It began with the March on Washington, or more precisely the 50th anniversary thereof: the 50th anniversary of the 1960s. Because Baby Boomers control the media, get ready for a decade of 50th anniversaries.
Nelson Mandela is credited for shepherding a peaceful transition from apartheid to a democratic South Africa. But his South Africa and his African National Congress were hardly democratic — and he left the essential work of the revolution unfinished. Today, poverty among blacks remains much higher than among whites. The system never really changed.
Many black South Africans are disillusioned by Mandela and his ANC government. Residents of the townships are suffering horribly, yet this “black” “democratic” government hasn’t done much more for them than the old apartheid regime. This was due to two terrible decisions by Mandela in 1994. First, he decided against seeking justice against the apartheid-era criminal whites. Obviously this was the result of pressure from the USA and the West. The ANC called it “reconciliation.” Others called it a sellout. These horrible murderers got away with murder. The lesson to the murderers of the future is, don’t worry, you won’t pay for your crimes.
Second, Mandela and the ANC decided not to implement the communist programme of their socialist and communist allies. Income and wealth redistribution were left on the table. The result is a South Africa that looks the same as before: rich whites, poor blacks. Heckuva job, Nelson.
The lionization of Mandela follows a familiar pattern. Radicals and revolutionaries who betray their former militancy to become accommodationist scoundrels win Nobel Peace Prizes, high office and nice tweets after their die. That’s why former “terrorists” like Mandela, Gerry Adams, Gandhi and Yassir Arafat who stop fighting for their causes and accept establishment sinecures get lionized. Those who hold firm and keep fighting for the people, like Malcolm X, are scorned — compared to the relatively safe/peaceful MLK. The media loves the sellouts, hates the heroes.
I am already being criticized for releasing today’s cartoon about Mandela’s unfinished work because it’s the “wrong time.” That’s what people always say about critical obituary cartoons. But that’s ridiculous. This is exactly the right, appropriate time to weigh Mandela’s life — the good and the bad.
Obituary cartoons have long been a bane of editorial cartooning. A famous person dies and appears at the pearly gates, being welcomed in some incredibly cheesy way to the hereafter. The message, such as it is, “this guy died and it is sad.”
I decided a while ago that obit cartoons could also be an opportunity to provide a corrective to the ocean of praise that follows a Great Man’s death. Reagan, for example, was a turd. Among other things, he intentionally starved AIDS research during the 1980s. So when he died, I showed him in hell.
That’s what today’s cartoon is about: a request that we think outside the box. My cartoon isn’t the full measure of Mandela. Neither are the ones that praise his resistance against apartheid before he sold out to become president. The full assessment will await his biographers. As usual, I’m simply pointing out: “Hey, there’s also some bad stuff here, and we should do something about those.”
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: Residents of Santa Rosa, California expressed skepticism Thursday about a sheriff’s deputy’s decision to shoot dead a popular 13-year-old boy who was carrying a pellet gun that looked like an assault rifle.
The US Supreme Court is currently considering allowing police to draw your blood involuntarily without a warrant in the event that you refuse a breathalyzer test if you are suspected of drunk driving. It is an incredibly invasive procedure, but the authorities and the courts are siding with the cops because, incredibly, they complained that sometimes it is too difficult to get search warrants for your veins and arteries quickly enough before your blood alcohol level dissipates to legal levels.
Why Both Democrats and Republicans Miss the Big Picture
Public education is mirroring American society overall: a tiny island of haves surrounded by a vast ocean of have-nots.
For worried parents and students, the good news is that spending on public education has become a campaign issue. Mitt Romney is pushing a warmed-over version of the old GOP school voucher scheme, “school choice.” The trouble with vouchers, experts say (and common sense supports), is that allowing parents to vote with their feet by withdrawing their kids from “failing schools” deprives cash-starved schools of more funds, leading to a death cycle—a “winner takes all” sweepstakes that widens the gap between the best and worst schools. Critics—liberals and libertarians—also dislike vouchers because they allow the transfer of public tax dollars into the coffers of private schools, many of which have religious, non-secular curricula unaccountable to regulators.
Romney recently attacked President Obama: “He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of [the failed recall of the union-busting governor of] Wisconsin?”
“I would suggest [Romney is] living on a different planet if he thinks that’s a prescription for a better planet,” shot back Obama strategist David Axelrod.
Both parties are missing the mark, the Republicans more than the Democrats. Republicans want to gut public schools by slashing budgets that will lead to bigger class sizes, which will reduce the individual attention dedicated to teaching each student. Democrats rightly oppose educational austerity, but are running a lame defense rather than aggressively promoting positive ideas to improve the system. Both parties are too interested in weakening unions and grading teacher performance with endless tests, and not enough in raising salaries so teaching attracts the brightest college graduates. Not even the Democrats are calling for big spending increases on education.
Is the system really in crisis? Yes, said respondents to a 2011 Gallup-Phi Delta Kappa poll, which found that only 22 percent approved of the state of public education in the U.S. The number one problem? Not enough funding, say voters.
Millions of parents whose opinion of their local public system is so dim that they spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on private school tuition and—in competitive cities like New York City, force their kids to endure a grueling application process.
According to one of the world’s leading experts on comparing public school systems, Andreas Schleicher of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is falling rapidly behind other countries. In Canada, he told a 2010 Congressional inquiry, an average 15-year-old ahead is a full year ahead his or her American counterpart. The U.S. high-school completion rate is ranked 25th out of the 30 OECD countries.
The elephant in the room, the idea neither party is willing to consider, is to replace localized control of education—funding, administration and curricula—with centralized federal control, as is common in Europe and around the world.
“America’s system of standards, curriculums and testing controlled by states and local districts with a heavy overlay of federal rules is a ‘quite unique’ mix of decentralization and central control,” The New York Times paraphrased Schleicher’s testimony. “More successful nations, he said, maintain central control over standards and curriculum, but give local schools more freedom from regulation, he said.”
Why run public schools out of Washington? The advantages are obvious. When schools in rich districts get the same resource allocation per student as those in poor ones, influential voters among the upper and middle classes tend to push for increased spending of education. Centralized control also eliminates embarrassing situations like when the Kansas School Board eliminated teaching evolution in its schools, effectively reducing standards.
A streamlined curriculum creates smarter students. It’s easier for Americans, who live in a highly mobile society, to transfer their children midyear from school to school, when a school in Peoria teaches the same math lesson the same week as one in Honolulu. Many students, especially among the working poor, suffer lower grades due to transiency.
Of course, true education reform would need to abolish the ability of wealthier parents to opt out of the public school system. That means banning private education and the “separate but equal” class segregation we see today, particularly in big cities, and integrating the 5.3 million kids (just under 10 percent of the total) in private primary and secondary schools into their local public systems. Decades after forced bussing, many students attend schools as racially separated as those of the Jim Crow era. The New York Times found that 650 out of New York’s 1700 public schools have student bodies composed at least 70 percent of one race—this in a city with extremely diverse demographics.
If we’re to live in a true democracy, all of our kids have to attend the same schools.
(Ted Rall’s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com. This column originally appeared at MSNBC.com)
(C) 2012 TED RALL, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.