The Land of Opportunity and Our Three-Tier Public Education System

Public education is a three tier system. 

The top tier of public education provides a top-flight education that feeds its students royal jelly. Kids from these schools are expected to go on to the top tier universities.

Diplomas from top tier universities are tickets to entry into a distant ruling class that sends other Americans’ children to wars it doesn’t fight, passes laws that destroy other people’s lives and creates social mores that undercut the institutions by which their “lessors” create community.

How many members of powerful boards went to the same schools?

The middle tier of public education provides a so-so, mid-level state university education to suburban students. They are slotted for workman type jobs that will provide a comfortable life for them, but will not allow them access to the decision-making levers of our society.

Middle tier public education inculcates the social mores of those who inhabit the top tier, encouraging the students to drink a bit of social arsenic along with their education. If they drink too deeply, their children will inevitably end up in the bottom tier.

Occasionally, a student from one of these schools will, by dent of massive work and high intelligence, hit a bell-ringing test score that gives them the option of attending a ticket-punching top tier university. However, since these students don’t usually fit the “profile” of politically-correct desirability, they are often blocked at this juncture by money, including the money for clothes, entertainment, meals and all the rest of what it takes to fit in at a top tier university.

Added to that is the fact that they are from a different social strata with different mores and beliefs, and you have a recipe for misery if they do accept the call to a top tier school. Everything they are, including the people know and love is, lies outside the world they will enter. The choice is painful. Turn down the offer and stay on the lower tiers of society, or accept it and condemn yourself to a chameleon life.

 

How many kids from bottom tier schools end up in prison?

The bottom tier of public education is designed for what people seem to love to call “throw-away kids.” The schools themselves are throw-away schools. They are usually ugly, institutional-looking edifices that make one think of a prison. They are also usually over-crowded, with huge class sizes, as well as dirty and in need of paint and repairs.

Students at these schools usually encounter two kinds of teachers: Incredibly dedicated teachers with a mission, and the failures of the educational system who were parked here to serve out their time until retirement.

I’ve known teachers from bottom tier public schools who care deeply and passionately about the students they teach. On the other hand, I’ve known teachers in these schools who have contempt for their students, the students’ parents and the whole school. They can’t understand what someone as wonderful as them is doing here in this slum.

A student who gets a series of the missionary teachers has a chance at life. But a child who goes through a long string of the bitter bad ones is pretty much doomed. Unlike in other schools, it’s all in the luck of the draw.

How many families from bottom tier schools can afford to buy school supplies?

Students in bottom tier schools don’t have enough textbooks. They also do not have the money to buy supplies, or lunches or even to dress well for school.

Every destructive social experiment you can imagine is dumped on these kids. Their families are systematically shut out of the process. Educational professionals will deny this, but I have seen first-hand the dismissive, insulting way that parents are ignored and patronized in these schools.

Children who attend top tier schools are being groomed to rule.

Children who attend middle tier schools are being groomed to work. But those in the bottom tier are being groomed to fall through the cracks and die young. These bottom tier schools are the places where we recruit our soldiers to use as cannon fodder in unnecessary wars that are being fought to enhance the bottom line of those at the top.

How many graduates of top tier schools fight and die in our endless wars?

Those who graduate from top tier universities populate the board rooms, the senate offices, sound stages and courtrooms where decisions are made. Most of them have never had meaningful contact with people from the bottom tier in their entire lives. They create wars, sell them through their media, and then send other people’s children to fight and die in them.

I have sat in a roomful of a young people and listened while an army recruiter said to them: It would be better for you to go to Iraq and die a death with honor, than to stay here and die on the streets for no reason.

I am here to tell you that this statement resonated with those young people. In its own way, it resonated with me, too. Is this the new recruiting slogan? Is it the new way America fights its wars, by offering up young people from the lower tiers as living sacrifices to the “way of life” of those in the upper tier?

Public education was once an opportunity. But in our brave new world it has become a gatekeeper.

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The Politically Incorrect Steve Jobs on Public Education

 American has a two-tier public education system. It works likes this.

Those who live in the “right”areas get the best teachers, clean schools with great facilities and all the resources they need to succeed. Every child has a textbook, there are many engaging extra curricular activities. Their parents have enough time after work to be involved in their children’s education.

These kids are on the “track” that leads to the best colleges and the good life.

Those who live in the “wrong” areas get the worst teachers, dirty schools with peeling paint and ugly mobile classrooms that look like World War II barracks taking up their playgrounds. They can’t take textbooks home for study because there are not enough for each child to have one. Their exhausted parents work two or three jobs just to keep a roof over the family’s head. They don’t have the energy to be involved in their child’s school, and even if they did, the school ignores the parents and refuses to listen to them.

These kids are “throwaway” kids. They are on a “track” that leads to gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, fast food jobs, and for many of them, prison. 

Education in this country, which should be a way of offering opportunity for every child, has become a means of creating and perpetuating a new upper class. Education isolates people into separate spheres with separate futures. Some are fed royal jelly. Others are shunted to the bottom before they even start in life.

In this old video from the days after he left Apple and before he came back to Apple, Steve Jobs sat down for a free-ranging interview. He talked a lot about education, and as usual, his comments reflected his own brand of independent thinking. I think he raised points that we all need to consider.

Have a look and decide for yourself what you think of his ideas.

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I am Hooked on Pope Francis

Maybe it’s my working-class, slum-school background.

Maybe it’s long years of representing a district where, more times than not, I’m the only white person and the only college-educated person at the table.

I dunno exactly what it is.

But I am hooked on Pope Francis. Red shoes, black shoes, no shoes, it doesn’t matter a bit to me. He’s my pope. I love that he’s from this hemisphere. I love that he’s Argentinian. I love that he was so sick as a young person that he lost a lung and probably learned about suffering at an early age. I love, love, love that he talks about the poor, the disenfranchised, the least of these.

I take inspiration from his strong pro life stance. I find courage in the way, as cardinal, he defended traditional marriage. I even like the fact that the President of Argentina had the temerity to publicly chastise Cardinal Bergoglio for standing for Church teaching. It makes me hope that he “gets” it, that perhaps he has some idea of what life is like down here in the pits with the rest of us.

I don’t think that God has given us a hot house plant pope who doesn’t have the first clue what the rest of us are about. This immigrant son of a railway worker probably “gets” it and “gets” us, including the us that is so afraid of him and what he’s saying.

It’s taken me days to come up with a theory for why some people are so disturbed about what I see as the niggely little things this man has changed. I think — and I want to emphasize that this is just me, saying what I kinda think today — I think that they don’t “get” it.

The world is a butcher shop.

Let me say that again.

The world is a butcher shop.

The world is cruel, unjust and indifferent.

More and more, people live in their little silos of existence and actively do their best to shelter themselves from experiencing what life is like for anyone else. Here in this country, we have “super zip codes” of wealth and privilege where like-thinking, self-congratulating scions of the new upper class congregate and become more ingrown and arrogant with each passing day. These are the people who have been to the “right” schools and trained to think in the “right” way.

Meanwhile, the world is a hope-killig butcher shop.

Without hope, people die inside. And when the world is a butcher shop, hope is a fragile plant starved for the sunlight.

This man, this good man, who is our new pope seems to understand this. He seems to know that hopelessness breeds every kind of evil and destruction and that hopelessness is the gift we’ve bestowed on untold millions of people all around the globe.

No wonder he makes some people uncomfortable. The Gospel message is like that. It discomfits the haves, the self-congratulatory, the smug every single time.

Commenters on this blog have reminded me that the red of the red shoes signifies the blood of the martyrs, the willingness on the part of the pope who wears them to be a martyr. Fine. I have no quarrel with that. If Pope Francis takes to wearing red shoes in the next few weeks, it’s ok by me.

But we don’t need shoes to signify the blood of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs is soaking into the ground of Nigeria right now as we speak. The blood of the martyrs flowed through the tubes attached to the vacuums in the abortion clinics while I was typing this sentence. The blood of the martyrs stains the pavement in India and the prison floors in Pakistan.

We don’t — or we shouldn’t — need shoes to remind us of that.

Without hope, people don’t die, their souls do. We live in a hope-stealing, soul-sucking world that devastates millions of its inhabitants from the inside out.

But the message of Christ is hope. It is impossible for anyone who truly understands the great dignity they hold as a child of God, who knows the free gift of eternal life, to be bereft of hope. Our hope is universal and eternal.

That is the beginning of real change. That is the message that leavens societies from the bottom up rather than the top down.

Perhaps what disturbs some people about Pope Francis is that, when you’re safe, fed and fat, living in your plush silo of privilege, the Gospel message isn’t a comfort. It’s a challenge. Maybe people who have been taught to think in narrow, self-congratulatory ways are both frightened and angered by challenges of this sort.

The Gospel of Christ offers everything there is to anyone who will say yes. But it asks everything you have in return. The world is a butcher shop because so many of us have failed to follow through on that Gospel challenge with Gospel living that transcends our self-made silos and projects us into the uncomfortable world of being our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers.

Pope Francis is scary because there’s the fear, not of black shoes, but the Gospel message and the call to conversion that lie behind the black shoes.

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