I went to a new Starbucks on Saturday morning. There are at least three in the immediate vicinity of Tracy’s house where I am currently flopping. That is just how it is in the suburbs/bedroom communities. It’s fine, I mean except for the part about how I should really not be out spending silly amounts of money on mediocre coffee, I do not really have a big issue with Starbucks; at least they are attempting to be a free trade organization, and they did get inside the Forbidden City, which I find hilarious for myriad reasons. Yet I digress.
I sat outside of Starbucks drinking my mediocre overpriced coffee and eating an indulgently unnecessary scone and read the San Francisco Chronicle. The lead articles on the front page were: 1) S.F. to reform 9 schools, shut 1 to get grants, 2) Conservative Justices leaves their mark, 3) Jobless rate falls as many quit looking and 4) Race Relations: ‘Fight of the Century’ – a century later. I wondered aloud if the connections were on purpose or coincidental. They seemed pretty obvious, so I am going to assume that the synchronous nature of the front page was not inadvertant. And I began to read.
The jobless rate has fallen and some say that things are looking even better in the SF Bay Area. Good. But, it is likely that these numbers are probably meaningless as many people may have just given up looking for work after looking for so long. Bad. Still, things are reportedly better here in the By Area and there have been increases in hiring in particular areas including education. Good. The SFUSD appears to be doing something similar to what they were attempting when I worked in the district in the 90s [School Reconstitution] though calling it something else and motivated by a cash reward from the Feds. The schools on the chopping block – low performing schools (always the ones serving the areas in the most need, coincidence? Yeah, I think not… “Race Relations: ‘Fight of the Century’ – a century later” after all) – have four choices: Turnaround,Transformation, Closure or Restart. Now there is a list of euphemistic circumvention for you. Turnaround is most like Reconstitution; principal is canned and 50% of the staff must be replaced, curriculum must be redesigned. Transformation means replacing the principal if he or she has been there more than two years and implementing “strategies” for improvement. (I am fairly certain that is the basic job description of a principal… just sayin’.) Closure, pretty obvious I suppose: Shut it down, relocate kids to ostensibly better schools. Restart is charter-ization. I think that there could be a justification for all of them, but I also have some reservations. The problems with education go far beyond school staffing. Beyond even the growing disdain for being educated; it is all underscored by the tangible proof that our society cares not for the future of education: no funding and disregard for those who are most in need. It is the anti-American way, but it has been the reality for our public education system for a while.
Hmm… why is this?
Next article. A brief summary of the ways in which the conservative justices of the current USSC have left their mark on the nation. They have greatly relaxed laws limiting corporate donations to politicians, for example. So… companies can buy political influence with unlimited funds. Imagine for a moment of corporations put that kind of money into educating people rather than buying political influence. Really, if they thought it through, they might realize that they may be able to wield greater influence if they did actually invest in education. Ah, but woe be the long-term goals in our myopic mess of a society. Still, I have to wonder if anyone else thinks it odd that within inches of each other these two stories were placed, one detailing the financial ruination of public schools, the other the infinite potential to dump money on politicians. Seems like there might be a connection.
None of this stimulating news did much to change the fact that I still need to find a job and that there seems to really not be much out there at all in my field in spite of the fact that I am supremely hireable. At all the schools that will eventually fire teachers, those who have lost their jobs will be priority placements for other openings. But on Saturday morning sitting in the sun bathed by clean air and knowing I was about to see some old friends and celebrate the 4th of July it didn’t seem all that tragic.