Perhaps we need to turn up the volume?
Yesterday the Sun-Times published an article in which CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was quoted as saying about last week’s contentious and emotional board meeting, “Not once at the board meeting did I hear anyone talk about children.”
Was Mr. Brizard wearing earplugs? Was he watching a movie on his I-phone? I sat through most of that Board meeting and I don’t think we could have possibly been in the same room.
Parents, teachers and even students waited outside from as early as 4 a.m. for a chance to have just two minutes to plead their cases to the Board. Some pleaded for them to think of their children’s safety; some pleaded for better resources for their children’s classrooms; some pleaded for continuity of teaching staff for their children and the desire to keep their school community intact. And while the needs and requests made through the public comment varied in substance, they all had a common thread – the improvement of education for Chicago’s children.
For Mr. Brizard to say that no one talked about children is dismissive, condescending and plain false. As the Sun-Times points out, “video shows the speakers mentioned children over and over again and some students themselves spoke, arguing the closings would not help them.”
It is one thing to disagree with the speakers’ opinions but it is another to completely deny hearing what they said. Between this comment in the paper and our mayor’s recent comment about the “noise that comes with change,” which he said after hundreds of people marched quietly outside his house to protest school actions, it is clear that those who make the policies that impact our children have little interest in bringing the public into the discussion. Instead, they are choosing to ignore what they hear when it doesn’t conform to their agenda, and label concerned citizens as “noisemakers.”
As one of the lucky few who was able to speak during the Board meeting, I presented a letter signed by eleven community/parent groups asking CPS to do a better job of engaging parents and listening to our concerns. Perhaps this is what Mr. Brizard was referring to when he said he “kept hearing about adults.” Please listen closer, Mr. Brizard. We as parents are not asking for better collaboration and engagement because it’s a fun hobby. We do not enjoy waking up at 3:30am to spend eight hours in line at a board meeting only to get two minutes to speak. This is not some self-centered activity that we like to engage in to fill our unlimited free time. We are doing this because we are the best advocates for our children. We speak for them because when it comes to improving the system they simply can’t speak for themselves.
It is not up to my 8-year-old to advocate for the “world class” education he and his 405,000 peers deserve. All children no matter what level they are reading at or where they live should have a music teacher, an art teacher, language, a PE teacher, improved literacy curriculum, smaller class sizes, technology, recess, less testing, paint, paper and other basic supplies, adequate services for IEPs and 504 plans. It is not our children’s responsibility to protest and make demands for the fundamental services and programs that they need for their education. It is the responsibility of the adults – parents, teachers, principals, and yes the Board of Education to fight for and provide for our children.
Those who are making the decisions that impact our children’s lives, need to stop hearing noise and start hearing the voices that always have children at the center of this discussion. Stop letting our words fall upon deaf ears.