The racist, juvenile and ignorant commentary that flooded Twitter and Facebook following the Germantown victory over Rufus King in the WI-State Boys High School basketball tournament has awakened the sleeping giant – students, alum, parents, boosters and community members who support Milwaukee Public Schools are reacting and not one car has been set on fire and not one gun has been pulled (I KNOW, SO hard to believe!).
A collective of Rufus King High School students have created a Facebook “Event” that runs through the end of May and invites MPS “Thugs” to post a picture of them being “Thugs” aka: sharing their accomplishments and goals. 500+ supporters and hundreds of posts later this idea that good people exist in MPS and that great learning could be happening in MPS is really taking off. A little coverage on JS Online and a few spots on the evening news and dozens of new pictures popping up each day – it seems there are people proud to be the product of MPS.
One of my favorite posts is of a young woman who tagged her photo, “That awkward moment when you can’t hold all your college acceptance letters and awards because you’re a thug.” Another features a young photographer and law office intern. His stone-faced headshot of himself -is framed out on first glance to look like a mug-shot. Upon taking a closer look his photo lists his numerous accomplishments and goals – I see no thug here. These students and thousands more a tired of the media telling them they are bad kids. They are inviting you, one photo at a time, to acknowledge their achievements, their individuality – their humanity.
Our son is in 5th grade at a Milwaukee Public School. He scored very well above the WI-state averages on the WKCE standardized test – an accomplishment that has as much to do with the very safe, nurturing and academically rigorous environment of his school and it does with him being nourished and enriched at home. His school is safe and overall very high performing – within MPS and in comparison to schools of its similar composition outside of MPS.
As an adult I find it difficult to deal with the questions regarding our choice to be part of the Milwaukee Public Schools system. When our oldest son was a K3 everyone was “OK” with the idea that we send him to MPS early on, “But you plan to get out of there right?” As a parent I cannot tell you how frustrating and degrading it is to have my judgment continuously called into question- “Is his school safe?” “Is he learning?” “Are the teachers any good?” “How are his peers?” “Do you really want him exposed to all of those kids with problems?”
In short the answer to all of those questions is “yes.” His school is safe like MOST MPS schools – there are over 170 of them (remember the other 165 schools functioning with little issue – when you see the same four or five repeatedly in the news for the really bad stuff). He is learning and our school is full of fantastic educators.
His peers are wonderful. The students at his school provide a wide view of the diversity that make up our world. They are learning and growing together while recognizing their similarities over their differences. They come to school to learn and our school makes a point to make sure the children’s needs are met – so the students can get on with their learning.
The children in MPS – there are 80,000+ of them – (remember the other 79,900 of them when the you see a handful of arrests from time to time over the course of a year in the news) deserve to be viewed as children – with potential and ability. It is the adults who are charged with providing them every opportunity to achieve and thrive. Even if that means – simply acknowledging that that each and every child is valued.
I find it so frustrating when the bad news and rude commentary about Milwaukee Public Schools leads. Is there inordinate room for improvement in MPS in many, many areas? Of course, yes. Is there a public opinion/hearts and minds war that is racially and economically entrenched in Milwaukee? Most certainly. As an adult I find it mind-numbing to be repeatedly told “MPS IS ALL BAD!” Can you imagine what it feels like to a child/student to have the District they spend 6-8 hours a day in continuously vilified, marginalized and disrespected? It is of no wonder, to me, when children act out in a rude and disrespectful manner. Just look at the way adults, professional journalists and news casters talk about our MPS schools – on a very regular basis. It is disgusting, really.
The news coverage of Milwaukee Public Schools is usually so slanted to highlight what is wrong with MPS that it makes the fact that MPS students are making headlines right now with all of this positive energy even more awesome!!
I wish every parent is MPS felt the same warm and fuzzy feelings about their school as we do. I wish every parent had the tools and the ability and the willingness to pump up the expectations they have for their children and help them strive. I wish every teacher (and most are – there are over 6,000 professional educators in MPS- remember that the next time someone whines about one) in MPS was as willing and capable as ours are to make sure every child achieves everyday. I wish people outside of MPS would come in and see what good things are going on in the schools, classrooms, and in our community involving Milwaukee Public Schools students everyday.
I believe that wishes can come true and I have great hope for the future to be even better for even more Milwaukee Public Schools students – I have that hope because I see the products of MPS – by the hundreds – are coming together and they are committed and they are speaking up and they are giving back.