2001 levels would cost taxpayers $4.643 billion. That would require an annual income-tax increase of just $32 for the median California taxpayer. Simply revoking some of the many recent tax-cuts for corporations and the wealthy would solve the higher-education budget problem. [3]

It’s not fiscal crises driving these tuition hikes and budget cuts, it’s political policies. Behind the rhetoric are policies that reject the Master Plan’s goal of providing tuition-free educations to all of the state’s qualified students and policies aimed at making public universities equivalent to costly private institutions.

Spending Priorities. At the 2009 meeting where they jacked up tuition, the UC Regents also gave hefty pay raises to executives and senior bureaucrats. Apparently, $500,000 a year isn’t enough, so the wages of janitors had to be cut and librarians laid off so that the Lord-High Poobahs were not inconvenienced. And why are there so many managers? Fifteen years ago, tenure-track UC professors outnumbered administrators and functionaries two to one, today the bureaucrats outnumber the professors. Spending priorities favoring administration over instruction are driven by policy, not economic crisis. [4] [5]

Public Education and Empowered Citizens. Increasingly,
politicians and education officials are telling us that public colleges should be run like private businesses. More and more, their focus is on profit & loss, revenue enhancement, outsourcing, and cutting labor costs. Their mindset seems to assume that the primary (or possibly the sole) purposes of higher-education are corporate-research and training students for hired labor. Yes, preparing people for the occupations of tomorrow’s economy is an important function of higher-education, but a more important role is developing empowered citizens to participate in, and control, a democratic society. In the final analysis, public institutions of higher learning should be in the democracy-building business, not the financial profit-and-loss business.

Public Institutions are NOT Commercial Businesses. Applying metaphors of private business to higher education means recasting universities as factories, with education and research patents as their products, professors as easily replaceable assembly-line workers, and students and corporations as customers. But public institutions such as schools, roads, sewer-systems, and health departments, serve the community as a whole, not just certain “customers.” Public higher-education is an engine of economic growth that benefits everyone at-large. Better educated citizens are more productive and pay higher taxes, they create a stronger economy and more jobs for all. “The truth is that the knowledge and innovation coming from graduates of state-supported universities create far more wealth in the state than the education’s cost.” [6]



1. Higher Education: Frequently Asked Questions, California Legislative Analyst’s Office, Issue #18, 12/09 [PDF]

2. Resident Student Fees Table, California Postsecondary Education Commission

3. How much will it cost us to restore public higher education? Keep California’s Promise

4. Execs Still Get Raises as UC Cuts Staffing, Pay, S.F. Chronicle August 7, 2009

5. Statistical Summary and Data…, UC Office of President

6. Privatization Is The Issue, Prof. George Lakoff

May 6, 2010

SNCC & Today’s Education Struggle

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 12:07 am
Tags: , , , , ,

At the 50th Anniversary conference/reunion of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Raleigh, NC, we gray-headed Freedom Movement veterans met with more than 50 college activists from a number of HBCUs, and young activists from organizations such as the Young Peoples Project, The Gathering For Justice, and other groups. The topic was today’s education fight. A number of the plenary speakers including Jim Lawson, Harry Belafonte, Bob Moses, and others raised education-related issues, and there were well-organized small-group discussions on the topic.

Starting from the premise that a quality education is a fundamental human right, we looked at two questions:

  1. What defines a quality education?
  2. Should we have a constitutional amendment ensuring the right to a quality education?

The main points that I took away from the discussion:

  1. The fight for a quality education from pre-K to PhD is a key civil rights struggle of the 21st Century.
  2. Framing the issue around “quality education” raises the problem of defining “quality.” The power-structure defines a “quality education” as one that trains young people to be docile and productive hired laborers in an economy that serves the interests of the elite. But for us, a “quality education” is one that prepares young people to be sovereign citizens of a democratic society. So perhaps a better way of stating our goal is “democratic education” or “empowering education,” rather than “quality education.”
  3. The phrase “sovereign citizens of a democratic society” uses the word “citizen” in the broadest sense — making no distinction between “legal” and”illegal,” or social security card vs green card vs no card. “Citizen” is used in the “We the people” sense that all who contribute, work, and live in a community are citizens of that community regardless of arbitrary divisions imposed by the power structure.
  4. At root then, a “quality education” is a question of political power. A very few special schools for the elite (Andover, Punahou, Harvard, Yale, etc) inculcate in their students the assumption that they will be the rulers of tomorrow and prepare them for the acquisition and application of political and economic power. But the schools of the many do the opposite — they instill a sense of political powerlessness. At best the schools for the many prepare young people for a life of hired labor, at worst they don’t even do that. But even the “good” schools that train well-paid hired labor cannot guarantee that those “good” jobs won’t disappear as soon as the power elite can find someone somewhere to do that work at lower wages and greater profit.
  5. The Freedom Movement of the 1960s won victories by exposing the contradictions between the best aspirations of American traditions and the racist/exploitative realities, and by organizing and mobilizing masses of people to demand that America live up to its promises. Can we do the same around education? Can we make the Constitution a tool for reaching/educating/organizing large numbers of people who are not (yet) radicalized, by demanding that a “quality education” be made a constitutional right like free speech, freedom of religion, trial by jury and the right to own a gun?
  6. The very first words of the Constitution are: “We the people … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
    It does not say: “We the President”
    It does not say: “We the Congress”
    It does not say: “We the Supreme Court”
    It does not say: “We the states”
    It does not say: “We the citizens”
    It says “We the people … do ordain and establish…”

February 7, 2010

California Education Issues & Information Resources

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

Matrix_of_education_issues

Conf Reg Test

January 30, 2010

Letter to Parents of California College Students

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:49 pm
Tags: , , ,

1/8/10

Why We’re Protesting ~ A Letter to Parents

As you know, students, faculty, staff, and community supporters are protesting at colleges and
universities across the state. We are writing this letter to explain why.

Our protests were triggered by the enormous cuts in education spending and the huge tuition increases that politicians claim were forced by last year’s economic crisis. But that’s not true. For years, officials have been shifting money from education to prisons. Governor Schwarzenegger acknowleges that, “30 years ago 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and three percent went to prisons. Today, almost 11 percent goes to prisons and only 7.5 percent goes to higher education.”

Back in 1960, the politicians in Sacramento enacted a promise to the citizens of California. It was called the “Master Plan for Education,” and it required, by law, that all qualified students be able to attend a public college—tuition free. For years that promise was kept, but then they started getting around the law by calling it “fees” rather than “tuition.” Between 2000 and 2008 (way before the economic crisis) tuition at UC and CSU more than doubled. In 1960, student fees at UC and CSU were roughly $150. This year at UC they’re $11,000 (a 7000% increase), and at CSU they’re $4,900 (a 3200% increase).

For many students and their families, especially those hard hit by layoffs and foreclosures, the dream of a college education has been priced out of reach. And for Blacks, Latinos, and others who have historically faced discrimination, the hope of higher education is being denied as economic barriers are re-segregating opportunity in California.

But the issues are deeper than the just the cost of education. So many professors have been let go that this Spring no new students will be admitted to the CSU system, and total enrollment will be slashed by at least 40,000. At the Community Colleges 250,000 students will be “turned away.” Those who do manage to get into a school are discovering that required classes are no longer available so they have to attend an extra year to graduate (and pay yet more tuition). And class sizes are doubling which means less individual attention, less chance to ask questions, and less contact with the remaining teachers.

A fundamental issue that has nothing to do with economic crises is how education funds are spent and how the decisions are made. At the same meeting where they jacked up tuition, the UC Regents also gave hefty pay raises to the executives and senior bureaucrats. Apparently $500,000 a year isn’t enough, so the wages of janitors have to be cut and librarians laid off so that the top managers are not inconvenienced. And why are there so many of them? Fifteen years ago UC professors outnumbered senior managers by two and a half to one, but today there are actually more high-paid administrators than professors.

The real issue is not the current economic crises. The real issue is that politicians in Sacramento have quietly abandoned the principle of publicly-funded higher education for all. Over many years they have steadily moved our system of public colleges away from education-for-all towards the model of expensive private schools—with tightly restricted and highly competitive admissions. The word for this is “privatization.” It is a word that means converting public colleges to the model of private universities. It is a word that means higher education will only be available to the affluent.

We are writing you this letter to ask you to stand up for your sons and daughters, and the public education that they must have to survive and thrive in the 21st Century. It’s time for parents and taxpayers to demand that public education be restored and expanded for all. It’s time for parents to become involved.

For more information:
In Defense of Quality Public Education – California
California Faculty Assoc.
Council of UC Faculty Associations

Letter to Parents of Children in California Public Schools

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

January, 2010

California Public Schools in Crises ~ A Letter to Parents

We are writing you this letter to ask you to stand up for your sons and daughters, and the public education they must have to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.

Last year, the politicians cut public school funding by more than $5,300,000,000. This year they tell us they’re going to cut even more. They justify themselves by citing all sorts of statistics, but education is not about statistics, it’s about children. And most parents know that their kids in public school are not receiving the education they need. We don’t need to be mathematicians to know that:

  • Class sizes are too large because there’s not enough money to hire teachers, and too much is being spent on managers and bureaucrats.
  • Many schools are in such poor repair as to be unsafe, with not enough money for maintenance.
  • There are constant and worsening shortages of materials, supplies, and equipment.
  • Enrichment programs in languages, sports, art, music, and other areas being slashed or eliminated.
  • Pre-Kindergarten and Adult Education programs areas being slashed or eliminated.
  • Critical positions such as nurses, librarians, counselors, and janitors are being eliminated.

They tell us that these cutbacks are because of the current economic crisis, but that’s not true. They’ve been cutting public education for years, long before this latest crises. Proposition 13 was supposed to relieve citizens burdened by excessive property taxes, but most of the benefit went to big business and commercial landlords. Corporations used to pay the majority of education-related taxes, but their share has steadily been reduced so that now individual taxpayers have to carry most of the load, and there is no longer enough money to adequately fund public education even in the good times, let alone the bad.

They tell us that public education provides equal opportunity for all, but every parent in California knows that there are rich districts and poor districts, “good” schools and “bad” schools. And despite all the rhetoric and promises, everyone knows that public schools serving Black and Latino communities get the short end of the stick, that non-white students receive unequal punishment and discipline, and that educational inequality is part of a pattern that cannot be separated from job discrimination, inadequate housing, lack of health care, and unsafe streets. In the words of Dr. King, the promise of equality in America is “… a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.

They tell us that the only way to hold schools and teachers accountable is by imposing one-size-fits-all regulations decreed by distant bureaucrats. But children are not standardized assembly-line parts, and neither are individual schools or school districts. Who can best determine what each child needs, the parents and teachers who see them every day, or officials in Sacramento and Washington? Yes, kids have to be educated to meet the requirements of the 21st Century. And they also need an education that helps them grow into thoughtful and caring individuals capable of living productive, meaningful lives and function as empowered citizens in a democratic society. But teachers and parents must have a voice in how each school and classroom achieves those goals. Instead of centralizing total control in the capitol, local communities—parents and teachers together—need the power to hold the system accountable and to support those schools and programs that are succeeding, and to change those that fail to educate the children.

They tell us that charter schools are the answer to all our problems, but both charter and public schools get their funds from the same inadequate source. Pitting public and charter schools against each other in a losing battle for dwindling resources diverts us from the real issue—Sacramento’s refusal to provide a quality public education to all.

Now is the time to take action.
For more info:
In Defense of Quality Public Education – California
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