As I followed the Chicago Teacher Union’s strike, getting
past the noise about evaluations, salaries, the right to organize, it became
evident to me the underlying issues point to a conversation about education in
this country few are engaging in. Namely, are we as a nation still willing to
provide a free “quality” education to all children? Now many will tell me there
are numerous people engaged in the Should We Privatize Education debate. I
know. I live thirty minutes from a state that chose to spend a significant
portion of the budget for teachers’ salaries on laptops for every student from
a certain company. But that is not where I am going with this post.
I don’t think we can enter the conversation of public and political will regarding continued provision
of public education until as a nation we come to consensus as to what
constitutes “Quality Education”. There have been volumes of back chatter
regarding the impediments to a “quality education”: relentless and rising poverty,
bad teachers, bad administrators, bad parents (just once I’d like to hear bad
policy or bad politicians), community violence, limited if any early childhood
But what is “Quality Education”? Does “quality“ mean all
students graduate? Does it mean if a student graduates they are ready to enter
the workforce? Does a “quality” education mean students are prepared to enter college
without the need for remediation in math and English? Or does “quality”
education mean students can demonstrate mastery of subjects in end of course
exams or standardized tests like HSPE, SAT, AP, or IB? Does a “quality”
education include the provision of health care and social services? Does “quality” education produce a just and compassionate citizenry?
What say you? Any
takers for this conversation?