This afternoon I stumbled onto the blog of a very hip and talented author and blogger who just published a business book that is getting great attention. Our blogger recently moved from San Francisco, and composed a lovely tribute to the City as a farewell gift. But amid all the praise of our creative and freewheeling City, there was a dig about “the awful public schools,” for the author’s teenaged son.
Now, I can understand that some families feel, for whatever reason, that they’d rather move or go to a private school than stay in a public school system they believe is not working for their child. I’m not going to beat up people for making an informed choice based on their personal circumstances — after all, it is what my family did for our older daughter.
What upsets me is the blithe assumption that a reference to “awful public schools” is something any San Franciscan immediately “gets,” so why explain it? It’s just so much easier to use the throwaway line and keep the misperception alive. In fact, reality is so much more complex. In fact, our schools are working for lots of kids and failing some in a big way. But it’s just misinformed to say that our school system is uniformly “awful.” And when you are a blogger with a large local following, it’s just irresponsible and unfair.
Over the past decade (since I started paying attention), a large number of very smart and very dedicated people have worked hard to change the perception that our public schools are uniformly awful. And at the same time, another group of smart and dedicated people have been working within the district, improving our instruction, our curriculum, our communication with the public and the ways we measure the progress of our initiatives. Are we perfect? Not by a long shot. Have we made progress, both in improving perceptions and reality? Definitely.
I suppose it’s just naive to expect that in today’s 140-characters-or-less world, an opinion leader would take the time to portray the very complex web of positives and negatives that is SFUSD. Still, I think we could do without the parting shot.