by Jim Lang
If only we cared about our schools as much as nine-year-old Asean Johnson does.
I am normally a media cynic. I don’t usually get overly emotional at human interest news stories in this era of BREAKING NEWS that usually tells us something we already know.
But when Asean Johnson’s speech challenging the closing of his school as part of the shameful plan to close over 50 Chicago Public Schools went viral this week, I found myself wishing most adults had young Asean’s love for their schools.
Regardless of how you feel about financial and societal problems plaguing many cities like Chicago, there’s something especially cowardly and disgraceful about any plan that closes down over 50 schools as a solution to these problems.
Especially when so many of those schools are in the poorest parts of the city.
And, especially when that city can afford to spend millions of dollars of property tax money to build a hotel and basketball arena.
The sleaze of Chicago politics is not unique, however. We see the same misplaced priorities and political half-truths justified by our own brand of cowardly Hoosier “leaders” when it comes to education.
For instance, remember when our own state government slashed $320 million from Indiana public schools because of a fiscal “CRISIS,” only to later find — coincidentally — $320 million of misplaced, mismanaged tax revenue? Kind of makes one wonder how necessary those drastic cuts really were, doesn’t it?
Or, how about expanding an already-controversial school voucher program that diverts money to private (and usually religious) schools without one shred of data that proves the effectiveness of vouchers? A scheme that will now pull even more money from public schools with absolutely no evidence that it will result in a better education for students?
Doesn’t sound logical — or fiscally conservative — to me.
As I listened to Asean Johnson fight for his public school, I wondered how many of our financial and societal problems we could solve if we all fought just as hard for our own schools.
We have allowed ourselves to believe the lies told by politicians and education “reformers” that our schools are somehow the problem, that if we can just offer parents “choice” and “freedom” from “failing” schools controlled by “evil union thugs” that somehow, we will magically solve the issues created by poverty, disastrous economic policies, and, yes, failing families and communities.
We have forgotten that when schools fail, it is because the families that comprise those schools are failing.
We have ignored the fact that when schools fail, it is because the communities that should support and nurture those schools are failing.
And, we have passively accepted the lies about public schools told by our elected officials, education “reformers,” and their wealthy corporate sponsors despite the fact that their poor leadership and policies have led to so much economic disparity.
Frankly, it is easier for us to believe the lies of our political and corporate leaders than it is to do what a nine-year-old boy in Chicago did this week — fight for our schools.
Because the truth is, these schools are the best, greatest hope to truly solving our most serious problems.
Our public schools are the solutions, not the problems.
It is long past time we all cherish and fight for our schools like Asean Johnson, because it is the only kind of education “reform” that will truly work.