Saturday, May 26, 2012
When I moved back in March, I decided not to have a microwave.This has forced me to cook. Which I like. Admittedly, I grab things on the go when life gets too busy.. which defeats my goals. SOOOOOOOOOOO, here I go! Making baby steps, but it starts with education. It's been fun... My physical fitness goal is to run. So, with my lame foot, I will start small and work my way up. Today, I'm gonna start with two blocks and go more if I feel like it won't compromise my foot. Might seem lame to some of you, but that's okay. For someone who doesn't run at all, I'll take the two+ blocks today.
I've always known I have an "all or nothing" personality. In so many ways in life, it's terrible. So, I'm also working to get away from that. It's unrealistic for me to expect myself to start a workout regime that requires 3-4, 40 minute workouts a week when I don't do any. Baby steps, Brit... Baby steps.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
I have spent many hours deep in thought pondering my life, my goals, giving thanks for all the blessings in my life that come in the shape of health, a home, family, friends, a job. I love life!
Monday, September 19, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Higher Education: The dying American Dream
"The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered." ~ Jean Piaget
As a young girl, when asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I always replied, “I want to be a mom and have 100 kids.” As I pressed on through my education that is required as an American, I never had the desire to go to college. I was a great student, loved to learn, loved to read and did well in school. I did not even take the SAT’s because I knew I was not going to pursue higher education. Out of high school, I received a promotion into management at Godfather’s Pizza when I was 18 years old. From the restaurant industry, I went to retail, which finally led me to the wonderful world of dentistry. As a 22 year old, I was running a 1.5 million dollar dental practice in Park City, UT. This is where I developed my love for developing teams, helping to staff properly, teach employers to value their employees and receive a great return on investment, as well as teaching customer service. This in turn set me on my way in my life. I moved to Spokane in 2005 and began employment at an Orthodontic office to staff and increase revenue. I worked in the office for five years. In my fourth year at the office, I realized that I love working with people. I enjoyed educating providers how to run a business and building a team that produced and worked cohesively. I was offered a consulting job with a well-known orthodontic consulting firm. However, they wanted me to finish my education first. I was excited to be in college. My second year into my higher and education, and I feel as if I am being set up for failure.
I made enough money that I do not qualify for financial assistance. Yet, I do not make enough to be able to provide for myself and pay for the cost of tuition, books and fees. I am only attending community college, so you can imagine the cost that waits upon completion of my AA degree. In America, as high school students we are taught that the key to our future is higher education. What we as high school and college students in America are not aware of is the political dysfunction that is taking place in the education system and setting us up for failure. Thanks to George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, teachers of primary education are being forced into teaching to standardized tests; higher education is mainly being paid for by student loans, and in today’s economy, the student loan bubble is well on its way to burst. This is not comforting news to me, as a single woman, wanting to feel confident that I can secure a good education and be able to provide for myself in the future.
In a fascinating and infuriating article by Chris Hedges in 2010 titled, Why the US is destroying its education system, Hedges says, “A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs. Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.” Teachers are not granted the freedom to ask or challenge the testing. A teacher or anyone for that matter that thinks for themselves are systematically weeded out. The value of education no longer rests on the education itself but on the corporations who grant schools money. You bet they want a return on their investment. Most kids in the US that graduate are considered functionally literate and can hardly solve basic math equations. Teachers and education are under assault. Those whom do not comply or prove difficult in this new age of teaching are replaced with young, inexperienced teachers who are willing to perform under these tragic conditions and are “grateful” to have a job.
Where has the value of education gone? Schools run by superintendents who are making a great deal of money, teachers are leaving the profession as they see the value of education decreasing. Their jobs are on the line if their students do not pass bubble tests. A teacher interviewed for this article refused to give his name, as he feared repercussions says, “You have to ask yourself why are hedge fund managers suddenly so interested in the education of the urban poor? The main purpose of the testing craze is not to grade the students but to grade the teacher.” So students are being sent out into the world, unprepared, undereducated and products of corporate greed and ignorant politicians and sent on to the next chapter in their lives, which for many is higher education. The question is do they truly know what issues lay ahead in obtaining their higher education in pursuit of securing a successful, financial future.
The student loan industry is large, growing and most of the students in college are in debt. Alan Nasser says, “Debt is held by 62 percent of students enrolled at public colleges and universities, 72 percent at private non-profit schools and 96 percent at private, for-profit schools.” As of the summer of 2010, student loan debt is at $830 billion, surpassing credit card debt, which is at $827 billion. Student debt is growing at $90 billion per year. Lenders make their money from student loans when the borrowers default on their loans. They count on defaulted loans. The Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings announced in September 2008 “for community college students, the prospect of default is between 32 and 42 percent. Students at for-profit schools, the expected default is between 39 and 51 percent.” The price of tuition is increasing, Pell Grants are decreasing and the only option left is take on heavy amounts of student debt. In 2009, about 100 students protested the 32 percent hike in tuition at UCLA, Berkley. In the following spring quarter, an additional $585 would be added to tuition, prior to another scheduled increase in the fall of $1,344. In addition, the students had parents, members of the community, activists and union members all join totaling around 2,000 people. Police arrested about 50 of these students. Students are realizing exactly how powerless they really are in their own education.
Public education on every level is part of the capitalist state. In an article by the Socialist Labor Party of America we read, “One might think this would provide the capitalist class with a powerful motivation to exert great pressure on the state to preserve and improve on the quality of public education and to keep the meddlers out. Indeed, a great racket has been raised about how new technology is revolutionizing industry at all levels, and of the need for a new generation of workers trained and disciplined to operate them. What better motivation do the corporate owners of the country’s industries need to exert that pressure than their demand for workers capable of being employed and exploited? To understand the apparent contradiction it is only necessary to remember that “new technology” and “labor-displacing technology” are two names for the same thing. Capitalists need a new generation of workers to exploit, but not necessarily an entire generation. Automation means that fewer workers will be needed to operate the new industries. As for the rest of the new generation, capitalism will have no use for them.” If you have read Huxley’s A Brave New World, this sounds all too familiar. America is going to turn out workers who will benefit society and are trained to certain jobs.
Thirty years ago, Pell Grants covered up to 77% of a public four-year education. Today it covers about 35 percent. Low and middle-income students are finding it difficult to pursue higher education. Jesse Jackson said, “We can lose a greedy bank more than we can lose a generation of needy students.” Tolu Olorunda says, “These trends have abandoned most students at the mercy of five options: 1.) Drop out and transfer to a community college. 2.) Pick up a second job. 3.) Quit schooling altogether. 4.) Bear the brunt temporarily and hope a degree pays off in the long run. 5.) Take direct, non-violent action.” How are any of these acceptable solutions? He says most students pick option one or option four. The problem with this is that no matter what, once you acquire student loan debt, it is impossible to get rid of it. Bankruptcy is not an option if you do not finish school or become unemployed.
Tuition is rising in a time when our economy and income are declining. Of the $830 billion in student loan debt, about 40 percent is being repaid. The rest is in default. With the difficulty of procuring employment, rises in tuition, increase in student debt, it is safe to say that this debt bubble is set to burst soon. Two out of every five students is in default on their student loans within 15 years of the loans being issued. The “bubble effect” comes into play by not requiring credit checks to those who wish to apply for student loan funding. It is expected, in fact, hoped that students will default on their loans. This is how the banks make their money. Loaning money to anyone without prime qualifications is called subprime lending. We saw this with the housing bubble. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in December 2009, “most of the jobs will be low paying and will not require a bachelor’s degree.” One would think that the government would reflect and become involved in this arena. However, it is not just private loan lenders that freely give out money, the federal government does the same. The Department of Education makes more on defaulted loans than it does on loans is good standing. The government wants to make a profit as much as the next dirty, private lender next door. In August 2009, Congress passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. This eliminated private lenders from federal student loans and since then, private companies are raking it in. Sallie Mae’s loan portfolio grew 87 percent from 2000 to 2005. During that time, its fee income grew by 228 percent.
These are frightening facts that should cause alarm. Why aren’t more American students educated on this topic? Why are we not banning together, protesting and taking a stand? Why do we not demand a cap on tuition? I myself have tried to weigh out the consequences of borrowing in order to pay for my tuition. The very thought makes me sick. I find myself asking if it really is worth it. Prior to attending college, I had a great paying job with great benefits. I find myself in the category of sticking it out and continuing my education and hoping that it will pay for itself when I am done. It is likely that I will have to have at least two jobs upon completion of college. What is disturbing is that the value of education in this country is declining. As we know from the UCLA protests, it is easier to get thrown in jail, or even complain about the teaching styles and have a teacher fired than it is to stand up for our rights and demand a great education with affordability and an out if needed. We cannot file bankruptcy on student loans. I read about a woman whose loan payment was at $865 per month after defaulting. How is this not criminal? What are we as students and Americans going to do about this? Starting with primary education, we should fight on behalf of the teachers and our children. We should not allow the dictation of greed and standardized tests to be acceptable education for our future. We should follow suit of other countries and rally and protest in mass to demand equality for education and cap tuition. We as students feel powerless. We can complain about a teacher who presents views, opinions, theories and political propaganda that is different to ours and put an end to his or her career at a school. How is it that we are so powerless to have a voice and stand up to the greedy politicians and corporate greed about securing our future? How as parents, do you accept that your children’s educational and financial future is in severe jeopardy? Even peaceful protests result in arrests. Whatever happened to freedom of speech in this country?
Olorunda says, “But the struggle to lift burdens weighing heavy on the backs of students would have to involve more than young people: it would take the sympathy and sensitivity of adult working hand-in-hand, side-by-side with tomorrow’s leaders. It would take the empathy and energy of courageous intellectuals to step out beyond the academic bubble and stand for something worth more than a corporate handout. It would take the unwavering support of parent, community leaders, and educators to make good on the hope harbored in the mind of young people—hope that the society in which they live cares deeply about the future awaiting them.” I fear that too many American’s, young and old, feel that it does not affect them personally and are apathetic in regards to the situation. We have an attitude of, “If it does not affect me, it is not my concern.” This is a shame! It was not okay for the housing market and the same attention and concern must be given to the future leaders and stability of the American society. America is already falling behind in Math and Science skills. Where we once ranked number one we are now ranked number nine. Immanuel Kant says, “What brings us meaning and worth as human beings is our ability to stand up and pit ourselves against injustice and the vast, moral indifference of the universe. Once justice perishes, life loses all meaning. Those who meekly obey laws and rules imposed from the outside—including religious laws—are not moral human beings. The fulfillment of an imposed law is morally neutral. The truly educated make their own wills serve the higher call of justice, empathy and reason.” We need to revamp the educational system back to its roots. A student’s curriculum should include all areas of study including the arts, music and philosophy. We should not be cutting the funding for education and encouraging and accepting the massive debt of the leaders of our future. We are seeking education and it is time we serve that higher call of justice.