Death of Public Education?

There is nothing more visually striking and expressionistic  than art in its many forms, including performance art, which was sprawled before the eyes of UC Irvine students and staff last Wednesday afternoon when a group of students put on a performance on Ring Road in protest against what is being seen as a crime against the public education system in the state of California.

On Ring Road, just outside Langson Library, a throng of spectators gazed in amusement and curiosity at a lone student lying facedown on the path who was clad ominously in all black and donning a UCI sweatshirt.

The student’s limbs were spread limply on the ground, and outlining his body, a thin line of chalk framed his stance on the cement.  Bordered above and below the actor, in giant block letters read: DEATH OF PUBLIC EDUCATION.

UCI has seen its share of protests on various issues, including many on the alleged assault on education in the state’s school system.

Earl Foust, a history and comparative literature major at UCI, is affiliated with the group who organized this performance art protest.

“[The group is] affiliated through the resistance of budget cuts,”  Foust said. “The purpose of the performance is to bring awareness as public institutions are being attacked every day.”

These protests against the attack on public education appear theatrical and superfluous, but these dramatic acts, in addition to any other melodramatic protest that addresses any issue of dwindling accessibility to certain rights, may be just dramatic enough to garner the public’s attention, bring the issue to the forefront and to perhaps bring enough responsiveness to counter the dramatic downgrades that are being done to the University of California system.  The negative changes have come too close for comfort as they have swept through the UCI campus, which is apparent by figures that show that since 2000, tuition at UCI has more than doubled from approximately $5,000 in 2000 to the more than $12,000 that UCI students pay now.  This amount is expected to increase still even more by 16 percent over the next four years, leaving current UCI freshmen paying a much more staggeringly significant amount by their senior year.

Also, class sizes have increased drastically as fewer classes are being offered each quarter.  And as rates continue to steadily increase, there are unfortunately overwhelming unemployment rates for graduates in California in this slumped economy, and earnings for college graduates are down by 11 percent.

It is not known if theatrical protests can trigger any sway in the fight for educational accessibility, but perhaps, one man’s seven-hour performance along Ring Road can in some way, big or small, positively influence and change the fight against the state for knowledge for all.

Even if this presentation summoned up an interest or rebel spirit among other students, maybe from this, the seeds of drive can be born and developed to tackle the issue of deteriorating and increasingly more unattainable education, which can greatly harm and deter the direction of what has up to this point been known as the Golden State of California.

 

Stephanie Weldy is a third-year English and literary journalism double major. She can be reached at weldys@uci.edu.