So I work in a failing urban school, and a failing urban school system. This book obviously hits home in many many different ways, because the author, without judging, paints a very accurate picture of the various schools I have worked at within this system and visited through my time in this system.
Payne works through the various ways in which a failing school system under-serves students, parents, the community, teachers, and pretty much everybody else connected with it. It costs huge amounts of money, finds ways to misspend or lose huge amounts of it, employs underqualified or unqualified teachers and substitutes, and doesn’t yield positive or meaningful results.
It’s really hard to work in a school that functions in these ways, not only because I came to the school system in order to try to do good work. I know that I did, but watching the school I work for, watching the most vulnerable students be failed and mistreated, and watching a system, for whom I work and in whose district I live, be a place I don’t think I can send my kids to. And so I am leaving the school for a job in a neighboring district.
Payne delves into the sociology of these different levels of disengagement. There’s an individual psychology in effect at all these different and a whole host of different issues. The obvious source of everything is racism and poverty. Without these two factors, we wouldn’t face these issues, but poverty is hard to tackle for a lot of reasons, and racism is hard to tackle because of a huge cultural drive to maintain white supremacy and deny racism in the same breath.
The cumulative effect is distrust and defensiveness.