Friday, March 03, 2006

Americans Approve

Attending the Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference at Purdue University was a great experience for me, both as participant at various sessions and as a presenter at my own. I enjoyed the theoretical as well as practical applications of how-to learning available there, and I was completely taken in by the magic of hardware now on the market to support a more effectively delivery of my work as a teacher. I kept hearing myself whisper aloud, "I want one of those."

Of course, money makes the difference.

One part of the work I do at Purdue is to supervise student teachers of English during their semester of practicum. During a visit last week I had the pleasure of sitting in on an eigth grade English class in a school where special grant money had been won to fund laptop learning for all its students; every student worked with their own laptop computer in all classes. The project is now in its fifth and final year of funded support. Though I am only one point of observation, I will say of myself that I have been in a lot of classroom and known many students, and by my measure, these students were doing more and better writing than could have been inspired in most other learning situations. Before a single hour had passed, not one among them that had failed to write at least two paragraphs of invested text. It is worth mentioning that this class is a high-needs group of kids, and the work did would have competed with the outcome from other, far less challenged students. I am sure of it. Of course, credit goes as well to the teachers on board.

I say all this against the backdrop of the recent Gallup poll addressing the cost of the war, recent budget requests, and approval ratings from the American people. I can only wonder in amazement about what could be informing the "approval." Here are a few of the highpoints:

What's Being Spent to Defend America, and Is It Worth the Price?
  • $24,000,000,000 (billion) increase requested for defense spending in 2007
  • a total requested budget of $423,000,000,000 (billion) in defense spending that does not include "emergency funding" for financing wars
  • an additional $115,000,000,000 emergency funding for financing wars
I'll do the math for you: it's a LOT! ... $562,000,000,000 (billion) for the 2007 budget alone.

The total Homeland Security budget by contrast (and, oh, by the way, in addition) is $31,000,000,000 (billion).

And what do Americans say about defense spending? 65% of Americans polled say we're spending just the right amount or too little. Count me with the remaining 35% of the people who were either too flabergasted to comment or voiced the decided belief that we are spending too much.

In the meantime, the national treasure we once held in dreams, inspiration, and justification for being a better person tomorrow continues to languish in neglect under the weight of diminished funding and diverted attentions. When challenged at a press conference recently by a question about the $12,700,000,000 (billion) cut enacted against the higher education budget, our President seemed barely able to understand the question let alone the urgency of such critical need (see video here). With Jon Stewart, a continue to be amazed at the patience of the American people. (video of the Larry King interview at onegoodmove)

Wisdom is fluid; it must be justified and guided in action taken today not only by the reality of our pasts but by the hope for and accountability to the future toward which we believe ourselves moving. Now might be a good time to check our bearings.

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1 comment:

Winston said...

Ironically, Bush himself is perfect demonstrable evidence of the failure of the education system, at least where and when he was a student. Perhaps his intent is to cut funding until everyone else is dragged down to his level. Then he would have no reason to feel inferior. Or, perhaps, I'm just being cynical...