How tolerant are we as a community?
As biological creatures go, humans are not the most tolerant of specials. Mice and rats tend to be more adaptable to their environment and can take better advantage of shelter and resource limitations. Humans crave and need shelter and tend to make the environment conform around their basic human comforts. We require protective barrier to shield us from the elements. We crave social functioning and fulfillment. Sometimes, we even need chocolate.
And we actively engage our innate need to protect our lives and the lives of our children by making the best possible choices.
As intolerant creatures, we also worry about those things that could influence our ability to be successful. Which is why, when a discussion that involves the well-being of our children is launched, it has to be prefaced by the acknowledgement that – no matter how diverse of a neighborhood Cleveland Heights claims to be – we are not as tolerant of a society as we may project. Instead, we strive to be a community whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We think and move to match the goal of what we imagine our world can be – without compromising the parameter of beliefs we have set around our own portion of the earth.
When choice is available and parents are faced with an educational decision – one epitome of influence besides our own personal involvement in shaping our children – we may look as territorial as piranha as we go about inspecting the impact that a particular institution will have on our kids. In the midst of deciding who and where and how to educate our children, it is reasonable to conclude that most parents strive to choose what is best among available resources. As intolerant creatures, we look for data that would indicate effective learning environments. We seek proof in evaluating a rate of return on our investment. We also look at those whose successes are akin to what we seek for our own. Which is why when it comes to obtaining an effective educational product, we are willing to separate ourselves from our neighborhood and mimic a well-worn path of success in order to obtain it.
Separation in and of itself is not a filthy term. But is educational separation an indication of how intolerant we are as a community or that our educational choices aren’t feasible ones?
While some may use bias and stereotype as a reason to separate along racial lines, some parents use separation as an informational tool and default to it as a method to evaluate a school’s performance. The Cleveland Height University Heights area is robust in choice. As intolerant creatures, we look to separate our children from the influences of bullying, isolation, ineffective teachers and impoverished conditions and to secure them in environments that provide safety, opportunity and the ability to thrive. If there is indeed ‘enough ofs’ in our choice of schools –enough financial investment, enough programs, enough effective teachers, enough engaged students, enough faces that look like our own, enough opportunities and so on – that weightiness is seen as sufficient to counteract any downside. Because no matter its advantages, every school, just like every choice, tends to have a downside. So the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts.
I wonder how effectively we see the whole of the Cleveland Heights – University Heights School System because more and more what I notice, as a parent who moved from Solon into the district for the schools, is that families are willing to move away from the district and dance around district lines in order to avoid part or all of the school system. Surely something must be lacking on someone’s part in order for this phenomenon to occur.
As intolerant creatures, I will admit again, we all strive for the best possible environment for our children. It is the reason why the mother in Akron, Kelley Williams -Bolar, moved her daughters into Copely-Fairlawn school district. Because she fears what we all fear for our children.
But separation is not a permanent solution to obtaining better choice. You can try to outrun others to it, and some can afford to do so, but what we all fear will eventually catch up to us. Because black, white, rich, poor, educated, uneducated – we are all intolerant creatures to failure. We all want better.
But no one owns the rights to better. And no intolerant creature, aka a parent, will accept that their child must have worse while your child has better.
You cannot keep intolerant creatures away from wanting better.
Since we then as parents all want the same outcome, what can we do to create a well-rounded, shareable educational product with the resources available?
For starters, we can remember than the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Second, we can accept that money is a limited resource in public educational systems and accept that the greatest resource is a free one – it’s community’s involvement. Community involvement is becoming a more utilized tool in the CH-UH school system but there is still work to be done if we are to truly create a well-rounded sharable educational product that encourages parents to keep their children in the communities where they live. Community involvement sounds like a big undertaking, but it really isn’t. It’s raindrops of change that, if consistently followed, can wear a whole in the most stubborn of rock.
Accepting that as a business, parent, adult, child, human, you are the community is the main crux of the solution.
Sometimes community involvement is as simple as learning a student’s name and speaking to him each and every time he is encountered. Sometimes it means volunteering to assist an art teacher at a middle school or contributing to a music program at the elementary school. Sometimes the returns are instant, sometimes it takes years.
As we look at the faces in our public school system, there may be an assumption that their wants and motivations cannot be the same as ours.
But we live in a pretty harsh climate. Many school days, there are hundreds of students trekking though the snow and the elements to get somewhere. And they’re all going the same place. They are going to school.
Imagine what could be done if we just acknowledged that some of the motivation for better is already there.