Friday, December 26, 2008

"I am changing my (school's name) to Chrysler"

Bailouts. The auto industry, banks, investment corporations. How about schools?

Seattle schools are in financial trouble. The district right away announced which schools were going to close. Aside from the fact that this would recover much less than 10% of the projected deficit, the anguish and uproar has torn communities apart.

The following op/ed piece was just published in the Seattle Times by a colleague, a middle school teacher. If you know the Tom Paxton song, now would be the time to start running it through your head. In part, Jesse Hagopian wrote:

With the public experiencing bailout fatigue, corporate America is attempting to repackage its image as some kind of militant student leader taking on the powers that be. In a virtual Chevy-Corvette-turns-Stokely-Carmichael, General Motors declared, "Mobilize Now!" on its Web site, "Tell your U.S. Senators and Representatives that support for the U.S. auto industry is in America 's best economic interest."

I am going down to Washington, D.C., to ask for a handout. My industry is falling on hard times and needs at least $25 billion to cover basic operating costs — but I assure you the emergency aid isn't just for me and my associates. The truth is, my industry is too big to fail, and if it were to go under it would have disastrous effects for the economy and millions of Americans lives.

No, I am not an executive from one of the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Chrysler, Ford) — I teach social studies to 13-year-olds and the public schools are my "industry."

And if "letting GM go is a terrible idea" — as General Motors Corp. CEO Rick Wagoner recently warned Congress in his plea for a bailout of his failing company — then letting our schools fail in the wake of free-falling state budgets would be catastrophic.

.....The argument for letting kids cut to the front of the funding line — ahead of bankers and auto-industry executives — is clear: Kids are more valuable than Cadillacs.

While spinning rims and glossy chrome on an Escalade embody the image of wealth, America's pupils are far more valuable. Allowing our schools to be defunded state-by-state would have a catastrophic effect on our economy and our society.

According to Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C.-based policy and advocacy organization, if the nation's students who dropped out of the class of 2008 had graduated, the U.S. economy would have benefited from an additional $319 billion in income over the course of their lives.

.....This appeal to mobilize masses has the shrill tone of a teacher yelling at a disinterested class, given that the Big Three just cut back health-care benefits for some 2 million employees.

If we can keep the funding for the music program, students across America should be taught the old Tom Paxton song that goes:

"I'm changing my name to Chrysler / I am leaving for that great receiving line / When they hand a million grand out / I'll be standing with my hand out / Yes sir, I'll get mine!"

Thank you, Jesse. If you don't have that old Paxton song in your head yet, here's a version by Arlo Guthrie:

And of course Arlo and Tom have been busy updating the song lately....


Jen Carbonneau said...

Perfect view of how our economy our society continues fail in thier prioritizing of education. How much further behind can we fall?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark for a New Years smile. It is tragic. I read this morning in the local paper about hope in Obama for putting money into repairing the nation's schools. He cannot do it by himself. We all need to be part of this change.

Markeeta said...

I was just browsing through blogs this morning and happened upon yours. The title of this post sound similar to something I said not that long ago so I had to read it. I am so frustrated when our government just hands money over to failing companies, but withholds money from "failing" schools. It makes no sense to me how a company can get itself into trouble and we bail them out. Yet when schools struggle with the little funding they have to meet the governments expectations they pull our funding.