A failure of Social Studies Education, I calls it.
The recent election, that is…failure of turn-out, failure to understand the way government works(whether it’s supposed to work that way or not), failure to be informed on the issues and the candidates, failure to pay attention to the down-ticket contests…a whole bunch of things that we should all be thinking about but don’t. AND a prevailing, parsimonious attitude that makes a virtue of trying to do everything on the cheap. There’s a powerful big difference between wishing to do things in the most cost-conscious and efficient manner possible to do the best we can for the most citizens and trying to see how much we can get away with before the dreadful consequences which we have been outrunning finally catch up. The difference is the difference between “What’s the best we can afford?” and “What’s the cheapest we can get?” Strangely enough, there are cases in which quality actually does count.
Consider : One of the persons recently re-elected to the state school board (Whose members, by the way, are NOT all elected; 8 of the 19 are appointed by the governor) has never attended a public school and is an advocate of charter and for-profit schools(Which are virtually unregulated and certainly not required to account for the way that they spend our money; public schools must do this.).
At a recent state school board meeting, four members walked out when the president arbitrarily changed the agenda of the meeting to move the session for public comment on a proposed change to school requirements from morning—folks had been told to be there bright and early to put in their two cents worth—to afternoon, following a presentation in favor of the change. People with real jobs had taken time off to be at the session; they were upset. The president, a Kasich appointee, said that she had the power to make the change, so she did; take that, “We, the people.”
So, what was the change being proposed that caused all of the commotion? It was a revision of the “5 of 8” rule, which states that school districts must have available to students at least five professionals including such areas as art, music, physical education, library science, school nurse, school social worker, counselors, so-called “visiting teacher” for every one thousand students. Rather than pull up their socks and acknowledge the fact that the State of Ohio has been acting unconstitutionally( as determined by the Ohio Supreme Court) for over twenty years, by operating an unconstitutional educational funding system, in which the state share of funding has been declining , forcing local districts to seek funds more and more often to satisfy the mandates from the state board and the legislature, not to mention maintenance and transportation costs. When larger and larger proportions of the education budget are dependent upon local tax valuation, it’s the old story : “the rich get rich and the poor get poorer”.
And, once again, there’s a strong anti-science coloration here. Study after study, research effort upon research effort has shown that art and music, libraries, physical education (Could we use a little less obesity here?), school counselors and school nurses, school social workers—all of these folks—play an important part in delivering the best and most comprehensive, most forward-looking education to the most kids in the systems throughout the state—heck, across the country. Band and chorus and books keep kids engaged and enlarge their frame of reference for dealing with the real world. School nurses are the point men—and women—in public health situations on the ground, so to speak. Counselors and social workers all too often enter the picture in domestic violence situations and cases of poverty and homelessness. And the board is just going to dump all of these key figures in the educational process? Instead of showing some grit and integrity and telling the governor and the legislature to quit reneging on their responsibility to provide a thorough and equitable system of education in the state, this “gang of nineteen” is going to throw all of the professionals (the 8) under the bus so that the politicians may pat themselves on the back for reducing government expenditures. Rather than saying, “These are important services that we should be offering to ALL students in the state of Ohio,” they’re begging off and saying, “Well, you folks out there know better than we what you need. Go ahead and cut whatever you think you need to.” Try getting away with that on YOUR next tax return or traffic stop (“Oh, officer, I really didn’t think that I needed to stop at that light; I’m in a really big hurry.”). Try getting away with that the next time the state orders your school system to this or that or the other thing. Right.
We might also want to look into who supports…and finances…some of the board members and legislators—All for the public good, of course.
The line, “the rich get rich and the poor get poorer” come from a Twenties song by Kahn & Egan titled “Ain’t We Got Fun.”
That ain’t what we got, folks.