I recently saw a comment thread about Philadelphia schools that left me speechless. One commenter said that any parent who would send their child to school in Philadelphia was more or less guilty of abuse.
Seriously? This is how we've come to view schools in our city?
While there are stories like the Howe/MLK beatings that send chills down my spine, I think it's important to remember that it's not fair to paint every child in Philadelphia with a broad brush. There are fantastic, amazing kids that go to Philly public schools. And they don't all drop out or flee - or worse. They go on to have wonderful, meaningful lives. I count among them many of my friends.
There are more than 160,000 children in Philadelphia public schools this year. It's the 8th largest public school system in the country.
Are there going to be problems? Yes there are.
Is there room for improvement? There's a LOT of room for improvement.
Does that mean that we give up? Of course not.
Part of living in a community means investing in that community - whether it's your time, resources or energy. It is very easy to throw your hands in the air and say that there's nothing that can be done. But that's both foolish and selfish.
When you look at neighboring school systems that are thriving, you do see a number of factors that set them apart. And those factors do matter. Yes, you're going to expect great things from kids who started off with some advantages. And when there's adequate resources for books and teachers, yes, you should expect high test scores and accomplishments.
But what else do those kids have that our kids don't?
Perhaps a little bit of faith in the kids themselves.
Kids in those school systems are expected to do well. Those communities don't just shrug their shoulders and assume that nothing can be done. They work to get it done. And that means strong involvement from parents, teachers and the wider community.
I've watched what can happen when parents decide that a school is worth the investment - in fact, if you look, you can see it all over the City, from Greenfield to Masterman to Sadie Alexander. It doesn't take years and it doesn't take millions of dollars. It merely takes commitment and hard work.
So for all of those naysayers who are willing to say terrible things about parents who care about the Philadelphia schools (and I'm betting most of those critical folks have never even set foot inside of one), I would say that you're wrong. We don't send our kids to public schools because we don't care or because we're lazy - in fact, I would say that it's quite the opposite. We send our kids to public school because we see potential in the children of this City. We understand that there's a lot of work to do - but rather than sit on the sidelines and criticize, we're willing to roll up our sleeves and get things done.