Archive

Posts Tagged ‘vicious cycle of poverty’

College Admissions Scandal is an Indictment of Our Competitive, Celebrity Driven Culture

March 13, 2019 1 comment

Yesterday the NYTimes and virtually every media outlet in America broke a story regarding the indictment of fifty individuals for their roles in conspiring to secure seats for their children in elite colleges and universities. As the NYTimes article reported:

The scheme unveiled Tuesday was stunning in its breadth and audacity. It was the Justice Department’s largest-ever college admissions prosecution, a sprawling investigation that involved 200 agents nationwide and resulted in charges against 50 people in six states.

And there are more indictments to come. But as the MSNBC interview below with Anand Giridharadas and Tressy McMillan Cottom indicates, the biggest indictment is that of our culture:

http://https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/fifty-charged-in-massive-college-admissions-scheme-1456907331756?fbclid=IwAR31UXBEEhNLlGUJFBmCSQsKu8M-WZALostGO-zh3dIYKKSaTd2M9zhDx08

After watching the interview and reflecting on this scandal, I recalled many parents who defended their decisions to “defend” their children when they were being disciplined by asserting that they were doing what any parent would do to support their child.  But, as these indictments indicate, not every parent is capable of doing what a billionaire can do.

But here’s are some tougher questions that I pose to myself and to other parents who are “…doing what any parent would do for their child”: 

  • Who is advocating for those children who DON’T have a parent capable of advocating?
  • If I can afford to have a realtor show me a house in any community, am I not “…doing what any parent would do for their child”? And if so, am I not providing my child with a leg up on other children whose parents cannot afford a house anywhere?
  • If I can afford to rent a house in an affluent community with prestigious schools for my family while maintaining another residence located in a less prestigious school district, am I not “…doing what any parent would do for their child”? And if so, am I providing my child with a leg up on other children whose parents cannot afford to do so?
  • If I can afford to pay tuition for my child to attend school in a prestigious district and transport them to and from school, am I not “…doing what any parent would do for their child”? And if so, am I not am providing my child with a leg up on other children whose parents cannot afford a house anywhere?
  • The same kind of questions can be posed for parents who can afford tutors, music lessons, competitive team sports, and the books, electronic equipment, musical instruments, gear and coaching that accompanies those activities.
  • And, the same kinds of questions can be posed for parents who can afford to have family museum memberships, to send their children to summer camps, or take children with them on vacations abroad.

It would be beneficial of this scandal would compel us to look at the deep underlying inequities that impact children and recognize the need for our culture to be more compassionate toward those children who have the bad luck of being born to parents who care deeply about them but are financially incapable of “…doing what any parent would do for their child”?

 

Advertisements

Something Positive Emerges from the Ashes of the Amazon Debacle: Public Awareness of Tax Breaks

March 9, 2019 Comments off

The NYTimes today featured an article by Matthew Haug describing the tax breaks developers received in the construction of Hudson Yards, an ambitious project that involved the construction of several multi-millions dollar office towers, infrastructure upgrades, and parks and a new school on the West Side of Manhattan. The article’s title, “Amazon’s Tax Breaks and Incentives Were Big. Hudson Yards’ Were Bigger” seemed to implicitly accuse those who supported Hudson Yards but opposed Amazon as hypocrites. But from my perspective, the article did something more important than pointing out hypocrisy: it pointed out that not all tax credits are money grabs by a singular billionaire, that not all tax credits have an adverse impact on nearby neighborhoods, and ALL tax credits need to be examined in the sunshine before they are agreed upon by politicians.

The Hudson Yards project DID make several billionaires even more wealthy… but since government cannot directly provide capital for major projects like Hudson Yards (or Amazon for that matter), some venture capital is required and that venture capital requires a high rate of return since, in some cases, the venture capitalists make bad decisions by investing in projects that do not pan out at all. But unlike the Amazon project— which benefitted one corporation that has a deserved reputation for undercutting wages, displacing local small businesses, and rewarding shareholders with the profits made on the backs of overworked employees and underfunded local governments— Hudson Yards engaged multiple businesses most of whom will receive tax breaks contingent on the creation of new jobs. Also unlike the Amazon project, Hudson Yards was coordinated and devised in concert with the local government. Finally, Hudson Yards was taking an area of the city that the Times described as:

…a neighborhood that included a stubby collection of brick warehouses, factories and tenements built when the Hudson River docks were busy. In the middle was an unsightly rail yard.

Hudson Yards supporters believe the development, which included an extension of the No. 7 subway extension, parks and other improvements, will make the Far West Side an overall better neighborhood. And as for critics of economic development projects like the Amazon one, the Times concludes its article with this:

Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn, a Democrat who is a founder of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, said it was smart to expand the No. 7 subway and create parks on the West Side.

But tax breaks for specific companies are a different story, said Mr. Lander, who was an opponent of the Amazon deal.

We’re giving away tax breaks without paying close attention to what’s a good deal or not a good deal,” he said.

If the failed Amazon deal compels newspapers and politicians across the country to pay closer attention to what’s a good deal or not a good deal, then some good will come out of this debacle. Who knows, maybe voters will want to provide more funds to the government so that they can upgrade infrastructure on their own as a means of luring business. It’s just possible that good roads, high quality public services, beautiful parks, and good schools might entice businesses to locate in a city or region more so that cold cash.

A Predictable Meltdown Results When a Former Investor in For-Profit Schools Oversees the Dismantling of Regulations Governing Those Schools

March 8, 2019 Comments off

NYTimes reporters Stacy Cowley and Erica Green describe the rapid meltdown of a college chain that resulted when Betsy DeVos aggressively deregulated post secondary schools in the name of giving “new life” to an industry that was “on its heels” during the Obama administration. And why was it on its heels? Because, as the Obama administration’s Department of Education recognized, the profiteers who operated private (mostly proprietary) colleges misled students who went deeply in debt to get the education they understood they needed to be successful in the global economy. The students never got their degrees because the colleges did not have the wherewithal to provide the education they promised. When the Obama administration fined the colleges to help pay back either the students’ personal loans or the government who provided loans for the schools the profiteering colleges either went out of business or transferred their ownership to a different entity. The winners in all of this were the investors and the college administrators who received unseemly high salaries. The losers were the students who hoped to better themselves only to find themselves deep in debt. I am certain that the laissez faire capitalists will shrug their shoulders and say that’s the way the market works: caveat emptor! One can only hope that every disaffected student will at least learn that the policy of deregulation— UNDER-governing— is the problem and not the government itself. But that unit was probably not included in the introductory economics courses offered.

Goodwill MOOCs Surpass All Others for Enrollment. Why? They Provide What THEIR Customers Need: Job Training

March 2, 2019 Comments off

Many education writers and bloggers, including yours truly, have predicted that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) would someday replace the traditional post-secondary offerings, But like many others, I was completely surprised to read that Goodwill— yes, THAT Goodwill that sells used clothing— has the second most robust MOOC program in the world! Why? Because while start-ups like Udacity, edX and Coursera all fought over the traditional post secondary market, Goodwill seized the larger and more urgent market: those seeking fundamental job skills. As Brandon Busteed of Forbes writes:

…there’s good reason to believe it could quickly surpass all MOOCs in total users.  Why?  It’s simple.  Goodwill got the premise right.  And that premise is all about jobs.  It’s providing the education and skills that help move people from unemployed to employed, from a low-paying job to a higher-paying one, from a bad or average job to a good job.

And in our country, unemployed and under-employed workers all agree that getting a job that pays well and offers benefits is the way to get off the treadmill of pointless and low-paying work… and that getting job skills is essential to securing a better job! And the good news from my perspective as one who sees the world through the lens of social justice, Goodwill, unlike its competitors, is not interested in profit:

Goodwill’s entire focus, though, is a market of people who arguably have both the highest degree of motivation and the least means of accomplishing their goals.  Their model may be the ultimate application of the MOOC educational model – free courses for those who desperately want jobs and can’t afford to pay for education or training.  If Goodwill and its donors and partners can find ways to sustain offering their courses for free to those who need them most around the world, they will most certainly become the world’s biggest MOOC.

I wish them well, and hope that the Federal government, who seems to feel free to bail out and /or support profiteering private post-secondary schools, might find a way to support Goodwill’s MOOCs.

NPR’s “Dog Bites Man” Headline: “DeVos Announces Support for Proposed School Choice Tax Credit”

March 1, 2019 Comments off

An article in the NPR blog had this completely unsurprising headline:

“DeVos Announces Support for Proposed School Choice Tax Credit”

The article was equally unsurprising in terms of who supported it and who didn’t. As the article noted, the “school choice tax credit” idea is nothing new: several states have adopted the ALEC inspired legislation that enables wealthy donors to make contributions to a slush fund that can be accessed to pay for presumably indigent children to enroll in the “school of their choice”… that is unless the school is in a well-funded district or a school whose costs are prohibitive. What “choice” does that leave? A for-profit charter school or a religiously affiliated private school that underpays its staff and offers religious training as part of the curriculum.

Dog bites man is NOT news. Neither is the political reactions to a warmed over ALEC bill promoting “choice”.

Build a Wall… or Build a Floor? Clearly the Wall is Unnecessary… But a Floor for Earnings is an Emergency

February 28, 2019 Comments off

Reverend William Barber and Dr. Liz Theodoris, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, wrote a compelling op ed piece for the Guardian declaring that poverty, not the threat of an invasion by Spanish speakers, is the real emergency in our nation. The essay is full of chilling statistics illustrating the widespread poverty in our nation and the crumbling infrastructure that has resulted from decades of underfunding by governments at all levels… and by both parties! Here are some examples:

And the fact is, it’s not just the Republican party that has ignored these issues. Poverty has increased by 60% since the Rev Dr Martin Luther King launched the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.We can no longer accept the same political discourse that for the past 50 years has refused to mention poverty nor can we accept politicians enacting policies that prey on the poor. It’s time to talk about the real emergencies plaguing our nation and the real moral issues of our day – the lack of health care, living wage jobs, clean water and sanitation, the militarization of our communities, the attack on indigenous sovereignty….

This is the time to take on the lies of the enablers. When people say poverty is caused by laziness, race, or lack of moral character, we must expose these lies.

In today’s America, the real emergency is that a quarter of a million people die from poverty each year while our political system refuses to use the great wealth of this nation to lift the load of poverty.

Democrats should validate the fact that 250,000 people die from poverty each year, and hammer that fact home during this debate. One way they could do so is to declare that when they have the opportunity to do so, hopefully after the 2020 election, whoever is elected President as a Democrat will declare a national emergency and divert funds earmarked for wars abroad to deal with the decades-long emergency of poverty. Such a declaration would shine a spotlight on this shameful reality.

Meanwhile in NYC, the Mayor Acknowledges Problems With His Signature Program BUT Does Not See Closure as a Solution

February 26, 2019 Comments off

In addition to the story about the Chicago mayoral race that glossed over the impact of school closures, today’s NYTimes featured an article by Elizabeth Shapiro on the “failure” of Mayor de Blasio’s $773,000,000 Renewal Program. The article describes the inability of any urban school system to find a way to “fix broken schools” and details some of the factors that caused 25% of the renewal schools to close while a similar percentage of those schools improved enough to be removed from the list.

One of the factors that contributed to the inability to turn “renewal” schools around was the fact that the “renewal school” label scared off parents who exercised choice… thereby leaving the “renewal schools” populated by parents who were less invested in assuring the success of their children. It’s no surprise that “renewal schools” were seldom chosen by parents who engaged in the choice process, but it is a surprise that “reformers” failed to see that this would be a predictable consequence of the system, a consequence that led to even more intractability of “fixing” the “renewal” schools.

One thing is clear about Mayor de Blasio: he is NOT backing down from his position that school closures is the answer. Here’s the closing sentence from the article:

“The era of closing schools has come to an end,” the mayor said.

Thankfully, Mr. de Blasio does not have the ethos of the impatient neoliberal reformers who seek the favor of billionaire venture capitalists at the expense of the struggling middle class residents in the city.