Build Brains, Not Bombs

by Norman Horowitz

What is America to me? 
A name, a map, or a flag I see; 
A certain word, democracy. 
What is America to me?

The house I live in, 
A plot of earth, a street, 
The grocer and the butcher, 
Or the people that I meet; 
The children in the playground, 
The faces that I see, 
All races and religions, 
That’s America to me.

— “The House I Live In” by Abel Meeropol

I did believe in those lyrics for most of my life, but sadly I now believe otherwise. Perhaps I have seen too many John Wayne and Henry Fonda movies. I grew up thinking that we were always the good guys.”

I would’ve preferred in the last sixty years that our country had been preoccupied with educated all of our children in the best system that our wealth could buy, but alas it seems that we were always on awar footing.”

In my lifetime, I’ve watched as we became the victim to a variety of isms: fascism, communism, socialism, radicalism, and our latest rally round the flag, boys word, terrorism.

Nineteen nut cases destroyed the World Trade Center, and we’ve gone to war and killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of ours and theirs in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many of those were innocents? Were our innocents that were killed by terrorists on 9/11 any different than the innocents that we’ve killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan?

While we’re at it, we spent enormous amounts of money on guns. In the 2oth century, we could rely on our natural recourses, but we can no longer do that. In the remainder of the 21st century, our nation will be only as good as our ability to educate our populace.

We do not have enough money for our schools. (Much of the following comes directly from discussions with educators.)

In Los Angeles, the Title 1 budget will be cut by 40%. That’s computers, supplies, curricular trips, and some staff positions that have been paid for.  Less paper for Xeroxing, lesson plans, handouts, pencils, pens, tissues for the kids, etc.

More teachers are going to be laid off, and class sizes will go up again (we’re already at 30-40 per class). Part of teaching time must now be spent having students clean up the classrooms because there aren’t enough janitors to sweep. Summer school has been eliminated (except for a few isolated classes). Due to unpaid furlough days, teachers have to find part-time work to fill the gaps in pay. With reductions in counselors, psychologists, and literacy coaches, even more kids will fall through the cracks.

And we thought we were at bare bones already!

Good education happens when students feel they’re in a safe environment, surrounded by people who care about them. Who has time for that when there’s 40+ kids in a classroom? By the time you take roll and sweep the classroom, you’ve already lost 10 minutes.

The boat is sinking, but we’re too busy instilling fear in the populace with hobgoblins.