You can think of education in California as a four-legged chair.
Picture a good, strong kitchen chair with four strong legs.
Leg 1. Our K-12 system to educate kids from kindergarten through twelth grade.
Leg 2. Our community college system to provide AA degrees and a jumping off point to four-year universities.
Leg 3. Our university system - state universities and the University of California - to provide four year and graduate and professional degrees.
Leg 4. Our adult education system - to educate immigrants in English and civics, to help those who fell through the cracks in K-12 with high school dipoloma and GED programs, to help adults of all backgrounds gain vocational training, to offer parent education, and to provide seniors with classes that strengthen and maintain physical, cognitive, and social/emotional function. In a sense, this fourth leg supports all the others, by supporting the the most vulnerable people in our community, as well as by supporting parents of K-12 and college students.
Now trim one of those legs so that it is shorter than the others. Or cut it off entirely. Keep trimming and hacking. What's the result?
Maybe even collapse.
That is what is happening to education now in California.
Here is some of what is happening to two of the "chair legs" that support the people of California:
"Cal State to Close Door on Spring 2013 enrollment."
"SF City College Slashing Summer School enrollment."
"Community Colleges Chief Decries Budget Cuts' Toll on Students."
"Santa Monica College's Two Tier Trap."
At some point, we have to ask ourselves:
What is happening?
Where is this going?
Who is responsible for this?
We know that what is happening is bad. We are slowly destroying what was once a very good educational system in this state. A system that servied people of all ages and backgrounds.
A system that kept the state, as a whole, healthy and functioning.
We don't know where it's going, not exactly. We know it's getting bad. We know it can get worse. How much worse? We don't know.
Who is responsible for this? We are.
Everything that is happening is the result of our choices: Our choice to vote or not to vote and who and what to vote for when we do. To sign or not sign to get a proposition on the ballet. To stay informed or put our heads in the sand. To attend a school board meeting or not. To run for office or not. To attend a PTA meeting or not. To vote for a parcel tax or not. To protest another increase in the cost of UC or not. To become a citizen. Or not. To think and educate ourselves about what is happening and what we can choose to do about it. Or not.
We are making choices that affect us, as a whole. As a state.
We make these choices as individuals but they are choices that affect all of us.
And by the same token, the choices that others make on a collective levels, we feel as individuals.
We feel it, when we can't send our son or daughter to college or university because it's out of our price range. We feel it, when we can't communicate in English with someone because there is no adult school to teach them English. When we can't adequately care for aging parents because there are no services - exercise classes, social programs, mental fitness classes - to connect them to. When we can't find employees with the skills and training needed to perform a job well. When we can't feel good about the education our children are getting and we consider paying for extra education through high-priced private programs.
Public education supports us. It enables us to care for ourselves and to continue, as a group, into the future.
Why are we, the people of California, choosing to destroy it?
What is the value in that choice?
Who benefits from such a choice?
Not us, the people of California.
Just as a family has the duty to care for family members, to nurture the children, tend to the sick, care for the aged, and function socially and economically as a whole, we have a duty as Californians to care for ourselves, to keep ourselves healthy - physically, mentally, socially, economically, now and into the future.
If we don't, we will suffer the consequences, both an individual and a collective level.
Tough as circumstances are right now in this economy and with the unique challenges that we as Californians face, we can choose health.
There are choices available now, AB 18 and The Governor's Compromise, that can help us regain health as a state.
I'll provide more information about those choices in the next post.