Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Comments on Brewed Fresh Daily

Please take a look at the discussion going on at Brewed Fresh Daily. George linked to my last post, prompting quite an interesting conversation.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Who Profits from Failing Schools? (part 1)

Recently I was asked the question, "What are you passionate about?"

My immediate reaction was, "Huh?"
The question was clarified, "What gets you going, gets your blood boiling, motivates you to take action?"

"Gee...That could be a number of things, but I guess the common denominator would be injustice. You know, when somebody is getting screwed...bullied, conned, neglected or abused. Anytime the powerful take advantage of the less powerful; those things incite my passion."

For a long time I have been disturbed by the glaring failures of the city schools, and the subsequent effects on the economy. I have been doing a lot of research lately, and want to share some interesting statistics with you.

Budget Priorities: Education vs. Incarceration

• First year that the 50 states combined spent more on building prisons than colleges: 1995
• Number of state universities built in California, 1984-1994: 1
• Number of prisons built in California, 1984-1994: 21
• Increase in corrections spending in New York between 1984 and 1994: $761 million
• Decrease in spending on state colleges and universities in New York between 1984 and 1994: $615 million
• Average percent increase in state spending on higher education, 1985-2000: 29%
• Average percent increase in state spending on corrections, 1985-2000: 175%
• Number of African-American men in prison or jail, 2000: 602,900
• Number of African-American men in higher education, 2000: 603,032
• Increase in African-American male prison population, 1980-2000: 460,000
• Increase in African-American male higher education population, 1980-2000: 139,293

This page is an excerpt from The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry (2003) by Peter Wagner, published by the Western Prison Project and the Prison Policy Initiative. Footnotes for all facts are available in the print version available for online order.
Prison Policy Initiative, PO Box 127, Northampton MA 01061
(413) 527-1333

The following statistics are taken from The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) report Cellblocks or Classrooms? The report, released locally by Policy Matters Ohio, found that Ohio’s corrections budget skyrocketed between 1985 and 2000, while increases in higher education spending lagged. Other Ohio findings include:

From 1985 to 2000, Ohio increased spending on corrections at five times the rate that it increased spending on higher education. Higher education spending increased by 38% or $670 million while corrections spending skyrocketed by 211% or $1.026 billion. While Ohio spending on higher education ($2.432 billion) exceeded what was spent on corrections ($1.1512 billion) in 2000, over the last 15 years, spending on prisons grew at 5.5 times the rate of higher education.

In 2000, JPI estimates there were more African American men in Ohio’s prison system (23,200) than there were in Ohio’s colleges (20,074). This does not include most of the large numbers of African American male individuals incarcerated in jails in Ohio.

Between 1980 and 2000, African American men were added to Ohio’s prison system at 38 times the rate they were added to Ohio’s colleges.

Between 1992 and 2001 in Ohio, tuition increased by 32% at public four-year institutions (from $3,845 to $5,058) and by 26% at private four-year institutions (from $12,667 to $15,915). During these years, state spending on aid per student increased 62% (from $257 to $415). New students starting next week at Ohio State University will pay 19% more than new students paid last fall.

Ohio has the 10th highest university tuition in the country and is ranked 39th in the nation in the percentage of the population with a Bachelor’s degree (17%). Ohio ranks 40th nationally in public investment per full-time student.

The annual cost of incarcerating one person in an Ohio prison is $22,044. For the cost of incarcerating one person in Ohio, the state could pay the annual tuition of four students at a public university.

In 1996, Ohio had the 7th highest rate of non-violent drug admissions in the country. Drug offenses were responsible for 40% of admissions of African Americans to prison and 19% of white admissions.
From 1986-1996, the percentage of African Americans in prison for drug offenses increased by a staggering 213%; for whites, it increased by 23%.

A bachelor’s degree became more essential to economic well-being during the 1980s and 1990s in Ohio. Workers with only a high school diploma saw their wages drop by 13.9% in Ohio between 1979 and 2000. Even workers with 1-3 years beyond high school experienced an 8.7 % wage decline during this period. Only workers with a bachelor’s degree or more experienced wage growth between 1979 and 2000.

What the hell is going on? Why aren't more people outraged? Why aren't more of our politicians working on the remedy?

One thing I have learned from my life experience is this:
Anytime things don't make sense, ask this question: Who is profiting?
Isn't it time we started asking that question in Ohio? Why doesn't Ohio fix school funding? Who stands to profit from failing urban school districts?
Follow the money.

Experiential Learning

"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."

-- Will Rogers

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Suburban Paradox

I cannot count how many times I've breathed a sigh of relief when I turn onto Forest Hills boulevard and drive under the graceful stone arch of the pedestrian bridge linking the two properties where a century ago the worlds fist billionaire, John D Rockefeller, raised his family. After an exhausting day in a world where raging hormones combine with poverty, crime, ignorance, and filth; it is the archway that welcomes me home, back to the green peaceful suburb on top of the hill.

You can often find me wandering the leafy streets with my dog, Max.
A case study in paradox, Max is a timid Doberman who hides behind me when approached by strange dogs, and neighbors, even children. He is a large, muscular, elegant beast, with champion bloodlines. Rather than a guard dog snarl, he shows his teeth in and a goofy fido-grin, trips over his own feet when he plays, and prefers sleeping on the couch to going for walks.

Last week I dragged the reluctant Max from his hiding place under the dining room table, where he sought refuge upon recognizing the sound made by the leash as I lifted it off the hook by the back door. He trotted alongside me, stopping occasionally to sniff a tree trunk or mark a shrub. We strolled along the sidewalk, my thoughts drifting from my family, to my work, my future, the next project, the beautiful gardens, the lovely homes. It was Sunday morning, and the neighborhood was serene, so quiet that it hardly seemed like a city. The only sounds were occasional chirps and twitters that punctuated the cicadas buzz-whirr dronings, like little engines, from the tops of the eighty foot oak trees.

Without warning, we were startled by a terrible racket coming from screaming feathered throats, as three birds, beaks over tails, came tumbling out of the sky landing in a furious heap on the treelawn in front of us. Three birds fell to the ground...Only two arose. Left behind was the tiny brown body of a female English sparrow, her frenzied mate continuing his attack upon the blackbird who had been raiding their nest.
Max sniffed at the lifeless bird. My composure shaken, I yanked the leash hard, pulling him away.

The peace of my idyllic morning had been shattered by the harsh Darwinian reality of nature.

As we continued, the tumultuous event replayed itself repeatedly in my head. I couldn't help but relate the murderous scene to headlines I've read recently; home invasions, young mother's and children attacked and killed. How often we forget the cruelty of nature when we envision the world without man.

Several blocks later my thoughts were disrupted once again.
"Shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up!"
"Shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up!"
"Shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up!"
A shrill woman's voice shouted over a small child's steady cries.

I stood in front of the neat, white colonial with blue shutters, and listened. The voices were coming from an upstairs bedroom window left open to let in the cool morning air.

The yelling and crying continued for a couple of minutes. The same phrase repeated again and again, followed each time by a slap. Then it was silent.
Transfixed, I continued to stare at the house.
What should I do? I didn't see anything. I don't know who was involved. The woman's voice sounded foreign, but I couldn't be sure. Was she a parent or a babysitter? Was the child being slapped or was something else being hit? I couldn't tell.
After another minute or so I continued along the sidewalk, making a mental note of the address.

How deceiving the pretty facade of the suburb. The veil of calm and orderliness provided by affluence is a thin disguise to the troubled lives of the people who live behind the ivy covered walls, leaded glass windows, and manicured lawns.

That morning's events made recall a letter that was sent to me a few weeks ago by a thoughtful young friend. He included this essay written a few years ago by George Carlin.

Paradox of Time

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete. Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

George Carlin

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"This is the true joy in life--the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

George Bernard Shaw