Tuesday, March 09, 2010
The biggest problem with last week's March 4 Day of Action to Defend Education, which was organized to protest cuts in California's education spending: The event showed how little educators and students value education.
After all, if teachers believed that class time is sacrosanct, they would have scheduled the protests for a Saturday, not a school day.
Of course, on a Saturday, educrats in schools like Oceana High in Pacifica, Calif., or San Francisco's Commodore Sloat Elementary could not have used other people's children as props for their politics. Fewer students would have shown up. So they gave up class time.
Activists have been equally ready to dispense with college course work. Now, I understand why University of California students would be angry at the cuts imposed on the UC system in the face of a 32 percent fee increase in the fall.
What I do not understand is the decision to protest the cuts and fee increases by protesting during precious (and expensive) class time. Ditto, as has happened, faculty and students walking out of classrooms to protest classroom funding cuts.
Whom do these actions punish? Not UC executives. Not Sacramento politicians. They punish only those students who care so much about their education that they don't want to miss a day of it.
As one who worked her way through college, I cannot help but see walkouts and weekday protests as proof that many UC students do not value the jewel that has been handed to them. Students could be learning a language, studying the stars or exploring the chemistry of the human body. Instead, they have chosen to chant and obstruct.
That goes doubly for students who engage in violence or vandalism. If UC administrators had any spine, they would make demonstrators prosecuted for vandalism clean toilets for a semester -- or forfeit the education they blithely undervalue.
The good news, according to the Daily Californian: "the vast majority of students did not participate in demonstrations."
Then I received an e-mail from Oceana High freshman Ian Glazman-Schillinger. He said he was not taking part in protests because he saw "no solutions being offered that will give schools more money. ... It appears to me as if the schools are throwing a temper tantrum instead of protesting." He's not opposed to protests per se, but "there is no money in the already over-stretched state budget to meet the needs of California schools," which take more than 40 percent of the general fund, but nonetheless "are asking for money that isn't there."
Ironically on Thursday, the Obama administration announced that California did not qualify for $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds, no doubt because too few districts and unions agreed to the reforms demanded for the Obama program.
So public school educators tossed away a school day and activists skipped class to demand more education dollars that they won't get. But they would not stoop to agreeing to reforms meant to improve school performance even if they stood to gain $700 million. And they think they're so smart.
As for those protesters who chose to block Interstate 880, well, if they haven't figured out that people on the freeways are the people who pay the taxes that fund their schooling, then a university education is wasted on them.
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See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders
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