The most shameful assault in state legislatures these days is on our public schools.
By Jim Hightower
Will Rogers said that when Congress is in session, the public gets the same panicky feeling as “when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”
Rogers’ observation can also be applied to the mayhem that has broken out in various smash- happy state legislatures. All across the country, right-wing zealots are wielding their little ideological hammers to destroy common sense and wreck the common good. These anti- government extremists are going after everything from the basic rights of workers to our crucial environmental protections.
Their most shameful assault, however, is on our public schools. They’re not merely clobbering teachers and shattering education budgets; they’re after the very idea of public education. A few years ago, Debbie Riddle, a boneheaded Texas legislator, asked: “Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education?” The Republican then sputtered, “It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell.”
She was hooted down then, but this year, her Kafkaesque ideological extremism has moved from the legislative fringe to the center of the Republican majority’s agenda. Using the huge budget deficit (which they created) as their excuse, Texas GOP lawmakers and the Republican governor are cavalierly slashing our state’s historic, constitutional commitment to providing an “efficient system of public free schools.”
Even as student enrollment is growing exponentially, these ideologues are whacking the state’s school budget by $4 billion. Worse, they are terminating the law that gives our public schools top budgetary priority, based on how much we need to spend to educate our children. No more “entitlement,” they scream, as stupidly as they can.
Unfortunately, Texas is not the only state putting budgetary ideology over school kids and undermining our entire society’s future. As the old bumper sticker puts it: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
The following is a reply to an offer made by the Government of Virginia, concerning the education of “savage warriors”. From the Treaty of Lancaster, 1744.
Unamed Chief to Benjamin Franklin: We know that you highly esteem the kind of Learning taught in those Colleges, and that the Maintenance of our young Men while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinc’d therefore that you mean to do us Good by your Proposal, and we thank you heartily. But you who are wise must know, that different Nations have different Conceptions of Things, and you will therefore not take it amiss if our Ideas of this kind of Education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some Experience of it: Several of our young People were formerly brought up at the Colleges of the Northern Provinces; they were instructed in all your Sciences; but when they came back to us they were bad Runners ignorant of every means of living in the Woods, unable to bear either Cold or Hunger, knew neither how to build a Cabin, take a Deer or kill an Enemy, spoke our Language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for Hunters Warriors, or Counsellors, they were totally good for nothing.
We are however not the less oblig’d by your kind Offer tho’ we decline accepting it; and to show our grateful Sense of it, if the Gentlemen of Virginia will send us a Dozen of their Sons, we will take great Care of their Education, instruct them in all we know, and make Men of them.
SEE POETRY OUT LOUD locally.
Parsons High School auditorium, Monday Feb. 8th at 7:00pm.
Please support our local arts, especially at the high school level.
Recitation and performance are major new trends in poetry. There has been a recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of hip-hop music. Poetry Out Loud builds on that momentum by inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English class.
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with State Arts Agencies of the United States to support the expansion of Poetry Out Loud, which encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. This exciting program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.
After successful pilot programs in Washington, DC, and Chicago, the second phase of Poetry Out Loud was launched in high schools across America in the spring of 2006 with tens of thousands of students participating. Last year, over 300,000 students competed. William Farley from Virginia was named National Champion on April 28, 2009.
The program will continue to grow during the 2009-2010 school year, culminating in the 2010 National Finals in Washington, DC, on April 27, 2010.