I was talking with one of our Counselors the other day, as we were setting up for our 8th Grade Orientation assembly and she mentioned how it might be the last time she does it. It really bummed me out. For one thing, I got laid off about 9 years ago and it sucked. You do everything thinking it is the last time you will do it. It’s a sad thing if you really like your job. I knew where she was coming from. I knew that feeling. And, it bummed me out because I believe that a great disservice is being done to the students of our district.
The things that our state and federal government is doing to education is like a bad dream. I keep thinking, “Seriously?” Some of it is so bad that I don’t know how it’s going to get back to the way it should be. So, a friend of mine and I had a discussion about other models for education and counseling. In the end, if I summed up the conversation, it would go something like, “Education is really complicated and there’s not only one way to do it.” Maybe there are other models for counseling that we can follow. Maybe our district leaders have some really good ideas in store that they can’t talk about. But, I believe that our district leaders are every bit as beleaguered in this as we are.
There’s something different these days. In my job as Activities Director, I am tasked with coordinating and organizing graduation activities. I don’t know what it means or why it’s happening but, and this is the fourth year I’ve done this, for some reason, this year unlike all the others, people started calling me in November and December about graduation. You know, the event that happens in May? The end of May? I’m not kidding. I had people asking me how many tickets they were going to get, where graduation would be, and so on. And, they really felt like they needed this information six months ahead of time. (I know all about planning ahead, but come on. Even if you need to book flights or hotels, you don’t need to do it six months ahead of time.) Every year for the past four, I have made a leaflet that we give out each April that covers pretty much everything a Senior or their family would need or want to know about graduation. But, this year, because there were so many questions, I had to update and give out this leaflet in January. Four months early. And, there’s an anxious quality to a lot of these inquiries. I can’t really put my finger on it, but underlying the questions is this vague feeling that people think graduation will happen without them and they will be unprepared.
Look, I know that graduation is a big deal. It’s a big deal for me, too. Ten thousand people are counting on me to organize a celebratory yet respectable ceremony that includes somehow getting over 500 giddy 12th graders to cooperate with me. It’s a huge deal. I realize fully that, for all of them, this is a once in a lifetime experience. And, for me, this is a lot of pressure. I was taught in film school that when you provide a show for someone, you owe them the best you can do. They are giving you hard-earned cash to provide them with entertainment. Applying that to this, I am being paid a decent salary to provide an experience for these students and their family and friends that they can never repeat. So, it’s a big deal to me too.
But, I know it’s going to happen. I know that it will happen as it always has, that people will do pretty much what they have always done and it will go pretty much as it always has done.
There is an anxiety underneath practically everything that people are doing today, in my opinion. It’s as if many people are worried that this is the last time they will be doing some of these things. As someone whose job it is to create school pride and spirit, this is a tough time. I feel as if I need to just keep going, plowing ahead as if things are as they have always been. Whistling in the night as I walk past the graveyard, in a sense. But, morale in the schools is awful. People are sad and angry and feeling helpless.
I’ve mentioned I’m reading “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein and as I’m reading it there’s bells ringing in my head; alarm bells and bells of recognition. In case you missed it, the short synopsis (I’m still in the first part of the book, so if this is wrong or oversimplifying, I apologize) is that there are people in government waiting for disasters to happen so that they can institute reforms (and this “reform” should not be construed to have a positive connotation) that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. For example, remaking the school system in New Orleans completely, or nearly so, to be of for-profit charter schools on the heels of hurricane Katrina. The classic example is 9/11. Capitalizing on the aftermath, the Bush Administration created two wars that are hugely beneficial to private corporations and made advances in increasing surveillance and “security” here in America, rolling back all kinds of civil liberties.
Conspiracy theory, right? Well, not exactly. I am not suggesting for a second that these disasters were in any way created by the administrations that took advantage of them. Rather, Klein posits that these people that use the Shock Doctrine have their plans ready and wait for disasters so they can move in and take advantage of the confusion, anxiety and disorientation that the disasters have created. It’s the same exact method used by the CIA in “coercive interrogations.” People will do many things outside of their normal behavior when you shock them and disorient them enough. What’s more disorienting or shocking than a huge natural disaster or a tragic terrorist attack?
I am going to be watching Alabama and those areas affected by those devastating tornadoes last week. It might not even register on a national level, but I would not be surprised to see something along the lines of big changes made in the educational system in that area, or large areas of land and buildings built up by private corporations having close ties to politicians in the state and federal government. The things that will happen will be far more advantageous to the corporations and politicians than they will be to the general population.
This is what I hope is really just a dream. I hope that the things I’m watching happen, and even taking part in, to schools won’t last, that we will snap out of the shock and disorientation that this financial collapse has brought upon us and remember what made America great. Because, this is exactly what’s happening. We are shocked by what’s happened. So many of us have lost jobs, houses, and security because of the financial meltdown of 2008. How can you not be affected by that? What do the corporations start doing? Raising prices (gas, food, commodities (by the way, this is exactly as it was described in Matt Taibbi’s book “Griftopia”)), privatizing education, busting unions, vilifying public workers and working to extend tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. How is any of that going to help the average person making less than $250K a year? I’ll answer for you. It won’t. Trickle down economics has been shown to be a complete myth. Rich people don’t trickle down jack to anyone willingly. That’s how they got to be rich. Right? And, tax cuts do not create jobs. Otherwise, we would have corporations hiring all over the place. But, GE laid off thousands just a couple months ago while paying zero in taxes and instead getting a $14 billion tax credit. They had a hugely profitable year. And, laid off a bunch of people.
The only people dreaming are those buying into the myths being sold to them on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and via politicians like John Boehner, Scott Walker and Michelle Bachman. Republicans had eight years to prove they were going to make our lives better. Were you better off in 2008 than you were in 2000? I’ll answer that for you. No, not unless you were working for one of the banks getting bailed out by the Federal government. Not unless you were one of the mega rich. This is not to say that I think the Democrats are doing a lot better. Are you better off today than you were in 2008? I know I’m not.
The bottom line, to me, is that the vast majority of the politicians are beholden to their corporate sponsors. Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? You should. Get past the toilet humor and look at that film as an absurd satire of our country and I think you will be chilled by how accurate it is. Wouldn’t it be nice if our politicians would actually say, “This speech brought to you by Taco Bell.”? At least we would all know where their loyalties lie. But, to know who the politicians are working for, all you have to do is see if the things they are doing are benefiting you or not. Most of them are not. That “healthcare reform” we saw last year? It was a sham that will only benefit healthcare companies. Thanks, Mr. President. That’s not the change I was looking for. That’s not change at all. That’s business as usual.
It’s not just a dream. This is happening. Years from now, we will look back at the 2008 to 2011 time period as a turning point. The gap between the haves and the have-nots will get larger. Our civil liberties will continue to erode. (Friends, they take naked pictures of you at the airport! Or, you can get groped by a stranger in a uniform, your choice. Oh, and if you resist in any way, you are considered a dangerous terrorist and arrested. Nice.) It’s not that this stuff just started happening in the last couple years. No, the foundation for all of this was laid in the 1980’s. But, this is when the snowball is really picking up speed. That’s where the anxiety and sadness is coming from. Somewhere in the back of all of our minds, we all know that snowball is on it’s way. We all know that we’re not dreaming and this is really happening.