June 1, 2006

this is criminal

Michael Lewis, an eighth grader who was expelled from Baker Middle School for fighting, said he had not gotten into similar trouble back in New Orleans. "You can't really hardly communicate with other people" in Baton Rouge, he said. "I don't know why they have such a grudge on us. They just do."

If it were not for the hurricane, Michael said, he would be enrolled. "I love school," he said. "There's no place I would rather be, during school hours, than school."

Mr. Cowsar said Michael had asked to join his group, whose efforts to become an official charter school have faltered. The group lost financing for the two teachers it had in the fall, and it had only a couple of volunteers to handle about 15 children ages 4 to 14. There was no room for Michael.

Michael said he had wanted to go to summer school, for which parents must pay in some districts. At any rate, he said, his mother did not have time to sign him up. "I want to stay in a child place," he said, "but life keep putting me in a man's place."1

There are kids like him everywhere. Most of them aren't as eloquent. Either way, it breaks my heart. When a kid like this can't get a decent education even when he tries, something is terribly wrong.

March 19, 2007: Now that I'm a teacher, all I have to say is: I don't feel the same way anymore.

1. from The New York Times

give up

I can't keep my mouth shut about politics, which is how the Political Schmientist and I ended up having a full-volume conversation about the risk of American fascism at 11 pm in a campground in a national park in Utah. I'm sorry to anyone I kept awake that night.

This article by the Apostropher says much of what I would like to say.

"There is no war on terror. There never has been." He points out that the forces supposedly arrayed against the United States are incapable of toppling the rickety governments of countries whose populations sympathize with them, and have as much chance of bringing down the United States as of breaking up Mars to mine it for its iron.

He also points out something important: this is a war about resources. We are, as far as I can tell, nearing a historical point at which water and oil, among others, will become extremely valuable. The government of the United States is trying to ensure that those resources, so vital to the way we live right now, continue to be available to us, and cheaply. That's why we're not being asked to sacrifice materially.

Bitch, Ph.D. describes our options as, "We can go down fighting, or, you know, we can sink the money and manpower into finding ways not to go down." Personally, I don't know if there are ways for us not to go down. We may already be totally screwed. What I do know is that if we wish to stop this resource war, if we want a chance to live in a world that is not scrambling and killing over oil and water, we - we Americans - need to stop using so goddamn much. We need to give up our SUVs, our elderly Volvo station wagons, our golf courses, our imported bananas, our cheap vacations: we need to give up the way we consume resources.

It may not be enough. There are 6 billion people on this planet, and we may not be able to give up enough. But unless we try, we are making demands on our world that will require a vast and violent scramble for resources. We have to try.

I don't need to tell you what the chances of this actually happening are. I'm not even trying myself.