Friday, June 24, 2016

Misplaced Priorities in Bronx Schools

I am not an expert on pedagogy. I am not an expert on curriculum. I am not conversant with standards, testing, or graduation requirements.
However, as product of the New York City public schools, from kindergarten through 12th grade, and as someone who has interviewed more than 100 people about their experience in Bronx schools from the 1940's through the 1960's I know this- school teams, school bands and orchestras, school newspapers, theater programs and arts programs change lives, especially for young people coming from poor and working class families.
Programs like this not only inspire young people in and of themselves, and create strong relationships among students, and between students and teachers, they build confidence and make everything else that goes on in school more tolerable.
Given this observation, why is it that so many schools in the Bronx today look upon teams and arts programs as extraneous to the "real business" of school, which is getting students to acquire basic skills and pass tests? Don't they realize that eliminating creative outlets for students will ultimately undermine their quest to improve test results? That it will drive up drop out rates? Make students disillusioned with formal education?
There is something really destructive taking place right now, especially when it comes to sports. During the past five years, I have approached principals in six different schools with the opportunity to have Fordham students create men''s and women's soccer teams for their institutions and NOT ONE has taken me up on the offer, even though the offer involved access to Fordham facilities and opportunities for tutoring. It was not that the principals rejected the offer, its that they let it die a silent death by not following up.
What makes this even sadder is that in all of these schools, the majority of students were immigrants who came from countries where soccer is the major sport- especially Mexico and West Africa- and where students already possessed some skills. Not only would creating teams for them give them an opportunity to achieve success in something which they are confident, it might enhance their chances of college admissions and scholarships.
But clearly, creating teams, and creating arts programs is not much of a priority in the Bronx, especially in the new "small schools" which have swept through the borough.
And this is very destructive, and very sad