Wu-Tang (alone) is for the children

Where is the spirit of the Wu-Tang Clan as explained by Old Dirty Bastard (ODB) at the 1998 Grammy Awards? “Wu-Tang is for the children!” Right now, it certainly feels like no one else is.

After homeschooling for a few years (and through the first part of a pandemic), we were looking forward to getting some support for our education of our children with the Montgomery County Public Schools Virtual Academy. We were hopeful that our kids might have some more socializing and we, as parents, might not have as much on our shoulders. The virtual option was appealing as we saw the Delta variant on the rise this summer, right when applications for the Academy were due anyway.

But it’s been another exhausting day of trying to get answers, trying to figure out if our kids will be able to log on on Monday (the first day of class), trying to grip the floorboards with our fingernails even as we find ourselves slipping through an ever-growing crack. I used to be a classroom teacher in a public school, a setting where the phrase, “slipping through the cracks” is bandied about like a shuttlecock. But to tell the truth, I never would have seen my own kids as the “type” to “slip through the cracks.” We are too well resourced and savvy and able to advocate for that to happen, I would have previously thought.

But the more I think about it and the more time I spend interacting with this public school system, the more I think that the cracks are not mere accidents. The cracks are there by design. And kids don’t so much “slip” through them as much as they are shoved.

Our kids will be fine. I’m extremely frustrated and I’m resentful that the last days of our waning summer are being taken over by this bureaucratic nonsense, but truly our kids will be fine. Even if this whole situation ends up being an epic waste of time, we’ve homeschooled before and we can homeschool again. Our kids won’t be in a high risk position for contracting Covid-19 in these months to come before the under 12 groups can get vaccinated.

But, clearly, we are in a pretty unique position. I read recently that somewhere around 2 to 3 percent of all the students in the district where we are are taking advantage of the virtual option. This seems a surprisingly low percentage, given the current pandemic numbers, that most of the student body population still can’t be vaccinated, and that Delta is still a bit of a wild card, especially for children (and especially with regard to potential long term effects).

I also think about how getting our kids into the program (and we STILL don’t have a teacher assignment for one kid and have only a half schedule for the other kid) took pretty much all of the knowledge and foresight of parents who are a virologist and a teacher. Are there other families out there who would benefit from and would like to be enrolled in something like Virtual Academy but don’t have the access to information that we do? Do many families just implicitly trust that the school district will do everything they can to protect the children in their care? (Or maybe my implicit mistrust became a self fulfilling prophecy? Although, I don’t think so.)

Is this just all part and parcel of the long, slow demise of public education in certain places?

Today, in between moments of blinding, heart pounding frustration, I was thinking about all the families that don’t have all of the resources that we do. Families from whom English is a second (or third or fourth) language, or who have one instead of two parents or caregivers in the home, or who can’t work from home, or don’t have one parent who doesn’t work, or who don’t have all the technology that we do to be able to engage a system (incidentally Virtual Academy doesn’t even have a phone line yet) through zooms and chats. Those who don’t have extended family or friends nearby.

Let’s hope that our whole district, our whole country, can get some of the Wu Tang spirit of being “for the children”, but especially for those in these most vulnerable groups.

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