Saturday, August 29, 2009
I've been watching the usual "Back to School" slew of commercials this week. Yes, it is true that for the most part, students and teachers do get excited about the beginning of a school year. There is some sort of renewal that transpires. One of the best things about teaching is that every year you have the opportunity to begin again.
One thing that has resonated stronger than usual is a local school supplies drive sponsored by a TV station, a credit Union and a few other businesses. People have been asked to drop off pencils, paper, backpacks and the like in several conveniently located barrels around town. For some reason this strikes me as particularly sad. I see it as a powerful reflection of inequity in our schools. Because it's something true about our schools, it's bigger reflection is our society; our culture.
I know I should feel pleased that people are opening up their hearts and placing gluesticks, colored pencils, and fancy file folders in these bins, but, to me, it's disquieting. I don't begrudge the generosity, but I can't help thinking that this is more a statement of how underfunded public education is. Here in Portland, one school district actually laid off 60 teachers last week, right before they were to return t the classroom. Yesterday, the union and the Administration got together and communicated for the first time in a couple of years and 42 got their jobs back. What a way to begin the year.
In similar fashion, I met some of the student teachers I'll be working with this year. One found out just recently that the cooperating teacher he'd been scheduled to have, the one he'd been observing all last year, was having his schedule changed and would not be doing anything in social science, his field. All this against a background of ridiculous calls for more standardized tests, more curriculum driven by those bullshit test scores, and teachers asked to take pay cuts or work furloughs, or teach subjects they don't care about, or, in some cases, substitute or hang around to see if they can have their old jobs back.
No, we don't need school supplies, we need to supply schools.