Meaning that Remains

In the last several days, I have flooded my Facebook page with over 25 pictures and blogs, all protesting Fast Track for the TransPacific Partnership, a trade agreement sure to further deplete American jobs, compromise our sovereignty, make vulnerable our food and water supply, and allow giant corporations manipulative powers over Internet content. No doubt, those 79 “friends” of mine are more than a little frustrated by constant disruptions to their feed. Perhaps some even roll their eyes in a there-she-goes-again frustration and pause, holding index fingers over the “unfriend” option. So why DO I care so much?

My work is in education (Yes, I know… I said I was getting out 5, 7, and 10 posts ago, but I just can’t seem to keep my feet out of that water). And just yesterday, in a staff meeting during which we discussed issues of equity in education, one of our members said something about focusing our students on the possibilities… the possibilities of college, even Ivy League college, gosh darn-it. And let’s bring in some voices to speak for those possibilities.

Great idea. But what does it mean if we can’t speak to the possibilities after college? It is a question that has implications not only for the students in my school—the students in every school—but my own two sons, as well.

Here’s what I know about college: I know the average college debt is now about $35,000. I know that corporate thieves are storing their propaganda in universities, donating money so long as business and economics departments preach their false doctrines of “trickle down,” free market and the likes. I know that during my elder son’s senior year in high school, he worked aside young college graduates whom he considered smart, caring people… at Starbucks, a company that was ranked #10 on a list of corporations offering low pay and rotten benefits (I’m sure it’s no surprise that Walmart was #1).

And here’s what else I know…

I know that nearly 700,000 jobs were lost to NAFTA; I know that in the first year of implementation, nearly 40,000 jobs have been lost to KOR-US FTA (Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement) and that the trade deficit between the two countries has increased by $5.8 billion. I know that income inequality in this country is at its highest in 100 years and is greater, by far, than any other developed country in the world (see charts here). I know that corporations are writing laws and treaties with their billions, in an all-out effort to both increase the numbers of working class people (decreasing jobs at the middle class level) and to so demoralize them as to make them take any job, at any pay, and at any cost to their well being. If you watch no other video today, please watch this one by my favorite economist, Robert Reich. It’s quick, I promise.


This last week, I received two notifications from teachers of my younger son whom I affectionately refer to as C2 on this blog. The first was from one of his band directors (he’s got three at the moment). She said that he has an “A” and he’s very kind, helping other band members, but he’s also very disruptive. Could we please do something about it? The other was from his lit teacher: she’s quite certain he is incredibly bright but currently underachieving.  I’m quite certain she’s right. A third notification came in the form of a text from my ex-husband: Jan, I haven’t heard a damn thing from you. Don’t you care that C2 is failing English?!

Actually, I’m pretty sure I care more about what’s happening in band… and that his new girlfriend writes poetry that inspires him; maybe she’ll teach him a thing or two. In the world we are creating for our kids—a world that belongs to trade treaties and their profiteers that exploit and disadvantage most of the world’s population—I can’t help but wonder if those who manage to live a life of meaning won’t be the ones who know music, and poetry, and art in all its forms. I could argue that C2’s literature class falls into that category, but as I see what politicians are making of core subjects like English, reducing texts to the most archaic and least engaging for no other reason than that their meanings are difficult to access (in the name of yet more corporate profit), I’m not so sure anymore.  For that matter, what will college and all its debt mean if there is nothing on the other side but a savage climb over humanity to the few remaining jobs that pay?

I did the parental “right” thing, of course… I reduced time with friends and increased time with books (electronics previously removed). But my truest self had this to say… Honey, get a mindless day-job and save your soul for people and art. Play your drums with all the passion and poetry you can muster… and be kind. Therein is the meaning that remains.


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