Sunday, June 8, 2014

173: Finding the Spring

SB 173 goes before the Assembly Higher Ed Committee on Tuesday, June 10th at 1:30 pm.

SB 173 has gone through a number of changes since it last appeared before this same committee back in August of 2013.

At that time, SB 173 excluded Parent Education and Older Adults Adult Education courses from funding by the state.

I and others attended that hearing to ask that SB 173 be amended so that those programs were not excluded. 

At that time, CCAE - the California Council of Adult Education - spoke for SB 173 and CFT - the California Federation of Teachers - spoke against it. 

Various community members and organizations also spoke both for and against it. 

This issue of narrowing the mission of Adult Ed is not the only part of the bill that has incited controversy and argument but I would say it is the issue that has caused the most heat and the most division in the Adult Ed community.   I wrote about that division here.

I am a member of both CCAE and CFT.  I agree with both organizations on some points and disagree with them on others.  I am grateful that both organizations exist and I "put my money where my mouth is" through my membership, dues, and participation in both organizations.

At the hearing in August of 2013, I said that I thought SB 173 should be amended to include Parent Education and Older Adults, as well as Financial Literacy and Home Economics, the other two programs slated to be excluded.  Recently, I think more and more about Financial Literacy and Home Economics.  Imagine if Californians better understood financial matters?  And running their home in an economically wise way?  Imagine.  Yes now.  For just this moment.  Imagine.  Yes.  Wow.  It's that important.

I still think SB 173 should be amended.  You can read why here

You can also read this Save Your Adult School post which very factually and eloquently combs through both the benefits and shortcomings of SB 173.

The view that SB 173 needs further amending is not a popular view and in the eyes of many, it is not a practical view. 

But having just come from a week on the Mountain during which I had time to swim and sit and hike and think...  to visit with my daughter and a friend...  to think about my family... which consists of many folks connected to me by blood, law, love, and water...  to read Mercedes Schneider's amazing book, "A Chronicle of Echoes:  Who's Who in the Implosion of the American Public Education" and think about what's really at the root of the arguments around SB 173 and Designated Funding for K12 Adult Schools and how to include teacher, student and community voice in the formation of the Regional Consortia and all the other things we in the field of Adult Education talk and argue about...

hit the "read more" link to find out what I figured out

it's hard for me to think that doing anything but standing back and taking anything other than the long view and the long road to what we really want is the right thing to do.

Or to phrase it in the positive, since I generally try to do that...   I must think about what has gotten us into the crisis where we are now in both adult education and public education and where we want to go and what might get us from here to there.  And because I'm me and I'm think a certain way, I must think about what can turn us, one by one, toward something that serves all.  That's just how I roll.

So my stand on SB 173 is the same.  I think it should be amended to specifically provide for Parent Education and Older Adults and Financial Literacy and Home Economics.  As we can see with the possible closure of the LA Family Literacy Program, relying on soft money is not a secure way to create a good future.

Others feel differently.  And the beauty of our democracy is that we all have a voice.

The reality of our democracy is that some of us have louder voices than others. 

I'm not talking about CCAE or CFT or other organizations concerned with education - although, of course, since they represent groups and each pay folks to lobby legislators, their voice is amplified.  But they both represent members and particularly in a democratically run union, I hope members remember it is both their right and their responsibility to participate and speak up about what they want and how they want to be represented.

No, I'm talking about corporate voices.  These voices are far, far louder than CCAE or CFT.   They lobby and exert influence and leverage on a scale that makes unions look Liliputian and organizations like CCAE like specks of fly doo on a window screen.

These corporate voices have been affecting things for a long, long time and they continue to affect things - mostly in a way that goes unseen by the American public.   Unseen, as in I'm too busy drinking this Starbucks coffee and using Facebook while also doing a Google search before I buy a book from Amazon and then look up some teaching tips brought to me by Pearson or run over to Target to buy clothes made in a factory with abysmal working conditions or perhaps get a new plastic cutting board also made in a factory with abysmal working conditions which also pollutes the air, gives its workers cancer, and while it might be owned by an American company, does not pay into the American tax base because it's located offshore.  Or fill in whatever corporations you want.  Those are the just ones I use. You get the picture.  You're looking it.  But we don't see it.

That bigger picture is what I'm concerned about and that's why I've been spending more and more time trying to understand what's going on in education and when it started and what could turn things around.

I think you have to be very careful when you start digging for things that you don't stop till you get to the root of things.  And by root, I don't mean the worst thing you can find.  I mean the best.

I started this day at the headwaters of the mighty Sacramento River.  The water that flows down past the Capitol and into the Bay and out to the Sea starts as a rushing spring in a city park.  It's a park always filled with a variety of people.  Yesterday there was both a wedding and a toddler birthday party. This morning there was a man fixing his car and another man taking a nap. It's a park with a playground, a band stand, green playing fields, and a senior center.  A park which once held a water wheel, the first power source for the city of Mt. Shasta.  A park once part of Chico State Teachers College.  A park once part of the National Guard Armory.  A park once the hunting grounds of the Maidu, Wintun, and Okawanuchu peoples.  A park where I've chatted with homeless veterans, new age seekers, and locals who were there for an hour at the swings with their children - which is how I first found it, as the tired traveling mom of an energetic 5 year old.

It's a community place, this birthplace of a resource we all depend on for agriculture, fishing, shipping, commerce, and drinking water.

A public place.

A place that belongs to all of us which brings forth a resource which belongs to all of us which is then used by all of us.

Of course, by the time it gets to all of us, it's been argued about, claimed, sold, bought, and taxed.  Water is the most precious natural resource in California, much desired and much argued about, and a very important source of it begins here in this little park.

What does that have to do with digging for the root of things?

When you are trying to uncover the cause of something bad, do not forget that the ultimate cause is something good.

We are people.   We make choices.  Sometimes well and sometimes badly.  The fact that we exist and can think and connect and create and adapt and learn and make mistakes and heal and repair and forgive and begin again is a wondrous, miraculous thing.  Just like the Big Springs, it can't be explained or put out.   It is just is.  We make good use of these truths or we don't.

But if we are wise, we do.

I say all that because I know that often, when faced with a hard situation, people argue about it.  They look for something or someone to pin it on and they spend a lot of time and energy in conflict.  Sometimes they don't do this or they do it until they stop doing this and they begin to look for the root of what made things hard but they don't dig all the way to the source  They stop when they get to the depressing part.  They pull out the scary, ugly stuff and they look at it, horrified.  And then they give up or they run away or they put it back and bury it.  That is not the wise way.

The wise way is to keep digging.  To pull out the ugly, scary stuff and shake off the dirt and set it out in the light where we can get a good look at it.  Then keep digging until we reach the spring.  Take a drink from it.  A good, long pull.  Remember we are creative beings who brought this crap into existence and we are creative beings who bring something better into existence, too.  See the creators of the crap not so much as enemies as really smart people who made decisions based on fear and greed.   If anything, learn from their smarts.  Then take another swig of that water and think about what you want to make your decisions based on.  And if love and joy and peace and prosperity, the good of the people, is what you're interested in, look again at the ugly stuff.  Pick it up.  Turn it over.  Show it to others.  Get their opinions.  Ask their ideas.

Say to them, "Why the heck are we in a situation where we are having to argue about the value of Adult Education?   And where we are saying that if we do go ahead and have some Adult Ed, that there is only enough money to provide a certain sort of Adult Education... mostly that sees people as a labor force and not as a community...  Why is that?  How did we get to that place?  And is that what we want?  Is that going to really serve us as a people?  Keep us healthy, wealthy, and wise?"

I believe that everyone arguing about the various points of 173 cares about Adult Education.   We all care about it.  Including Senator Carol Liu who authored it and has tenaciously stuck by it and is doing her best to get it through and into law before her tenure ends. 

But I'm not so sure about other folks.  I don't think everyone operating in the legislative and larger world cares about Adult Education or about seeing us as we are - a community, a public, a people, with ownership of natural resources ranging from human intelligence to water, oil, and gas - meant to serve us a people.  

That's a little scary.  A little distressing.  A little like something that could make you run screaming from looking at the larger picture and into arguing about the smaller one.

I don't want to do that.

With my time left on this earth, I want to drink from the spring.  I know it is there.  In each of us.  In our public education system.  In our democracy.  In us as a people.

So that's why I'm asking the members of the Higher Ed Assembly Committee and Senator Liu to remember we are a people which functions best as a community.  Keep the mission broad.  Use our money (taxes) to pay for it.  And if you need more money, pass SB 1017 and have the oil companies finally pay their share.  They've been taking oil out of the ground in California for a hundred years and they still don't pay an excise tax on it - though they do everywhere else including in Texas and Alaska.

And that's why I'm asking you to keep digging.  Keep thinking.  And don't stop when you find the ugly stuff.  Keep digging.  Go deeper.  Dig until you remember who we are as a people:  creative, mighty, capable of not just great harm but of great good, as well.

Drink from the spring.

And read Mercedes Schneider's blog!  She's a genius in spades!

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