I organized a meeting of Boston parents last night to discuss the school assignment process and heard many stories of frustration. We were joined by city councillor John Connolly who is, himself, experiencing the frustration of still having a child unassigned. We didn’t solve any problems, but I believe it was helpful to hear each others stories; all very different, but all the same in so many unnecessarily complex ways.
After we shared our stories, the Councillor asked us to describe what we thought a quality school was. There are so many components to that, but at a very high level, I think a great school would find a way to teach every child to value learning as a way to achieve empowerment. I want my kids to seek out learning because they can see that it provides something of value so they can make a difference in their community and in the world.
I believe that lesson should scale to all levels of income, ability, and circumstance. For those in poverty, it is a way out. For those who are put down and disadvantaged through dysfunctional families and circumstances beyond their control, we must find a way to demonstrate education and learning are not just a thing that has to be done to get through the day, but a tool to seize control of some part of their lives. For students who already “do well” the lesson may be more subtle, but a quality education means all participate in the growing and learning process.
Now such a general standard is far from the day-to-day reality of the classroom. There cannot be a class or standardized test to measure “self-actualization progress.” But such a principle of quality education should serve as a mission against which all our efforts are judged.