Since I last posted, I spent four days in Florida visiting my 95-year-old grandfather. Why on earth have I chosen to live in Seattle? Why isn’t my life filled with sunny, white-sand-filled beaches, where people in stores actually want to help you find things? Where Omar from The Wire hangs out at the airport? (My most exciting celebrity spot EVER.) Alas, I have returned to the land of rain and reticence. Sigh. Back to business. Oh, and a topic.
So I recently found out that several of my closest friends and family members voted yes on charter schools. They were a trifle shame-faced admitting it to me. I tried to stay calm while shooting daggers with my eyes. I couldn’t help myself – I felt just a teensy bit betrayed. I know, the election’s over and whatnot, and everyone is entitled to their opinions. But they are just so wrong! And I am so hyperbolic.
We had a lovely, productive discussion, however, and I tried to practice magnanimously seeing the other side. It hurt a little, because my natural inclination, being the youngest of three, is to just dig in my heels and stick my fingers in my ears. But I did listen. And then I thought. And then I emailed WA state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles.
And she responded! I have her email right in my inbox! Pretty exciting for such a poky little pundit. Anyway, I wrote to her because if the voters have said they want charter schools – however misinformed I think they are – I want to be involved. Voters have clearly shown that they don’t value teachers’ opinions on education, so we must swallow our pride and find ways to shape these new schools into viable options.
I’d love to see a high school that caters to both academically minded students and those wishing to pursue vocational careers. In America, the option to begin a vocation is generally offered post K-12, whereas in England students can pursue this option from the age of 16. In many European countries, such as Germany, Norway and Switzerland, close to 50% of students complete their training in vocations and apprenticeships verses following an academic path. In Australia, according to friends, there is near equal prominence given to academic and vocational career choices.
Don’t get me wrong – there is value in teaching Hamlet to students who might become plumbers. But there is also value in helping a student to find her or his strengths in school and in finding ways to shape those strengths into careers. Probably a third of all the students I have taught in Senior English classes would have benefitted from a more career-driven education – or at least a respectable choice.
Senator Kohl-Welles (who by the way agrees with me about charter schools) informed me that Governor-elect Jay Inslee will be the one leading the charge on charter schools. To read more about the Senate Committee Services report on Initiative 1240, click on that underlined bit.
I also emailed Reuven Carlyle, who connected me to a woman who works with schools in my neighborhood, and we are having coffee next week. Who knows where that will lead?
For all of those readers out there who voted for charter schools, you better have some ideas that you are prepared to support. Please take a moment to write and tell me a few. Perhaps I will mention them to all the local politicians crowding my inbox.