The chapter “Grounded in the community: The fight for the soul of public education” discusses pressing issues in the sphere of educational policies ranging from school closings to the professional development of teachers. The work of the Chicago Teachers Union is used as an illustration of the consistent efforts many communities make to change the status quo and improve the quality of education in general. Chicago has witnessed a series of drastic changes in public education in the form of school closings in diverse neighborhoods. Thus, the people of color were burdened by the lack of the local government’s attention to the future of new generations.
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The ‘school-to-jail track’ is another crucial revelation of the case. As mentioned by the author “mass incarceration and youth criminalization are primary forms of racial oppression and control in the United States” (Jobin-Leeds, 2016, p. 84). Therefore, instead of allocating funds to provide high-quality education for minority students, policymakers focus on interventional and punitive policies to discipline the youth of color and “feed the school to prison pipeline” (Jobin-Leeds, 2016, p. 84). This issue suggests that the government does not understand that the loss of educated citizens leads to financial burdens for the rest of the taxpayers who are forced to pay for sustaining the prison system.
The case teaches the public about the need for significant transformation in public education and building a movement using the example of the Chicago Teachers Union. The unification of the federal efforts in the movement against the limiting of the access and quality of education is needed not only in Chicago but also nationwide. Even though many may view strikes as an inconvenience to the process of education, getting one’s opinion heard is the first step toward showing support for public education. In any case, education is a right that all US citizens possess, and limiting this right is the same as preventing society from developing.
In regards to the integration of the information from the chapter into the social work practice, it is imperative to mention the attention and the support for students from underserved groups. As mentioned by Sen in the foreword, much of the success of public policies depend on the strategy and strength of those involved in them (as cited in Jobin-Leeds, 2016). Racial oppression occurs not only in words but through the limitation of opportunities, and being an advocate for those who do not receive the necessary level of support is essential. This is possible through spreading the information among communities, analyzing the state of public education access and quality, and being vocal about the identified disparities. Also, creating a platform with the help of which the community can communicate and share experiences is essential for the successful work of a social advocate and supporter.
Social policies on the quality of education and equal access should be addressing the problems reflected in the case. At the moment, there is a lack of governmental regulations that guarantee equal access of minority students to public education. The structural oppression and marginalization of students of color make it possible for schools to close without any explanation, thus increasing the likelihood of misdemeanors, petty crimes, and subsequent incarceration. The expansion of expenditures for police, prison, and the military at the cost of quality of education, healthcare, child care, and affordable housing shows that the government does not understand the true cost of education. As mentioned in the chapter, there are multiple benefits of investing in education instead of incarceration, which points to the need for a significant shift in social policies.
The permanent structure enhances the power and privilege of some communities over others by limiting opportunities based on race, status, or income levels. Policies that close schools or punish those facilities that do not reach the desired level of achievement are discriminatory and perpetuate the stereotype that people of color are more likely to be uneducated and unable to reach success in life. The needs of the communities are undermined and overlooked by favoring those who have enough resources for successful integration into the school system. The example of closing schools and education with charters in Chicago shows that the government does not want to challenge corporate school reform but rather use the resources that the sphere of education needs elsewhere.
The chapter furthered the understanding of the forms and mechanisms of oppression by presenting examples of how the resources meant to improve the lives of minority communities are used for other purposes. Thus, there is a significant limitation in the range of opportunities that diverse or low-income individuals have when it comes to getting the expected level of education. For example, mass incarceration and criminalization of youth are used as replacements for high-quality education despite the latter bringing much more positive outcomes. It is evident that present policymakers fail to understand the adverse consequences that the prison system has on society not only for minority groups but for the nation in general. Had there been more initiatives and policies that addressed the disparities in the access and quality of education, communities would thrive and give back to society with their work and knowledge.
The continuous cycle of resources being taken from education, healthcare, child support, and other public services perpetuates oppression and injustice. These resources are reallocated to be used in such spheres as a military force or the prison system, undermining the well-being of communities that want to live in peace. The present policies should change, and the people should work together to create a support system that will make it easier to deal with arising issues. The forming of the Chicago Teachers Union shows that policymakers will respond better to organizations that have a strong mission and goals. According to the statement on the organization’s website, the union aims to “protect and improve the services of the public schools as a social agency for developing the capacities of the young and promoting adult education” (Chicago Teachers Union, 2019, para. 2). The positive outlook on the future of generations and the courage to make a change can reshape the political and social climate, leading to significant improvements (Jobin-Leeds, 2016). Similar unions and public organizations can be developed in any area where there is substantial evidence of public education being overlooked.
To conclude, the case provided insights into the limitations of the system of education in the United States. Policymakers have shown an increased interest in limiting the quality and access to education in favor of using resources in such areas as the military or the prison system. Thus, consistent efforts of communities are needed for overcoming the disparities and pushing the agenda of introducing policies that will open opportunities for minorities instead of limiting them.
Chicago Teachers Union. (2019). About us. Web.
Jobin-Leeds, G. (2016). When we fight we win: Twenty-first-century social movements and the activists that are transforming our world. New York, NY: The New Press.