When I received the above message earlier this afternoon, I didn’t think there was any way that it could possibly be true… I knew, of course, that Ypsi’s schools had suffered severe cuts. Just a few weeks ago, I’d watched Linette design a poster for Fly Children’s Art Center, drawing attention to the fact that kids in Ypsi Public Schools now get, on average, only 20 minutes of art instruction twice a week. I knew that the situation was dire. But I was truly shocked to read that one librarian was servicing all of the children attending our five elementary schools. I wasn’t mentally prepared to accept the fact that we lived in a community where children could no longer access books… So, this evening, I contacted Amanda Uhle, the executive director of our local creative writing non-profit 826 Michigan, and asked her to tell me that, somewhere along the line, a mistake had been made, and this wasn’t really happening in Ypsilanti. Sadly, though, she confirmed it, telling me that, through Amy Sumerton, 826’s program director, they were working diligently to pull together a small team of volunteers, each willing to go into a school for a few hours a week, and help children check out books, conduct research, etc… I told her that I’d help by putting the word out… And, now that I’ve done that, I’m going to rant.
How long are we going to put up with this insanity before we take to the streets and demand that something be done? What’s the breaking point? When do we start chaining ourselves to the doors of our public schools, demanding that our kids be given the educations that they’re entitled to? When do our kids, like the kids of Detroit, start walking out, and demanding what’s rightfully theirs?
I totally respect the folks from 826 for doing this. Nothing could be more noble, in my opinion, than finding creative ways to overcome obstacles and put books into the hands of children. But at what point to we stop participating in this broken system? At what point do we stop covering for the legislators in Lansing who, quite honestly, would rather pay to incarcerate our children than provide them with educations, and the tools they need to pull themselves out of poverty? Their agenda, as we know, is to dismantle public education, and replace it with a for-profit system that allows corporate interests to siphon money from the public coffers, while destroying the teachers union in the process. We know this is the case, and yet we continue to rationally deal with each problem along that path as it arises, rather than to go after those we know to be responsible.
Enabling the rich to pay less in taxes while our children are unable to access their school libraries, I would argue, is a treasonous act. And we need to start acting accordingly.
Is there waste in the public school system as it currently exists? Yes. Should we work to eliminate it? Absolutely. But it’s not school teachers who wrecked our economy, and, contrary to what Mitt Romney might say, it’s not Big Bird that’s got us into debt. (The entire budget of PBS is spent by the military in a mere six hours.) We’re here today because of deregulated financial markets, a reckless foreign policy that put our troops on the ground in the middle east, and the Bush tax cuts. We are not here because we employed too many librarians, and spent too much in our socialist quest to teach toddlers how to count using puppets.
Humanity, as we know, is facing a crisis the magnitude of which modern man has never seen. Our population is swelling, our natural resources are dwindling, and our ecosystem is collapsing. We are running out oil. The “dead zones” in our oceans are growing. Temperatures are rising. Species are dying off. And “thousand year” storms are becoming commonplace. We’ve not only left the next generation a dying world, but, now, terrified and consumed by greed, we’re taking away their educations. We’re taking from them the only lifeline that they have. If we were smart, we’d cut class sizes in half, recruit the brightest people in our country to become teachers, and invest in education at unprecedented levels. Instead, we’re upping class size, encouraging our most knowledgable teachers to retire, and effectively shuttering our libraries. This is not a viable long term solution. This is the way a civilization commits suicide.