Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ethos, Pathos, Logos, Crisis

Some of you may remember that I have a penchant for reading the blog of Isis the Scientist, mainly for her fabulous shoes, although snark and science are always appreciated as well.

It turns out that Isis and other scientists at the Seed Science blog are doing a fundraising contest with DonorsChoose, a nonprofit that helps teachers raise small amounts of money for their classrooms. So I clicked over to find out what the site was all about, and to see if her readers were actually donating. And I got lost over in that site for hours, clicking on project after project and getting more and more pissed.

It's partly because I am a softhearted sucker who can never refuse a plea for doing good, whether it be in money or time (seriously: I lost a lot of time-to-degree progress doing work with my union (UAW 2865), volunteering, turning out my department, organizing, running for office within it --- why is it that "if you don't do it, who will?" totally works on me, and yet so many other people are immune to that call?)

But my anger is directed at the fuckers who consistently defund and devalue k-12 public education, whether through No Child Left Behind or the nitwits who implemented massively unfair district funding levels based on local property taxes (fuckin' Prop 13), to say nothing of the asshole California legislators who think cutting back on education budgets that were never restored from their last slashing is a good idea. And add to that the perfect shitstorm that is California's budget crisis, which has involved such priceless moves as withholding Obama's education stumulus money to patch holes in the general budget, holding local cities' taxes hostage rather than letting them pay their own salaries, cops, infrastructure, etc., and bumping up the sizes of classes again, and you will see why I am almost pissed enough to run for office myself.

I mean, seriously ---- if you go look at the California teacher requests, you'll find people asking for paper because they no longer have anything in the school's copy budget. Or the elementary school which rations out only two pages a day of wide-rule paper to each child, so the teacher is looking to supplement. Or the teacher who doesn't have enough mutherfucking chairs in his/her classroom, for chrissake.

This is ridiculous. And shameful. I'm glad that this site exists --- it allows teachers who work in high-poverty districts to find wealthy and resource-rich parents, for one thing, who ordinarily would be giving time and money to districts that aren't nearly as strapped --- but This. Shit. Should. Be. Funded. This is not negotiable. It should be funded through our taxes just as a basic cost of doing business, like the idea of not having police or a fire station is unthinkable.

So I thought: hey, what if I gave some money to one of these projects, which one would I choose? And it wasn't long before I had the audacious thought: what if I set up a DonorsChoose page through my blog? Could I get people to contribute, even though I have way fewer readers than any of the Sciencebloggers?

And now we're back to my title. For compiling all these projects and funding needs from so many locations, all in one easy-access place, makes it into the ebay of fiscal need, or the wal-mart of underfunding (ooh wait, that's redundant, hah) or something. It becomes a space where all of these funding projects compete with each other for you, the "consumer," for your attention and money. And I was just clicking for hours, fascinated by all the strategies of persuasion, all the different ways these teachers try to move you with pictures and emotional appeals and explanations of returns on investment. I would love to teach this site in a comp class. I'm sure that people would be angry with that and see the act itself as a form of pressure on the students though.

And what would you choose, what sort of strategies are "savviest" for the consumer to employ with his or her charity dollar? Do you go for the poorest districts, or for a medium poverty district, knowing that those might attract fewer donations? Do you fund someone's technology request, since the teacher probably will never buy a digital camera or document projector out of his or her own money, or do you fund paper and school supplies because they are more cost-effective and are basic needs? Fund a book, or a segment of a bookcase?

I was especially interested in the number of teachers across the country who want a new carpet, either a section rug for a reading corner or just to pull up the whole mess and have new carpet put in. But that's something that is always lowest priority on the district's list (to replace or even to clean, believe me), is probably thirty years old, and is too expensive for a teacher to just dip into the wallet and get. (My sister in law teaches 2nd grade and let me tell you, she spends money in office stores and teacher supply stores the way you and I do in bookstores, or a kid in a candy store. Teachers always blow large amounts of their salary on classroom supplies and love to do it. I'm not sure you could get a teacher to not spend anything on books and shiny things for a year and purchase a carpet instead.)

I didn't pick any carpets. But I did make a giving page and stocked it with some reading/writing/literacy/literature projects, as this is a blog all about cats who read poststructuralist theory. Can I get you to cough up some dough? A twenty? A five? Want to fund a grammar project or thesaurus or paper or buy someone a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X because the school is making them share copies and not let them take books home? Or a chair? (Yes, I picked the chairs. I'm still pissed about the chairs.) Really, if you give up a couple beers or a week of coffee you'll be able to pitch in, no problem. The sciences are great, but microscopes and frog dissections aren't the only school activities that deserve to be funded.

Or perhaps you are not a resident of the late great state of California, or don't feel any obligation to help out its poor benighted residents who can't even pass a budget. That's fine, you YIMBY. Go back onto that site then and find your own city, county, state! I bet there's even a real-life school close to you that really needs your time and help. Go to it, people!


Bavardess said...

Damned right you're pissed off! What sane person wouldn't be? I don't live in the US, but we have similar funding issues here (though not quite as dire as the state of CA, it seems).

What really pisses me off is politicians harping on about how we need to be smarter and more competitive in the world (here, they're always banging on about transitioning from an agricultural to a 'knowledge' economy), but they're not prepared to invest in the very basics to get us there.

Oh, and for my own part, I support a local charity that provides shoes, raincoats and breakfast to primary school kids (yes, they lack even those basics). Generally speaking, I tend to support direct localised activities, where less time/money is sucked up by administration, marketing etc.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even know about these giving pages. How wonderful! Am off to look around.

(Btw, our school makes us buy school supplies ourselves. Which is a bad idea because they *could* be getting discounts if we gave them, say $20 each, and they bought things in bulk. Then they could save the rest of the money we give them to get other stuff. But apparently, that hasn't occurred to them.)

Belle said...

Good for you! I too am off to peruse. In your job search (yes, I keep asking this question) are you open to leaving the great state of Arnold?

Sisyphus said...

Bavardess, what are these "raincoats" of which you speak? I am sure none of my local kids have one! ;)

Belle, of course! I think there is only one job opening here I am able to apply to, and it's at a private school. I don't have much hope that I'm competitive for it. :(