In most professions and institutions, results are expected to justify the reward. A farmer who plants his field will not be a farmer for long if two-thirds of his field turned up bare or did not produce from poor practice. A musician who did not play or bungled two-thirds of his notes would not be considered to play music very well, if at all, and would not be rewarded for his poor skill and efforts. A surgeon who caused two-thirds of his patients to have severe or fatal complications from surgery would not continue in the profession for long, to say the least— and most likely would be barred from practice or held liable for malpractice.
Public schooling is arguably one of the most important innovations in American history, offering not merely skills for careers and work after thirteen years of education, but teaching students essential wisdom and virtue. The education provided by community public schools provided instruction in the intellectual and moral knowledge necessary to be good citizens in local communities, and more broadly to strengthen, maintain, and participate in the larger American experiment.
With such noble and inspired goals for public schooling, and their vital role in maintaining American democracy and institutions, it is expected that results should justify the reward. That being, those governing, administering, and teaching should be accountable for their work; the quality of which has massive consequences on the present and future of community and country. A two third failure rate may be considered abject failure worthy of unemployment in other professions, yet the public schools of Brawley are lauded as successful community institutions, all the while more than two-thirds of students are unable to read and write with “competence” in the English language.
How can we maintain and teach civic skills, wisdom, and virtue if our future generations cannot read? Less than one in five students in all Brawley schools are deemed at least “adequate” in basic mathematics. How can we justify spending $28,000,000.00 on a new school and “STEM” labs for allegedly budding engineers and 21st Century tech jobs if we have failed to teach the basics of numeracy to over 80% of our kids?
As a community, we need to speak bluntly about our schools and take the bitter medicine that is the truth. Presently, our schools are no good. The present failure of our schools threatens to chart a worse future from an already wretched present. Imperial County leads the nation in unemployment, the lowest income in our state, and the highest poverty level in California. How will our community, institutions, and democracy fare in five, twenty, fifty years given the present state of affairs?
Our school boards and superintendents are exemplars of ineptitude that have led us to a disastrous present. Out of ten school board members, not a single member has any experience in education, and only one has business experience. Every member of these boards has refused to speak publicly for interview, seeming to prefer the comfort and safety of plush leather boardroom chairs over public inquiry. The superintendents of our elementary and high schools have been well rewarded financially in the past few years, without the radical improvement needed to save the futures of Brawleyʼs youth being lost. In institutions as important as our schools, do results matter in justifying reward? If we care about the sake of our community and its future, they should.