To really educate yourself on the issues of education, I first suggest you stop reading the news. The media has taken political sides and is no longer unbiased. I have yet to see an article come from anywhere other than The Chicago Reader that has any kind of accurate journalism.
Catalyst Chicago (Though sometimes I do not agree with the opinions of these writers, I still think they do an overall better job of reporting on issues within Chicago’s public schools than the major media outlets do.)
Plus…to really understand the issues that affect the public education system in Chicago, please learn more about TIFs. They are key to the issue and most people don’t even know about them! Ben Joravsky writes knowledgeable pieces about them for The Chicago Reader, like this and this.
The New York Times (While they don’t always get it right, they sure do try harder than a lot of other media outlets.)
Huffington Post (Though sometimes I do not agree with the opinions of these writers, I still think they get a variety of Op Eds on topics related to education.)
Diane Ravitch (Diane Ravitch, if you are not familiar with her already, is amazing. She’s smart, she’s been involved in education reform at the federal level, and pulls sources from all over the nation for her blog.)
THE JOB OF A TEACHER:
Working 10 months a year sounds like I have it easy, right? However, that is such a ridiculous fallacy perpetuated by those who have never taught a day in their lives! I’ve been teaching for a few years now and I’ve never had a summer off! Sure there are some people who do, but most pitch in to help get ready for the school year, teach summer school, or continue to work with students in various capacities. Many people assume that because they attended a school, they understand how education works. That is so unfortunate. Teaching and working in the education system is so very different than attending a school as a student. I could spend weeks talking about this, but instead encourage you to check out the following, in addition to reading this blog.
American Teacher (This is the only film I’ve ever seen that does justice to the teaching profession and how hard its members work. It also talks a lot about the issues with teacher wages and why people leave the profession after such a short time. If you have Netflix, as of 9/2012, it was available for Instant Watch.)
Read this amazing recent labor study completed by professors at the University of Illinois about the amount of hours a Chicago public school teacher works. (Compare that to the media’s claim that I work less than 40 hours a week!). A short article summarizing the findings can be seen here.
THE BAD STUFF:
Try your best to ignore the mainstream media, politicians, and documentaries made by privileged white people who never attended a public school, especially not a neighborhood one (I’m looking at you Waiting for Superman!). Don’t think Teach For America is the answer and that people like Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee are the saviors of America’s education system. Instead, check out the links above, see that the system is corrupt and that what will really help is for us all to re-evaluate how we do things and encourage our teachers to teach…and not to a test.
We all need to ask how we contribute to the future leaders of our society being given the best possible education. We should find out how our communities fund our schools. We should make sure our education boards are voted on through some sort of election process. We should evaluate our schools and our students on their growth according to national standards, not according to arbitrary standardized tests that are unfairly written. We should worry more about preparing our students for the future, whether that includes college or a career, rather than preparing them for two days of their lives. We should treat our teachers like the professionals we claim they are. We should reduce our class sizes and have teaching aids. We should spend more on education than we do on defense (or at least the same amount). Most of all, we should not privatize education. Everyone is entitled to a fair, free, public education in this country. Kids in bad neighborhoods need good teachers just as much, if not more, than privileged kids who historically tend to turn out all right. Instead of a nation with a punitive education system, we should give money to ALL schools. After all, the last time I checked, when we talk about the kids, we didn’t just mean the wealthier ones.