I can't really imagine legislators thinking that there is nothing wrong with this picture. I read an article in one of the newspapers about a week ago and it was talking about the legislators voting themselves a raise. Let's get real here, you want a raise for what? Is America really serious? If our legislators don't do anything soon, I think the situation will get worse. Right now, Black males have a 1 in 4 chance of going to jail, whereas white males have a 1 in 23 chance. Prisons are bulit based upon the reading scores of minority males (specifically Black and Spanish speaking) in the 3rd grade. What this basically says is "Read or go to jail." I know in Illinois, most prisons spend a minimum of $20,000 to house a prisoner for a year. Will someone please tell me why Illinois will spend at least $12,000 more to keep a child locked up with no possible chance of truly being rehabilitated (if that was the case there wouldn't be so many repeat offenders)? America needs to wake up and smell the cocoa beans. When you have children living in deplorable situations and the possibility of them changing their situation seems hopeless, why should they want to go to school? When the most successful person in their neighborhood is the local drug dealer or pimp, why should they go to school? The street life is has more to offer than the classroom.
I wish the legislators and administrators would come into my classroom unannounced. I want them to see the horrible desks in my room. I want them to hear the things I have to hear on a daily basis. I want them to go into the restrooms that are lacking toilet tissue and working hot water. Can you talk about the germs/feces that the students are spreading around. I couldn't imagine wanting to do work when I look at the facility.If the facility is run down, what message are we sending to our students? I try to make the room as aesthetically pleasing as I can, but sometimes it is difficult. I make signs of positive quotes by famous/notable people to try and encourage my students. Sometimes they read them and most times they don't.
Now, I'm no rocket scientist but it looks like something is wrong with this picture. It seems like Illinois is living in 1958 and not 2008. I can't believe this is happening. Shoot, who am I fooling, I can believe it. Everyday when I go to work, I am reminded of the inadequacies in education. It is crazy. I get tired of people placing the blame on the teachers. WAKE UP CALL: I am only as good as the resources available to me. Just imagine if we were having a relay race and the person who finished first won $1000. The race isn't fair if you have running shoes and I don't. I feel like that is how many of the public schools in Chicago and other urban areas are. Now on most days, I really like teaching; however it is difficult for me to want to stay in a profession that is not taken seriously. I think it is unfair to punish the students because of the decisions their parents may have made.
This past school year our focus was on the American Dream and is it attainable for all. Everything we read pertained to people either coming to America or already living in America trying to make their lives better. Some of the books read were "A Raisin in the Sun", "The Jungle", and excerpts from "Fast Food Nation." We also read a number of articles relating to this topic. One article read was written by Gregory Mantsios and it is titled "Class in America: Myths and Realities." This article discusses how the economic opportunities afforded to one varies by class. The writer gives an example of three young people who all start out with similar dreams for their lives but their socieoeconomic status dictates their future. Most of my students didn't know that the economic class they are born into pretty much is an indicator of their future. The three people showcased had very different opportunites afforded to them because of their parents socieoeconomic status. It is unfortunate that this is the harsh reality.
This article also discussed how poor white people have better opportunites than poor Blacks or Spanish speaking children. A good number of poor whites live in middle-class areas and are able to reap the benefits of a middle-class lifestyle. As it relates to people of color, they often don't have those same opportunities afforded to them. I had a client who once told me that her sister was able to receive public assistance and she was able to complete school and eventually get off of it. I know for a fact when a lot of Black people try to get or keep public assistance while in school, they are often denied. This tells me that the system is designed to set minorities up for failure.
I know some of you may be wondering what does this have to do with the school funding situation. It has a lot. If the legislators and administrators would put the student's best interest first, some of this tomfoolery will end. The truth of the matter is this: All students will not go to college (for whatever reasons). We need to stop fooling ourselves. The administrators keep cutting fundamental vocational programs with the false pretense that all kids will go to college and graduate. The current graduation rate for CPS students is for every 100 students going to college, only 6 will graduate and out of the six, only 3 will be Black males. We will need painters, carpenters, plumbers, hairstylists, mechanics and other trades that are being eliminated from many of the vocational programs. The fashion program was just closed. Now let me ask you this: Don't you wear clothing on most days? I know you wear them at least 4-5 days out of the week (depending on your work week). If you choose not to wear them, that is a choice, but when you leave your house you have them on.
Another issue I have with the government is they offer programs for white teachers to come and teach in the inner city for 3-5 years and in exchange they will either repay/forgive most of your student loans. Now you might think this sounds like a good program, but the downside to this is many inner city schools lose teachers almost every year. Oftentimes these teachers are planning their escape before they get into the school. In my opinion, this is just another way to hold poor students back. I am not suggesting that all the teachers that take advantage of these programs are not the best, but a good number of them are. Some of them don't really teach and they participate in social promotion (just passing kids) because they don't believe in these kids. The ones who do care often get burned out because of poor administration.
For those of you who wonder how teachers become bad, just go into any of these schools and observe what is going on. There isn't a whole lot of instruction, just a whole lot of frustration. It comes from every angle. The students come to school carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. They might be on the verge of getting put out, maybe someone is touching them inappropriately at home, most of them come to school hungry. There are a myriad of more issues these children face and no one really know how to address it. The teachers are frustrated because they are trying to teach a class and there are so many distractons. The administratuon wants teachers to do so much paperwork. If you are at a school like mine, you will come to know what's important. I do have a few books for all teachers to read and if you have a heart for children, they will truly change your way of thinking/teaching. The first book is "The Failures of Integration: How race and class are undermining the American Dream" by Sheryll Cashin. The second book is "Black Students, Middle Class Teachers" by Jawanza Kunjufu. Last, but certainly not least, "Keeping Black Boys out of Special Education" by Jawanza Kunjufu.
Although I recommend these books for educators, anyone should read them if they are truly concerned with the way the education system is headed. Even if you don't have children/grandchildren in school or if your children go to private school, you still pay taxes and a small percent of your taxes go to fund schools. For those of you who don't think this has no bearing on you, it does. If it doesn't have an affect on you now, it will later.