13 January 2008

Welcome To "AT&T Yellowstone National Park"

I was recently asked to serve on the DC Commission for National & Community Service. We're the overseers for every service-oriented initiative taken on within the District of Columbia. Within that Commission I serve on the Education Committee. Our goal is to "push" service initiatives, volunteerism and action in the public school system. Needless to say, I have been encouraging the Commission to consider Youth Venture as a potential program to insight a serving revolution on campuses. For whatever reason, this has been an uphill battle. Why? I have no idea. We want to give young people $1000 to launch their own organizations that work to enhance their communities. No catch. No expectation on anyone else. Just money to empower young people.

Of course, the first thing I was told is that something like this really isn't needed, because the schools are turning to large corporations for support when it comes to enhancing their campuses and academic programs. "Like the new Toyota library at XXX Elementary School," one woman told me. Pan to me, jaw dropped.

Where do I even begin to address this issue. I mean, seriously? Are we as a society ok with selling off every part of the public good to the highest bidder? Do we really want large corporations "sponsoring" and essentially controlling public education? With corporations come special interests. With special interests come a dissolution of the civil sector, essentially making it incapable of maintaining its position as an independent actor whose primary interest is the people which it represents.

A company's bottom line is profit. Money. The government's bottom line and in particular, public education's bottom line is raising good citizens. If Toyota sponsored the library whose to say they won't decide that books written about Ford, GM and the American auto industry should be banned? It strips away academic integrity and intellectual freedom. This may sound extreme, but things evolve over time. Did you ever think you'd be ok with allowing the US government to search your home without a warrant whenever they want in the name of national security? No, but it didn't seem that absurd when it was first proposed.

Secondly, if a school needs Toyota to sponsor their library, shouldn't we - the public - be funding our academic institutions better? I know, I know. That would mean raising the dreaded "T" word which, for whatever reason, has become equally if not more vile than any four letter word I can think of in the United States. TAXES! Ahh!!! Horrible! Yuck! Who wants to pay those, even if it means that your kid's marching band will have to now be sponsored by XBox's Guitar Hero? These "horrific" liberal taxes are what brought this nation the largest, most efficient highway system on the planet (and Republican spending cuts are what cause bridge collapses and pot holes). Taxes are what fund border security, teacher's salaries, school books, trash pick-up, in-door plumbing, federal prosecutors, street signs and crosswalks. The public good. A better community. Now, do you really want to dole those things out to the highest bidder, then be stuck paying whatever it is they charge? I certainly don't. Granted, the answer isn't JUST money, but taking more of it away just can't be a good idea!

We better watch out. Before you know it, you'll be getting in your Toyota to drive down Wal-Mart Way and over Microsoft Bridge to drop your kids at Enron Elementary, where their "fair and balanced" text books (sponsored by Fox News) will teach them all about how eating as much fatty foods as possible is great, citing McDonalds as the "answer to a happy, healthy life."

I don't know about you, but I'd just rather pay my taxes...


Anonymous said...

"The government's bottle line and in particular, public education's bottom line is raising good citizens."

I didn't think government's job was to "raise good citizens". Sounds like Orwellian social engineering to me. And shouldn't the "bottom line" of education be educating, not "raising good citizens?

As for the title of your post, that's corporatism (government and corporate collusion), not capitalism.


Kyle Taylor said...

Thanks so much for the comment. I don't believe it's social engineering to make people good citizens because I don't think there is an incessant need in society for bad citizens. That is, social engineering implies something negative and educated, active citizens doing good and taking part in the process to me, isn't a bad thing.

With regard to corporatism vs. capitalism - when the concept of corporatism first came about in 1920's Brazil under Getulio Vargas it was referred to as "modern capitalism," and I agree with that assessment.


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