One in Either Direction Makes a Difference

Sometimes the shear power of numbers overwhelms me. For instance this blog has had over 11,000 hits. The human population upon the earth according to World Bank will exceed 7 billion before the end of 2011. According to the United Nations more than 2.5 billion people live in poverty and subsist on less than $2 per day. Preventable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV which afflict a larger portion of the peoples of the developing world than the industrialized nations receive a fraction of the research funding of such maladies as heart disease and cancer. Heart disease and cancer have been linked to lifestyles of consumption which require vast energy resources that contribute to global warming.

I was ashamed to learn this week that countrymen of mine, members of the Tea Party, enthusiastically answered yes to the question of whether or not a man who was dying should be left to die if he did not have the required health insurance to gain hospital admittance. Considering according to the US Census Bureau the number of people in poverty and without health insurance in the United States has continued to rise and is somewhere around 50 million this is a possible human tragedy hinging on the fanatical politics of an ultra-conservative few who have gained a toe hold of popularity by preying on the fears generated during a time of national crisis.

Not to diminish the appalling lack of compassion and blatant inhumane ethic of the Tea Party proponents who would let a man die for lack of insurance, but is this any different than turning a blind eye away from the global tragedies occurring across the planet?

In Somalia foreign aid workers have been banned to go into parts of the country to provide famine relief because of threat of kidnapping.

In Dadaab, Kenya a half million people are starving in a refugee camp where rape and other forms of violence are rampant. The rains did not come last October and November to Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The rains did not come in April or May. The soil blows in the winds.

In July in Malawi the government killed 20 protesters in a crackdown on protests in part due to energy shortages and poverty. Britain and the US have both frozen aid to the country. Forty percent of the total economy of Malawi is made up of foreign aid. The country is an agricultural country. New protests are scheduled for this week as President Bingu wa Mutharika appeals to the IMF and World Bank to unfreeze the aid. His government has been criticized for appointing family members to his cabinet and activists have been asking for an accounting of his wealth.

Much like Hosni Mubarek in Egypt? How many people suffered in the revolutions of last winter?

Three hundred and fifty four Libyan people were reported killed in Sirte yesterday. The Libyan interim government was unable to gain control of Bani Walid. The fighting goes on.

In Syria a purported 2600 people have been killed in pro-democracy protests. The UN five days ago named a three member panel of international experts to investigate Syrian crimes against humanity. Rights groups this week called for the Arab League to suspend Syria’s membership.

This is only a sampling of the suffering and violence occurring throughout the world. In 2000 at a United Nations Summit 189 countries adopted the Millennium Development Goals which include: halving the number of people who live without clean water and adequate sanitation, increasing the number of boys and girls who complete their education, decrease the rate of green house emissions, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, and halve the number of people who suffer from hunger.

These may seem like lofty goals, but as compassionate human beings can we allow ourselves to aim for anything less?

From my own reading one of the things that indicates a better outcome and higher standard of living for a population is the mean level of education in the area. Life expectancies, the rate of violence, the rate of disease– all the numbers go in directions indicating a better life for the people involved if a higher level of education can be achieved.

One person amongst our soon to be 7 billion who offers some hope is Sugata Mitra. He talks about the hope of education, how children will educate themselves, and how people together in simple acts can improve situations. His 200 British grandmothers, the Granny Cloud, are volunteering an hour a week across the world via broadband to make a difference by spreading love. He talks about bringing hope to areas where people do not want to go. Here is a TED talk in which he talks about his ideas: http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

In this time of global crisis will the cruel and callous few be allowed to bring poverty, violence, and spreading darkness? What number of people can we call upon to pitch in and create solutions and hope? One in either direction makes a difference.

“it will be a great day when schools have all the money they need and the pentagon has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

Yesterday I was driving back from a training in a town about 45 minutes from where I live. I had the radio on and was listening to National Public Radio. The program that I was listening to was focusing on various United States states’ budget woes and discussing how a side effect of the Great Recession is that many states are close to bankruptcy. The state governments are making budget cuts. In addition to the conservative governor of Wisconsin trying to break the unions of the public employees of that state by passing legislation to reduce the power of the unions to be able to bargain and slashing public employees’ benefits, many states are cutting the funding for public education. Public education is typically the largest expenditure that most states have. The host of the radio program jokingly went on to say that perhaps the schools should run for president and began naming presidential hopefuls for the next election that had already raised a billion dollars.

The school district that I work for had to cut over a million dollars out of its budget last year and is faced with cutting another $300,000 to $400,000. Other districts in this area are faced with another year of having to cut over a million dollars from their budgets.

I was speaking with a friend today and mentioned all of this. He began looking up the cost of the one Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

That’s a picture of one. It is still under development and has yet to be able to work properly. Only 13 test flight status prototypes have been built. The cost for each one is $110 million dollars. Where is the accountability for tax payer dollars? The district that I work for is small and operates on a budget of approximately $13 million. The operating budget last year for the Los Angeles school district which served 694,300 was $7.16 billion. They were forced to cut a billion dollars from their budget. What if instead of working on 13 planes to circle Afghanistan and drop GPS loaded bombs that money had gone to the schools?

I am suddenly reminded of the Vietnam Era slogan “it will be a great day when schools have all the money they need and the pentagon has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

No Child Left Behind requires that all children are capable of passing standardized tests based on state curriculums. This sounds reasonable until you realize that the only children to be excluded from this requirement are the 2% with extreme and multiple disabilities. Children with high incidence learning disabilities are still required to pass at their grade level. And perhaps that is achievable with enough intervention. But then you have to factor in that the curriculum standards are making it so that children are expected to learn more at younger ages. And now the schools are having their budgets slashed which will require teacher layoffs and increase classroom sizes while potentially limiting the funding for extra adults who can provide extra intervention.

Worldwide the biggest indicator of whether or not a region will remain peaceful, productive, and have a high standard of living is the educational level of its population. Not whether or not the United States can come in and use 13 highly specialized and problematic bombers to bomb the countryside. Clinton failed in creating the New World Order of enforced peace by collective world operations when the peacekeeping mission in Somalia failed after the reporting of casualties proved that the public had no stomach to make the sacrifice of lives necessary and the UN military forces were pulled out. Consider Somalia now. The UN failed in Rwanda when the genocide happened while UN peacekeepers powerlessly watched and US diplomats dickered over the term “genocide”. The war in Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist acts of 9/11 but the United States actions in the region have created a quagmire. An ongoing one. The development of American military weapons and the aerospace industry has brought many technological advancements and in the past helped to stabilize the world with the threat of war. But we live in a different time period where economic power and information have might.

What if instead of buying a M16A2 rifle for $582 which is the standard issue rifle carried by all US soldiers in combat zones we bought an iPad for $500?

The M40A1 is the preferred sniper rifle of the U.S. Marine Corps. What if instead of paying over $2000 for each one of these we bought four computers that we placed in public kiosks and made public distance education available in developing areas? There is a wonderful TED talk by Sugata Mitra that can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk60sYrU2RU He talks about how there are places on the planet where there are no schools and good teachers will not go and how in these places there is unrest and violence. He talks about how education can make a difference. What if we worked for a peaceful world not by exporting violence and military might but changed our agenda to export the means for people to raise themselves up via education? Could we create world peace and less need for a military?

What if the military had to think in terms of accountability and efficiency in the same terms that the schools do? What if the Pentagon had to hold a bake sale to raise money for an F-35?