How Did We Become So Broken?

By Sally Saville Hodge

We’ve stopped investing in ourselves and the resulting deterioration has become inescapable.

Driving on the expressway from Chicago’s South Side to the north during a heavy snowstorm, traffic was at a standstill. There was plenty of opportunity to survey the landscape. And what you see when you pay attention is not pretty.

The metal supporting the overpasses, beginning at the Jane Byrne Interchange to Hubbard’s Cave, are heavily corroded. Many are further discolored from the weeping of metal railings that are suffering the effects of time and wear. The concrete pillars holding up the structures go from bad to worse. Surfaces are marred by a heavy tracery of cracks. With others, huge gouges are exclamation points to the effect of our neglect.

That’s one sign of how lack of investment is impacting our physical infrastructure. Then there’s a different kind infrastructure that’s falling apart, as well. One that supports our society.

Our children, our future, are being gamed and left behind by a system that puts more emphasis on test scores than on the learning the scores are supposed to reflect. In some schools, children not being allowed to fail. It’s okay to read them the answers to the tests. And when they can’t cut it in the classroom beyond testing periods, failing grades are changed. Bonuses, after all, depend on hitting unilateral targets. And those targets may be unattainable for populations that have been neglected for so long that they have lost the will and interest in learning anyway, along with any respect for the teachers who would inspire them.

But that’s okay, because no one else respects teachers either. Why else would we constantly be asking them to give back on salary, benefits and pensions, while loading on more work, requiring more hours, weekdays and weekends, and expressing more expectations of miracle-working without giving them the resources it takes to bring miracles about? Even Jesus started with 12 loaves of bread and two fish to feed the multitudes.

The fact is that we’ve stopped investing in ourselves, and so we’re selling ourselves off, a little bit at a time, to delay the inevitable. We’ve sold off a tollway and our parking meters, not to mention public land – the latest for a tribute to a popular movie series and a university’s charter school. The latter is a sweet deal, land worth $755,000 that was sold for $1, and will not only not generate taxes, but will essentially rob those revenues from schools that are already starving.

The thing of it all is that Chicago is just a microcosm of a system that is deteriorating all around us. Just look at Flint and the price it’s paying for water poisoned by expedience. Consider the number of homes still standing empty throughout the country, twice abandoned – first by owners drowning in debt and then by the banks who encouraged them in the water and happily let them sink. Then, too, there’s our environment, which we’re killing with chemicals and carelessness. And above all, look at how the vested interests have gotten that way – through a system that quite literally has given us the very best leaders that money can buy.

How did we become so broken?




1 Comment

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One response to “How Did We Become So Broken?

  1. Spencer Matteson

    I look at it as the inevitable outcome of American style capitalism. Until there is a revolution – a seachange – in our basic values as a nation, we’re screwed.

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