Friday, January 30, 2009

Sustain our future, Evergreen

A friend of mine is taking a course on propaganda at The Evergreen State College, Tacoma campus. Students created propaganda posters for whatever cause or idea they wanted to for one of the projects. The posters are displayed in the hallway outside the classroom for other students and faculty to see.

I recently went to the Evergreen Tacoma campus for a community group meeting, Food Not Bombs. Afterward I perused the different posters students designed and drafted. Some of them are ironic, some are artsy, all of them are creative. I think the creativity which Evergreen campuses inspire students to develop is one of the school's greatest successes. One of the posters, a very simply one, I wanted to blog on here because it made me laugh.

Look at the kid picking his nose!

The Evergreen State College, however, is in a perilous situation since Washington State began a massive budget cut that dipped severely into education funds. Evergreen, a public institution, will loose $3.5 billion in public school funding. Tacoma public schools are supposed to be hit harder than other cities in the state. Higher education will experience large budget cuts too. The administration at Evergreen has decided how it will spend its new budget, and the planners decided to eliminate the following programs, according to a budget leak which was emailed and sent to Evergreen students.

Among the programs are: the entire Evergreen Tacoma campus (which is a valuable resource to the mainly poor, inner-city African American community in Tacoma), the Olympia Labor Center (which is a center for unionization and labor justice in Olympia), some or all of the Reservation-Based Programs (which work with the indigenous populations), the NW Indian Research Center, The Longhouse (another native tribe project), and the Center for Community-Based Learning and Action. There is a larger list floating around.

There is no doubt in my mind that this school has been an incredible and valuable resource for justice movements and community-building, capacity-building, not to mention a school that provides resources and space for labor, native tribes and poor communities. Having visited the school plenty of times and attended functions, I say Evergreen is more broadly a place where students set their minds free, vigorously pursue their passions and interests, and take courses that always spark my interest. And if you want to pick your nose, it's okay because social norms were meant to be deconstructed. To see these resources disappear would hurt the communities already most effected by financial imbalances.

Evergreen aims the brunt of its budget cut at the poor and excluded. This would make matters worse. These groups obviously rank very low in the TESC administration's priorities, which does not come as a surprise. The staff have increasingly adopted a more "business model" approach to education matters in recent years. Instead of hiring educators with degrees in political science or education, Evergreen increasingly hires MBA graduates to take care of business things.

The Evergreen State College should take the advice of the propaganda poster, stop cutting community programs which are viewed as unnecessary accessories, and embrace real change: "Sustain your future - Invest in a child". Build up the communities which will be crushed by the wobbly situation, instead of sweeping the rug out from under them.

1 comment:

Muser said...

Thanks for this one. The ESC in Tacoma has been a great force...Okay, so I'd better contract for your video-making services to make the short Elvis and Emily video and get it on YouTube. Name your price. I'm think a 90 second video.