Friday, June 20, 2014

Public School Failure- “The Big Lie” on Which Current Education Policy Rests

As someone who has worked in the Bronx for the last 45 years, it drives me crazy to hear business leaders and politicians denounce public schools as the one failed institution in an otherwise thriving society. Hello! During the 1970′s, when factories in the Bronx closed, business districts shuttered, banks refused to make loans and landlords abandoned and burned buildings that once held nearly half a million people, leaving the southern portion of the borough looking as though it suffered aerial bombardment, the public schools remained open, serving traumatized students with a shrinking array of resources. And these same schools were there ten years later when a crack epidemic hit the Bronx, providing a refuge from flying bullets and war torn streets. 

“That the academic performance of these schools suffered as a result of serving battered communities with limited resources is hardly surprising, but let us not forget they were there, on the ground, when private businesses ran away because they could not operate in such conditions. 

And the teachers!! The Bronx teachers who went to work among burned out cars and vacant lots and crack vials and flying bullets were the Bronx’s unsung heroes, valiantly serving children living in a war zone, helping young people abandoned by the rest of the country achieve a measure of self confidence and success at a time when few cared what happened to them

And now, the Arne Duncans and Wendy Kopps and Bill Gates of the world have the nerve to blame these same schools and teachers for the so-called “achievement gap” and the persistence of poverty and inequality in the United States. In a time when our biggest corporations have downsized and outsourced, exported jobs, and driven down wages, the public schools have actually done a better job upholding the living standards of Americans and defending its best traditions, than their private sector counterparts.