Tag Archives: higher education

Abbott to Students: You’re Not Invited!

Christina Ayala at the Trib reported today that UT-Dallas students were not invited to Greg Abbott’s press event where he unveiled a lackluster and flawed higher education plan.

UT-Dallas junior Jacob Loehr, a public affairs major, was studying in the Eugene McDermott Library on Tuesday when he saw Abbott and his entourage heading to a small suite in the library.

“Nobody was told that he was going to be on campus,” Loehr said. “Once people noticed he was there, I, along with other students, tried to get in to see the press conference, but we were rejected. They told us it was a private event and we couldn’t get in without an invitation.”

One would figure that he would have hired the Young Conservatives to do an affirmative action bake sale in support of his campaign, right?

Meanwhile, Democrat Wendy Davis has been on a tour of Texas universities this week in which she has openly spoken before student crowds about her higher education plan, as well as other issues, such as Medicaid expansion and a phased-in minimum wage raise to $10.10 per hour (which Abbott does not support and Republicans want abolished).

At UTSA, Davis spoke about Abbott’s work ethic.

“The problem with my opponent, Greg Abbott, isn’t that he doesn’t work hard. It’s that he’s working hard against you.”

Greg Abbott is all about avoiding a political reality–that Republicans have failed Texas and have continually dug a deeper grave for it. It is evident in his record as attorney general and his ads.

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Abbott Lays Out Lackluster College Plan

The Republican running for Governor, Greg Abbott, released a lackluster college plan today. Instead of providing much needed resources for universities who must help students catch up and become “college-ready,” Abbott proposed to fund our institutions based on outcomes. On top of this, Abbott proposed a plan to expand high-enrollment online college courses for college students.

If one wants to attempt to read the plan, here it is.

Basically, Abbott’s plan holds much-needed resources hostage, while his online college plan only hurts the brick-and-mortar institutions that have put Texas on the higher education map.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott will call for students to receive college credit for taking massive open online courses — often referred to as “MOOCs” — as part of the higher education plan he unveils on Tuesday, sources with knowledge of his plans say.

[…]

MOOCs are online courses with unlimited enrollment that anyone — regardless of whether they are enrolled at a university — can sign up for and take for free. Right now, the courses rarely earn students college credit.

What Abbott’s plan does is negatively affect student-faculty relationships as these courses have unlimited enrollment. Perhaps they might work for some survey course in which students just regurgitate information, but the effect a faculty member has on a course in expanding critical thinking through course discussion will certainly be evident. For sure, these unlimited enrollment courses will not work for courses in ones major course of study. And since he is so supportive of outcomes-based funding, the fact is that these high-enrollment college courses have a high-flunk-out rate–students just leave the courses and never complete them.

Above all, and unlike Wendy Davis, Abbott has ignored the fact that 1/2 of community college and 1/3 of university students enter unprepared, thanks to funding cuts and lack of investment in K-12. Abbott should know a little about this as he has supported K-12 funding cuts and recently lost a lawsuit brought by hundreds of Texas school districts regarding school finance. But, I digress. If students are entering our institutions unprepared after learning in brick and mortar K-12 classrooms, how does he expect these students to be successful in online courses?

Greg Abbott isn’t offering anything regarding college affordability and tuition controls or student financial aid. In short, the Greg Abbott plan does nothing to improve graduation and retention rates. What it does do is bring Texas a step closer to privatizing public higher education.

I wouldn’t even credit Greg Abbott with supporting the status quo, as it seems he is more in tune with digging a deeper grave for state institutions of higher education.

Stick with Wendy Davis’ higher education plan. It works for all Texans.

Wendy Davis Outlines Higher Education Plan

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Governor, outlined her proposal to make college affordable.

As Governor, Wendy Davis will work hard for every Texan to have the same higher education opportunities that made such a difference in her own life. She will ensure that Texans are prepared for jobs today and careers tomorrow. Specifically, Wendy will:
  • Create Educational Opportunities for all Texans
    • Create a Career-Technical Coordinating Board to facilitate coordination among local industries, community and technical colleges, and public high schools and streamline the entry of Texas students into 21st century technical jobs.
    • Improve Adult Education and Literacy programs to make it easier for Texans to transition from adult education to the workforce.
  • Make College Affordable
    • Commit to achieving full funding for the TEXAS Grant program to improve education accessibility and affordability for Texas families.
    • Work with the Texas Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board to ensure the Texas Tuition Promise fund remains a reliable saving tool for Texas families by improving program outreach and public awareness efforts.
    • Improve accessibility to the B-On-Time low interest loan program, including opening the program to part-time students.
    • Establish a sales tax exemption program for college students’ textbooks to lessen the cost of higher education for hardworking students and families.
  • Improve Graduation and Retention Rates
    • Encourage Texas schools to experiment with programs aimed at assisting first and second year students to navigate the personal and academic challenges they will face as they transition into higher education.
  • Expand the Number of Texas Universities Ranked at Tier One Status
    • Continue to support and encourage Tier One initiatives to ensure Texas creates more world-class research universities.

I must say this is the strongest higher education proposal I’ve seen in a long time. No doubt Texas needs movement on college retention and graduation rates, and the proposed sales tax break to college textbooks and supplies is something student activists have been proposing for quite a while.

“For too long, the insider network in Austin has left our schools underfunded, understaffed and our children undervalued,” said Senator Davis. “Greg Abbott has been in court, defending over $5 billion in cuts to more than 600 Texas school districts and the children who go to those schools. That means overcrowded classrooms, thousands of teachers being laid off, schools being closed down, and our sons and daughters missing out on opportunities that will prepare them for the 21st century.”

I don’t expect the Republicans to offer much of anything on higher education. The Texas economy needs a well-prepared workforce at all levels, so, I’m glad that Davis is elevating these topics. If the Republican response is, “How do we pay for it?,” then obviously, they aren’t all that interested in doing anything bold to improve access to higher education.

Van de Putte Releases PreK-12 Plan

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, candidate for Texas Lt. Governor, released her PK-12 plan in San Antonio today.

As Lieutenant Governor, Leticia will:

  • Restore a strong start towards student success.
  • Maximize quality learning by reducing class sizes in Pre-K classrooms.
  • Invest in our students potential.
  • End the over-reliance on and punitive nature of standardized testing in Texas.
  • Expand student access to broadband and ensure quality blended learning.

Pretty standard stuff; however, these are issues long-ignored by the Republicans and Van de Putte’s opponent, Dan Patrick, is more interested in de-funding public schools.

What I found exciting about the plan was a commitment to increasing preparedness. As it stands, 1/3 of university students are enrolled in remedial courses and 1/2 of community college students are enrolled in remedial courses.

That said, I’m looking forward to Van de Putte’s higher education policy that hopefully addresses curtailing tuition increases by investing more in our colleges and universities, and college issues, such as state financial aid, college retention and graduation, intrusive college advising, etc. At least those are the kind of things in which this blogger is interested.

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ Our Politicos Have Sold Us Out

Selling Public Space
The Chickens Will Come Home to Roost
By Rodolfo F. Acuña

On the one side is neoliberalism, with all its repressive power and its machinery of death; on the other side is the human being. There are those who resign themselves to being one more number in the huge exchange of power … But there are those who do not resign themselves … In any place in the world, anytime, any man or woman rebels to the point of tearing off the clothes resignation has woven for them and cynicism has died grey. Any man or woman, of whatever colour, in whatever tongue, speaks and says to himself or to herself: Enough is enough! Ya basta! — Subcomandante Marcos

acunaThe lambs have a problem hearing the sounds of the clarion because of a lack of long term memory. Because of this memory lapse, the Zapatistas January 1, 1994 revolt protesting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) never sunk in. Perhaps the word neoliberal was too foreign to the lambs that had a difficult time comprehending that the word takes different forms.

News that University of California President Janet Napolitano began two days of meetings to Mexico about expanding academic and research cooperation with Mexican universities and scientific and cultural organizations has raised fears among many of us.

The U.S. War on Drugs has ravaged Mexico to the point that few U.S. students want to study there. As a consequence, about 40 out of 233,000 UC students study in Mexico each year, while about 1,900 Mexicans attended UC schools in 2013.

Ironically, Napolitano, the former secretary of Homeland Security, was involved in making U.S. drug policy; her visit coincides with that of Secretary of State John Kerry. According to the UC president this is part of the “UC’s many and varied partnerships, exchanges and collaborations with Mexico are integral to bettering lives on both sides of our national border … I’m here to ensure we grow that relationship by establishing our new project to enhance the mutual exchange of students, faculty and ideas across the border.”

For over 50 years, the Mexican American community has always encouraged exchange programs lobbying for programs with Mexico. However, many of us have come to realize that just studying in Mexico, or studying in the United States does not always have positive outcomes.

A Facebook friend, Vicente Ramírez says about these exchanges, “They’re [the UC and CSU] not going to recruit the working class–it’s a class war… They’re recruiting Mexico’s elite students so that they can then go back and apply neoliberal policies. All of Mexico’s secretaries of Economy (Secretario de Economía) and Finance (Secretario de Hacienda y Crédito Público) have gotten their Ph.D.’s from American universities since the mid-1980s. Mexico’s current Secretario de Hacienda, Luis Videgarray who successfully pushed for the privatization of PEMEX got his Ph.D. from MIT.” Ex-Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, arguably the intellectual godfather of Mexican neoliberalism, received his MA and PhD in economics from Harvard.

Upon hearing about Napolitano’s Mexican junket UC Irvine Professor Rodolfo Torres wrote. “I read this morning that Janet Napolitano is in Mexico exploring academic and research cooperation with Mexican universities. Do you think there is a proactive role UC Chicano Studies and progressive Latin American Studies faculty can play to prevent this initiative from becoming a total market-driven and neoliberal project? My Dean (Social Ecology) also announced at a school-wide faculty meeting that she will be meeting with selected faculty to discuss this US-Mexico initiative.”

UC Professor Jorge Mariscal wrote on FB, “UC is recruiting the Mexican ruling class and a token number of working-class mexicanos/as who identify with the ruling class. This process will intensify in coming years as Napolitano struggles to erase her record as DHS/Deportation Czar. One (un)intended consequence will be the slow-motion strangulation of Chicano/a programs in the UC system that refuse to subordinate the local (albeit transnational) to the ‘global’.”

It should be made clear that this initiative is not about diversity or cultural enrichment. The recruitment is global and it is about profit. When the UC or CSU turns away students the for-profit university sector in both countries thrive.

Neoliberalism at its worse will recruit wealthy Mexican students to displace U.S. minority students charging them out of state and foreign student fees. Not too many if any working class Mexican students will be able to afford the tuition and dorm costs.

The current exchanges have had little scrutiny from progressives in this country. Mexico has set a goal of sending 100,000 Mexican students a year to the U.S. by 2018. In addition, the UC and CSU system have recruiters in China, the Middle East, Asia and the U.S.. Let’s be clear, large numbers of international students impact minorities and working class students many of whom have already been priced out of the market.

Today first year students from outside California comprise almost 30 percent of freshmen at UC Berkeley and UCLA, a growth of just over 10 percent in four years. The Mercury News reports, UC Berkley’s “revenue from out-of-state and international students has grown to about $160 million, about 7 percent of its annual operating budget and more than half of its state subsidy.”

Meanwhile, at UCLA just under 28 percent of the incoming freshmen are out of state students while just over 3 percent are African American. Inside Higher Ed writes that “The number of foreign and out-of-state students admitted to the University of California’s 10 campuses soared by 43 percent this year, while the overall number of would-be freshmen admitted from within the state’s borders grew by just 3.6 percent, the university system … Out-of-state and foreign students made up nearly one in five students admitted for next fall, 18,846 of a total of 80,289.”

In the meantime, the Cal State Universities are following the same neoliberal model. Pathetically desperate the CSU has embarked on a policy of growth. The problem is that it is shifting the cost of this growth almost exclusively to students who pay over three-quarters of instructional costs and almost a hundred percent of new construction.

This leads to an insidious policy that limits space for low income students and justifies higher fees and tuition. It gives students who are turned away no alternative but to go to for-profit universities. Recently, a scheme by the community colleges to enter into a contract with the University of Kaplan to offer classes online to community college students (at a substantial fee) was derailed because of public outcry. (Until recently Kaplan was a tutorial center mainly for foreign students).

Meanwhile, California politicos are encouraging an insidious policy of divide and conquer, pitting the Asian community against the Latino and other minority communities. This has led to some Asian American leaders thinking affirmative action will discriminate against them.

I use the phrase “The Chickens are Coming Home to Roost” because the commodification of public spaces has been occurring for some time. The Zapatista revolt should have been a wake up call; however, our elected officials have sold us out. They seem more concerned with photo ops and getting elected than they are in preserving public spaces.

I cannot remember a Latino elected official since the late Marco Firebaugh who was concerned with the state of Latinos in higher education. However, the lambs have to bear responsibility for not keeping the politicos in check and allowing themselves and their public spaces to be sold on the open market.

GIVE US YOUR RICH, SEND BACK THE POOR

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ Is a Free Higher Education a Right or Privilege?

by Rudy F. Acuña

Elites of whatever race, nationality or historical generation have opposed education as a right. During the 19th century New Mexican hacendados justified their opposition to public education on religious grounds because it threatened their hegemony. A popular saying was “educar un muchacho es perder un buen pastor.” Further New Mexican landowners opposed statehood because it meant paying taxes to educate the poor.

The belief that people have a right to a free education whether primary or higher education is threatening to people who fear equality. This is true whether in the United States or Mexico.

In today’s world education is necessary to break out of the minimum wage cycle. This affects minorities most because they are concentrated in the lower half of the economic ladder, and it is becoming the only way out.

However, this phenomena is no longer a minority thing; white workers are flocking to the minimum wage class in great numbers.

In the 1850s Abraham Lincoln was shocked by George Fitzhugh’s thesis in Sociology for the South (1854) and Cannibals All! (1857) that theorized that all labor including white should be slave labor. The notion scared the hell out of Lincoln and white workers. Today a comparison can be drawn between Fitzhugh’s thesis and the growth of the minimum wage as the norm.

Most Americans believe that society will correct itself. They still believe that a person earning a minimum wage is as free as the Koch Brothers or even people like me who have sinecures.

Education has historically been the vehicle for social mobility. Because of this, white Americans after World War II saw education as a right, one of the limited ways out for the working class. Without an education they were condemned to being minimum wage workers.

Like Fitzhugh’s prophecy, the minimum wage worker has become the modern day wage slave. This status is no longer that of people of color. Even college graduates are today shackled by the minimum wage.

The apologists muddle the right to higher education with sayings such as “Education is a right but should be treated as a privilege” that puts the onus on the individual, and qualifies the right to mean that everyone should be able to have access to an education, but that access implies the duty of the student to better themselves. In other words, education is not an absolute right.

In our society the state controls education; it determines whether something is a right or a privilege. But who controls the state? The bottom-line is we are not all equal. We all have one vote, but the Supremes say the corporations are persons, and that it is unconstitutional to limit the amount they can donate to a political campaign because regulation infringes their free speech rights.

It is fallacious to think that I am as free as the Koch brothers who donate a $100 million to political campaigns. It is just as ridiculous to say that minimum wage workers have the same influence as the one top percent.

In the United States, all rights are derived from property. Rights imply a corresponding duty of the holder. In theory, the only limitation on the holder’s rights is the equal rights of others. According to the founding fathers, the ownership of property was the most important distinction between freedom and tyranny.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the founding. The notion of property has changed over the years, and today property is synonymous with capital. Even real property has become liquid and reduced to a commodity.

Thus education means the accumulation of capital, and emphasis is put on the rights of the holders, and not their duties. Regulations are efforts to regulate the abuse of the holders who look at regulation as suppression of their freedom rather than the enforcement of their duties. In their worldview capital has rights and the worker only has privileges that can only be exercised at the discretion of those with rights.

It becomes a worker’s duty to work and capital’s right to profit from his/her labor. In this brave new world it is becoming increasingly rare for the poor to own land. The only out is to move up through education.

Mexicans fought a bloody revolution that cost over a million lives for social rights. It was not fought for privileges; it was fought for access to land and liberty!

Rights are very dear, and as one  writer dramatically put it, “our rights come from our creator.” However, they are more fundamental, rights are based on being human. As such government does not have the power to violate a right. Neither does it not have the right to empower corporations to violate our rights.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 is the first world constitution to set out social rights. The Russian Constitution of 1918 is based the Mexican Constitution. Article 3 guarantees a free, mandatory, and lay education. Today, Mexican students and social reformers are fighting to keep Mexican higher education free and to protect that right.

Yet the Mexican government is surreptitiously undermining the right to free higher education. The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) is at the crossroads of Mexico’s university system. It is a Taj Mahal with the state universities and satellites badly neglected. Given this reality it is natural that every Mexican student dreams of attending it.

If the Mexican government respected the constitution, it would build facilities to accommodate the over 250,000 graduating seniors who are turned away annually. Instead it invents fictions to reject them.

President Enrique Peña Nieto is violating the constitution in the name of reform – a word that the Mexican and American press are giving a bad name. Like the case of corrupt American congressmen, the Mexican president deals with bought legislators who want to protect the rights of the ruling elites. Consequently, as in the United States, Mexican education is becoming a privilege instead of a right.

Similarly access has been restricted in this country. Because corporate leaders do not want to pay for the costs of social production Public universities have stopped building to accommodate the growing student population. Universities operate more and more on student monies.

Rather than fight for the rights of students, American and Mexican bureaucrats use the excuse there is no room. They use gimmicks to limit access and allow runaway tuition and the privatization of higher education.

In 2008, according to the Pew Center, graduating students borrowed 50 percent more (in inflated-adjusted dollars) than those graduating in 1996. Their debt went from $17,075 in 1996 to $23,287 in 2008. Seventy-five percent of the respondents to a poll said college was just too expensive. Almost fifty percent could not afford to go to college.

In a “Time Marches On” fashion, forty years ago education was relatively free. High school students had options such as working at GM Van Nuys, Lockheed, or one of the many factories that serviced these plants. My engineering students in the 1980s worked for the computer industry, earning enough to support themselves and contribute to their families. The majority of these jobs have been outsourced.

In the 1950s, workers were oblivious to deindustrialization and the assault on trade unions. They rationalized that they were different than blacks and Latinos who were at the time denied access to industrial jobs and public colleges. By the 1980s the children of white workers could not find union jobs and were relegated to minimum wage labor. Today our children are forced to live with us; when they can work it is a minimum wage job –it is becoming the standard for all workers.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña: Academe as a Plantation ~ A False Consciousness

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

The Webster’s dictionary defines a plantation as “a large area of land especially in a hot part of the world where crops (such as cotton) are grown.” However, like every other definition it has many lives. The popular meaning today includes large farms growing a commercial crop such as cotton, bananas or other single crop such as sugar. It needs a large labor pool comprised of slaves or near-like slave labor such as peonage.

Like prisons the slaves develop a mental and emotional dependency on the institutional life. I have friends who actually enjoy going back to prison, although acknowledging their loss of freedom. The plantation preys on this dependency and gives the inmates (slaves and peons) housing and other functions. They are often controlled through privileges that they are grateful for.

The university is organized in a similar fashion: the bosses, the overseers, the disparate crew bosses and the peons (the students). They are distinguished by titles: doctor, professor, mister and the peons by first name. Recently I referred to a colleague as Ms. So and so, she corrected me, Dr. So and so.

I responded that I did not use the title, any title, and that my father upon learning that I had one asked me, “¿si eres doctor que curas?” (“if you are a doctor what do you cure?”).

Everyone down the vertical scale has a title: full professor, associate professor and assistant professor. When I began at my present institution, the entry was often an instructor who was at the bottom of the overseer class but was in line to move up.

Originally the lecturers were paid better than the instructors or the part timers. However, the lecturers and the part timers were vulnerable because they were not in line to become “partners.”

Today the part timers enjoy some permanency thanks to a union contract. In lieu of equality they have been upgraded in name to “lecturers.” It sounds better, and a title almost always makes the guard feel like he is in line for a promotion to become a tenured professor.

This plantation mentality has been used very effectively by academe that has converted the institution into profit centers. The process is neoliberalism that “makes it harder for poor children to attend college and forces debt-ridden students into an intellectual and moral dead zone devoid of imagination.”

In an interview Henry A. Giroux defined neoliberalism as an ideology that interprets profit making as the essence of democracy and concludes that only the market can solve our problems. “As a mode of governance, it produces identities, subjects, and ways of life driven by a survival of the fittest ethic, grounded in the idea of the free, possessive individual, and committed to the right of ruling groups and institutions to accrue wealth removed from matters of ethics and social costs.”

This hit home the other day when I received an email from a part-timer who now considers herself a “lecturer.” She objected to my criticizing California State University Northridge for converting itself from a public university into a private university – privatizing the blue collar working labor pool into contract labor.

At CSUN and most state universities, the academy increasingly relies on part timers to process its classes. CSUN has not gone as far as some American universities and outsourced online teaching to foreign vendors via profit making centers such as the Tseng College. However, CSUN is headed the way.

Using part time or lecturers is cheaper than employing full time professors. The academy saves not only in salaries but costs for sabbaticals, release time, tenure, office space and other perks. In lieu of higher salaries many of the part timers (AKA lecturers) are forced to moonlight. In Chicana/o studies departments some teach at two and three other campuses to eke out a living. The result is they parachute in and out of the university, and students in most cases do not get the benefit of office hours.

Many of the so-called lecturers develop what Marxists called a false consciousness that is caused by the systematic misrepresentation of dominant class of reality. Thus the subordinate classes form a false consciousness. The ruling elites systematically conceal or obscure the realities of subordination, exploitation, and domination. Examples of this false consciousness abound; most obvious are workers identifying with the Republican Party or corporate thieves.

Critics of neoliberalism blame the lack of critical thinking skills. It is no accident that the teaching of critical thinking has been under heavy attack by neoliberals. Max Rafferty, a California Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 1960s, called the schools of education subversive for teaching critical thinking. The outcome is that it pays to be ignorant and ignorance like greed is good.

The notion of a false consciousness hit me the other day when I received an email from a part timer (AKA lecturer) who told me that I was “biting the hand” that fed me because I was criticizing the university and the administration for the abuses of neoliberalism and the privatizing of what was once a public institution.

The email began like all messages of this type; she demanded that I take her off my mailing list accusing me of sending unsolicited “missives” (she is on the humanities list server, not mine). She continued “I find your recent remark towards Dr. Harry Hillenbrand intolerable…I have been a lecturer in the Department of English for sixteen years… I have found Dr. Hillenbrand to be a valuable champion of my efforts, always with an open ear and open mind.” In the next breath she complains about “the interminable and convoluted confines of University Policy to improve teaching conditions for Lecturers at CSUN.” The writer then says that she is “only entitled to teach four classes per academic year, per my three-year contract, [thus] I earned $19,000 last year.” She then questions how much I have been paid, “Has the University really been that bad to you?” This is another way of telling me that if I don’t like it to go back to Mexico.

She concludes, “But I must say that, in the process, you bite the hand that feeds them. Please stop pissing on my CSUN. This place means too much to me to take your irresponsible jab at Harry Hillenbrand.”

Not once does she examine the issues of the lack of faculty diversity, out of control tuition, student debts, and the university as a profit center, the particulars of the UNAM/CSUN accord or other grievances that I have laid out. She admits that she only earns $19,000 annually which to me constitutes exploitation.

If she loves the university so much why does she tolerate these conditions? Why doesn’t she fight to convert part time positions into full time tenured faculty? And why doesn’t she fight for effective faculty governance through the California Faculty Association?

I am also concerned about CSUN. I am concerned about its ability to educate Latino, black and other working class students. I am concerned as their teacher not their doctor that they have the proper food, shelter and clothing. I am concerned that the universities are using them to pay for administrators, professors and “lecturers” salaries and perks. They are my students not my slaves.

Lastly, I am concerned about the growing academic-military-industrial complex in U.S. and Mexican universities. Higher education should be about teaching students how to think for themselves in a democracy, and not feed the false consciousness of my part time friend who works the same hours as a tenure track professor at, if I am to believe her, a third of the wages of an entry level assistant professor.

Perhaps she should be angry instead of taking it. But the truth is that academe like the prison and the plantation institutionalizes us not to piss on it. She should try it, pissing is often a pause of refreshment.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo: Horatio Alger: The Myth of Public Higher Education

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

The United States is the land of illusions. Like Disneyland, it is more fiction than reality. The American Dream is part of surreal world, constructed as a form of social control that distorts the memory  blinding Americans to the injustices, inequalities and imperfections of American society. Like old Shirley Temple movies, Americans are princes and princesses who pass through bad times believing that they will be saved because they are Americans.

These illusions are built around myths such as that of Horatio Alger that has persisted for over 150 years. For Americans Horatio Alger is as real as Superman.

Horatio Alger Jr in 1867 published the first of over 120 books that told the tale of rags to riches to young working class boys. The moral of the stories was that if the boys led exemplary lives, struggled against poverty and adversity that they could make it. Someday they would be rich and heirs to the American Dream.

The stairway to the American Dream was meritocracy and education. America was the land of opportunity, every American if he worked hard enough could get an education; it was free and more accessible in the United States than any place in world. Opportunity was knocking, and it was your fault if you did not take advantage of it.

The Horatio Alger Myth resembles fantasy tales such as Superman, Captain America, Spiderman and Batman. The truth be told, Horatio Alger just like education has never been equal or free in America.

Even during the Post-World War II era when the illusion was more plausible, accessibility depended on the hue of one’s skin and his or her social class.

In this context, Los Angeles has been called La La Land because Angelinos were said to be in their own world. However, this self-absorbed frame of mind is true of all Americans; they are not a benevolent, kind or generous people.

In 1960 Democratic Governor Pat Brown and University of California President Clark Kerr helped develop the California Master Plan for Higher Education. It neatly defined the roles of the University of California (UC), the California State College (CSC), and the California Community Colleges systems (CCC).

The master plan was the perfect pyramid: the UC was at the top, the state colleges in the middle and the junior colleges were at the bottom. The two-year college perpetuated the illusion that Californians were living the American Dream. Despite this wrongheaded logic, the college systems were important because they were tuition-free essentially guaranteeing free higher education to everyone.

But, the world was changing. American captains of industry had in the 1950s committed itself to deindustrialization and the globalization of its capital, lessening the need for an educated workforce. Just as the U.S. had imported German rocket scientists, the ruling elites’ worldview became more global; they felt they could import brainpower without paying for the education of the children of factory workers

In 1966 the illusion of equal opportunity suffered a fatal blow with the election of Governor Ronald Reagan who led the assault on the University of California. Reagan vowed to “clean up that mess in Berkeley” that, according to him, was led by “outside agitators” and left-wing subversives. Reagan laid the foundations for a shift to a tuition-based funding model. The goal was to eliminate taxes and privatize public institutions.

Moneyed interests nationwide set out to destroy public two-year schools, which served almost one-half of the nation’s first-year college students. By the 21st century, as tuition soared at the four year universities, students were pushed down to the community colleges.

The Great Recession of 2008 ended all illusions of public education. By 2011, the UC officially switched from a system of fees to an explicitly tuition-centric model. Moreover, since 2007, the UC has promoted the admission out-of-state and foreign students as a way of raising revenues. Incentives were built into the admission process to admit fewer California students.

California has stopped building new colleges and universities; new buildings are built in great part from student funds. Programs such as the UNAM/CSUN accord are vested in student funds. According to many critics the process is irreversible.

From 2005 to 2010, over 75 percent of newly accredited colleges and universities were for-profits funded in global capital markets. For-profits now make up over 25 percent of all post-secondary institutions in the United States. Without saying so, they are more expensive than the former public universities. The outcome is that students leave college with higher student debts.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education is projected to make $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their families. These loans are packaged and sold to financial institutions and hedge funds. The truth be told, grants to low income students subsidize the growing for profit and so-called non-profit universities.

In a 2010 exposé Peter Byrne reported that the UC’s $53 billion portfolio invested in two for-profits institutions completing Ronald Reagan vision of destroying “the creeping communism of master-planned and state-funded public education.”

In 2011, California public colleges and universities received 13 percent less in state funding; this was not by accident. By this this time “nearly half of all graduates of public and private four-year schools in California were saddled with an average debt load of $18,000”; the national average was $26,682.

It is also not an accident that funding for community colleges remained static although demand had increased. Reduced class offerings, fewer sections of the classes, and the laying off of faculty and staff forced many students into for profit schools. These overbooked classes took the two year colleges to the breaking point.

One proposed solution was to charge students an added fee to get priority registration for impacted classes. In 2010, because of a student uproar, a contract was cancelled with the for-profit Kaplan University to offer discounted online classes to community college students for community college credit.

Globally, education is important. When asked what was the key challenge facing Latin America over the next decade, the top answer among students was education. Students saw it as the key to jobs. However, increasingly through the intervention of American institutions such as the International Monetary Fund its leaders are adopting the American neo-liberal model, and for-profit colleges are flourishing in Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

Reading this material only makes the silence of the lambs more deafening.

The Daily Caller published an article titled “Why are the Clintons hawking a seedy, Soros-backed for-profit college corporation?” George Soros supposedly one of the good billionaires hired Bill Clinton as a pitchman for Laureate Education Inc., a for-profit higher education powerhouse. Laureate owns 75 schools in 30 countries. And it boasts of 800,000 students worldwide. Also promoting this venture is Henry Cisneros and other Clinton stalwarts.

How different are we today from the Gilded Age when railroad lobbyists would go on the floor of Congress and pass out railroad stock before a vote on railroad subsidies? This is not the Land of Oz, and if we are being had, we should at least be aware of it, and not adopt failed neo-liberal policies. What is happening to American public education should serve as a warning to Mexico and the rest of the world that “Made in America” does not mean quality.

I was just talking to one of my grandsons who boasted that he had just bought an annual pass to Disneyland for $359. According to him, it was a deal. I shrugged my shoulders, but really how different is this than believing in Horatio Alger and the American Dream?

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña – The Illusion That Education is a Stairway to Whiteness

Waiting for the Next Sputnik Moment

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

From the beginning, there has been the illusion that America was exceptional; it was not like Europe — America was the land of opportunity. Generally, the right to read was limited to the exceptional that were taught to read by their parents or a minister or later in private schools.

Access to education was limited to a chosen few who deserved the right to read the bible. Africans, Indians and poor women were considered unfit to study it.

It was not until the 1840s that an organized system came about through the leadership of education reformers such as Horace Mann and Henry Barnard, who operated in Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively. They helped create statewide common-school systems accessible to everyone and financed by public funds. These reformers believed that all children had the right to learn. They argued that education would improve society and prevent crime and poverty.

These progressives met resistance. The landowners and many of the elite and the wannabes did not want to pay for educating other people’s children especially if undeserving.

The flame of universal accessibility flickered until it was almost suffocated by the arrival of waves of new immigrants. Industrialists did not want thinkers but human robots. Moreover, child labor was an important pool of labor.

Nevertheless, reformers took up the cause of compulsory school attendance for the children of the new immigrants. The concept of compulsory education dates back to Plato in western civilization, and it was common to most early civilizations including Mesoamerica.

The motives varied, ranging from humanitarian and communitarian, to those who wanted to evangelize and Americanize the new immigrants who they correctly surmised were not going away.

The battle for compulsory school attendance lasted into the 1920s; however, urban and rural employers avoided compliance. Child labor was an important source of cheap labor, and it cost too much to educate children with lower intelligence.

Even so, the myth that everyone in the United States had an equal opportunity persisted – it was part of the myth of American exceptionalism.

By the 1920s, African Americans lived in an apartheid society, and the immigrants contained in ethnic ghettoes. During the decade, Congress passed strict immigration laws based on a policy of National origins that gave preference to Northern Europeans and drastically limited immigration from eastern and southern Europe. Through this form of genetic engineering over time Nordic and Germanic types would overwhelm the swarthy newcomers. The Mexican was considered a temporary nuisance while Puerto Ricans were citizens and thus endured.

During the 1930s, organized labor fought back and gained concessions. However, for the most part minorities were cheated. More opportunities opened for them during World War II, but at a price; many Mexican Americans and the poor paid with their lives. Mexicans numbered about a million and a half, and some say that close to a third served in the armed forces.

The war also brought the realization that Americans were under educated, and that if America was to remain a world power, it had to have a better educated work force. The median years of school completed for Americans, 25 years old and over, had only risen from 8.1 to 8.6 years from 1910 to 1940. By the forties, a bare 24 percent of Americans had completed high school. Because of federal aid to education, by 1970 53 percent had a high school diploma (by 2012, 86 percent).

What brought about this transformation was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights. It was controversial and many legislators objected that paying veterans to go to school lessened their incentive to look for work while others believed that only for the privileged deserved a higher education.

The GI Bill proved a boon to education, and in the end it subsidized corporate America, supplying an educated workforce. By 1947, veterans were 49 percent of college admissions, and when the WW II GI Bill ended on July 25, 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had attended school or training program.

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, “More than half of the young adults of the 1940s and 1950s completed high school, and the median educational attainment of 25- to 29-years-olds rose to 12 years.” Then as now a high school diploma was the gateway to a higher education.

There is no denying that the GI Bill helped some Mexican Americans; however, the overwhelming number in 1960 did not meet college entrance requirements. In the Southwest where Mexican Americans were concentrated, the median years completed by whites was 11.2 in 1950, ten years later it was 12.1 years. For Mexican Americans, it was 5.4 in 1950 and 7.1 in 1960. In Texas the median for Mexican Americans was 3.5 and 4.8 years.

It must be noted that success in college depends on the family pocketbook, and the quality of K-12 schools. As a general rule Mexican American schools were markedly inferior to white schools. Moreover, the quality of the high school determined admittance to Tier 1 universities.

The next boon to higher education was the so-called Sputnik crisis of 1957. Educators had already been mobilized in 1955 by Russian detonation of the hydrogen bomb that shook feelings of American exceptionalism. In 1958 a reform minded Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, which increased funding for education at all levels. This included low-interest student loans to college students. It focused on scientific and technical education. The NDEA poured billions into the U.S. education system.

California got into the act and passed The California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960, which was supposed to reform California public higher education, coordinating the University of California (UC), the California State College (CSC), and the California Community Colleges system (CCC). It was supposed to make higher education “available to all regardless of their economic means.”

To set the record straight educational reform for Mexican Americans did not take place in earnest until they took to the streets. In California and Texas as elsewhere the Sputnik moment came with school walkouts and campus turmoil of the late 1960. However, as in the case of the GI Bill and federal aid to education, the boom years of reform were over, and there were dark clouds in the horizon.

The ruling elite by the 1960s as in the case of the 1920s came back with renewed vigor.

Americans were getting older, more conservative electing mouthpieces such as California Governor Ronald Reagan, who launched a campaign to dismantle educational reform, privatizing the cost of higher education, increasing tuition, and lowering taxes for the elite. The public good was replaced with the corporate good.

By the 1980s, the stairway to the American middle-class heaven was dismantled, and the illusion of equality was dead for all but the dreamers.

Coasting light on this is a recent article in Mother Jones Magazine. From 2000-2012, Public spending on public education has dropped 30 percent even as enrollment at public colleges increased 34 percent. “[The] Consumer Price Index increased 33 percent; the median household income (adjusted for inflation) dropped 9 percent; the average four-year college tuition increased 44 percent…; [and] public college tuition increased 71 percent.”*

My reading of history tells me that American exceptionalism does not respond to reason; it does not respond to facts or appeals to the common good. So I am resigned to wait for the next Sputnik or for an implosion.

*Not a direct but configured quote.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

Texas Senate Passes Their Budget

With only two Democrats voting against the Texas Senate’s budget, the budget conversation continues, with the Texas House deciding on their budget in the near future. A conference committee will even out things between both budgets after all is said is done.

There’s been mixed reaction on the Dem side of things. Earlier in the day, I read a teacher’s union letter asking folks to call their respective senators to tell them to vote no. Although there is a slight increase in the budget for K-12 and higher education, it doesn’t come close to replacing what was cut two years ago. And, apparently, Annie’s List supports the Senators who voted no, Fort Worth’s Wendy Davis and Houston’s Sylvia R. Garcia.

Among other things, the proposed budget:

  • Under-funds public education by $3.9 billion

  • Funds public education at the lowest levels per student in two legislative sessions

  • Fails to include $310 million that would guarantee $7.7 billion in federal funds for Medicaid

  • Leaves money sitting untouched in Rick Perry’s pet project, the Rainy Day Fund

Other Democrats have released statements to back up their support of the SB 1, including one of my favorites, El Paso’s Jose Rodriguez:

Senate Bill 1 is an improvement from the last budget cycle. It contains items that are important for Senate District 29, such as tuition revenue bonds for UTEP and Texas Tech, as well as items that positively impact the state as a whole. This budget increases Medicaid reimbursement rates to pre-2011 levels, and overall spending on mental health services and graduate medical education. These funding increases will help increase access to care in a state with highest uninsured rate in the nation.

Nonetheless, this budget neither fully restores the cuts from 2011 nor adequately funds for population growth and inflation. For example, El Paso schools will only gain about a quarter back from what they lost in 2011. It also doesn’t expand Medicaid, which is fiscally irresponsible.

The good news is that we are still in the beginning stages of the budget process, and there will be several opportunities to fund these priorities as the session continues. I will continue to work to advance the ball on education and to find a solution to the Medicaid expansion stalemate.

Rodriguez pointed to alternative ways to fill those other voids, as did State Senator Leticia Van de Putte.

Senate Bill 1 is not a perfect budget, but I voted in favor of it because it at least moves our state in the right direction. As the legislative session progresses, I will be looking for other opportunities to restore funding that was cut in the previous session.

So, there you have it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m caught in between both sides of the “moving forward” and “just plain no” sides of this as I like that higher education has gotten a lot more than I would have expected after losing a billion dollars two years ago.

Let’s see where the less cooperative Texas House lands on this.

UPDATE:  ProgressTexas joins in on supporting 2 Senators who voted NO on budget.

Thankfully, two of our strongest Senators listened to your calls, stood up for what is right, and demanded we fight for the best possible future for Texas.

Help us thank Senators Wendy Davis and Sylvia Garcia for voting against this draft of the budget and showing they believe we should invest in the future of our state. We hope you will show your support for Senators Davis and Garcia today by calling them in their office or going to social media to show your support:

Wendy Davis – call her office to say thanks at (512) 463-0110

Sylvia Garcia – call her office to say thanks at (512) 463-0106

Kuff has a whole bunch more, including Senator Wendy Davis’ statement.