In the history of the world there have been many great and prosperous civilizations and they have all failed. And usually at the time of the failing some few folks had all of the money and most other folks had none. They were either Kings or Queens or Popes or Emperors or Czars or Caesars or Pharaohs or whatever and they always invoked the divine right of the gods as the reason for concentrating all of that wealth in the hands of one man or one small circle of family and friends. Eventually the disenfranchised, poor populace grows disinterested and disaffected and the empire succumbs to a force of outsiders who invade and plunder. While the wealthy few run away or hide or are murdered or all 3! Then the new conquerors share in the plunder and even rejoice while sharing, and then the cycle begins anew as the new leaders emerge and invariably begin indulging in their own grandeur until…
Fortunately we no longer have empires such as those in the world today but we still have world leaders who rule with concentrated power and wealth. In the United States however, our president is not among the wealthiest men in the nation and we have no all powerful despot who rules with an iron hand under the divine rights of either religion or lineage but we still have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few and those few are now the business and corporate leaders of the world. Where we once had popes and kings we now have CEOs and corporations (The latter which ironically enough have recently been declared to be persons by our Supreme Court composed of actually real people!) and they have quite a large amount of wealth at their disposal which is growing while the wealth of the common population is shrinking. This is the historical recipe for national disaster. No matter how vast and distant the empire may reach, when the interior rots the empire always withers and dies.
Our public schools represent that interior. They are the nucleus which fuels the fire of freedom and free enterprise. We have built our greatness from the inside out and we look to replenish our strengths and our greatness through the rebirth and reaffirmation of our ideals in our children. In our best of times, We have spread our influence through the free trade and free movement of our citizens and by setting an example of economic wealth that can be earned and shared and experienced by all and not concentrated within a few.
Our public schools must be fortified and not abandoned. They must be embraced and enhanced and empowered in terms of anticipating and responding to technological, social, political, economic, and competitive change. Healthy cultures must always be willing to rethink their most basic assumptions about themselves in order to improve and grow and repair their societies and we must be willing to accept that what our schools need now more than ever is not a cut in spending but rather a renewed effort to spend more on the future and the future generations who will lead us.
Today’s students are willing to work hard but what makes us think that they are going to be willing to work hard for low wages that would suffice a life in China or India or some other-where where they don’t live? America’s corporate leaders and great men of wealth need to stop hoarding and start spreading the wealth. They can begin by first embracing the public schools of this country with largess and generosity and then by raising wages across the middle and poorer classes of society so that the term “working poor” is eradicated from our vocabulary.
Today’s students of the 21st century in America are beginning to notice that it is getting harder and harder to bring the American dream, a dream of studying hard then working hard, and then achieving affluence, into focus and for most of our poorest students that dream is nothing more than a taunting apparition of their hopelessness: a happy meal that they will never be able to afford