7 Takes About Education In America

7 Takes About Education In America July 24, 2020

I hate to talk about what everyone else in the world is talking about, but I am continuing to see long posts about how schools not opening for in-person instruction is going to change the entire “landscape” (I feel like I’m seeing that word a lot) in ways that will change everything forever. So, well, that would be a fascinating thing to behold.


It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that the current system of education is very broken and not working for only but a very few. And I am not going to be the one to controvert this accepted truth. Indeed, I have often been frustrated, over the last decade and a half as I’ve tried to educate my own children and go along with other people as they are trying to educate theirs. My church sits on the edge of a poor neighborhood, full of children of many different backgrounds and ethnicities, most of whom are caught in the very frustrating largesse of the state. Living in New York, we all get a certain amount of monetary help per child, but there is no monetary incentive for the fathers of children to stick around. I don’t think I am saying anything controversial. Women get stuck in the roundabout of one baby after another and the men who come and go. Most of these women are great moms, and some of them, I happen to know because I’ve chatted here and there in the church parking lot and during our community meal, would be happy to homeschool. They aren’t being well served by the school district, or their own poverty. They hate dropping their kids off at daycare and taking the bus out to some wretched job, taking the bus back in the dark, collecting their children, walking home, feeding everyone something stupid, and then starting again the next day. If they didn’t have to be in the “workforce” they wouldn’t cry a single day. Everything about life is hard and stupid.


That’s the thing about the state—as long as you know you’re poor, you can have certain kinds of help, as long as you can navigate the system. The state will give everyone certain amounts of money but—and this is just my own cynical observation, not being from here—not so that you would ever stop being poor. If you try to help yourself, by getting a second job or trying to save up for some big purchase, you will fall out of one “helped” category into some other one where there is no help. So you are often financially frustrated—always actually. And all the while your children are in schools where everyone is working their fingers to the bone, staying late, trying, being kind, filling out increasing piles of state-mandated paperwork that make it harder and harder to concentrate on the kids in the classroom. But no single teacher can remediate against the struggle at home or the huge societal forces that tumble down through the state department of education all the way up there in Albany.


I’ve seen that figure being thrown around—fifteen something thousand dollars is spent per child in the US. If the schools aren’t going to open, some are saying, that amount could be given to each family so they can do what they want in the coming year. I have personally salivated over that amount. If I could have that just one time to pour into my own children’s education, I would immediately go out of the category of eekeing and scraping to buy the curriculum I want, the classes I know will shape and form my children to be productive members of this community. I would sign up for music and sports and remediate my own deficiencies as I’ve tried to homeschool. I and this entire community would fall down and cry to get an amount that size just for the education of our children.


But I bet it would be really hard to get it out of whatever benevolent government institution decided to cough it all up. I bet there would be so many hoops, so many little niggling problems that would still separate not the poor from the rich so much as the bureaucratically sophisticated from the “incompetent” which often falls along lines of wealth which in turn can be traced by ethnicity.


On the other hand, if a lot of lower-income mothers in the community were given that sum, or a portion of it, for the education of their children, I bet they would figure it out. I am offended by all the people who think that “children of color” would still fall behind if the schools don’t open. Why couldn’t people who knew how to maneuver through all the beurocracy go into communities where there are supports—just only the ones that keep everyone as they are—and set up the kind of coops and tutoring that the rich are scrambling to form at this very moment? This would actually be our time to shine. Churches and organizations all over this town would leap to it. This could make local and personal what should always have been local and personal in one bright shining check.


I mean, I’m not for a universal basic income or anything like that. But the money is already being poured out like water into a school system that frustrates and “underserves” both teacher and student alike. If you’re going to spend it, give it back to us so we can do what we want with it.


And stop with the long patronizing explanations about how low-income children with Black and Latina mothers will “never recover.” They aren’t doing well now. But they love their children, and your systemic, and one might argue often racist “helps” are not helping currently. And for real, no matter how much money you have, if you want to homeschool, DM me. I’m not good at it but I can probably connect you with people who are. And go check out more takes!


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