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Jaime B's Blog

California's Great New Education System

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California has a really important upgrade in public postsecondary education, and it's worth writing about. It's not the University of California, or the California State University, or even the California Community Colleges. Those institutions are old-hat. The Golden State has shifted its priorities to take funds away from these older institutions and sink them into the new approach.

The new system is miles ahead of them in its ability to recruit new students. Even better than that, it's reaching populations that were never included in postsecondary education before: low income students are entering in great numbers, and minority students are actually a large majority of its participants. The retention levels through completion are impressive. Students do not abandon this institution until the State is satisfied that they are ready.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it's only too real! The institution does have its drawbacks. It doesn't grant traditional degrees or diplomas, but in its targeted placement market, these don't count for much. Besides that, the only other limitation is that there's really only one field for the participants to specialize in, but it's broad enough to provide all sorts of opportunities after completion. One of its greatest features is cooperative learning, an approach that lets students bring their own life experience into the learning process and help each other learn new skills. And the network that is set up for placement is always eager to recruit new talent and put it to work.

Doesn't it all seem too wonderful?

It's the California State Penitentiary System. It has the power to recruit and compel attendance. No participant can be released before his time. A great number are young, and a majority come from poor and minority backgrounds.

The State spends a lot of our tax money on the system, and it teaches young, inexperienced inmates to be ready for big-time employment on release. Kids that were pikers, maybe just joy-riding or dealing pot, become hardened criminals. They learn to be cruel and act out of desperation in this school. It turns out all the sociopaths that society can absorb, and then some.

Our Governor has proposed cutting $1.4 billion from California postsecondary institutions next fiscal year, UC, CSU and the Community Colleges. Proposed cuts to the prison system: none.

Aren't you happy with what your tax dollars can accomplish?


  1. G Man's Avatar
    This pisses me of. Also, our tuition has raised several hundred dollars per quarter (amounting to thousands per year) over the past few years
  2. the_good_life's Avatar
    Jaime, if you haven't read Loic Wacquant's Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity , get it. Terribly dense academic prose, but worth it.
  3. JaimeB's Avatar
    @ the_good_life:

    Vielen Dank für die Buchempfehlung! I just downloaded the Kindle edition to my iPad. It promises to be a very good read. I have known for a long time that the prison project is mostly about getting the system's "failures" off the streets, especially as it tends to reinforce cultural and racial stereotypes of an increasingly (yes, I said increasingly) racist society.

    These are precisely the people that need public involvement to support them in turning their lives around. In California, the entry into the academic and technical milieu has been through the Community Colleges, two-year institutions that grant basic degrees to give the recipients access potential to regular four-year institutions and on to post-graduate programs. In our state, which continues to refuse to ask individuals and corporations with deep pockets to pay their share of the tax burden, we are proposing to nearly triple fees for Community College programs, effectively putting them beyond the reach of the poor. This constitutes an effective tax increase on the poor (though it's euphemized as "fee for service"), while exempting the economic powerhouses of our society from doing anything besides continuing to enrich an upper class which progressively amasses more and more of society's wealth while refusing to underwrite its infrastructure.

    And all this is acclaimed by some in the name of a religion whose founder reviled the rich and the religious authorities of his day, and defended the needs of the poor and downtrodden! What a perversion of religion and justice! Is this what Western civilization stands for now?
    Updated 13th April 2011 at 05:10 AM by JaimeB
  4. Emlynevermore's Avatar
    Jaime, your blog entries are always thought-provoking and I have come to enjoy them a great deal.

    All God's Children, by former NYT reporter Fox Butterfield (great name for a gumshoe), offers an astonishing account of the limits and failures of the American penal system by tracing the escalating violence enacted by succeeding generations of the Bosket family. Though the narrative builds up to the story of Willie Bosket, currently serving three life sentences in a maximum-security prison in upstate New York and the most notorious inmate in New York State's penitential history, as an educator you may find the tale of his father, Butch, which precedes it of even greater interest.

    Heartbreaking at times, it is unquestionably the most compelling book I have ever read, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    I will take a crack at Punishing the Poor myself, so thanks for that, the_good_life.
    Updated 14th April 2011 at 06:32 PM by Emlynevermore


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