What if Obama’s State of the Union speech ushers in an age of government sponsored reality TV: “Education Idol,” “Obama’s Biggest Little Losers”and“The Amazing Race to Control the World”?

Before I read around the net for reactions to the state of the union, I thought I would formulate some of my own. So, here are thoughts on a few areas close to my heart: Education, Body Image, and Militarism.

On education, Obama referred to the “national competition to improve our schools.” Wow, will there be a reality TV show to go along with that? How about “Education Idol”?

I agree with Obama that “one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education.” Too bad he doesn’t back this belief with monetary support. Alas, there always seems to be enough money for war but not for education.

On body image, Obama gave a nod to Michelle Obama “who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make our kids healthier.” Oooh, sounds like the makings for another reality show! How about “Obama’s Biggest Little Losers”?

Instead of targeting body size, how about targeting high fructose corn syrup and ultra-processed Franken foods. Oh no, food corps wouldn’t like that, and now they hold the purse strings…

On militarism, Obama resorted to euphemism again, hiding war cries under the guise of “national security” and “terrorists.”

There seemed to be a big gap in the war portions of his speech – the military budget!!! Why no mention of how our war-happy stance has a lot to do with our current economic collapse? Why no talk of curtailing military spending or cutting back on our bases around the globe?

Seems all his war talk could have the makings of a reality show too – how about “The Amazing Race to Control the World,” “American’s Next Top War,” or “Country Swap”?

To sum up my reaction, I found most of the speech to be about as believable (and disheartening) as reality TV.

I heartily agree with Obama that “America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity,” I just think Obama and the US government define freedom and human dignity a little differently than I do.

I don’t find that occupying the globe with our soldiers, bases, and prisons is the best way to bring about freedom. I don’t find that championing corporate capitalism promotes human dignity – to the contrary, it puts profit before people.

If he really wants to stand on the side of freedom and human dignity, Obama must think about de-militarizing the globe and decreasing the corporate stranglehold on our world. Oh yeah, and supporting education with more than just words would be nice too.

What if the governator (with Chancellor Reed’s help) VOLUNTARILY terminates the CSU system?

Here in California, Governor Schwarzenegger promised that 2008 would be the year of education.

Apparently, the former actor forgot a key part of his line – that this would be the year of education CUTS.

His 2008 budget proposal called for 5 billion in education cuts, including $312 million in proposed cuts to the CSU budget.  This would translate into an $875 drop in per-student spending. These cuts will almost definitely result in course reductions, increased class sizes, reduced student services, faculty hiring freezes, and the turning away up to 10,000 eligible students from the CSU system.

As the picture below clarifies, Arnold is woefully impervious to what is going on around him. This picture, taken during the devastating fires in San Diego last October, shows Arnold checking his bicep heft as he stands in the burned remains of someones home. Talk about insensitive. This photo serves as a disturbing metaphor for his attitude to the CSU system specifically, and education more generally. While the CSU system goes down in flames, he seems more intent on flexing his own power as he sidles closer to the white house.

Arnold lifts weights at cite of San Diego Wildfires 07

Arnold lifts weights at cite of San Diego Wildfires 07

While he makes bank and smiles his tanned smile at press conferences, the California Faculty Association and various CSU newspapers work to expose him as terminating the education system in our state. CSU Student Newspapers from around the state have taken issue with Arnold’s budget in particular. For example, Cal State Long Beach paper called Arnie an “Educ-Hater,” As the paper claims, Arnold seems to indeed be an educ-hater when it comes to students, faculty, and staff.

However, Arnold does not ‘hate’ education executives as he has yet to propose curbing spending at the top of the education ladder (say, for example, a cut in Chancellor Reed’s 374,500 salary – plus over 300,00 in ‘perks’ each year).  Instead, the governor recommended another 10% student fee increase (which would be the 6th in the last seven years).

The suggestion that raising students fees is the best solution while ignoring the top heavy salaries of university executives reveals a distinct lack of concern for those who can least afford fee hikes – the students.

Failing to mention that salaries for CSU presidents have been on the rise for years in spite of tight education budgets, the governor instead expects students and faculty to bear the brunt of his cuts. This is hardly surprising coming from a man with a net worth of 100 to 200 million who can easily opt out of his 206,500 governor salary because he doesn’t need it (which, by the way, is less than the typical annual salary of a CSU president!).

The governor’s healthcare plans show a similar lack of awareness that not all Californians have deep pockets. For example, his budget eliminates many benefits for the 6.6 million Californians on Medi-cal such and cuts adult dental care, optometry care, and psychological care. As Julia Rosen puts it at Crooks and Liars, “Sorry poor people, no more access to therapists, dentists, or ophthalmologists.”

Thus, as when Arnold talked himself up as an environmentalist while owning 8 Hummers, his claims that he cares about education and healthcare ring false.

rnie, with his empty rhetoric, tanned visage, and plastic grin has also skirted consideration of the fact that California already spends below the national average on education and recently got a grade of D+ in a national ranking of state education systems (see California Progress Report).

Also handily left out of Arnie’s feel good speeches are the high poverty rates in California and the fact that over half of California students come from family’s that are struggling financially.

Yet, in spite of his 9 billion in proposed cuts to state services, which contradicts the goals of affordable education and healthcare he claims to support, Arnie is enjoying a 60% approval rating among registered voters.  Is it the star power that still has people blinded or that ultra white celluloid smile? Does the stale “I’ll be back” line still sprinkled in his speeches and the plethora of Governator merchandise peppered throughout the state bring back enough fond memories of Arnold movies to help our Hollywood saturated state forget about the disservice our governor is doing to those who, unlike him, can’t afford healthcare let alone college?  Why are people not appalled with his lack of concern for the racial and class stratifications that plague this state?

The fact that the Walton’s, founders of Wal-Mart, are some of his biggest backers, should concern those of us who believe in a state budget that does only cater to corporations and the rich (see “Wal-Mart flexes, backs Gov. Arnold,” October 31, 2005, CNNMOney.com). After all, how likely is a budget remotely concerned with equity and justice for all Californians that comes from a man who is widely reported to support various tenets of fascism? (See, for example, “Hitler on Steroids: Nietzchean Roots of the Governator.”)

This budget directly cuts the very social services that non-privileged Californians (who, due to the structural racism of this country are disproportionately people of color) benefit from.

The CSU cuts are a case in point – as a system that was designed to offer affordable education for ALL Californians, the CSU system has a long history of being the higher education system most diverse along lines of race, class, gender, and other markers of social difference.  It is also, apparently, a system Arnold sees as undeserving.  As his is well-documented history of sexual harassment, racist comments, and lust for power attests, Arnold doesn’t care about those disenfranchised by the system and, in fact, claims that ‘Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave” (Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger, by Laurence Leamer).

This, along with his use of sexist phrases such as “girli-men,” and his assertion that “If you gave these blacks a country to run, they would run it down the tubes” shows that his often quoted claim “My relationship to power and authority is that I am all for it” (planterymovement.org) leaves out a few of his key beliefs – it should read, “My relationship to white male power, wealth, and authority is that I am all for it.”

As for Chancellor Reed, he VOLUNTARILY gave back 31.3 million of the CSU budget without a word of complaint, as reported by the California Faculty Association. In addition to willingly giving away desperately needed funds, Reed went on a hiring and raise spree – for, guess who, university executives like himself. For example, he hired nine new vice presidents, some at $225,000 year. He gave raises to those at the top of the university ladder, or the presidents and chancellors that NEVER TEACH A SINGLE STUDENT. For more details on these sickening hires and raises in these times of budget crisis, see the story by Jim Doyle at the San Francisco Chronicle here.

Chancellor Reed

Chancellor Reed

As those at the top enjoy hefty raises, university lecturers and coaches lose their jobs. In my teeny department of nine, five lecturers were not assigned any classes next semester. I have heard similar stories campus wide. Those being cut are, as per usual, at the bottom of the academic rank – those without tenure, the ‘temporary faculty,’ some of whom have been “temporarily” teaching at our campus for 14 years!

At the big-wig meeting in Long Beach last week, the head honchos decided to cap enrollment, which will mean denying admission to 10,000 eligible students for the 2009/10 academic year. Reed blamed “underfunding,” failing, unsurprisingly, to make any mention of the hires and pay rises at the top of the pyramid. The Board of Trustees has not considered an executive salary freeze, a hiring freeze, or layoffs (or even salary reduction). The chair of the board, Jeffrey Bleich, claimed “”That’s always a last resort, and we haven’t got there yet.” Yes, cutting THEIR OWN salaries is a last resort. Cutting student access to classes, raising student fees, and cutting faculty comes first! If anyone was still questioning whether the CSU system has become a corporation, here’s your proof!

All of this news turns my stomach. I went into this profession starry eyed, thinking academia was a moral profession that, at its core, aimed to make the world a better place via education, research, and philosophy. I believe in the power of education to change not only individual lives, but entire societies. Sadly, those in charge of the 23 campus system here in California seem most concerned with lining their own pockets.

Moreover, they do so in hush-hush fashion and only those following news from the California Faculty Association and other ‘whistle blowing’ cites realize what is happening. When discussing these latest atrocities with students last week, many wanted to know what can be done. Here, taken from the CFA website, is a list of what you can do:

WHAT YOU CAN DO

With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, CFA encourages faculty

members to take action now to keep our message in the news and in front of

lawmakers, who return to the Capitol December 1st to begin a new session with

many new members.

Below is a list of actions you can take to help ensure proper funding for the CSU.

1 – SEND A MESSAGE TO THE GOVERNOR

Send a message to the governor to let him know why budget cuts to the CSU are

a bad idea! CFA will collect the faxes and send them when the new legislature

begins in December.

Fill out the form at the following address and return it to your campus CFA office:

http://www.calfac.org/allpdf/Notices/FaxForm_11_17_08.pdf

2 – SEND EXAMPLES OF HOW “CUTS HAVE CONSEQUENCES”

Send in your own example of how Cuts Have Consequences for the CSU’s ability

to deliver education. Please write us at CutsHaveConsequences@calfac.org

and we will help you get your own message out.

3 – E-MAIL A LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Send email to newspapers editors and to radio and TV news programs that have

published or broadcast stories or commentaries this week. Explain to them why it

is the wrong policy to cut public higher education during a financial crisis, and

encourage them to continue to cover the consequences of cuts to our state

university.

For instructions and email addresses, please see

http://www.calfac.org/letter.html

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/19/BAJ7147DGN.DTL

To learn more contact your campus CFA office:

http://www.calfac.org/chapters.html

Also, for a video of last Tuesday’s inspiring protests in Long Beach, see here. Then, do whatever you can to voice your protest, for, if Arnold (and other white males in power such as Chancellor Reed) have their way, the CSU system will terminate the futures of many eligible students, as well as many professors, lecturers, coaches, and staff. Meanwhile, Reed and co. will laugh all the way to the bank.

What if we implemented a 4 day school week?

I heard a story on the radio yesterday about the rising number of schools in the US opting for a four day school week because of shrinking budgets. The rational is that cutting the school week from 5 to 4 days can save a hefty chunk of money. Well, yeah, but should that be the solution? Should schools buckle under the “who cares about education” paradigm that rules our nation and succumb to the further dumbing down of the USA?

Seems to me we need MORE education in this country, not less. (And if the ignorant trolls assaulting the blogosphere are any indication of the level of idiocy many US citizens suffer from, we need a LOT MORE education.)

The National Conference of State Legislators reported on this phenomenon recently. Their report reads in part as follows:

With strapped state budgets and alluring promises of significant reductions in overhead and transportation costs, the four-day school week has been an increasingly attractive option for legislators seeking to cut education costs…For small, remote school districts, instituting a four-day school week may provide considerable savings by reducing transportation, heating, and other overhead costs. Supporters of the shortened week also boast of improved morale and increased attendance (by both students and teachers), open Fridays for sporting events and doctor appointments, and more time to spend with loved ones.

“Increasingly attractive option for legislator seeking to cut education costs”??? Oh, so the rich big wigs who rule the roost find this proposal attractive? Do they assume each home has a June Cleaver-esque housemom to take care of the kids on that 5th day? Do they assume most parents can just opt out of work on that 5th day and maybe take the kids to play a round of golf at the local country club?

And by all means, Fridays should be about sports and appointments and perhaps more time for teen make out sessions. (Is this what thy mean by “more time with loved ones”?). Who needs five days of school with which to become educated??? Kicking around a ball and keeping the medical industrial complex afloat is far more important to our kids’ futures!!! This way, we can fight that dreaded scourge ‘childhood obesity’ in one fell swoop. Friday can become the day to make our kids buy into the false bodily obsessions of our culture as well as the day we help mold them into good consumers of the bio-pharm mentality. Nevermind educating them about the evils of high fructose corn syrup and the way capitalism promotes excessive consumption (of food and everything else)! We don’t want them to THINK after all – that wouldn’t be good for the economy.

If kids were taught to actually think in school, they might begin to recognize the idiotic hypocrisy of a country that has “family values” and “values education” yet puts most of its money towards imperialistic militarism… They might begin to question the fact that education doesn’t seem to be a pressing issue in this presidential campaign. They might learn that the US is abysmally low in education rankings (globally, the US is currently 21st in science and 25th in math). Heck, they might just learn that their brains are more powerful than how they look or what they are able to buy. Now, that wouldn’t be a good thing for corporatist USA at all. Come to think of it, how about swapping weekends with weekdays and going for a 2 day school week? The other days could be used for shopping, seeing films, attending concerts, playing sports, going to the gym, doctor, and dentist, etc. Think of what a boost to the economy this would bring about! Not only would a 2 day school week save money, it might just end our recession!

As for those of you parents who work full time for far less than what the politicians who make these decisions make, well, you might want to voice your belief that education should get more funding than military spending and prison building (2007 marked the first year that California spent more money on building prisons than on education – yeah, cuz who needs to educate the populace when it’s so much easier to just lock ‘em up).

Alas, as my bumper sticker points out, there’s always enough money for war… (and big honking campaign spending and party conventions I might add). As per usual, we are trying to cure the symptom (shrinking education budgets) rather than the cause (a corporatist government that doesn’t care much – if at all – about education).

If this 4 day a week schedule becomes the norm, and if school budgets continue to be slashed and burned, it is certainly not the politicians (or their children) who will suffer. Rather, less education and less funding will harm those in our society who can’t afford private schools or high-income neighborhoods, those who are already disenfranchised by our unequal society due to their skin color, their sexuality, their income level, their first language, etc. If ‘public education’ is about trying to educate the entire public, to level the playing field to give everyone equal opportunity, well, we are certainly failing miserably at it!

What if teachers were allowed to teach?

What if teachers were allowed, let alone encouraged, to actually teach? Instead, teachers are given umpteen standardized tests to force-feed to their students, supplied with ready-made euro-centric, male-centric curriculum, and put into classrooms without enough supplies let alone enough support to provide students with an education.

The recent firing of Karen Salazar is only one incident in a national trend to outlaw any real teaching in our schools. According to an assistant principal, Salazar was dismissed for “brainwashing students.” This so-called brainwashing consisted of lessons that incorporated “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and the poetry of Langston Hughes. Presumably, it also consisted of serving as the faculty adviser for campus student activists. Yes, how dare she? How dare she teach students the true racist past (and present) of the USA? How dare she actually encourage students to think outside the purview of the scan-tron?

In a letter posted at Vivirlatino, Salazar indicates some other motivations for her dismissal:

My contract is being terminated because according to the principal, I am “indoctrinating students with anti-Semitism and Afrocentrism.” The anti-Semitism accusation comes solely from the fact that I have an Intifada poster hanging in my classroom (a symbol of support for a free Palestine), and the Afrocentrism accusation comes from the fact my culturally-relevant curriculum reflects the demographics of my students, though I am surprised I am not being accused of Raza-centrism as well.

As her words here reveal, she not only teaches “dangerous” curriculum but she supports a free Palestine (a stance not allowed in UZA – United Zionist America) AND, she is Chicana! Holy minute-man crap – how did she get hired in the first place?

Salazar’s firing is sadly not a unique case, though. An Indiana hish school teacher was recently suspended for using The Freedom Writer’s Diary. Connie Heermann, who has been teaching for 27 years, should really know better than to try and inspire her students. Stick to the bubble tests Connie!

In 2007, two LA teachers were fired for including lessons about Emmett Till, a 14 year old lynched 58 years ago for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Don’t you teachers know not to teach history Howard Zinn style?

But, let’s not let the McArthy/Horowitz censorship fun stop there. For, if we don’t also censor the crazy leftie socialists polluting our universities, it could mean the end of civilizedsexismrasism as we know it.

Luckily here in California, the CSU system is able to jettison instructors who refuse to sign a loyalty oath adopted in 1953 to root out communists. Cal State Fullerton was recently spared from having to harbor a commie in their midst when new instructor of American Studies Wendy Gonaver refused to sign a loyalty oath swearing to “defend” the U.S. and California constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This refusal ended her appointment as a lecturer. (Thankfully, I have never been asked to sign such an oath at the CSU where I teach.)

Thank the heavens(because you know evolution is a lie perpetuated by mad science teachers) that those who dare to question our imperialist wars or the truth about 911 are being rounded up and suspended, fired, or forced to retire. And thanks to the man himself, David Horowitz, for creating an “academic hit list” so the truth can be avoided, even in college. (Used to be that students started learning some true history once they got to college – but, with the likes of Horowitz and others, maybe we can keep true learning at bay indefinitely).

As Jack at Feministe warns us:

Keeping American students in the dark about America’s wrongdoings, keeping Latino, Black and other students of color from truly understanding their histories in the U.S. – that’s all key to maintaining white supremacy and white privilege in this country.

So, teachers, would you stop trying to teach already–unless that is you want to change  the white supremacy, white privilege, racism, sexism, ableism, heteronormativity, etc that rules our world. And, just in case any of you want to  to PROGRESS things rather than conserve the same old injustices,just in case you want to TEACH your students rather than instruct them in rote memorization, here’s a little book list (in no particular order) to get you going:

  • A People’s History of the United Stats.
  • Us and Them: A History of Intolerance in America
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbooks Got Wrong
  • Occupied America: A History of Chicanos (Arizona public school system is attempting to ban this book. See info about this here.)
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • Teaching to Transgress
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
  • Democracy for the Few
  • Against Empire
  • 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Women’s History
  • 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African-American History
  • Who Cooked the Last Supper: The Women’s History of the Wolrd

What if children learned about Native American history?

Today I was lucky enough to join my daughter on a school field trip to a Kumeyaay heritage center. She and her class have been studying the Kumeyaay and Native American Culture as part of a 3rd grade learning unit. When I was about her age, all I learned about Native Americans was through the lens of the California Missions. These missions, according to my teachers “saved” the Indians (I prefer the term Native American or Indigenous Peoples). We learned about the wonderful architecture of the Spanish (umm, I think the Native Americans were actually enslaved and forced to build the missions). We learned about how religion “saved” these “heathen” people (uh, excuse me for asking, hasn’t religious “saving” been responsible for countless deaths the globe over, including Native American genocide?) We learned of Father Junipero Serra who, according to the San Diego Historical society:

“found missions at San Diego and Monterey, to establish the Spanih right to California and convert the Indians to Christianity. He would spend the rest of his life in Alta California.

When Father Serra founded the first of California’s missions in San Diego, he was 56 years old. He had asthma and a chronic sore on his leg that troubled him for the rest of his life. Serra himself established nine missions, with a total of twenty-one missions eventually being established along the El Camino Real, from San Diego to Sonoma, a distance of 700 miles.

This western-lens version of history, still disseminated in history books (and at the above website) is problematic in so many ways – um, why did the Spanish have a “right” to California and isn’t “convert” a rather nice term to use for enforced religious belief or death? Is “founded” the right word for missions that were built by enslaved labor—work that led to the untold deaths of vast Native Americans in graves that at the missions went unmarked as, you know, the “non-believers” didn’t deserve recognition even though they (through no choice of their own) made the building of these missions possible? I guess this use of “found” is similar to the way Columbus “discovered” America…

Anyhow, didn’t Daddy Serra ever think that that “chronic sore” might be a physical warning that the heinous acts of enslavement, rape, genocide, etc being committed against the Native Americans were not so “religious” and wonderful?

I am glad that my daughter’s school doesn’t teach the glorified, false history of the California missions that I learned (although saddened that many school’s still do). Instead, she and her classmates learned today about the importance of respecting each other and the earth, that chiefs could be female or male, that colonizers are not ‘founders’ to be celebrated. This type of lesson is certainly not taught often enough or in near enough depth because, of course, it doesn’t go along with the whole agenda of brainwashing U.S. children to be good citizens (ie capitalist loving consumers). What the heck would United States of WalMart do if we raised a generation that really practiced the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra in the Native American way rather than in the “be kind to the environment, buy more shit and put it in your recycle bin” way…?

Today’s trek with the 3rd graders reminded me again of Paula Gunn Allen’s recent death. In these last few days, I have thought of her work and what it has meant to me very often. The Sacred Hoop is a feminist classic.

It also reminded me of a student of mine from a few semester’s back, an education major, who wrote a paper about new ways to teach the California Missions unit. She framed her proposed lessons based on the belief that religion is a benevolent force and missions are a wonderful testament to the ‘saving’ work of the bible. No matter how much I tried, I could not get her to see the other side of her argument, the western-lens framing of her stance, the ways in which her belief system blinded her to the history of Native American genocide with which religion was complicit. It worries me that students now training in our colleges that hold such unwavering religious beliefs will go out into our school’s as ‘missionaries’ indoctrinating youth into a view of history that glorifies religion and downplays the atrocities committed in the name of god (insert other deity moniker of your choice here). It reminded me of my son’s third grade teacher who wore religious themed t-shirts emblazoned with sayings like “God is great!” Too bad we don’t have a separation of church and state — we never have of course — and too bad for the children in this country that we do not have a separtion of education and religious indoctrination.

I am thankful that today my daughter was shown that the Kumeyaay are great and that the colonizers, with their big old bibles, were pretty damn mean.

Published in: on June 2, 2008 at 12:37 pm  Comments (5)  
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