In part 1, I responded to John Watkin’s report that the new small schools in
If more proactive attention was given to this set of kids, schools would automatically become calmer, staff recruitment and retention would improve, more local families would embrace the public schools, and the ability for all kids to learn would increase.
Small schools are no match for the highly aggressive nature of the “code of the street.” Haphazardly operated conflict management training programs aren’t either. This is a set of values that undermines the mission of the schools. The phenomenon is thoroughly described by sociologist Elijah Anderson in his book of the same name.
Parents in poor communities often support charter schools and vouchers for private schools because they want their kids to be separated from disruptive and dangerous schoolmates, of whom they are all too aware. However, this limited solution does not address the bigger problem.
As long as the “choice” strategy continues, our urban public schools will continue to evolve into daytime holding cells for the kids from families that don’t have skills to help them – as well as the only schools which permit special education students to attend, since charters and privates often don’t accept those children. Then what?
To me, issues about safety and school climate are at the heart of OUSD's problems
Because their vision is limited and few of them know this city, OUSD’s current Jack O’Connell-picked, Eli Broad-trained, NCLB-pressured, and hell-bent-on-“reform” leadership hasn't been able to make much headway after nearly five years of trying, and after the millions of donated dollars they have spent. Not only that, but in their misguided attempts they have thrown out important babies with the bathwater.
- Baby #1: Our local history
- Baby #2: A respect for the community
- Baby #3: Education for all
- Baby #4: Schools that could do better if they weren’t being starved to death
Baby #1: Our local history
In 2005 the State Administrator permanently closed down
Just a little more than two decades before, the school had proudly been named “Calvin Simmons” for a very important reason. By discarding the school named after this special
For those of you who do not know, Calvin Simmons became the musical director of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra in 1978 at the very young age of 28. This made him the second African-American conductor of a major
When outsiders acquire power over a community that is not their own, they are too socially detached from that community. Because they aren’t emotionally or historically connected to it, they don’t care if they make a decision that wipes its history off the map. To them, buildings and bodies are only pieces to manipulate.
Even if schools are called “failing” by the government, it is important to respect the fact that they each have their own histories. Local families feel bonded to them because they have existed in the neighborhood for decades; closing them is a loss.
For the last several years, schools in
Of course, over time, schools will come and go; members of a community understand this. The problem, in the case of
I’ll discuss other “babies” in part 3.
*Last November I was driving near the old
The boys were clustered on the sidewalk next to
Because the willingness and successful completion of these types of acts are so highly esteemed by those who follow the “code of the street,” perpetrators are granted a higher social status by their peers. Neither "small schools," nor school uniforms, are powerful enough to counteract that set of values. Something more needs to be done.