Education, Politics

Coming Soon to a “Failing” School Near You: The EAA!

Thanks, Michissippi State Senate! You approved the statewide expansion of the clusterfk that is the Educational Achievement Authority. Soon to be outgoing State Superintendent Mike “Pontius Pilate” Flanagan had this to say about the EAA:

Flanagan released a statement Wednesday morning defending his actions, saying he has “a moral obligation to do so for the sake of the children suffering in a handful of schools where they are not learning.”

“Shame on anyone who insists on maintaining the status quo, to keep kids in this handful of failing schools where I wouldn’t dare send my grandkids,” Flanagan said in a statement.

Moral obligation, my ass. Mike, you wouldn’t dare send your grandkids to those failing schools because they’re located in Detroit. Also, the “status quo” that’s been maintained in Michissippi involves the wholesale transfer of public money to for-profit charter companies that provide craptastic educations to their students. The EAA has fared even worse:

In October, the EAA reported having 7,589 students enrolled in its 15 schools — 2,369 fewer than last fall, when it had 9,958 students across 12 direct-run schools and three charter schools. That’s a drop of 23.6 percent.

The startup district struggled with cash-flow during its first year, relying on short-term loans  and donations from private foundations (ed. note: millions from the Broad Foundation) to cover its costs. Putting the EAA on par with other schools under state law would stabilize the district’s finances, Esselman said.

The EAA plans to cover its costs by borrowing from MIPSERS, the state pension fund for teachers. Peter, pay Paul.

Life, Politics, Pop Culture

Mandela, Music, and the Education of a College Radio DJ

To begin, my knowledge of South Africa, apartheid, or Nelson Mandela was never formed by Toto. (Really, CBS?)

In 1980, I bought Peter Gabriel’s third album (the “Melt” cover) for the low, low price of $3.99 at Believe in Music. “Games Without Frontiers” caught my ear on WLAV, and I memorized the rest of the album lyrics after repeated plays on my portable stereo system. The final track, “Biko”, with its stark chords and African choral background piqued my interest. Who was this Biko?

Fast forward five years to my senior year at Eastern Kentucky University, home of the Colonels and fledgling campus radio station, WDMC. A 12″ mix of something called “Sun City” reached my music director desk. Great, another all-star fund raiser, I thought. We’d already worn out the grooves of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and USA for Africa’s “We Are the World”. Good songs, good causes, helped thousands of people.

But “Sun City” was different. What began as a research project by Little Steven Van Zandt became an unforgettable seven minutes of jazz, rock, rap, and pop. “Sun City” raised awareness not only of apartheid, but of the Reagan Administration’s role to stop economic sanctions against South Africa.

This song changed my way of thinking about the political power of music. As Little Steven mentioned in an interview with NPR’s Here and Now, “Not only does art transcend politics, art is politics.”

Today, as we remember the life of Madiba, and celebrate Human Rights Day, it’s important to remember these songs of social protest.

Where are the voices of protest today?