Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Can't Always Be Civil

Immediately upon hearing that Illinois state legislators were proposing the appointment of a board to manage Chicago Public Schools I thought of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.

When did we ask the state to step in with this kind of proposal? And since when are senators from Lemont and Western Springs so expert in the needs of Chicago Public Schools? I would sooner sign on to have Chicago run the schools on Mars, and my guess is we'd do a better job with Martians than Illinois legislators would do with our children.

Desperate times, desperate measures? No. I'm tired of hearing all the horsedoodle that's trafficked about the terrible state of our public schools in Chicago. You know what's terrible? The rhetoric. While the politicians are full of it, the schools are not. The schools are filled with children. Sure, some come to school with all kinds of troubles. But just as many if not more come to school highly ambitious and ready to learn, they come wanting to read and paint and play music and run around a schoolyard with their jackets wide open in winter. They come to school black and Asian and brown and white, from every faith and background. Everybody comes to school.

The parents? The parents are university-degreed, private-schooled, blue-collar, no-collar, Spanish-speaking, Arabic-speaking, bad-English-speaking, and all the rest. Attorneys send their kids to public school, doctors do, artists, bankers, grocery store clerks, postal workers, police officers, and pharmacists. We cook at home, we eat organic, we go to movies, we sit next to you on the train, we decorate our homes, we drive on the street, and shop at the mall.

There's nothing inherently different about public school children or public school parents, and just like Lemont and Western Springs parents, we are trying to lift up our children, to get them ready for the world.

That said, life in Chicago is a little different than life in Lemont, and the needs of our system cannot be left in the hands of folks who don't have any experience with or knowledge about a large urban school district. Moreover, the financial woes of the Chicago public school system while terrible and urgent are not for the state to swoop in and resolve, especially given the state's otherwise dismal record in managing its own finances. I point the state in the direction of its own universities, which are awash in corruption and financial mismanagement, and worse - currently running on fumes as the state's budget impasse threatens to make Illinois a state incapable of competing with others on the national stage because it cannot even manage to keep the lights on. Hand over the keys to our schools? Are you joking? No, sir.

Also this business of appointing the board that would run the Chicago Public Schools? Are you quite out of your collective minds? We've had well enough of appointed Boards, thank you. You can shove that idea right back where it came from, and take the 'lifeline' suggestion with it, up your smug, uninformed arses.

Even on our most dire days, I should like to point out, Chicago Public Schools educate an awful lot of people who go on to do some pretty remarkable things. In fact, students of our schools have built one of the biggest cities in the world, its world-class museums, transportation systems, libraries, some of the most well-regarded architecture ever built, natural preserves, public parks to rival any. The train you ride, the shoes you bought, the 911 operator who answers your call - chances are, every single day you trust a Chicago Public School graduate to help you with your most basic needs. And it's perfectly safe to do so. Why, then, do you allow the political blowhards to convince you that CPS is churning out only the destitute and depraved? It's an absolute lie!

We definitely need to work out our financial troubles, but we don't need to be managed by the state in order to do that.

Some suburban folks are wont to say that the rest of the state is tired of taking care of Chicago, such that if Chicago wants help from the state we need to submit to the will of the collective. Alrighty then. Using that logic, Chicago should get to tell the rest of the state how to run things in the arenas where we are more powerful, and where the suburbs take advantage of us. We have better public transportation systems so we'll head down to Big Rock and have CTA implement a bus system there. Cool? We have better museums, so we'll just trot over to Peoria and start bossing some folks around downtown on the improvement of their cultural offerings. Our critical care units are pretty badass, too, so we're going to be sending some of our folks from the Cook County Hospital system to direct hospital services in Bartlett. Ironically, our selective enrollment schools seem to be hot-ticket items for some suburban families. Can we come run your high school in Wilmette? Oh, and jobs? We don't want any suburbanites taking our jobs and then leaving to pay property taxes outside the city anymore so y'all can just figure out that employment thing in your own hometown. Are we good here?

Feel a little indignant and provoked? Me too. It's hard to remain civil.

And in case you don't care about what the city offers and you still feel over-burdened by your suburban share of the costs, I'd like to point out that we in the city are actually carrying your public school teachers. City Pays Suburban Teacher Pensions So shop your indignation elsewhere, we're not buying.

Our friends in the legislature can call it what they want. With respect, the answer is "No."

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