Our life has become so "comfortable," that we put aside any distraction. We entered a race for riches, a reality show focused on monetary success, on the "good life," on Gucci purses and Zegna ties, Hermes scarves and Louis Vitton hand bags, Jimmy Choo designer shoes and Starbucks coffee, private schools and only the best universities.
I live in the center of it all, a small community of 34,000, which has lost sight as well. A House Divided we became. The school system, once a pillar of the community, enjoys the support of the community--to the tune of millions of dollars channeled each year from the City Government via a "Joint Powers Agreement" to the Unified School District.
There are four elementary schools and one high school in Beverly Hills. When I went to Beverly Hills High School ("Beverly"), it was ranked 13th in the Country. My parents moved to Beverly Hills, whose rent they could have hardly afforded, in order to send their children to school, to provide them the opportunity to have the best education our public schools had to offer. In recent years Beverly was 70th in California, then I stopped following its deterioration. Staff changes more frequently than ever, School Board members send their children to private schools outside the district, and the money from the City keeps coming, millions each year.
President Obama has recently suggested the idea of merit-based pay for teachers. Unions are up in arms. How is this possible? The system will fail, the best will leave, it is claimed. Or maybe--the best will stay? Possibly we need to lure the brightest and most capable to educate the future generations? Tenure is attained after two years--right here in California for the teaching profession--paving the way to "lifetime"- employment. Elected officials in Los Angeles, too, do not send their kids to the LA Unified School District schools but choose private schools instead. So who does send their kids?
The system is flawed. It is rotten at the core. Let the unions fight against efficiency, longer hours, more school days, smaller class size, less bureaucracy and fewer administrators. The heads of the unions control multi-billion dollar organizations. There is a lot at stake for them, not necessarily "children first." They fight the wrong fight, forgetting to set an example first.
My coach from Beverly taught for 30 years, more than ten thousand young adults molded under her direction. A quarter of a century has passed, and like me, many other former students are still in touch with her. My late grandmother and my great aunt each taught for decades. They raised generations on respect, knowledge, values. I am often reminded of a walk I took with my grandmother, having had to stop so often as people stopped to greet her. Parents with children, sometimes with grandchildren, all who shared the same teacher - her.
A very dear friend of mine is an elementary school teacher. She has been teaching for more than 15 years in the LAUSD. She is an excellent teacher who had a run-in with an administrator who was determined to make her life so miserable until she left to a different school. We graduated together from Beverly and from UCLA. The administrator is no longer there. It is only a pity she was allowed to cause all the evil she did.
We need a leaner system. We must go back to basics: Geography ("is the United States of America south of Mexico or north of Canada?"), arithmetic and languages, English and history, art, music and physical education, sciences and trigonometry, and equally as important giving back to the community--from early age.
We must recruit and maintain the very best teacher-professionals, for we entrust our most precious assets in the hands of the teachers. We must return to gun- and knife-free schools, to safe and drug-free school grounds. We must find the path to protect the most important commodity--our future.