While I foster everyone to be alarmed by Trump, education isnt the top of my list of worries: for their own families, its been a problem no matter whos in charge
About a decade ago, when we were sending our son to a mostly-white public charter school in Los Angeles East Side hipness zone, I got a pure sense of what school choice is all about. The school had been bouncing around like a dodgeball from location to location. First, it was located at a church on Fairfax, but soon outgrew that facility. Then, it occupied the leading edge of a rough Hollywood elementary school, where the mostly Mexican public-school population was kept at arms duration from the Stellas and Elijahs and Dexters of the charter that longed for a permanent home.
One night, we had a public session at an auditorium in Lincoln Heights, a neighborhood thats been beset by gang violence since the epoch of LA Confidential. Our schools bourgeois brain trust had come up with the idea of merging its resources with another charter school, which mostly served Central American immigrant households. Proposed as the location for this new merged school: a former sanitarium for unwed moms, which had gone unoccupied since 1979 and was now certainly occupied by ghosts.
The head of the other school said, our parents are largely grateful that their children can go someplace every day thats dry.
We gasped. Of course most children were dry. We didnt even let them step in puddles! They were always safe and warm, and often went to movie premieres; our concerns revolved around them learning a second foreign speech before middle school and hopefully giving them the opportunity to visit Paris.
But when it comes to public education, priorities vary. The next speaker was a sergeant from the local police district, who described how neighborhood gangs routinely initiated female members by gang-raping them.
The next week, the wealthiest families began to bail on our little charter school.
Theres been a lot of hand-wringing in my semi-rarified circles since Donald Trump announced that hed chosen Betsy DeVos to lead the ministry of education. According to many terrified sources, DeVos will set into action an unstoppable series of reforms that will force most children to attend underfunded vacation Bible schools. Teachers will require kids to proclaim fealty to Jesus, the Republican party and the NFL.
Life will be one long trigger warning.
I encourage everyone to be alarmed at everything that the Trump administration does, but reports of the death of American education seem to be coming in a little late. If you have any linked with public education, you know that its been halfway in the ground for a long time. My spouse and I dont have education at the top of our listing of fresh Trump-era worries: for us, its been a problem from the beginning , no matter whos in charge.
Ive spent the last dozen years trying to educate my son in American schools. Half that time, weve lived in Texas, the reddest of states, and the other half, California, the bluest. In both states, what DeVos proposes is already current realities, minus a sketchy voucher system. Weve rarely stuck with one school for more than a couple of years.
School choice is the reality for most parents I know. Liberals, the most stalwart intellectual defenders of public education, often select a private route when theyre financially able. As a friend of mine, a public defender in Los Angeles, wrote to me: All our friends suggests that Betsy DeVos is going to force them to send their kids to private religion schools. And then they send their kids to private religious schools.
Educating my son has been the equivalent of trying to buy clothes in a mall where the stores keep closing, or where 1 store has socks but not shoes, pants but not underwear, or shirts that consistently come in two sizings too small. He started in the aforementioned arts charter in Los Angeles, entering kindergarten before his fifth birthday not because he was so advanced, but because his name get pulled in a lottery. A decent free education was no guarantee in the LA neighborhoods where we could marginally afford to live.
Eventually, that school found a permanent home, in an office park by the 2 freeway, occupying a cavernous building that came cheap because it was located next to a porn warehouse owned by Hustler. My son expended his third-grade year learning math and grammar in echoey recycled shipping receptacles. We attended endless fundraisers so the school could afford its outrageous rent.
Like many school charters, this one began to fray around the edges. There were rumors that the experienced, efficient principal, who for years had held the school along with sticking plaster and sheer will, was about to step down. And certain activist mommies had forced mandatory emotional intelligence workshops into the curriculum, filling the childrens heads with questionable motivational speak.
We didnt stick around to see the death of this empire, because the collapse of my Hollywood lucks forced us to retreat to the distant LA suburb of Austin, Texas.
We rented a dumpy little shack in an Austin neighborhood that marriage heard had a good public school. But we quickly learned that the public-school system in Austin in particular, and Texas in general, suffers from a fairly retrograde curriculum.
The principal pinched Elijahs cheeks and said, Were going to have a lot of fun, arent we? Um, OK, said our son, used to being trained by non-condescending people.
She then enrolled him in third grade, even though hed already completed third grade. The school devoted him math homework where the first problem was 1-0, although he has already knew long division. And his educator sent home an datum sheet that began To many times, their are students who
We pulled him out after 2 weeks, instead enrolling him in a progressive charter school that was only a 15 -mile drive from our home. This school, located in a former mental hospital at the leading edge of a toxic waste dump near the airport, was so radical that it didnt have a principal. Parents ran everything. The cinderblock builds didnt get washed very often. Renders were in short supply. They combined fourth and fifth graders into the same class, which led to bullying problems. We expended three hours a day in the car, hauling Elijah back and forth.
At the end of the first semester, in lieu of a Christmas concert, the students performed a winter solstice dance in the midst of a freeze, stick-strewn field, like something out of a Lars von Trier film. My spouse and I looked at each other and said , no more.
Come January, we began spending every spare cent we had to send Elijah to a private school for gifted students, which he tested into despite spatial-awareness ratings that would have been embarrassing for a marmoset. The school had some great teachers, and many riling oddities. Every year, students graduated while wearing togas and laurel wreaths. There were a constant series of assemblies where speakers came in and told the students how special the latter are for being gifted.
Real estate, as always, was a problem. The school couldnt afford its own facility, so it rented space at a synagogue, which meant that it didnt meet on Jewish holidays. Blended with regular school vacations plus mysterious in-service days, Elijah averaged about three days a week in school. He was also constantly having to move from classroom to classroom because the temple often used its classroom space to provide housing to homeless families. This caused a lot of tsuris among the private-school families, who were against homelessness in principle.
But Elijah learned some Latin and took a college-level physics course at age 10. He had great English and social-studies teachers, and stimulated friends with a cadre of bright weirdoes who hell likely know his entire life. Then the school, employing sketchy evidence, decided to hold him back a year. Instead of advancing him to middle school, they placed him in something they called the Leadership class, even though it was only comprised of three children. After the kids complained that Leadership was a deigning misnomer, the school changed the name of the class to the Hybrid class, and then started to be set all the children in middle-school classes anyway. This, combined with an incident where Elijah and two friends were almost expelled for plagiarism after theyd failed to properly cite information sources in a paper in 5th grade had us souring on the gifted academy.
We could see that the school had begun a slow collapse, which culminated in the board rebelling and firing the founders in the middle of a semester. But by then, marriage bailed to the suburbiums and enrolled Elijah in an ordinary, boring public middle school with good test ratings.
This school, bounded by Texas state education standards, has its flaws.
If Texas social-studies educators want to tell students that human bondage existed in the United States, they need to take the initiative, because bondage not really in the curriculum. Evolution is just one theory. The sex-ed curriculum, called Worth The Wait, teaches abstinence-only and is not, by statute, allowed to mention masturbation.
My son gets shielded, to some extent, from a less-than-adequate country curriculum by a roster of quality teachers and a principal who devotes them leeway. He has a full grasp of algebra, already has a high-school Spanish credit and for once goes to local schools with a well-funded theater department that performs in state competitions. Plus, the school is two blocks away and he strolls there every day. Thats worth our real-estate taxes alone. Our sons districted for a local public high-school that offers a lot of selections, including an acclaimed international baccalaurate program. Hes going to give it a try. I only hope our voucher, if were forced to accept one, covers the costs.
Meanwhile, a friend from Los Angeles reports that the arts charter is still in business in its East Side warehouse spare thats designed to look like a millennial ad bureau. At last telling, the school was raising funds by having its handsome Austrian-born gym teacher stand outside the gate with a basket. Mothers can toss in money as they drop off their children.
For American public schools, that sounds like business as usual.
Read more: www.theguardian.com