A Small Piece of What Hobbles Me

Among the things that have me by the toe, the waning of democracy and the ever steeper upward tilt of the so-called level playing field.

“Are you fucking crazy?  You are held by the toe by a myth that was, at best, an exercise for keeping order and property, designed by the wealthy and maintained, whenever necessary, by their goon squads?”

Democracy was more than that.

“If you say so, my idealistic friend.”

Take the example of public education, a once truly democratic institution.  Not that long ago the children of immigrants, educated in New York City Public Schools, could attend the City College, for affordable tuition they could earn by working as they studied, get an excellent education, graduate debt-free with a degree that was worth as much as degrees now costing $160,000, and find work in their chosen field that allowed them to move out of the tenements where they grew up. 

“OK, nice example of democracy in action, and meritocracy, but times change.  Systems evolve.”

Ya, mon.  This is what has me by the toe, in the New Gilded Age, working with an outmoded belief in something good that is now under constant, coordinated attack by a well-funded army of profiteers.   I designed a program for public elementary school students, to work as a group, guided by their own ideas, supported by adult facilitators.  My idea was to show public school kids, in poor neighborhoods, at their best– give them a showcase to demonstrate what they could do if they weren’t being actively trained to be factory workers in factories that no longer operate in the US, or, failing that, failing, dropping out and becoming prisoners in a privatized for-profit prison system.

“You are pissing into the wind and ignoring the fact that, sad as it may seem to you, you are one of the few people you know who is even passingly following this sickening debate about public education.   Only people with bleeding hearts give more than a passing thought to the fate of the kids you want to work with.  The children of the disenfranchised are an abstraction.   ‘Disenfranchised’ — without the right to meaningfully participate in decisions about their own governance.    But let’s not get lost in emotionality.”

“Look at the numbers, it makes everything easier to understand when you view it with a calculator in hand.   Simply multiply the number of students entitled to a free public education in the U.S. by the sum each state and school district allocates per student.  That number is hundreds of billions of dollars a year, left on the table for substandard education.”

Hundreds of billions of dollars a year. No need to pull a number out of our asses, when we can pluck one from the internets:  $621 billion a year, as of a couple of years ago.

“No small sum, my friend.   Private entrepreneurs who have already shown they know how to make billions are the best stewards of that kind of dough, not people with interesting theories about how children learn, or a quaint belief that cooperation yields more social benefit than competition.   You can’t expect public school administrators, teachers, educational theorists and the like to know as well as Bill Gates, Michael Milken, Michael Bloomberg, giants in making mountains of profit, some of the richest and most enterprising men in the world, how to maximize the profit of that enormous investment in such an important human resource.”  

You make my case for me, friend.   Milken served his time in prison, ten year sentence generously discounted by 80%, seemingly got to keep most of his ill-gotten money and is now called a philanthropist on his Wikipedia page.  We learn at a glance:  

Michael Robert Milken (born July 4, 1946) is an American former financier and philanthropist. He is noted for his role in the development of the market for high-yield bonds (“junk bonds”),[1] for his conviction following a guilty plea on felony charges for violating U.S. securities laws, and for his charitable giving.  

Forbes currently lists his net worth at $2.5 billion.   

Read on and learn how you do it.  This is how you do it:

Milken and his brother Lowell founded Knowledge Universe in 1996, as well as Knowledge Learning Corporation (KLC), the parent company of KinderCare Learning Centers, the largest for-profit child care provider in the country. He is currently chairman of the company.[18] Milken also established K12 Inc., a publicly traded education management organization (EMO) that provides online schooling, including to charter school students for whom services are paid by tax dollars,[19] which is the largest EMO in terms of enrollment.[20]

“This is really the best use of your time right now?  Showing how a convicted billionaire felon/philanthropist is profiting by redirecting public school dollars to his own for-profit enterprises?   This is really the best use of the time that is slipping like sands through the hourglass?”

Not at all, friend, not at all.  Just a small piece of what hobbles me.

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