Many Children Left Behind

February 18, 2011 at 11:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Well, the economic crisis is really coming home, especially for poor children and the elderly.

In his new budget, for example, Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, proposes to rid the city of 6100 teachers. Now admittedly, New York is a big place; 6100 teachers isn’t as many here as it would be in other places. But still.

To orient you a bit on how I’m thinking about this, I should say that in the beginning of my career, I taught the fourth grade. It was the hardest job I ever had. After a few years I gave up. But during the years that I did teach, I did so in several different schools. The classes I taught in those schools varied in size from 44 children to 12 children. Please may I tell you, the smaller classes were a whole lot easier to teach than the larger ones, and I know the kids in the smaller classes learned more. You won’t be surprised to hear, I suspect, that the largest class I ever taught was comprised entirely of African-American kids.

So now Mikey is laying off 6100 teachers. It’s inefficient to have so many teachers, some will say. They’re mostly new so they’re inexperienced so who cares. Or we just can’t afford it. Similarly, the new Republican governor of Wisconsin is trying to stop teachers there from being able to bargain collectively for their contracts. The state must save money, we are told. It’s going broke.

The truth is, the United States has been intent on gutting public education since the 1970s. When Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California, the public schools there were third in the nation in quality; today they’re 48th. It really doesn’t matter if lower-class kids learn to read and write; they’re not going to get jobs anyhow. The children of the professional-managerial class can just go to private schools, where they’ll begin working on their Mandarin and Arabic. You can be sure they’re not going to become school teachers because the salaries of school teachers are going to decline steadily if collective bargaining rights are abrogated.  If we play our cards right, we can establish a perpetual underclass, where one generation of badly educated people educates the next generation badly, ad infinitum. Ad nauseam.

Meanwhile, the folks in Madison are gathering to protest. I wonder when the rest of us are going to join them.



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