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To Fight Poverty, Fund Education

Blog Action Day today. The topic is poverty.

More than a billion people live without running water; close to 2 billion without electricity; almost 3 billion without decent sanitation; and more than 3 billion on less than $2.50 per day. 

Meanwhile, we worry about stock prices, sales, mortgages, and recession.

It’s hard to get beyond the shocking statistics to something more concrete, something that you and I can do, something that matters.

So how about this: at least for those of us who live in the United States, how about we vote for better education in the United States. Talk about it, contribute your time if you can and want to, visit the schools, do all of that if possible; but, if nothing else, just vote for it.

What if we all agreed to suspend politics for a while and fund our schools, first, and equalize them, second.

We have to get past the politics on this point because otherwise we divide so quickly into warring ideological camps. The "tax and spend" people against the "fundamental economics" people. Before we know it, we’re talking in code words.

And in the meantime our schools get steadily worse. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the United States believed in education and made it a priority. True, that was after Sputnick in 1957, and John Kennedy’s man-on-the-moon call to action in 1961. 

If we just stay away from the political code words, I think we all believe our education has fallen a lot further than stock prices. Do you think we respect teachers in this country? Do we pay them well? Do we encourage people to be teachers? Do we give them a career path?

And what about classrooms? We have kindergarten teachers with 35 or more 5-year-old kids and little or no help. We have high school teachers trying to teach advanced placement chemistry and physics to 35 and 40 kids in a classroom.

Please, ignore the political divisions for a moment, and look at it straight. We are not funding education. We don’t value education. Let’s recognize that as a problem. Let’s get past the politics, right wing, left wing, family values, elitism, and all of it. And fund our schools.

And then, since poverty is the point, how about a leap from there to having equal education? I think most of us believe in equal opportunity, but is that what we teach in our public schools? Spend a day in a school in a very poor district, then another day in a wealthy district, and then try to pretend that we’re giving all our kids equal opportunity.

We talk about disparity of wealth. Disparity of opportunity is a lot worse.

There’s a bumper sticker I see from time to time: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."


  • Tim Berry says:

    Yes, Doug, sadly, our schools are inferior and we always come up with reasons, like those you cite, for not making them better. What if it just takes more money these days to do it right? Is there anything better to spend on?

    I love the idea of just improving the schools, without spending more; but seriously, most of us have only the power of the vote, not the power to change the system. So what if we spend more money to make them better because that's the only knob we can turn?

    And thanks for your addition, whether I agree with you or not, I appreciate the conversation — although I'd rather be Tim than Mr. Berry.

  • Doug Smith says:

    With all due respect, Mr. Berry, we already spend more money–in inflation-adjusted terms–on K-12 education than we ever have. More money per pupil than any other country in the developed world. And your solution is to throw more money at schools?

    Why not think different(ly)? Although U.S. public schools perform shabbily, American universities are without peer. The fundamental difference? Universities have competition. So doesn't that argue for more competition among K-12 schools (eg. vouchers) rather than simply throwing more resources at a failed system?

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