Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Schools Are Key in an Uncertain World

Caroline Arnold

In 1957 Nevil Shute's "On the Beach" brought home to readers the reality that the human race was capable of designing and executing its own demise using nuclear weapons. In succeeding years the fictional adventures of Dr. Strangelove and the real events of the Bay of Pigs helped persuade presidents and publics that the use of nuclear weapons was unthinkable.

This week, after almost a half century, I, and all my friends and correspondents, have been horrified to learn that the use of nuclear weapons is now thinkable: Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush are thinking and planning to use nuclear weapons against Iran.

We are in a terribly precarious time and place. Our planet itself is fevered, on the verge of organ failure, with a good possibility that it will be unable to regulate its life-sustaining systems or feed its myriad life-forms. The planet's minerals and hydrocarbons are being used up to fabricate and fuel machines for the convenience of a fraction of its human population. Our Earth's most powerful nation is headed by crazed monomaniacs squandering the material, financial, humanitarian and knowledge capital of thousands of years of civilization on ruinous wars to control a few criminal human terrorists with criminally inhuman technological terror, and willing to sacrifice the lives or quality of life of every child on Earth to their apocalyptic vision.

I don't have a nostrum or a plan to address this global chaos -- nor do I think I should or could. All these columns can do is to offer some different ways of seeing, thinking and talking about our common challenges.

So today, despite a nagging anxiety about rearranging deck chairs on a doomed planet, I am going to give you, Gentle Reader, a homework assignment in civics, due May 2: Vote for your local school levy.

Portage County has six school operating levies on the May 2 ballot. Two are renewals, to maintain existing funding; four are additional in anticipation of increased costs, and four are emergency measures, meaning that their schools now are out of money. Our neighbors in Summit County have five school levies, including Akron Schools, for operating expenses.

I will not argue that these levies are fair, equitable, or practical. Property taxes, the present system of funding of Ohio's public schools, are unfair, inequitable, impractical and harmful in their impacts on schools, citizens and children. They have been declared unconstitutional four times. The Ohio legislature, dominated by Republicans since the first DeRolphe decisions, has refused to consider legislation to fix the problem.

Some ten years ago, on a nationwide television show on education, an Ohio teenager challenged lawmakers to tell her she wasn't worth having a first-rate education. We answered her loud and clear: she wasn't worth the investment of our taxes, or even of the effort to reform school funding.

Make no mistake. The present crisis in public education is precisely about money, about how we can provide the maximum number of children with a minimum of education at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers and the greatest benefit to campaign contributors.

I will similarly not argue that schools are not beset by unfunded mandates and inflexible testing programs, nor that all schools are well administered and all teachers effective. Public schools have many problems, and again, most of them are related to money: for more teachers/ smaller classes, for programs for at-risk children, for better-equipped classrooms and new textbooks, for employees' health insurance, for electricity and bus fuel.

If we fail these school levies, the message to our kids is clear: We don't think you're worth investing in. We think our current wars are more worthy of our investment than teaching you how to read the world's politics, calculate the probabilities of outcomes of policy decisions, and work in a global economy. We'd rather rant about abortion, abstinence and gay marriage than give you the knowledge and skills to deal with future you'll live in. We think that saving our tax dollars is more urgent than educating you to be scientists, teachers, doctors, public officials, workers and citizens.

It's possible that our schools have already failed, and we have raised up a generation of consumers, audiences, clients, and subjects, instead of citizens. But I haven't given up hope that the American people still have enough basic education -- along with the humanity and good sense -- to see that our children can't wait.

The children who were in kindergarten when Ohio's school funding was first ruled unconstitutional are graduating this year. The teen who asked ten years ago if her education was worth anything to her society is grown up. This year's high school sophomore may face a nuclear war in the Middle East after graduation.

There's more to your homework assignment:

Vote for candidates who give priority to public education and the reform of school funding.

Vote for candidates who stand up against war, nuclear weapons, torture, racism, and injustice.

Speak out for a Congressional investigation of the lies and misrepresentations of the Bush administration.

Write an essay or letter protesting the use of nuclear weapons against Iran.

On May 5, 1970, Kent voters turned out in record numbers and overwhelmingly passed an operating levy for Kent Schools. It was observed that in the crisis of an imperial government killing our youth, local citizens realized that their best hope for a civil society of freedom, justice, security and hope lay in their public schools, in their children.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Caroline Arnold

Caroline Arnold

Caroline Arnold retired in 1997 after 12 years on the staff of US Senator John Glenn. She previously served three terms on the Kent (Ohio) Board of Education. In retirement, she was active with the Kent Environmental Council and sat on the board of Family & Community Services of Portage County. Her Letters From Washington was been published as an e-Book by the Knowledge Bank of the Ohio State University Library. Caroline passed away from cancer at age 83 in 2014.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

NC Dems Plead for Cash as Beasley Deadlocked With GOP Opponent in Decisive US Senate Race

Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley has a one-point lead, but Trump-backed U.S. Rep. Ted Budd is getting more support from the Republican Party.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Yeah, Right': Pentagon Report Claiming US Military Killed Just 12 Civilians Last Year Met With Skepticism

"Once again the confirmed civilian casualty count is below what communities on the ground are reporting," lamented Emily Tripp, director of the monitor group Airwars.

Brett Wilkins ·

Top Central Banks Told to Stop 'Bankrolling' Deforestation

"At a time when the climate crisis is ravaging countries across the world, it is unacceptable," a Global Witness campaigner said of the institutions' corporate bond-buying practices.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Obscene,' Says Sanders After CBO Reports Richest 1% Now Owns Over 1/3 of US Wealth

"In the richest country on Earth, the time is long overdue for us to create a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%."

Brett Wilkins ·

Demanding Broad Reforms, Thousands of Inmate Workers on Strike at Alabama Prisons

"The DOJ's intervention has done nothing to shift conditions inside Alabama prisons," said one supporter. "They remain incredibly unsafe, inhumane, and exploitative."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo