There must be some reason why I continue having these dualistic experiences. Yesterday I had a performance at a school in the city of Los Angeles. The school was one of those progressive educational institutions housed in a corporate high rise with underground parking, security guards and beamed ceilings. I’ve performed at the school previous years but this was the first year that I had to leave it and go to visit another school back across town.
The school in the City of Los Angeles is one in which parents pay more than $30,000 a year in tuition. The school I had to get to across town in the City of Long Beach is a public school. The student teacher ratio at the private school is approximately 12 to 1. The student teacher ratio at the public school is approximately 30 to 1. The private school as music programs, choral programs, a photography studio, state-of-the-art computer labs, kilns for clay work, and so much more. The school I visited in Long Beach has none of these things except for the shadow of a music program that has become emaciated by budget cuts and computers that where outdated even when the school received them.
I could continue with the disparities in resources but I think you get the picture.
A private education or attendance in a school fortunate enough to be situated in high property value areas are both part and parcel of the American-Dream. I would never suggest that the disparity between educational institutions in our country be alleviated by punishing the more fortunate. My issues with the inequities in our educational system have much more to do with the core democratic values and ethics that we promulgate the world over.
Every child across this land is taught that a democracy is a representative type government where society’s interests and needs are met through collaborative decision making.
I am continuing to have these, what I call, “Kozol Experiences” each time I visit classrooms and schools. The inequities are glaring and what I am left to wonder is this, “is there room in a democracy for a social/economic structure where the divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is wider than it has ever been at any time in our history since the Great Depression? I am asking this in all sincerity because I am witnessing the erosion of core democratic principles giving citizens certain inalienable rights such as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.
As I see it, the child attending most public schools in our country stands little to no chance along side his/her private school counterpart in competing in tomorrow’s global economic and political world.
At a very basic level we’ve sold our children on the idea that a democracy means equality for all. Are our inequities in education obvious examples that more lip-service is applied to principles of democracy than actual practice.
I left the private school that morning feeling optimistic for the futures of the students I encountered. This wasn’t the case when I left the public school classroom.
Am I being naive in thinking that a nation as rich in ingenuity and diversity as the United States should lead the world in education, not fall further behind it?