Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicago Public School Board Meeting- 3 hours of observation

What a heated board meeting! As our class waited in line to get in to a CPS board meeting, I couldn't help but feel excited and encouraged that so many people were showing up to support public school education. There ARE people who are outraged enough to stand up for what they believe is hurting their communities and children.

What were people so upset about? Well... a lot of things. But one of the main issues under scrutiny was the closings and turnarounds of schools. If a school is low-performing, under No Child Left Behind, the district has a right to fire all of the staff and basically "refresh" the school or turn it around. Many people who spoke at the meeting felt that doing this to the schools or closing them is detrimental to the community. One word that was used a lot was apartheid, noting that the kids in Title I schools are purposely getting less and being shuffled from one bad school to another. Another speaker mentioned that  more policy can actually hurt the schools and that the board needed to start at the grass roots. Grass roots was a word also used a lot- the sense that the changes need to start within the community. Community members know what is best for their neighborhood and they need to come together to create change.

While I heard a lot of empowering speeches, unlike when I came in, I left discouraged; knowing all too well that the public's voices would not be heard. It was very clear to me that the Chairman of the Board was obligated to sit there and that he really did NOT want to. Under this democracy, leaders are mandated to listen to "the people". However, this democracy is dysfunctional because the leaders might listen, but they will still make decisions on what is best for them and their advisors.

On the other hand, I almost felt bad for the board as they had to sit there and be ridiculed. Perhaps they deserved it... perhaps they didn't. Part of me thought, it isn't the board's fault- it's the whole system. CPS cannot make real change because they have the state and Washington breathing down their necks. They are confined under NCLB and other policies. So what big changes can they really make?

While I felt discouraged, there is still the part of me that was proud of the people who fought for what they believed in. If more people got angry, not just the ones being affected by the closings and turnarounds, I think we would be a much different society. I definitely feel more aware, and I know that's a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. Is anger central to creating change? If so, why? What is it about "anger" that prompts people to "do" something? What happens if one simply cannot get angry about such things? Or how does anger in some instances thwart gaining support?

    Do you think the board meeting is really more of a space to "vent" and not about creating a space to "do" something productive (not that venting is unproductive entirely)? You make it seem like the board meeting was not productive...but if we think about it from a different frame, how might it be productive in more "nefarious", undemocratic ways?