I wonder when parents send their children to school what they think the school is responsible for doing. I had a professor once who likened school to an emergency room. You, the injured person should not have to be a doctor to get world class, professional treatment. Likewise, parents shouldn't have to do anything special to get their children a world class education. Back then I totally agreed. These days, however, I am more inclined to think that school is more like going to your regular doctor and not the emergency room. I personally believe that if you are ill, you should have at least some idea going about what it could be. When you are diagnosed, you should be very aware of the treatment options and the side effects of each option. You should be free to say this is not working or I'm not comfortable with that treatment. And you should be free to go to another doctor without penalty or guilt fairly easily. You should have a say and power in your own health and treatment.
The same goes for education. Most of us don't vote on curriculums or dictate what should be taught. Even though so many of us agree that having Black history relegated to the shortest month of the year is an affront, we can also agree that unless we're willing to go to Albany with a brand new curriculum we drew up, that's not going to change. If you want your children to know Black history or any other history aside from the standard spiel, you're going to have to do it. Now, I will say that many parents do take an active stand to ensure the quality of children's education. In poorer neighborhoods, however, this is rarely the case. I know, I know, these parents sometimes work 2 and 3 jobs. Many mothers are single and all that. I get it. But I'm going to be a little hardline here and say one word: priorities. You may not be able to make every single PTA meeting but you can make some and you can call and ask for the minutes of the meeting. You can drop in every once in a long while or call or e-mail to let the teacher know, "Look, I'm busy but I care." My local school here of over 500 students has a hard time pulling 25 parents for the PTA. Will my sons be going to that school? No way. But I digress.
What exactly do we expect schools to teach our children? What did it teach you? Yes, I learned to read and write but not everyone who graduated with me could. Did I learn to think critically? No. Did I learn any valuable life skills? No. I graduated from high school to go to college. Graduated from college to get a job. When I didn't get a good enough job, went back to school to get another job. Even graduate school where I was supposed to be getting trained specifically to be a teacher did not prepare me for teaching. I would have been much better equipped to have spent those years learning from a master teacher. Because there's more to teaching than curriculum and lesson plans. How does your child psychology class translate to when you're in front of 30 kids?
So, it's safe to say that school
I'm not the originator of that idea either. If there's nothing else I got out of graduate school, it was that public schools were originally conceived as places where everyone could get blended into the fabric of American society, in other words, Americanized. Get with the program. Being Americanized meant embracing the American dream, the idea that you work hard, so hard and then you enjoy. We all know that's not necessarily true but it keeps the system running nicely. Keeps those on top securely on top and those on the bottom securely on the bottom. School has always served a political purpose. And politics go hand in hand with economics.
So why would schools then start to teach us financial literacy? We can't even get schools to teach the histories of all peoples, to empower students in that way. If schools all of a sudden started teaching people how the economy really works, how to be financially literate, how to make sound money decisions, who would this system prey on? Whose blood could it suck? If we all knew a couple of years ago what a bubble we were in and all decided back then to remove ourselves from the bubble, start spending real money, start sowing in order to reap, it never could have gotten so out of hand. But we didn't. Most of us have never learned because that's not what school was set up to do. And we've never critically looked at the school structure to determine exactly what the point is, to realize what it can't and won't do for us.
I don't believe that school truly educates. We learn there. We learn facts. But we are not educated to become thinking, critically thinking adults. It's why Fox News exists. It's why all news that shamelessly distorts the truth or makes glaring omissions still exist. And why most of us suck it all in without a second thought. We've never been educated to understand that everything, big and small, needs a second thought.
I'm certainly not anti-school because my sons may need to go to school one day. I'd prefer a charter school or another type of private school with a different focus and a different, clear mission that I agree with. But if it is that public school ends up the only option, I know that I have my work cut out for me in terms of educating my sons. I tend to think that folks who never did well in school didn't do well because they couldn't be boxed in, couldn't get with factory schooling, i.e. put "x" into a child and get "y" out. For young Black boys, especially, this formula has been failing over and over again. I cannot simply depend on schools to teach them what they need to be successful in this world. No one should, really.
So whose job is it to teach you what you need to know? It seems like today we are realizing quite painfully that ignorance is not an option anymore. Each one of us is responsible to a very large degree for getting and assimilating the information we need to make it. We know we've been used as pawns in this system. And we've allowed ourselves to be for the promise of the American dream. But today we have to refuse to be victimized anymore, look at everything with intense scrutiny, open up our minds and for once, not be afraid to think. Not be afraid to embrace critical thought. Even if it's painful and even if it hurts our pride.
It's our job to teach ourselves what we need to know to survive.