“How can we justify the existence of rural communities?”
A student from a suburb near Dallas raised this concern about people he had never met. The rest of the class, headed by two high ranking academics in the university, continued the sentiment in gleefully discussing the destruction of the livelihoods of my family and the people I grew up with.
I had long suspected, but until that moment had never confirmed, that the problems of my community could not be solved by self-described intellectuals in a boardroom hundreds of miles away. I was disappointed to realize that they had no intention of solving them, and instead held us in open contempt.
Growing up I had always heard that our society was supposed to be founded on a single ideal: democracy. At its core, democracy is the simple idea that if you are affected by a decision, you get a say in that decision. In my hometown and the surrounding area, three major employers have left in the last decade. Those decisions were made thousands of miles away by people who never stepped foot in my town, but they affected tens of thousands of people in the surrounding communities. None of us had a say in whether or not our friends and family members lost their jobs.
When I think about how I have seen my community crumble, I don’t wonder if we can justify the existence of my home; I ask myself how we can continue to allow our community to be controlled by those who stand to gain from its destruction.
The Democratic Party is finished in Oklahoma. After arguably the worst 2 years of governance in Oklahoma history, the Republican Party maintained its complete control of the state government. How did this happen?
The Democratic Party lost because over half of eligible Oklahoman voters did not vote in the general election, and the vast majority of them are working people. Why didn’t they vote? Continue reading
The Oklahoman Editorial Board recently published an opinion piece called “Comments by Oklahoma Bar Association president are reason for concern.” The Editorial Board is concerned that the Oklahoma Bar Association has too much influence and is “too ideologically left-wing” to have that influence. Or rather, “critics” are concerned about this. Who these critics are remains a mystery.
The influence the Bar has is the ability to select 6 of the 15 members of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which is the group that presents candidates for nomination to state appellate courts to the governor. The other 9 members come from a few sources: 6 of them are appointed directly by the governor, 1 is appointed by the Speaker of the House, 1 is appointed by the Senate pro tem, and 1 is voted in by the other members of the commission. This means that, as it stands now, the commission is completely controlled by the Oklahoma Republican Party, as the simple majority required for all commission decisions is guaranteed to stand for the foreseeable future.
Let’s imagine for a moment that the Bar appointees actually matter. What is it that the Oklahoman is so afraid of? Continue reading
In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread. –Anatole France
As neoliberalism takes hold in both parties of the Oklahoma Legislature, privatization of schools seems to be inevitable. The common rhetoric is that public schools waste money and are failing to teach their students; but is this true? And what is the impact of privatization across socioeconomic lines?
Are public schools failing?
At the State Board of Education meeting in July 2014, Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi recognized Oklahoma’s two United States Presidential Scholars. “It is my pleasure to recognize these young men and women as being among the most distinguished high school graduates in the nation,” she said. “I know our state will be stronger because of their contribution.” However, just moments before praising the two youths, Barresi lashed out against two State Board members who changed their positions on policy, stating sharply, “No student of a public school reached their full potential in the last year,” while one of those underachieving public school students was standing next to her with a Presidential medal. Continue reading