Thursday, November 1, 2012

Watching in Memphis

Public education in Memphis is at a unique crossroads - mostly because of the very controversial merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools.  This crossroads is doubly unique because of the broad changes taking place at the state level.  All of this translates into a great deal of local discussion about public education, and the obstacles that make it difficult to educate our children.

According to the latest census, Memphis is the most impoverished large metropolitan area in the United States.  Combine our 19.1% poverty rate with major education reform efforts at both the local and state level - against the backdrop of a federal change of direction, and Memphis (and by extension, Shelby County) - by default and by design - has become part of an educational experiment.  Everyone on every side of education discussions will insist that "it's all about the children."  That quotation has become an eye-roll inducing phrase that is used to justify every educational choice that is being made in Memphis and Shelby County.  At least part of what I hope to do is to measure the upcoming proposals against just how much they really are about the children.

I'm Memphis-centric.  Much of the discussion in this little corner of Tennessee has fallen on an urban-suburban divide.  I'm a Memphis resident, a product of Memphis City Schools, proud of Memphis, and proud to be from Memphis.  That's my lens.  However, I've lived in Shelby County as long as I've lived in Memphis, and there is a lot happening in other incorporated cities in Shelby County.  I don't necessarily follow what is happening in, say, Bartlett or Arlington, but I do follow how the municipal school movement in the suburbs will impact the once and future merged Shelby County Schools.

I've been following the local goings-on very closely for years, and I've decided to begin publishing my thoughts about what is happening here.  I have mixed feelings about doing so.  I'm excited because I feel like I have a lot to say.  I'm nervous about taking a semi-public stand.  I hope to engage in a discussion about the good, the bad, and the ugly of schooling in Memphis, and invite you to comment and share.  Respectful disagreement is always encouraged.

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