Cruel Society

I take the bus to work every day. Since I transfer downtown I am accustomed to seeing people sleeping on the sidewalks. At 7AM this morning, I saw for the first time in my life, two young males sitting on the sidewalk with their sleeping bags wrapped around them, shooting up. As I approached they just looked like run of the mill homeless people. But when I walked right in front of them I could see that one of them had the needle still sticking out of his arm. The other one was rocking back and forth, tears streaming down his face, eyes rolled up inside his head. It reminded me of the utter cruelty of our society.

This realization, year after year, is what drew me into public education. Education seems to be the best way to work for a better world, which is where my heartfelt commitment lies. But in our society educators encounter relentless opposition to doing the work necessary to making progress. The root of this opposition in not philosophical, it is economic. Enough resources are never adequately allocated. Policy makers are full of idealistic rhetoric but consistently fail to come up with the cash.

If we as a society turn a blind eye towards the cruelty of leaving junkies in the street, how are we ever going to face the harmful effects of a resource starved public education system whose main function in society is to sort and rank our population? As long as the education system performs this function which solidifies the social hierarchy, it will be funded, but only up to the point of mere life support. With the development of policy under Betsy DeVos, even life support could be pulled.

The blind eye turned toward the problems that can be addressed through education is far removed from the general gaze. It is not in your face like what I saw this morning. I had a very clear snapshot of human suffering that is not being addressed. But the suffering we face in the schools exists in the dimension of time. One snapshot rarely tells the whole story the way a needle dangling from the arm of a young male couched on Third and Lenora does. To see the inherent cruelty of public education policy, you have to be in the clutches of it, all day, every day.

The same cruel society that allows the junkies of this generation to flounder, allows schools to fail the next generation. It is the cruel society that cherishes money over humanity, that encourages corporate greed over mutual aid, that allows a few to have too much and too many to have so little. It is a cruel society that only shares enough for most to just get by and ignores the pains and sorrows of those who cannot get by at all and need help.


It really doesn’t have to be this way. The greed that is the ultimate driver of this suffering is a sickness. It is a risk to public health. But it can be managed. All of it can be managed, the greed and suffering can be managed if we, all the individuals in society, make the moral choice to do so.


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I'm a school librarian in Seattle who wants to take the corporate created standardized test away and give students books instead. Nothing would be better than to bring real progressive education to public school.

3 thoughts on “Cruel Society”

  1. Indeed. All of this. And addiction (management) is part of the social impact investment scheme, too. Austerity, outsourcing, a data-driven “fix” that doesn’t actually help people, but moves numbers around so investors can take a “profit.” Along with housing and incarceration and mental health treatment the impact investors are after all of it-with education. They aim to get us on the blockchain. Bloomberg Philanthropies is piloting it with homeless populations in Austin, TX. It’s only a matter of time:


  2. Please. A junkie shooting up herione is not an apt metaphor for our public schools. This is insulting to teachers and staff who have made education their life’s work. I’d expect such analogies from Fox News and right wing think tanks.


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