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Don't give up the ship

By thenotebook on Mar 8, 2013 04:07 PM

by Zachary Lax

I am a second-year high school teacher who is proud to serve the students of the School District of Philadelphia. I am also among the many members of our community whose school will be closed. I know that my colleagues, my students, and their parents share my sense of dismay and betrayal over the final decision by the School Reform Commission -- and by extension their appointers, Mayor Nutter and Gov. Corbett -- to ignore our pleas.

I feel let down. Despite the tearful testimony of our students and the desperate appeals from our school's parents, we still find ourselves left holding an empty bag. For a process that was supposed to be transparent, we didn’t find concrete answers. For a process that was supposed to be inclusive, we didn’t find sincere and willing listeners. For a process that was supposed to be democratic, we didn’t have much of a choice.

As a teacher, I cannot ignore that this is a teachable moment, perhaps because I teach history. As I witnessed the school-closings process and the final SRC vote, I was reminded of the War of 1812, the short and arguably obscure war between America and Britain, where the conflict was predominantly about issues of sea trade. On June 1, 1813, a battle took place between the H.M.S Shannon (Team Britain) and the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake a few miles offshore from Boston harbor. We were outmatched by a crew far better trained in naval battle, despite our larger numbers.

The ships met each other in open waters, exchanging smoky bursts of cannon fire. The Chesapeake took on extensive damage and suffered heavy casualties. Her captain, James Lawrence, took a mortal gunshot wound during the fight. As he was taken below deck, the 31-year-old Lawrence barked out his final order. “Don’t give up the ship!” was his last command. Less than 20 minutes after the battle started, almost 100 people lay dead or dying, and the Chesapeake was in enemy hands. Capt. Lawrence would breathe his last breath three short days later.

Like the Americans captured in the War of 1812, our District has been captured and our schools taken from us. Many of us feel completely defeated. Because of the District’s policies regarding resource allocation and budget cuts, I have been placed at five different schools over the last two years. My first school was closed last year. My current school will be closed at the end of this school year. For someone who finally had the opportunity to teach at a single school for a period longer than four months, this loss of my community and relationship with my school feels like I just had the wind knocked out of me.

Still, we must not abandon our resolve to provide our students the best education we can give them. Teachers must continue to innovate in the classroom, stretching and adapting resources. Parents must continue to be involved. Students must continue to be dedicated to working hard and staying out of trouble. Despite the outcome of this process, we still have the commitment we have made to each other over these last months. We still have some fight left in us. For the sake of our students and their future, we cannot, we must not, and we will not give up the ship.

Zachary Lax is a social studies teacher at Lamberton High School.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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Comments (8)

Submitted by Frank Murphy on March 8, 2013 3:34 pm

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.  

Lyndon B. Johnson, 1908-1973, 36th President of the United States

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on March 8, 2013 7:49 pm
Thank you, Mr. L. Please submit this to local media.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 8, 2013 10:32 pm
I know this doesn't address your feelings and immediate thoughts but people seriously need to consider this question: WHY is Arne Duncan pouring money intoTeach for America teachers "to fill spots in our most disavantaged schools" when so many of our public school teachers are or will be laid off? I know the answer and many people are reluctant to discuss it for fear of displaying any opposition to Obama. I'm a grown up and not afraid, he is by admission a charter and privatizer advocate, and is not fond of teacher's unions, so his people do his bidding and he keeps quiet.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 8, 2013 10:08 pm
Zachary my friend, we certainly will NOT give up the fight and this needs to be circulated. Here they want new young comitted teachers to replace those of us who are "draining the system " with our "luxurious salaries" @@ and they treat you like crap too. Get it all out of the table folks and in print- what they are doing, what they are about, and what their REAL goal is. Some of us were 60's activists, and we are by no means over the (the sense of fairness and fight never leaves you.).
Submitted by Darnel Charles Tanksley (not verified) on March 9, 2013 10:21 am
PUBLIC Education has been a target of conservatives since at least May 17, 1954. Most likely though like Social Security, PUBLIC Education has been a target since it's inception. Per the voter turnout of 2010, we let our guard down at a critical time in this battle to starve the beast/government that began, in ernest, when Ronald Reagan fired the Union. As the forces of "Every Man For Himself" have prevailed since Reagan, last striking in 2010, the force of a more perfect union has failed to articulate the value of civilization. Even our Democrat leaders are often blinded by the folly of "Every Man for Himself" as our civilization gets weaker and weaker. PUBLIC Health PUBLIC Education PUBLIC Transportation And yes even Big Bird on PUBLIC Television As the trade union ignores the fireman's union and the suburban forgets the urban we have ignored and forgotten that we are all inter-dependent: No stronger than our weakest link. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 'To support the least of us, elevates the whole of us'...Some guy in a wheel chair, circa 1933-1945. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx As so many forgot to vote in 2010, we the believers of a more perfect union must reclaim a higher ground. November 4, 2014
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2013 10:24 pm
is that you cuddles?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 9, 2013 5:06 pm
I feel your pain. Lat year, my school closed despite our fight to keep it open. I am still fighting and will not give up on our kids.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2013 4:09 am
IF GOD WAS TO SAY HE'S CLOSING HEAVEN BECAUSE THE GATES AND THE ANGELS NEEDS NEW WINGS CAUSE OF FUNDS ' WHAT WOULD YOU DO OR SAY'?HOW WOULD THIS MAKE YOU FEEL KNOWING YOU BEEN DOING WHAT WAS ASK OF YOU,AND JUST LIVING YOUR LIFE LIKE GOD WANT YOU TOO, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN ONE DAY HE JUST SAY "IM CLOSING HEAVEN' WITHOUT GIVING US ANY GOOD REASON BUT THE GATE AND THE ANGELS WINGS NEED TO BE FIX AND HEAVEN DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY TO DO SO.....DO THIS MAKE YOU THINK, AND WONDER WHAT YOU GOING TO DO NOW WHEN YOU LEAVE THIS WORLD KNOWING THAT YOU NOT GOING TO HEAVEN,AND THE ONLY PLACE IS TO GO IS HELL..CAN YOU JUST SIT HERE FOR A MIN AND JUST THINK ABOUT THAT?NOW THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN THAT GOT THE NEWS THAT THEIR SCHOOL IS CLOSING BECAUSE OF FUNDS?SOMETHING THEY DONT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH CAUSE THEY THINK SOMEONE IS INCHARGER OF MAKE THINGS RIGHT AND DOING WHAT THEY SUPPOSE TO BE DOING FOR THIS PROBLEM NOT TO HAPPEN....AND FOR THEM TO GO TO ANOTHER SCHOOL CAUSE SOMEONE DIDNT HANDLE THE MONEY RIGHT FOR HIS/HER SCHOOL TO STAY OPEN....CAN YOU JUST THINK ABOUT THIS?BUT MY GOD IS A GOOD GOD THAT WILL NOT SEE HEAVEN CLOSE BECASE OF THE GATE AND ANGELS WINGS MYGOD WILL MAKE A WAYOUTOF NO WAY TO KEEP HEAVENOPEN,JUST LIKE HE FEED THOUSAND OF PEOPLE FISH AND BREAD AND ONLY HAD ONE BASKET OF EACH.....SO WHAT IM SAYING WE MUST NOT GIVE UP ON OUR KIDS CAUSE GOD DIDNT GIVE UP ON US PLEASE LETGO THE MAYOR OFFICE,GOVERNOR OFFICE AND LET OURVOICE BE HEARD DONTGIVE UP LETS KEEP THIS THING GOING.....CAUSE IF WE GIVE UP,WEGIVING UP ON OUR KIDS....THANK YOU

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