February 14, 2003


Are We Failing our Kids?

By: Ernie McCray

On the cover of the February edition of the San Diego Magazine there is a picture of a young girl, blessed with the most beautiful of smiles, looking out at the world with the question “Are We Failing our Kids?” written across her forehead.

And my reaction is: Hell yeah we’re failing our kids. To understand what I mean, just pick up the magazine and start reading and you will be hard pressed to find that girl again. It’s all about past and present controversies and political battles and peacemaking missions behind-the-scenes in our school system.

See, if it was really about that little girl, if it were really about creating child centered learning environments dedicated to nurturing loving and caring creative thinkers, a hostile and tumultuous school system like ours wouldn’t exist.

Oh, there will be a few students who will walk away from San Diego City Schools with high SAT’s and promising futures. But something essential to the making of a complete human being is sadly and sorely lacking in our school system.

How beneficial really can a school system be to a mother’s child if she has no say, if the school system is run by a man who is motivated by a paranoiac notion that if he collaborates with stakeholders he’s allowing them veto power? Collaborating is not as much about power as it is about garnering all the creativity that exists to be tapped.

What’s in it for our children with their multitude of academic and social needs if their teachers are locked into a Blueprint that allows no altering, if their teachers feel that they cannot be creative?

What pictures of democracy are our children forming in their minds when they observe pillars of society donating thousands of dollars to defeating the only board of education candidates who question and speak openly in their behalf?

And as to the race card how are our black and brown children to flourish when they see their community leaders cast aside like nobodies when they appear before the superintendent and board of education?

Our school system is failing our children big time. And it all falls on one man. Alan Bersin,the superintendent. It usually takes two to tango but he chose to dance by himself at his own beat. And since no stakeholders, save those in his inner circles, have any say, Bersin, of his own free will, with all the choices he could have made, opted to give birth to a school system that can best be described as Un-American. Nothing could fail our children more in a free society.

Ernie McCray is a retired principal of San Diego City Schools.

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