Adventures in Ethics and Science

The results of our drive to raise funds for teachers and students with DonorsChoose are, in a word, astounding. Ginny reported the morning-after stats:

ScienceBlogs readers donated $54,335 for 155 classroom projects. With $15,000 in matching funds from Seed Media Group, that means our readers put $69,335 toward U.S. science literacy.

That $15,000 from Seed Media Group fully funded 33 more projects and gave a chunk of money to a 34th. But my most recent calculation shows that a total of $72,920 went to the 20 challenges mounted by ScienceBlogs bloggers — which means that an additional $3,585 was given to these challenges after the drive ended.

In other words, some of you just can’t help being generous, even when no one is dangling incentives in front of you. Thank you!

It’s worth noting, though, the fact that we made it through a month-long drive with such aplomb does not mean that all the teachers who submitted project proposals to DonorsChoose got the funding they need to deliver the kind of learning experiences they think their students deserve. There are still thousands of projects waiting to be funded, and thousands of teachers struggling to deliver high quality education with inadequate resources. And these are just the teachers who know about DonorsChoose. Undoubtedly there are many more who don’t, trying to figure out how to teach without current textbooks, unbroken chalkboards, or paper and pencils for their students.

We’re feeling warm and fuzzy about the good work DonorsChoose does, and how it can broaden people’s notion of the community of children they care about (not just in our town, but all over the country) …

… but, there’s this persistent voice in my head saying, “Really, as a society, we ought to be funding all the schools adequately, if not lavishly. In a civilized country, DonorsChoose would go out of business!

The way to make that happen, it seems to me, is to see that education funding is an actual priority — that we make sure the school have the money they need before we go funding the rest of the stuff on the list. And we need to make our voices heard with the folks who control funding for education to make this happen.

In the U.S., this means your state’s governor and your representatives in the state legislature. (The reason that education funding is decided largely at the state level is that, in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the U.S. Supreme Court found that there was no fundamental right to education under the Constitution.)

Write them letters to tell them that adequate funding for education is your priority — and that you vote. Remind them that the kids in your state are the future workforce in your state, the ones who will be providing health care, law enforcement, education, and whose brains will be engaged in the innovations that will make your state competitive.

Or not.

Failing to invest in educating the kids in your state — all the kids in your state — is failing to understand how funding now yields future returns. A well-educated society costs a heck of a lot less than a poorly educated society. Even if it didn’t, deciding to leave some kids without adequate education because it will save some money is a morally problematic call, putting an unfair burden on the people in our society least able to look out for their own interests.

Write some letters. Keep at it till you get some real responses. If the people who depend on our votes for their jobs get the message that education really matters to the voters, we get closer to a world where every kid gets the education he or she deserves.

Comments

  1. #1 Ewan
    November 12, 2007

    Note also that we’re now getting $100 gift vouchers to make further donations, as thanks for donating in the first place. Pretty cool!

    [and slight nudgelet: any chance of getting those graphic files...? :)]

  2. #2 Donalbain
    November 13, 2007

    Americans!
    Pay no heed to the crazy ethicist! You must keep taxes as low as possible, my future, and the future of millions like me depends on it. (Also, if you could ensure kids are taught creationism, that would be a great help).

    My thinking goes something like this:

    Bad American science education = Americans not qualified to do science work = My future (non American) kids more likely to get good science based jobs = My kids richer = Me put in better quality old folks home when my future kids realise that they dont want to actually look after me because I am an ornery old coot = Me happier

    So, you know it makes sense! Keep those teachers begging for overhead projectors while the rest of the civilised world takes interactive whiteboards and decent science equipment for granted!

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 13, 2007

    I, too, was pleased to get a $100 gift certificate that I could apply to additional unfunded projects. My original $10 donation turned into $110.

    As to the larger point that you make, it frightens me that the Robbinsdale School District will now have to make do with funding levels that have not been keeping up with inflation. The voter referendum for school funding failed, and the lies spread about misuse of funding inspired a lawsuit. By the purveyors of the lies.

    They are suing the state of Minnesota for the right to lie about school referendum campaigns. I am not in that district, but the ares code for my cell phone is. I got a robo-dial phone call from 281 CARE, the group hired to fight the referendum; and the misinformation was barely believable but it had enough of the right-wing talking points to “ring true” and motivate voters who were pre-disposed against the measure. The most disturbing point made in the call was for schools to save money on Special Education by teaching “phonics” instead of coddling kids with special needs.

    My own district passed its levy referendum the prior year, but the post-election battle dragged on for several months and nearly went to court because of misprinted ballots. The objection that I hear most often from taxpayers is that they no longer have children in school, or they send their kids to private school, so they should no longer have to pay for education.

    Education is not just about your own kids, it is about the ability of the members of our society to think critically, to understand how to learn, to channel curiosity. We always have a stake in education; its not about jobs and careers alone, it is about running our society. If we leave education for those who can afford to pay for the best then we broaden the gap between the haves and the have-nots and our society becomes further segmented by class.

    Finally, when I voted in our school board election last week it was the only item on the ballot. Five people had filed to run for school board, and there were four seats up for grabs. Only 300 people in four precincts (4000 residents in each) had voted by 7:00 pm. Apathy is as large a problem for education funding as is antipathy.