Friday, March 5, 2010

Thanks Bobby

I was recently privileged to attend an economic summit hosted by the National Council of State Education Associations. Education advocates are becoming more educated in economics and more active in economic justice issues. The reasons are twofold. First, we find it difficult to educate children who come to school hungry, sick, having slept in a car, with a toothache, etc. Second, education and educators are starved for funds. As long as we have a concentration of wealth at the top 1% of society and as long as those folks and the corporations which they control do not pay their fair share of taxes, education will never be adequately funded.

This conference reminded me that we do not measure the right things in evaluating a nation's wealth. For example, did you know that technically this terrible recession ended last summer? As long as certain economic indicators begin to rise again like GNP and the stock market, the recession is considered finished in spite of months or years of pain ahead for common people.

Take a moment to read the words of the late Robert Kennedy who in 1968 challenged the "value" of our economy. This speech could be used as a meditation on the troubles of today.

For too long we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product now is over 800 billion dollars a year, but that gross national product, if we judge the United States of America by that, that gross national product counts air pollution, and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic squall. It counts Napalm, and it counts nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our city. It counts Whitman's rifles and Speck's Knifes and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet, the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play; it does not include the beauty of our poetry of the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate for the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country it measures everything in short except that which makes life worth while. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

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