the basic theory of which is that the most fundamental needs (at the bottom of the pyramid) must be met before the higher-up needs can be addressed.
One would think that given this information, society would make it a point to ensure that the basic needs of its community were being met. Which, by extension, would mean that society would prioritize the preservation of jobs that work to meet these needs.
And yet, not so much. For the past five years, I've been teaching children of incarcerated parents--helping them to understand the prison system and how it works, facilitating circles in which they are encouraged to share their experiences with parental arrest, and working to help them feel less alone. Not only do I believe that this is important because of the emotional impact it has on these young folks, but I like to believe that programs like mine help to break the cycle of incarceration that almost seems inevitable.
My program is one of dozens being cut by the city of San Francisco. I can't point fingers because I'm not sure it's anyone's fault anymore. Last year, when our program was cut (we received last-minute "addback" funding last year, but this year it doesn't look like there's any available), I went with some of my students and some fellow teachers to City Hall to speak to the budget committee about why it was crucial that our program get funded. Walking in, I felt confident that I'd be able to persuade the budget committee members to give my program the money, because surely they'd see that it was doing more important work than many of the others in our position.
But then I heard all the other people speak, and my heart sank: San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth, and their Families was cutting not only my program for kids impacted by the prison system, but a shelter for homeless teens; a community LGBTQ clinic for teens who were being bullied, harassed, and/or pushed away from their homes; a job-training organization for at-risk youth; the Filipino Community Center; a violence prevention program in the schools . . . the list goes on and on.
I saw this political cartoon the other day:
It's more sad than it is funny, huh? I have a terminal Masters degree, and in just a month and a half, I won't have a job. I will, of course, begin applying like a madwoman for jobs in my field, but the grim reality is that my field is sinking right now. When Schwarzenegger was governor*, he cut the funding for all arts education in the prisons (these very arts ed programs were proving to prevent recidivism, by the way, ultimately saving taxpayers money). With that went my dream of becoming an Artist Facilitator at a California State Prison.
When I told a friend (who is a doctor) that I was feeling lost and considering going back to graduate school to get a degree in Social Work, her first reaction was:
"Are you sure you want to go to school for something that's not going to make you any money?"
It stopped me in my tracks, and I was overcome with sadness and frustration that those of us who have a "calling" to work in fields that help people whose basic needs aren't being met, with those most marginalized in society, hardly make enough money to survive.
The difference between an MFA and an MBA is incredible, isn't it?
I hate complaining, I really do, but sometimes I'm appalled that I went to graduate school and have a legitimate "career" and yet I have to babysit at least four evenings a week to supplement my income. And the prison job? That's totally volunteer.
Thanks for bearing with me through this long and winding spiel that is ultimately a big downer. And if you don't mind, keep your fingers crossed that something good comes my way soon . . . so that I don't end up living in one of the homeless shelters that's being defunded by the city anyway.
*Still can't believe that California elected that clown as governor. What exactly did they think were the qualifications for the job?