Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When Democracy Died in the New York State Assembly



Something inside me died tonight in the New York State Assembly.  Democratic legislator after Democratic legislator, some who claimed to be lifelong friends of public education, some who were once teachers themselves, caved in and voted for a bill that was going to add to the test burden on the already over tested children of the state, subject teachers to  more scripting and more intimidation than they already had to endure and strip power away from principals and local school districts.

Many knew what they voted for was wrong. Many said so in their remarks. But they caved in and voted for a measure that was going to make the lives of their constituents miserable, our of fear, cowardice and a refusal to consider how their actions might look in the broad sweep of historical events

And their actions alerted me to something I had feared for some time. That the voices of ordinary citizens had become so smothered by the power of great wealth that all social policies were now held hostage to the pursuit of private gain. That political leaders, irrespective of political party, no longer felt a  moral imperative to consider the "public good;" that they could pay lip service to that ideal in communicating with constituents, but when the chips were down, they would always vote for the interests of the rich and powerful.

I had used certain language, I once though loosely, to describe our current predicament. Words like "Oligarchy" and "Plutocracy."

Tonight, I realized that those terms were rather precise descriptions of our current political arrangements

The interests of the children, the families, the teachers, the principals and the elected school board of our state were treated as impediments to a vision of educational transformation that handed power and funding over to private interests whose contributions filled the campaign coffers of officials of both parties. That such a give away of power and money took place in a Budget bill that included "ethics reform" made it all the more ironic

This was one of the most blatant displays of political cynicism and political  corruption that I have seen in my lifetime.

It was quite literally sickening

I mourn for the children. I mourn for the teachers. I mourn for the principals. I mourn for the schools that will be closed; the school districts that will be taken into receivership.

And I mourn for the democratic spirit, which has disappeared from the political culture of the state and nation in which I live.

I will never accept this as the norm. I will never accommodate to cowardice and evil

And I will not be alone

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