The Rules of School: Big Business Gets Detention
Do you think it would be fair to buy your grades? What would you do if you could pay your teacher $20 for an A on your report card, or $10 for a B? If you could use money instead of studying hard and doing your homework, would you? What would happen if some kids in your class had more money than others?
We hope that this will never happen. Teachers are supposed to treat everyone equally and not give special favors to any students, not even the rich ones. But what about politicians (our mayors, senators, congressmen, and president). Do they treat everyone equally? Does anyone give them money because they want special treatment or favors?
You bet! Big companies give millions of dollars to politicians every year. When a person decides to run for president, it helps to have some money to put ads on TV and travel to different parts of the country. The businesses and companies give money to the politicians and hope that the politicians will help them in return. Our leaders have the responsibility to make laws that will protect everyone, but sometimes they make laws that help the rich people and the big companies more. Does that sound fair?
It sounds unfair to me. In fact, it stinks! The rich people get richer and everyone is left out! That's how I feel, and I'm going to tell you about someone who felt the same way...more than seventy seven years ago!
Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette ran for President in 1924. He wasn't a Republican or a Democrat. He was part of a third political party, the Progressives. Progressives fought for labor unions and a woman's right to vote. La Follete promised that if he became president, he would help people instead of big rich businesses.
Becky and I traveled to Wisconsin, Fighting Bob's home state. We found out that La Follette started his own newspaper, "The Progressive," in 1909. We visited the newspaper office and spoke to the editor, Matt Rothschild.
A new friend in the Heartland!
"Fighting Bob" wrote articles to fight discrimination. He believed that all people-men, women, blacks, whites-- were equal.
During World War I, he saw the rich gun companies making more and more weapons, getting richer and richer. While the weapon companies were making money, many soldiers, mostly workers and the poor, were losing their lives in battle. La Follete thought this was unfair, and he wasn't afraid to speak up. He wanted the US out of the war.
He spoke to everyone who would listen, and he spoke to many people who wouldn't. As a Wisconsin governor, congressman, and senator, he created laws that protected the interests of workers, women, small farmers, and the environment. He saved state forests and broke up big companies. When he ran for President, he didn't win, but he earned 5 million votes!
"Fighting Bob" is long gone, but his ideas aren't. Some politicians are still fighting to give power back to the people. It's simple: most people want to live in a fair world; one where schools have enough money, medical care is available to all, and workers get paid what they deserve.
We still need to change a lot, but think how much one person can do! Look at "Fighting Bob" La Follette and everything he did. As Matt said, "[Bob] was one courageous individual."
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Links to Other Dispatches
Daphne - Does money really talk or should it take a walk?
Jennifer - A crater of tears and a forest full o' love
Neda - Two Wobbly ghosts named Ralph and Wilma