Saturday, August 31, 2013

Breaking Bad in Education

For zealots on the left of the Democratic Party and zealots on the right of the Republican Party who claim there is no difference between the two major parties, I invite those zealots to read this Slate article by clicking here.  It has gone viral, including being published in the Chicago Tribune internet edition this week.

I usually distinguish the parties by stating that one is for exceptionalism, the other for mediocracy.  One promotes personal achievement, the other wants us all to be equal in wealth, education and opportunities, an impossibility in any society.

Adding insult to injury is one admittedly judgmental Allison Benedikt, who authored the article in Slate cited above.  According to Ms. Benedikt:

1.  If you send your kid to a private school, you are a bad person;

2.  If every single parent sent their children to public school, public schools would improve;

3.  It could take generations and your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations;

4.  Rich people always find a way to game the education system;

5.  Your local school stinks but you don't send your child there? Bad on you!

6.  There are lots of reasons why bad people send their kids to private schools:

      a.  Prestige;
      b.  Religious reasons;
      c.  Kids have behavioral or learning issues;
      d.  The school in their district is not so hot.

7.  None of the above are compelling reasons.

8.  Parents want the best for their children, but their children really don't need it. Mediocre is fine!

9.  If you can afford a private school, chances are your spawn will be fine at a crappy public school;

She goes on to relate that she went to a terrible public K-12 school. She left home for college woefully unprepared and then left without learning much there either.  Her parents weren't too worried about where she attended public school.

In my judgmental opinion, that made her parents .  .  . BAD!  And if she has kids, that makes her worse than bad.

Forty six years ago, my parents pulled me out of the Chicago Public School System and we moved to Skokie, Illinois.  I complained up a storm about leaving the old neighborhood, my friends, my teachers. No matter, one day I was in Budlong Public School, the next, Fairview South Public School for 8th Grade.  I attended my first science class and was clueless about Bunsen burners, test tubes and other oddities I previously saw in movies. During my second class a teacher scrawled an Algebraic formula on his backboard, and I had no idea what that represented.

Eighth Grade suddenly became a miserable experience in my life.

Others in the old neighborhood, mostly immigrant Greeks, also pulled up and left rather than sending their kids to local Chicago Public High Schools, seeking the best for their kids.  Many of them unable to move scraped up what they could and sent their children to Gordon Tech High School. Those particular friends had fathers that worked second jobs and mothers that entered the workforce for the first time to raise that tuition money. They sacrificed for their children.  Ms. Benedikt now calls them bad and their actions monstrous!

My mother also entered the work force following the move to Skokie. My family left a rent free two-flat apartment that had been owned by my grandparents since 1928, for a mortgage. They did it for me. They made that financial sacrifice. And Ms. Benedikt calls them bad and their actions monstrous!

Forty-six long years after I was pulled out that system, the Chicago Public Schools are still awful, with high drop out rates and graduating substandard students who received a substandard education. At one point they were proclaimed the worst in the country. Generations after generations of young students receiving educational mediocracy if they were lucky, with no real relief in sight.  The Paul Vallas reform years lead to the Arne Duncan reform years which have now lead to the Rahm Emmanuel years. And those "reform" years took place long after I was pulled out.

I am one of the few Republicans in Illinois that won't snark about Mayor Emmanuel and Mayor Daley sending their kids to private schools. They are being good parents. Why sacrifice their own children?  But they must do better for those Chicago Public School students attending now who have nowhere else to go. It is shameful that this problem has persisted for years longer than I have been alive.

Forty-six years of hype, hoopla, celebrating a 1% increase in reading scores, ignoring pathetically high drop out rates and graduating students who struggle in college, or fail in the job market.  At least those not fortunate to end up in a magnet school.

How pathetic is that Ms. Benedikt?  Mediocracy run wild.  Closing in 5 decades.  And she wants current and future parents to send their kids through that permanent system of failure?

Using Ms. Benedikt's logic, I and thousands of others should have have been used as sacrificial guinea pigs in her warped educational experiment.  I thank God and my parents for not even considering that nonsensical stance.

If my parents had lost their minds back then, I imagine I would have ended up in the restaurant industry with bad hips and knees from years of standing and walking, like my father, instead of becoming an attorney and experiencing many opportunities.

No, my parents weren't bad 46 years ago. They weren't monsters. Nor were the parents of my friends that either bolted for the suburbs or sent their kids to Gordon Tech High School.

Parents should have a choice of schools for their children when the option is mediocracy or worse. And those parents demanding that choice, or moving to another district, or sending their kids to private schools are good parents.

Not bad.

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