The Big Easy – Sell Out Our Children, Destroy Community Space, Watch Future Generations Indebted to Wall Street and K-Street

American cities flourished almost solely as centers for business, and they showed it. Americans omitted to build the ceremonial spaces and public structures that these other functions might have called for. What business required were offices, factories, housing for workers, and little else. Beyond advertising itself, business  had a limited interest in decorating the public realm. Profits were for partners and stockholders. Where architectural adornment occurred, it was largely concerned with the treatment of surfaces, not with the creation of public amenity. The use of the space itself, of the real estate, was a foregone conclusion: maximize the building lot, period.
— James Howard Kunstler

Our house was not insentient matter – it had a heart and a soul, and eyes to see with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benedictions. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out in eloquent welcome – and we could not enter it unmoved.
— Mark Twain

Our senses convey to us the raw material on which our thinking is based.
— Alvar Aalto

Rolling Jubilees …  Students Want Teachers … Smarts Over Jobs:   we will fight against  a future set down just for the  moneyed elite 

I’m thinking about planning, urban planning, all the mega-cities busting at their gated community/cardboard-and-tin open sewer Copa Cabana  glory seams, steady rains of particulates and desiccating winds mixing in with the fog of capitalism.

I’m thinking about those ancient shorelines, those fossil fuel orgies, the on-going project of denaturing teachers into on-line delivery agents for the massively messed up technological Teutonic –

shores moving inland and climate heat-up  —

fossil fuel orgy  —

MOOC – massively open online courses, AKA, digital digitalis for wimps!

In his recent book What Are Universities For?, Stefan Collini, Cambridge, describes  universities as “perhaps the single most important institutional medium for conserving,  understanding, extending and handing on to subsequent generations the intellectual, scientific and artistic heritage of mankind….we are merely custodians for the present  generation of a complex intellectual inheritance which we did not create, and which is not ours to destroy.”

I’m also thinking of schools – daycare, Head Start, Montessori, PreK, kindergarten, 1-6, 7-8, 9-12, community colleges, universities, tech schools, public and private. Maybe even the broken system of for-profits. The power of schools to be places of public ideas, ideals and activism and activities. Incubators of hope, literacy, participation, healing, talking, thinking, community organizing planning, neighborhood planning and stakeholder commitment to support our schools, hands down. This and more, is education.

I’m thinking supporting the physical spaces that are campuses. Supporting the neighborhoods connected to campuses. Supporting  the connectors, the infrastructure, the community and business connections to those schools. Supporting trees, gardens, science, humanities, public administration. Public art. Public engagement. Supporting day care, auto care, welding, medical technology. Supporting groups from Narcotics Anonymous, Cancer Survival Groups. Supporting community health, community housing, community education. These public health, welfare, safety, public governance “things” and more  should be what ADMIN class should have been growing on our campuses. Selling education and the respective campuses as places of solutions and solidarity. For us — the public. Corporations need not apply.

Schools as real not virtual. Schools that do all of the above, and much more. Got a stake in community? Then support real schools, more of them, and for what we all know they should serve.

Education is E=Equity

Yep, it’s a big ass fight, in the face of the privatizers like Bloomberg, hedge fund he-men, Gates and Melinda, Arne Duncan, mayors like Chicago’s Cusser, Pearson Publishing, Murdoch, Walton, all the others who follow some ghostly god of greed and the virtual velocity of community deforming/ devolving/destroying. When the administration class of MBAs and PhDs in these institutional management schemes rule; when they have taken over the schools’ destinies – ripped from the rigor mortis grip of parents, students, counselors, and, yes, teachers – we are now in this huge fight to even shift the baseline back a few miles.

You know, the baseline lost through media, money, and megalomania. What is the value of education? Sure sounds kinda logical coming from Gates-Bezos-Walton: “You go to school to get a job. More money. Any job. Go get that degree in the next big thing field. Go out and take tests, cram for exams, do what you have to do for a job.”

Stanley Aronowitz puts it:

Few of even the so-called educators ask the question: What matters beyond the reading, writing, and numeracy that are presumably taught in the elementary and secondary grades? The old question of what a kid needs to become an informed ‘citizen’ capable of participating in making the large and small public decisions that affect the larger world as well as everyday life receives honorable mention but not serious consideration. These unasked questions are symptoms of a new regime of educational expectations that privileges job readiness above any other educational values.

Henry Giroux:

According to Freire, all forms of pedagogy represent a particular way of understanding society and a specific commitment to the future. Critical pedagogy, unlike dominant modes of teaching, insists that one of the fundamental tasks of educators is to make sure that the future points the way to a more socially just world, a world in which the discourses of critique and possibility in conjunction with the values of reason, freedom and equality function to alter, as part of a broader democratic project, the grounds upon which life is lived. This is hardly a prescription for political indoctrination, but it is a project that gives critical education its most valued purpose and meaning, which, in part, is ‘to encourage human agency, not mold it in the manner of Pygmalion.’

More money is put into prisons than into schools. That, in itself, is the description of a nation bent on suicide. I mean, what is more precious to us than our own children We are going to build a lot more prisons if we do not deal with the schools and their inequalities.
— Jonathan Kozol

Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.
— Native American saying

When asked how much educated men were superior to those uneducated,  Aristotle answered, ‘As much as the living are to the dead.’
— Diogenes Laetius

William Astore:

They’re the NINJA generation: no income, no job, no assets. The young people in the audience smile knowingly, yet you see the tenseness, the fear, underneath those smiles.

And here’s the question: Why are so many young people looking at bleak futures with fewer jobs and lower incomes and no reserves? Could it be that Wall Street and its craven machinations are somehow to blame?

Here one needs to read Matt Taibbi’s latest at Rolling Stone.

Consider Taibbi’s conclusion as to why Wall Street is able to profit endlessly, in ways that are stunning in their chutzpah and in their lack of concern for legality, let alone morality:

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don’t feel real; you don’t see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They’re crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let’s steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy.

No More NINJAs

This is a School Yards Fight that dovetails with EVERYTHING our globe should be fighting for and fighting against. Global, interplanetary, and right square in that one little farming village in the middle of Pakistan or that library in Pittsburgh. No Google Mapping needed.

This mishmash is predicated on several quick surveys and long reads that have been hitting the education news all over the past three days. You’ve seen the fight against standardized and irrelevant tests. You’ve seen the need for an earthquake to rattle and shake the purveyors of cultural, ecological, sociological deformation, annihilation.  The news out there in education land is startling, depressing, not so hopeful.

And, so much out there in the education news is covering — as propaganda — why colleges fail altogether, why students with debts are idiots, why corporations should be the modeling agencies for how higher education should work. So much on why we waste so much on public schools. So-so-so much NPR, NBC and infinite on-line mush covering this Pop Snapple Crack Cultural Wasteland, and damnit, it’s that stuff we need to be pushing our youth toward — all that limp, vapid marketing Super Bowl $1,000,000,000 commercial junk as the  defining energy and passion and work we should all be concentrating on. Can’t wait for Hillary and Obama to toss out the football this Sunday. Maybe a little drone half-time show?

Yeah, the Knowledge Economy, the Creative Class, the Technological Salvation of Resource Heavy Planet Earth and Stock Market Consciousness.

We get this daily bombardment from mainline sources – NPR, NYT, Time, WSJ, Fox, CBS, Katie Couric, Oprah, Jon Stewart, yuk, yuk, yuk.

Make money, make due, make movies, make it big in the next bubble; move up, move over, move out;  mow whomever gets in the way of progress; if we don’t get it, then the Chinese-Indians-Everyone Else will go scraping, dredging, sawing, blasting, hydrofracking, drilling, milling, mining it before Exceptional Empire of the Pilgrims might.

  • Libraries? So 1950s.
  • US Postal Service? So Ben Franklin.
  • Schools with real teachers, real integration, real bricks and mortar? So Ellis Island old.

Selling Junk is Not Investing in Education

Might as well make the Statue of Liberty a big canvas, billboard ready. Can you see it? Coming into NYC as a Mother of All Red Bull Blow-ups covers her up. For a fee, sure. Next, Ipad Hologram and Laser Light Show hosted by that old lady? One Big Cheetos 3-D Work of Vinyl Art she could be wrapped up in? Yes, yes, for a fee.

Viagra advertisement? Which NRA caliber barrel should that little advert convey?

Fee-fee-fee. Call it Heinz Ketchup College. Pizza Hut Playground. Doritos Digital Classroom. Amazon Dot Com Auditorium.

  • Read schools and commercialism: here.
  • Big Oil and colleges: here.
  • Fighting back on BP at UCLA: here.

Okay, back to the rundown here – Over a trillion dollars in arrears just in this country, in the student loan scandal, and, yet, we still get USBureau of Labor Stats telling us, them, that the investment beyond the usury theft behind it, is not worth it because jobs in America are really just jobs you need a GED to do:

The report’s authors—Richard Vedder, Jonathan Robe, and Christopher Denhart—used employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate that the number of college graduates is growing at a rate disproportionate to the number of jobs requiring a college degree. They question whether America spends too much on higher education, and ask whether society can afford to subsidize higher education for graduates who end up in jobs they could have landed without going to college.

“Student-loan programs and federal assistance programs are based on some sort of implicit assumption that we’re training people for the jobs of the future,” Mr. Vedder, director of the center and a professor emeritus at Ohio University, said in an interview. “In reality, a lot of them are not.”

And, on this very slick and even old school (Chronicle of Higher Education has the on-line very hip thing going, and then this newspaper sent out too, every two weeks) source of higher learning research, opinion-making, eyes on the prize reporting, has this zinger – That students (not really) want luxuries on campus to make their lives much more relevant and potentially Gordon Gekko-esque.

Every kid wants to be the star of their own Inside Job trailer.

A recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Resort Living Comes to Campus” highlights the “increasing appetite for luxury living” among students.

Splashy photographs of private housing developments designed for undergraduate living near Michigan State University, Texas A&M, the University of Central Florida, and Arizona State show lagoon-shaped pools, fireplaces surrounded by overstuffed leather chairs, and sandy volleyball courts framed by carefully manicured landscapes.

Oh yeah, the building craze at school, both state and private, big and small, urban and rural-suburban. Yeah, that’s the ticket, the answer to college’s success.

For the past 15 years or so, colleges have experienced a tremendous building boom, and the most publicized aspects of the boom have been the amenities: the climbing walls, the swank student unions, and the luxury dorms.

Even in the midst of a national financial crisis, the buildings seemed to get more opulent. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently noted the “resort living” on college campuses. A new residence hall at Saint Leo University, in Florida, features a 2,100-gallon aquarium, a relaxation room with futuristic “spherical nap pods,” big-screen televisions, and more, according to The Tampa Tribune. A Saint Leo sophomore called it “ridiculously amazing.”

Then, we have our fearless drone-enhanced leaders looking over that fiscal cliff like the ultimate BASE flyers —  not even putting their eye on the ppppprize – E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N.

Across-the-board pressure on all of the revenue sources that support higher education has prompted Moody’s Investors Service to issue a negative short-term outlook for the entire sector in a report issued on Wednesday.

“It basically means that there’s nowhere to hide, even for diversified market leaders, the top-tier universities,” said Eva Bogaty, the credit-rating agency’s assistant vice president and analyst who wrote the report. For the past two years, research universities have escaped criticism from Moody’s because of their diverse sources of revenue. However, state-government appropriations, investment earnings, gifts, research grants, and patient-care reimbursements are all facing economic pressure, the report says.

The outlook report, which is released annually at the beginning of the calendar year, expresses the agency’s expectations for the fundamental credit conditions of the industry over the next 12 to 18 months. Moody’s attributed its negative outlook to five key factors:

  • Depressed family incomes and household net worth have suppressed net tuition growth.
  • All revenue sources are strained; financial diversity no longer helps colleges.
  • Rising student debt and default rates have hurt perceptions of the value of a diploma.
  • Public and political scrutiny has increased the risk of more regulation.
  • Colleges face a challenging future without strong leadership and better governance.

Notice those five bullet points – I am not seeing teachers – enhanced numbers, better classes, more enterprising pedagogies, more progressive taxation to make sure teachers get paid and students get educated.

Adjuncts, Suicidal Thoughts, Moral Debt

I also am thinking adjuncts, people who are the majority of faculty in the US, and it’s spreading like wildfire, this precarious employment in all sectors of society, except militaries. Italy is screwed up; Canada is screwing up; Brazil is screwed. Emerging, developing economies? Right.

When you treat teachers this way, when you treat students this way, when you treat individuals looking for smarts this way, when you treat parents and communities this way, well, you know the way – perma-temp workers who have to work four times full-time to pay off med bills, all the crappy bills and fees we have thrown on us just to be a human in a city …  when you do this, well, the following letter that went out to our Adjunct List Serve is a Tale of Unfortunate Reality for many, many folk in this new brave new world of work

Here’s the posting, Dec. 4. I need to follow up and see what we got this gentleman to end up doing for his depression.  This is serious. And, unfortunately, keep reading after this emotional plea.

 Sometimes I feel like it’s all over.

Like Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman,”  I am a 50-something year-old  man, an adjunct, who cannot keep up with the times.  I adapt to each new  “learning platform,” accept whatever classes I am given from semester to semester, and use whatever text I am required to use.  Students like me,  and when I have gotten feedback from supervisors it’s always been positive.I teach sociology at two community colleges: one online, another I commute to.  A few weeks ago I had the chance to commute to a for-profit university, teaching 5-hour classes. It was too much for me to handle though–which led to my first “crack up.” I know there are other freeway flyers who are experiencing this. And this is the direction education has been going for decades.  Schools are businesses and education is becoming  more and more like low-wage factory work.  I “add value” to my classes, but  it’s not enough to get full-time work.

And I wonder if it’s worth continuing this struggle.

Food stamps and my partner’s family are the only two things keeping me off the street.  Rents are high around here, and manual labor, which I have  done before, would not be enough to pay the rent.  I could move…again.

I know I am not worthy of empathy, especially in these times–times of struggle for many people, people who have it much worse. I have seen those who were better teachers and those who had more experience not get the increasingly rare full-time job. I know most adjuncts don’t face the struggles I do; many are retirees using adjunct work as supplemental income.  Others have a second income in the family.  Others are transitioning to other careers.

I’ve heard people say that suicide is a selfish act,  but I wonder of  others would be better off…. I have signed and mailed off my life insurance policy.

I really don’t have the skills for much other than academia; I was in the  military for a few years, and worked in prisons. I’ve tried to be a union organizer, but am probably not fit to do the backbreaking work.  Public service jobs are few and far between.  I am assigned four more classes next semester, but it won’t be enough to pay for rent.  I’m tired of this struggle.

I think about suicide as my little world crumbles.  My relationships crumble and it seems only a matter of time–in some ways life would end faster.  I know in these times, there is little compassion for people who got Ph.D.s when there was “an oversupply” of advanced degrees.

It’s only a lack of courage, and a small degree of false hope that keeps me going.

Incredible. Yeah, I can imagine putting this teacher’s  incredible statement “out there,” even on the so-called education sites like Inside Higher Education or Chronicle of  Higher Education, let alone say Alternet’s Education column, and, you bet we’d see those exceptionalists telling this gentleman to jump.

Deindividuation

I recall that “jump-jump-jump-bitch” from that Blue Obama City of the Microsoft-Amazon-Smile-kindness, Seattle, having that lovely added touristy thing happen:

Such behavior occurs quite naturally to us in certain situations. Psychologists have a name for it: deindividuation. Scott Plous, a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, calls the mob reaction seen during the Seattle suicide attempt a classic case of deindividuation, or losing your sense of individuality. He says that being anonymous or being part of a large group will often lead to behavior that, under normal circumstances, is not socially acceptable.

Right, deindividuation. It’s all there, and not just suicidal folk at the ledge of a building. But it is what our media, social networking, digitized grandstanding and fracturing and fissuring of our public spaces and work spaces have facilitated.

I remember in Mexico City last August listening to a South Korean faculty presenter at COCAL – Coalition/Conference on Contingent Academic Labor – discussing passionately how in her country, higher education faculty are basically treated like shit. Run into the ground, and put into a bribery system that essentially puts adjunct faculty into a continuous flagellation and low economic treadmill.

Suicides. Two she recounted that occurred in two years, where the adjunct faculty member put down in their respective suicide notes that indentured servitude set forth by the systems of power and apartheid created by every sort of hierarchy tied to education.

A 45 year-old adjunct professor of 10 years committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in his home on May 25. The man, Dr. Suh had been an adjunct professor for Chosun University.

As reported by Hankyoreh News, his 5-page will, written to South Korean President Lee   Myung-bak, criticized the corrupt process of hiring tenure-track professors and the lack  of job security. His will elaborates that during his 10-year attempt to be hired as a   tenure-track professor, he was timelessly asked to pay nearly 60 to 100 million won  ($50,000-$85,000) for employment.

A former colleague of Dr. Suh mentioned that, “It is a well-known secret that monetary payment for professorship is one of the last requirements to be hired. Through this  incident the treatment and hopelessness of part-time lecturers as well as the corruption  amongst professors needs to be revealed.”  Unfortunately for Dr. Suh, he didn’t have the economic ability to pay the cost for a professorship.

And to make sure we all understand cultures, let’s take a look at the state of education in South Korea from a different spin not heard or seen in the USA or west in general.

Forgiveness is Strategy for the Future

Now, to the meat of the matter. This constant attack on students and teachers at all levels of education is a sign of a sick and fractured society. In the end, though, we have causalities in this constant collateral damage shock doctrine-disaster capitalism-hit men economic-drive society:

A student debt problem we highlighted here with Nasser and Whitney: here.

So, I end with a cool documentary, put out by Student Debt Crisis (dot) Org

Here is even a House of Representatives bill that is basically student loan forgiveness, which is another way of saying – Student-Youth-Future-of-Our-Country Sustainability Tool.

For a brief summary of H.R. 4170′s main provisions, please copy & paste this URL into  your browser.

To read the full version of the actual bill itself, please go here.

To read answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, please go here:

 Student loan debt has an undeniable and significant suppressive effect on economic  growth. The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 directly addresses this enormous boot on the neck of the middle class and represents a glimmer of hope for millions of  Americans who, with each passing day, find that the American Dream is more and more out of reach.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully request that Congress bring H.R. 4170, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, up for consideration and commit to holding a  straight, up-or-down vote on it this year. Thereafter, we, the undersigned, respectfully request that President Obama sign this legislation into law.

Now, like I said, while writing this Wednesday morning, the news just keeps on ticking like a Timex. The Chronicle of Higher Education is running another scheme by the profiteers of higher education, a la Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Expanding the federal Pell Grant program, reducing student-loan debt, and eliminating tuition tax breaks are necessary steps toward improving the federal financial-aid system, according to recommendations released on Tuesday by the New America Foundation.

In a report the foundation’s Education Policy Program proposes more than 30 specific, budget-neutral policy changes that would reorganize several hundreds of billions of dollars in spending to deal with what the authors say are inefficiencies in the postsecondary financial-aid system.

The report is based on the foundation’s study of the student-aid system, one of 16 commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a  part of its $3.6-million Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project. Other reports issued in recent weeks have come from the National College Access Network, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the Committee for Economic Development, and HCM Strategists, a consulting firm.

As is my MO and SOP here at School Yard Fights, I do include those comments, and mostly highlighting the smart ones, so here is one that sticks out, today:

Oh Lord (or whatever malevolent god motivates these machinations) somehow it is not   all that unexpected that even in a paper promoting financial aid reform there is a proviso to kick back into (or it because of kick backs?) the private and sub loan industry and their stepchild SLABS [Student Loan Asset Backed Security] . Having read the article provided once again hope slips further into the same old muck.

The core problem is in the perception that we need to have lending be the predominant  form of student funding and by extension the funding of academe itself needs to be debt premised. It does show how effective some forty years of lobbying has been in that as a nation we seemingly can no longer conceive of a means of funding students and academe which is not debt premised. We could reform this conceptual mistake by increasing Pell amounts to a meaningful level and this could be partially funded by making the lenders who have stolen public funds under 9.5% and other scandals pay those funds back. Another means would be to use QE and stimulus money to directly fund education rather than providing yet more dash to buy toxic instruments or give more money to the malevolent geniuses who crashed our nation’s economy.

One of the core problems is that whether it is New America or Obama and Duncan talking reform the influence of the financial sector, especially the educational  derivatives such as SLAB’s has so much behind the scenes influence that real reform is held back for yet another veneer. And to a extent that is the tragedy of President Obama’s approach in his willingness to compromise to the interests of the financial sector (including educational lending) that good ideas for reform are usually diffused so far that these are reform in name only. It would serve Obama well to remember that M.L King was deeply concerned with economic equality (and gods know that  educational debt is our generations economic bondage) and that W.E.B. Dubois knew that higher education served as a social elevation and a means to address social injustice.

Comes down to the Geography of Somewhere. Communities. Worth. Saving. Living in. Being at. Sustaining.  Poverty doesn’t work in capitalism.

These patterns [school dropout, low test scores, and delinquency] have led to a longstanding concern that neighborhood environments may exert an independent causal effect on the life chances of young people. Because low-income individuals comprise nearly one-half of the 8.7 million people living in census tracts with poverty levels of 40 percent or higher (Kneebone, Nadeau, and Berube, 2011), poor children growing up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty may be ‘doubly disadvantaged’—they face potential risks from growing up in a low-income household and in an economically poor neighborhood.

So, as I finish this off, you can see how the policy makers, the politicians, the education planners (sic) are working hard to deform communities – schools, housing, health, public good, public will, public commons.

Schools Can’t Do It Alone

Q: In what international comparison does the U.S. rank lower than its educational test scores rankings?

A: Childhood poverty.

Today, 22 percent of our children live in poverty. The U.S has the second worst infant mortality rate among industrialized nations,” details America’s Report Card 2012, a report supported by First Focusand Save the Children to highlight the condition of children in the U.S.

We have to fight back, whether it is the Korean family who lost a loved one. Or our Willy Loman adjunct who is in despair. Or those students in the film you just have to watch.

Parents, Students Confront Education Dept. on School Closures

Activists from across the country gathered at the Education Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to demand federal action on a wave of school closures. Parents, students and organizers told Education Secretary Arne Duncan and top aides that school closings are hurting entire communities, disproportionately those made up of low-income residents and people of color. The Education Department is currently probing complaints that school closings in six cities — D.C., Newark, Philadelphia, Detroit, New   York City and Chicago — violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Karran Harper Royal, a parent  and activist from New Orleans, said the administration’s policies are hurting students and their neighborhoods.

Karran Harper Royal: “Our communities are more than just data. Our children are not   data points. So I think it is time for President Obama to reevaluate what his Department of Education is doing and its effect on our communities.”

Fight, fight, fight. Rolling Occupying. Rolling Jubilee. Just opt out. Stop the madness of media crack cocaine consumption. Stop it by doing something today. March. Subvert. Monkey-wrench.

It’s gonna be hard, but … Tim DeChristopher:

Paul Kirk has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. Read other articles by Paul.