BY VERN TURNER
One of the sure things in life is the extinction of a species if it insists on eating its young. If this happens often enough, there are insufficient breeding opportunities and the species loses genetic vigor and thus its ability to adapt to changing environments.
The same can be said for how our consumer-oriented economy works and the impacts it has on our children.
The fact is we don’t really have a consumer economy; we have a consumer growth economy. Our national wealth is predicated on how our businesses grow. If all businesses grew to their potential, they would consume resources, energy and human capital at ever-increasing rates. This thinking assumes we have unlimited resources, energy and human capital.
Our resources are limited by the size and make-up of our planet and what lies within our reach. We have virtually unlimited solar energy for the next four to five billion years, but we refuse to make that availability a number one priority for fueling our lives and lifestyles. That brings us to human capital.
Education in the United States has deteriorated for any number of reasons and our children are the victims of this creeping incompetence. I say “incompetence” because everything that drives the consumer growth economy is impacting public education.
The notion that private schools will provide needed competition for public schools is ludicrous due to the many factors that make them different.
Besides, studies continue to show that public schools are about as effective as private ones in educating children even as our public schools deteriorate by the hands of politicians.
The politicization of schools that reached its low point with No Child Left Behind and its barely better Race to the Top, such that testing becomes more important than learning. The cheating and expense involved in these programs for political gain negates any benefits to the kids and only benefits those politicians who have convinced enough voters that the testing racket is good for their children.
Meanwhile, we have social issues of working people scrambling to make the American Dream come true while other political pressures keep their salaries stagnant and their buying power lowered.
The children who need nurturing are being ignored by working parents, single working parents and too often, no parents at all. Their anxiety levels, exacerbated by testing regimes forced upon them causes their learning abilities to be altered or disabled.
On my first day of teacher education I learned that a hostile or anxiety-ridden classroom stifles learning, yet everything we do with public education seems to add to that dysfunction.
I keep hearing about how these generations of children are going to have it worse than their parents. No kidding. How else could it be when the engines of economy, consumers, are asked to work more for less, our teachers are overworked, underpaid, given too many students, denied their abilities to teach due to the testing racket and attacked mercilessly by so-called conservatives as the reason our children aren’t competitive with the rest of the world.
What else would we expect?
The “system” insists on proceeding counter to its intent and philosophy.
The consumer economy is cutting the ability of the consumer to consume. Good paying jobs continue to be scarce and only low-paying jobs are abundant, yet the business community howls about a minimum wage that pays a whopping $13,000 per year. Skilled worker jobs go begging because we’ve cut our vocational education in our schools.
The resources the economy requires grow scarcer while the environment in which we live is put at increasing risk to acquire new ones.
Our children are being ignored, dumbed-down and, ironically, sheltered more from learning the survival skills in our world economy. Instead, they are being inundated with violent video games that promote shooting and killing as their themes, the more realistic the better.
I may be old-fashioned, but all this sounds like we’re not only eating our children, we’re showing them how to eat their children, too. Maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe we should be moving toward a sustaining economy that actually conserves those things important to our survival as a species, never mind a society.
We’re running out of time to decide what we’re going to do if we want to carry on this experiment in democracy.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.