Lesson 1: Education Reform Is For Other People's Children

A parent who's an attorney cross-examines Penny Pritzker, billionaire member of the Chicago Board of Education. (She was Obama's finance chair.) Via Diane Ravitch, former Bush education official:

Farmer is a trial lawyer. He describes how he bristled when he heard an interview on the radio in which Pritzker described what Chicago students need: enough skills in reading, mathematics, and science to be productive members of the workforce. Why no mention of the arts, of music, of physical education, he wondered.

So he cross-examined Pritzker in absentia. Her own children attend the University of Chicago Lab School. Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his children there too. Arne Duncan is a graduate. [Editor's note: Malia and Sasha Obama attended when the Obamas lived in Chicago.]

Farmer points out that the Lab School has a rich curriculum, not preparation for the workforce. Children there get the arts and physical education there every day. The Lab School has a beautiful library, and Pritzker is raising money to make it even grander and more beautiful. He asks the absent Pritzker, “Do you know that 160 public schools in Chicago don’t have a library?”

The Lab School has seven teachers of the arts. In a high school that Pritzker voted to close, there was not a single arts teacher.

Matt Farmer goes on to quote the director of the Lab School, who opposes standardized testing and insists upon a rich curriculum. The statement by the Lab School’s director about the importance of the union bring the assembled teachers to their feet, roaring and applauding.

I hope Penny Pritzker and Rahm Emanual watch this video. People who have the good fortune to send their children to elite private schools should do whatever they can to spread the same advantages to other people’s children. When they are members of the board of education and the mayor, they have a special responsibility to do what is right for the children in their care. If they inflict policies on other people’s children that are unacceptable for their own children, they should be ashamed.


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