I really should be attempting to recover from Best Friend E’s birthday festivities right now :), but after reading DJ Black Adam’s Blog yesterday; I was inspired to expand on my comment on one of his posts…
Question: Why should children have to endure a subpar education just because they live within a low to middle income school district?
I’m a person that has gone to 4 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 high schools (thanks to mom dukes and her need to relocate every few years 🙂 love u ma!) but anyways, I have seen it all: private schools, religious schools, public schools, predominately white schools, predominately black schools, and some more ish. And I have noticed something quite odd. Schools that are in middle to lower income areas tend to have worse lower funded schools in comparison to areas where tax income is significantly higher. I myself am a product of the Baltimore County Public School System, The Baltimore City Public School System, The North Chicago (IL) Community Unit School District, and The Zion-Benton Township High School (IL) District. The schools I have attended are vastly different from one another in several aspects, mainly in the educational aspect and extracurricular activities. But why is this? Shouldn’t all schools be equally funded?
When I attended Elementary School and Middle school in Baltimore County, the schools I attended were predominately black and overcrowded to the point where we could only use textbooks in the classroom because there were not enough to go around. Being that I was in the Science Magnet program, we were exposed to different types of science (Environmental, Earth, Astronomy, etc.), so I do understand in certain aspects why certain schools would get more funding than others. However, not having enough textbooks is unacceptable…but other than that, the school was ok, well besides the constant bomb threats…
In 1999, my mother moved us to Suburban Chicago and I started attending school in North Chicago. The school was still predominately black and it was significantly smaller. (This school had around 500-600 pupils, while my first middle school had close to 1,500.). Coming to this school, we learned somewhat similar things but I now had to take Civics and was exposed to Hispanic classmates for the first time. Coming to this school, I graduated 2nd in my class, so of course I thought HS would be a breeze….WRONG!
Mom Dukes moved us again about 5 miles north to Zion, IL where I became a freshman at Zion-Benton Township High School. This was a COMPLETE culture shock to me in that this school had 2,500 students, was predominately white, and that this school was half surrounded by cornfields. (What the hell would a kid from Baltimore City know about a damn cornfield?). Coming to this school, I was exposed to a wider variety of people (Abercrombie Types, wannabe skinheads, techies, jocks, average black kids, the ACTUAL Oreos *I will expand on this later*, the posers, etc.) And unlike all those damn John Hughes movies from the 80’s (which I foolishly thought HS would be like), people in different social groups did interact on a regular basis, meaning you had some jocks that were into the whole neo-punk scene and whatever else. Another thing about this school was, this school had 2 gyms, 2 cafeterias, a pool, 3 fields, NJROTC program, an actual driver’s ed program with new (at the time) Ford Focuses. I mean damn…this school had it all…and it was all coming from the tax payers across 4 middle class municipalities, in comparison to No Go (North Chicago), whose tax base was the city of No Go and The Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Talking to friends I went to middle school with, who were now attending North Chicago Community High School. There was a complete lack in uniformity of curricula. Sure both schools have NJROTC programs, but ZB offered more AP Courses, more Foreign Language (Spanish, German & French I believe) courses, hell ZB even had a Technology Academy…Whereas all No Go had was a few AP Courses, Spanish and a Radio & TV production center. Why were there such gaps in what was being taught at schools in neighboring districts?
*Side Note: You already know that with the addition of me and maybe 1 or other 2 minority students, we were the only faces of color in the Accelerated and AP courses which usually had 25-30 students in each class. I believe that outside of ROTC, gym class, and homeroom, I RARELY had interactions with any other black kids. Well, not including when I was on the football team. I was really shy back in the day and outside of maybe 5-10 people who I was cool with (of different ethnicities), I stayed to myself and spoke to people who I was around the majority of the time. I remember being called an Oreo (you know…black on the outside, white on the inside) on several occasions by both white kids and black kids, apparently because I was only seen around the white people and because to them (for whatever reason) I spoke proper English (being from the east coast and all..idk) , and my argument to that remark was…”I’m not gonna go out of my way to converse with people (regardless of race) that I only see in passing, what’s the point in that?”
In 2002, (and after being forced to stay home during the whole DC Sniper fiasco), I was enrolled at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore. Talk about another culture shock… This school was roughly the same size as ZB (population wise) but was predominately black and lacked the majority of the things that ZB had to offer (i.e.;Extracurricular activities, AP classes, other types of classes, hell even a pool, which really sucked b/c I was on the public and school swim teams at ZB). At Woodlawn (or Hoodlawn, whichever you prefer), the few AP courses that were offered only had a maximum of maybe 10-15 students, and that the way the courses here were taught completely different than at ZB. And during the early and later months of the school year, student would rarely be learning anything because outside of the new wing that was constructed, the library and the main office, Woodlawn High School had NO AIR CONDITIONING. Try being on the 3rd floor of A school thats out in the open with the sun beaming down on it, when its 90 degrees outside and see if you’d feel like learning anything that day.
At ZB, courses were taught as if you were taking a college course. We had a lecture, we took notes, the teachers didn’t play about late work, and every one I was in class with was on the ball. At Hoodlawn, classes started off with the teacher telling the students the objective for the day, then we had a drill, and then we got started with class work. (Yes, I said it…they really were insulting my intelligence at this place… I hadn’t had a drill since maybe the 6th grade.) Certain teachers didn’t care if you turned in your work on time, and most students had issues with following basic directions on homework assignments. And don’t get me started on the unruly ass kids. They made me withdraw even more. They would buck at every word the teacher would say, they would cause a scene in class and still be sitting in class until the teacher made them leave, whereas at ZB, at the first sign of trouble (which rarely was the case) the para-pros would come escort the person out of class immediately.
I personally feel as if local education should be at the countywide (or citywide if you live in a large city) level. And I also think that ALL schools (with the exception of magnet and/or trade schools who require more funding for their respective programs) should be equally funded, and should teach the exact same curriculum down to the textbooks and materials being used within the classroom. It is not fair if students that attend High School A have excellent teachers and resources, excellent curricula, tennis courts, pools, rock climbing walls and a building that looks like a mansion from the front (ex: Lake Forest High School, Lake Forest, IL…look it up) while students who attend High School B in a neighboring town have to fight each other for textbooks and space for classrooms because the building is so overcrowded. How does the government honestly expect students from certain schools to be able to handle the rigors of university work, when they’ve been doing drills and classwork for the majority of their primary academic careers?
*Side Note: I know I complain about the schools I have attended and the differences between them, but I know of several High Schools (primarily in Baltimore City) that are using textbooks from the 90’s or even worse, have sent students home on several occasions because the building has lost power, or heat in the middle of the winter….and this is the 21st century… Let that crap happen at Baltimore City College High School or Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, and the school board would have the respective school’s Alumni Association so far up their asses that they wouldn’t hear the end of it until my grandchildren graduate from grad school…