Last updated December 17 8:30 AM
The air of irony last evening could not have been thicker at the first public high school of Boston, as all the children in the audience at Boston's Public High got an unforgettable lesson in what democracy does and doesn't look like.
On the "doesn't" side was the feckless School Committee, peering down from the stage of the school auditorium at speaker after speaker, 70 in all, most of whom came to speak against the impending school closures. The seven appointed Board members and their appointed Superintendent of Schools sat, some leaning forward, some flouncing, some yawning, some chatting, and all waiting patiently for the anticlimactic climax, to make the centrally-planned backroom decision official, while thumbing their noses at the citizenry, regardless of pleas, logic, tears, begging, demonstrations, catcalls, raps, and the rest.
The school closing decision, of course, had been made for them, and they were there last evening to play their bit parts in the democratic farce that has come to the Commonwealth where Horace Mann battled for the creation of public schools, where Benjamin Roberts, Robert Morris, Frederick Douglas, and Charles Sumner made the case for integrated public schools a hundred and sixty years ago. Now looms the incredible specter of a system based on apartheid, zero-tolerance charter school chain gangs in the black and brown areas of the City.
The children in the audience last night also saw the promise of a democracy renewed in the strong, eloquent voices of their friends, teachers, parents, bus drivers, school helpers, and community activists, who are now galvanized by the decision of the Mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, and the corporate foundations to turn their backs on so many amazing school programs and committed teachers and energized parents.
The School Committee vote last evening was one of the first bombs lobbed into the laps of Boston's public school parents, teachers, and students, and there are sure to be more. Waiting with their anti-public strategies wrapped in measured, unyielding, Puritan politeness are the charter zealots and the corporate CMOs, EMOs, and CEOs who see education as a controllable commodity whose production cannot be exported but can be exploited for economic gain.
The next bomb will try to blow apart teachers and parents, with school resources or teacher salaries on either side of the crater. And waiting in the wings for the empty school properties are the charter schools, which in fact are the reason for the $63 million shortfall to begin with. If Boston were not paying for these charter schools and the incredibly expensive and inefficient transportation to them, there would be no shortfall of $63 million.
The day before yesterday the Mayor was the invited speaker at the Annual Breakfast hosted by Chamber, where he stood before a backdrop of Bank of America and Chamber of Commerce logos to announce the closings or mergings that got formalized last evening. And even though the mayor got his first standing ovation in all his speeches to the Chamber of Commerce, he should enjoy it while he can. The Boston public is aroused and angry and ready to act. If you thought you saw repudiation in Washington, DC in November, just wait. This could easily be the event that signaled the beginning of the restoration of public control of the Boston Public Schools.
Perhaps in the not so distant future, those on the stage will be elected as well. Let's make it happen. Let's restore Democracy to the Cradle of Democracy in America.