Monday, May 24, 2010

Rhode Island - Students Walkout to Save Schools

By Bill Bateman
Providence, R.I.
Published May 19, 2010 4:08 PM

Some 300 students from Hope High School here walked out of class on May 13. They marched first to the Providence School Department, where 200 other students joined them. Their numbers swelled to 500 for the final leg of their march to Providence City Hall, where they took control of the building from top to bottom for half an hour.
WW photos: Bill Bateman

Hope High students are furiously defending the progress made at their school during the past decade. The school had been so dysfunctional that the State of Rhode Island had seized control of it. Millions of dollars were pumped into additional personnel and renovations to the building itself.

Extra teachers and advisors were hired, thus lowering class sizes and increasing advisory hours for each student. The old system of eight 50-minute classes was scrapped and replaced with a four 90-minute block system in which the students had enough time to “wrap their minds around” a subject and really learn.

The superintendent of schools and the mayor want to end all these “extras” — extra teachers and advisors — as well as the 90-minute classes. They want to close schools and pack students into larger classes with fewer teachers, less space and less resources. This is equivalent to stamping out creativity among working-class youth and crushing their hopes and dreams of progress and equality.

The well-educated, confident, empowered inner-city youth of color from Hope High are rebelling against this plan. They say they don’t want to be “put back in a bag.” The system accidentally “over-educated” them and now they “know too much” — they know that another world is possible. They won’t easily be reined in or contained.

The S.O.S. Coalition to Save Our Schools joined the Hope High marchers and met some of their leaders, who eagerly took the S.O.S. banner reading “Save our schools! Fund public education!” to the head of the march.

These students will be an important part of the fight to make quality public education a right for all. They also are likely to become youth leaders in the growing movement for People’s Assemblies.
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