Monday, January 25, 2010
(Looking down the hill--project is in the background)
Arthur Goldstein wrote a great article on Gotham about neighborhood schools. I couldn't think of much to add there because he said it all, much better than I could possibly say it.
But then it hit me. One of the most important things about neighborhood schools is the friendship students develop amongst each other and the way those friendships continue to flourish when you live in the same area. It got me thinking about my high school days and the people I grew up with.
I was a project kid. I lived in the projects on Gun Hill Rd and walked the few blocks to Evander Childs HS every day with the kids in my building. There was at least one kid in the building and definitely in the project that I shared a class with so if any of us missed a day of school or forgot to bring home a book we needed, there was always someone nearby to borrow the book or get that assignment from. Our parents never worried about us studying together late at night or coming home after dark as we were always in a big group and everyone believed there was safety in numbers. Every parent knew every person and their parents so they never worried about who we were with or what we danger or trouble we could have been getting into.
Aside from the academic benefits of a neighborhood school, there were social benefits. Weekends were always spent with our school mates, whether it was at a movie, shopping on Fordham Rd. or just listening to music in a friend's house, we were together. My students come to Packemin from all over Queens. In fact, I've had students from Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. (None from Staten Island yet.) These kids are best friends until the school ends and then they separate and return to their own little place in the city. No weekend, after school or holiday plans are ever made. Many of their parents are afraid to let them do any extra traveling. Many don't want their children socializing with people they do not know.
Bloomberg's rich kids don't have these worries. They can always have their chauffeur drop them off and pick them up. These kids all have permission in school to use their Backberries and I-Phones to call for anything they need or forget. They don't need the neighborhood as much as average New Yorkers do. We need our local schools and we need to fix the problems. Closing these schools is the equivalent of throwing out the baby with the bath water.