Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students.
~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
I live in DeKalb. My child has been in one DeKalb public school and one independent school within the Atlanta region. As a parent, I was active in both. I also went through regional and local leadership training, in part to educate myself on a personal question:
Why do our elected officials pay lip service in exaltation of public education and then totally fail us in protecting and enhancing it? What keeps any of us from seeing the link between public education and economic development?
I may’ve learned the reasons why.
I’m not sure if this is Georgia politics, all politics, or just human nature, but here’s why I think nothing gets done to support or improve public ed, especially when it’s in a slow-mo crash like it is in DeKalb:
The more the merrier. Let’s get a committee or task force together to study / oppose / watchdog the personalities and the issues of public ed. Let’s dilute the original grassroots energy to resolve the real problems. Let’s study the minutiae and then self-congratulate on the tiniest steps forward. Let’s forget the questions that brought us together in the first place and allow ourselves to become repurposed, from a Mustang into a jalopy.
To even engage with grassroots efforts to improve and defend DeKalb’s public ed entails jumping into an alphabet soup of groups, and some of them are sham, like Hollywood-set storefronts for other agendas.
Nervous Nellie leaders. Elected officials see public education as labor-intensive, costly, and emotionally charged, so it’s easier to tapdance around it. Express concern but promise nothing concrete or actionable, and tapdance around it. Eventually, the elected officials advance to other roles or skulk into obscurity, but the problems of public ed remain.
Our teachers know because guess who’s left holding the bag, year in, year out?
C’mon. As adults you know what’s right, and you know what’s wrong. What’s happening in DeKalb schools is wrong, it’s as wrong as it can be, and we need to be vocal about it. Don’t just express outrage among yourselves.
Let your elected representatives know how you feel about this cesspool, and ask them what you and they will do about it. And then make sure they do their part. Don’t let them just advise you on a good course of action, like it’s your schtick and nothing to do with them. I’m sick and tired of elected officials acting like summer camp civics counselors to concerned grassroots parents and activists.
Math problems. I’m always astonished by our elected officials’ inability to do the simple math: if you were elected in 1998, the 8-year-olds who watched their parents vote for you then are old enough to vote for you now. These young constituents may be in college, in their first jobs, or out of work because they dropped out of high school.
I ask each local public servant, If you are not now an expert on DeKalb’s public ed issues, then when will you be up to speed? What else could be more important for DeKalb? Do you think you can get anything done with a thinly educated workforce that’s been raised on a systemwide obsession with standardized testing?
Placid and passive groups. If you’re an active parent, you know who these groups are. Their raison d’etre is to represent teachers’ interests or to safeguard standards, but they often remind me of NATO forces in 1994 Rwanda — good show of presence and intention, then pull back or pull out when the massacres begin, and lament problems with “logistics capability.” Thus they prefer to steer clear of local controversies and do not express indignation or outrage over the betrayals (eg, a school superintendent who, with several of his colleagues, stole in a brazen and systematic fashion from the students and teachers of this county, and a school board whose subsequent responses can best be described as profound stupidity).
A “village” of complacency and inaction permitted Crawford Lewis & Co. to happen, and that will continue long after those sentences are passed out and served.
I’m more worried about the residue—the current school board; the DeKalb school system’s bloated size; and a grossly underserved teacher population.