-By Tim Meegan. Tim is a National Board Certified Teacher at Chicago’s Roosevelt High School. He narrowly lost in a 2015 race for 33rd Ward alderman against the Democratic Machine’s candidate, Deb Mell.
This morning I got an email from a Roosevelt graduate. She’s a freshman at Monmouth College. She writes:
Good Morning Mr. Meegan
Just wanted to let you know that a lot that I was taught in your AP Human Geo class has been very helpful here. Thanks for being an awesome teacher.
I hope everything is going well!!
Unfortunately due to budget cuts I no longer teach this class. It’s been cut, one more in a long line of electives and AP classes. At Roosevelt we are trapped in a vice grip, fighting to attract students while the curriculum is narrowed. Starving schools are working harder and the test is the whip.
So now I’m teaching Civics, which is fitting since I lost to Deb Mell and have some experience in Chicago style democracy. I’m a big fan of democracy. It’s messy and expensive, but it reflects the will of the people…usually. In the last election cycle I learned that sometimes people power beats money power. Rahm learned it too. That’s why he opposes an elected school board.
Recently the Tribune published commentary from Peter Cunningham entitled “Chicago, be Wary of an Elected School Board.” This, from the newspaper that wishes for hurricanes and Mussolini-like powers for the CPS CEO. I’ll leave it to someone else to pick apart his paper thin argument. I have lessons to plan, and Civics is all about democracy.
In order to teach democracy you have to go back to the founders, and of course you have to incorporate Common Core. The standards tell you students should examine primary sources and make them relevant to their lives. When planning I couldn’t help but notice how relevant some of the material is to the question of an elected board. An end to mayoral control will be better for us all. In “Common Sense” Thomas Paine addresses the point:
“In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.”
On mayoral control of CPS he might say:
“In Chicago the mayor has little more to do than to close schools and privatize everything; which in plain terms is to impoverish the city and turn it upside down. How fortunate is Rahm to be a millionaire and have an ironclad pension and be thanked for his service! Of more worth is one honest man to our city and in the sight of God, than all the appointed officials that ever lived.”
Consider John Locke. He believed all people had natural, inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. The government’s job was to protect those rights, and if it did not the people had the right to rebel.
What might John Locke say about democracy for the Board of Education?
“Whenever the Board of Education endeavor to take away, and privatize the schools of the people, or reduce the schools to servitude under arbitrary test scores, the Board put themselves into a state of war with the schools, who therefore are absolved from obedience to the Board. Whenever the Board of Education breaks this fundamental rule of mankind; whether through fear, ignorance, or corruption, take away, and hand over our schools to any appointed power over our futures, freedoms, and the public trust; By this breach of trust they forfeit the power we have put into their hands, for the improvement of public schools, and it becomes our right for the people to democratically elect the Board of Education.”
Duncan, Mazany, JC, BBB, Ruiz, Claypool. Would there really be more instability with an elected board? Could there possibly be more corruption? Would teachers be working without a contract right now? Wouldn’t an elected board be a better steward of taxpayer dollars in this financial crisis? How would “Mussolini-like powers” improve the situation?
Would parents have to hunger strike over a month in order to have a say in what their neighborhood school looks like?
In the 33rd ward, 89.79% voted Yes to an elected school board. Even in my ward, that’s a majority. We, the people of Chicago, have the inalienable right to elect our school Board. And we have the inalienable right to rebel if we can’t. Don’t believe me? Just ask Mussolini. Whatever became of him anyway?