There's this high school in a mid-market city in the American Midwest where kids smart enough to read Paulo Freire and Jacques Derrida's On Grammatology graduate without knowing how to construct a coherent sentence.
Some recent news from Hip Hop High:
The school's administrators decided that it would save money by firing the music teacher, thus leaving the students with not one creative course offering. They informed said teacher that he must leave.
But then someone higher up the Hip Hop School District food chain told the administrators that this was against the rules -- in Missouri, fortunately, it's forbidden for high schools to offer no music, art or theater classes.
So they went back to the teacher and said, "Wait a minute. You can't leave. We need you."
But, they decided to put the teacher on job target -- the classification of a person on the brink of being fired.
To avoid being fired, the teacher will have to establish a gospel choir. The teacher will not be allowed to teach a class on gospel choir, but will be required to assemble this beast as an extracurricular activity. Such activities tend to not do so well at Hip Hop High, where the drop-out rate is around 70 percent, and the few kids who stick around after school are literally being fought over by the few teachers who lead extra curricular activities.
The administrators at Hip Hop High have decided, in their effort to improve test scores, that students in Home Economics will no longer learn cooking and sewing but will instead read and write about cooking and sewing.
Somehow I have a hard time believing that kids who don't want to read to begin with are going suddenly take a shining to books about cooking and sewing.
I would like to know how many teachers have quit Hip Hop High this year. I've heard that it's a lot. Some teachers have simply walked out midday, no notice. From what I understand, one younger teacher was totallytornn up about the prospect of leaving. She told one of her colleagues that she's been unable to sleep because she fretted about leaving behind all the students, whom she'd grown quite attached to. But she simply coouldn't stand the administrators anymore. "It's a toxic environment," she said.
Hip Hop High's problems go to the very top, where the vanity of adults, not the needs of children, is the driving force.
For instance, Hip Hop Public School District has a contractor who runs its debate league. Every year, the debate league folks give a presentation to the board of directors sharing all of their wonderful success stories.
Not this year.
Hip Hop School District is in a budget crisis, and everyone is so freaked out that the administrators told the debate folks that they didn't want the elected school board members to hear good news about a program, persumably to not allow any political attachment to an inexpensive incredibly beneficial program that might have to be cut to save the incredibly expensive salaries of ineffective administrators.
Hip Hop High has a parental advisory committee full of decent hardworking folks who only want good education for their kids. This organization is so disrespected by administrators that, in one famous incident, the superintendent refused to shake the hand of one particularly active and well-respected parent.
Recently, the parents decided to address one fundamental problem in the district -- that officials at schools often refuse to answer the schools' phones. They sought to bring this perfectly reasonable complaint to the attention of the school board, but the superintendent threw a hissy fit and tried to forbid them from doing so. This man, who earns more than $150,000 a year and gets a free Lexus to drive, wasn't upset by the appalling fact that parents are unable to even contact the schools where their kids spend their days. He was pissed off that anything that might make him look bad would go public.