Progressive Calendar 07.31.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 2009 01:10:03 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   07.31.09

1. Rosemary wins!     7.31 6pm

2. Peace walk         8.01 9am Cambridge MN
3. Workplace justice  8.01 10am
4. What is socialism? 8.01 10:30am
5. Northtown vigil    8.01 2pm
6. Packing inferno    8.01 3pm
7. Mayday/meal/movie  8.01 7pm

8. Bicking/doorknock  8.02 12noon
9. Stillwater vigil   8.02 1pm
10. Cop repression/f  8.02 8pm

11. Dennis Rahkonen  - Don't let conservatives diss Canada's health care
12. Carl Ginsberg    - Two nations/classes: our crisis, their gain
13. Anthont DiMaggio - Health care, the media and public opinion
14. Kroll & Alford   - Let them eat workforce training

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Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 13:06:34 -0500
From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Rosemary wins! 7.31 6pm

Celebration: Victory for Rosemary Williams
Friday, July 31, 6:00 p.m. to Midnight 3138 Clinton Avenue South,

Rosemary Williams is a 55-year resident of the Central Neighborhood in
south Minneapolis and has been a fighter against the foreclosure crisis
for nearly a year, giving inspiration to others to fight back. Come
celebrate a victory for our community! At the absolute last minute, a deal
was brokered that will allow Rosemary to remain in her home (though we're
still waiting for the ink to dry). This happened only hours after Hennepin
County Sheriff's Deputies served her with a 24-hour eviction notice. Now
it's time to celebrate! Suggested donation for spaghetti and/or adult
beverages: $5.00 to $10.00.

Sponsored by: the Minnesota Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign
(PPEHRC) and the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout. WAMM is a
member of the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout. FFI: Visit

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From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 8.01 9am Cambridge MN

every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM
Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street

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From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Workplace justice 8.01 10am

August 1: Workplace Justice Support/Networking Meeting. 10 AM - Noon at
the  Minnesota Women's Building, 550 Rice Street, St. Paul. More
information: 952-996-9291.

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From: Socialist Appeal <new [at]>
Subject: What is socialism? 8.01 10:30am

What is Socialism?

The economic crisis has once again thrown the word "socialism" into the
mainstream, but many people have little idea what the word means.  Or if
they do, it is a distorted idea, based on an incorrect and one-sided
presentation by socialism's detractors.  However, a recent poll shows that
this term no longer has the same "evil" connotations as it did just a year
ago.  Join the Workers International League for a discussion on what
Socialism really is!

Saturday, August 1st, 2009
10:30 am
Pierre Bottineau Library, 55 Broadway NE, Minneapolis, MN

Call 612-424-3897 or write wil [at] for more information.  |

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From: Vanka485 [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 8.01 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday

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From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Packing inferno 8.01 3pm

A Talk by Tyler Boudreau: "Packing Inferno: the Unmaking of a Marine"
Saturday, August 1, 3:00 p.m. MayDay Books, 301Cedar Avenue (West Bank.
below Midwest Mountaineering), Minneapolis.

After 12 years of military service, Tyler Boudreau resigned his commission
and began to write about his experiences in Iraq. He focuses on the human
consequences of the U.S. war, both in the Middle East and later, at home.
"Packing Inferno is one of the most important historical documents to come
out of the Iraq war if for no other reason than it shows what the true
face of the Iraq war looks like. It's a remarkable achievement in war
reportage and it deserves to be shelved next to the Great War Books and
should be required reading for every lawmaker and students of American
history''" Public Record/

Organized by: MayDay Books. Co-sponsored by: Veterans for Peace and WAMM.
FFI: Call MayDay Books, 612-333-4719 or WAMM, 612-827-5364.

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From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Mayday/meal/movie 8.01 7pm

AUGUST 1, 6:30pm/7pm: MEAL & a MOVIE
FUNdraiser for MAY DAY BOOKS
$10 Benefit
hosted by Lydia Howell, host of KFAI's "Catalyst"

MOVIE: "A Day Without A Mexican" The California Dream becomes a hilarious
nightmare when the Golden State's entire Latino population disappears.
That means yuppie mothers no longer have nannies to take care of their
children, resturant owners' kitchens have no workers and the economy is in
big trouble! The state's Last Hispanic, TV reporter Lila Rodriguez (Yoreli
Arizmendi - from "Like Water For Chocolate") may hold the key to this
mystery. Formerly anti-immigrant Senator Steven Abercrombie III (John
Getz, of "The Fly" and "Curley Sue") switches political positions with
comic results. Is this a bio-attack? alien abduction? or the Rapture?
Director Sergio Arau has created an entertaining satire that looks at
immigration, corporate media and conspiracy theories of all sorts. Highly

MEAL: Lydia makes a home-made International Picnic Dinner with Meat,
Vegetarian and Vegan options. Including Guacamole Sandwiches, Humus &
Pita; Potato Salad;Fruit Salad;Desserts: Vegan Pineapple Upside-down Cake,
Cheesecake & more.

RAFFLE: $2 tickets to win books, CDs, art and DVDs!

Summer is a slower time for May Day Books, TC volunteer-run, non-profit
bookstore and progressive community gathering place. Come eat, laugh, shop
and support this organization that is core to our community.

301 Cedar Ave.S.,(basement HUB Bicycle), West Bank, Minneapolis

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From: Amber Garlan <agarlan [at]>
Subject: Bicking/doorknock 8.02 12noon

Next Sunday 8/2/09 I will be door knocking for Dave Bicking.  We will meet
at 12:00 noon at Dave's house, 3211 22nd Av S (2 blocks S of Lake Street,
just W of Hiawatha) in Minneapolis.

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From: scot b <earthmannow [at]>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 8.02 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2
p.m.  Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song
and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be
positive.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it.
Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to

For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560

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From: Amanda Luker <amanda [at]>
Subject: Cop repression/f 8.02 8pm

In an annual tradition, Arise! Bookstore will be hosting a series of free
weekly events throughout the summer, each with a different theme
reflecting the diverse interests of volunteers at the collectively run
bookstore. The events will take place each Sunday night at 8pm, opening
with a speaker or performance, and ending with the screening of a film
after sundown.

August 2  Discussion around radical organizing in Aotearoa/New Zealand
and the similarities between the repression faced there and in the
Twin Cities.
FILM  Rise Up! - A documentary about the Oct 15, 2007 "terror" raids
on several indigenous activists in Aotearoa.

Arise! Bookstore 2441 Lyndale Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55406

--------11 of 14--------

Don't Let Conservatives Badmouth Our Northern Neighbors' Health Care
by Dennis Rahkonen
July 30th, 2009
Dissident Voice

Conservatives are notorious for slandering or demonizing foreign nations
when they act in ways wisely contrary to hidebound right-wing dogma.

Remember, for instance, when France didn't support the illegal Bush/Cheney
invasion of Iraq, a debacle that was incredibly called a "crusade" by our
foolish past president, and which has needlessly killed perhaps over a
million people.

France and "Old Europe," where antiwar protests were commonly huge, were
condemned by the reactionary Republican base. Who will ever forget the
ridiculous absurdity of indignant conservatives renaming French fries
"freedom fries"? No wonder goofy Sarah Palin later became their darling.

Well, they're at it again, claiming that Canadian "socialized medicine" is
an unmitigated disaster. It costs a fortune in taxes, they say, and
features unacceptable service delays and denials.

But that simply isn't so, as any fair-minded, honest appraisal readily

In truth, Canadians pay just a fractionally higher amount in taxes than we
do. However, they get a substantially greater public-welfare bang for
their buck.

As Rhonda Hackett of the Denver Post put it, "Canadians are afforded many
benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax
credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is
a wash".

Then there's the assertion that Canadians allegedly can't get care when
they need it (callously overlooking the plight of 50 million Americans
without any medical insurance whatsoever!).

Hackett's June 7th article also addressed that canard:

There are no requirements for pre-authorization whatsoever. If your family
doctor says you need an MRI, you get one. In the U.S., if an insurance
administrator says you are not getting an MRI, you don't get one no matter
what your doctor thinks - unless, of course, you have the money to cover
the cost.

Most compelling is what a Canadian poster over at Common Dreams recently

Last year, I was found to have a genetically defective heart valve that
required open-heart surgery. In coming to that conclusion, I underwent
several very expensive diagnostic procedures for which there was
ABSOLUTELY NO WAITING PERIOD. The operation itself involved a team of
surgeons, a team of anestheticists, a team of profusionists and several
nurses. Again, ABSOLUTELY NO WAITING PERIOD. After the surgery, I spent
ten days in intensive post-op care. The cost in the U.S. - hundreds of
thousands of dollars. The cost here in Canada - ZERO.

Desperate to keep their profitable medical stranglehold on the American
masses, Big Pharma and insurance giants, with full Republican complicity,
are dipping deeply into their bag of dirty tricks.

One of those is a very misleading TV ad currently making the rounds. It
features a Canadian woman who went to the United States for purported
lifesaving surgery for a brain tumor that Canadian doctors supposedly
wouldn't perform.

In fact, as reported by Julie Mason of the Ottawa Citizen on July 20th,
she actually had a "Rathke's Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. To quote
an American source, the John Wayne Cancer Center, "Rathke's Cleft Cysts
are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts"..

The lady was given appropriate appointments with Ontario specialists but
chose not to wait the reasonable period. Her resulting surgery at the Mayo
Clinic in Arizona cost $97,000.

Interestingly, that case is being pumped by Kentucky Republican Senator
Mitch McConnell, whose state has an average yearly income of just over
$37,000. It sure looks like his constituents could use affordable health

Perhaps the best-stated case for why our country desperately needs health
care change came from Democratic Ohio Congressman and former Presidential
candidate Dennis Kucinich, speaking not long ago to Amy Goodman on
Democracy Now:

The insurance companies have almost a death grip on our political system.
And they can have so much power that they can exclude 50 million people
and trap another 50 million in confiscatory premiums, co-pays and
deductibles, just jettison millions of Americans into bankruptcy. And yet,
we still have this system. And people are saying, "Well, you know, we
can't have a government-run system." Well, frankly, we tried this system
controlled by private insurers, and it's been a calamity for America.

Let's quite trashing our friends north of the border, adopt what they and
the rest of industrialized humanity have done right, and put an end to the
grim reality of routinely seeing "spaghetti feed" fund-raiser signs and
collection cans at U.S. supermarket checkouts for grievously ill Americans
who can't afford vital, genuinely lifesaving medical care.

And whose names appear next in newspaper obituaries.

Surely the richest country on earth can do better for its populace.

Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, Wisconsin, has been writing progressive
commentary with a Heartland perspective for various outlets since the

--------12 of 14--------

Two Nations
Our Crisis, Their Gain
July 29, 2009

"Crisis" is in the eye of the beholder.  The Obama administration thinks
in terms of years.  Others are on a shorter leash. While millions are
being marginalized right now, our president, and a supportive press,
prepares us for consumer credit relief in the form of enhanced notice - in
a law to be decreed a year from now, in the summer of 2010; he proposes
new regulations for stockholder input on executive compensation (don't the
big stockholders already elect the board which pays the managers?); and
his economists predict a return to positive economic growth in Q3.
Overall, Treasury Secretary Geithner sees "important signs of recovery".
Abby Joseph Cohen of Goldman Sachs puts it this way: "We do see profit
margins picking up".  Hang in there everybody.  And save.

You wouldn't know from these sources "in particular the millionaires that
make up Obama's West Wing as well as the wealthy reporters who chronicle
it - that multitudes of Americans are getting slammed hard and it's
getting worse everyday, every single day.  Crisis is everywhere.  Wages
and salaries have fallen at an annual rate of 3.1 per cent.  Half of that
decline is attributed to plummeting manufacturing, where most jobs are
unlikely to return soon, if ever. Economist Mark Zandi believes that the
US will have negative wage growth this year.  According to Money magazine,
30 per cent of workers employed now, or about 42 million people, are
independent contractors, part-timers, temporary staffers or
self-employed - a contingent workforce expected to grow to 40 per cent in
ten years.  Crisis as a way of life.  "There's no use trying to avoid the
inevitable," says Money.  Obama would say avoiding the inevitable is

For some, joblessness is the antithesis of crisis.  It is opportunity.
People without work equates to competition for employment which means low
wages - which means enhanced profits.  In case you haven't noticed, the
stock market is up.  Bond sales by businesses were $570 billion in Q1, a
record. Net financial investment in Q1 was $340 billion, also a record.
Go Go. [Longer yachts]

Pension funds are getting over their crisis, gearing up to invest more.
Calpers wants a return of 7.75 per cent on its money and, to achieve that
yield, the huge public pension fund is upping its stake in private equity.
Of course, private equity makes money by streamlining, raising profits and
selling, ideally within a five-year period.  As we all know, streamlining
is a euphemism for cutting jobs.  It's called "nuanced investing" and in a
story on the latest innovation in pocket stuffing, "Jobless Recovery Would
Call for Nuanced Investing," the Wall Street Journal (July 13) quotes
economist Peter Gutmann saying: "Double-digit unemployment could be with
us for some time".  Former FED vice chair, Alan Binder, wasn't kidding
when he said last week:  "Jobs will take longer, maybe much longer, to
revive".  Revive?  Isn't that best left for the ER?  On second thoughts.

When President Obama came to office and brought to bear all the judgment,
education and experience that is his gift, that is, gave away the store,
it was on the basis of a business model:  to make money on your crisis,
making it worse for you - all the time extolling the need for patience and
practicality.  A sycophantic press has been completely in sync, this week
equating crisis with text messaging-at-the-wheel, that is when not calling
upon the Administration to do what it knows best: protect landlordism (in
this instance, the Pakistani variety).  There is absolutely no doubt that
soon after the conclusion of his presidency, Mr.  Obama, like Bill
Clinton, will have a hundred million bucks in the bank as a result of
books, lectures and related appearances on the subject of responsibility.
That's what's called the spoils of "today's winner-take-all economy,"  a
quote from Audacity of Hope, here taken way out of context, I suppose.
"Fill up the old coffers," is the way George Bush put it, in his twisted
but somehow unambiguous way.

Back to your crisis:  The banks are now aggressively pressing people who
are delinquent on loans and mortgages in order to extract what they can,
charge usurious interest and fees (thank you, Joe Biden), hound you - to
capitalize on your crisis. That is the business model Barack Obama
invested in for all of us.  Small wonder JP Morgan CEO James Dimon invited
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to visit with his board of

Had President Obama taken our trillions and set up what William Greider
calls for in the current Nation magazine, a development fund for long-term
capital investment, or what Mike Davis has described, a national debt bank
to relieve excessive consumer and mortgage debt, your government would be
addressing your crisis.  But of course there's plenty of time for that.

Carl Ginsburg is a tv producer and journalist based in New York. He can be
reached at carlginsburg [at]

[Obama as carny barker: "Step right up...!"]

--------13 of 14--------

The More You Watch, the Less You Know
Health Care, the Media and Public Opinion
July 29, 2009

People have a remarkable ability to believe what they want to believe,
even in the face of contradictory evidence.  Recent media coverage of
political debate on the "public option" for health care reform is a case
in point.  A review of the nightly programs on the liberal MSNBC -
including those of Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, and Chris
Matthews - shows that all of these hosts cited public opinion as
supportive of the Obama health care plan at some point during the week of
July 15th to 21st.  Conversely, every pundit-based program on Fox News's
feature lineup - including those from Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Bret
Baier, and Glenn Beck, cited public opinion as overwhelmingly opposed to
the public option.

Critics of Obama's public option have no difficulty distorting public
opinion data to fit their own prejudices.  A prominent example is the July
19th Meet the Press, in which guest Michele Norris of NPR's All Things
Considered argued that "some 90 percent of the people who voted [in 2008]
actually have health insurance and three-quarters of them are satisfied
with what they got.  And there's different ways of looking at that.  And
one way to look at that is to say that perhaps there is not the public
mandate for this that would dictate this sort of rush to legislation".
[National Plutocrat Radio]. Wall Street Journal editorial writer Paul
Gigot agreed with Norris' claim in the roundtable Meet the Press
discussion, maintaining that Obama "is making the same mistake that he
made on the stimulus - he's governing from the left. That's why you see
these extraordinary costs and extraordinary taxes. There is a better way
to govern through the center, the way Bill Clinton did on welfare reform.
But [Obama] won't do that because he knows that will upset his political

At Fox News, pundits wasted no time suggesting that the American people
were actively opposed to government health care.  Alexis Glick of the Fox
Business Network argued on the July 21st Hannity that "nobody really
understands the urgency [on health care reform], and what the American
people are now starting to distrust is that urgency".  As mentioned above,
Hannity, O'Reilly, Baier (from Special Report), and Beck's programs all
drew on public opinion, framing Americans as opposed to Obama's health
plan.  The only program host who took exception to this trend was Neil
Cavuto (Your World with Neil Cavuto), as he conceded in his July 15th show
that most Americans support a government health care initiative.  Cavuto's
admission was heavily qualified, however, as he framed Americans as
selfish and unenlightened for wanting government health care: "most
American people think that access to affordable health care is a desire.
And many argue that there's nothing to argue there, because if someone
else is going to pay for that up front [in this case through a tax on
wealthier Americans], hey, sign me up, right?"  Cavuto followed up this
comment with a declaration that "open season" had been declared "on the

It's important to note that none of the above depictions from Fox and Meet
the Press are fair representations of public opinion on health care.  In
this case, as with so many others, it is difficult to deny Danny
Schechter's conclusion that, the more you watch of corporate news, the
less you actually know about what's going on in the world.  In the case of
health care reform, Fox News blatantly misrepresents public opinion
polling, framing Americans as fiercely opposed to a public option.

A more in depth exploration of public opinion reveals a picture that is
radically different from that seen in the conservative media.  Polls
conducted in recent years find consistent support for a national health
care initiative.  A Gallup poll from November 11, 2007 found that 64
percent of Americans agreed with the claim that it "is the responsibility
of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care
coverage," while only 33 percent felt it was not the government's
responsibility.  Public support for a government program remained steady
(ranging between 58-69 percent from January 2000 through November of

As of July 15th, 2009, a Washington Post/ABC poll found that 54 percent of
Americans thought Obama could do a better job on health care than
Republicans in Congress - while only 34 percent felt Republicans could do
a better job.  The same poll found that 72 percent felt Obama was placing
either the right amount of attention on health care or needed to focus
more attention, as opposed to 25 percent who felt he was placing too much
attention on the issue.  Between 55-64 percent either strongly or somewhat
supported a government plan to compete with private insurers according to
the Washington Post/ABC poll and polls by the USA Today/Gallup and CBS,
while between 29-43 percent somewhat or strongly opposed such a plan.

It is certainly true, as Norris claimed on Meet the Press, that most
insured Americans say they are happy with their health care plans.  The
Gallup survey mentioned above consistently found that, from 2001 to 2007,
between 71-81 percent of Americans said they were "satisfied" with the
total cost of health care in this country, with only 17-28 percent saying
they were "dissatisfied".  Additionally, between 65-71 percent rated their
health care coverage as "excellent" or "good".

To simply claim that Americans' happiness with their health care plans is
proof that people don't want national health care, however, is grossly
incompetent at best, and manipulative at worst.  If Norris were to provide
an accurate depiction of public opinion, she would have expanded her use
of data to a series of other questions.  She would have explained that,
according to the very same Gallup poll mentioned above, 73 percent of
Americans feel that health care is either in a "state of crisis" or has
"major problems," with only 26 percent saying there are "minor problems"
or "no problems".  Similarly, over 80 percent of Americans in the Gallup
survey describe themselves as dissatisfied "with health care in the
country as a whole".  Some of the most recent data from the Pew Research
Center similarly finds that, as of mid 2009, 71 percent feel that we need
"fundamental changes," or to have our health system "completely rebuilt,"
as compared to 24 percent who only want "minor changes" in the system.

Many might wonder how it is that people can be happy with their health
care programs and yet support a major transformation in favor of
government health care.  The answer is no mystery: most Americans realize
that our health care system has become a complete catastrophe for those 50
million Americans who have no health insurance.  These people are not
included in the polling numbers cynically cited by Norris and others, who
claim that three-quarters of Americans are happy with their health care
plans.  The major caveat here is that the three-quarters cited by Norris
entails only those Americans who already have health insurance, and
excludes those cut out of basic care.  Only someone with an active
contempt for democracy would leave these people out of their discussion of
public opinion, as Norris and other opponents of reform are all too happy
to do.  From their perspective, why focus on the poor at all?  The
disadvantaged are simply not a real concern for those affluent few who
dominate much of our media.

If pundits in the conservative media want to deal with the issue of health
care honestly and with transparency, they should stress a number of facts:
1. Most Americans strongly support major reforms in our health care
system, and wish to see a government sponsored health care program that
will provide for the poor and disadvantaged.  2. Strong resistance does
exist to government health care, but only amongst a small, loud minority.
My own statistical analysis of Pew Research Center data finds that older
and wealthier Americans, conservatives, and men are more likely to oppose
government sponsored health care, whereas younger and poorer Americans,
liberals, and women are more likely to support it.  These trends shouldn't
be surprising, since older Americans are traditionally much better covered
than younger Americans due to the Medicare program.  Relative affluence
for the elderly, sadly, translates into less sympathy for less well off,
younger Americans who are less well covered.  Wealthy individuals are
likely to oppose government health care since they do not need to rely on
the public option, and since it will likely cost them disproportionately
more in taxes.  Finally, men are less likely to support government health
care than women in light of the fact that women disproportionately suffer
under the feminization of poverty, and have a more difficult time
providing for themselves and their families.

The debate over health care in this country, contrary to the deception at
NBC and Fox News, is not between the masses who oppose universal health
care and an Obama administration that is "governing from the left" in
opposition to the public will.  The real conflict is between those
privileged few Americans who are desensitized and unsympathetic to the
demands of the masses of people who are overwhelmingly supportive of
national health care.  Sadly, in order to understand this basic fact, we
must first come to the realization that corporate media often misinform
the public about vital political issues.  Without a steady dose of
alternative media exposure, it will remain the case that, the more you
watch of mainstream news, the less you know.

Anthony DiMaggio teaches American and Global Politics at Illinois State
University.  He is the author of Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008) and
the forthcoming When Media Goes to War (2010).  He can be reached at
adimagg [at]

--------14 of 14--------

Let Them Eat Workforce Training
By emphasizing job training above all else, the Obama administration's
education policies weaken the academic function and democratic ideal of
the community college
by Keith Kroll and Barry Alford
July 29th, 2009
Dissident Voice

On July 14, in a speech to nearly 2,000 people at Macomb Community College
in Warren, Mich., President Obama unveiled a sweeping new education
program aimed at boosting the country's flagging economy. A 10-year, $12
billion program, the American Graduation Initiative (AGI), outlines the
administration's vision for community colleges and takes a three-pronged
approach. First, the AGI will offer competitive grants to community
colleges to spur innovation and "put colleges and employers together to
create programs that match curricula in the classroom with the needs of
the boardroom". Second, the initiative will fund bricks and mortar
projects to help community colleges renovate and modernize buildings and
classrooms that may be in decay from years of underfunding and neglect.
And lastly, Obama described how the AGI will offer an online, open-source
clearinghouse of academic courses so community colleges nationwide can
expand class offerings without expanding their facilities.1

For followers of the Obama administration's troublingly business-centric
education policies, the AGI follows a theme Obama has reiterated in
interviews and speeches on the campaign trail and since his election. As
he wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed, "Our community colleges can
serve as 21st-century job training centers, working with local businesses
to help workers learn the skills they need to fill the jobs of the

This theme - that community colleges should serve as job-training centers
to help revitalize the economy - is a popular talking point among members
of his administration. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan explained to a
group of Ohio college presidents that community colleges are "an extremely
important part of restoring our economy and ensuring our students can
compete".3 Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel described the community college as
"literally a conveyor belt to allow people to upgrade their skills when
they are going from X job to Y profession".4 In addition, Jill Biden, who
teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College, and serves as an
administration spokeswoman promoting community colleges, told The New York
Times that "Community colleges are the way of the future" "Now with people
losing their jobs, they're a great place to go for new training"..5 Even
Obama's pick of Martha Kanter, a former administrator for one of the
nation's largest community college systems, as an Education Department
undersecretary was cast as a move underscoring the administration's focus
on job training: The Chronicle of Higher Education's report on her
selection was titled "Obama Pick Shows Focus on Training Work Force".3

And this vision has ample support beyond the Beltway. - from politicians,
national community college organizations, community college presidents,
and at least one private philanthropic organization.6 The Association of
Community College Trustees President and CEO J. Noah Brown says,
"Community colleges serve as economic engines, strengthening the fabric
that binds our communities together - jobs"; the American Association of
Community Colleges adds that the President's policies will provide a "big
win for [community college] job-training programs:.7 A recently released
College Board report, "Winning the Skills Race and Strengthening America's
Middle Class: An Action Agenda for Community Colleges," from The National
Commission on Community Colleges, a group made up of ten current or former
community college presidents, places job-training and workforce
development at the core of the community college's mission. The
commission's chair, Augustine P. Gallego stated, "We have to win the
skills race, and we have to reply on the nation's 1,200 community colleges
to do that".8

The tragic flaw in the administration's focus on job training is that it
is not a panacea for political and economic policies that have created an
unfair, unequal, and unresponsive economic environment, one that has seen
the wages, benefits, and standard of living of working Americans plummet.9
The community college should not be seen as a place to hide workers during
the downturn or warehouse people who need to be able to depend on their
own political agency to forge a more stable and sustainable future. The
American Graduation Initiative, then, is little more than a harbinger
signaling the end of the academic function and democratic ideal that the
community college was designed to uphold: to provide a liberal arts
education that affords all students the chance to transfer to four-year
colleges and universities to earn a bachelor's degree.10

For the Obama administration and those who support their education
policies and discourse, "education" has become narrowly defined as "job
training" and "workforce development".11 As a result, those attending
community colleges are no longer viewed as citizens or learners (or even
at times as students) but rather as economic entities, as "workers" or a
"workforce". No longer is the talk about teaching and the intellectual and
social development of students, but rather about "high demand jobs,"
"economic stimulus," "training," and "skill development". The message
repeated over and over again from politicians, community college leaders,
and the media is that, with respect to the community college, what matters
is job training and how quickly one completes it - and that what's good
for business and its bottom line is paramount.

Yet there is strong evidence that job training (and re-training) does not
provide the economic stimulus or promote the economic equality that its
proponents argue. A recent study from the Labor Department found that the
benefits of the nation's largest federal job training program were "small
or nonexistent" for laid-off workers.12 A Detroit Free Press editorial
noted on the day of the President's visit to Macomb Community College that
focusing on job training is "not a bad idea on its face. But Michigan has
emphasized job retraining for months, if not years now - and yet people
keep losing their jobs, even in supposedly hot fields such as health
care".13 Bruce Fuller took this argument even further, writing in the New
York Times that "Politicians' obsessions with making schools and college
more vocational in character are unlikely to lift the economy," citing
research from the University of Chicago showing that "today's workers
don't need vocational skills, they need better "non-cognitive" skills -
like the capacity to communicate effectively or to cooperatively solve

What's absent in the Obama administration's education policies and
discourse is acknowledgment of the community college's academic and
collegiate mission - that is, the role of the community college in
a liberal arts education that teaches and encourages students to become
informed and engaged citizens in a democratic society.15 By definition a
liberal arts education requires courses in a broad number of subjects in
the arts and sciences as opposed to the very narrow subject matter of
training.16 In the community college, these would be the general education
courses traditionally offered in the first and second years of college,
courses in American government, U.S. and World History, psychology,
sociology, biology, chemistry, art history, and English courses involving
writing and English and American literature. A liberal arts education
teaches students that learning and knowledge itself is inherently valuable
rather than simply a set of skills to be mastered for a particular job.
Clearly a liberal arts education is not a cure-all for the country's
societal ills. But as Robert Reich told Bill Moyers, "There is no
substitute for an active, informed citizenry".17 In fact, it is an
informed and engaged citizenry, and not jobs, that binds a community

The AGI also ignores the fact that a vast majority of students entering
the community college directly from high school have the stated intention
of transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor's degree.
For them, attending a community college isn't about getting a certificate
or training for a job. That so few community college students,
particularly low-income or minority students, actually ever transfer and
earn a bachelor's degree should be the focus of administration education

The very idea of getting an education is not to serve someone else or
their interests but to identify and serve our own. John Dewey made this a
cornerstone of what makes education socially viable as opposed to the
views of those such as Charles Prosser, or his modern day equivalent,
Charles Murray, who advocate for the separation of vocational training and
education. It would be objectionable in any set of economic and political
circumstances to limit the educational opportunities of students,
particularly students who don't have access to the country's most elite
four-year colleges and universities, but it is most objectionable in a
time where training leads nowhere. What jobs, exactly, are these students
supposed to train for? Who can say with any degree of certainty what jobs
will be in demand in five years, let alone ten? Or as an economist
recently told Michael Luo of the New York Times in the story "Job Training
May Fall Short of High Hopes," "I can't tell you with any degree of
certainty, and I have been doing it for 20 years, what the hot jobs are
going to be".12

Instead of being educated to make informed choices of their own, community
college students are being thrown back into dependent and subservient
positions in an economic moment of unequaled peril. Instead of being
educated to insert themselves into the political process of restructuring
a society of fair values and green energy, they are being trained to stay
out of the way and hope that their wages, which haven't kept pace with
corporate profits, will be enough to feed their children.19

Simply put, job training and workforce development is indoctrination. It
is not education. It has no socially constructive or just outcome,
particularly at a time of upheaval and uncertainty. It is a failure of
everything that a liberal arts education contributes to a just and
democratic society.

Job training will not change the corrupt values of Wall Street or bridge
the gap in wealth that has grown from unseemly to grotesque.20 The
argument currently being made that people need jobs, any jobs, first and
that justice and political enfranchisement can wait is backward. The way
forward for those just entering higher education and for the millions of
displaced workers is not another dead end or soon-to-be outsourced
under-paid job with few or no benefits. The way forward is an educational
system grounded in ideas of social justice and democracy.

Community colleges are perhaps the last bastion of democratic higher
education in this country. According to the National Center for Education
Statistics, 95 percent of community colleges are open admission, and when
compared to four-year institutions, they enroll larger percentages of
nontraditional, low-income and minority students.18 Depending how students
are counted, community colleges enroll anywhere from 35 percent to nearly
50 percent of all undergraduates and in the current economic crisis their
enrollments are soaring despite cuts in state and local funding.21 With
four-year institutions becoming more and more expensive to attend and out
of reach for even middle class families,22 the community college continues
to offer an affordable, realistic alternative.

President Obama is right: Community colleges matter; they are vital in any
economy. But not as an economic refuge. They're vital as institutions and
spaces whose mission must be to foster the democratic ideal of providing
an education that offers students from all backgrounds the chance to
realize their full potential as human beings.

1..Remarks by the President on .The American Graduation Initiative,.
Macomb Community College, Warren, MI, July 14, 2009. [.]

2.Barack Obama, .Rebuilding Something Better,. Washington Post, July 12,
2009. [.]

3.Kelly Field, .Obama Pick Shows Focus on Training Work Force,. The
Chronicle of Higher Education, April 10, 2009. [.] [.]

4.David Moltz, .Building Up Job Training,. Inside Higher Ed, June 19,
2009. [.]

5.Matthew Saltmarsh, .Jill Biden Says Community Colleges Are a Key U.S.
Export,. New York Times, July 8, 2009. [.]

6.Scott Jaschik, .Gates Foundation to Spend Big on Community Colleges,.
Inside Higher Ed, November 12, 2008. [.]

7..In Tough Times, Colleges to Spotlight Economic Ties,. Community College
Times, November 24, 2008; Megan Eckstein, .Community Colleges See Stimulus
Bill as Bonanza for Their Students,. The Chronicle of Higher Education,
February 17, 2009. [.]

8.Elyse Ashburn, .Community colleges are Key to Shoring Up the U.S.
Economy, Report Says,. The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 31,
2008. [.]

9.David Walsh, .A Rising Tide of Social Misery,. World Socialist Web Site,
July 16, 2009. [.]

10.See Arthur M. Cohen and Florence B. Brawer, The Collegiate Function of
Community Colleges, Jossey-Bass, 1987; Steven Brint and Jerome Karabel,
The Diverted Dream, Oxford University Press, 1989; Kevin J. Dougherty, The
Contradictory College, State University of New York Press, 1994; and John
S. Levin et al., Community College Faculty at Work, Palgrave, 2006. [.]

11.Washington.s emphasis on job training and its seeming disregard for the
liberal arts did not start with the Obama Administration. In citing her
reasons for resigning from the Margaret Spellings-led Department of
Education, Diane Auer Jones noted that the department was involved in a
.misguided attempt to really narrow the focus of higher education and to
almost vocationalize all of higher education.. In Paul Basken, .Liberal
Arts Undervalued by Education Department, Official Says After Quitting,.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 27, 2008. Proof? .A Test of
Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education,. a report of the
Commission on the Future of Higher Education makes no mention of the
liberal arts. [.]

12.Michael Luo, .Job Retraining May Fall Short of High Hopes,. New York
Times, July 6, 2009. [.] [.]

13..Above all, Mr. President, Michigan needs promise of jobs,. Editorial,
Detroit Free Press, July 14, 2009. [.]

14.Bruce Fuller, .Why We Educate Our Children,. New York Times, October
22, 2008. [.]

15.Unfortunately, few voices within the community college have publicly
questioned Obama administration education policies and the social
implications of the community college essentially assuming the role of a
trade school with little, if any regard, for the liberal arts and critical
literacy. Two such voices are Sean A. Fanelli, the president of Nassau
Community College in New York and David Berry, executive director of the
Community College Humanities Association. For Fanelli, .The situation for
the humanities at two-year colleges may only worsen [... ] as politicians
and business leaders turn to community colleges to help revive the economy
without regard for the important role the liberal arts play in educating
students.. See Jeffrey J. Selingo, .2-Year Colleges Worry That Job
Training May Displace the Humanities,. The Chronicle of Higher Education,
April 7, 2009. Berry has expressed concern .that the traditional function
of teaching core subjects and the humanities can be overshadowed. by the
emphasis on workforce development. See Andy Guess, .A Humanities Push for
Community Colleges,. Inside Higher Ed, January 14, 2008. [.]

16.The role of a liberal arts education in four-year institutions,
including at the traditional liberal arts college, is also under attack
with more and more four-year institutions feeling pressured to offer job
training. See .Victor E. Ferrall Jr., .Can Liberal Arts Colleges Be
Saved,. Inside Higher Ed, Februrary 11, 2008; Patricia Cohen, .In Tough
Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth,. New York Times, February
25, 2009; Peter Schmidt, .Number of Colleges That Fit the .Liberal Arts.
Mold is Falling Study Finds,. The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 16,
2009. [.]

17.Interview with Robert Reich, Bill Moyers Journal, PBS, June 12, 2009.

18.Stephen Provasnik and Michael Planty, .Community Colleges: Special
Supplement to The Condition of Education 2008,. U.S. Department of
Education, National Center for Education Statistics, August 2008. [.] [.]

19.Jeanne Sahadi, .Workers Lose Traction Over Past 10 Years,., September 2, 2006. [.]

20.Sahadi, .Wealth Gap Widens,., August 29, 2006. [.]

21.Valerie Strauss, .Community Colleges See Demand Spike, Funding Slip,.
Washington Post, July 1, 2009. [.]

22.Andy Kroll, .Shut Out: How the Cost of Higher Education Is Dividing Our
Country,., April 2, 2009. [.]

Keith Kroll has taught in the English Department at Kalamazoo Valley
Community College for twenty-three years. He has written extensively on
community college issues, and edited with Barry Alford The Politics of
Writing in the Two-Year College (Heinemann/Boyton-Cook, 2001).

Barry Alford is professor of English and Humanities at Mid Michigan
Community College where he has taught for over twenty-five years. He has
published essays on language theory, postmodernism, and writing
assessment. His essay, "George W. Bush's Other Undeclared War: NCLB,"
appeared in the May 2008 issue of Dissident Voice.


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