An Inclusive Litany

7/15/98

From a resolution put before members of the Modern Language Association, an academic group founded in 1883 to promote "the study and teaching of language and literature." For a resolution to be put to a full vote—usually between 5,000 and 10,000 ballots cast—a member must gather between 10 and 25 signatures from other members, depending on the time of year.
Whereas, despite a falling crime rate, a racially structured system of forced labor is developing in the U.S. prison system; inmates perform 'outsourced' work often at less than the minimum wage; impoverished white working-class rural areas become economically dependent on the incarcerations of largely African American, Latino, and Native American populations; and this development is justified by a rhetoric of 'getting tough on crime,' although in reality it reveals that the capitalist system cannot provide full employment at a living wage and that it promotes a politics of divide and conquer.... Whereas a recent Rand study shows that more money will soon be spent nationally on prisons than on education, and the New York Times (28 Sep. 1997) reports that in California almost the exact amount of funding lost to higher education (1990-97) has been expended on prisons; and... workfare has driven thousands of students—disproportionately students of color and single parents—out of bachelor's degree programs and into dead-ended, poorly compensated employment; and Whereas standardized tests contribute to racial segregation by frequently tracking low-income students, disproportionately of color, into vocational programs and community colleges and higher income students, predominantly white, into 'flagship' campuses; Be it resolved that the MLA urge its members to (1) speak out against the diversion of public funds from education to prisons and expose the failures of the current socioeconomic system, rather than rampant 'criminality,' as the reason for the trend toward mass incarceration; (2) support affirmative action, urge limited use of standardized tests as admissions criteria, and support the continuation of developmental programs; (3) call for government-supported programs guaranteeing that no student be forced out of college to perform workfare.

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