Thursday, October 29, 2009

The West Philadelphia High School Experiment

A West Philadelphia High School Experiment in Education.
I entered West Philadelphia High School around the time that the state took over the system from the school board. They came in and shuffled around the curriculum around again as the county bureaucrats had been doing for years. Because my district (West Philadelphia) was one of the "troubled"areas, the sent in a few university "experts" to come in and help manage the school. We had some some idiot know-it-all, PhD, "where's waldo looking, Paper pusher from the University of Penn whose name I've since forgotten. The reason why he is relevant to the story is because I told his ass off one day. I had happened to come in late one school day. So instead of receiving a detention, I got forced to go into the auditorium with the other late kids. This was done so as to make the school appear as if there was actually learning going on (Another one of their subtle experiments). As inarticulate as I was, I let him know that whatever sort experiment in discipline and education they thought they were implementing, it was dumb and was a part of the problem and not the solution. Funny thing is one of his Negroe deputies went to instruct me to be quiet but I guess as an academic, he thought it would be the liberal-minded thing to do to let me speak. Now that I'm grown I can say what I meant to say to that ass-hole. I'm unsure what made me go off on him, whether I have some black conscience deep inside of me or whatever but I sympathized with some of us who sat in the auditorium that day. I cried in that auditorium sitting back as I watched hundreds of West Philadelphia High School students sit there and waste their brains in the auditorium when they should have been in a classroom. It reminded me of the movie lean on me when Joe Clark came to save the day at East Side High, a school that was in similar conditions, e.g. graffiti ridden, low-income neighborhood, filled with violence, etc. I cried because we had no Joe Clark. We had another Ivy League social scientist in our schools conducting another experiment in educating people on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. I was upset because I thought to myself, I already received my acceptance letter to the University of Pittsburgh, months before that day. Why should I have cared what they were doing with us? I played along and got my scholarships. I learned how to play the game. I didn't have much to lose. But my people did i.e. West Philly. My black pride inside said that it shouldn't be that way. But I couldn't do anything. I was just another mouse in the maze. I was just a part of another experiment in educating Negroes. Still I had to say something.

Sometimes I think about the inferior education that I received and how it was fundamentally flawed. More than anything, it's problem was that it was more focused upon teaching standardized tests rather than offering a quality well-rounded education that would make us competitive in a world economy ( and not write run-on sentences). But it wasn't and for many reasons. Firstly, there was a wide range of commitment among the faculty. Some teachers didn't give a damn, some were on the fence, a few really cared. I had a shop teacher who actively taught for the first two weeks and after that you were on your own. I had a math teacher who was only in class half the time. He spent the other half on a token project that was getting him media attention but leaving the students unable to pass standardized tests while the administration turned a blind eye. I can't forget to mention the inexperienced teachers, e.g. recent college graduates, who appeared so benevolent as to come to the "hood" to teach when in reality they had nowhere else to go because Montgomery, Delaware, and Bucks counties (i.e. the white neighborhood) won't accept inexperienced teachers. So these busters game the system and when they get the experience necessary they flee the Philadelphia School district (like my chemistry teacher did, another UPENN experimenter).

Another experiment was instead of having a superintendent of schools they thought it would be cool to have a CEO instead. So that brought in a nut job who had some more experiments such as making the school day longer which did nothing but cause more people to drop out. This also doesn't deviate far from the fallacious ideas coming from the Washington, the Education Secretary, and Chocolate Jesus, i.e. Obama. But I guess since Obama thinks it's a good idea to make the school day longer, it has got to be right. I would rather have a more quality school day than a larger quantity of the same B.S.

Being a school where 80 percent or more students live below the poverty line one can already assume that the schooling is inferior, the books are outdated, the facilities are dilapidated, etc. Due to the system of taxation in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania that is something that can't be easily helped because of our capitalistic society, our disapproval of the redistribution of wealth, etc. However, my disagreement with the idea of experimentation being allowed on the children of Philadelphia under the guise of benevolence and new ideas. We allow bureaucracy instead of experience to come in and dictate policy and implement stupid ideas which are continously unchallenged. Nor should we allow "experts" who only know theory and know no practically, come into our districts with "new" ideas. Take those new ideas over to Montgomery county, Bucks County, Delaware County, etc. You can't because they won't settle for less and nor should we. They won't accept something that hasn't been proven to work so why should we. When we settle for less the student suffers.
So I'm just remembering how our education was one big bureaucratic experiment and in the end we got played. But hey, that's how you create a permanent underclass right?

Social Experiments to be aware of:
Zero Tolerance Policies
CEO's instead of Superintendents
Standardized Test Scores
"Fresh" pedagogical and disciplinary approaches implemented only in low-income districts
Charter schools

No comments:

Post a Comment