Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Everything is related.

I'm watching television and see Jamie Oliver denied access to the kitchens of Los Angeles Unified School District and I'm not surprised at all. I worked in that district on and off for twenty years, as a teacher, a coordinator of special programs, a specialist, a trainer, an evaluator.  I have  few pictures of me in any one of those roles, and the one I truly remember is the one of me pregnant with my last baby, all of my being exposed so, standing  in the Teachers' cafeteria with a big bowl of salad greens I took to school that day to share with my friends.

That salad bowl was a protest statement.

The cafeteria had stopped making meals  and insisted we should have the burgers and tacos they served to the student body.  This was back in 1980! They had switched slowly from baking and cooking all food on the premises to purchasing pre-cooked patties and fries and heating them up before passing them down to the population.

Their reasoning? Two thousand people needed to be fed in twenty minutes.

I'm sure the food quality has not improved since then.
And everything that smells of change is halted before it moves down the path to the top.
In a big institution, lack of change and transparency are major drawbacks to innovation and morale.
 No wonder I moved on!

Schools are teaching children more than the basic subjects.  They show children what and how things are supposed to be. We are training our future workers here and  the main message is:

 "Shut up, eat your crappy burger, move when the bell moves, and don't get out of line!"

Now, with unions being busted in a couple of states, with thoughts of eliminating basic services everywhere, with the idea that a city can be overtaken by a finance consultant- yes, the mayor and the council are set aside and the finance consultant makes all decisions- we are creating a mess of a democracy. 

It started with schools, I'm afraid.

When schools began to have gang problems, bullying problems, lack of interest and motivation, schools had already been physically crumbling and nobody wanted additional taxes to pay for crumbling schools. The state of California passed Prop.13 to freeze property taxes!

Then, the population busted in to do more harm.
When crowds of immigrant and war-scared children appeared at the school house, nobody asked how can we ameliorate all these traumas? 
Nobody wanted to pay for fixing anything.

Instead, the various government agencies all blamed schools for lack of progress!
And, to remedy that, they offered vouchers for people to take their children out to private schools.
So, public schools got worse.
Families with any means began leaving the schools.
Motivated teachers left.
Motivated students left.

And now, outside agencies are taking over public schools for profit.
And since they are not public agencies, they don't have to be transparent.
They don't have to show progress in the same way.
They don't even have to hire professionally trained personnel.

We make a mess. We walk away.
We make a mess. We blame others.
We have a mess. We turn it over to a profiteer.

If Jaime Oliver gets to work at West Adams Middle School, ( I do know that school!) it will be a miracle. A miracle to open up the system and speak plainly about what all the issues are, without assigning blame  or walking away.

In this blog about school tales, this is the lesson:
Everything is somehow connected to everything else.  We should all be putting our heads together and talk about what we know, what we see, what we can do.


  1. Excellent post. I saw the same program.

  2. Taking over schools for profit!!!! This should NEVER happen. You are right ~ we all need to raise our voices, no matter our ages.

  3. Oh, yes!!! Why are we always asking for more and more from our schools but never providing resource to make them what they need to be. And why cant' we work together and yes, talk about what needs to be done! This is our future.

    Thoughtful post, thank you so much.

  4. I remember you mentioning the food situationn in your story. You are so right, children learn how things are suppased to be (aka what's normal) at school - and it's is a shame what passes for normal at some schools.