I am sick and tired of hearing people without children whining about paying taxes for public education.
I'm 49, single and childless. I believe supporting public schools is in my best interests. I believe turning our backs on the public schools is tantamount to creating an ever more slippery hill for our society to slide further down.
We collectively are dependent on the next generation to run the world once our prime is past. Moreover, we personally will depend on it to provide for us in our old age: to grow the food we'll eat, and to transport, house and doctor us.
Do you want poorly educated people caring for you? Don't worry Ñ chances are, they won't: People who in childhood are treated as expendable likely will treat oldsters as expendable in return. Who can blame them?
Those who take on the burdens and obligations of parenthood get remarkably little support in U.S. society, all the ballyhoo about 'family values' notwithstanding. Parents should get much more support than a lousy tax break and lousy public schools. We need to re-create a society that really understands the sacred web of life, that truly honors and cares for those who went before us and those who come after us.
The me-centered life that proclaims that my immediate, personal interests are what define my role in society echoes the lack of heart, failure of moral vision and illusion of independence that brought down Enron Corp. and took us into the Gulf wars.
Americans suffer a pervasive delusion of 'independence.' Our lives are mediated not only by television, telephones and the Internet, but by private vehicles and vast networks of corporate trade. We are deluded that so long as we have enough money to pay for things, all will be well.
The lives of people in tribal and agrarian societies are not mediated, and they do not suffer our delusion of 'independence.' They know very well that they are entirely dependent on one another and the Earth to live. They know not only that it takes a whole village to raise a child, but that it takes every precious child, well-raised, to sustain a village.
Public schools are an institution that predates the American Revolution and have expanded over the generations, with the sound reasoning that only equal access to high-quality education can ensure a democracy. Only people who have the tools to critically understand our world can run a country, and in a democracy, that is what We, the People, are supposed to do.
It is heartbreaking to see how escalating corporate values of immediate profit and gain over long-term balance and stability have infected our national spirit, even to the point of failing public schools. While corporate chief executive officers make 'bottom-line' decisions that reap unprecedented profits from manipulating the energy markets, abandoning the poor to death in New Orleans and bombing civilians in the Middle East, we follow suit when we vote against the funding needed to educate our precious next generation.
Portland has shown an independent spirit in supporting such things as local agriculture, environment-friendly urban planning, protection of forests and withdrawal from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Many people across the nation look to us for innovative solutions to national problems. Let's show the way not only to save our public schools, but to make them a model of thriving, relevant learning.
A 1 percent income tax is one immediate solution, but if Portlanders want to recover the federal tax dollars lost under the current administration, here's another idea: How about war tax resistance?
During the Vietnam War, many withheld their federal tax payments and instead paid the funds to local governments for local use. If those in our school district who oppose the current war diverted their federal tax dollars to our local school system, we would have exquisite schools that would put private schools in second place.
Lenore Norrgard is founder of Circle of the Living Earth, www.circlelivingearth.org, a shamanic congregation in Northeast Portland. She received a 2005 Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship for her screenplay 'Ubuntu.'