Tuesday, November 6, 2007

when the nation's best schools just aren't good enough . . .

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Neighborhood outside Downtown Silver Spring could be bought out; Old men determine fate of backyards in ICC's path; Blake football player knifes opponent after game.

Riding the bus to Bethesda - be it a Metrobus or a plain old school bus - from points east is always quite a task. For starters, when you're sitting at East-West Highway and Grubb Road, which divides the Silver Spring and Bethesda zip codes, you have to consider that the same three-bedroom Colonial on the Silver Spring side is probably worth half as much as its neighbor across the street. And when you cross Rock Creek Park and see the giant houses looming over you, it's hard not to feel insignificant - dare I say less of a person than whomever must live there.

I, for one, am glad that our wealthier friends in Bethesda and Chevy Chase understand our pain, as witnessed in these comments from a Chevy Chase resident about public schools from the Post Magazine's yearly "Education Review":
"What I really object to," he said passionately, "is that they bus in all those black kids from Silver Spring. They bring them into this neighborhood, to see all of our big houses, exposing them to things they are never going to have. I just don't see the point."
Is that why Purple Line opponents in Chevy Chase want the trains to run underground? (We're not pointing any fingers at you, Pam Browning, but your neighbors suddenly look very suspect.)

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

I was more than a little shocked by the article in question, "Unreal World" - which came out in support of public schools as a "counterculture" move in super-wealthy Montgomery County and its companion piece, "Learning to Conform," which argues the very same public schools are "snuffing out [students'] curiosity."

This is all, of course, from the perspective of writers living in Chevy Chase and Garrett Park, two very small, very cute, and ridiculously isolated parts of Montgomery County. At least they didn't dredge up the age-old fear that you'll get cut in public schools, even though it did happen this week: A Magruder High football player was stabbed by a member of the visiting team after last Friday's game. The opponents was Blake, my alma mater.

As a product of Blake and the Montgomery County Public Schools, I'd like to think I got an excellent, stabbing-free education, and I did. I feel that private schools are a waste of money in MoCo, but I nearly landed in one myself: my mother, having just moved to Downtown Silver Spring fifteen years ago, was encouraged by her sisters to put me in a Catholic school in the District, where I lasted exactly two days. From there, it was public school all the way.

(You say the public schools stifle curiosity? At least capital punishment wasn't allowed. I can still feel the harsh sting of the ruler against my neck from nuns irritated that I wouldn't stop laughing in class because the kid a row behind wouldn't stop tickling me.)

As much as I love the Post, it's a little frustrating that their "Education Review" would focus on the attitudes of people in a very small portion of the metropolitan area. (I never assumed that journalism was a high-paying job, but if these writers can all afford to live in Chevy Chase, perhaps architecture was the wrong field of study for me.) I sincerely doubt that most MoCo residents, whether or not they had the choice to put their kid in a private school, would consider public schools to be an outrageous proposition.

A school is a community insititution; the health of one is directly linked to the health of the other, and it's worthwhile to invest in both.
Diversity is a concept beaten a little too hard into the minds of MCPS students, but that doesn't lessen its significance to a child's development or to the state of Montgomery County in the 21st century. I find there is nothing quite like riding a J4 Metrobus filled with everyone from line cooks to interns as we pass those large houses overlooking Rock Creek Park. It is always disappointing to remember, though, that inside, the residents may be looking down on you.

21 comments:

SCOTT said...

Wow, back at Albert Einstein High School, we considered BCC and Walter Johnson to be "rich kid" schools. I don't see BCC being very diverse, compared to Einstein anyway. Countless friends of mine were forced to go to private school (Mostly Good Council formerly in Wheaton) because their parents were afraid of public schools like Einstein and Sligo, not that they complained. One family even moved away to North Bethesda, putting them closer to Walter Johnson (If it matters any, they're Jewish). I'd like to know what the Elitists depicted in those articles think of good old Crimestein.

LA said...

That article was unbelievable on several levels, including the guy's racist remarks.

And the writer questioning her decision to send her kids to BCC, one of the top public schools in the country! Incredible.

FWIW, there's plenty of folks in SS and TP who have decided to stay here when they could afford to be in Potomac, CC or Bethesda. Now you know why!

P.S. said...

P.S. the Garrett Park school had a reputation for being overly regimented. The Post writer should have done more homework.

mcpser said...

A lot of you east county people like to pounce on what you percieve as a disparity in education across Rock Creek. That is not true. There are wider demographic issues that come into play. You have most kids at Walt Whitman and BCC from wealthy, very highly educated families who already have a head start in life. East of Rock Creek, you have mostly middle class families or immigrants. The quality of education is virtually the same countwide. however, I am a believe that your peers influence you more than your teachers can. When your friends have all these AP classes and internships and are applying to Harvard it makes you want to try the same even if you are not wealthy. Similarly, they could put the best schools and teachers in DC but those kids are still going to end up on the welfare rolls. Diverse schools if fed by wealthy neighborhoods are highly sucessful. One of the reasons for relocating the old Blair HS into a mega-school in Four Corners was to open up the school to more affluent families living in the area) Even schools like Wheaton and Einstein (percieved as "ghetto" schools) rank in the top few percent nationally. I think a top student from any Montgomery County school has a good chance of getting into a top college, and it is your college education and where you went that matters the most.

There are various Chevy Chase neighborhoods that are very uneasy about sending their children to Rosemary Hills ES in one of the worse parts of Montgomery County with a "different" demographic. I think it is a good experience for all those kids and since those neighborhoods feed into BCC everyone benefits.

Anonymous said...

As an MCPS insider, I am appalled that the county continues to segregate schools as "blue" and "red", which (roughly speaking) translates to "upcounty" and "downcounty," respectively. Can't we get over the color labels?

There are great things happening across the county, but the best work toward "closing the gap" is happening in those "Ghetto" schools previously mentioned. I, for one, am happy to be a young, highly educated, enthusastic, upper-middle class MCPS employee who drives right by BCC on my way to the "Ghetto" school for work every day.

I chose my place in this county and can't wait until the day when my students change the world and land squarely in the middle of (dare I say it) "racist" Chevy Chase. [My apologies to the good citizens of Chevy Chase who are simply silent observers while your more ignorant citizens just can't seem to keep their mouthes shut.]

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, dream on. Your students aren't going to change squat.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, She's an elementary school teacher. Those kids, regardless of race or income, have hope and the achievement gap is vitually nill. once they get into high school that all changes. High School teachers realize there is no hope for the majority of those kids.

Plus a teacher living a comfortable lifestyle with her rich Bethesda husband could care less what happens to some little spanish kids east of Rock Creek

Anonymous said...

Other Anonymous, you wrote: "Plus a teacher living a comfortable lifestyle with her rich Bethesda husband could care less what happens to some little spanish kids east of Rock Creek."

Really? All teachers who live in Bethesda and have rich husbands, or just the straw women (and men) who fit your prejudices?

Anonymous said...

JUTP wrote: >>They bring them into this neighborhood, to see all of our big houses, exposing them to things they are never going to have. I just don't see the point."Is that why Purple Line opponents in Chevy Chase want the trains to run underground? <<

LOL! Well, MoCo taxpayers already paid for that pretty view for the PL to run on - thereby potentially exposing us to even more of the finer things in life that we can't have -- but you can you hardly blame CC residents and country club members for wanting to keep it all to themselves, can you? ;-)

Hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Don't you think the taxpayers riding on the Purple Line ought to get to see the pretty view that their money paid for?

Or do you think Silver Spring residents ought to be taxed for the extra cost of putting the Purple Line underground so that they don't get to see the view?

Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
Scott,as a parent of two middle-class, white, Jewish kids who went to Woodlin, Sligo, Lee, Kennedy and Einstein and being Jewish - your feeling the need to remark that the people who moved to North Bethesda were Jewish smacks of prejudice. Why didn't you state the religion of your friends whose parents sent them to Good Counsel? And calling Einstein Crimestein? My daughter graduated just a year ago and went to an excellent college. My point here is all the bigots aren't in Bethesda.

SCOTT said...

To "Andrea- not anon"

Good Council is generally a Catholic school, although some non-Catholics do go there, so you can probably imagine most of them were Catholic. I pointed specifically at my Jewish friend because he's not the only Jewish person I'm aware of who's family moved across the creek, but he the only one who I know as a friend. There is some truth to what I say, as I've never met a Jewish family who wasn't pulling 200,000+ a year (including families in SS). Also, I went to Einstein, I graduated not too long ago. That's actually a name the "elite" schools came up with, and many students of Einstein have adopted it. I'm sorry if I offended you, and perhaps it was unnecessary to mention he was Jewish, but he is, as well as most of Moco's upper bracket from what I've experienced.

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott, I'm Jewish, and my household doesn't pull in $200,000. Maybe it's because my wife is Catholic? Or, maybe you're just perpetuating an insidious stereotype about rich Jews. Which is it?

alan said...

I'm Jewish and I went to state college entirely on gov't grants and loans. I don't think my parents made more than 35K a single year I was a kid. We lived four people in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn that had been rent-controlled since my grandmother lived there. And there's a whole lot more Jews like that out there. I'm sorry you're too busy chasing the affluent ones through the suburbs checking for horns.

SCOTT said...

Did I say there are no middle-class Jewish people? No, I said I've never met any. Not only is there the general stereotype, but it was enforced in my youth by sheer coincidence. You guys don't even have an argument, you're just lashing out at me.

Anonymous said...

Watch out Scott. Jewish people tend to be very touchy (and very jealous) about wealthy stereotypes. That schoolteacher woman didn't seem to deny that she is married to a rich Bethesda husband.

Anonymous said...

"Watch out Scott. Jewish people tend to be very touchy (and very jealous) about wealthy stereotypes."

Yeah, we Jews are "touchy" about it. Pushy, too, ya know?

How in the hell are we "jealous" about wealthy stereotypes? That's the real puzzler here.

b said...

First off, thank-you Dan for getting back to the hard issues. Many of these comments are disturbing at the least. This article brought out the racial and religious intolerance of our MOCO neighbors. Stereotypical beliefs like these allowed Hittler the power to destroy Europe, and unfortunatly,63 years after his death, he still has some believers. Many Americans express their dissatisfaction over immigration to this country, but, this country was founded as a refuge for people to escape religious and political intolerance. Of corse, in order to do that, first we had to kill-off or round up the native Americans who lived here. We either need to spread the wealth (of education), or end up being the class based society we came here to escape.

Anonymous said...

Scott didn't say anything about hating Jewish people, or following Hitler. Quit putting things out of proportion.

will s. said...

If I were Jewish, I sure wouldn't be too concerned about a "wealthy" stereotype. To all of my Jewish friends out there, don't be ashamed, embarrassed or anything else about your culture. Please keep stressing education and excellence in your homes. I can't imagine where this country would be without you.

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem with "good" stereotypes. It is too easy for people to turn those stereotypes on their head and dredge up the negative version. Using this rationale, a person could be a good doctor because they're Jewish (someone actually said this to me once) or they could be stingy because they're Jewish. Gross generalizations are useless and disturbing. And for the record, my husband and I are Jewish and we do not earn 200K/year. I wish we did--it would make our lives easier! Scott, if you think all Jews are rich/stingy/good doctors/good lawyers/whatever then you haven't met enough of them. We're just like everyone else. Get out and make some new friends.