Thoughts on the Project thus Far
Fear and resentment that inhabits the corners of our lives
In my role, I have talked to many people around Evanston. More than I would've talked to in my everyday life. It's been crushing to see how we talk about each other. I see a world of good people bunkered down in their beliefs about "the other side." The space for tolerance and the middle ground feels like it is shrinking. The room for rhetoric, debate, and argument feels so tiny now. I'm not even sure I can inhabit it.
Let me be more specific; on one side, I feel the weight of resentment. People who want to do the "right thing" but feel pressured by leaders with opaque goals. They have yet to be sold on the vision, and when they push back, they feel like they're being told to "sit down and shut up." On the other side, I feel the weight of fear. Trump's election inflicted massive trauma on this town that will take decades to resolve. It feels like someone asking questions comes from a place of bad faith; bad-faith actors flood our national politics. It feels like a small step from criticizing officials to demanding book bans in the libraries.
I grew up in the Detroit area, where I felt this same tension tear the place apart. This resulted in the Detroit Public Schools bankruptcy, 25% graduation rates, and very real human suffering. The interplay of resentment and fear was taken advantage of by thieves, grifters, and future DoE Secretaries for their petty vendettas. The net result is a region with stark inequities unparalleled even in Chicagoland.
This project's original intent was to resolve the conflict I felt in the community; through transparency and accountability, we can discover truth. Truth can guide us.
I've been stymied at every turn with FOIA denials and lengthy appeals to the state. Yesterday, I had to file an appeal over the statutory definition of “cite” after the District invested legal resources to fight a relatively minor FOIA request. I love a good pedantic debate, but I'm not doing this to take money from our children's pockets and give it to Franczek (the District's attorney); that makes me no better than someone charging a lucrative consulting contract or suing the District over a political spat.
I need to figure out where to go from here. I do not want to contribute to the resentment or fear. Transparency and accountability are fundamental American values. Social media has warped our sense of values and truth; it is upsetting that the most "clickbait" headlines get more views. This place feels broken right now.
One of my favorite art forms is the genre I call "this place sucks." A great example is Henry Rollins' Poetry about glitz and despair in Los Angeles. It's a reminder that no place is perfect, and authenticity comes from a place of both love and hate. On that note, I leave you with a favorite from this genre on a cloudy, dreary January day ("One Great City!" by the Weakerthans).
Please do not stop this work. The fact the District wants to stymie attempts at gathering information and will go to the extent of paying attorneys to do this on their behalf underscores just how important shining the light in the dark corners is.
The way I see it there are two camps in this city: the extremist minority and their sycophants who use Trumpian tactics to silence dissenters, and the silent majority, cowering in fear of being doxxed (it has 100% happened online in Evanston social media), called racist, lambasted publicly, and intimidated. All in the name of “equity”.
It’s time for rational, sane citizens to stand up to these bullies and tell THEM to sit down. We need transparency. We need to eliminate the financial missteps the district takes- at taxpayer expense. We need to stop trying to solve all societal issues and get back to the job of public schools: to EDUCATE. We can’t even do that to any modicum of overall success; I don’t need the district veering into any aspect of my student’s life that isn’t direct associated with reading, writing, math, and science.
When we can truthfully state that we are educating to true standards every child, every day, maybe we won’t need people like you who provide such a valuable service. You present information to the public in a way that is easy to grasp and alert us to the FACTS that D65 is engaging in questionable at best, unethical/illegal at worst doings. On our dime.
There is an election coming up. It’s time to clean house on the Board of Education and right the ship and go back to a path of excellence education while maintaining fiscal solvency. Thank you again for your work.