Public Education Builds Social Cohesion

A Los Angeles parent pays homage to public education and its role in building social cohesion

Volunteer badge prominently and proudly displayed, this morning I observed a PE class in a LAUSD (Los Angeles Urban School District) middle school on a special bell schedule, preparatory to engulfing its students in hours of imminent CST (California Standards Tests) tests.

The sight is profound. Embodied there is the raison d’etre of public schooling, as well as one of the underlying reasons this particular school is so successful. It is why I did not send my kid to the local “amazing” charter. It is a PE field filled with 300 children, moving their bodies effectively, therapeutically, mind-growingly. And most of all, it is a melting pot. It is not even a lumpy stew of integration, it is a 52-ring circus of homogeneity.

In front of me is a clutch of girls jumping rope. There are five of them, every one a different hue and different nationality. They are 110% comfortable with each other. And as if that weren’t enough, 10 minutes later a pair of similarly diverse boys start jumping rope with them too, the girls defending their girl-turf perfunctorily, incorporating the boys easily after the requisite gender-teasing. It was brought up so nominally as to be positively cute; no investment there, just historical homage.

This microcosm of a School That Works renews my own flagging spirit in what is evidently a battle for public education, for integration, for best educational practices and opportunity for all. The ideological forces of Educational Reform have imposed combat onto parties – families – singularly ill-equipped for any battle beyond that of raising children well. As a parent, I am so challenged, so very much, every single day, by the difficulty and magnitude of my personal task and responsibility; there is little energy left to articulate objection to the vast forces of revolutionary corporate reform that threaten our venerable system of public education.

There is no question whatsoever that this public system is flawed in practice, failing, even, vast swathes of fellow citizens. But with this failure has come vulnerability to exploitation by greedy private interests. Instead of focusing on transformation of problems, we are abdicating responsibility for maintaining the underlying educational political doctrine of equality and justice, by handing the system over to vested private interests with no such motivation.

Our children learn racism from us, the adults who inhabited this space before them. We owe it to ourselves to break this cycle. When a school functions to provide for its children what they need, to grow them educationally and spiritually in mind and body, they are supported beyond the pettiness of our circumstances. They are free to interact authentically. At the bell signaling PE’s end, I can’t even see the blur of well-exercised children leave through my tears. I am so moved to see their contentment. We should all be so proud.

This truth is self-evident: ‘it is the Right of the People to institute Government to effect Safety and Happiness’. We are our governors, and it is we, the people, who must assure that we raise our children well. This is not a task to delegate to private corporations, we must protect the integrity of true public education.

Safety and Happiness: evidence from a public school playground
Cross-posted from Red Queen in LA blog, 24 April 2013

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