What is a “school”? We can think of a school as a collection of fish of like type swimming together. That is not far from what some Chicago folks see as the sort of school environment they are dealing with: a school in their community being a place where children of like appearance or ethnicity come together to… do what… learn and get along and interact?
Have those goals been put by the wayside because of vague talk going on around and in the Chicago Public School (CPS) board? People talk it up about “the schools”, but what are “the schools”? are they the people within the learning environment, or is it more a concern over the campuses? Have these become mixed up as the issue gets hotter and worse in the media?
Let’s try to take a few steps back and look at the issue with a clear vision. Now, what literally is a school where this issue is concerned? The school itself is the structure, the campus where the learning and instruction take place. It is the setting for formal classes in art, music, drama, mathematics, the Language Arts, social studies, history, civics and the like. It is where for a few hours a day students and teachers come together. But what do they while they are in that setting?
How does the setting affect the learning is another aspect worthy of attention. The whole business of “neighborhood” schools needs to be looked at again and probably the idea of “neighborhood” needs to go by the wayside too. The problem with such a narrow focus is that it excludes, it divides, and it wastes energy and money and time. Being around others who are like you can get awfully boring, rather like traveling the same route each day and seeing the same people, cars, books and food. Sooner or later someone who wants to learn and get beyond the divisiveness and exclusivity will ask questions, will branch out, will take that chance and learn more about others and ways to interact and glean wisdom from others.
A school system needs funding, as any agency does, but what do we with the money we are giving to the school system. That seems to be another problem with the idea of the neighborhood or community focus- keeping one system stoked with lots of money per student and, as was made clear in one article regarding the CPS issue of the week, draining other school systems of money for arts, music, tutoring and gym. Everyone deserves to be treated with civility and respect. All students deserve updated books and electronics, the best and freshest food for any meals they need to have outside the home, the finest libraries, the best band instruments, the best art supplies and all that will inspire them to learn.
So, what is the best word to define what we have? Do we want “a school”, or do we really want a LEARNING ENVIRONMENT? Think about how the word “learn” is defined. The word has roots that mean “track”, “furrow”, and “garden bed.” Its basic meaning is to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience: receive instruction in.
Take a closer look at your goals and what you want to see in the system for your children and the community and of course the nation- see the big picture and think carefully, act equally as carefully, and research every aspect of the situation you can before plunging headlong into the war and causing even more trouble.
It is time to get an education of your own- one where you are inspired to go beyond the book and the classroom, and discover and learn, and share that knowledge with others.
Divi Logan and EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago. 2004 – 2012.