Earlier today a friend asked me a question on facebook. As I answered, I realized that the answer and the question were important, not just as they pertained to that conversation, but as they pertain to our community, the ICCSD, our teachers and our kids:
Jason T. Lewis, I know you are interested in curriculum. Are there others active in the district for whom this might be a focus? Are redistricting and facilities taking up too much bandwidth to get a discussion going about curriculum and assessment?
There are others who are interested for sure, but yes, redistricting and facilities take up almost all the bandwidth in the ICCSD at this point. I’d love to find a way to change that. I’d love to be a part of that change. I’d love to see us focus on what makes us the same (our desire for our kids to have the best possible public education) and not what separates us. I’d love to find a way to engage people in seeking positive change where it counts: in the classrooms, for our kids and our teachers.
It’s strange to me how much time and effort goes into discussing what seems like small scale concerns for our community like redistricting. We have huge focus group sessions for weeks on end to discuss boundaries, but never once have we had a public outcry that warranted a discussion about what’s happening in our classrooms, how challenged our teachers are and how much harder that challenge becomes every year. Each year, the definition for success for our children becomes more and more narrow, as does the margin for creativity and classroom problem solving for our teachers.
Does it matter more where your child goes to school if what your child’s taught once they get there is less than what it should be? My answer would be no, but our community at large seems to answer yes. I wish we were talking about programming all the time in the ICCSD. I wish we were organizing coalitions to lobby Des Moines for increased allowable growth and a real investment in education, and hectoring Washington to use caution with the Common Core, but alas we’re handwringing and distributing leaflets around neighborhoods to preserve walkability, when I fear that for some “walkability” really means NIMBY.
It pains me to think that way. But it’s hard not to after years of hearing these same arguments, thinly reworked over and over again and to diverting us from the pressing realities our kids and teachers face: growing class sizes, encroaching government regulation of what’s taught, and the de facto segregation in our public schools. It’s hard not to be jaded. But I believe we can come together and make positive change because we have to—for our kids’ sake. How we can work together to protect our kids from the real concern: An educational system that moves further and further away from what will serve our kids best and closer and closer to what serves the system the best?
Why don’t the active, engaged parents in the ICCSD take on that challenge? I wish I knew. Are there folks who want to? Yes, but that conversation is repeatedly crowded out by these surface, NIMBY concerns. Again, what does it matter where our kids go to school if what’s taught once they get there isn’t right-headed and in their best interest? It doesn’t. Who wants to work to making sure we stay positive and focused on what matters: Our kids and their education? That’s the kind of NIMBY I can get behind. Who else?