Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Student Loan Debt Scam

I am a victim of the student loan debt scam. I went to college and earned a Bachelors Degree in Legal Studies and went to graduate school to earn a Masters in Social Work. I have worked as a Mental Health Clinician in Rikers Island since graduation in 2007. My student loans keep collecting interest because I can’t afford to pay and therefore I have them constantly in Forbearance. Last year my student loan debt was 80,000 dollars. This year my Federal Student Loan debt rose to 212,000 dollars at 5% interest. I have never seen 5% interest equal to more than double. Ever!!! There is clearly a scam to burden college graduates with so much student loan debt that it becomes impossible to recover. I have my loans consolidated with the Federal Student Loan Services. Even if I were to not pay any taxes on my income and give every cent I earn to this student loan it would take several years to pay off. My student loan debt without interest is high enough. When I graduated college I was supposed to make payments of 400 dollars a month for 20 years. This is outrages! Now I am expected to make $695 monthly payments for 20 years! I am constantly overdrawn in my bank account because I have to support my family. It is hard for me to understand the logic behind this student loan scam. The only logic I can fathom is to deter people from getting a college education. I have paid back every penny given to me for this education as I am a tax payer and a worker in this economy. I spend every last cent I make in this economy thereby giving every penny I make to the Federal, State and Local governments. However, this is still not sufficient as I am required to live a life of perpetual indentured servitude as a result of my student loan debt. I brought myself off the streets through education. I went to college from homeless shelters and park benches while surviving on food stamps, soup kitchens and welfare. Should I have remained homeless on welfare since obviously there is no way that I could afford education? Would this have been the responsible thing to have done? Would I have better served my country by being destitute and ignorant since being so would have saved the government money sending me to school? Is this the logic we are supposed to live by in America? I ask that my student loan debt be expunged. Every college graduate pays their student loan debt through employment wages. My social security number is 54########. You can see what I earned before I went to college and what I have earned after I went to college. I have more than paid for my education. To have us who went to college unable to earn a living due to student loan debt is un-American. A degree in legal studies and a Masters in Social Work should not cost $212,000. PLEASE EXPUNGE MY STUDENT LOAN DEBT! PLEASE EXPUNGE ALL STUDENT LOAN DEBT!

Students Don't Fail Schools Do!

Recently I spoke with some of my colleagues about the previous correspondence I had sent to you regarding the education system that is failing the majority of our children. After speaking with the mental health staff during the evening here in Rikers Island RNDC jail about the issues related to high school education, a number of concerns have come to light. My colleagues during the evening tour consist of three LMSWs, one LCSW and two psychiatrists. I felt presenting these strategies for an improved educational system to my co-workers was important. This is so because they, like me, are charged with caring for the resulting incarceration of adolescents. This epidemic known as incarceration is no doubt the product of a failed education system. One of my co-workers who joined in the evening’s debate is a social worker in one of these failing New York City schools. During the discussion a number of concerns were presented after I had introduced the idea of GED training and test taking upon entrance into high school. I will list each concern individually then address the concerns stated. My efforts in doing this are to address some of the concerns you may have as my colleagues’ concerns may in fact mirror yours. These efforts are also advanced in the hopes that we find some way to implement these worthwhile, needed and necessary changes. GED programs already exist as well as college classes for students who fail in high school yet these students don’t want to go to school. Here in lies the fundamental problem within our education system. It does not make sense to offer students in high school the opportunity to go to college to earn an associates degree and a high school diploma only when we fail them in high school. In this case, it is important to understand how such an implementation can affect the mental health of the individual. By availing this opportunity only when students are failing is tantamount to saying to the student, “You’re a failure so why don’t you go to “X” junior college to get a degree and a high school diploma?” Why are we to assume that a student who fails out of high school is more capable of earning a two year college degree and a high school diploma? By what logic are we employing a policy that says only when you are totally humiliated by the failure of not passing your regents exam and thus high school are you capable of opportunity. When we think about the effects a failing high school education has on a person’s self esteem, we can realize that a person is no more likely to achieve after they’ve ultimately quit high school. In fact, I challenge that a student is more likely to succeed when they first begin high school in such a program. Bronx community college offers high school drop outs the chance to earn a college degree and a high school diploma within a four semester period. Again, why are we waiting to use this incredible program only when we see the student has failed high school or dropped out? Why are we sending the message that taking this route is the “failures’ route” when in fact it is not. This program should be touted as a fast track to college not as an alternative to a failed education in an educational system that has a dismal success rate when it comes to educating its students. GED programs as well should be seen in these schools as opportunities to advance to college training, vocational training in tech schools etc, not as routes that failures take when they are run out of our failing high school system. By allowing children the opportunity to take these routes of education that can advance students into an early and productive career in every field via college or other training, we can avoid the breeding grounds for crime that these high school campuses have become. We should be using the GED opportunity as a fast track to college instead of demonizing its benefits. Likewise we should be using the program in community college that allows students to gain their education in high school while earning a college degree as a fast track to college. In fact we should name these programs what they are; fast tracks to college. Most importantly, these opportunities should be provided upon entering high school not upon failing high school. High school education is meant to foster a work ethic therefore not completing the four year high school program takes away an important aspect of the student’s development When we think about what work ethic this high school system is offering, we have to admit that we can find more things unethical than ethical. In the 1950s there was a Supreme Court decision titled Brown vs Board of Education. In this decision it was determined that racially segregated school systems were inherently inferior. In 1965 we attempted to bus people of color into the White school system. However, since 1965 our school system has become more racially segregated than when Brown vs. Board was decided in the Supreme Court. It is clear that we have no intention of integrating our public school system. Therefore we can never have a school system that is meeting the needs of these “Black” students or students otherwise ensnared in social inequality. The school system was failing these students in 1956 the same as it is failing these students today. Before we rally around the conventions of new ideas, let’s stick to the fundamentals of the problem that have existed since Jim Crow. The fact has been clarified that we cannot have separate schools where one school is all poor and all “Black” and the other school is all upper income and all “White”. We under this current scenario cannot then begin to talk about creating important student development and a work ethic while we foster this inherently inferior racist system. Since we have no intention of integrating our society or our school system, we are compelling students to participate in an oppressive and exploitative school system. However, if we allow these students to test out of high school and begin a college education or other training on the onset of high school, we can create an advantage for these students. These students realize that they are treated unfairly. Students realize that based on their treatment, no one cares. A student knows when they are being set up to fail. Perhaps this explains why students in these racially segregated high schools drop out. This may explain why so many of these students feel as though they will have a better chance surviving on the streets than in a classroom. It is important to not minimize the extreme effect our failure as educators has on our society. Consequently, upon entering high school, we should allow these students in this high school system an opportunity to advance by graduating with a GED or attending colleges where they can earn their associates degree and high school diploma in 16 months. In this way we can provide these students an advantage that will allow them to compete in our society. When we allow these opportunities, for the first time, these students will have an advantage as a result of where they live like so many of their counterparts. Families are responsible since it takes a strong mother and or father to make sure that the children earn their education. We have to be aware that although most families in the inner city are poor, this in and of itself does not make them stupid. Like these students, these parents are not blind to the reality that they have to send their children to an inferior school system. These parents realize that if anyone has a choice, the choice would not be to send their child to the same school system they send their child. Parents know when they are being humiliated by a racialist school system that is apartheid in nature and Jim Crow in foundation. They realize that “White” parents aren’t sending their children to go to school with their children. This being the fact, how do you tell a parent to advocate for the perpetuation of such a system? How insane are we to not understand why a parent would not advocate for their child to be a part of this abomination? These parents are not na├»ve. They went to these schools also. They know what is going on in this system. They are aware that this is a system that poorly prepared them to overcome its oppression well enough to not have to send their children through the same shameful experience. Perhaps this explains why parents do not become involved in their child’s high school education. People who want to attend this current school system should have the opportunity to do so. However, students who do not wish to attend this current school system should be allowed opportunities to advance via two year degree and diploma programs or GED testing. This way the schools will have to create more productive methods in order to retain students and parents for the standard high school path. Thank you for your time and please feel free to contact me regarding these issues. My contact information is listed below. Evan Baker, LMSW

Sunday, December 28, 2014

This has already happened

Everything we experience has already happened. That's because there is a delay for our brain to process what our nerves tell us. There are two different parts to our brain. The cerebellum and cerebral cortex. The cerebellum is the oldest part of our brain and works with the brain stem to control action, movement, balance and fight or flight. Our cerebral cortex then takes the information from the cerebellum and makes sense out of the experience. Our nerves get their information from the "environment" and respond to it by creating action as described. Now we all shrug our shoulders saying " yeah but this takes a split second"! Let's think about that split second. Regardless of weather it's a split second or an hour, the point is that we are not in control of our actions. Our cerebral cortex makes sense of this action by telling us that we conciously made this decision. That is lie number one. In fact what is really happening is that these actions have already taken place. We walk before we know we are walking. We eat, drink, talk, sleep and everything else including see before we are aware. It takes a milisecond for our eyes to see an object and send the image to our cerebral cortex. Therefore everything we experience is actually a past event. Here's a question. What is the environment we are reacting to? What in the environment tells us to sit, stand, move our head etc.? Our movement through our nervous system is crated by electrical signals. This electrical occurance takes place in cells called neurons. Every action we take, including thought, is the result of an electrical signal. This must mean that electrical signals are being sent from our "environment". After all electricity is the means by which our body communicates with itself. It would be hard to believe that electrical signals respond to non electrical forces to send electrical information. By now your mind has still brushed this off by saying " well a millisecond is not that long. However, we have to understand that in reality there is no such thing as a second. For there to be a second there would have to be a second beforehand. When did the first second begin? It never did. Time is infinite. So take a millisecond off of one day; then one year; then one million years; then infinity and you'll find that not only are we living in the past but we are living in a time that always has been and never was. By now your cerebral cortex is pretty pissed and trying to tell you that this is unimaginable. However not only is it imaginable, it is the only thing that makes sense and it's true. What's not true about time is 12:00am and a second and an hour. Time is not the beating of a heart or a planet's movement around a star. The environment our body is reacting to is our infinite universe or multiverse. We are controlled by our universe. Our actions are being dictated by an ancient dimension. We don't call the shots more than our earth, sun and space do. But our cerebral cortex would have us believe that we control everything and that we are all intelligent. Even more so than our universe! Now that's arrogant! We are simply an appendage to our environment and our dimension controls us not the other way around. Even in religion we are taught that there is a God more powerful than us and that this God controls us. So now your cerebral cortex is saying if we are living in the past, how do we explain our physical being? Our physics being is in no more controlled by us than are the stars controlled by us. Our body is the property of this dimension. Jesus taught us about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is who we are. I feel this way because since everything has already happened then what we see as physical is simply an interpretation. Our lives have already been lived and our conciousness only allows us to experience what we know today. What else can explain a time lapse between environment, the bodies reaction to the environment, and the cerebral cortex interpretations. There is a huge delay that clearly tells us that we are not in control of our actions. And against the back drop of infinity this could mean anything.

Rikers Island Theories of Racism

I just want to updated everyone on my book Rikers Island Theories of Racism. I have been getting 4+ star ratings in the European market and I am still selling copies online at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon and Xlibris as well as many other sites. If you like my writings, you'll love this book! Order a copy!

Rikers Island and NYPD

In these progressive times with the police department being focused on for unnecessary killing and Rikers Island being accused of human rights violations for solitary confinement of adolescence, I think that some clarity is in order. To begin with, the police department has to be mature enough to take responsibility for their actions. They argue that the arrest of the cigarette vendor who sold loose cigarettes was legal. It's argued that he resisted arrest. In the mind of law enforcement this means that his death was justified. I argued with some of my correction officer friends that being right or wrong doesn't matter. The point is that people don't like being bullied. If the NYPD wants to be heavy handed they can be. However it comes with a price. Nothing the Mayor says or didn't say would change the outcome of protests. The NYPD needs to grow up and stop acting like babies. The blood of the officers who got shot are on the hands of the NYPD. They don't care about what people think and the consequences are protests and the death of two officers. But hey, at lest they got a loose cigarette vendor off the street. I hope it was worth it. As for the Rikers Island situation, many jails keep people locked in Solitary confinement oftentimes without the person violating correction policy. For example, many jails lock people up in 23 hour lockdown for protective custody. Recently, my brother called me from Ventura County Jail while in solitary confinement. He had not violated any jail policy yet he was in 23 hour lockdown. Yet in Rikers Island the DOJ and Federal courts step in to end his box days? No! Maybe because the correction officers in Rikers Island are mostly Black/Brown, the New York Times and like media are quick to blame "Rikers Island" for 23 hour lockdown. However, the Policy of 23 hour lockdown was made decades ago by commissioners, Mayors, courts and other like higher ups. Where was the DOJ 70 years ago when there were White correction officers locking down 23 hours a day their inmates? It's not Rikers Islan correction officers doing a shift that are locking people down 23 hours a day. It's the DOJ and federal courts who set this policy in the first place. It's all the previous commissioners and mayors who are to blame. But like hypocrites, they admonish the lowliest they can find. As if some CO with a high school diploma is making policy. In closing responsibility needs to be taken.