A few years ago I wrote a blog post, “I’ll Buy a Vow*l”, about the state budget horrors of California. I jokingly stated that, to raise revenue, the state passed a law limiting the use of the vowel “e” from all forms of written communication. Each state resident was only allotted a fixed number of the vowels per month. When the maximum number was used, the resident had to pay a special tax to purchase more letters “e.” The funds from the needed vowels were then used to alleviate the state budget deficit.
I thought my plan was brilliant. However, the administrative costs proved to be prohibitive.
Hat tip to my friend Lisa for spotting this brilliant article over at The Onion, America’s Finest News Source: Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs. Of course, one of my favorite programs is the last one:
At first I think the decision to drop the past tense from class is ridiculous, and I feel very upset by it,” said David Keller, a seventh-grade student at Hampstead School in Fort Meyers, FL. “But now, it’s almost like it never happens.”
Naturally, as an educator, the humor of the article got me thinking about my profession and beyond. The article is rather clever on multiple levels. How quickly we all forget the past. Eliminating the past tense seems, well, like a natural next step.
I recall when the TSA first came into being and the nuisance they create. I was in a major airport when I small child, probably almost 2, was frisked from head to toe by some stranger. Indeed, kids explode on planes every day.
The child was terrified, crying for his mother who stood paralyzed by her own fear of the new almighty Homeland Security, or was she afraid of the non-existent terrorists lurking in the shadows on the flight. What struck me at the time was that this child was growing up in such an ugly world filled with fear and an appearance of control. He would never know the days when, as a boy his age, I could just walk up to the steps of the plane on the runway to greet our arriving family members as they got off of the plane. More than just the past tense died as this young wailing child was frisked while his mother told him it was OK.
More to School Budget Cuts than Meets the Eye
In education, corporate America is busy vying for larger and larger chunks of the lucrative federal and state education budgets (led by Jeb! Bush, the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, and many other exceptionally wealthy men). This powerful and very quiet movement is working at the state level through ALEC to modify state laws regulating charter schools so that they may be run by for-profit business models. Computers are vastly cheaper than teachers. The savings goes straight into private bank accounts. It’s already started.
So, just as the one-room schoolhouse has become the past tense, the living human teacher physically standing up in front of an actual classroom full of living, physically present children will become the past tense. Children can be at home with their state-issued digital device completing their coursework and having their data aggregated for a fraction of the cost of a school building with teachers and buses, not that the cost will go down at all–you can only imagine: expensive software and hardware, and consultants, and CEOs, and as many other opportunities to pocket money as one can conceive. The teacher, literally millions of them (alias: the middle class), will just dry up and blow away! Wealthy tech companies and CEOs will get richer at the expense of our nation’s data points, I mean: children. And, what better way to aggregate data about all of these soon-to-be employees and spenders?!
Yes, the past tense indeed! Cut from school budgets. Cut from our collective memory.
Compliance. Mindless compliance.