Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It seems the world entire is getting on their best protest attitudes, perfecting their marching steps (even their most stylin' b-boy moves), and using whatever surface they can to say exactly why they are marching.  My personal favorite out of Wisconsin is full of ways in which we can help here, aside from going to march at the Baton Rouge City Hall at 5 PM today, which I'm not gonna be able to make.


Don't buy that stuff.

Since the teachers are the ones who have been identified the most with the protests in Madison - they're not the only ones affected, but they aren't taking this bill lying down - the teacher-bashing has been continuing in earnest all over the country, adding fuel to the fires of the education reform debates that have been heating up over the past year and to the measures that other states are taking to try to turn public education around.

Lost in all of this is what Detroit has been asked to do:
I had to read the headline twice just to make sure I wasn’t misreading it. It seems Detroit has a huge public school budget deficit - $327 million. State officials in Michigan, in their lofty wisdom, have determined that this deficit must be wiped out by 2014, and the way to do that is to simply close half the schools. And get this: by closing the schools, the average class size in a Detroit high school will be 60 students.  
Have you ever stood in front of a classroom full of high schoolers and tried to teach something? Those 20 or 25 faces that peer back at you are generally jaded and disinterested in education. Place 60 kids in a high school classroom and a good number of them will likely disappear. Best evidence? The dropout rate tells the story. In 2008, only 52 percent of high school students graduated after four years in America’s top 50 largest cities, according to Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. 
...Detroit on paper sounds much like a third world country. The city is always on the list of the 10 U.S. cities with the highest murder rates. And it is this city that the state of Michigan has decided should close half of its public schools. The other half will remain in their decaying, sub-standard facilities. Reportedly, in 2007 Detroit had 201 public schools. It now has 142. When the new cuts are made it will have 72. Oh, and worth mentioning – Detroit’s unemployment rate tends to hover around 10 percent. When the schools close, that figure is likely to spike, with hundreds of newly-unemployed teachers. 
So, let’s review: Detroit is poverty stricken, racially unbalanced, inordinately illiterate, grossly under-employed and extremely dangerous. With all of that knowledge in their back pocket, the state government still decides the solution to the deficit problem in Detroit public schools is to close half the schools.
Detroit may be ground zero for the national public school crisis, but how many other cities will emulate its budget cutting, education slashing quick financial fix? Will New Orleans be next? East L.A.? Camden? Birmingham? Cleveland? South Chicago? East St. Louis?
To rephrase the Twitter conversation I had as a question: will anybody in Louisiana even attempt to rise up against similar measures?  In New Orleans in particular, all the teachers were fired from the OPSD after the levee breaches.  What is left in the teacher pool here are the veteran teachers who have gone to the private schools and to the better charters, and loads of TfA-trained teachers who will, most likely and terribly unfortunately, be worked to their limits and beyond in their positions at the more traditional public schools and in the charters that are not yet up to snuff.  The burden of all our neglect of the problems that economic and racial inequality bring has been falling on those teachers for much too long.  The way things are continuing to go, however, it won't be lifted from them anytime soon.

Do I have hopes that people here will march for these souls like they did against crime in early 2007?  It'd be nice, but unlikely.  Divide, work 'em to high turnovers, and conquer is working all too well here.  And protesting hands that feed us is just not in Louisiana's DNA, as evidenced by this thread Superdeformed alerted me to....and in Robert Gramling and William Freudenburg's Blowout In The Gulf, in which their chapter "To Know Us Is To Love Us?" reveals that, when the Minerals Management Service wanted to know why other states weren't as accepting of offshore drilling as Louisiana, it turned out that we were the anomaly, the exception to the MMS' assumptions:
Coastal Louisiana is the region where the offshore oil industry was invented and developed...it is also important to realize that oil development in coastal Louisiana started in the 1930's and 1940's - decades before the first Earth Day, or for that matter, the emergence of most other environmental concerns.
It is also revealed that the oil and gas and the commercial fishing industries grew up together from that point on, with the platforms in the Gulf serving as the perfect artificial reefs, the underwater topography serving the harvesters of fish as well as the harvesters of oil, and the remoteness of Louisiana's marshland contributing to the ease with which offshore drilling and production was able to set up shop.

But here's another way in which we were - and are - different:
Louisiana, finally, was also socially distinctive...Particularly notable are the education levels and the extractive orientation towards the local environment at the time when the expansion of offshore oil drilling took place, and the patterns of social contacts that had come to characterize the region by the time when Ronald Reagan was elected. 
Studies tend to find such broad support for environmental protection that educational levels are among the few sociodemographic predictors that show any significant correlations with environmental awareness and concern; better educated individuals in the United States generally express higher levels of environmental concern.  Thus, it may be significant that, particularly in the 1930's and 1940's, coastal Louisiana had some of the lowest educational levels in the country. 
...At the time of initial OCS development, moreover, the existing economy in coastal Louisiana was dominated largely by extractive industries - those that, like oil development, involved the extraction of raw materials from nature.  As a general rule of thumb, persons who are involved in extractive activities will be less likely to object to new extractive industries than will persons in manufacturing or service industries, and they will be far less likely to object than will persons whose livelihood depends on the maintenance of high environmental quality... 
...by the time when James Watt wanted to expand offshore drilling...southern Louisiana was also a place with a strong and unusual social multiplier effect...In comparable ways, a given person's attitudes toward an industry are likely to be affected not just by whether that person works for the industry in question, but by whether her friends and neighbors do....
In other words, we all are fairly intimately acquainted with people who are associated in some way with the oil and gas industry.  A friend or two might be petroleum engineers. Someone's uncle is a roughneck out on a rig right now.  Families may help deliver and service platform equipment.  And you're gonna go and shout with picketers that the oil industry ought to take its drilling elsewhere?  Where are the other jobs going to come from for so many people whose formal educations effectively ended in eighth grade?

Education is not on this state's list of priorities and it never has been.  In so many parts of this state, teachers are too busy working to get their kids' testing numbers up so that they will still have jobs, forget taking time out to picket for nearly nonexistent collective bargaining rights.  The only thing that might be left if they want to make their voices heard...and it doesn't interfere with their classroom prep for next year...is this*:

Welcome to the Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action!
July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, D.C. and across the country
We, a collection of people from all walks of life and every corner of this nation, embody a mixture of ideas and opinions regarding how we can improve educational opportunities for all children. We stand united by one belief – it’s time for teachers and parents to organize and reclaim control of our schools.
As concerned citizens, we demand an end to the destructive policies and rhetoric that have eroded confidence in our public schools, demoralized teachers, and reduced the education of too many of our children to nothing more than test preparation.
A well-educated society is essential to the future of the United States of America. Our students must have access to a fully funded, world-class public education system, and it is our responsibility to hold our government accountable for providing the means to achieve it. Please join us!
July 30, 2011 | Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C.
July 28, 2011 – July 31, 2011 | Save Our Schools Days of Action, with events in D.C. and around the country, including workshops, a 
film festival, speakers and educational events
If anybody education-wise is cooking up a similar protest before July in this state, I will be pleasantly surprised.  Please, I beg you, surprise me.


*Thanks to @valmcginley for the link.

2 comments:

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Boycott Mardi Gras?

What?

Leigh C. said...

Mardi Gras brand napkins, man. Just chill. 8-)