It’s the economy, stupid.

silhouettesToday was not a good day for public education here in the god-forsaken Great Lake State. I don’t think passing the EAA bill is a done deal yet but I can’t say for sure. Try as I might, I can’t quite keep up with this stuff. I have a full time career and about a billion other things to do and, yaknow… Speak s-l-o-w-l-y, I’m blonde, aka, I don’t totally understand it. (Or want to. And why the heck do I *have* to? Because our elected legislators are not trustworthy.)

What I do understand is that it seems the idea is for an dictator of some sort — EFM, EM, whatever, to come in, close a bunch of schools in an under-performing district (like Detroit) and fire all of the existing teachers, then re-open [some of] the schools in some sort of “charter school” format. They hire back some of the teachers and fill in with untrained teachers from the likes of Teach For America. Enthusiastic kids with no frickin’ clue. Why is this good for the students?

Yes, there are many problems with public education. Yes, we have school boards who make egregiously irresponsible financial decisions (“I’ve got an uncle in the furniture business” and other misadventures). Charter schools are not inherently bad. As I understand it, originally they were supposed to provide educational “laboratories” to try out new educational ideas and strategies. They were public schools but the idea was that they would be small and carefully designed with input from all of the stake-holders. I agreed with that. Nowadays… Our state is willing to replace schools and sometimes whole school districts willy-nilly with big businesses that masquerade as charter schools. Technically, they are still public schools but they are also selling stuff to us taxpayers and our ill-informed elected officials. Standardized testing programs and technology mostly. Technology is an important TOOL but iPads will not save education and using the results of standardized testing to evaluate teachers? I have no words, except maybe, “yeesh!”

I could go on and on (and on and on) about this stuff. Can the likes of Bill Gates and Michael Milken (Michael Milken? Really?) fix them? I don’t think so. I think they are largely in this venture for their own personal gain. What is wrong with our schools country is that no one seems to care about the extreme poverty pervasive to the families whose children attend so many of our struggling schools. Where there is no food on the table (or even a table). Where the kids can’t sleep at night because they are terrified because: a) people are doing drugs at the house and there are fights, etc., b) mama’s boyfriend will come and “visit” them during the night, c) they are living in a car, d) All of the above… There are kids who arrive at kindergarten NOT KNOWING HOW TO USE A TOILET!!!!! I once over-heard my kids’ [beloved] old-school kindergarten teacher complain that she had a kid didn’t know how to use SCISSORS!!! I was horrified at the time. Now I know how lucky she was to be teaching here on The Planet Ann Arbor…

These stupid for-profit (make no mistake, they *are* for-profit and your tax dollars will pay for them) charter schools are not the answer. Testing testing testing is not the answer. On-line courses will be an important part of education going forward but they should not replace neighborhood schools. Getting rid of recess and art and music (especially instrumental music) and gym (as much as I hated gym!) is not the answer. We need to teach the arts. I think we even need football.

2 Responses to “It’s the economy, stupid.”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Love this post and I agree with it. People who like to put blame on teachers need to get out there and visit schools or neighborhoods. I teach in a relatively affluent school district in the most diverse HS of the 3. We are seeing so many kids who are underparented, unparented, enabled, homeless–you name it. Some come to school on drugs, hungry and stressed about their home lives or lack thereof. It’s sad and terrifying. They need healthy bonds with others, stability and caring adults in their lives, NOT tests, tests, tests and on-line work.

  2. Sam Says:

    Love the photo. I know those northern winter light angles. Not so much here in ATL. Latitude, whatta concept!