stephanie jones

Archive for the ‘social class’ Category

Money, struggle, and what those of us close to it already knew…

In class-sensitive teaching, economics and economies, social class on October 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Recent studies show that folks earning $10,000 a year actually spend about twice their annual income on living expenses.

How is that possible? You ask…

1. They often receive financial support from their family members (making their “better off” family members more economically vulnerable);

2. They borrow money and find themselves in debt from which they never recover;

3. They do odd jobs to earn money that isn’t reported to the IRS (yard sales, handy word, housework, childcare, flea markets, etc.)

Can someone really live on $10,000 a year?

Very difficult unless they are off the grid, living in a vehicle, campsite, etc. and have means to feed themselves without visiting the grocery store or farmer’s market very often. We’re talking a very, very, very simple way of life. Possible? Yes. Possible for everyone? No. But it does beg the question about the role of education in preparing “survivors” who can fend for themselves as adults with low incomes.

Some interesting examples are posted in the article linked above.

 

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“Thank you Chicago Teachers” from Georgia Educators

In American Dream, democracy, Education Policy, social class, Standing up for Kids on September 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm

This piece is from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective,  first posted on Maureen Downey’s AJC Get School Blog:

Dear Chicago Teachers,

The Chicago Teachers Union strike will go down as a significant event in history when educators stood up against the destructive powers of privatization and for workers’ job security and a strong middle-class in the United States. We want to thank you for standing up for yourselves, for your students, for public education, and for every teacher who is faced with constant criticism and attacks on their professional dignity. Your courage to stand up, walk out, and demand national attention inspires us and makes us hopeful that your actions will have a positive impact for the working conditions of all teachers, regardless of whether they have union protection or not.

Thank you for challenging the narrow-minded vision of using high-stakes standardized test scores to evaluate student learning, teacher effectiveness, and school rankings.

Thank you for showing America and the world that most teachers do not agree with the heavy-handed policies that have narrowed curriculum and made school a less interesting and enjoyable place for most kids.

Thank you for fighting for the rights of children, youth and families to have access to fully funded public schools that aren’t destroyed by for-profit charters not held to the same level of scrutiny.

Thank you for demanding rights for laid-off teachers.

Thank you for demonstrating to everyone in our country that working conditions for teachers have been deteriorating since before NCLB and won’t be improved by Race to the Top.

Thank you for reminding workers everywhere that they have a right to stand up for injustices in their workplace.

Thank you for teaching your students – and all of us – an important lesson about democracy, labor, and the vision of public education that is handed to us by “reformers” who rarely know anything about real schools and real kids and real teaching. We should all strive to be as courageous as you.

Sincerely,

Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

Chicago Teachers Strike – Great Opportunity for Teaching Work

In class-sensitive teaching, classism, democracy, discourse, economics and economies, poverty, social class on September 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

One week after Labor Day, Chicago public school students get a front row seat to lessons in work, labor, unions, and the persistent struggle between workers and employers. The story is everywhere this morning – union teachers in Chicago are striking for the first time in 25 years.

Given the erosion of workers’ rights across the country, even in strongholds like Chicago and New York, it is imperative that workers stand strong and go public about struggles for working conditions and pay that provide respect, dignity, and a decent living. Who better than educators to teach us all a lesson about work?

Some of the big issues for Chicago teachers? 1) Teacher evaluation (working conditions – how we are evaluated matters); 2) Policies that take funding away from existing schools and give it to charter schools that are often for-profit (this is also about working conditions – how workplaces are funded/equipped appropriately or not).

If you decide to open up an inquiry about work, workers, labor, unions, strikes, etc. some questions you might consider:

Why were labor unions formed to begin with, and what were the working conditions that made them necessary?

Labor unions claim to protect the middle-class, in what ways might that be possible?

With global “labor” now available to many multinational corporations, some say that national labor unions aren’t enough. What might global labor unions look like in the future? What kinds of goals would these unions have for our global future in 10, 15, 20 years?

And some really important questions given the rhetoric of teacher strikes “hurting our children” – 

In what ways can unions, and even strikes, protect all of us from being further exploited by employers?

In what ways might unions, and even strikes, protect the “customers” (or clients, or students, or recipients of the services) of the organization or business?

Who benefits from workers unionizing and striking?

Who benefits from  non-union and anti-collective bargaining laws?

Some resources that might be helpful for teachers digging into this with students:

Unionstats.com has a pretty exhaustive database of union membership by state and sector

United States Department of Labor collects data on union membership – compare these stats to Unionstats.com

Interested in basketball? Check out the NBA Players’ Union

Football fan? Check out the NFL Players Association

One of the strongest unions in the country is the United Federation of Teachers in New York City

Service workers have unions and continue to unionize – here’s one example

Trades have their unions too – check out the Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Technicians No. 72 in Atlanta of all “Right-to-Work” places!

 

Don’t forget the international contextminers are striking in South Africa where events have been deadly, Spanish miners are striking, and the London Olympics took place among threats of transit strikes and taxi strikes. And the Chinese factory workers who have been said to be willing to work for lower and lower wages under worse working conditions? They started striking last year.

 

 

The Most Important Education of our Time? The Servant Economy and Jeff Faux

In class-sensitive teaching, classism, corporations, economics and economies, politics, poverty, social action, social class on September 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I have posted before about the book The Servant Economy by Jeff Faux, but wanted to share this BookTV video with anyone out there who wants to watch it either in conjunction with reading his book or as some strange version of cliffnotes (warning – he doesn’t talk much about the details in the book, so the talk doesn’t “replace” reading in any way, but is interesting nonetheless).

Click here to watch the video

The overwhelming evidence that our country’s jobs are declining and that pay for jobs is stagnant at best and in a sharp downward trend at worst may be the most important education issue of our lifetime. I don’t mean, by the way, that we need “more education” so people can get “better jobs” – I mean, that we need a broad and deep economic education from K-12, into higher education, and in all communities so that we understand the consequences of income inequality and can envision our country’s dark future if we don’t demand something different.

This is not about political parties. Jeff Faux says this well in his talk, and I regularly say this to teaches and principals I work with (though I’m not sure they believe me). Both U.S. political parties have opened the floodgates for global trade, enacted policies bad for U.S. workers, and – this is important – both parties are owned by corporate interests. The last point is one Jeff takes on in his talk – instead of proposing several potential action items, he proposes one: get corporate money out of politics. He suggests that we do this by organizing locally and state-by-state to propose a constitutional amendment that would reform campaign finance.

This is about money. And for some reason, it seems to me, that “money” is left nearly entirely out of curricula at all levels beyond learning to “count” money and occasionally some word problems in mathematics. But money has literally become the engine running our political, social, and economic engines of our country. He (and it is mostly a He) who has money gets to influence the policies governing what our social and political futures will be.

How can we begin the critical conversation about money and influence in elementary, middle, high, and postsecondary school? In community non-profits? In doctor’s office waiting rooms? In unemployment lines? At the park, library, playground and schoolyard?

Let’s at least start talking about it – and if folks will either read or watch videos of some of the most prominent economic voices of our time to educate ourselves about economics and the economic reality we’re living right now, we will at least have some of the language necessary to open up the conversations. And then we can also ask ourselves why most of us have no idea how to think of such things and have such discussions, why social class and any economics education beyond the “basics” of exploitative capitalism are not a part of curricula, and what we’re going to do to change it for our own collective good.

 

Getting Back to the Basics – Social Class and Poverty vs. Accountability

In anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, classism, economics and economies, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, poverty, social class, Standing up for Kids on May 1, 2012 at 8:44 pm

The State of Georgia is following the footsteps of other states (Florida being one of those) requiring potential applicants for welfare, foodstamps, etc. to pass a drug screening. If they test positive, they are denied benefits and recommended treatment – though not, of course, helped to pay for treatment. If they test negative, they may be allowed to receive meager state benefits to help feed and shelter themselves and their families.

Those struggling to make ends meet in our country are constantly subjected to much more scrutiny, and much more punitive situations than those who do not struggle economically. If this didn’t have lasting (negative) effects on people’s lives and dignities, I would call this a fascinating practice. It is fascinating – how those in a society with the least are also “given” the least and more heavily scrutinized…yes, fascinating.

And damaging.

And absolutely unethical and immoral and just plain wrong.

This is not only evident in “state benefits” such as food stamps, housing subsidies, etc., but this trend has been evident since the beginning of documenting educational practices. Working-class and poor kids are almost always perceived as coming in with “less” and then – shockingly – provided with “less” but under the conditions of greater scrutiny.

One example of this is the great piece from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective that has gone viral – there is no doubt that most of the kids “projected to fail” the state standardized test in Georgia will also coincidentally be from working-class or poor families. And will they fail? Well, everyone has projected them to do so, and if we know one thing in education it’s that the “self-fulfilling prophecy” is alive and well. Expect someone to be smart and you will see his or her smartness; expect someone to fail and you will see his or her failures.

Again – damaging, unethical, immoral, and just plain wrong.

Paul Thomas is a fabulous scholar and advocate for working-class and poor students and families – check out his latest post that can help us all point to “research” (in this era of accountability) about why we should be paying attention to social class and poverty rather than accountability measures such as “tests.”

When conversations spiral out of control – end of year Blitzes, testing bootcamps, expecting all “gifted” kids to score in the highest range of the test, etc. etc. – try to keep the conversation where it might make a difference:

How are our kids’ basic needs being met?

How is the state, county, school supporting families who are struggling to make ends meet?

What are we doing as educators to inspire creativity and deep connections with school for our most vulnerable students?

And who – based on our current practices – is always “privileged” and getting “more” out of school? And who is getting less?

Does the evidence point to an issue of classism in our school? County? State? Country?

What are we going to do to act in an anti-classist way?

Getting back to the basics can help us out of this daunting situation we find ourselves in and we can do that if we constantly work to change the conversation.

White Trash

In anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, classism, discourse, identity, language, poverty, social class, Standing up for Kids on January 19, 2012 at 3:39 am
1

I love this post and wanted it on my blog! Using the term white trash is as racist and classist as you can get. When I hear people use the term…and I regularly do…I ask, “what do you mean?” and when the response is, “oh, you know…” I push them: “No, I don’t know what that means. Tell me what it means…”

When we force people to be explicit about the code words and phrases they use to position themselves as better than others – to create hierarchies of value and worth – we force them to face the racist and classist inside them. And when we ask simple questions that get at the meanings of those code words and phrases, we mark ourselves as people who disagree with their view…and that is important work since they wouldn’t have said it in front of us if they didn’t think we had the same perspective as them to begin with.

Out with classism and the systemic dehumanizing of people with language! A person cannot be trash…what could be more harmful than calling someone this?

–Stephanie

Cooperative Catalyst

A boy from New Orleans shows up a week and a half after Hurricane Katrina. Being one of only a handful of white kids at our school, he is a little edgy and approaches another white student cautiously.

“I’ve never been at a school with so many Hispanics,” he whispers.

“It’s Latino. Only the government uses Hispanic.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, and if I were you, I would tell everyone that you’re half-Mexican. It’s what I did. There’s a lot of really light Latinos out there, so people will believe you.”

“But I’m not.”

“Nobody knows that. Do you live with just your mom?”

He shakes his head affirmatively.

“Then say that your dad is Mexican. They’ll just thing that your a guero instead of a gringo. You don’t want people to think you’re white trash.”

“They use that term out here, too?” he asks with a look of shock.

His new…

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Occupy EDU – The Education version of Occupy Wall Street

In communities, creativity, democracy, economics and economies, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, Neoliberalism and Education, social class on October 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Excellent piece here about how Wall Street and trends in corporate America impact public schools, teachers, children, and the institution of public education.

Take a read!

Can Non-Authoritarian Education find a space in Occupy Wall Street?

In institutions, justice, NCLB, Neoliberalism and Education, social action, social class on October 17, 2011 at 12:53 am

Thanks to Teri for sending this along!

With this amazing grassroots movement emerging against corporate power, corporate greed, and economic inequality – where might education find its space within it? If, for example, people in the U.S. are sick and tired of the corporate model of running a society, then people are likely also sick of the corporate model running schools. If that’s the case…what kinds of schools would be responsive to the needs and desires of the people?

Perhaps a non-authoritarian model where children/youth work individually and collectively toward socially responsible ends?

This might be the perfect time to insert educational goals in OWS!

 

 

Teaching “Occupy Wall Street” and Being Class-Sensitive Pedagogues

In class-sensitive teaching, communities, creativity, critical literacy, economics and economies, social class on October 15, 2011 at 5:52 pm

An important way to be class-sensitive in our teaching is to pay attention to current events around issues of social class and poverty and bring them into the classroom.

If you haven’t already started teaching about the movement of Occupy Wall Street – the protest against economic inequality that started in New York City a month ago and has spread across the world – this is an exciting time to be doing so.
This is also a terrific time to reconsider how things such as “Stock Market” and “Monopoly” games are taught and why they have become such a staple in schools over the past thirty years promoting investment in Wall Street and a focus on “profits” without necessarily considering the consequences of high profits on people, community, and natural resources.
Like all things, there are no simple answers to the issues being illuminated in OWS, but they create amazing material for conversation and continued research in schools and classrooms.
Teaching OWS can integrate reading, writing, history, economics, geography, math, citizens’ rights, politics and the influence of money in political races, community rules, etc. and could be used at any grade level with varying levels of sophistication. (For example, early elementary classrooms might roleplay a “General Assembly” from OWS in their classroom to see its benefits and disadvantages in making decisions for the whole group, or PK and Kindergarteners might like to see how OWS is using the “human microphone” and try it during their outdoor activities).
A wikipedia entry for OWS is live and being revised constantly and offers some fun facts about the movement up to this point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street
Happy Teaching!

Occupy Wall Street Continues – Some Comments on Economic Inequality

In democracy, economics and economies, politics, social class, social policy on October 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Occupy Wall Street (now with its own wikipedia entry that is pretty informative) continues and catches fire across the country and the globe. Working people are sick of being trampled on – and privileged people with a conscience are sick of seeing the most economically and socially vulnerable get squashed under unethical policies and practices.

 

The average CEO in America makes about 200 times more than the average workers in their companies.

Some say, “they’ve earned it – they’ve worked hard.”

I say those people must never have worked low-wage jobs and have no idea how “hard” workers work – many much harder than the often isolated, pampered, and (even if stressed out) incredibly privileged highly-paid CEOs.

It wasn’t always like this – in the 1970s, for example, the “gap” in pay between workers and CEOs was much smaller, and guess what? The rate of what economists and others call “social mobility” – that is, the rate at which real people were able to move into more secure and stable economic lives – was much much greater then than it is today in 2011.

In fact, the U.S. has almost zero social mobility today. That means that (most likely) the social class of a child’s parents will also be the social class of the child as an adult. No upward movement is expected.

While CEO salaries are higher than ever and have skyrocketed in the past 30 years to unimaginable rates, real wages for workers have stagnated and even fallen. That means the average male wage worker in the 1970’s is essentially making less money today than he made back in the good ol’ days. (My mom tells me this all the time – that she lived a much higher quality of life because of her wages in the 70s than she can today. She’s a working-class gal who worked in many different working-class jobs my entire life. She is a living economic barometer and is making less today than she did in the 70s).

How did this happen?

A simplified answer might go something like this:

1. “Trickle Down Economics” (Reagan, Thatcher, etc.) came into play. That is, keep as much money as possible in the pockets of the wealthy and they will support the economy through their spending and create more jobs – it will “trickle down” to the poor suckers at the bottom. These economic decisions essentially created Class Warfare in the 70s (apparently some folks weren’t so happy about the “social mobility” happening with more equitable treatment and pay that resulted from the Civil Rights movement). It was Class Warfare – get the money back into the hands of the nation’s richest and let them decide what to do with the economy and the fate of the common folks. The nation’s wealthiest 1% were fighting against everyone one else – and they won.

2. The emphasis on stock prices on Wall Street exploded. Fewer companies offered “pension plans” and more companies offered middle-class folks the “wonderful opportunity” to take some of the money that would have gone into a pension plan and make their “own investment decisions in the stock market.” Brilliant, right? Now the top 1% wouldn’t be the only Americans concerned about stock market prices, but millions of middle-class folks (who don’t usually know enough about the stock market to be making these kinds of decisions, and who don’t usually have enough money to be playing such high-stakes gambling games with what they do have) will want higher stock prices too.

3. Higher stock prices mean higher profits for corporations which means lower costs which means fewer and lower paid workers. (And higher salaries for CEOs who prove they can make this happen).

4. And, higher stock prices mean higher profits for corporations which means locating more and more unexplored “markets” which means for-profit corporations moving aggressively into foreign markets and often crush local small businesses that are more sustainable, treat their workers better, and care more about the local community.

5. And, higher stock prices mean an eventual “saturation” of all possible markets where there is no more possible “growth” outside so the profits have to be buttressed by inside cuts. Again, fewer and lower wage jobs (and higher salaries for CEOs who prove they can do this).

6. So then average joes (on the losing end of Class Warfare) find themselves stressing out over their stock investments just as they lose their own jobs because corporations are doing what they can do increase their profits.

7. NAFTA and other free trade agreements have exacerbated the process listed above.

8. Working wages are then at best stagnant, at worst lower or non-existent.

9. The top 1% not only increases their salaries exponentially, but benefits exponentially from increased stock prices in their companies and in companies they invest their personal retirement in.

10. When repeated over and over again – you see where this has landed us and where it might go from here if something isn’t done.

11. During this whole time (70s until now) this increase in expecting individuals to take care of themselves (re: moving from collective pensions to individual investment options with 401k, etc.) and a focus on “autonomy” and “privatization,” has also decimated policies and practices put in place for the common good: state welfare for low income families, public education that can support social mobility, foodstamp programs, and many other programs that serve as safety nets for the most vulnerable. If the mantra in the Civil Rights Movement was one of collectivity and “we are in this together,” the mantra today is, “everyone for him or herself.” And it only benefits the top 1% of our country.

 

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