May 27, 2010

The Gulf oil spill and education. What's the connection?

What does the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico have to do with the future of education? Bear with me and I’ll try to work through this.

The Obama administration has been taking a beating for “not acting fast enough.” This is true, but doesn’t really explain the relationship between the U.S. government and “Big Oil”. Oil drilling is no longer three guys on the Plains looking for gushers. It is a highly technological, scientific endeavor. This “gusher” is at the bottom of a column of water as deep as the Grand Canyon. To monitor these wells, and to fix any problems are major undertakings and require a well developed technical/engineering know-how. This is something that the U.S. government has been more than happy to allow the oil companies to fund and basically have let the oil companies self-monitor. This has become the practice over many years and continued by the current administration.

The problem for anyone who takes the time to think about this is that oil companies are driven by the basic DNA of capitalism – MAXIMIZE PROFIT. It is becoming clear that BP knew about problems with this rig, but did not act on them. They chose ways of dealing with issues that were “faster” (i.e. cost less money) rather than safer. It is clear that the “fail-safe” devices were not correctly tested in order to save time.

The role of government in all of this? To help these companies make those profits (BTW – BP profits before this disaster? $45 million/day). Politicians don’t get to run by taking on big business. In this system government protects profit!

So what does this have to do with education? Our union has given up on any form of mass movement. Our leadership has had only one plan of action – rely on these same politicians. What we get is a system of education “reform” that is bad for both teachers and students. So who is it good for? BIG BUSINESS!

In 2008 the AFT invited Arne Duncan to speak at their national convention in Chicago. Let’s look at his history there and his actions as Sec. of Educations. He destroyed almost all of the protections that teachers had won through hard fought battles. At the same time he instituted a program of aligning high schools with the military. Over two dozen schools have programs where students required to participate in JROTC programs. One of the new plans being floated by the U.S. Dept of Ed. Is to set up 2 levels high schools – some 2 year schools leading to “technical diplomas” and some 4 year schools leading to academic diplomas and college. This would provide a guarantee to businesses about the level of achievement of high school graduates and college students, while at the same time providing even more workers whose choices are severely limited and who are more likely to become cannon fodder in future wars.

Big Oil, or Education it’s all about maximizing profits for big business.