Rainbow over Galileo Lane, Tucson

Thursday, April 14, 2016

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders                                                   April 12, 2016                
From Ken Goodman
 Kgoodman @u.arizona.edu

Dear Senator Sanders,

Every four years for a very long time (I am 88) a have addressed an open letter to the in-coming President of the United States on the subject of public education. If your background includes any Yiddish (My father was a Litvak) you may understand” Iz helfen vi a toiten bankus” (rough translation “It didn’t help at all”)

Actually, the educational policies of every President, Republican or Democratic in that whole time has been detrimental to the great traditions of public education. I applaud your campaign commitment to free universal higher education. But our elementary and secondary schools are so poorly supported   and the national and state educational policies have so degraded our teachers and public schools that large numbers of students will not be able to go to even free universities.

No aspect of American society is more important than adequate free public schools: safe and inviting places for our future generations under the guidance of professional teachers dedicated to accepting all learners and supporting their growth toward whatever each is capable of achieving. Public schools are the one institution in society with the potential to reach every child.

But the conditions of our nation’s public schools have suffered under financial neglect and open attack. Simply speaking our public schools are the last socialized aspect of American society and that makes them the relentless target of free-market think tanks on behalf of their corporate funders.

In developing nations , education exists at three levels: Those who have the means pay for private schools which vary in quality in proportion to their price. Public schools serve mainly the working poor. And large numbers of children of poverty are not in school at all or leave after one or two years.

That’s the goal of the anti-public school campaigns in this country. Big business sees no need to educate any more than a small elite group of technicians and managers to run the increasingly digitized production lines. Why pay taxes to educate anybody else? And besides too much education and literacy produces trouble makers. But they also want to control the curriculum and methods of education. And while they are at it they would like to earn profits on texts and tests. Lots and lots of tests.

Laws disguised as reforms, such as No Child Left Behind where really designed to assure the failure of public schools by imposing archaic curriculum, absurd testing, and unattainable criteria for judging school success.

No Child Left Behind was successfully sold to the minority communities as reform intended to help their children. In fact, it was a calculated attempt to make public education appear to be a failure. It used a punitive approach, setting unattainable goals and then punishing the staff and school districts for failure to achieve them. Many schools had entire faculties dismissed and the school turned over  to  for-profit charters or contractors who employed uncertified teachers. In Philadelphia, Detroit, Oakland, and New Orleans among other urban cities the entire school systems have been taken over by the state losing any local input. Then the schools have gotten worse.

But the only way to make profit running these charter schools is to raise class size, reduce services, and replace teachers with machines and less qualified personnel.

At no time in our history have teachers been so poorly treated. The United States has the best educated teachers in the world, but they are  constrained from doing what they know how to do and they are blamed for poor results while teaching in decaying sometimes dangerous schools with inadequate materials. Many fine teachers are driven out of teaching within the first five years in the classroom.

Teachers are so poorly paid that they often need food stamps to put food on the table for their own families. It is no exaggeration that many retired teachers are still paying off their student loans.

Many American children are spending their days in inadequate decaying buildings with poor sanitation. It is a national shame that our politicians are more concerned about incarcerating our youth than educating them.

Ironically, in spite of all attempts to destroy it, American public education is damaged but not broken. Due to dedicated and well educated teachers and professional administrators most American children get a pretty good education in public schools. Unfortunately, that is likely to be strongly dependent on zip code.

Senator Sanders, you’ve done a good job laying out the issues facing our people. Of all the problems you have exposed none is more significant to the future of American education than free universal public education . Education must be extended to three to five year olds on one end and higher education on the other. 

Parents and teachers together are ready to support a platform of making education the highest national priority. I believe this is also the issue that can put you over the top.

Ken Goodman,
Professor emeritus. University of Arizona
Past President, International Literacy Association,
Past President, National Conference on Research in Literacy

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The end of the two party system .

Trump and Sanders: America’s Alter- Egos and the end of the two party system

Perhaps the most important aspect of the 2016 Presidential election has largely been missed. It is the rejection by American voters of the two party system.

 It’s been apparent that the Republican party has lost control of its process for choosing its presidential nominee and faces a dilemma of Donald Trump winning their nomination or taking it away from him and fracturing at their convention. But this is only a symptom of a much more important event: the American electorate is showing by their voting patterns that they no longer accept the two party system that has dominated national politics.

The pundits have struggled to understand the relationship of the defection on the Republican side to Donald Trump and on the Democratic side to Bernie Sanders. The reason in both cases is that they have massively rejected the two party system. 

All through the primary season the news coverage has had to throw away voting models in trying to explain each Tuesday or Saturday what voters did. The old ways of predicting results didn’t work.

And each week, no matter how much money the array of wannabees on the Republican side spent it could not buy votes. Yet Donald Trump seemed to get votes simply by saying outrageous things no party politician would ever say. while a 74 year old Jewish Socialist Senator came out of nowhere to mount a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton. 

In both cases the voters no longer were willing to support the two party system. Perhaps what finally got through to voters was the 8-year outrageous behavior of a Congress so dysfunctional that it almost brought the government down several times.

As they disserted the party candidates the electorate fractured, not on the red and blue lines the parties had drawn. They divided between two alter egos of American voters both the product of the persistent way party politicians steered voters away from what they really stood for by framing their beliefs as something quite different.

The Republicans have for years built their platform around the idea that the enemy of the middle class and working class people is “big government," which threatened their jobs with too much regulation and took too much out of their pay checks with taxes. Somehow, from their offices in Washington, they made Washington the enemy.  They created a block of largely male working class voters who voted against their own class interests.  “Washington” was favoring those dangerous foreigners, blacks, Hispanics and women and discriminating again white, Christian, regular Americans. 

So one American alterego distrusts government and believes that “They” are taking America away from us. They don’t like all that politically correct stuff and believe that the second amendment is the most important thing in the Constitution. "They" want to take our guns away. 
These folks get their news and views from radio talk shows and have great fear and anger at change.

The other alterego is evident in the changing social attitudes toward difference of all kinds. Gay marriage and alternate life styles have become acceptable to them. They care about the environment and drive energy efficient cars. 

They believe that the real problems of modern industrial society can really only be solved together and that they are problems that require government to be responsible for dealing with them.

 They get their information on-line and distrust network news and media controlled by big business.  They trust the fake news more than the conventional media.They want the issues to be confronted honestly and fairly and they expect the best knowledge to guide government decisions.   And they don’t like the way politicians hide their beliefs in political doublespeak.

 They see the Democratic party drifting in policies and action farther and farther to the right avoiding confrontation of the serious issues and trading perpetuation of policies that favored the multinational corporations in return for support of their campaigns.    They want to have a government that make things happen.  And socialism is not a bad word if it means being concerned for each other and not beating up on each other.                                                                             .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
This alterego is embraced by young people who have always been more idealistic and impatient for action to solve problems. They connect with each other through smart phones and social media and prefer the fake news which exposes the hypocrisy of politicians and distrust conventional media.
Trump and Sanders represent well these American alter egos.

Even their names tell it: The Don
 He’s the self-proclaimed winner of winners; He’s rich and powerful. His name  is  on everything. Disdainful of losers (and they are so many to be disdained) destined to rule. What is good for him is good for all. He can do no wrong and is ruthless to all who get in his way. He preaches hate of others and contempt for the weak. He shoots from the hip, takes no prisoners, and the ends always justify the means.

And plain Bernie.
Unadorned, independent consistent, truth speaking. He’s S/socialist with big and little S.  A son of Jewish immigrants, proudly Jewish but more likely to cite history than God. His mantra is equality for all.  His priorities are health, education, fair wages, fair elections, fair laws, and a continuous revolution to preserve those priorities. He would provide free higher education, single payer medicare for all, and massive programs to provide jobs by rebuilding the infrastructure by taxing speculation. And he would reform campaign financing and the broken criminal justice system.

These are the alter egos that are America in the twenty-first century. Each truly American. And the electorate has polarized around them because the two party system has failed to govern. The Republicans and Democrats were for a long time two sides of the same coin, both funded and at the bidding of the moneyed interest  while maintaining an apparent choice between conservative and liberal versions of the same status quo.

This election made apparent to voters just how badly the two party politics had failed. Republicans after 8 years devoted to negating any Obama initiative, offered up a sleazy array of Republican politicians in a primary system rigged to favor a candidate who could say patriotic inanities while following the dictates of the rich. And along came the Donald, brashly proclaiming himself Mr. macho America who could do anything, say anything, make up his own laws and beat up on anybody, anywhere anyhow. The rigged system was ripe to be high jacked.
  And the Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton with all her qualification is sounding too much like a politician even when echoing Sanders agenda. Her agenda is eventual slow change meant to sound realistic but sounding like another political excuse for why what is needed can’t be done. Yes, but not just yet is. 

And voters listen to Bernie hammering away at a rigged economy, a rigged criminal system, a system in which the wealth produced by workers goes to a tiny percentage of the elite. And college is either unaffordable or saddling those who do graduate with life -long financial burdens. And when he says it will take a revolution to get our priorities straight, it is the young idealists who believe in his fair and democratic ideals who say enough of two party politics, enough of favoring the rich and powerful.

The two party system is no longer viable. There are no longer any regular republicans who can rely on loyal followers to vote for their official candidates nationally. And their traditional supporters will not vote for Trump. On the Democratic side, if Hillary is nominated she will win by default but if she wants a friendly house and congress she will need not only to mouth commitment to Saunders issues. There have to be local and congressional candidates to earn the support of the revolution he has called for.

 The two party system benefits multinational corporations and wall street. And they will use their media to marginalize, malign, corrupt and control any movement that threatens their power.

America once did have a realignment of our parties that was between a slave based economy in the south and an industrial economy in the North in which half of the states rejected the results of an election and the rule of Washington.
Could our tradition of constitutional law survive if our evil alter ego rejects an election result? A lot depends on how the greed of the powerful corporations prevails  or  our democratic traditons are strong enough to overcome.

Perhaps the best result of the current situation would be a realistic realignment of the party system. What could emerge is something perhaps like Canadian parties which stand for specific platforms that truly are right wing, centrist, or left wing and which give minority parties more participation on national and local politics. Canadians regularly turn out ruling parties from office.

In any case the Red/blue two party system is done.

 Perhaps we will have four parties to represent what are our current blocks:
The Know Nothing Party of the anti government right.
The Greed party that belives in government for the rich and powerful
The Moderates Who want good government without much change
And the New Democrats who see socialism as needed to solve social problems