Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Chatelaine's post about public education (7/21) deserves mention here because I like it when poets rant about the dire issues facing our public education.

California K-12 schools are ranked at almost the bottom of the nation's schools. The legislations that have been passed over the past two decades that undermine public education funding - the near-total elimination of bilingual education programs, anti-immigrant legislation, English-only policies, Prop 13, lack of adequate preparation of teachers for a diverse population, low pay for teachers (prison guards are better paid) -- are but a few of the major issues.

The bigger picture, though, is that it's not only our public schools that are failing. The financial and corporate sectors have also failed us. No need to say more about this.

Matthew Fox says that both religion and education are failing to prepare us for the post-modern 21st century. Check Thomas Berry, too -- both visionaries.

No matter the big picture, a parent still dreams and wants the best education for her child.

What is the "best education" for our times? I think about this when I think of five-year old Noah.

I have friends who have put their kids in Waldorf schools because they believe that Rudolph Steiner's philosophy about educating the spirit, body, and mind is the way to go.

Then there are parents who have abandoned the public schools for private Catholic schools or to private academies for children of the elite.

Today we visited an Instilling Goodness Elementary School at the City of 10,000 Buddhas in Ukiah... just thought I'd mention it since I've been thinking about alternative educational institutions lately.

I know young idealistic K-12 teachers who are passionate about teaching academic excellence and are successful in inspiring students to become active learners. Kalpna Mistry and the Fulbright fellows are among those. The turnover for these bright and idealistic teachers is five years...

There are teachers like the ones Eileen describes: those whose low expectations of their students reflect their own lack of faith in the system that fails so many. So a student of color is often tracked early on to not go to college and is passed on from one grade to the next..."just to get them through."

It's hard not to believe that there is underlying racism going on here. California economy has thrived on migrant labor and immigrant labor...why then are wealthy Californians refusing to vote to raise taxes, repeal Prop 13, in order to fund our schools? Is it because more than a million of our students come from non-English speaking households? or are foreign born? or come from developing countries?

Ack! I don't like the feeling of thinking of it in these terms and I could go into globalization and its discontents or the manic phase of globalization...but not now.

Back to Eileen - I know she will be a great advocate for her son...and those teachers should be forewarned that she's about to turn tables and kick ass. Knowing her, she will be advocating not just for her son but on behalf of all the students in that school that often suffer the neglect of low expectations. Go Eileen!

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