Monday, August 29, 2011

A Jumpstart to 9/11 discussions

A clear and pleasant day after the hurricane weekend. If nature was a person one might say she was a bit bipolar these last few days.

As I have mentioned in past blogs, I read Smithsonian Magazine. In the August edition were two especially interesting articles. The first was written by Joseph Lelyveld and is about the upcoming 10 year anniversary of 9/11. Here is a link to the article.  

The second was about the remarkable job that the country of Finland has done in turning its Soviet era public school system into one of the more successful systems in the world as ranked by the internationally recognized PISA tests. 

Mr. Lelyveld's article on 9/11 may not be an easy read for many people. It will most likely make you angry, not just at the perpetrators of that horrendous day of carnage, but at our leaders reactions since then, and at ourselves for ceding responsibility to understand what and why 9/11 occurred and how we as a nation should respond.

Similarly, the article on Finland's rising public school system may also cause consternation as the public school system in the United States falls far short in comparison.

I find a connection to the two in the way we have prioritized our resources to address the two issues of national security/defense and education and how the recent debt debate has touched on this prioritization.

For my home state of Pennsylvania, the 2011 budget deficit was bridged through many funding cutbacks.  Most notable in these reductions was the almost $1 billion that was removed from the education budget.  As education makes up a large percentage of a state's budget, it is not surprising that it could be a source for savings.  But when the new governor is handcuffed by his campaign pledge to balance the budget without raising taxes despite the potential winfall that exists under the state in the Marcellus Shale formation then the question of priorities is raised.  This is even more apparent with the recent onslaught of publicity painting state employees, especially teachers, as the culprit in the budget shortfalls.  Take away their bargaining rights, prevent them from calling a strike, reduce their pensions, etc, etc.  But lets give a pass to the top 1% wage earners for fear that they will take their money and go home and to the big businesses who will reap millions of dollars of profit from our state lands.  We are so convinced that money is the only reason the super rich and big corporations will invest in/create jobs, yet we expect our teachers whose salaries have finally reached the level of other educated professionals to do it for the "satisfaction".  Because teaching is a noble profession.  Does that mean that running a high tech corporation or oil and gas conglomerate is not noble?  That they won't do it for the satisfaction of knowing that they are advancing the cause of America by being successful and hiring others to help them be successful? 
It seems it is always about money, the super rich create jobs, the huge corporations will take their business elsewhere if we tax them, the CEO's need to make 8 figures so we get the best minds in place.  And then we talk about education and we are less interested in getting and paying for the best people to teach and more interested in keeping our taxes low. 

And then there is the war on terror where it has seemed that money is no object.  Over a trillion dollars spent since 9/11; literally billions of dollars a day.  Mr. Lelyveld sights numerous stats on, not only the material costs, but the human costs as well.  We are so eager to get our taste of revenge that we have missed the reality of the horror we have created in those faraway lands.  And, when our brave soldiers are killed by those relatives of the ones we have killed, we condemn their revenge forgetting that our revenge is part and parcel to the same cycle.

The really incredible part of the 9/11 story, the most compelling and ironic part, is that the very same people who push for intervention in other countries to depose those evil dictators and grant everyone the pleasure of democracy, whether they want it or not, are the very people who pissed away our federal budget surplus of the late 1990's yet are today, the most vocal for  slashing spending. 

Money for guns, OK, money for unemployment assistance and jobs training, nope.

Money for bombs, you betcha, money for programs that feed children, not so fast.

Money to kill terrorists, a no brainer.  Money to educate our childrens' brains, not affordable.

Anyway, regardless if you agree with my post, take the time to read the two articles mentioned above and form your own opinions on our priorities.

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