School Gardens, The Future of American Education, Bush-Cheney, and My Husband

Trust me. This is all related. Lex, who blogs at Scholars & Rogues, posted a thoughtful comment in response to the Caitlin Flanagan garden brew-haha (is that how that's spelled). See it here. One of his points rang true at our household this week. Lex writes that

But given the economic reality of America, very few of these children will actually better their socio-economic situation by really cracking the books. The private sector hasn’t created a job in a decade now; recent college graduates are looking at massive unemployment numbers; and the jobs generally available can be done by trained monkeys.

I've noted here my concerns about the future of the American economy, especially the fact that in terms of research and intellectual development, the U. S. is being out-paced, quickly, by other countries, most especially China.

That concern came home --- literally --- this week. Unless you've been lost in space for the past year, you know that the "economy" is in trouble and that's especially true at the state level. Eg, California teeters on bankruptcy, Utah has put some state workers on four-day weeks, and so forth. One institution that's taking a hit these days is the "state" university. When times get hard, state legislators cut university budgets.

My husband is on the faculty at the state university here in Ames (Iowa State, to be precise). Last year, university administrators were told to cut the budget and this week they finally released the plan for Round One of the cuts. (They were just told to expect millions more in cuts, so presumably Round Two is not far behind.)

The deans in the College of Liberal Arts, the school that houses my husband's department, decided to divide its departments into four groups. One group --- consisting of sciences --- will continue to function as conventional research departments. (The faculty will be rewarded for its research and, to a lesser extent, for its teaching.) The other three groups contain the departments that have been "demoted" to a mostly or a strictly teaching function. Two groups will still be allowed some research time.

But one group gets none. Those departments will function as strictly "service" departments. No more new faculty. No research. Most likely no majors or upper level courses. My husband's department --- philosophy --- falls into that group.

He's trying to be, um, philosophical about it. But he places the blame not on bureaucrats, not on state legislators, but on George Bush and Dick Cheney. He argues that during their eight years, they sold off the country's future, got us into horrific debt (which, obviously, we were already in before GW was elected), and created today's mess: We're abandoning substantive education, ceding a future of intellectual development, inventions, technology, and so forth to, mostly, the Chinese.

Leaving us to squabble over things like whether kids should spend a half hour a day planting tomatoes and pulling weeds. 'Cause that's what people do when all the important stuff's been decided: fight over the crumbs of pie, while the winners feast on the pie itself.