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Blog Action Day: Vote

Today is Blog Action Day. My only real comment on the matter is the following: VOTE.

Today is Blog Action Day and the goal is to raise aware­ness on one issue: poverty.

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.

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6 people have left comments

war­ren postma - Gravatar

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! :-)

War­ren

Posted on: October 15, 2008 at 4:16 pmQuote this Comment
Christina - Gravatar

Christina said:

Hello!

And War­ren is the best first or last name, period.

We rock.

Posted on: October 15, 2008 at 4:25 pmQuote this Comment
Rob Bro­gan - Gravatar

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.

Posted on: October 15, 2008 at 4:39 pmQuote this Comment
Bright­est Flashlight - Gravatar

Bright­est Flashlight said:

Christina,

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

Posted on: October 20, 2008 at 4:58 pmQuote this Comment
asato - Gravatar

asato said:

and this is my blog

Posted on: April 13, 2009 at 9:26 amQuote this Comment
Bill Bart­mann - Gravatar

Bill Bart­mann said:

Excel­lent site, keep up the good work

Posted on: September 3, 2009 at 8:58 pmQuote this Comment