«Competition, according to an American economist, determines how many days of simple labour are contained in one day’s compound labour. Does not this reduction of days of compound labour to days of simple labour suppose that simple labour is itself taken as a measure of value? If the mere quantity of labour functions as a measure of value regardless of quality, it presupposes that simple labour has become the pivot of industry. It presupposes that labour has been equalized by the subordination of man to the machine or by the extreme division of labour; that men are effaced by their labour; that the pendulum of the clock has become as accurate a measure of the relative activity of two workers as it is of the speed of two locomotives. Therefore, we should not say that one man’s hour is worth another man’s hour, but rather that one man during an hour is worth just as much as another man during an hour. Time is everything, man is nothing; he is, at the most, time’s carcass. Quality no longer matters. Quantity alone decides everything; hour for hour, day for day» – Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy
ometimes, in order to gain perspective on a situation, I imagine myself zooming into outer space and looking down on whatever is going on. From a distance of thousands of feet above whatever craziness is happening I can see more clearly and determine the actions that are available for me to take.
Over the last few years, I find myself frequently zooming out of education world I’m in attempting to gain perspective. From my vantage point somewhere in the stratosphere, here’s the image that often comes to mind: I see whirling, spinning educators crashing into each other, spinning off the map, and creating all kinds of unintended destruction. I see these beings spinning into states of physical and emotional breakdown. I see the stress and pressure fracturing communities of folks who should really be allies. I see anxiety, frustration, fear, and impatience. And I see extensive trails leading back towards the origins of this madness, each entity responding to something immediate with distant roots. It’s a frightening sight, I know.
The craziness has got to stop. It’s not serving anyone.
What’s at Stake? Συνέχεια
What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille.
At moments like this, it generally pays to go back to the history one already knows and ask: Were revolutions ever really what we thought them to be? For me, the person who has asked this most effectively is the great world historian Immanuel Wallerstein. He argues that for the last quarter millennium or so, revolutions have consisted above all of planetwide transformations of political common sense.
Already by the time of the French Revolution, Wallerstein notes, there was a single world market, and increasingly a single world political system as well, dominated by the huge colonial empires. As a result, the storming of the Bastille in Paris could well end up having effects on Denmark, or even Egypt, just as profound as on France itself—in some cases, even more so. Hence he speaks of the “world revolution of 1789,” followed by the “world revolution of 1848,” which saw revolutions break out almost simultaneously in fifty countries, from Wallachia to Brazil. In no case did the revolutionaries succeed in taking power, but afterward, institutions inspired by the French Revolution—notably, universal systems of primary education—were put in place pretty much everywhere. Similarly, the Russian Revolution of 1917 was a world revolution ultimately responsible for the New Deal and European welfare states as much as for Soviet communism. The last in the series was the world revolution of 1968—which, much like 1848, broke out almost everywhere, from China to Mexico, seized power nowhere, but nonetheless changed everything. This was a revolution against state bureaucracies, and for the inseparability of personal and political liberation, whose most lasting legacy will likely be the birth of modern feminism.
A quarter of the American population is now engaged in “guard labor”—defending property, supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line. Συνέχεια
College and university faculty routinely communicate ideas to colleagues in their field when they publish articles and present papers at conferences. However, unless they pursue interdisciplinary work, they do not often share ideas with colleagues in other fields. They engage with the general public or policy makers even less frequently, and when they do, they sometimes fail to translate their research into language that is accessible to audiences that lack familiarity with disciplinary discourses.
As science writer Dennis Meredith has noted, academics have been criticized for their inability to make their research on critical topics, such as climate change and evolution, understandable to lay audiences. Harry Boyte, codirector of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and Elizabeth Hollander, senior fellow at Tufts University, note in the 1999 Wingspread Declaration on Renewing the Civic Mission of the American Research University that communicating only to disciplinary audiences rather than to the public at large has reinforced “increasingly competitive, individualist” silo cultures. The lack of interaction with academics in other fields and with the public causes important research to be obscured in translation, encourages public skepticism, and intensifies negative perceptions of higher education. Συνέχεια
Prison spending bleeds education system
- Jealous, Paige: Runaway prison spending has squeezed out spending on education
- Writers: U.S. has 5% of world’s population but locks up 25% of the prisoners
- They say tens of billions goes to jail drug addicts, mentally ill and jobless, pot smokers
- Over-incarceration, under-education hurts the most vulnerable, they write
Editor’s note: Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP. Rod Paige was the U.S. secretary of education from 2001 to 2005 under President George W. Bush.
(CNN) — There is a bipartisan tide of lawmakers who are trying to fix our nation’s out-of-control corrections system, and make funding for education the priority.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to transfer thousands of nonviolent offenders from state prisons to county jails, an admirable effort to reduce prison overcrowding and make treatment programs more effective. In Virginia, Gov. Robert McDonnell is working to close eight prison facilities and use that money to support higher education.
And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked in his 2010 State of the State address: «What does it say about any state that focuses more on prison uniforms than on caps and gowns?»
A new report by the NAACP, «Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate» details the social and economic impact of runaway prison spending over the past 30 years. As prison populations have grown, prison spending has squeezed out spending on education.
–Benjamin Jealous and Rod Paige
Between 1987 and 2007, the nation’s prison population tripled, growing by 1 million people. The United States accounts for 5% of the world’s population, but locks up nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners. Unsurprisingly, prisons have become a big budget item for many states. During the last two decades, state spending on prisons grew by 127%, six times the rate of spending on higher education.
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, reformers and interest groups — including the NAACP, former chairman of the American Conservative Union David Keene and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform — is beginning to challenge assumptions about our criminal justice system.
In California, Attorney General Kamala Harris won election by promoting policies that are «smart on crime» rather than «tough on crime.» States such as Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey and New York have made a good faith effort to reduce prison populations and close facilities. With the proper reforms, we can ultimately use this funding to address the root causes of our society’s crime problem.
The rise in America’s penchant for punishment can be traced back to the 1970s, as the «War on Poverty» gave way to the «War on Drugs» and policymakers embraced stricter sentences for drug offenders. Since then, we have spent tens of billions to incarcerate people who struggle with drug addiction and mental health challenges, or are simply jobless or lack education.
–Benjamin Jealous and Rod Paige
The NAACP’s report suggests that this has the highest impact on the most vulnerable communities, which are often communities of color. The «tough on crime» approach to sentencing disproportionately punishes poor and minority communities — African Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of their white counterparts.
Policymakers should be able to propose sentencing reform without fear of being labeled «soft on crime.» Mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses have proven ineffective and racially charged. Public money would be better invested in treatment programs that allow drug abusers to forgo prison, or work toward early release, as a reward for tackling their addictions. Similarly, GED programs provide an opportunity for early release and also motivate prisoners to earn an education, which ultimately helps reduce recidivism. Finally, parole should be more attainable, but prisoners should remain accountable.
A leaner prison system would allow states to really help communities rather than effectively sweeping the most unseemly elements under the rug. «Misplaced Priorities» finds that in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, the lowest-performing schools tend to be in areas with the highest rates of incarceration.
In these communities, high incarceration rates create a vicious cycle of perpetually lowered expectations. Studies suggest that cyclical removal and return of so many parents leads to a breakdown of formal authority and weakened social networks. Meanwhile, many prisoners re-enter society unable to vote, secure a good job or find safe and affordable housing. Adding under-funded schools to the mix can remove the only source of hope.
The link between education and incarceration means that reforms can be targeted to address this vicious cycle. «Misplaced Priorities» finds that in many cities, a few struggling neighborhoods overburden prison budgets. In one striking example, New York City spends $16.6 million each year to incarcerate residents from the 11216 ZIP code. Residents of 11216 suffer from a 53% unemployment rate and the local high school has a 50% graduation rate. A reformed criminal justice system, along with a renewed focus on education, would benefit this neighborhood immensely, and produce immediate savings for New York.
Over-incarceration is an issue that can appeal to common-sense reformers and budget hawks of any political affiliation. Until we shift our priorities away from prisons and toward education, the vicious cycle of over-incarceration will only continue, therefore undermining America’s promise for a better future.
We call on everyone — parents, policymakers and educators — to join us in working for solutions to create a quality education for all children. Top-notch education keeps America competitive and the American dream accessible to everyone.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers.