Tag Archives: intersectionality

The American Public Education Factory: what is it producing?….Volume 1

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The American Public Education Factory: what is it producing?….Volume 1

I have been really trying to get some sort of an outline in my head about this topic for a while; I have decided to just start blogging it as it comes because every time I think I have it concretely fleshed out in my head, some new thought comes in about the social injustices associated with public school systems. From epistemology to NCLB, to “common core” to booster clubs, regurgitation vs. creative thought AKA actually thinking, ingenuity to different types of intelligence, to the perpetuation of rape culture and #Iammorethanadistraction, ugh the list can go on.

I am going to start with socioeconomic inequality in schools. Studies have shown that the more engaged in school a child is, the better they do. It isn’t rocket surgery. If a child is involved in sports, music, drama, whatever their choice of extracurricular activities are, the busier they are (no time for other naughtiness), the more invested they are in better grades, the more involved their parents might be in their world, “the more” everything. Things like teamwork, hard work, friendship, conflict negotiation, community, working for success AFTER failure, etc. are learned without the child knowing that they are learning it. But when these things are made to be so expensive that only the middle class and up can participate, well then, now we have yet another layer of oppression adding to the intersectionality of what it is to be a middle or high school student.

To over-share with a little self disclosure, I make what I assume to be a pretty “comfortable” wage, although it is definitely not the magical salary I was led to believe a masters degree would grant me. I make a little more than 50% of the “average median income” in America this year. I believe this probably makes me considered “middle class” but just barely. We still qualify for free lunch, thank sweet ancient baby alien space monkey Jebus, but it is not easy. I am still living paycheck to paycheck. I have come to terms most days with living one paycheck away from homelessness, mostly because as a housing case manager, I know what resources are available in the area.

I digress.

Anyhow, my point was that my child is involved in the school sponsored dance team, the fine arts credit required orchestra, and the foreign language credit required Spanish. We receive a discounted “activity fee” for the “sport” but the uniforms ($135 to start, with additional costumes throughout the year), “required contribution to the booster club” of $100 (which my child/myself get to harass friends, co-workers, family, and social media with in order to raise by selling coupon books or car wash tickets, not to mention the $1,200 dollar “Spring Break trip to Disney World” that all the “rich kids” get to go to, but sadly, probably not my child. This causes lateral oppression within the team of the haves vs the have nots; because the kids KNOW who will be able to go and who will not from the beginning. It is not fair. And yes, I know, “Life isn’t fair, Princess.” One+ more kiddo(s) financed OUT.

But come on! What is the booster club for anyway? Isn’t it there to support the kids who WANT to participate and work their asses off to participate? The answer sadly is, “No.” It is there to make up the difference between public support/donations from the school’s budget for sports. That is a shame. But go ahead, buy some more computers. Make the teachers learn a different way to teach because they aren’t churning out productive enough regurgitaters at the rate the country wants. That is a much better use of funds……And tell me again why kids here are obese and live online?

Ah, speaking of obesity….the school lunch. It is not what it could be. I recently read about France’s model and how lovely it is. What a pipe dream for good ol’ Merikah. Instead we have corporate sponsors, such as Subway and energy drinks in the schools. Which always look better than god knows what is really in the instant processed mashed potatoes and goo.

Spanish class requires fees. For what? I have no freaking clue. Is there a lab associated with Spanish? One+ more kiddo(s) financed OUT.

Orchestra requires not only a $100 fee per year to “pay for music” but also a rental of an instrument if you cannot afford to buy one. The schools do not even loan instruments anymore. How many kids love music but cannot participate in band or orchestra because of the cost?  I was told that because the school was making photo copies of music for the students they were fined $4000. Isn’t there some sort of fair use for schools to use copyrighted music?

“Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:
  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

Yeah, I thought so.

So tell me again why I have to pay for music for my child to continue playing in the school orchestra? And why must they also have “orchestral uniforms” which include for the gender binary, long black dresses for the females, penguin suits for the males. Could we not just wear black pants and shirts or skirts? We must buy these clothes for a high school class? Good grief. One+ more kiddo(s) financed OUT.

Did I mention all these fees are due either at registration or during the first MONTH of school (save the spring break trip, luckily “they understand what a hardship it might be for some families so they give them until late winter to confirm these amounts.” Cause between you and me, as a single FT working parent that gets minimal child support, registration, extras, school supplies, school fees, school clothes, and anything else needed at the end of summer/beginning of Fall, is freaking HARD to figure out.

These examples and many others show it is unaffordable for many if not most kids to participate in the activities that studies show teach resilience and community. It is unreasonably expensive for ALL kids to get the protective effects of participation in these activities. So they must find other outlets and no one seems to like those outcomes, and yet…..

I contacted the school to find out what options are available as a low income parent. You know, because despite being on whatever magical list they keep us free lunch families on, they do not send home any information on these sorts of options. There are some “scholarships” available the first week of October, I was told. But it doesn’t cover everything. It’s a first come, first serve sort of deal where a committee decides who gets it. Based on what? I don’t know. But you better believe it is not a blind decision. Someone is making judgments either internally or perhaps even out loud. I imagine fucked up words like “deserve” and “worth” and “investment” are tossed around in that conversation.

So back to the original point and not my own personal struggle…The socioeconomic injustices of a public school system…. You want a college scholarship? You want to take classes you might *GASP* be interested in? You want to do sports? Music? Drama? Prepare to pay my friend cause this is college. Public High School.

If your parents can’t afford it, screw you.

If your parents feel shame asking for help, screw you.

If your parents don’t speak English as a first language and aren’t sure how to advocate for you/your family, screw you.

If your parents are too busy because they work 8,327,498,374 hours a week and don’t have the time to contact the school, screw you.

If your parents have nothing but time because they are unemployed, depressed, worried, stressed, whatever, screw you.

Welcome to Public High School.

To be continued.

For the love of Moses must it be so damn hard?

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For the love of Moses must it be so damn hard?

Just a brief observation:

I have employer provided insurance and my kids have insurance provided by their step-mom….however, both do not cover everything so we have “Medicaid” aka “Washington Apple” as our secondary. I just received our renewal packet and a lengthy application, in English. The instructions say to do it online because it’s faster and easier. Mind you, it says this in English.

So I go online because I have that privilege and there is an option for Spanish.

Cool thus far, everyone knows that people in Washington ONLY speak English or Spanish. Duh.

I go through the damn lengthy process where I have to answer some tax questions that confuse even me, because of the verbiage. Now, I consider myself to be a pretty savvy person, masters degree and all….but please don’t ask me about my filing status as it relates to the amount of student loan debt or other deductions I might itemize….direct all such questions to Turbo Tax, thanks and goodbye…

I digress.

I finally get to the end and they can’t process it because of an “error code 3079.”

I call the fancy number and sit on hold forever because (lucky me) I have the privilege of unlimited minutes. I finally get a person, a nice well spoken person named Tracy who figures out the problem (I put “$0” as my personal insurance cost through my employer, which is the truth; but the website requires me to lie and say it costs me a $1, then electronically sign something that says I swear under threat of perjury that everything I put is truthful, you know whatever…ANOMIE) and BAM everything is better and my decision is immediate. Yay! We have health care totally covered in case I need to get me some birth control and abortions! (cause what else could a 34 year old divorced woman need it for?)

Now what if I can’t read?
What if I can’t speak English or Spanish?
What if I don’t have an address to send the packet to?
What if I can read, but for fun let’s say I read at a say 6th grade reading level, but do not understand the tax language?
What if I do not have a computer?
Can’t get to a library?
Can’t use a computer?
Have no interwebs?
Etc.
Etc.
Etc.

Oh sure, I know some of you are going to say, well there are people to help! Options! Go to the social services office! Some, like my pal Daniel, will probably go on some rant and tirade that makes me question why we are friends about poverty and education and “woe is the poor white male American,” but seriously.

Do there have to be so many barriers to getting health care that is MEANT for people in poverty?

With barriers already?

For real?

What happened to this magical Obamacare y’all were so scared of making it so easy for those lazy immigrants to come steal your insurance and jobs?

For fraks sakes.

(*&*&%&%$%$#@&)((*()_

For fucks sake.