February 2016 Updates

Rhana Bazzini Lakey Love Becky Killik Sabrina Bano Jamil Rae Claire Johnson Absent from picture Dr Abdy Javadzadeh at FIU 22516

The usual caveat. Please let me know if you’d like to be removed from the list.

Well 2016 has certainly started off with a bang! In both the literal and figurative sense. More senseless shootings. More states passing or thinking of passing laws that would allow guns on campuses. Frat parties, drinking, raging hormones……what could go wrong??

But I digress……

When I was speechifying about my walk I used a Luddite’s powerpoint. It was pictures on foam board. Always worked when the power went out. One of the pictures was a wheel with several spokes. The center was a hub with a question mark. The spokes represented several of the issues that are confronting us e.g., dysfunctional government, health care, veteran’s affairs, etc. One of the spokes was education. The question mark was what connects all these issues. The way we elect our representatives. They are the ones who make the decisions that affect all these issues. That was why I chose addressing the influence of money and special interests in our elections. That would be the theme of my walk. My inspiration was Doris Haddock, Granny D, who at age 89 in 1999 walked the whole United States for campaign finance reform. Sadly things have only gotten worse since then.

Edward G Vilitz candidate for Manatee FL Board of Education

Edward G. Vilitz candidate for Manatee, FL Board of Education A supporter of public education.

When we reached Tallahassee Rae Claire (my organizer) and I met with Lakey Love, a PhD candidate, part time instructor and activist.. She talked with us for 3 hours and explained what was happening on the college campuses. As state funding for colleges was being redirected and/or eliminated it opened the gates for private and special interests to fill the gap. With that money comes strings. The Koch brothers are frequently mentioned as the bete noire of the movement. From the perspective of preserving public education they probably fit the bill. However, I think it’s a bit more complicated. It goes back to the founding of our country and the argument of how big a role the government should play in our lives. Opinions fall all along the spectrum and continue to be argued.

So by the time we returned from Tallahassee we knew what our next project would be.

It’s not an exaggeration to say higher education is facing a crisis. Tenure is being eliminated. Are there faults in the system? Of course, but address those don’t eliminate it. Faculties are being staffed with adjunct and part time teachers. These are qualified teachers but it saves money by employing them and decreasing the numbers of full time tenured teachers. Recently I met with a group of adjunct and retired teachers. I was shocked when I learned that the woman I was staying with qualified for food stamps!! Along with this the students are paying more and more and are getting less and less.

It was especially puzzling to me. I’m from the NYC area and in my day (1950s) city colleges were free and state colleges had minimal costs.What had happened in the intervening years?

It is our viewpoint that public education is being undermined. This is happening on all levels from kindergarten through colleges and universities. We also believe that there cannot be a true democracy (representative republic) without an educated populace.That cannot happen unless all children have an equal opportunity to have a good education. That cannot happen without a viable public education system.

With that in mind we have started touring college campuses. We are addressing student, faculty and members of the community. Unless people are aware of a problem it will never be solved. Let’s not be like the proverbial frogs in the warming pot of water. By the time we become aware we’re cooked.

Our first stop was Florida International University. It’s a beautiful campus. Amazing architecture. Let’s put the same amount of resources into the faculty and students.

With warm thoughts and good wishes,

Rhana

Men build too many walls and not enough bridges. -Isaac Newton, physicist, mathematician, and philosopher (25 Dec 1642-1727)