Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Of Haves and Housemaids

They are at it again in Bryan, Texas and thousands of other places all over the country. “They” are the neo-cons, and “it” is widening the divide between the master and serving classes.

In case that sounds odd, consider Steamboat Springs, Colorado. There are two classes of people living there: the haves and the housemaids. The haves are rich, mostly white, thin, tanned, and dripping in jewelry. The housemaids are mostly brown immigrants of questionable legality. The housemaids take what the haves give, because it beats ducking bullets in their home countries. The haves give them jobs without benefits, and a chance to wait on them while they enjoy working out at the gym, bicycling mountain roads in spring and summer, and skiing in fall and winter.

The haves believe that they are doing the housemaids a favor by giving them almost enough to live on. The system works because the housemaids are ignorant of, and therefore do not assert, their rights.

Bryan, Texas is cultivating the same system, but instead of exporting those housemaid jobs, they are creating them here at home. It will be a wonderful system, just like the one in Steamboat Springs. And since neo-cons are focused on the long term, they do not mind that it will take 12 years to put in place. They have time.

What is this dastardly plan? What could the neo-cons have up their sleeve, and how can it be averted? Remember No Child Left Behind? NCLB is code for forcing the neo-con agenda for the educational system. NCLB forces failing schools to shut down, or use funding for bringing students performance on standardized tests up to par. It gives principals in failing schools, who often face nearly insurmountable odds, their walking papers. Those principals who end up on the losing side of the equation end up with ruined careers, as they go from bad schools to worse schools, and then find themselves unemployed.

Enter Bryan Independent School District and its popular mentoring program, known as HOSTS, which stands for Help One Student To Succeed.

HOSTS was begun at Bryan’s Kemp elementary school by a community activist. The program supplies community mentors to at-risk students to help them with school work and help motivate them to complete their educations. Hundreds of volunteers spend an hour or two a week with students. The program works, and both volunteers and students value it.

Someone at Kemp decided that by cutting the program, the school could save $80,000 a year. The money is spent on hiring a volunteer coordinator and an assistant and paying a licensing fee to the HOSTS, Inc. Regardless, the powers that be have decided that the money would be better spent on teachers’ salaries. That way, the school would have the benefit of two full-time mentors.

Hold up. Two? That is correct. $80,000 buys two full-time teachers. The plan is to replace 300 mentors with 2 teachers. To make the math easy, if each mentor only spends 30 minutes working with a kid, Kemp will be replacing 150 hours of individualized instruction with 80 of classroom instruction.

A little bit of explaining is in order. The proposition of bringing in professional teachers sounds credible and laudable, until a closer examination reveals that the quality of teachers that can be had is hit or miss at best. First of all, few teachers, or anyone else for that matter, are beating down the doors for full-time jobs that pay $33,000 a year. Most graduates of Texas A&M University, from which HOSTS draws many of its volunteers, would laugh at such an offer and continue on down the road.

Second, Kemp is not the suburbs. In fact, Kemp does not inhabit the same universe as the suburbs. The students are overwhelmingly Black and Latino and poor. They live in one of the poorest parts of Bryan, the children of laborers who struggle to make ends meet, many of them on minimum wage, many of them working for Wal-Mart. The teachers looking to fill the new jobs at Kemp are likely to be looking for “a foot in the door.” Most will be gone at the first sign of an opening anywhere else in the district. So they add insult to injury—a high turnover rate in teachers who really want to be somewhere else, but who will put in their time until they can get a job at a “decent” school, where the kids’ parents have degrees and live in nice houses.

And how does all that tie in with neo-cons and housemaids? If the teachers are not connecting with the students, the students suffer. LNCB will mandate that the school be closed or money be spent on supplemental—read “private”—help. The children will not be left behind; they will be swept into the housemaid class, where they will happily work in the homes of the haves, because they are ignorant of their rights.

© 2005

1 comment:

  1. mqs102607:07 PM

    ann, you are doing a magnificent job with The Handbasket Chronicles. i can't believe that there has not been a comment before. i have just learned how to leave one. peace and love.


About Me

I love my country, that is why I criticize its absurdities; I love my freedom, that is why I do it publicly.