Thursday, June 19, 2008

Suburbs or Urbs?

My POV is very much shaped by the fact that I work in a city public school but send my kid to a suburban public school. Though I teach in a very good city school, I'm continually amazed at the differences, and I always wonder why city kids can't get what my daughter gets--uniformly sane teachers with reasonable hygiene habits, well-kept facilities, windows (that don't open to dumpsters), real classrooms, computers in every classroom, and all the other frivolous luxuries kids have in Long Island.

Here's a case in point--cell phones are strictly verboten in NYC. Though many kids have them anyway, most of us tend to ignore them if the kids are reasonable. In my daughter's school, she arrives every morning and deposits her cell with the teacher for safe keeping. If she chose, she could keep it with her (as long as it stays quiet).

Yesterday morning, my daughter's schoolbus did not arrive. She and her friends waited and waited, but only ended up waiting more. So my daughter called the school to complain. The people at the school told her they would send a bus, and within ten minutes, they did.

In New York City, on the coldest days of the year, kids stood outside and froze because the Tweedies, in their infinite wisdom, decided to cancel their bus routes and didn't want to waste time or effort notifying them. These kids weren't allowed cell phones, and even if they had them. would anyone in their schools have had the power (let alone the inclination) to send out a bus? Who thinks so? Show of hands?

That's what I thought.

So should we model our schools after suburban schools? Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein don't think so. Better we should hobble unions, make smart teachers leave before they earn high salaries, institute bargain-basement, untested "reforms," and hope for the best.

So far, it isn't working.
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