I had an interesting talk recently with fast-talking and hilarious parent activist Sandra Tsing Loh the other day about the plight of middle class parents when it comes to public education -- and what needs doing next.
What do you think about what Loh's saying? Is there a Chicago version
of Loh? Does the Northside Parents Network do much the same as this?
Or should we focus mostly on poor and minority kids because that's who
is in CPS now?
"Middle class people are always ignored," she says. They're treated as an over-privileged and homogeneous group, though they include Asians, Armenians, Middle Easterners and others. And their options are often overstated, whether it comes to moving to a better neighborhood or to the suburbs. "We can't afford to just move to where there are good schools."
She took on none other than Jonathan Kozol over this issue in a March article in The Atlantic that you may recall. Subtitled "How a pushy, Type A mother stopped reading Jonathan Kozol and learned to love the public schools," you can check it out here.
Middle-class moms are an amazing force, Loh says, but they need to be brought in
in a totally different way."The hook for them isn't activism or
politics," she says. Most haven't even been into the local
neighborhood school because they heard it was 'bad." "There's just an amazing amount of fear about neighborhood schools," says Loh. "And a big concern over arts programs being cut."
Loh points out how difficult it can be for middle class parents to
re-enter the public school system and figure out what needs doing and
where the leverage is. Though familiar to educators and longtime
public school parents, bureaucracy and requirements are often baffling
and supremely frustrating to action-oriented former executives.
Not that middle class parents are always wise about their school choices, she says. "Tell them there's a teaching garden or an orchestra and they go crazy." Others watch test scores and "hive" over to where the highest scores, which Loh agrees is not a good way to go. In LA, progressive-sounding charter schools are an increasingly popular option.
A performance artist who has done shows about education, Loh has recently written a book called Mother On Fire about her experience
trying to find a decent school for her child in the LA school system.
Her informal group of activist moms is called Burning Moms. She also
blogs on the NY Times and has appeared on my other site in the past. Here's a Salon interview.
Filed under: Parents and Parenting