CPS has completed one chapter, the chapter about restructuring grades JK-8, and is starting a new one. At the city level, the City Council and administration are taking a hard look at poverty in Cambridge and unequal access to preschool. Within CPS, parents are asking for schools that are lively, challenging for students of all ability levels, and adequately staffed. Older students, in concordance with Black Lives Matter, are talking about the race segregation they experience at our high school, 62 years after Brown vs. Board of Education. When the FY17 budget is completed and approved in May, it will be the title and first page of the new CPS chapter. I know that a lot of people in Cambridge hope it will be the beginning of a fresh start.
What we’re trying to do in Cambridge is difficult. There are not many places with so many different types of people trying to live together productively in such a small area, where wealth ranges from poverty to affluence within a couple of blocks, and that is so rapidly internationalizing. Our students bring all these differences with them to school every day. They are the different types of people, an international generation of diverse children and young people from all over the world, including from Cambridge. We have to design for that difference, not react to it piecemeal. Now that we’ve restructured our schools, we need to take a good look at what is happening inside them. Is every classroom designed for a multiplicity of students, or for the non-existent average student? Is every teacher and principal prepared for the unexpected? Do they have the resources to embrace diversity in its many forms, or will difference be a problem that needs to be fixed?
We need to make sure that difference is never a problem in our schools. More than that, we need to take advantage of the many forms of diversity in Cambridge, our diverse diversities. They are truly a gift to our students and integral to their education. But we need to look, even more carefully than we do now, at what all these diversities require. Difference doesn’t come for free, it’s not an add-on to average.
The FY17 budget can be the first page of the new chapter, a fresh start at providing our citizens with schools that work for every student and family, schools that are prepared for the unexpected. That’s what we are educating our students for: an unknowable future that will be replete with the unexpected.
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