By Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2009

We’ve got to stop cutting public education.

To ease the budget crisis, one state after another is taking an ax to higher education.

This is cruel and shortsighted.

Cruel because it denies students the right to a decent education. Shortsighted because how will this generation of students get prepared to compete globally or even to clean up the financial mess brought about by Wall Street?

I’m a product of the worst and best public education California has to offer.

I grew up in an East Los Angeles housing project in the 1970s and 1980s.

I attended overcrowded public schools located in the inner city. Like many racial minorities from America’s barrios and ghettos, I received an inadequate education.

While I excelled in mathematics, I was never taught to read or write at a competent level throughout my K-12 schooling. To complicate matters, the longest paper assigned to me in high school was two pages long.

I taught myself how to properly read and write while going through college to compensate for my poorly funded K-12 education. But what will happen to those without this same self-drive that I learned from my Mexican immigrant mother?

Fortunately, I also benefited from affirmative action and from numerous educational outreach programs and policies like Occident College’s Upward Bound — a preparatory program for students from disadvantaged communities.

If not for such programs, I wouldn’t have made it to UCLA as an undergraduate. I wouldn’t have earned a master’s degree in urban planning there. And I wouldn’t be pursuing my doctorate at Berkeley.

So I worry about those who grow up in poor neighborhoods without the same educational safety nets that allowed for me, along with my three siblings and my wife Antonia, to attend some of the best universities in this country. I can’t help but be concerned about the plight of my wife’s elementary school students in East Los Angeles today.

Those who fight against affirmative action and against government-sponsored early educational outreach programs conveniently wash their hands of any responsibility toward those who lack the financial resources and access to human capital to go to college.

And fewer and fewer have those resources, with one state after another raising tuition and other fees.

These fee hikes couldn’t come at a worse time.

If we care about equality of opportunity, if we are concerned about our ability to compete in the global economy, it’s time to give everyone, including those from America’s barrios and ghettos, a shot at a great public education.

Alvaro Huerta is a doctoral student at the University of California at Berkeley and a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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