Whatever happened to education? It’s gotten better and better and fairer and fairer! What’s happened to education is that it is not worse than when we were kids: it’s better. Kids are not failing, they are given vastly greater challenges than during our tenure in K12 and they are meeting those challenges.

Contrary to what we hear so often, a kids’ experience in the classroom is immensely “academic” and they and their peers are learning – all of them – at a far more sophisticated, “high-level” than ever. That “all” includes, critically, and admirably, kids of a far greater diversity than were served when we were little.

I was struck by the Back To School talk of a math teacher who tossed out an aside that in her experience, most parents were sort of left at the wayside come Algebra I. I was surprised by that, but in truth, as I look at my child’s text, I see that they are introducing concepts in a more sophisticated and deep way than I visited them. As well of course my learning is 30 years stale. But the proof is so easily tested in the pudding: ask your (grand)child; ask your neighbor’s child. Challenge him/er with a learning contest and see how you stack up against your 8th grader. I think you will be surprised. I think you will discover that their educational experience is far, far from “broken”, and their knowledge base is broad, deep and impressive.

In my view, we are as a society at something of an inflection point in K12 education. What I see is a scary future of privatized, fractionated and segregated education. I worry that it will quickly become less democratic and less sophisticated for one and all. And without in any way diminishing the very real problems that we face, or romanticizing the problems we’ve weathered, it is not the current state of affairs that so concerns me. It is the plans for the future. Or lack thereof.

In a district facing budget cuts so severe that there is insufficient money for toilet paper, and class sizes are routinely at 1 teacher per fifty (1:50) students, how will we sustain an ever-growing electronics habit? We all know how consumer electronics are manipulated to eat more and more of your salary every year. How can we sustain this commitment? How can we protect the trust of educating future generations excellently in a market- and capital- rather than academic-driven environment?

And in worrying about the future, it becomes critical to evaluate the present accurately. A false sense of crisis feeds the culture of fear that results in hasty decisions, poorly-considered. The underlying theory and concepts of Common Core are terrific: who can object to learning that is grounded in critical thinking and deep evaluation, even consistency? But questions surround its implementation and implications for autonomy and flexibility. Boundaries matter and drawing a circle around the entire country as a federally-directed educational zone dilutes contributions at all subsetted levels, including regional, state, district, school, and the most important – the teacher in your very own child’s specific classroom. It’s hard enough fighting bureaucracy at the level of a vast district like LAUSD’s. Imagine when all directives are micromanaged from 3000 miles away.

Bottom line is: we have a communications and perception problem with our schools. What’s going on inside of them isn’t all that bad; the system does not need rewiring. Magnets are doing a tolerably good job at integrating schools, certainly better than the revamped system of charters, which wind up isolating SES (socioeconomic) groups into ghettos of sameness. Because birds of a feather do indeed flock together, it takes some concerted effort to facilitate embracing the new and different. Our schools have a system for fostering diversity. This is so fundamentally important, it cannot be allowed to be undermined.

Support Our Public District Schools! Don’t denounce them until you yourself have evaluated the situation fairly – on the ground and through unbiased reasoning. Visit a public school. Help out in one. Send your child there. Our schools are what we make of them … unless we let someone exogenously remake them.