The other day, I was riding with my husband, who is a pretty good driver. On this day, he maneuvered a busy intersection with his usual aplomb, and out from behind some trees appeared a pedestrian, a young woman, totally self-absorbed, looking down, her ear phones snugly attached. My husband, swerved in the right direction and we avoided a terrible mishap.
About an inch from our stopped car, she stared into the window, smiled and mouthed “I’m sorry,” and continued on her way, head down, earphones secure.
“Pay attention!” I wanted to yell, but I was too shaken, couldn’t get the window down in time, and she wouldn’t have heard me.
Many people in this country remind me of this girl when it comes to public schools. They are not fully aware of what’s happening to one of our most sacred democratic institutions. They are definitely not looking in both directions as they cross the street.
They’re distracted by reforms that sound nice. Or they’re mesmerized by the reformers.
Others worry about old reforms that, while serious, have led to newer, worse reforms. They care, but are stuck in a time warp.
Some want vouchers. They don’t appreciate public schools.
I’ve gotten emails that say, “Schools have always been bad,” or “teachers don’t know how to teach.” I politely write back that schools, in general, have educated many students well for years, despite problems, and I’m a retired teacher.
The purpose of public education is to educate all children, so we have an intelligent nation and one where we get along.
A society that gets together behind good schooling for the next generation, is committed to a future that works for all people. We’ll see innovation, better paying jobs, cures for diseases, a gentler and more cared for planet, and discoveries that go beyond our wildest dreams!
Public schools are not just places to send children so they can learn the basics, they’re vibrant social organizations. If we disagree with what schools teach, or how they go about business, we are free to attend school board meetings and speak our mind. Our schools are where the problems of society get hashed out.
You own these schools and so do I. They belong to us.
They don’t just belong to the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, or any nonprofit, or for-profit, business group, or individual.
School boards abdicate their responsibility to the community when they permit these individuals to have such influence on our schools. The community might also not be paying attention.
Many politicians on both sides may talk like they care, but they aren’t paying attention either. They don’t see the danger of relying on the wealthy for public programs.
Right now the oligarchy overtaking our schools speak of disruption, and changes that are not always well-understood or researched.
They mean for it to be confusing, and they hope we are distracted as we cross the road. They don’t care if we get hit by the car!
It boils down to:
- tech taking over teaching jobs,
- charter schools,
- students in front of screens,
- facilitators instead of teachers,
- nonstop testing,
- and lots of data collected on every child.
The data will be used to steer children into the workforce where corporations want your child to be.
Our public schools will close. Many of them have already closed. Children will stay home for school, sit in charter warehouses, a library, museum, or some other nonprofit or for-profit organization.
When it comes to public schools, all Americans need to pay attention, and look both ways before they cross the street. The loss of such a great institution, where we should be able to participate in our child’s learning, and the futures of our young people, will mean a different kind of country that is no longer for the people.