Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No way out

Two weeks ago I wrote about a television show called The Wire. When I posted that entry, I was still in the middle of season 3. Season 4, which I hadn’t seen, is about education, and I’m so affected by what I’ve learned that I have to write about this program again. I’ll keep it short.

Education is the one thing – maybe the only thing – that offers a glimmer of a way out of a near impossible to break vicious circle of poverty, crime, drugs and ending up in jail or shot on a corner.  This makes education (at least in my book) the number one priority. Despite of which our education system, here, in the most powerful country in the world, is failing all of us.

The “No Child Left Behind” initiative gives kids a free pass, “allowing” them to be in a class that corresponds to their age, not their level – which means they will always be too far behind to ever catch up. It forces teachers to give a passing grade to students who don’t know how to read, which not only means the child is forever lost in class, at best bored, at worse humiliated, with an ever diminishing sense of self worth; but that said child also slows up the lesson for everyone else. It forces teachers to impart to students specific answers to tests, rather than whole lessons, to ensure kids get a passing grade. This is done to improve statistics, to back up the claim our system is improving. Did you know this? Is this common knowledge? 

Coincidentally, in the middle of my watching eye opening, enraging, hopelessness inducing season 4, David Simon, the creator of this show, gave a talk at Berkley. I couldn’t attend, but thanks to my friend Analisa I did see the webcast, which you too can watch at:

David Simon explains that corruption is not just government officials looking to line their own pockets, but people everywhere who look for ways to make someone else responsible. “This horrible mess here is not really my fault, because…”

I don’t know just how much the structures and institutions that supposedly bind this country can hold while we (and I mean I) contribute to the mess by looking the other way.



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