Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unified School Districts

Facebook and this blog are overlapping quite a bit, but while the Internet is free and accessible to all, feels like more important than ever to use both. Some of my best thinking comes from responding to news or comments or posts others make and when a teacher clarified that Charter Schools run across ideological lines and are not the enemy, I thanked her for her perspective and then wrote the following:

"Divide and conquer" is Rule No. 1 in oppressive regimes and we teachers need to not get fooled into quibbling with each other about which kinds of schools are “good” or “bad.”

• Private schools can be places of privilege perpetuating that privilege or places that use it responsibly in service of all.

• Charter schools can be places to choose a focus neglected in other schools—like arts—or they can be places to push political and religious agendas that exclude others.

• Catholic and other religious schools can be places that use dogma to divide and create a “chosen people” or do good works with care, mercy and compassion.

• Public schools still remain a democratic ideal of bringing all kinds of kids together and offering them equal access to education, but as we know, can get tied down in ignorant bureaucracies from above that subvert a teacher's passion for teaching through demands like mindless testing.

At the bottom of it all is not which venue is the best, but what is our collective vision and what is education for? Compliance or questioning? Molding obedient citizens or cultivating deep thinkers? Making future fodder for the work machine or whole human beings flowering into their full character? Insuring good test scores or celebrating children who feel loved and honored and have the capacity to love and honor others?

While necessarily protesting the next threat to all sense of sanity in the national discourse on education (DeVos) and fiercely defending public schools as the norm, let's keep talking about these deeper issues and come together on behalf of the children we teach. We need the political structures in place to keep education accessible to all and allow us to do our work unencumbered and we need the vision that beckons us to be worthy of the title "teacher." Let us control the dialogue and not be fooled by “divide and conquer,” keep the notion of a “unified school district” by staying unified in our care for children and quality education.

It’s a good time to look deeper beyond the rhetoric and re-affirm what schooling should really be about. To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, let’s use the severe cracks in the system to let the light shine in.

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