by Don Washington on 2012/03/08
For the past month, every week someone from the Sun-Times or the Tribune rediscovers the latest “education” idea wherein a CPS school creates a six-year program that connects high school students with associate degrees to some corporation. The corporation will be designing the curriculum and the graduates get dibs on interviewing for the jobs. It sounds like that most disturbing phrase in politics: “win-win” where one of the “winners” is like the gazelle at a cook out held by lions. The real problem here is that we’ve spent the past thirty years disinvesting in public enterprises, especially schools that we’ve reached the point where poverty is overwhelming education’s capacity to contend with it. In a democracy you call that an epic system fail.
Let’s not beat around the bush here. Corporations are not philanthropic organizations so when one does something that looks like a good deed the first thing you should do is check and see what horrible thing they are trying to get clemency on. CME gives back this year’s TIF money because the state just gave them a billion dollar tax gift and the city’s corporate head tax break more than covers the TIF money over time. So CME – 49 Philanthropy-0. That’s just how corporations roll, so what the hell does this program really mean?
One, it cedes control of the curriculum to an entity that is not interested in or has in skill with what education is supposed to do. I am not sure what IBM, CISCO, Microsoft and Verizon have in mind for students but one wonders what the curriculum will be and who designed it? Will it do what education purports to do; encourage critical thinking, deliver basic reading and writing skills, engender curiosity; provide a basic scientific grounding, foster respect for others, instill a love and understanding of a civil civic society and expand the mind for a lifetime of learning or will there be none of that? I think someone should start asking those questions now, you know before we give them what amounts to millions of dollars in public resources and our children for free.
Two, it creates an under educated source of workers for a corporation. Wait, did I say undereducated? Why yes I did. An Associate’s Degree is a good firm first step toward getting a higher education. A vocational trade that ends in a union job, with good union benefits and good union wages is a stepping stone into the middle class. An Associate’s Degree in a specialized program, to work for a corporation, as a low-level worker, without the protection of a union is possibly a pathway to wage slavery of the most exciting sort. This is where you say something like: “What kind of conspiracy theory is this?” And I say, it’s the economics, stupid. (That’s not aimed at you, it’s aimed at me because when I first heard this I got to thinking: “Why the hell would people who are willing to build products with child-labor give a good goddamned about the children of the parents they’ve outsourced?” And the answer was simple… economics.)
Basic law of wages stuff here, (Stop yawning, it’s almost over.) the more people in the pool the less labor costs. In the pool means you have the skills needed. If you can just replace someone with someone else it keeps the workers insecure and the wages down. If they get upset replace them. So this program is going to create a steady stream of people who will be paid far less than a college graduate while not giving them the skills to one day become college graduates. Better still, the state, you, me and people like us will be paying to create replacements for those workers who may, one day, decide that they’d like more benefits… if there are any… that will keep the cost of their labor in check. That sounds delightful but it will be work and that’s good, right? Then you remember that slaves had jobs and everything seems less… appealing.
There are some who say that something must be done about education and anybody can throw stones but these are solutions. I agree, create real programs with will pathways to real futures. Here are a few ideas if our corporate friends want to be of use; let’s test their dedication to the idea. They could move their frick-frackin’ factories back here and pay real wages then create a vo-tech path toward union employment like the old days. They could create free ride scholarships at 4 year universities in four to six years of work in return for certain fields. They could provide paid summer internships and enrichment programs during the school year for kids in targeted neighborhoods. I’ve about a dozen other ideas that work so let’s move on to the next gripe.
School costs a lot and it’s in danger because of its deficit. I agree, fund it. Drop a real corporate head tax on the existing major corporate entities and give it to CPS. Make it retroactive to say 2008, if said entities were involved in or purchased entities involved in the mortgage crisis. Hell, enforce fines on financial institutions that have unsecured foreclosed buildings. Make them big fines and make them hurt. Maybe they’ll secure the buildings. Maybe they’ll stop foreclosing on people. Worth a shot, they’re breaking the damn law after all. Levy a corporate financial tax of say 20% on all trades at the CBOT. If they want to move charge them a fee for every dollar at interest that they’ve ever gotten from the city. Start with the fire and police and fight them in court. Tax them something while we’re fighting them in court and freeze their city assets while you do it.
Governments can do things like this. This is not a hostile business environment. This is a business environment that seeks to reverse the; we pay a dollar fifty for every quarter say General Electric pays. We call that basic fairness and to fund schools let’s get some of that instead of helping business with its already suspect bottom lines. Sounds adversarial, well I am worried about kids and the future so I’m willing to be aggressive. Someone should.