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Bad Choices 

Why do we prize war over education?


Once again, the Corporate War Machine is fed. We just approved $59 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. Fifty-nine billion to line the pockets of the corporate war bosses, corrupt Afghan government officials and warlords. Can you name a village or province in Afghanistan that your tax dollars have gone to support?

Once more, public education in is on the chopping block. Santa Rosa city schools are taking another $6 million in cuts, with the new projection of a possible $13 million of additional budget cuts in 2011&–2012. Can you name a school or district that is taking a direct hit in funding?

Anyone see a problem here?

We have become a country of corporate war, which we export throughout the world, in order to control the natural resources we so covet from other nations. Enough lies and delusions. Our military has become the security force for the corporate war machine and the globalization cartel.

We have witnessed the deterioration of our country's infrastructure, the pollution and destruction of our natural ecosystems, the demise of our economy and a decades-long butchering of our public education system. Dropout rates across America are more than 30 percent. In California, dropout rates are well over 40 percent in the Latino community. Talented, intelligent, motivated critical thinkers are leaving our schools.

I write as a concerned high school instructor and advocate for our children and their future. I am proud to teach in the Santa Rosa city schools, and I am privileged to work with an incredibly talented and caring teaching staff and administration. Throughout this county and this nation, there are teaching professionals who spend countless hours attempting to bring the best possible education to their students, under extreme difficulties, mostly due to annual funding cuts to exceptional programs and schools.

At Montgomery High School two years ago, we started the Green Technology Pathway, an intensive three-year, academic/vocational program intended to teach and train a group of youth in sustainability, green building and design, alternative energy, organic agriculture, land management restoration and regeneration, and environmental and human rights, with an emphasis on social equity. Our students are learning and training to become leaders in the New Green economy and workforce.

Across California and this nation, there are thousands of students who are "hands-on" learners. These are the carpenters, electricians, designers, landscapers, solar installers and the builders of the future. These are the future adults who may save our planet. Unless they are given the opportunity to learn and train and develop skills in these areas of instruction, they may be the dropouts of tomorrow. We must pay attention to this student population and their needs.

The elimination of vocational arts programs has led to the direct and deliberate alienation of an entire group of students. When school districts are forced by federal law and underfunding to eliminate the very classes that keep students engaged, we undermine our own future. We are destroying the possibilities that one or more of these wonderful human beings might have a solution to a major problem in the world. In essence, the very people who may save our communities from past destructive practices are robbed of the chance to learn the necessary lessons they need to succeed as leaders of the earth community.

If we do not draw a line in the sand, if the public does not stand with the students and educators and demand that the education of our youth become the top priority of this nation, I fear we will witness an entire generation of young adults who will be lost and angry.

Education is the first casualty of war. It's time to choose: The education of our youth or corporate war for profit? How will you answer when they ask, "Why didn't you help? Why didn't you care enough?" Stand up, show up for our youth and education, in all schools, for all children of the world.

Len Greenwood is a teacher and the program coordinator for the Green Technology Pathway program at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa.

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