The public school teachers in Chicago are on strike. The mayor of Chicago is Rahm Emmanuel, a close adviser to President Obama. The media says this puts the administration in a tight spot since they are counting on strong union support to clinch the deal in November. That, however, is not half the story. . .
The key issue is the demand for, and the nature of, tests to determine teacher qualifications that will result in many teachers with tenure, that is lifetime contracts, losing their jobs. Emmanuel and his supporters including many mayors around the country feel that teachers must be held accountable for the failure of so many American students. Teachers and their supporters counter that many schools, particularly in the inner cities, are not given the generous resources given suburban school systems. They also claim that behind it all is the drive to “privatize” schools, that is, set up charter schools run by private entities paid with taxpayer funds. Who is right?
Both are wrong. Yes, teachers should be accountable, but Emmanuel in Chicago, Bloomberg in New York and the other mayors behind teacher testing really care far more for their rich associates who are reaping windfalls as public schools around the country are closing right and left and charter schools, that they sponsor, with dubious records are popping up to replace them. The twin ills facing American education are the proliferation of testing on every level and the persistent failure to provide real education. Real education does not present a sanitized version of history that purges any and all references to anything that is even remotely offensive to the status quo. Real education is grounded in the real history, culture and politics of the peoples that make up America and the world.
Real education would tell the real story of how this country was created and who contributed to it in what measure, and how their descendants stand today in the American society, economy and polity. Real education would not pretend that anything of any worth in all fields was accomplished by people of European descent. If we continue like this we will continue to turn out an elite made up almost wholly of one ethnicity, many of whom attained their education through favoritism and special attention and oftentimes through elaborate cheating schemes.
It is up to all teachers, students, parents and citizens to read and think and discuss everything under the sun without fear or favor. Books are the keys to understanding the world and its history and its future course. Books like the Autobigoraphy of Malcolm X should be on the reading lists of every school in this country. We need to all of us open our eyes look around and learn about the real world from real people having real discussions based on what they have really read, experienced, imagined and strive to achieve, just like you and I are doing right now.
(by Dr. Arthur Lewin, author of Read Like Your Life Depends On It, www.readlikeyourlifedependsonit.com )