Discussion of Public Schools of Baltimore, MD and the urgency of reinvention.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN The Real News Network. Paul Jay in Baltimore.
Second part of a discussion about public education in the city. And now joining us again to discuss all of this, first of all, is Lester Spence. He’s a contributor to the book We Are Many. He’s an associate professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins and author of the book Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip Hop and Black Politics.
With Marc Steiner who hosts the widely acclaimed (see? “widely acclaimed”—it actually is) public radio news and interview program The Marc Steiner Show, which you can hear on WEAA 88.9 FM in Baltimore.
Transcript of opening of discussion
LESTER SPENCE, PROF. POLITICAL SCIENCE, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me.
MARC STEINER, RADIO HOST, WEAA 88.9 FM: It’s good to be here.
JAY: So, Lester, let’s kick it off with you. So let’s say tomorrow you get appointed head of—you’re now in control of education, public education in Baltimore, and you’ve got a majority of support on city council, and the mayor says, Lester, I’ll back you. What would you do?
SPENCE: Well, there are a few things I would do. Right? So one thing I would do is Baltimore City schools are undercapacity—If I’m right, it’s something like 60 percent stands out as far as either 60 percent of them have—people don’t really have a full house, or in general the system is 60 percent undercapacity, which means they have to shut down certain schools. So it becomes a zero-sum competition.
What I would actually do is—if you think about these schools as neighborhood public spaces, one of the first things I would do is I would open them outside the school hours. Right? So a certain amount of time, it would be open for school, but then, after that, whether it’s quote-unquote “training” or whether it’s public meetings, whether it’s gym space for folks to work out in, etc., meeting space, you have to transform these schools to institutions that actually meet the needs of those neighborhoods. Right? So that’s the kind of infrastructure thing I would do.
What I would do as far as curriculum is I would transform the curriculum to build—and I don’t like that word build, but it’s shorthand—to kind of build citizens, like, citizens, you know, to—. If we think about these folks, like, these kids are in school from five to 18, five days a week, you know, nine months out of the year. Imagine what we could—what they could do as citizens if we taught them how to engage in the world politically, right, actually how to be citizens.
And the thing is is there are a number of ways to teach core concepts of math, of science, and literacy through that project, right? Along those same lines, every school would have, like, a community garden, and kids would learn from kindergarten how to grow and tend their own gardens and how to grow and tend their own food and to create a certain type of relationship with the environment.
So just the—if you just think about just those two things, if I only could do two things, right, the one is you make those schools public institutions and make them open them up to the community, like, year-round, 24/7, and then the second thing is reframe the curriculum and gear the curriculum towards making them citizens, like, local global citizens.
JAY: I guess you could add to that community center cheap, affordable daycare.
Watch full multipart The Real Baltimore