Thursday, August 27, 2009

The University of Chicago is the World of Warcraft of Chicago Schools

I worked through a temporary employment agency the other day and had an interesting experience.

Temp agencies are notorious for substandard pay, benefits, and hours. They are often used instead of full time, union workers. However as economy has been driven into the ground by wall street greed, many are finding themselves with no other option than to seek temp work.

One assignment I was sent to was for the Chicago Public School's Office of Literacy. The office was coordinating an event where elementary school teachers would be trained on how to use their school books by the private corporations that make the books. My job was to help teachers park, set up lunch and help check teachers out. Not tough work, but it struck me how odd the whole thing was.

If I were a teacher, I wouldn't want some corporation to tell me how to teach. Teachers are dedicated public servants, who are interested in educating the youth, while this book company cares only about its profits.

When the temp job was finished and I was able to go about my day, I decided to head down to the University of Chicago. I am interested in entering Graduate School and wanted to speak to someone in the History Department to ask about their program.

I got off the temp job at 3 and thought that, like most other offices, they would close around 5. When I made it to the office at 4:15, I saw a sign posted on the office door that said that the office would close at 4:00 pm during the Summer. You can imagine my frustration.

As I wandered around the campus, unsure of where or what to do next, I marveled at the Gothic Buildings, the Ivy Growing up the sides of buildings, the stone sculptures of knights and maidens around the windows, and the gargoyles crouching from the rooftops. It looked oddly medieval in a city that is known for its industry. Instead of railroads, slaughterhouses and steel mills, it was sheer fantasy.

I also noticed that the doors to the buildings only had doors on the inside of the quad. There was no street access to the buildings, but you had to be inside the green park like quad to enter the buildings.

I came to the realization that the University of Chicago has little, if any, connection with reality. It is the World of Warcraft of Chicago academia. Intellectually stimulating, yet designed to keep you on your butt doing nothing to fix the problems of your life and of the world. The University of Chicago isn't going to do anything to give Chicago teachers freedom, in fact the school eradicated it's education department because it was to practical. It isn't going to help unionize temp workers, the school was the birthplace of neo-liberalism.

What we need are schools that teach people practical lessons as well as the theoretical understanding of the world. Philosophy and practicality. Electrical work and Anthropology. Farming and Neichze. Janitorial Maintenance and Chomsky. Only then will we have an education that develops people for the real world.

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