Today is Blog Action Day. My only real comment on the matter is the following: VOTE.
I try not to get too political on this site — that’s what Twitter, personal conversations and Facebook groups are for — but the state of poverty across the world is something that I think is fundamentally important. When I was in the 11th grade, I joined the Model United Nations program at my school. For the next two years, I researched international events and policies and participated in various MUNs across the country. It was a life changing experience and it helped shape my ideologies today.
The real benefit of something like MUN is that you have to consider policies and world affairs from the perspective of another country. While in MUN, I represented India, Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom and Turkey. Although the UK has more closely aligned views to that of the United States (I tend to prefer the UK’s views, personally), studying and “representing” each nation helped shape my global perspective, and led me to learn much more about the rest of the world.
When most of us think of poverty, we think of third or fourth-world nations, you know, the Sally Struthers commercials. We think of a far away problem that is sad, but you know, ultimately not something that affects us directly.
Except it does. Beyond the poverty that exists in our own backyards (and as someone who lives in Atlanta and used to be downtown on a daily basis, we have more than our fair share of homeless citizens), the poverty that exists overseas, in all countries, has an effect on the world economy as a whole. Fair trade, forgiveness of debt, fighting against totalitarian regimes, these can all help the problem — but fundamentally, I believe that the greatest weapon against poverty, in the US and abroad is education.
When you look at socioeconomic gaps in the United States, and we have become a country that is less divided by race and instead divided by class, improving education is what always helps those areas turn around and thrive. Education continues to get cut from the national and state budgets, but because most of the areas cut are in lower socioeconomic areas, many regular Americans really don’t see its decline in person.
Because my mother works for a public school system, I have had the opportunity to observe the differences in funding in the same county, just based on districts (which are almost always divided by socio-economics). A particularly bad school district in Gwinnett County started to get some new expensive neighborhoods about seven or eight years ago. Because heaven-forbid, the rich white children assimilate with the black and brown kids from the wrong side of the tracks, a whole new high school was created just for the families with money. Meanwhile, the existing high school continued to languish.
I was very critical of many aspects of Gwinnett County’s Board of Education while I was a student (K-12), but after volunteering at inner-city schools for my college sorority, seeing the state of their equipment, seeing the size of the classes, basically seeing Season 4 of “The Wire” in person — I was even more grateful for my suburban upbringing.
I’m really not trying to get too intellectual in this post (I just don’t have the energy), but the best way I know of fighting poverty is to vote for change. Vote for better education. Vote for a fair system of health care that does not discriminate against people that have pre-existing conditions (or that, like me, suffer from Major Depression — I can’t get insurance that costs less than $500 a month because I take Effexor. How fucked up is that? And without the insurance, my medication alone would be over $2000 a month. As it stands, even with insurance I pay $180 on top of my monthly premium. Because my serotonin levels are fucked up). Vote for more fair tax plans.
Many people equate social programs with socialism. That’s bullshit. It isn’t socialism to want the advantage that the elite have over the weak. It isn’t about giving the poor an extra-advantage, it’s about making the playing field fair. America has never had a free market and we never will. Free markets are a great idea in theory, but in practice there have to be regulations so that people don’t cheat.
We have a government for a reason. And it isn’t just to spend $100 Billion a month on wars that we aren’t winning and situations that we aren’t helping. I met a soldier on leave while at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport in March — he said flat-out that we weren’t helping, that things weren’t improving and that the situation was at an impasse. It wasn’t that he and his comrades didn’t want to help, the process just prevented them from doing anything. He was younger than I am. He is a hero, and he deserves to be at home or on a mission that has a chance for success.
Vote to show the government that they need to do more than just pump money into a military disaster. That they need to do more than just step-in after financial disaster is already taking place. That education should be a priority and that No Child Left Behind just means teaching the test and cheating the system for cash, not actually solving the problem.
Vote. I don’t care if you vote for John McCain — even if I do strongly oppose his positions and policies. I don’t care if you vote for Barack Obama, a candidate I support fully and think will bring this country back on track. I don’t care if you vote for a third-party candidate. Just please, vote.
6 people have left comments
warren postma said:
Hi. I just had to pop over here when I saw your comment on TUAW, because your last name is the same as my first name. It’s the kind of insignificant detail I’m famously unable to overlook. So uh.…. Hello!
Rob Brogan said:
Here, here! A great post, and I totally agree (especially with the education part as a future high school teacher). An invigorating reminder that there are damn good reasons to vote.
Brightest Flashlight said:
I relate to your frustrations, but I want to go even deeper into the question of why our schools are falling behind.
You mentioned funding in the schools in the Atlanta area. On the surface, one might think that that’s the problem, but we spend more per child to educate them than 95% of the other countries in the world, yet many of them fair much better when tested. We spend between $10,000 and $50,000 per child in America per year to educate them depending on the local property tax base and Federal & state funding, yet that doesn’t improve the situation. Every year we spend more and more, but the more we spend, the more we fall behind. One may think funding is the issue, but the stats show different story.
My background is that I was a high school teacher in the public system. We just built a 6 million dollar high school here in our city, but when you go there, it’s just a huge sports facility. It’s got a world class sports arena, but statistics show that poor countries give a better educatioin to their students than the United States. So, my question is, what might be the real cause we are falling behind in the U.S.?
Let’s just say, we increase the funding to one million dollars per child in the U.S. In fact, let’s buy every teacher a new 3,000 square foot house with 2 new Lexuses in their driveway. Let’s have the teachers have a 15 hour work week with their complete medical paid for (included spa and massages with aroma therapy and full time life coach). Let’s give them paid vacations where they work a week on, then a week off complete with airfare and accommodations on the off week for much needed r & r. Let’s put high density memory foam in every seat of classrooms with private temperature settings at their seats with a complete snack bar under their seats with vitamins and fresh fruits available at all times. The kids would go to class for 20 minute sessions, because studies show that after that their attention span drops. Then, in between sessions they would have concerts of their favorite pop stars and rap artists and plays from a New York touring theatre.
Would it raise the learning in our schools?
I have a completely different take on why we are failing and it’s the same reason that our U.S. automakers are bankrupt and even though Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Subaru all make their cars right here with American labor, they are taking over and winning. Why is it that all of them are succeeding while the American owned companies are begging our Federal government for handouts? They are playing on an even field as you say, but the American are failing and the foreign companies are succeeding. Why is that?
Why does a foreigner who comes to the United States as an immigrant who comes here as an adult with no money (without even speaking English) have a 4 times greater chance of becoming a millionaire than an American that was born here with all the advantages?
Glen Woodfin http://www.REDHOTspeakers.com