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Julie Vassilatos, a parent of children in the Chicago public schools, writes about how she explains the Chicago public schools to her children.
“No, kids, this school district isn’t normal.”
But it isn’t so much CPS I feel I need to explain. It isn’t so much the dictatorial leadership, the robotic degree of testing that’s required, the number of librarians who are fired, the unimaginable inequities among schools from neighborhood to neighborhood, a food contract that is so bad students all over the district are boycotting meals.
It’s not the way arts and music have disappeared from curricula, or the constant looming threat of hundreds, or thousands, of teachers being fired. It isn’t the revolving door of leadership and the chaos that ensues, or the dark insinuations from Springfield that our already untenably undemocratic situation could get a lot more North Korea on us.
It isn’t so much the methods we parents must use to communicate to this district, this mayor, and his puppet board–like hunger strikes for weeks and weeks, and occupying libraries so they can’t be demolished, and declaring sit-ins so somebody somewhere will talk to us because they will have to step over us, or sitting in the middle of the road in order to get arrested, or staging press conference after press conference after press conference because maybe the media will listen even if the CEO doesn’t.
I don’t so much feel any of this needs explaining. It is, after all, all my kids have ever known.
Rather, what I sometimes wonder about is just that. I wonder if they know that this isn’t normal.
Oh, I know it’s their normal. I just don’t know how to explain that it isn’t everyone’s normal.
And it shouldn’t be anyone’s normal.
This school district, Chicago Public Schools, fills me with horror and astonishment every day. No–I certainly don’t mean the schools. They do an admirable job of shielding the students from the unending stream of harm and nonsense that comes from central office. Most of our schools are strong communities where so much learning and growth happen. Kids are mostly protected from the drama, the galling contracts, the high stakes chess games that characterize central office.