As I go about the city of New York, a place that has offered me wonders and opened my eyes as I grew up, I am shocked by the way our city is managed. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but it seems to me that nowhere else are class differences so obvious, and nowhere is the divide more trying for those of us who work for a living.
Let’s take the basis of the American way, the pursuit of happiness. As an immigrant myself, I grew up with the notion that hard work and a willingness to give up some things would gain me good jobs, good benefits, and a decent American living. Well, I’m here to say that dream of social mobility is not true. People in this city hire on a purely subjective basis; black guys get hired for their color, Asians get hired for their wallflower powers, and young people are hired for how innocent and gullible they are. Let’s not even get into the feminism here.
But wait, you say! There are plenty of opportunities! Just go to any college or job placement center and you can find work! Sure, to be a garbage man or bus driver. Even if you have the education, work is not guaranteed. Volunteering or interning as a basis for job qualification is a wedge that further divides social classes. If you can’t even afford a decent apartment or support your family, where will you find time to volunteer? How can you show a potential employer that you deserve a better salary if you have to work for free? But let’s not get caught up in the social inequality here. What’s important is, as biased as employers are, and as unfair as the process is, they’re hiring from a pool of determined, educated, bright young stars.
That basic requirement, the basis of our democracy, education, is not always available. Sure, you can get free education, but it’s an education that doesn’t stack up. This year is the first year students in New York State will not be able to take language regents. By cutting this precious standard that puts us on speaking terms with the rest of the world, New York will be saving $700,000 dollars. Let me put that in perspective for you: that’s what Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, made in one single Thursday night’s midnight screenings.
My girlfriend used to work for a school in the city that is touted as one of the rare wheelchair-accessible high schools in the city, known for having a great special education department. When a freight elevator counts as wheelchair accessible, co-teaching courses swell with an illegal 60% of special ed students, and no self-contained courses are available, I have to question exactly what counts as “great” in NYC. Not only that, the school is short on paraprofessionals because they are being taken from their students and put into administrative duties.
General education fares not much better. Even when I was a high school student in NYC, I realized that as long as I wasn’t failing, nobody gave a damn. All I remember are people concerned with passing the standardized tests; well now there aren’t so many, are there? What exactly are we expecting from kids who don’t have accessibility to some of the neccessary skills we use in the work force every day?
President Obama says: “I’m running to make sure that every American has the chance to get the skills and training that today’s jobs require.” From where I’m standing, you’re failing, Mr. President. The least you can do is get Bloomberg away from our students.