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Thursday, February 06, 2020


by Jen Schneider

CARTOON:  David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star, 2017

If for some reason you haven’t been clear about what President Trump thinks about traditional public schools, consider what he said about them in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. There was this: “For too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.” What’s a “government school” to Trump? A public school in a traditional public school district. —The Washington Post, February 5, 2020

Some speak of failing
government schools. The cement-block
halls and crowded rooms I call home.
Rooms lined with pet turtles, donated books,
and color-blocked rugs. Often too hot.
Sometimes too cold. Usually just right.
Some speak of failing
government schools. Staffed
by hard-working folks—with tenures
of ten, fifteen, and twenty years and passions
for literature, mathematics, Us—I call family.
Some speak of failing
government schools. The 7 AM through 4 PM
world where I find breakfast, lunch,
and meaning. And where I learned the power
of Words. Of Grammar. Of Punctuation.
Of love. Mrs. P. Ms. T. Mr. B.
I miss them—All.
Some speak of failing
government schools. I, rather, speak
of schools that have been failed.
Mr. B taught me well. We have not failed.
We have been failed. Where failing is a verb,
not an adjective. With funding
denied, teachers declared
no longer hired, and students
deemed unworthy
of care. Of Love. Some speak
of failing government schools.
All I see, from the windows
of the school I Love,
is a failing government.

Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Her work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, unstamatic, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.