Sunday, April 28, 2013

Public Education is Dead, But The Human Spirit Isn't

It has been a constant bother to see how public education across the country, and particularly in my hometown of Philadelphia, has crumbled like the ancient ruins in Rome.  School closures have been combined with the Charter movement to make it increasingly difficult for poor students to use education as a ladder out of poverty as so many have done in decades past.  What makes the school closures especially painful in these large metropoli is that the majority of students who are effected are students of color.  It signals that those in power care little for those who need the most assistance to make a way in the world.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend private school for my elementary and middle school years, but had I not gone to a public high school, my college path, and that of my siblings would have been totally different.  I shudder to think about students in my West Philly neighborhood who now face the closure of their neighborhood middle school and are not being funneled into a suitable alternative as is often advertised. 

These closures signal that public education has truly hit rock bottom, and is effectively brain dead.  For years now, the best public school districts in the country have been those that draw off a tax base that could afford supporting students in the ways necessary to be competitive college matriculants. However, with the continued siphoning of resources away from public education, even those communities must dig into their pockets on top of what they pay in local taxes to insure that their children receive the most basic education essentials, effectively creating a community sponsored private education.  For those communities that can't afford to draw upon their consituents directly, they are left to suscribe to programs like the President's Race to the Top initiative, which rewards schools for test scores achieved Malcolm X style (by any means necessary).  It is no surprise that test fraud cases have popped up in major cities such as Atlanta, Washington D.C, and yes my beloved Philadelphia. 

So what are poor families supposed to do so that they are not left completely behind?  I've got three suggestions:

1.  Non-profit organizations - Yes they still exist and they offer all kinds of programming meant to help keep kids out of trouble.

2.  Houses of Worship - At their core, churches, mosques, synagogues, etc are meant to serve the people and do so with various programs beyond their days of worship.  In the age of "mega-size" congregations, these places are often well-resourced to offer needed community activities

3.  Community Centers - Most cities still manage to keep a Dept of Recreation operating which means that there is a neighborhood community center that can keep kids occupied when they're not at school.

It is truly a shame that education, a tool that was once used to indoctrinate all citizens in this country, is increasingly becoming a privilege to be enjoyed only by the socially savvy.  Gone are the days where the neighborhood school house is a place to be enjoyed by all for the benefit of all.  In order to advance in society now a basic education is not enough so those who have the least must become increasingly street smart about hustling the education game and hopefully decide not to simply hustle in the streets.  That is the decision the board of Corrections Corp of America would like to see youth continue to make because they've got plenty of beds waiting.

On Another Note:  I randomly received a book on grieving in the wake of Justin E. Carr's passing.  I was touched to see that someone I do not know was moved to make such a gesture.  There is something to be said about how people rally around one another in the aftermath of tragedy.

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