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a record of mundane things that have stuck in my mind, and what they may mean.

Friday, October 22, 2004

injustice in the world

A long time ago, I was a puppy eyed eighteen year old. I read, among many other things, Savage Inequalities. I was upset. I moved on to other interesting things.

Now, as a mature edumacator, I visit schools all over northern Illinois. In the span of a few weeks, I've gotten to see vastly different and unequal school districts. They're unequal financially and unequal in terms of humanity.

The junior high school I visited in the south burbs had old computers, desks, books, and buildings. But these things don't necessarily mean that a student is left behind. The teachers, the attitude of the school system towards students, and old, never-ever-workable teaching techniques do equal a very poor education. Every child was hay, which those poor spinners were trying to turn into gold, but there was no Rumplestilskin around. I wanted to be out of that school, and left the first chance I got.

Then I visited Illinois Math and Science Academy, where every student is a humble prince or princess. They're treated with dignity. They're provided the latest in curriculum and methods. Every child succeeds. The catch: they don't take in the ones they don't expect to succeed.

This week I also trekked over 60 miles in a good car, on good--albeit jammed--roads, to St. Charles, Illinois. In this remote, rich burb most students came in to class with a sense of entitlement. They enjoy great libraries and computer labs and cafeterias and teachers. Most work hard and succeed. The district adopts progressive practices and gives thought and effort to students' life readiness.

So my point? I don't know if I have one, except that all this is very, very sad. And if I kept thinking about it, I would be pulling out the few strands of hair I still have stuck to my skull. But, (clearing throat) this isn't helpful to anyone, so I'm thinking of ways to do something about it.


At 9:16 PM, Saima said...

The problem with most schools todays is the fact that every student is expected to learn at his/her own pace.No rules,no limits,nothing.

At 10:39 PM, Sara said...

are those two things really connected Saima? I mean who's pace would we learn at if not our own? And if we could learn at someone else's pace, then would that not be our pace? But all learners need challanges, and I agree with that.

At 1:47 AM, Knicq said...

A very nice and thought provoking blog you have here Sara.

I think what is saddening is that class difference pervades school systems also. In third world countries this difference becomes all the more pronounced.
In the end it leads to a society plagued by strata it has helped create itself...

These are facts, sad but true.

Is there something we can do about it realistically?

At 1:17 PM, Umm Zaid said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

It's almost (almost) hard to believe that in the 13 yrs since Kozol wrote that book, not a whole lot -- if anything -- has changed. Heck, we can say not a whole lot has changed in the what? 40 yrs since he wrote "Death at an Early Age." (Can you see he is one of my favorite writers?)

You are right, to a point, in that old schools and old computers don't matter a whole lot -- because it is the attitude of the district and the teachers. You can learn without a computer or a brand new cafeteria. But for so many children in places like the S. Bronx, the building isn't just old, it's falling apart. From time to time, the news in NY would do exposes on schools where roofs were missing, rats ran around in the class, bathrooms were cess pools... and nothing really changes, ever. La howla wa la quwatta illah billah. How can a child learn in an environment like that?

At 2:01 PM, Sara said...

Knicq, thank you for your kind words. I guess we really can't get rid of it entirely, but some places do a lot better job of it than others. As a teacher, I think I can make a direct impact in the classroom. As a society, there are better models available--I think. In the end, I think it all boils down to wanting for your sister/brother what you want for yourself.

Umm Zaid, I haven't read that one, I'm going to check it out. And I agree: the students will perceive themselves as unworthy and neglected if that is what they see around them. They certainly can't learn in that sort of environment.


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