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Monday, 2 May 2005

Saving the Children: School Daze

Philadelphia
A Philadelphia public school teacher tells Junto:

'I have nothing but distain for a school system that refuses to confront its dysfunction. Of course, this inabilty to change -- not unique, of course, to Philadelphia -- is rooted in the realities of American politics, disallowing any true discussion of educational choice and necessity because, eventually, that discussion divolves into one involving the taboo subjects of race and ethnicity and differing societal values.

So be it. The result is a system, here and elsewhere in big-city America, where the effective charade is maintained by school and public officials, with a wink and a nod by the local daily. (In this city,The Philadelphia Inquirer).

Yes, 'Save the Children!,' except when saving the of children means jettisoning such feel-good tropes as 'Leave No Child Behind' and recognising some children will be casualities -- dare I say it, 'left behind' -- as a necessary adjunct to 'saving' the majority. Yes, 'Save the Children!,' except when that means new taxpayer expenditures to update and renovate infrastructure. Yes, 'Save the Children!,' except when that means recognising that inner-school school violence is not a school-based issue -- but one grounded in societal and familial mismanagement, principally the absence of proper adult modeling and supervision of young students.

Not surprisingly, student behaviours are abhorent. That's the symptom. Worse, it's where they come from: born from cultures -- white, black, and Latino -- aye, specific, enduring pathologies -- that reject notions of decency, honour, and citizenship.

I was struck how entrenched these non-values are by a exchange, just today, between two fourth-graders in one of my classes after a third student had split my coffee mug, and had walked off ignoring my entreaties to help clean the mess. One of two in the exchange, shortly following the incident, had been quick to volunteer in the cleanup, popping up with paper toweling and without uttering a word. The third student, nearby, responded, 'Yo, why you be doin' that? You didn't spill it.'

Yes, by all means, 'Save the Children.'




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