Thursday, January 29, 2009

CEO For CPS, Part II

It's a gray afternoon in Streeterville, 30 degrees and overcast at the Mini. The white blanket on the surface of the lake within the barrier just North of Olive Park and the water treatment plant still remains. Beyond the barrier, the ice is broken up, melted off, and turned to deep blue open water. Navy Pier is still, well, Navy Pier, the #1 tourist attraction in Chicago. That is to say that it is to be scrupulously avoided by residents of the neighborhood.

When last I was here, to say yesterday, I went on ad nauseum about why I disapprove of Mayor Daley's recent pick for CEO of the Chicago Public Schools and how a great deal of the so called school reform movement is in actuality school cost reduction, on the backs of the employees of the school system itself. "Let's cut costs by firing people, reducing pay, and forgetting about pensions altogether."

Let's just start anew today by saying that public schools serve a valuable function in this society. Public school employees work very hard at a vital function of said society and as professionals deserve just remuneration and a liveable wage to retire on. It is true that businesses nationwide have fallen on hard times, mostly due to their own stupidity. They have had to take drastic measures. Let's see, what have they done? Oh right they have fired people, cut wages, and cut people's retirement options. Jesus people! MBAs have screwed up the economy. They have paid themselves outrageously high salaries and then blamed it on the working class who actually saw that it was possible for their companies to exist. The workers get the axe. The bosses who mismanaged get bonuses at the end of the year, some of it with U.S. tax dollars, intended to keep the companies afloat. Now public service employees are being given the same treatment. Can we justify this?

Let's just take a look at what public schools do for the country, shall we? The wealthy upper classes have always provided education for their children. Working poor never had the means to do so. In the late 1800's and early 1900's it became clear that with all of the recent immigrants some serious socialization to American ways was necessary. Public schools were the answer. They socialized children. It provided skills that could allow working class kids to become functional citizens, aka holding down a job. Further back, the Puritans in Massachusetts provided public schooling so every child could read the Bible for themselves. Thomas Jefferson advocated public schooling so America could have an educated, informed electorate. He also advocated university educations for those talented children of the working poor who could rise up in society with the right education and credentials. He recognized that intelligence is not the sole province of the wealthy and aristocratic.

In the modern world, it has become an important function of every advanced society to provide an education for all of its citizens. As always, the children of the wealthy will be provided for, but the rest of us have to send our children to schools provided by public tax dollars. As always, since those waves of immigrants began arriving on American shores, these schools socialize children, and provide them with the knowledge and skills to pursue further education and move up in socio-economic status or at the very least get a job that pays a low level living wage in society. If the public schools are not there, we get large numbers of uneducated, unskilled kids who become a burden to the society in one way or another. That is to say they are unemployed, sometimes unemployable, criminal and on the streets, or in prison. At any rate, this adds up to dollars in aid, dollars in paying for police, dollars in paying for prisons, and dollars in paying for those big walls people with education and good jobs want to build to keep those other people out.

Let it be known that people who are educators do not have an easy job. With the same amount of education, in other fields, they would make a great deal more money. They educate, serve as surrogate parents for kids, act as counselors, disciplinarians, friends, and any other role that is necessary to enable kids to learn and grow up and become productive members of society. For this, they are continually bashed and trashed by the media and public at large. For this, they are considered lazy and overpaid. For this, they lose their jobs, have their salaries cut, and lose their pensions, so they have to continue working into their 70s in some cases. Justice? I think not.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not a wealthy man. I am not a greedy man. I am a regular guy who cares about humanity. I work with a sector of the population that a large number of Americans would sooner forget about, but that population does not realize that they cannot afford to forget about the poor, the immigrants, the lower classes. They cannot afford to neglect them. We are all in this together and without proper teachers and a proper education, these kids will drag the rest of us down with them. The entire nation, and world will go to hell in a handcart. "Am I my brother's keeper?" You damned right you are. We all have to take some responsibility for the nation and its future. That means making sure public education has a future, and those who make public education work have a future too.

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